"CADENAS DE AMOR"

CHAPTER FOUR

"TERMINUS"

     The next morning, a  bleary-eyed Diego stumbled his way to the cabin he was supposed to share with his wife.  He had instead uncomfortably slept in one of the life boats, if one could call the tossing and turning he had done sleeping.  It had been a long night indeed.

     He hesitantly tapped on the door.  Not receiving an answer, he rapped again, this time a little more forcefully.  "Zafira," he called out as he placed his ear near the door.  He could hear her moving about the room.  "Zafira, open the door," Diego insisted as he knocked one more time.

     The portal was ripped open.  "What do you want?"  a white-faced, red-eyed Zafira demanded.  Diego thought that she had fared no better than he had the previous evening.

     "I just came to see if you were alright," he commented.  He could tell she was still upset with him but possibly she had calmed down some from the hysterical state she had been in last night.

     "I'm just fine, Diego," she stated tiredly.  "Now go away."  She tried to close the door

     "Zafira, por favor," he pleaded as he wedged his body into the narrow opening.  "Querida, I love you.  Please, we need to talk."

      "I have nothing to say to you, Diego," she declared, her eyes downcast.  Diego had the feeling she didn't dare meet his eyes.  She was definitely hiding something, he thought.

      "Very well," he said, then pushed his way into the cabin, catching her off-guard.  "I do, however, have a few things to say to you.  And I want you to listen."

     Zafira fell rather than sat down on the narrow bed.  Diego abruptly stopped in the middle of the room.  It was in total chaos.  All the linens had been stripped from the bed and were wadded up in one corner.  It looked as though some of them were streaked with blood. Glass from the broken lamp that crunched under his boot heels could explain that, he thought, although he didn't noticed any obvious wounds on his wife.

     "What on earth happened?" Diego inquired in an appalled tone.

     Zafira looked up at him dully before glancing around the tiny cabin.  "I. . .  I don't. . .remember," she stammered the obvious lie.

     Diego sat down on the bed next to her.  "Querida, what is going on?  Why?"  He waved his hand, indicating the room's destruction.  "Zafira, we don't know that Ricardo was one of the rebels who was killed.  You have to hold on to the hope that he is still alive until we hear otherwise."

     She took a deep breath.  "Even if. . .  Even if he is still alive, he was probably taken captive," she said, the despair plain in her voice.  "He will die a traitor's death."   She shuddered slightly before adding, "He is as good as dead."

     With that, Zafira collapsed into Diego's arms and started sobbing her heart out.  He stroked her hair and back as she soaked the front of his white linen shirt.  All of Diego's anger and impatience drained from him as he held his wife.  What she had said was probably very true, that her brother was dead, one way or another.  And did it really matter how?  He thought of how he would feel if he were in her place and it were his father or Felipe who were going to. . .

     Diego sighed, clearing the heart-wrenching thought from his mind.  He tightened his embrace of the thin, grief stricken woman.  She nuzzled her face against his neck, causing totally inappropriate feelings to stir in his loins.

      Zafira must have sensed the change in her husband and pulled away from him.  "I'll be alright, Diego.  Just. . .  Just give me a little time, por favor?" she pleaded as she attempted to wipe the tears from her pale face.

     "Of course, mi preciosa," he readily agreed.  "Take as much time as you like."  Diego got to his feet, then down on one knee, taking his wife's hands in his.  "I am truly sorry about your brother, Zafira.  I want you to believe that.  I never hated him.  I just didn't know him very well," Diego said as he looked deeply into her blue eyes.

     Zafira turned away from his intense gaze, sighing wearily.  "I know, Diego," she replied.  She extricated her hands from his before returning her regard to him.  "I'm tired, Diego."

     "Of course, you must rest," he said sympathetically.  He once again glanced around at the havoc she had caused in the small cabin.  He would just clean it up later, he thought as he watched his wife sink down onto the bed and close her red rimmed eyes.  "I love you, Zafira."

    "Mmm."  Her reply was muffled as she buried her face into her pillow.  Diego hesitated, wondering if he should stay with her.  But a desire to escape the suffocating confines of the room suddenly overwhelmed him and he strode out the door without a backward glance.
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     An unspoken truce developed between the newlywed couple for the rest of the week.   Diego had slept in the lifeboat while Zafira had remained locked in the cabin that first week after she had learned of the rebels' defeat at Segovia.  Several times a day, he had knocked on the door only to be answered by muffled sobbing.

     At least she was still alive, he had thought, not without a bit of rancor.  Finally one afternoon, the door had opened in response to his rapping, and the tear-stained face of his wife appeared.

    "Oh, Diego," she had cried as she flung her arms around his neck, clinging tightly.  "I'm so, so sorry."  She looked up at him, her eyes begging his forgiveness.  "I will try to be a good wife from now on, Diego.  Please. . ."

