"CADENAS DE AMOR"

CHAPTER TWO

"A UTOPIAN WORLD"

     As Diego didn't have classes again until Monday, the newlyweds stayed in Colmenar, strolling through the streets of the charming little pueblo.  He and Zafira bought little gifts for each other at the stalls of the weekly mercado that had been set up in the plaza.

      Just like back home in California, thought Diego as a twinge of homesickness struck him.  He hadn't felt this way since his first year at university.  Diego wondered why this longing for home would be afflicting him so painfully again now.  Was it because graduation was only two months away and he soon would be heading back to Los Angeles?  Or was there another reason, something he had pushed back into a corner of his mind and forgotten that now had come roaring back up to the surface again?

     Diego and Zafira returned to Madrid Sunday afternoon.  That night was the first he would spend in his temporary new home, a townhouse in a fashionable district of Madrid that Zafira and her brother had inherited from their parents.  There was a note from Ricardo, saying that he had gone to Segovia with his amigos so he could give the newly married couple a little time to themselves.  He warned them that he would be back in two weeks.

     "I don't think I will be tired of you in two weeks," declared Diego.  He reached down and nuzzled her neck with his lips.  "Or ever, mi querida."

      Zafira stepped away from his amorous advance.  "You do realize, don't you, Diego, that Ricardo has nowhere else to go?  That this house belongs to both of us?" she queried worriedly.

     "I understand, Zafira," her husband replied, a bit perturbed by the interruption.  "It's not like it will be forever.  As soon as I graduate, you'll be moving to California with me.  Ricardo will have the house all to himself then."

     The expression that came over his wife's face then told Diego that this was something she had not contemplated.  Would she be reluctant to leave Spain with him when the time came to do so, he wondered with concern.

     "I haven't been home in four years," stated Diego.  "I miss my father and Felipe and. . ."

     "I know," Zafira said.  "I'm your wife now, Diego.  I will follow you wherever you take me."  She stood up on tiptoe and kissed his cheek.  He put his arms around her and kissed her on the mouth.  One thing led to another and. . .

      The next two weeks passed by quickly.  Diego resumed his studies, including his fencing lessons with Sir Edmund.  He was teased unmercifully by his schoolmates once they found out he was now a married man, but they were all happy for him.  His saber master, however, had been dismayed upon learning about his pupil's hasty marriage.

     "Why the rush?" the Englishman demanded to know.  "You're only twenty-three, Diego.  Plenty of time to settle down and get married.  Why, you haven't even known her three months."

     Diego had closed his ears and his mind to the older man's prudent but unwanted words.  He had heard the same argument from his amigo, Miguel, and he was tired of it.  So what if he had known her such a short time?  It had only taken a few days to realize he loved her more than any woman he had ever known.  Why couldn't the people closest to him see that she made him happy?

     But did she really?  Little nagging thoughts were starting to make him question his certainty.  There were several things he was beginning to notice that made him question her feelings for him.  The warm, affectionate woman she had been before they married was slowly disappearing.  The lovemaking they had both enjoyed (or so he had thought) was already becoming less frequent.  Several nights she had turned him down completely, claiming she had a horrible headache.

     Diego had also been disheartened by Zafira's reaction to his suggestion several days earlier that they adopt Felipe upon their return to California.  She refused to even consider the idea.

     "Our children will be the heirs to the de la Vega estate," Zafira stated.  "I know how fond you are of this boy, Diego, and his story makes me very sad.  But think how heartbroken he will be when you have your own children; he will know you love them more than him."

      "But at least wait until you meet him, querida," Diego tried to change her mind.  "He is the most adorable little fellow.   He deserves a mother and father."

     "Si, I suppose he does," replied his wife with an indifferent shrug.  "But it can't be us, Diego."  She smiled up at him coquettishly.  "Maybe some nice peasant couple can adopt him.  I think it would be for the best."

     She put an end to the discussion by kissing him.  But Diego was still going over the conversation in his mind.  Was she afraid of Felipe's deafness and muteness?  He would have to show her once they arrived home that the boy was no monster.  Maybe then she would change her mind.

     All these disturbing thoughts were floating about in Diego's head, putting him in a melancholy mood.  He made it through his early morning classes before proceeding to the courtyard where his fight master waited.
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[following scene taken from "The Legend Begins" written by Robert L McCullough]

    Diego knew that Sir Edmund had noticed right away that something was troubling his young student.  Once their weapons were engaged, he had narrowed his eyes disbelievingly at the very sloppy moves Diego was making, his mind obviously not on the task at hand.

