"THE BEST LAID PLANS. . ."
[parts of the following scene taken from "The Best Man" written by Robert L McCullough]
Everyone was stunned by Margarita's response to her novio's announcement. She stomped her foot then spun on her heel around and started walking out of the room.
"Margarita!" called Rafael. "A toast!" He began to go after her.
She swirled back around. "To what?" she asked petulantly. "There's not going to be any wedding." She then turned again and ran off down a hallway.
His cousin tried to make excuses for her but Diego alone knew what was troubling the young woman. He volunteered to go reason with her. He found her staring out a window that overlooked the courtyard. "Margarita?" he queried cautiously. She didn't deign to turn around but keep staring morosely out the panes of glass.
"Rafael loves you very much," stated Diego, hoping it was true. "I think you know that." He stepped in front of her. "He's a good man, my cousin."
Margarita slowly lifted her face to gaze at him. "But I cannot marry him," she said firmly.
"I love another man," said Margarita.
Diego stared at her in disbelief. "Another man?" he inquired worriedly, knowing now what he feared was true.
"I love Zorro," she said passionately. Then she flounced away, going to the guest room designated for her use and slamming the door.
Later that night, Diego sat alone in the secret cave, wondering what to do about his dilemma. He had tried unsuccessfully to dissuade Rafael from seeking a confrontation with Zorro. He had no desire to fight with his cousin over Margarita. She was a beautiful woman but Diego had no feelings for her beyond the fact she had been going to marry into the family.
It seemed pointless to him for anyone to be injured or, God forbid, killed over such a fickle, flighty woman. Even Zafira thought Margarita was an idiot for jilting a good man like Rafael for an outlaw she didn't even know.
Personally he thought his cousin was well clear of the woman. But for some reason, Rafael still loved her and still insisted she was going to marry him. He had heard the two arguing outside their rooms after dinner. Tactfully, he had turned around and headed toward the library.
Diego twisted a white quill between his fingers as he thought about how he could help his cousin. Obviously Margarita was blinded by Zorro's heroics. If only he could bring Rafael into a courageous light, maybe his faithless fiancée would swing her affections away from the man in black and back to her novio.
The plan that he and Felipe implemented the next morning seemed easy enough; have Felipe ride a wildly bucking horse into the plaza where Rafael and Margarita had gone to the market and let his cousin rescue the lad. Then Margarita would fall in love with his cousin again. It was almost fool-proof.
But about an hour after he had left, a dejected Felipe rode into the de la Vega stables where an anxious Diego awaited his return. "It didn't work?" he asked the boy unnecessarily.
Felipe shook his head then launched into a series of hand gestures that Diego had a little trouble keeping up with as they walked toward the hacienda.
"The Alcalde has thrown Rafael and Margarita out of the pueblo?" he asked, finally understanding the lad's signs. Felipe nodded. "And he's giving them two hours to leave?"
The youth nodded again as they entered the house. Diego wandered into the library and sat down on a settee, rubbing his chin absently. Felipe tapped him on the arm and made several more motions with his hands.
"Margarita and Señorita Victoria got into a fight?" queried Diego with a smile. "Over Zorro?" He shook his head. "That would have been something to see." He chuckled softly as he saw in his head the picture of his fiercely loyal Victoria taking on the inconstant Margarita.
The front door being slammed closed interrupted Diego's musings. A red-faced Rafael came striding into the hacienda, dragging a truculent Margarita in with him.
"Let go of me, Rafael!" she said as she tried to twist her forearm from his grasp. "You're hurting me!"
Diego got to his feet and rushed over to the where the couple now stood. He shot his cousin a look that made Rafael drop Margarita's arm like it as on fire.
"Stay out of it, Diego," he said warningly. "We have to go pack. Your alcalde has banned us from Los Angeles, all because my fickle fiancée cannot act like a mature woman."
"That. . .that. . . tavern wench," Margarita spat out. "She said Zorro was in love with her. She's just a common trollop. What would a man like him ever see in her, she's nothing but a har. . ."
"That's quite enough, Señorita," cut in Diego sternly, unable to listen to the insults to Victoria's good name. "You'd better go start packing."
