A New Beginning
                                                                         Chapter Eleven

Apprehension filled the hearts of those at the de la Vega rancho causing work to come to an immediate standstill while awaiting word of the birth of Anna Maria's child.  Leonar and Bernardo watched sadly as Don Alejandro nervously paced to and from on the stone patio tiles unable to rest until a baby's cry was heard throughout the hacienda and Anna Maria's condition was known.  Don Diego remained at his wife's bedside calmly reassuring her while Dr. Avila prepared his instruments and himself.  Once everything was ready the doctor asked Amalia to bring more hot water for the delivery was very near.

"It is almost time Don Diego," said the doctor.  "Why do you not wait with Don Alejandro downstairs?  It would bring comfort to you both."

"May Anna Maria and I have a moment?" Diego asked the doctor.

"Of course but only a moment," responded the doctor.
"Mi carino," began Diego.  "You are my life and I love you dearly.  This child is proof of our love.  I must leave you now but I will not be far."

Diego could see that Anna Maria was in a great deal of pain and he nearly called out "I will not leave this woman" until Anna Maria said, "Mi amor, I love you too!  The next time I see you our child will be with us."

Diego leaned down to kiss his wife's forehead and touch her face gently before leaving the room.  All eyes followed Diego as he descended the staircase his face filled with fear.  Waiting at the bottom of the stairs Don Alejandro embraced his son and both men clung to each other as they sought comfort in each other's arms.  Within moments the gate to the patio suddenly swung open to reveal a new visitor.          

"Grigorio," shouted Alejandro with out stretched arms.  "I was hoping you would be able to make it on time for the new arrival.  Your timing is impeccable for Anna Maria is about to have our first grandchild."

"Wonderful," said Grigorio already beaming. "There was some business at the hacienda that had to be cleared up before I could leave but I came as quickly as possible.   Diego, my boy, I am so glad to be able to share this time with Don Alejandro and yourself.  My daughter was she well?"

"Si and looking forward to holding our child in her arms."

"Diego, please have Bernardo bring some refreshment for our guests while we wait?" asked Alejandro.  "If nothing else it will give us something to do."
"At once father," Diego said as he headed toward Bernardo.

Turning to Grigorio, Alejandro said, "Diego is nervous, I believe giving him something to do will help."

"That is a very good idea," said Grigorio somewhat agitated.  "Alejandro before Diego returns there is something you must hear.  Pablo the Indian servant who tried to steal the supply money and another man have escaped their confinement in the north.  There are many soldiers searching for them but so far nothing.  They have not been seen any where around Monterey.  Have you been told anything?"
"Si," replied Alejandro, "Just this morning our head vaquero brought news from Sergeant Garcia.  The sergeant has already sent out patrols to look for the men and we have taken all necessary steps as a precaution."
"Good, good," answered Grigorio.  "I feel better.  I was worried that they would strike against Anna Maria and the family."

Meanwhile upstairs in the de la Vega bedroom Anna Maria was starting to show signs of weakening from the hard labor.  Amalia stood over her with a cool cloth wiping the perspiration from her face.  How Anna Maria wished Diego could have remained by her side!

"Alright Anna Maria it should be very soon," the doctor told her.  "Now bear down...yes...yes.  The baby is coming.  Amalia bring a blanket quickly."

Carefully he turned the baby's shoulder until he held the little one in his hands.  Slapping the baby firmly on it's bottom allowed a cry to be sounded throughout the hacienda.  A rich smile crossed the face of those waiting on the patio below.  Diego ran two steps at a time up the stairs and waited at the closed door of his room.  Don Alejandro and the rest of his party climbed the stairs to wait beside Diego.

In the bedroom the doctor handed Anna Maria her new son.  Weakened but smiling she uncovered the baby and looked into its handsome face.  What a proud moment for the new mother!  The doctor soon called to Amalia with unexpected new orders.  Amalia took the new baby from Anna Maria's arms as the doctor spoke.

"Anna Maria, you must concentrate on what I am saying and do not ask any  questions," he said forcefully.  "When I say bear down you must push as hard as you can.  Do you understand?  Good, now bear down…wonderful…one more time."
Those outside the bedroom heard another loud cry.  All were mystified as was Anna Maria who was now handed a beautiful daughter.  The two babies were both small but perfect.  Anna Maria looked at her two children through eyes filled with happy tears.  The doctor proudly smiled and made his way to the door where he found Diego standing motionless.

"Congratulations Don Diego," he said with a large grin.  "Hurry your wife wants you to share in her joy."

Diego bound past the doctor his heart beating fast to the bed where Anna Maria lay. Falling to his knees he placed his hand on his wife's while she lay restfully with a small bundle in her arms.  Smiling at Diego, Anna Maria uncovered part of the blanket to reveal their first child. 

"This is your son, my love,"  Anna Maria said with a smirk and slowly turned back the edge of the second blanket.  "This is your daughter."
"Our son…daughter…you mean there are two," said the surprised father. "They are so small but as beautiful as their mother.  I am overwhelmed."

"Diego, we have been doubly blessed," Anna Maria said her smile growing.   "Would you like to hold your son or daughter?"

Amalia bent down and lifted one of the babies and turned to Diego his arms opened wide.  Amalia placed the small carefully wrapped bundle in the waiting arms of the new father.  Diego was filled with immense joy as he looked at the child held by his wife and the one he held close to his heart. 
After sharing a tender moment with Anna Maria and their children, Diego made his way to the balcony and those waiting patiently.  As he walked out to the balcony family and friends surrounded him. 

"Diego, Dr. Avila has been silent except to say Anna Maria is well.  Now tell us, is it a boy or a girl?"

"Si," answered Diego his grin widening.

"What craziness is this!" responded Alejandro.

"Father, there are two babies.  A boy and a girl.  This is my daughter, Anna Maria has our son.  We have twins."

"By the saints, we have been blessed," Alejandro beamed at the child in Diego's arms. 
"Now if the doctor will allow we can see Anna Maria for a moment," said the proud father.  "Then she and the children need their rest."

The babies remained perfect angels, sleeping safely snuggled within the arms of their loving parents as family and friends gazed at the wonderous site.  All too soon Dr. Avila announced that it was time to leave.  Don Grigorio kissed his daughter but before he left he placed a special gift in her hand.

"My darling daughter," began Grigorio, "Your mother wished you to have this locket.  It belonged to her mother and her mother's mother and so down the line.  Now it is yours and one day you shall share it with your daughter."

"Oh father it is as if mother is here with us today.  Gracias."

Once everyone had departed Diego and Anna Maria were free to speak. 

"I never expected to be this happy," stated Diego.  "Riding as Zorro led me to believe I could never have such a life."

"My husband you deserve this joy more than any other man for all the good work and kindness you have brought.  Now we must name our little ones.  What do you think of Maria-Isabella after our mothers?"

"As always Anna Maria you make the perfect choice.  Then to follow through how about our fathers?"

"Well if you don't mind I would like Eduardo Alejandro.  Eduardo is father's middle name and I believe more fitting."

"Then it shall be exactly as you wish,"  Diego said as he looked at his two children.

Together they lay with their babies bundled between them, their hearts filled with an abundance of joy for each other and the new arrivals.  When evening fell the proud parents watched as their babies slept content in their cribs until they themselves succumbed to a peaceful slumber.

In the distant hills, several men were being extra careful to avoid the patrols of soldiers.  This time they would make sure their plan would not fail.  Soon every wish would come true for them:  money and revenge.