Bad Times In LA

Parte Veintiquatro

Nancy Smith

As Diego and Felipe arrived in town, they noticed that there were more people strolling about the plaza, going about their daily routine. There were still a few patients in the tavern, and the small band of Indians, were still camped outside the pueblo. For the most part, things were starting to return to normal. Diego rode to the post office, and delivered his letter. He paid the postmaster a few extra pesos, to make sure it received a quick delivery. This was one letter, that Diego felt, could bring about the end, of DeSoto's tyranny, and maybe, a pardon for Zorro. 'Who knows, maybe Victoria and I, could have a normal life after all.' Thought Diego, as he left the post office. He mounted his horse, and trotted him over to the tavern.

When Diego walked in, he noticed Michaela, Sully, and Alejandro helping Doctor Hernandez with some patients. Felipe was busy, gathering the dishes, and taking them to the kitchen, to help Victoria. As Alejandro looked up, he saw Diego, and quickly walked over, to tell him the exciting news.

"Diego! You finally got here! Guess what! Zorro brought Sully back, then threatened DeSoto, saying, that if he ever troubled Michaela and Sully again, he was going to do more, than just put his mark on him! I also paid Sully's fine, for assaulting that officer, and now he is free, of all charges!" stated Alejandro, smiling.

"That's wonderful news, father! I saw Sully when I came in. I'm glad he's back. I'm sure Michaela, is glad as well." Replied Diego, smiling.

"By the way, Diego, what took you and Felipe, so long to get here?" Alejandro asked.

"Well, as for Felipe, he was busy taking some food to Sergeant Mendoza and Corporal Sepulveda. We thought they may be hungry after standing guard all day. As for me, I had some urgent business to take care of, and it took longer than I expected." Replied Diego, slightly shrugging. "Sorry."

Alejandro sighed, as he put his hand on Diego's shoulder. "Well, I'm just glad you're here. Too bad you missed Zorro! That was amazing! Oh yes, speaking of Mendoza and Sepulveda, Felipe told me that they saw Zorro, riding past our hacienda, and heading toward the pueblo." Remarked Alejandro, with a surprised look on his face.

"Did they catch him?" asked Diego, looking quite curious.

Alejandro shook his head. "Of course not! Mendoza said, that he had a pretty good head start on them. By the time they started out after him, he just disappeared, from sight. That Zorro, is something else!" Alejandro smiled, as he shook his head.

Diego smiled, as he nodded in agreement. "You're right, he is!" he stated amiably. He glanced around, and saw Victoria taking some food to an elderly patient. She pulled her chair up beside the bed, and began feeding the old man lying in the bed. As Diego excused himself from his father, he walked over to Victoria, and greeted her.

"You're looking radiant as ever, Señorita!" he said, with sly smile on his face. He pulled up a chair, and sat beside her.

Victoria smiled, as she looked up from feeding the old man, and slightly blushed. She finished feeding her patient, and gently wiped his mouth. She gathered the dishes, and prepared to take them to the kitchen. Diego rose from his chair, and followed her to the kitchen.

"Would you like some help?" he asked, looking at her warmly.

"If you like." She relied, somewhat indifferently, as she walked into the kitchen.

As Diego followed her into the kitchen, he could feel a slight tension in the air, as he watched her put the dishes in the sink. He scratched the back of his neck, and sighed.

"Victoria, is something wrong?" he asked, with deep concern.

Victoria sighed, as an anxious look shadowed her face.

"Diego, you could have been killed today! When the lancers shot at you, as you rode past them, I held my breath, and prayed that you wouldn't get shot. I was so worried, about you!" she replied, with a fearful tone to her voice. She brushed away a small tear, that rolled down her cheek.

Diego was suddenly taken aback. He never noticed her, being so worried, about him before. It was always Zorro, that she was so protective of. A feeling of guilt, gripped at his heart as he suddenly realized, the reason for her deep concern. 'How could I be so stupid!' he thought. Now that she knew he was Zorro, he understood why she was feeling so anxious, and afraid for him. He wrapped his arms around her, as he embraced her, in a warm hug.

"Victoria, forgive me! I never realized, that knowing my identity, would cause you so much worry. I promise not to be so reckless, the next time. I've taken a lot of chances in the past. Sometimes, too many for my own good." He replied, as he looked into her eyes.