Margarita stared at him open-mouthed for a few moments. "You're not. . . You're not going to help us stay?" she asked in a shocked tone. Then her lips curled into a sneer. "No, of course, you wouldn't, would you, Diego?"
She turned and flounced off, no doubt going in search of his father to plead her case. Diego shook his head before facing his cousin.
"I'm sorry, Rafael," he apologized.
"This is not your fault, Diego," the other man replied. "Margarita is spoiled and willful. Her parents overindulge her. . ."
"And you still want to marry her?" Diego asked a little incredulously. He thought of his own disaster of a marriage to a spoiled, willful woman and would not wish the same thing upon his cousin.
Rafael glanced to his right, then his left, then at Diego. "I have to marry her, Cousin," he announced quietly. "I've. . . We've. . ." He shook his head. "I am honor-bound to wed her. It's my duty."
"I see," said Diego, understanding only
too well. It seemed that thinking with what was in their pants instead
of their heads was a characteristic that the de la Vega men shared.
It was certainly what caused the mess in which he was now living.
He patted his cousin on the shoulder. "Come on, I'll help you get
ready to leave."
Z Z Z
[parts of the following scene taken from "The Best Man" written by Robert L McCullough]
Diego lost little time making his way to the secret cave after his cousin and his novia had departed the hacienda. In a matter of minutes, with Felipe's help, he had dressed as Zorro and was sitting on Toronado's back as the lad handed him the horse's reins.
"We must make sure that Margarita changes her mind about marrying my cousin, " Zorro said. "Our last attempt to help Margarita see Rafael in a heroic light was a spectacular failure. This time, we'll be all alone out on the highway. The Alcalde won't be around to interfere."
He gave Felipe a wave, then ducked down as he and the stallion made their exit through the low ceilinged tunnel. Twenty minutes later, man and horse had arrived at Tres Equinas but unfortunately, not before Sergeant Mendoza, or two of his lancers, who were fighting with his cousin (who was holding his own quite nicely, he thought) as Margarita threw out pieces of luggage out of the buggy to distract the sword-wielding soldiers.
The good sergeant, however, was sitting on a rock, watching the contest and eating a chorizo. Zorro chuckled to himself before sliding off Toronado's back and walked stealthily behind the stout soldier. He came to a halt on a boulder about three feet from the unsuspecting man's back. He unsheathed his saber and used it to tap Mendoza on the shoulder, gaining the sergeant's attention.
The encounter ended with Mendoza trying to pull up his trousers as he and his lancers ran over to their horses. In seconds, the three soldiers had mounted their animals and were riding away as if the devil were on their tails.
Margarita stepped out of the buggy and hurried over to Zorro, who jumped down from the boulder as she approached.
"Ah, just the sight of you frightened them off!" Margarita gushed breathlessly.
"Are you all right?" he asked chivalrously. She nodded.
Rafael came toward them, his expression angry. "Thank you for your concern but we're just fine," he ground out, grabbing Margarita's arm and moving her away from Zorro. "And we'll be even better when you've met your proper end."
Zorro held out his hand. "You know we have no quarrel." He hoped Rafael wouldn't do anything foolish so he could implement his plan to make his novia see him as the hero.
"Defend yourself or die" challenged Rafael, pointing his sword at Zorro's chest.
"Of necessity, as you wish." Privately Zorro wished his cousin had not inherited the hot temper of the de la Vegas. But since he had. . .
The man in black saluted his opponent with his sword. Not bothering with such niceties, Rafael lunged at Zorro, who parried the thrust easily. It wasn't too long before he was driving Rafael backward behind the shelter of some large boulders, out of Margarita's sight. Zorro then knocked the sword from Rafael's hand and explained what he had in mind to do for his cousin to regain his novia's affections.
It had almost been too simple. He allowed Rafael to have the upper-hand, driving him out from behind the boulders. Zorro had thought that the other man's acting abilities left something to be desired but Margarita seemed to believe that her novio had actually defeated the mighty Zorro.
