Welcome to Victoria's Tavern

Parte Tres

Nancy J. Smith

"Whoever is in there, I suggest you'd better come out right now, or else!" Victoria remarked sternly as she drew back the handle of her broom.

Suddenly a very tall shadowy figure dressed in black from head to toe wearing a long flowing black cape, black hat and mask slowly stepped through the curtains, removed his hat and made a dramatic bow.

"buenas noches seņorita!" Replied Zorro as he slowly rose up to meet a very astonished Victoria.

"Zorro!" Victoria exclaimed as she stood somewhat frozen still clutching her broom.

Zorro slightly chuckled and looked at Victoria holding the broom in her hands. "That's a very deadly weapon you have there seņorita! Are you planning to use that on anyone?" Zorro inquired smugly.

Victoria finally recovering from the initial shock of seeing Zorro, slightly blushed and lowered her 'weapon' and lay it aside and slightly sighed with relief and smiled.

"I'm sorry Zorro, I didn't know it was you! I thought it was a prowler." She replied slightly embarrassed.

Zorro gazed warmly into her eyes and flashed a dazzling white smile at her. He walked over and took her hand and pressed a tender kiss to the back of her hand.

Victoria slightly blushed and smiled as she gazed into Zorro's deep blue eyes and sighed. She momentarily blinked and slightly shook her head as she inwardly gathered herself.

"Zorro, what are you doing here?" she inquired as she looked at him slightly curious.

Zorro peered into her dark eyes and smiled. "Do I have to a reason to see the most beautiful tavern owner in all of Pueblo de Los Angeles?" he sincerely remarked still holding her hand in his.

Victoria cast a retiring gaze at Zorro and smiled. "Gracias Zorro. That's very kind of you to say that." Replied Victoria modestly as she slightly blushed.

Zorro looked at Victoria earnestly and slightly shook his head. "Ah seņorita, I do not say this out of kindness, but I say it from the heart. You are truly the most beautiful woman in the pueblo. Not only are you beautiful, but your kindness and generosity is everlasting." He commented as he gazed passionately into her eyes. Victoria felt her heart pounding as he looked at her with those deep blue eyes of his. She thought that if she didn't offer him a seat, she would suddenly become overwhelmed with emotion and faint. She demurely slipped her hand from his and directed his attention to an empty table near the kitchen.

"Would you care to sit down? You must be tired from your ride. I would be more than happy to get you something to drink." She commented amiably.

Zorro nodded and cast an amiable smile at her. "Thank you! That would be very nice!" he replied pleasantly.

As Zorro sat down, Victoria walked over behind the bar and retrieved two wine glasses and a bottle of her favorite wine and brought it over to the table and set it before them. She was about to sit down when she momentarily thought of the food she had prepared for her dinner earlier.

"Excuse me Zorro, but would you like to have something to eat? I made a delicious dinner tonight for some friends of mine and I had plenty left over. I would be glad to bring you something if you like." She commented earnestly.

'Dios! I thought she'd never ask.' Thought Diego smiling. "Oh I don't want to trouble you seņorita!" Zorro replied amiably.

Victoria looked at Zorro warmly and smiled. "Oh no seņor, it is no trouble at all! In fact, it is still nice and warm and it will go perfect with that wine! I will return in uno momento!" she responded cheerfully. Victoria turned and practically sprinted off into the kitchen to fix Zorro's dinner.

While Diego waited for his dinner, he popped the cork from the bottle and poured himself and Victoria a drink. He didn't have long to wait, as he glanced toward the kitchen and saw Victoria coming through the curtains carrying a tray with the most delicious-looking food he had ever seen and smelled in his life. As she sat it before him, he noticed it was on her very best china and the utensils she lay beside the plate were her very best silver. She even placed beside the plate her best linen napkin. Diego shook his head and smiled as he looked up at Victoria smiling broadly from ear to ear.

