The silence following Felipe's announcement was deafening. At first, Diego had misunderstood, thinking the young man was speaking of his and Victoria's coming bundle of joy. Then he realized that was not the case. A gasp came from his wife as she reached the same conclusion.
He lowered his head and took a deep breath before he spoke. "Are you sure?"
"Si, Don Diego," Ana Maria answered with tears in her eyes. "Doctor Hernandez, he. . . He said the baby is due in early October."
Felipe squeezed her hand reassuredly as Diego mentally counted. He narrowed his eyes as he stared at his son. Out walking, were they? He raised an eyebrow as he remember the excuse the young man had given him for their absence from the New Year's party. Felipe looked away guiltily as he knew his lie had finally been caught out.
"We're getting married," he stated. "We're going to speak with Padre Benitez this afternoon."
"Does your mother know, Ana Maria?" Victoria queried. She felt a little sorry for the young couple. They seemed so scared.
"No, we haven't told her yet," the young woman replied. And she was not looking forward to it. She often wondered if all those things her mother used to say to her were true. That she was a brazen hussy who threw herself at men.
She glanced at Felipe then and saw the love in his eyes. No, there was only one man she would ever want and he was going to be the father of her children, her husband. She smiled at him, love shining in her dark brown eyes as well.
Victoria, sensing that her husband wished to talk with their adopted son alone, pried herself off the settee with Diego's help. "Come with me, Ana Maria. I will show you some of the things I have for the baby."
The young woman patted Felipe's hand as she rose and followed the very pregnant Victoria out of the library. He hung his head down as he knew his father was very disappointed with him.
Diego didn't know where to begin. He was unhappy about this turn of events. He realized there had been unusual circumstances in the young couple's relationship but still. . .
"Felipe, I thought I taught you a gentleman treats the woman he loves with respect," he stated righteously. "What you have done is quite beyond. . ."
"We were going to be married anyway," his son interrupted defensively. "It just will be sooner than later, that's all."
"I know, hijo," Diego replied. "I just wish. . ." He tried but couldn't keep the regret from his voice.
"I'm sorry." The young man stared ashamedly at the floor as he rubbed the back of his neck. "You just don't understand. . ."
"I think I do," his father disagreed forcefully. "I had to control my desire for Victoria for over eight years."
"I'm not you," Felipe retorted angrily, glaring up at the older man. "Things are different between Ana Maria and I. She. . ." He broke off, not wanting to reveal that she had desired their lovemaking as much as he had. In fact she had instigated it both times. He had not forced her to do anything she wasn't willing to do.
"Well, arguing about it now isn't going to solve anything," declared Diego sagely. "What's done is done. When is the wedding?"
"Tomorrow, hopefully," Felipe replied, his temper cooling. "Don Ernesto only gave me until Monday. I have to be back then."
As today was Friday, that didn't leave a lot of time, Diego mused. Things needed to be arranged quickly. The young couple would need a place to live, the rented room where Felipe now stayed in Santa Paula wouldn't do. Ana Maria's belongings would have to packed up and taken with them.
And her mother was going to have to be told. Diego didn't envy his son that task. The woman had a very straitlaced attitude when it came to her daughter. She was going to be more scandalized by this than anyone else in town.
"We'll need to move fast," Diego stated. Then a thought struck him. "You're making me a grandfather," he said in disbelief, then he chuckled. "I don't know if I'm ready for that." He was barely prepared for the birth of his own child.
"Well, you have seven months to get used it," declared Felipe, grinning broadly as he patted his father on the back.
The voices of the women coming nearer put an end
to any more conservation they might have had. They both were smiling
when Victoria and Ana Maria came back into the library, comparing their
symptoms and chatting about the adorable little garments the older woman
had gathered for her baby.
Z Z Z
"And I now pronounce you husband and wife," declared Padre Benitez. He smiled benignly at the young couple in front of him. "You may now kiss the bride."
It took Felipe a moment to realize what the priest had said. He had been lost deep in the eyes of his beautiful bride. He leaned down and kissed her sweet lips, lingering a little longer than was proper.
They turned to walk down the aisle, past the tight-lipped countenance of Señora Ortega. To say she had been livid when she heard the news of her daughter's pregnancy and hastily arranged marriage was putting it mildly.
She had raised her hand to slap Ana Maria when they had told her. Felipe defended his sweetheart by stepping in front of her. "Don't you dare hit her," he growled at his future mother-in-law. "This is my fault. Hit me."
