The Visit
                                                                                   Chapter Six

Several days passed since the party given by Don Alejandro to welcome Anna Maria to Los Angeles.  Except for a few decorations on the patio which still had to be removed the hacienda returned to normal.  Don Alejandro awoke early that morning to spend time in his study completing work on the rancho's ledgers.  Within minutes Diego entered the room and sat down in a chair near the fireplace without a word.  Diego, usually a late riser, surprised his father by his early appearance.  Alejandro leaned back in his chair to observe his son before speaking. 

"Diego," Alejandro said. "You are exceptionally quiet this morning.  Is everything all right?"

"No, things are not going well," said Diego frustrated.  "I have tried to tell Anna Maria that I am Zorro but it is useless.  Perhaps it is for the best."

"My son, you love this woman.  She must hear the truth from you or you will lose her forever."

"Father, I know you are right.  I wish I could be sure she would accept me as the other half of Zorro."

"Diego," Alejandro said. "Zorro and you are one."

"Sometimes I feel like two different people," he said rising.  "I have been pretending for so long."

"This is my fault.  I should not have interfered when the governor offered amnesty in Monterey but I was so proud of your accomplishments as Zorro."

"You were right I could not let the people down," said Diego placing his hands on Alejandro's shoulders.  "The people needed Zorro."

"And you need to be true to yourself, my son.  I have an idea.  Take Anna Maria on a picnic today.  Perhaps the opportunity will show itself and you will find the words to explain. 

At the end of their conversation Bernardo brought the men word of someone waiting in the sala to see them.  To their astonishment there stood Don Grigorio Verdugo.  Alejandro embraced his old friend warmly. 

"Grigorio," Alejandro said cheerfully. "This is a wonderful surprise."

"My good friend," said Don Grigorio.

"It is good to see you again," added Diego. "If you permit I will let Anna Maria know there is a surprise awaiting her."

Diego swiftly climbed the stairs and went to Anna Maria's room.  When she opened the door he quickly blurted out, "Anna Maria you must come downstairs.  There is someone here to see you."

Diego would not give Anna Maria any hints but escorted her downstairs to the sala.  When she saw her father standing next to Don Alejandro she screamed with delight and ran to her father.

"Father, what are you doing here?" she inquired.  

As they embraced he said, "My child, it was lonely at the hacienda without you and I thought it would be nice to see my old friend again.  So here I am."

"Come join us for some breakfast," said Alejandro.  "Surely you can use some refreshment after your long journey."

After the meal Don Grigorio was shown to his room to freshen up and later joined Alejandro in a serious game of chess.   Since their fathers would be occupied for several hours Diego suggested a picnic at the lake.  The weather was warm but more bearable then the previous days thanks to the clouds that filled the sky.  Once the picnic hamper was packed Diego and Anna Maria rode out toward the lake.  Diego found a spot at the water's edge and put down a blanket.  After a leisurely lunch the young couple took a stroll around the lake.  Sadly much of the grass, bushes and foliage had turned brown from the hot, dry conditions.  Anna Maria stopped to admire the gentle ripple of the water while leaning against a tree.  Diego placed his hand on the tree above her and moved in close. For a moment she thought he would kiss her but instead he began to speak.

"Anna Maria, are you in love with Zorro?"

"Diego, I have feelings for Zorro but...," surprised by his question.

Diego placed his hands on her shoulder and turned her toward him.  She was so beautiful...clearly he knew his feelings.  At first there was no response to his kiss but soon they became entwined in each others arms.

"Anna Maria, I must tell you that...," he said interrupted by a sudden flash of lightening. 

Within seconds a loud rumble shook the spot where they stood.  The sky had become filled with dark heavy clouds and the wind blew wildly.  Diego grabbed Anna Maria by the arm as tiny drops of rain began to fall.  By the time they reached the picnic hamper it seemed like the whole sky had open up.