"Oh seņorita! This is just too much! I really don't know what to say!" commented Zorro modestly.

Victoria sat down in front of him and smiled. "Don't say anything! Just eat!" She replied smiling as she gazed warmly into his eyes.

Zorro picked up his wine glass and slightly raised it in the air. "I'd like to propose a toast seņorita." He stated smiling.

Victoria picked up her wine glass and flashed a curious look at Zorro. "A toast seņor?" she inquired.

"Of course!" he replied resolutely. "A toast to the most beautiful seņorita in all of pueblo de Los Angeles, and to someday, everlasting love!" he commented passionately and smiled.

Victoria blushed as she raised her glass and touched it with his. They both took a drink and smiled. She looked at Zorro resolutely and smiled.

"I'd like to make a toast too!" she commented as she eyed Zorro cordially.

Zorro picked up the bottle and refilled the glasses. "What kind of toast would you like to make seņorita?" he asked with curiosity.

Victoria raised her glass and proceeded with her toast. "A toast to El Zorro, the fox! The most handsome, dashing, man I have ever met. And to someday everlasting love." She replied passionately as she smiled and gazed into his eyes.

"Gracias seņorita!" Replied Zorro as he reached across the table and took her hand and kissed it. He gazed upon the soft blushing features of her face and smiled thinking how really beautiful she truly looked and hoping that some day they could spend the rest of their lives together. As he looked into her eyes, he slightly sighed and thought to himself, 'that someday, will just have to wait!'

Victoria smiled as she gazed upon Zorro's masked features and wondered who this mysterious man behind the mask really was. 'Oh well...' she thought, 'at least he's a gentleman! And a handsome one at that!' She looked at him earnestly and smiled.

"Well Zorro, I suppose you had better eat your dinner before it gets cold!" she commented resolutely.

Zorro slightly shrugged his shoulders and looked at Victoria earnestly. "Really seņorita, I wish you would eat something as well, I do hate eating alone!" Zorro stated slightly blushing.

Victoria cast a decisive look at Zorro and smiled. "Well, if it makes you feel better, I'll eat a bowl of soup." She replied amiably. She rose from her chair and walked back to the kitchen and returned with her soup. As she sat down to eat, she looked at Zorro resolutely and motioned for him to begin eating.

After they had finished, Victoria asked Zorro if he wanted anything else.

"No thank you seņorita! I have to say, that was an excellent dinner! You are truly a marvelous cook! It is no wonder that your tavern is such a success!" Zorro remarked generously.

Victoria looked at Zorro modestly and smiled. "Gracias Zorro! I love to cook! I never get tired of doing it! I love trying out new recipes too!" she replied warmly.

"Well, your love and enthusiasm truly shows in your cooking! I think you have truly found your calling seņorita!" Zorro remarked earnestly.

Victoria looked at Zorro and smiled. She briefly cast an earnest gaze at him and sighed.

"Zorro, do you think it is possible for you to call me Victoria?" she inquired resolutely.

Diego's eyes slightly widened as he sat back in his chair and looked at Victoria somewhat sharply. 'Ah, she wants me to call her Victoria now! How interesting! This is getting better every minute!' thought Diego smiling.

"Oh, I deeply apologize seņ..I mean Victoria! I did not want to appear to be disrespectful!" Zorro replied earnestly as he smiled at Victoria.

Victoria smiled at Zorro and shook her head. "Oh no Zorro, not you! You could never be disrespectful! It's not in your nature! I have a feeling that you were raised to be a proper gentleman!" Victoria commented astutely.

Zorro slowly rose from the table and walked over to Victoria and held out his hand. Victoria put her hand in his and slowly stood up and looked into Zorro's eyes. He looked at her thoughtfully and gently placed his hands upon her shoulders and slightly sighed.

"Victoria, please do not misunderstand me, but do not try put qualities on me that I do not have! You know very little about me and I would hate to disappoint you if I suddenly had to do something that you did not approve of!" Zorro remarked soberly.