     The Englishman executed a peseta soto, causing Diego's saber to fall to the ground as he stumbled clumsily.  The young don, his hands on his slim hips, shook his head in disgust of his own ineptness.

     "It's incredible," stated Sir Edmund, equally appalled.  "Is this all we have to show for nearly four years?"

     "I'm sorry, Sir Edmund, but. . ." Diego started to reply grimly.

     "But, but, but," mocked the fight master.  "Do your studies weigh too heavily on you, Diego?" he inquired, no doubt trying to see if he could get at the root of his student's pathetic display of swordsmanship.

     "My studies are no problem," replied Diego defensively.

    "Good, because a man who buries his nose in books never sees the real world," Sir Edmund admonished, "and the real world demands a man be able to defend himself."

     He kicked Diego's dropped sword into the air.  His student deftly caught it.  "En garde!" shouted the fight master.

     The two men circled each other warily, each making tentative thrusts as they continued their conversation.

     "I hear things in Los Angeles are not going well," Diego mentioned casually, hoping to distract Kendall from the real reason for his inattentiveness.  Diego was not about to let the Englishman know there were already problems between him and his wife.  He was in no mood to hear ‘I told you so' from the older man.

     "Do you think that's why your father sent you here, to keep you out of harm's way?"

     "No, I think he sent me here to learn, to grow."

     "Precisely," remarked Sir Edmund.  "And when my job is done, I will send to Los Angeles a man of whom a father can be proud.  A man who can fight!"

     At this, the saber master pulled a dagger he had hidden in his waistband and lunged at his student.  Diego skillfully parried each blade thrust.  He grabbed Kendall's wrist and hit it against his lifted knee, causing the knife to clatter to the tiled floor.  Sir Edmund looked up at him, a huge smile on his ruddy face.

     "Ah, the puppy can bite," he said mockingly.

     They once more engaged their swords, intensifying the battle.  After only a few minutes, however, Diego caught his teacher off guard and put his blade against the older man's throat.  Sir Edmund's grin was even broader as Diego lowered his saber.

     "You've been holding back on me, haven't you?" queried the fight master.  He glanced suspiciously at his opponent.

     Diego's expression was one of innocence as he nonchalantly shrugged his broad shoulders.  But his eyes twinkled mischievously as he brought up his saber for a salute.  Master and pupil continued their lesson.
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[following scene taken from "The Legend Begins" written by Robert L McCullough]

     Later that afternoon, Diego was walking down a corridor that led away from the university's library.  His nose was once again stuck in a book.  He was so intent on what he was reading, he nearly collided with Sir Edmund.

     "Diego," the Englishman said in a exasperated tone as he tried to get the young don's attention.

     "Ah, Sir Edmund," replied Diego, finally lifting his eyes from his book.  "I've just discovered a theory that applies Euclidian trigonometric principles to da Vinci's early mechanics as a demonstration of. . ."

     "You and your books," interrupted the fight master with a smile.  It disappeared as his countenance became serious.  "Diego, I have just received a letter from your father.  The rumors we have heard about California are true.  Your father wants to know if I think you're ready to go home yet."

     Diego was taken aback at this announcement.  "Well, earlier today, you were saying I had so much to learn," he replied once the shock had worn off.

     "Don't we all?  As for me, ‘all I know is that I know nothing'," quoted Sir Edmund.

     "Socrates."  Diego identified the quote's originator.

     "Very good," responded his teacher with a grin.  He immediately became somber again.  "You've been a superb pupil, Diego.  Now you must be a superb man.  Take this."  He unhooked the scabbard from his belt that contained the magnificent sword he always wore and handed it the young Californian.

     Diego was once again overwhelmed.  "I don't understand," he said, the confusion plain in his voice.

     "You're the first student to ever best me in the courtyard," stated Kendall with pride.  "You've earned it."

     "This is your championship saber," said Diego, still a bit incredulous that such a honor was being bestowed on him.

     "You'll have to work with it," advised his fight master, "become accustomed to its weight."

     Diego lifted the sheathed sword in his hands, testing its heft.  "It is heavy, isn't it?" he agreed.

     "And its Toledo blade has never been defeated in competition.  My only prayer is that is does as well in the heat of battle."