Some of Leonora's anger dissipated then. She realized that Felipe cared for her daughter and would do anything to protect her. She sincerely doubted the blame all fell on his shoulders though. At least he was willing to marry the girl, she thought with relief.
He had worried about leaving Ana Maria alone with her mother that night. She had told him it would be all right, she would be fine. But the tears in her eyes and her quivering lip told another story. He had stayed with her as long as possible before returning to the hacienda.
The sun was just beginning to set as they emerged from the church. The small group of family and friends made their way to the tavern, where a wedding supper was to take place.
Victoria had insisted that they use her old living quarters for their wedding night. They would be more comfortable there, she had said. Felipe had agreed. He was going to be nervous enough as it was. He would feel odd in his bedroom at the hacienda, knowing Diego and Victoria, not to mention Don Alejandro were nearby. And the dressmaking shop was out of the question. The thought of Leonora Ortega in the next room would kill even the strongest desire.
There was just an older married couple staying at the inn that night, and Victoria had put them on the opposite side of the building. She kissed both the newlyweds on the cheek as she and Diego prepared to leave. "Be happy," she whispered. Then she took her husband's hand as he led her out to the waiting carriage.
Ana Maria and Felipe entered the bedroom and stared at each other in amazement. About a dozen candles were flickering throughout the room and the bed was covered with rose petals. Felipe mentally thanked his adopted mother and realized his father was a very, very lucky man. But not as fortunate as he was, he thought as he gazed down as his beautiful wife.
With a beguiling smile, she sat down on the bed. She was wearing the same dress Victoria had worn when she married Diego and it was just as lovely on her as it had been on the older woman. Felipe sat down beside her and caressed her bare shoulders before kissing her tenderly on the lips.
She leaned back onto the bed, heedless of crushing the fragile flowers as she drew him down on top of her. The fastenings on her dress were easily opened and they both were soon divested of their clothing.
Felipe trembled as he hovered over her. "Are you sure this is all right?" he asked concernedly. "It won't hurt the baby?"
"No," she replied, her voice shaking with desire. "Victoria said she and Diego. . . Well, until last month anyway." She blushed at the thought of the older couple doing what they were about to do.
Felipe kissed his way down to her stomach. Stroking it gently, he realized his son or daughter was inside that tiny swell of her belly. Madre de Dios. He reverently placed another kiss just under her navel, then looked up at her face. He was alarmed to see tears streaking down her cheeks.
"I'm all right," she said, a smile creeping over her face. "I love you, Felipe. Please. . ." She motioned for him to resume his place atop her. "Please, I need you so much."
He tried to blink away his own tears as
he did as she requested. "I love you, Ana," he murmured as they became
one for the first time as husband and wife.
Z Z Z
Don Alejandro agreed to accompany the newlyweds to Santa Paula and help get them established. Diego would have like to have gone, but with the niño due in about a month, he didn't want to leave Victoria. Just that morning, she complained her back and her feet hurt. He made her promise to take it easy, knowing the wedding and all its preparations had been too much for her. But she insisted on helping make the young couple's day and night special. They would get no such assistance from the young woman's mother, she had grumbled bitterly.
Diego and Felipe were loading the last of Ana Maria's things into the wagon parked in front of the seamstress shop. Señora Ortega had sat grim faced, attaching a sleeve to a white linen shirt, as the men had carried boxes in then out of the building.
She rose, setting down her work carefully, and went to the bedroom that would no longer be her daughter's. Ana Maria stood in the middle of the room, making sure she had everything she needed. She spun around as her mother paused in the doorway.
"Mama," she started to say but the look in the older woman's eyes silenced her.
"Ana Maria, you are my daughter," Leonora stated. "My only child. When your father was killed. . ." She paused as her voice caught in her throat. "You can't imagine how hard it was for me. I was a woman alone with a child to raise. I was fortunate I was skillful with a needle."
She removed something from her skirt pocket and handed it to the young woman. Ana Maria gasped. It was a pair of gold scissors with pearl inlaid handles that had belonged to her grandmother. She had been a seamstress too. She couldn't believe her mother was giving them to her. Tears filled her eyes as she reached out and hugged Leonora.
"Mama, gracias," she whispered. She looked up into the older woman's eyes. "I am sorry. I know I have shamed you. I just hope someday you can forgive me."
"In my heart, I already have, hija." The señora turned away and looked out the window. "I never told you this before and I had hoped I would never have to." She then glanced at her daughter. "I was pregnant with you before I married your father."