Victoria looked at Zorro compassionately and smiled. "Zorro, I'm sure whatever you have to do, it would definitely be in the interest of the people. Everything I have seen you do, you do it for the people because you care what happens to them. Your heart and soul is with the people of this pueblo and they know that! That's why they trust you Zorro! And I trust you too! I know you will do the right thing!" Victoria concluded sincerely.

'Dios! I knew there was something about this woman I loved...now I know!' Diego thought as he gazed passionately into her eyes. His first impulse was to take her in his arms and kiss her passionately on the lips. But instead, he smiled and pressed a tender kiss upon her hand. 'Sometimes I wish I wasn't such a gentleman!' Thought Diego as he gently released her hand.

"I fear it is getting late Victoria and I must be going. Thank you for the lovely dinner! You are truly an amazing woman Victoria Escalante in more ways than one! We will see each other soon, I am sure of it!" Zorro stated as he gently caressed her cheek with his hand.

He turned and picked up his hat and cape that he had draped across the chair and quickly disappeared behind the curtains in the kitchen. Victoria followed but when she looked around the kitchen, he was gone. She thought he had walked out the door, but when she checked it, it was still locked. She suddenly felt a draft upon her face and glanced up and noticed one of the windows was slightly opened. She shook her head and smiled as she reached up and closed the window and locked it. 'He really knows how to make an exit!' she thought as she passed through the curtains and headed toward the table where they had eaten.

As she was cleaning off the table, she suddenly heard a knocking at the tavern door. 'Who could that be!' she thought as she lay down her rag and walked toward the door.

When she opened the door, her eyes widened in amazement as she stood at the door with her hand on her hip staring at her visitor.

"Diego! What in the world happened to you?" she asked somewhat astounded at his late arrival.

Diego looked at her earnestly and sighed. "If you'll let me in, I'll be glad to explain!"

Victoria shook her head in disbelief and ushered him into the tavern, then closed the door.

As Victoria looked at Diego, suddenly a broad smile stretched across her face and she threw her arms around him and pressed a big kiss to his cheek.

Diego quickly feigned a surprised demeanor and looked at Victoria and smiled.

"Well, I never thought I'd get a reception like this for not showing up for a dinner!" he remarked resolutely.

Victoria grabbed Diego's hand and pulled him over to a chair and motioned for him to sit down. As Diego sat down, Victoria pulled up a chair and sat beside him.

"Oh Diego! I'm so glad you're here! I just wanted to thank you for such a wonderful evening!" Victoria exclaimed with a big smile on her face.

Diego pretending to be quite confused, looked at Victoria and scratched his head.

"Why are you thanking me?! I wasn't even here! I just came by to explain why I didn't come to your dinner." Diego stated earnestly

Victoria shook her head and sighed. "Oh come on Diego, quit teasing me! You know what I'm talking about!" she stated sternly.

Diego shook his head and stared at her somewhat blankly and shrugged his shoulders.

"Oh Diego, I'm not talking about my dinner with Alejandro and Felipe. Or you not coming to dinner! And by the way, why didn't you show up?" she inquired as she eyed him sternly.

"Well I..." As Diego was about to explain, Victoria quickly broke in. "Oh never mind you can tell me later! I wanted to thank you for telling Zorro to come to my tavern tonight!" she exclaimed, her eyes sparkling with excitement.

Diego momentarily stood up as a look of amazement flashed across his face. "Zorro came here tonight?" he inquired rather astonished.

Victoria cast a look of disbelief at Diego. "Diego, quit pretending like you don't know anything about it!" she responded somewhat perturbed.

"Victoria, truly, I'm serious! I really don't know what you're talking about! You mean Zorro really came to the tavern tonight? When did he come?" Diego inquired earnestly.

Victoria looked at Diego slightly confused. "You mean you really didn't tell Zorro to come here tonight?" she asked somewhat bewildered.