"I'm sorry, I got so upset, Diego." Replied Victoria, anxiously. "I realize, that being Zorro, is not without risks or dangers. And with the bounty on Zorro, I know they are much greater. I guess that's why I became so upset today. I suddenly realized, how much you mean to me, and the people, of this pueblo. Diego, I don't want to lose you!" she replied, as she hugged him tight.

Diego held her close. "Don't worry, Victoria. Nothing will happen to me. Not if I have anything to say about it. I promise you that! I will always be here for you." He replied, compassionately. They looked at one another, and smiled. Victoria's smile slowly faded, as she looked at him, with concern.

"Be careful Diego. You know how ruthless the Alcalde is. He'll stop at nothing to capture you!" she stated anxiously.

Diego looked at her insightfully. "Remember Victoria, the Alcalde is after Zorro, not me. Don't ever forget that. Besides, our Alcalde has a long way to go before he captures Zorro." He replied earnestly.

Victoria's eyes briefly widened, as she inwardly gasped. "I'm sorry, Diego." She sighed, and shook her head. "I guess that's another thing, I'll have to get used to. This double life of yours." She stated.

Diego smiled. "Don't worry, Victoria. Sometimes, even I have trouble separating myself, from Zorro. Hopefully, one day, I can retire this double life, then you and I, can live our lives, like normal people! Who knows, maybe even, have children." He stated, gazing into her eyes.

Victoria looked warmly into his eyes, and smiled. "I would like that, very much!" she said, as she pressed a tender kiss to his lips. Diego drew her closer into his embrace, as their kiss became more intense. Their intimate moment, was suddenly interrupted, as Alejandro stepped into the kitchen, and saw Diego and Victoria, in one another's embrace.

"Diego! What do you think you're doing?!!" he inwardly gasped, with a look of shock, and surprise on his face.

Victoria and Diego, quickly snapped their heads around, as surprise, and embarrassment, mirrored their faces.

Diego released Victoria from his embrace, as he turned to Alejandro.

"Father, this is not what you think!" he replied, apologetically.

Alejandro looked at Diego, with a somewhat bewildered, expression.

"Just to honest with you, Diego, I'm not quite sure, what to think! If there's something going on between you two, I think, I have a right to know." He remarked sternly, with an intense look on his face.

Diego could feel his face become flushed, as his father's eyes flashed back at him, in a penetrating stare. He sighed, as he looked at Alejandro, as thoughts of telling him he was Zorro, and about his love for Victoria, flashed through his mind.

"Father, there's something that I've been meaning to tell you, for a long time. However, right now, is just not a good time. I'll explain everything to you, later." Stated Diego, as he put a reassuring hand on his father's shoulder.

"Does this have anything to do, with you, and Victoria?" Alejandro asked, with a discerning look. He felt a slight smile, creep across his lips.

"Please father. Just be patient. I promise, I will tell you everything you want to know. I just can't tell you, now!" he replied, earnestly.

Alejandro put his hand to his chin, as he gazed thoughtfully, at the young couple, standing before him. It was obvious, that they were in love. He just wasn't sure at what point, they fell in love, and how long, it had been going on. But he knew for now, that he wasn't going to get anything, out of Diego. Diego, was just that stubborn. But then again, so was he. For now, he decided to let Victoria and Diego, have their moment. Alejandro sighed, as he nodded in admission to Diego. He was glad, that his son had finally found someone, that he loved. Inwardly he prayed that it would last. Yet, there was something that still puzzled him. He wondered about Zorro. How would Victoria, tell Zorro, that she now loves, Diego? Alejandro slightly blinked. 'I'll let Victoria, deal with that issue.' He thought.

"All right, Diego. I'll be patient. We've always been honest with each other, so I know you will tell me, when you're ready. Just don't make me wait too long!" he chuckled, as he patted Diego on the cheek.

"Don't worry, I won't!" Diego replied, smiling.

Alejandro's eyes slightly widened. "I'm sorry Diego, in all this confusion, I almost forgot what I was going to tell you." He chuckled. "I came to tell you, that I'm riding back, to the hacienda. I have some things, that I need to do." He stated.