     The rest of her pleas were cut off as Diego kissed her firmly on the lips.  "Oh, mi preciosa," he murmured once they had moved apart.  "There is nothing to forgive.  You had to grieve for your brother."  He quickly brushed his mouth on hers again.  "And I will try to be a better husband from now as well."

     She was well enough by the time they dropped anchor in Havana that she and Diego spent an afternoon exploring the Cuban port.  Zafira had once again become the warm, loving woman he had fallen in love with just a few months earlier.

     Diego was once more leaning against the ship's railing, really not seeing the vast blue expanse of the Pacific Ocean before him.  Zafira had once more suffered from a mild case of seasickness and was resting in their cabin.  The week that they had spent traveling overland from the Caribbean to the Pacific had been enough time for her to readjust to being on land instead of the constantly rolling sea.   Thankfully Doctor Saludo had given him another bottle of the herbal remedy, knowing Zafira would probably have a relapse.

     He was glad that their journey was almost at an end.  Now that he no longer worried so much about his wife's mood swings, Diego began to dwell on the situation in Los Angeles.  It must be very bad if his father had wanted him to come home at once.  Maybe in the time since he had set sail, whatever situation that had been so intolerable to Alejandro de la Vega had since rectified itself.

     Diego sincerely hoped so.  Zafira did not speak often of what would be her new home, which concerned him greatly.  To arrive in the pueblo to open warfare would not be the best way to introduce the skittish young woman to the pueblo de Los Angeles.

     Sighing heavily, Diego turned away from railing and made his way back down to the cabin he shared with his wife.
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[parts of the following scene taken from "The Legend Begins" written by Robert L McCullough]

     Diego leapt out of the carriage before it came to a full stop.  "Gracias," he said over his shoulder to the driver.  He walked hurriedly through the gate, his black cape flowing behind him,  where he was met by his father and Felipe who had emerged from the hacienda at the sound of the coach's wheels.

     "Diego, welcome home," greeted Don Alejandro as father and son embraced each other tightly.  The old don then stepped back to look at Diego, his face split with a wide smile.

     "I came as soon as I could," Diego explained.

     "Well, they put some meat on you I see."

     "And filled my head with ideas as well," added Diego with a laugh

     "Good, good," replied Don Alejandro, "I can't wait to hear all about it."

     Diego finally turned his attention to Felipe who stood behind his father, patiently waiting to be acknowledged.  "Well, who's this?" he teased.  Inwardly, he was cringing.  In the four years he had been away, the cute little boy had grown into the slightly awkward adolescent who now stood before him.  Zafira would never change her mind about adopting him, he surmised with a pang.

     "Oh, new man I hired."  The elder de la Vega caught on to the joke right away and quickly joined in.

     "Whatever happened to that little boy, that fellow who was always underfoot?" asked Diego, keeping up the pretense.  "What was his name?"

     "Felipe?" supplied Don Alejandro.

     "That's it," said Diego.  "What ever happened to him?"

     Felipe placed his hands on his chest, indicating he was Felipe.  Diego looked at him with consternation.

     "You're Felipe?  Ah, that's impossible," he said.  Then he held his hand about four feet from the ground.  "He was just this tall when I left."

     Felipe placed his hand at about the same height as Diego's hand, then brought it up to the top of his head, showing his mentor how much he had grown during the time he had been away.

     Diego's smile was tinged with a touch of sadness.  "Then give me a hug before you're too big to hold."  Felipe eagerly embraced him, a huge grin on his young face.

     Diego shot a worried look over the youth's shoulder at his father.  "Any change?"

      Don Alejandro once again caught on swiftly to his son's question and shook his head.  "The boy still can't hear a thing, Diego."

     They could say nothing more as Felipe stepped out of Diego's arms and looked up happily at him.  Then Diego was further distracted as just then a large patrol of soldiers thundered by the hacienda, led by a man dressed in civilian clothes of expensive quality.  His father turned to stare at the show of power, with Felipe only turning around after noticing the other men had already done so

     "What's all this?" Diego demanded to know as the brigade rode by.  "What's all this about?"

     The old don shook his head again.  "It's why I sent for you."

     But before his father could launch into an explanation, an impatient "Diego" came from inside the coach still waiting by the hacienda gate.  Don Alejandro gave his son a bewildered look.

     "Uno momento," said Diego before making his way to the conveyance.  He assisted Zafira out of the vehicle and held her hand as he led her up the walkway to his father.

     "Diego, who. . ." Don Alejandro began before recognition of the situation set in.  Felipe, however, remained confused.

      "Father, I would like to introduce you to Señora Zafira de la Vega," Diego declared proudly.   "My wife."
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"CADENAS DE AMOR" - CHAPTER FIVE