He had ridden away but had turned and watched them reconcile from a safe distance. He smiled grimly as he saw the inconstant woman kiss Rafael on the cheek before the couple drove off in their buggy.
Half an hour later found him riding once again through the narrow tunnel of the secret cavern under the hacienda. He had expected to find Felipe there waiting for him, just not in the state of panic the young man was obviously in.
"What's wrong?" he inquired as he dismounted Toronado. "What's happened?"
The boy started gesturing wildy, as if trying to get all the words out at once. The only sign that he recognized was the one they used for Zafira.
"Zafira? Something's wrong with my wife?" Zorro had started to undress but stopped after he pulled off his shirt. Felipe nodded.
As soon as he had changed, Diego bound out of the fireplace panel and into the library. He strode into the foyer where he literally bumped into his father.
"Son! Where have you been?" demanded the elder de la Vega. Not waiting for an answer, he grabbed Diego's arm. "Not now. The doctor is in with her."
"The doctor?" asked Diego stupidly.
Don Alejandro stopped and spun around to face his offspring. "She's losing the baby, Diego," he announced a bit testily. "And if you had been here instead of off gallivanting who knows where, doing who knows what. . ."
He tightened his grip on Diego's upper arm and unnecessarily dragged him down the hallway to the bedchambers. Several of the servants stood outside the door to Zafira's room, their gloomy faces telling Diego everything he needed to know. His wife had not endeared herself to the people of the hacienda. For them to be so concerned for her was not a good sign.
Diego opened the door and stepped inside the room. Doctor Hernandez and the housekeeper, Maria, were hovering over the bed. The bed where a deathly pale Zafira lay, her eyes closed as a grimace of pain contorted her usually lovely features. The physician turned and saw Diego, whispered something to Maria then came towards him.
"I'm afraid there's nothing we can do now, Don Diego," he announced with a shake of his head. "It's too late to save the baby."
Diego turned away from Hernandez and stared down at Zafira. "Gracias, Doctor," he said graciously. "I'm sure you've done all you can. Will. . . Will Zafira be all right?"
She's lost the baby, he thought to himself. She's lost our baby. Suddenly, a rush of sadness swept through him, staggering him with its force. His child was gone, poof, as if it never existed. He found his way to a chair and sat down, cupping his head in his hands. The doctor patted him gently on the shoulder.
"She's young and healthy, Don Diego," the physician said reassuringly. "There will be more children, don't worry."
Diego raised up to look at the man. No, he thought savagely, there would be no more children because he knew that Zafira never intended to let him touch her again. But the kind eyes of the man before him didn't know that. And Diego decided to mask his pain and accept the other man's pity.
"As long as there is no fever, she should be back on her feet in about a week or so," pronounced Hernandez. Flicking his eyes toward the two women then back at Diego, he added, "No marital relations for at least two months. She needs time to recover."
"Si, si," Diego responded automatically.
He remained seated in the chair until the doctor had re-packed his bag
and then he and Maria had left the room. Then Diego got to his feet
and departed the room as well.
He made his way down the hallway, to the small room that was being prepared as the nursery for a child who no longer existed. He looked at the walls that had been painted a sunny yellow. He stared at the refurbished cradle, painted white, and made up with a colorful patchwork quilt he remembered from his youth.
He knelt down beside the crib and rocked it gently. He tried to console himself with the thought that the miscarriage was just nature's way of taking care of its mistakes. That it was better this way, to lose the child now rather than later.
But Diego couldn't shake the feeling that Zafira had done something to end her pregnancy. She had nearly stopped eating. She had become so thin and pale. Had that harmed the baby? Or had it been just normal morning sickness? He should have been more insistent with her, he thought guiltily, he should have made sure that she ate a healthy diet.
He shook his head. It was too late for recriminations now. The baby was gone. Diego placed his hand on the now offensively cheerful coverlet.
"I'm so sorry, little one," he said, stroking the quilt absently. "You would have been loved. More than you'll ever know."
He stood up and left the room then, tears
running unchecked down his face.
Z Z Z
"CADENAS DE AMOR" - CHAPTER EIGHTEEN