"Mama," said Ana Maria in shock. Of all the things her mother could have told her, this would have been the last thing she expected.
"I was seventeen when I met Jose, your papa," Leonora reminisced. "He was the first boy to ever notice me. I let him do things I knew I shouldn't but. . ." She put her hands on Ana Maria's shoulders. "I had hoped for better for you, hija. Your papa and I didn't love each other but you were on the way and we had to get married.
Jose resented it. He looked for any excuse to get away from us. When the August Revolution broke out, he was one of the first to join the rebels. I just didn't want you to make the same mistake I did. It breaks my heart that the same thing is happening to you."
"No, Mama," Ana Maria contradicted. "It's not the same. Felipe and I love each other. And I never let him do anything to me I didn't want done." She glanced down at her feet. "I know that makes me a bad woman. . ."
"No, Ana Maria, that makes you a woman, that's all," her mother said.
The young woman looked at Leonora's face. Now she knew why the older woman had acquired the tough outer shell she never let anyone penetrate. Leonora had been badly hurt by her husband's disregard for his wife and child. Ana Maria had always known deep down that her mother had loved her but that she had a hard time showing it.
"Mama," she asked cautiously. "Do you love Jaime?"
"I-I. . ." Leonora was surprised by her daughter's question.
"If you don't, please don't marry him," Ana Maria advised. "It will break his heart. He wants a family, you know. You should tell him what you have just told me." She put up her hand to quell her mother's protest. "He should know about Papa. Tell him, Mama."
"I don't know if it's love," the seamstress confessed. "I do care for him deeply. And I do know he wants children. I just don't know if I can give them to him." Seeing the expression on her daughter's face, she added, "because I'm too old."
"You're only thirty-six," said the young woman with a smile. "I would love a little sister or brother or two."
"I will think about telling him," Leonora stated. She awkwardly hugged her daughter. "I just want you to be happy, Ana Maria."
"I am, Mama." She kissed her mother's cheek. "Gracias."
Outside the shop, Diego and Felipe were waiting for Ana Maria. Don Alejandro had already left after attending Mass that morning, riding Viento, Felipe's stallion. Hopefully by the time the newly married couple arrived in Santa Paula, he would have found a place for them to live.
Diego looked at his grown son. He was now a husband and soon-to-be a father. It seemed that the young man had matured rapidly in the last couple of years. Sometimes he found himself missing the little boy immensely.
"I suppose you won't be coming back home as often as you have been," he commented a bit sadly.
"We'll be back next month," replied Felipe, "when the baby is born. After that, I don't know." He shrugged his shoulders. "Depends on if Ana Maria can make the trip."
"As soon as Victoria and the niña are able to travel, we'll come visit you," suggested Diego. "We have quite fond memories of Santa Paula."
Felipe laughed. "Victoria says it's going to be a boy." And he knew what those memories were, namely their child had been conceived there on their wedding night. The night his father had revealed to Victoria that he was Zorro.
He sobered at the thought that tonight might be the first night he and Ana Maria would be together in a place they could call their own. Thinking of all the places they had made love, he smiled again. He doubted if most couples had been in so many different and varied places as they had. He glanced up at Diego, grinning wickedly as he remembered the previous evening.
"Did Victoria ever do that for you?" he asked. When his father looked at him in confusion and shock, he clarified his question. "The candles and roses."
"Once or twice," Diego reluctantly confessed, a bit embarrassed to be discussing such things with his son. Actually he had lost count but would never grow tired of it. He knew their wives were swapping secrets about them. He was almost afraid to learn what the two women had shared.
He was relieved when Ana Maria and her mother emerged from the dressmaking shop. Both women, though tearful, were smiling; a good omen, thought Diego. Hopefully whatever problems there were between the mother and daughter had been worked out and the señora had forgiven the young couple.
This was confirmed when Leonora, after hugging her daughter goodbye, turned to Felipe and drew him into her arms for a quick embrace. "Take care of her," she said, wiping at her eyes with a lace-trimmed handkerchief.
"Don't worry, I will," the young man promised. He kissed his mother-in-law on the cheek. "Gracias."
Diego also hugged both of them goodbye. Then Felipe helped Ana Maria into the seat of the wagon.
"Adios," the young couple said as the wagon began to slowly move as Felipe flicked the reins.
"Adios." Diego and Leonora
waved as his son and her daughter embarked on their new life together.
Z Z Z
"SUEÑOS ROTOS" - CHAPTER THREE