"Felipe," Diego said, holding a book in his hand, "are you ready to learn more about Spain?"
Felipe nodded eagerly. He had been curious about Diego's trip since he returned, but circumstances had postponed this particular lesson until today.
"Good. We'll start with the basics. Spain is located - "
"Diego?" Alejandro walked into the study.
"I have to go into the pueblo for a little while."
"That blasted alcalde. He's trying to charge us more taxes by saying we have more cattle than we actually do. I'm proud of our livestock, but not when they are being used to cheat us. I'm going to take the books and straighten out this mess."
"Do you want us to go with you?"
"You'll probably be bored."
"Nonsense. I enjoy riding into the pueblo. I'm sure Felipe feels the same way."
Alejandro was thinking about it when he noticed the book in his son's hand.
"The History of Spain?"
"Sí, I was just about to give Felipe a lesson on Spain."
"I remember Spain," Alejandro smiled.
Alejandro fell silent with a wistful gaze on his face.
"Oh? Sorry, I was lost in thought."
"So we see."
"Oh, never mind. Let's see the alcalde. We can discuss Spain later."
Diego nodded to Felipe. He jumped up and ran to Diego's room to get Diego's riding jacket. As he was returning he overheard Diego and Alejandro speaking.
"I think Felipe should learn more about Spain. It's part of his heritage and he may want to continue his education in Madrid."
"Yes, the university. I'll sponsor him."
"What if he doesn't want to go?"
"It's his decision. You sent me without asking me."
"Yes, but you're my son. Your mother and I spoke about this long before you were born."
"I'm your son, but isn't Felipe part of our family, too?"
"Well, yes - "
"We've provided him with an education, clothed him, fed him, cared for him as if he were one of our own. Doesn't he deserve the right to higher education?"
"I see your point. You care for him very much."
"Sí. Ever since I found him after that massacre and no one would take him in because he couldn't hear. I have felt it's my responsibility to treat him as I would my own child. Because he can't hear or speak doesn't mean he should get less of an education or anything else for that matter. It's not fair. Father, he has so much potential, I would hate to see it go to waste."
"I agree. It's settled then. If he wants to study in Spain, then the de la Vegas will sponsor him."
"You too, father?"
"Why not? I helped raised him too. He is part of the family. You said so yourself."
Felipe stood there, not believing his ears. It was almost too good to be true. But Felipe knew if Diego and Alejandro had faith in him, then he did have the potential. They were also men of their word. If they said Felipe would get the best education then he would.
He felt proud and guilty at the same time. Proud because he felt he was good enough to be considered family by his patrons. Guilty for them being in this situation in the first place. He knew it was no one's fault and Felipe never felt like a burden to them, but he still wanted to have the bond he shared with his mother and father. Even after all this time, he still missed them terribly. What upset him most is he didn't have the chance to tell them he loved them or good-bye. He was also sure he was making them proud, but he wanted them to see what he was doing. He also wanted to see their approval on their faces.
He remembered the joy when the woman claimed to be his mother came for him. Then came the heart wrenching disappointment when she wasn't who she claimed to be. Yet the incident was not enough for him to give up hope of one day finding his real parents. He snapped out of his thoughts and walked into the library. Diego and Alejandro had started another conversation.
"Have the other caballeros been told they have too many cattle?" Diego asked.
"I'm not sure, but I think we could find out at the tavern."
Felipe handed Diego his jacket and they went outside for their horses. Felipe lagged behind thinking of the adventures he might have in Spain. He knew it was a long way off, but it didn't hurt to dream.
His daydream consumed his attention and he didn't hear Diego and Alejandro yelling. He saw their horses rear up and knew something was wrong. His pinto also became skittish. One look at the ground explained all.
A snake bobbed it's head at Felipe's pinto and the horse backed up nervously. Felipe sat in shock. The snake leapt at the horse's feet and the pinto bolted.
Felipe held on for life as his pinto bounded blindly on the countryside. When he came to his senses, he tried to slow his horse down, but the pinto wouldn't budge. Felipe saw the land end ahead and pulled with all his strength. The pinto didn't respond until the last moment.