     The young don pondered those words for a moment.  Battle?  Surely it wouldn't come to that.  Things couldn't be that bad back home.  He then made a promise he hoped he would be able to keep.  "And mine will be that it never draws blood."

     "A worthy goal, Diego," said Sir Edmund.  "But the fight for justice often demands more than intellect."

     "But what about everything I've learned here at the university," stressed Diego, knowing of the other man's disdain for ‘book learning' as he called it, "the sciences, history, political strategy.  Aren't those skills the most valuable?"

     "In a utopian world, yes.  But in this world, there is often greater value in daring, self-reliance, intrepid courage and sharp Toledo steel."  Sir Edmund replied as an encouraging smile crept across his face.

     Diego grinned back before unsheathing the saber from it scabbard.  He looked at it admiringly.  It really was a beautiful weapon.  He prayed once again that he would be worthy of it as a bittersweet smile graced his handsome face.  Now he had to go home and tell Zafira they were heading home to California.
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     "Now, Diego?" his wife practically shouted the question at him.  "Why now?  It is only two months until you graduate.  Why can't we wait until then?"

     Diego closed his eyes.  Never had he imagined that Zafira would react like this to the news they were to leave at once for California.   Her reluctance almost broke his resolve to obey his father's wishes.  But not quite. . .

     "My father wants me to come home," Diego quietly stated once again.  "You have to understand, querida.  He never would have asked me to return now if it were a problem he could handle himself.  Once you meet him, you'll understand.  Alejandro de la Vega is not a man who is easily intimidated."  He smiled at the thought of his strong, brave father.  Then he frowned.  It was quite unlike the elder de la Vega to raise the alarm unless it was very serious.

     "But Ricardo is supposed to come back from Segovia in two days.  How am I going to say goodbye to my brother if we leave tomorrow for Cadiz?"

     Diego shook his head wearily.  "I'm sorry, mi preciosa, it cannot be helped.  It's going to take us a week to reach Cadiz, then at least two more months before we reach California.  My father wants me back as soon as possible.  We have to leave tomorrow."

     Zafira stared angrily at her husband. "But he's my brother, the only family I have left.  What if I never see him again?"

     He examined her expression of sorrow and wondered just much of it was an act.  She had barely mentioned her sibling all the time he had been away.  Usually when she did speak of him, it was with a tinge of impatience in her voice.  Diego had gotten the impression during their short courtship that Zafira was not all that fond of her hermano.  Maybe he had mistaken normal sibling rivalry for something else.

     "You'll see him again, I promise," said Diego, prepared to vow almost anything to get her to leave willingly with him in the morning.  "Perhaps next year, we'll come back for our wedding anniversary?"  He smiled at her with what he hoped was his most convincing smile.  Then a thought crossed his mind that made his grin even wider.  He reached his hand out toward her stomach.  "Unless of course, there is a little one on the way by then."

     She flinched away from his touch.  "Alright," she acquiesced.  "I guess I will just leave Ricardo a note saying I'm sorry I had to abandon him but I had to do as my husband wished."  She brought up her hand to wipe tears away from her eyes.

     "Zafira, querida, don't feel this way," Diego pleaded.  "You'll love California.  I know you will."  He grasped her hands, not allowing her to pull away. "You know I would do anything I can to make you happy.  Just do this one thing for me, por favor."

    "I said I would go," she replied a bit defiantly.  "Now, if you will excuse me. . ."

     She didn't wait for his response but tore her hands from his and dashed into their bedroom, slamming the door behind her.  Diego followed her but stopped in his tracks as he could hear her retching.

     Dios mio!  He never meant to make her sick.  He hadn't realized she was so attached to her brother. It didn't help that she was probably frightened of leaving the only home she had ever known to live in a place she knew was fraught with danger.  It was the whole reason his father wanted him to come home.

     Diego, torn between his loyalties to his father and to his wife, realized he could not please them both.  He leaned his forehead against the door frame.  Inside their bedroom, he could hear his wife still being ill.  The same thought that had crossed his mind earlier appeared again.  No, that was impossible.  It was much too soon for her to be showing any signs of pregnancy.  After all, they had barely been married two weeks.

     No, it had to be from the upset she was feeling about being wrenched away from her family and home.  Well there was just no helping it, he thought somewhat cavalierly.  Right now, his deeper concern for his father's and Felipe's safety.  He and his wife were leaving in the morning for California.
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"CADENAS DE AMOR" - CHAPTER THREE