Diego nodded in consent. "In that case father, I think Felipe and I will stay here and help out. Michaela, Doctor Hernandez, and Sully are planning on riding out to the Indian camp at the edge of the pueblo, later on. Felipe and I can help Victoria, while they're gone." He remarked decidedly.

Alejandro nodded, and smiled. "Good idea, Diego. I'm sure Victoria, would be glad to have you." He replied smugly. He flashed a wink at Diego, and smiled.

"Hasta luego!" he replied, smiling. He gave Diego a jovial slap on the back, and left.

Victoria put her hand over her mouth, and giggled, as she noticed the abashed look on Diego's face.

Diego shook his head, and heaved a sigh of relief. He turned to Victoria and looked at her regretfully.

"I'm sorry, Victoria. I just didn't think this was the right time, to tell father about us, and Zorro." He remarked.

Victoria slightly smiled. "I understand, Diego. I do think you should tell him, some time. I think he does, have a right to know!" she stated, with a solemn look.

Diego put his hands upon her shoulders, as he looked at her compassionately.

"Nothing would please me more, than to tell father about my love for you, and about asking you to marry me. That would make him the happiest man in all of California. But right now, just wasn't a good time. I want everything to be just right, when I tell him about us, and about my identity. Be patient, Victoria. Everything will be revealed in time." He stated warmly. He pressed a tender kiss to her cheek, and smiled.

Victoria gently pressed her hands to his chest, as she looked into his eyes.

"When will that time be, Diego?" she asked anxiously.

Diego took her hands in his, as he gazed into her eyes, and smiled.

"It may be sooner, than you think. Our day is coming, Victoria. Trust me!" he replied, compassionately.

Victoria looked into his eyes, and smiled. "I do trust you, Diego. I've always trusted you, and you have never, let me down. You've always been there for me, whenever I needed you." She slowly lowered her head. "Sometimes, I think I depend on you, too much." She remarked somewhat regretfully.

Diego put his finger under her chin, as he lifted her head. He gazed fervently into her eyes. "If you didn't Señorita, I would be terribly disappointed." He tenderly pressed his lips against hers in a deep passionate kiss. Diego felt his heart beat faster, as the warmth of her lips pressed against his. When they parted, Victoria sighed, as she gazed into his eyes.

That was one thing, that Victoria thought, was so irresistible about Diego. Those beautiful blue eyes. It was as if she was in a trance. Whenever their eyes met, he seemed to be looking into her very soul.

As long as they had known one another, Victoria thought that Diego, had the most captivating eyes, she had ever seen. They seemed to reflect, every emotion he expressed. There were times, when she felt a chill run down her back, as Diego's eyes, would turn from soft and gentle, to cold and unforgiving, as he became angry over something, that had happened. His anger was not obvious, but you could see it in his eyes. There were other times, when his eyes would seem to sparkle, when he was happy, or have a glint of mischief, when he was trying to hide something from her. How exasperating he could be, at times like that.

There was a time however, when she became worried about him. It had been a month, after his mother had died. They were both very young, but even then, she saw a emptiness and hopelessness in his eyes, that deeply troubled her, as well as saddened her. It was as if, nothing mattered, that life, was not worth living. Alejandro did his best, to try to ease Diego's pain, and sorrow. But it was hard. He too was still feeling the loss of his beloved Elena Felicidad. Victoria inwardly smiled, as she remembered the day, that she finally brought Diego, out of his despair.

Her father, had brought her over to play with Diego, one day, while he went back, to the tavern. Victoria hopped out of the carriage, and waved good-bye, to her father. Alejandro walked out of his hacienda, and warmly greeted her. Despite his recent tragedy, Alejandro had always tried to be cheerful, when greeting all his guests. He and Elena, had always enjoyed, having guests, at the hacienda. It had always been, a part of their life, to entertain people, who came to the hacienda. Even after her death, Alejandro continued the tradition, with the same generosity, that he had done, when she was alive.

As far as Alejandro was concerned, he treated Victoria, with the same generosity, and respect, that his other guests, received. She was always such a pleasure to have, and it truly brightened his day to see her. When he and Victoria walked back to the garden, they noticed Diego, sitting at one of the tables, resting his head on his hand, and looking like the weight of the world, was on his shoulders. As they strolled up to the table, Alejandro looked at Diego calmly, and smiled.

