Chapter Eleven

Anna Maria had no idea what Bernardo wanted when he came knocking at her door that morning.  Nevertheless she followed him to Diego's room.  Why had Bernardo brought her here so urgently?  She called to Diego and waited for a response.  There was no answer and the room appeared empty.  She turned to leave but Bernardo blocked her way wildly waving his arms.  What was it that he wanted her to do?  Finally Bernardo grabbed Anna Maria by the arm and pulled her toward the bed.  There lying very still was Diego dressed in black on blood soaked sheets.  Quickly she unbuttoned his shirt and removed the makeshift bandage thus exposing the wound.  Anna Maria was visibly shaken by the extent of blood still oozing from the wound.  Looking around she called to Bernardo.  Where could he be?

When Bernardo returned he carried a pitcher of water, bandages...everything they would need to remove the bullet and cover the wound.  Thankfully Diego had not regained conscious during the ordeal.  Why had this happened?  Zorro was supposed to be indestructible.  

By afternoon a fire began to grow within his body.  This was not a good sign for a fever meant infection and an infection could mean death.  Anna Maria realized it was time to notify Don Alejandro so she motioned to Bernardo to bring him.  Diego was so helpless...so vulnerable.  She was terrified.  The door suddenly swung open as Don Alejandro burst through.

"Diego, my son," he said grieved.  "Anna Maria, how is he?"

"I do not know.  He has lost a great deal of blood and now the fever is draining all his strength.  Perhaps the doctor should be called."

The glance shared between Alejandro and Bernardo told her the doctor would not be coming.  Alejandro knew Diego was Zorro.  It would be too dangerous to involve anyone else.  Diego's recovery and safety was in there hands alone.  The doctor would be called only as a last resort.

Throughout the day Anna Maria remained by Diego's side praying that the tiny cross around his neck would protect him from further harm but his fever raged.  What more could she do?  Alejandro stopped by several times to check on his son's condition but seeing the look in Anna Maria's face was discouraging. 

"Anna Maria," said Alejandro.  "You need some rest or there will be two patients.  Bernardo and I will watch Diego."

"No, I can not abandon him," she said defiantly.  "He needs me."

"I understand," he said tenderly.  "When Diego's mother was...I could not bare to leave her.  Do you love my son?"

"With all my heart," she said her voice shaking.

"Then you must get some rest," he said placing his hand on her shoulder. 

"I promise but first I have a question," she said.  "You know that Diego is Zorro."

"Not at first but I have know for a long time.  It was I who encouraged him to leave Monterey without accepting the Governor's offer of amnesty.  I am sorry."

"I did not see the truth until a few days ago," she said tears running down her face.  "How did I not see?  So much time was wasted and now...he may die."

"Diego will be fine.  He loves you and your love will give him strength.  Now go take a rest then come take supper with your father and I."

"All right, I will do what you suggest," she said reluctantly.

During supper Don Grigorio questioned Diego's absence.  Alejandro casually announced Diego's trip to San Diego on business.  This satisfied the don and the conversation quickly moved to Zorro.  Was it true that he saved the tax money?  Had he been shot by one of the bandits?  Anna Maria became overcome by the talk and soon excused herself.  Don Grigorio wondered if his daughter was still infatuated with this man?  Was he forcing her into a loveless marriage?

Anna Maria ran up the stairs anxious to see Diego.  She opened the door and closed it hard.  Bernardo turned toward the door surprised.

"Bernardo, you can hear," she said stunned.  "Another secret I must learn?"

Bernardo nodded his eyes red from weeping for his injured friend.  The look in his face told her how close she had come to losing this man and the danger was not over.  Hours slipped by and Diego remained unconscious.  Overcome with exhaustion she fell asleep in the chair by Diego's bed.  The next thing she knew she was being shaken by Bernardo.   Diego was beginning to come around.  He moved restlessly trying to open his eyes and focus.  Then he saw Anna Maria.  He tried to say her name but was too weak. 

"Do not speak," she said.  "You have been hurt and must rest."  Turning to Bernardo she said, "Go inform Don Alejandro but do not alert my father.  He must not know that Diego is here."

"What happened?" asked Diego still dazed.

"You have been shot," she said.  "Bernardo brought me to help you."

"Then you know.  Are you sorry...I am Zorro?"

"No, I love you.  I always loved you.  I may not have realized it in Monterey because I was infatuated with Zorro but during my visit things changed.  My feelings for you changed.  I do not know why I did not see the truth sooner.  Whether you are Zorro or Diego you will always have my heart."

"Diego," called out Alejandro as he entered the room.  "You gave us quite a scare.  Anna Maria has taken excellent care of you.  She has been an angel.  It will be an honor to call her daughter.  Now you must rest.  I will return later."

"Anna Maria, I..." Diego tried to speak.

"Please Diego, save your strength.  There is plenty of time to speak when you are well.  As she held his hand their eyes shut and they drifted off to sleep.

The Visit