The pinto halted within yards of the edge. Felipe fell forward, unable to stop. He tried to brace for his fall as best he could, but gravity won out and he went over the edge.
Diego watched in horror as Felipe's horse bolted. It took him a few moments to recover, but when he did he leapt into action. He spurred his horse on following the scared pinto. If he could make it to them, perhaps he could stop them safely.
He saw Felipe try to slow down his horse and almost sighed in relief until he saw the cliff. He watched powerless as he saw Felipe fall head first to the ground and roll over the edge.
Diego slowed his horse then dismounted as the horse came to trot. He looked over the ledge and saw the boy lying a few feet below him. Blood stained his forehead.
He quickly looked around and found a small place where he could reach Felipe. He was heading there to climb when he heard a horse approach and his name called out.
"Get the doctor! Quick!" Diego yelled to his father.
His father rode to the edge and saw Felipe. He nodded to Diego then galloped away. Diego made his way to Felipe. He knelt next to the boy. He worried the fall might have killed him. He relaxed a little when he saw the small rise and fall of Felipe's chest.
"Felipe, please be all right," Diego whispered then started praying.
The world was dark for Felipe. He tried to use his senses to get some kind of clue as to where he was, but couldn't tell anything. There were no smells, sounds, or feelings.
Where am I? He wondered.
A voice floated to him. So faint at first he thought it wasn't possible to hear it. Slowly it became louder.
"Mijo. Time to get up."
It can't be.
"Son, do as your mother says. Wake up."
Felipe opened his eyes. He was in the small adobe hut he remembered from his childhood. The smell of breakfast gently wafted its way to his nose. He sat up blinking. Everything looked the same just as he remembered it. His mother walked up to him and kissed him on the forehead.
"Mijo, you're up."
"M-m-m-mother?" the sound was strange to him. It took him a second for him to realize it was his own voice. "Mother!"
"Mother! Father!" Felipe jumped to his feet.
"I can speak and you're alive! That must mean the war - your death - the de la Vegas - Zorro. It must have been a dream."
His mother looked at his father. He saw something unspoken pass between them. Felipe started to worry. He felt something was wrong.
"It wasn't a dream, son," his father said.
"What do you mean?"
"Mijo - we died in the war and the de la Vegas took you into their home."
Felipe stared blankly at them.
"Mijo - "
"It's true, son. Look at us. We haven't aged since the last time you saw us. You have aged."
He looked at them both. His father was right, everything was exactly as he remembered it when he was younger. Then he looked down at his hands and saw the years of work on them. He could feel the tears well in his eyes.
"Does this mean I'm dead?" he whispered.
"He's not dead," the doctor told Diego.
"Then what's wrong with him? Why won't he wake up?"
"I don't know."
"What do you mean?"
"I believe he's in a coma. He might pull through it, then again, he might not."
"What are his chances?"
"It's too soon to tell. We'll just have to wait."
"It could be hours, weeks - never."
Diego pulled a chair beside Felipe and watched him. He concentrated on the rise and fall of Felipe's chest, trying not to think about the situation, but knowing all too well the possible outcome.
"If his condition changes, let me know," the doctor told Alejandro.
"At once," his father answered.
When the doctor left, Alejandro walked up to Diego. "Is there anything I can do?"
"No," Diego shook his head. "I just want to be alone with him for awhile."
"I understand," Alejandro patted his son on the shoulder and left them alone in silence.
"If I'm not dead, then what am I?" Felipe asked.
"You are on the verge of life and death," his father answered.
"The choice is up to you on whether you live or die," his mother added.
"This isn't happening," he backed away from them.
"Mijo, you were supposed to die today. The fall should have killed you instantly."
"We weren't supposed to know, but we found out about the accident."
"We asked them to spare your life, but they said it was your decision not ours."
"But I want to be with you," he told them.
"And we want you with us, mijo, but you also have your whole life in front of you," his mother said.
"No. I lost both of you once, I'm not going to do it again," Felipe replied.
"Son," his father pleaded. "At least think about it. You can do so many great things."
"Without you? No, I've spent too many years missing you. I'm staying." Felipe walked past them and outside the hut.
"Mijo - "
"Let him go," his father said. "He needs time to think."
"That's the problem, he doesn't have a lot of time."