Diego looked at Victoria earnestly and shook his head. "Victoria, trust me! I wouldn't lie to you! I had nothing to do with Zorro showing up tonight! If he came here, he came on his own! Cross my heart, I was not responsible!" he stated looking at Victoria quite serious.

Victoria cast a resolute look at Diego. "Oh I do trust you Diego, and I know you wouldn't lie to me! It's just that when Zorro showed up tonight, I thought you had told him that I wanted to see him. After your father and Felipe left, I was cleaning up the tavern when I heard someone in the kitchen. I thought it was a prowler, but when I confronted them, it turned out to be Zorro! I just assumed that you had told him to come here." Victoria stated earnestly.

Diego shrugged his shoulders and sighed. "I'm sorry Victoria! I really didn't have anything to do with Zorro showing up! He didn't try to harm you did he?" Diego inquired looking quite concerned.

Victoria shook her head and smiled. "Oh no Diego! In fact, he was a perfect gentleman! He was very nice and even kissed my hand! I can't believe Zorro actually came to see me! He just came on his own without anyone telling him! How absolutely amazing! Oh Diego, I'll be dreaming about this all night!" Victoria gushed as a dreamy look came into her eyes. She momentarily sighed and rested her head on her hand and gazed upon the empty table where she and Zorro had been sitting.

Diego stepped up beside Victoria and put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "Victoria, I just wanted to say how sorry I am for not coming to your dinner. I know how terribly disappointed you were that I didn't show up!" Diego replied regretfully. However, considering her present state of mind, Diego knew that Victoria wasn't really disappointed; he just felt that it was his obligation as a caballero to make an apology.

Victoria slightly blinked and glanced up at Diego. "Oh...that's ok Diego! Your father said you probably got wrapped up in a book or something and forgot the time. Don't give it a second thought! The evening turned out just perfect anyway! Thanks to Zorro!" she replied breathlessly.

Diego sighed and shook his head. He glanced back and noticed the cluttered table near the kitchen.

"Say Victoria, would you like some help cleaning up?" he inquired amiably.

Victoria stood up and cast a resolute smile at Diego. "Thank you for offering, but I can manage, really!" she replied.

Diego feeling a slight twinge of guilt on his lesser alter ego's part looked at Victoria earnestly.

"Really Victoria, it's the least I can do for not coming to your dinner. I really don't mind!" he stated modestly.

Just as Victoria was about to answer, a very loud rumble of thunder was heard outside the tavern, causing a slight tremble in the rafters. Diego and Victoria hurried to the door and looked out just in time to see a flash of lightening and a wall of rain come pouring down from the sky. The rain poured heavily upon the tiles of the roof, falling from the awning of the tavern like a waterfall cascading down a mountain but making a spattering sound as it hit the hard dry ground.

As they stood watching the rain, Victoria put her hand to her hip and shook her head and smiled.

"Well Diego, it looks like you're going to be stuck here for awhile! I guess I will take you up on that help after all!" she chuckled.

Diego cast an amiable look at Victoria and smiled. "You know Victoria, even if it wasn't raining, I'd just find some other excuse to keep you company tonight. Not only do I not mind helping out, but I just enjoy being around you. You're a very special woman Victoria, in more ways than one!" Responded Diego resolutely as he gazed at Victoria and smiled.

As Victoria slowly closed the door, she turned and cast a curious look at Diego, eyeing him intently.

A disconcerting feeling briefly came over Diego as he noticed the expression on Victoria's face as she looked at him.

"What's the matter Victoria, was it something I said?" he inquired arnestly.

Victoria shook her head and smiled as she walked up to Diego. "You know Diego, Zorro said almost the same thing tonight! Isn't that a coincidence!" she stated earnestly.

Diego flashed a half smile and slightly shook his head. "Well, not really Victoria! After all, it only proves one thing!" he remarked decidedly.