"Diego, look whose here to see you." He said warmly. Diego slowly raised his head up, and flashed an angry look at Victoria. His eyes filled with hate, and remorse.

"Go away! I don't feel like playing!" he shouted. The sharpness in Diego's voice, pierced her like a knife. She bit her lower lip, to keep from crying, as she glared at him. Her small fists clinched at her sides.

Alejandro walked over, grabbed Diego by the arm, and jerked him, out of his seat. He marched him over to where Victoria stood, and put a firm hand, on Diego's shoulder.

"Diego, apologize to Victoria ... now!!" he stated angrily.

Diego hung his head, and muttered. "I'm sorry."

"I don't think she heard you, Diego! Look at Victoria, when you say it!" he uttered sternly.

Diego raised his head up, and looked into her eyes.

Victoria felt the anger inside her subside, as she saw the tears, welling in Diego's eyes.

"I'm sorry, Victoria!" he said, remorsefully, as he tried to suppress a sob, that was stirring inside him.

As she walked over to him, she wrapped her arms around him, and gave him a warm hug.

"It's all right, Diego. I understand." She said, compassionately. Suddenly, she felt him tremble in her arms, as the tears, flowed from his eyes. He put his arms around her, and cried. Alejandro fell to his knees, and hugged Victoria, and Diego. He held them close, as the tears, rolled down his cheeks. He pulled a soft linen handkerchief, from his pocket, and gently dried their eyes, and wiped their noses. He folded his handkerchief, dried his eyes, and wiped his nose. He looked at Diego, and Victoria, and warmly smiled. Diego turned to Alejandro, and hugged him tight.

"I'm sorry, father. I didn't mean to yell at Victoria." He replied, sadly.

Alejandro pulled Diego, from his embrace, and looked at him, compassionately. "I know, Diego. I know how much, you miss your mother. I miss her, too. It's going to take time, but we'll get through this, somehow. And we'll do it together, ?" he stated, warmly.

"!" stated Diego, smiling. He turned to Victoria, and looked at her warmly. "Are we still friends?" he asked, somewhat hesitantly.

Victoria smiled, and nodded. " Diego, you will always be, my very best friend." She put her hand on his shoulder, reassuringly.

Diego slightly blushed, and smiled. "And you'll always be, my very best friend, too!" he replied, his eyes looking warmly into hers. He took her hand, and lightly kissed it, like his father had shown him, many times.

Victoria put her hand to her mouth, to suppress a giggle.

Alejandro stood up, and grinned.

"Well Victoria. Looks like Diego, is becoming, quite the caballero!" he looked at Victoria, pridefully.

Victoria nodded, and smiled. ", Don Alejandro. Just like you!"

Alejandro chuckled. ", just like me."

Victoria slightly blinked, as she shook her head, bringing herself back to the present. Diego looked at Victoria, somewhat anxiously, as he noticed the wistful look, on her face.

"Victoria, are you all right?" he asked, with concern.

Victoria nodded, and smiled. "I'm fine, Diego. You know, Diego, not only am I going to marry the most handsome caballero in Los Angeles, who also happens to be ... (she drew a Z, in the air) but, I will also be marrying, my very best friend. I love you, Diego!" She replied, as she hugged him tight.

Diego smiled, and hugged Victoria tight.

"Not only will I be marrying, the most beautiful woman, in Los Angeles, but I too, will be marrying, my very best friend. I love you too, Victoria!" he replied, warmly.

They held each another, for a long time, in their warm embrace, then slowly parted. They looked into each other's eyes, as if reflecting upon how long they had known one another, and what they had been through, growing up together.

It had not been easy, for either of them. Victoria's mother, being shot by soldiers, in front of firing squad, and her father, dying at Devil's Fortress. And Diego's mother, dying of a fatal illness, when he was very young. They both suffered tragic losses, yet, managed to overcome that loss, in their own extraordinary way. Victoria, becoming a strong, independent, and compassionate woman, running her parent's tavern; and Diego, taking on the challenges, of fighting tyranny, and injustice, by becoming the champion of the people, known as Zorro. Diego, however, felt that he never could have continued his fight, without Victoria's love, strength and courage, in helping him in his fight. It was fate that brought them together, and together, they would save the pueblo.

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