Victoria cast an inquisitive look at Diego. "Really, what's that Diego?"

Diego picked up her hand and pressed a tender kiss to the back and smiled as he gazed warmly into her eyes.

"It proves that Zorro and I have excellent taste in women!" he replied warmly as he flashed a quick wink at her.

Victoria slightly blushed as she shook her head and smiled. "Diego you may not be like Zorro but I must say, you do have at least one thing in common." She replied resolutely.

"Really! What's that Victoria?" he inquired as his eyes cast an attentive look at her.

"You really know how to flatter a girl!" she replied smiling.

"Well you know what they say about flattery Victoria!" Diego responded cleverly.

"What's that Diego?" Victoria inquired as she looked at him somewhat smugly and smiled.

"Flattery will get you anywhere!" Diego replied as he gazed warmly into her eyes. He briefly leaned over and pressed a light kiss to her cheek and smiled.

Victoria slightly blushed and cast a retiring look at Diego and smiled. "You never cease to amaze me Diego! You're always full of surprises!" Victoria replied amiably.

Diego smiled and slightly shrugged his shoulders.

"Diego..." Victoria began as she cast an earnest look into his eyes. "I don't care if you're not like Zorro, I like you just the way you are! Don't ever change!" she replied resolutely as she returned a quick kiss to his cheek and smiled.

"Do you really mean that Victoria?" Diego inquired somewhat curious.

"Of course Diego! You and Zorro are different as night and day! But despite your differences, you're both decent and compassionate men and you both care about people. In some respects you're more alike than you are different. But, you are who you are and Zorro is Zorro, and I wouldn't trade either of you for anything in the world!" concluded Victoria sincerely as she smiled at Diego.

Diego gazed compassionately at Victoria and smiled. A sudden wave of humility flowed through him as he slightly blushed from her remark. How could he not feel humbled by someone like Victoria. The same passion, dreams, compassion and pride that dwelled in Diego, also dwelled in Victoria. Her family had fought for the same beliefs as his family had and through tradition she held firm to her beliefs like Diego.

That's why he thought this whole deception of his was so ironic. Here Victoria was, saying how much he and Zorro were alike, when in reality, he in Victoria were just as much alike as he and Zorro! If only he could tell her he was Zorro! That would make everything perfect! But that would have to wait. At least she didn't think any less of him as Diego and this at least was a comfort to him as well as a sign of hope.

"Gracias Victoria! I am truly flattered and honored that you hold me in the same esteem as Zorro! Maybe one day I can prove to you that I can be the man that Zorro is!" he replied humbly.

Victoria looked at Diego resolutely. "Diego, there's nothing to prove! You and Zorro are men in your own right and I am proud of both you! Oh yes, and I love you both very much!" she added smiling warmly. "Now if you don't mind Diego, you did promise to help me!" Victoria added as she motioned to her table that had not been cleared from dinner.

"Oh yes, I did say that didn't I!" replied Diego smiling.

They walked back to the table and quickly cleared away the dishes, glasses and utensils and took them to the kitchen. Diego reached into his pocket and retrieved a coin and flipped it into the air to see who washed and who dried! As fate would have it, he ended up washing! He pulled off his jacket, rolled up sleeves and donned one of Victoria's aprons and plunged his hands into the warm sudsy water that Victoria had prepared. As he proceeded to do his job, he slightly chuckled to himself and looked up at Victoria and smiled. 'One thing for sure...' Diego thought. 'Victoria can make you feel humble in more ways than one!' He shook his head and laughed.

"You know Victoria, I wonder if Zorro ever had to wash dishes?" he queried humorously as he rinsed a dish and handed it to Victoria.

"I don't know Diego. But you can bet that if he did, he probably wouldn't mind a bit!" she responded resolutely and smiled as she dried her dish and put it away.

As Diego rinsed out a wine glass, he handed it to Victoria and smiled. "You're right Victoria, I don't think he would! Not in the very least!"

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