Chapter 16

It was seven months to the day that he arrived back in Los Angeles when Ignacio received news that would change his life once more. He was in the tavern, eating lunch with his former rival, Don Diego and his bride Doña Victoria; the couple had married a month prior to a packed mission chapel full of well wishes.

"How is Carolina?" Victoria asked as she sat next to her husband.

Ignacio smiled. "She is resting at the moment, she is tired and I think she would like it to be over with."

Victoria smiled back. "She is due soon, isn't she?"

He nodded and let out a sigh. "Si, any day now, I will become a father." he shook his head. "I never really believed that I would marry and have children."

Diego snorted. "I know that feeling all too well Ignacio."

Ignacio turned his gaze to the younger man. "I guess you would at that."

The two men shared a look of understanding.

Just then there was a commotion outside the tavern. Mendoza, who was standing at the doorway, called out. "Alcalde, I believe you should come and see this."

Ignacio nodded as he stood and up crossed the room to the doors.

Diego, Victoria and others followed.

Outside they found a dusty horseman. "Are you the Alcalde?" he said.

"Si, I am the Alcalde. Can I help you?"

The rider nodded. "Si, I am here to tell you about the change of government." he wheezed. He had travelled fast and needed to get the news to all pueblos that he can reach.

Ignacio frowned. "What do you mean a change of government?"

"Mexico has declared her independence and is now claiming all of California for Mexico."

There were mutterings of surprise and concern at this news as the rider continued. "Behind me are the troopers of Mexico and they will arrive tomorrow to assume command of this pueblo."

"What, they can't assume command." Ignacio fumed.

"Actually they can, and they will. Your authority is no longer legitimate. You will be required to leave this territory or face the consequences. I don't have time to explain in detail, as I must continue on. Adios senor." he rode off.

After the rider left, there were low mumblings in the gathered crowd.

"What does this all mean?"

"What about the King, surely he won't abandon us."

"We don't have a king anymore."

"Will there be a war?"

"Did you know about this Ignacio?" This last question was from Diego.

Ignacio turned and nodded. "There have been rumours of a Mexican breakaway for the some time now but I never really expected it to occur."

"What will it mean for you?"

Ignacio snorted. "Well, obviously I will no longer be your Alcalde and it's more than likely that I will have to return to Spain."

"But you don't know that for a fact." Diego persisted.

Ignacio shrugged. "No but I can't imagine that the Mexican government will allow a foreign appointee to continue in the position, nor will I seek to serve in their government. My loyalties are to Spain."

The following morning, the plaza was crowded with the citizens, all wanting to see what would happen when the Mexican troops arrive. They didn't have to wait long as a column of blue and white clad troopers rode up, with an older man leading them, wearing well tailored clothes.

He dismounted. "I'm Senor Alberto Mayte. I believe that you have heard that Mexico is now the legal government of California and I am to take over this pueblo for the time being while the postings are settled in Mexico City. Is your Alcalde here?"

Ignacio stepped out. "Ignacio de Soto at your service Senor."

The two men shook hands. "I am here to relieve you of your command Senor de Soto, my papers." Mayte handed over the papers which Ignacio read with concern.

After a moment he looked up. "These papers are authentic, I have no reason to believe otherwise. I will not defy these orders."

Mayte nodded and smiled. "Gracias Senor, I appreciate your honesty. I will try to make the transition trouble-free as possible. However there is one matter I must advise you of..."

Ignacio nodded and smiled knowingly. "You require me to return to Spain."

Mayte had the good grace to look uncomfortable. "Si senor, my orders are to ensure that you are to leave the pueblo within forty-eight hours. I'm sorry Senor."

Ignacio frowned. "I cannot do that Senor." he turned to Carolina, who came and stood by her husband. "May I present my wife, Senora Carolina de Soto."

Mayte immediately understood why de Soto had refused to leave in two days, his wife was heavily pregnant and if he wasn't mistaken, due at anytime. "Senora, my apologies for this bad timing." he bowed slightly

"It is okay Senor, may I ask if we can stay for several weeks before we return to Spain." Carolina asked graciously, as she unconsciously rubbed her large swollen stomach.

Mayte thought hard, he had his orders but it didn't take into account this kind of situation.

"Senor Mayte, I will not allow my wife to travel in her condition and I will not leave her behind either. I will stay here as a ordinary citizen, I will make no demands or cause any trouble for the new government." Ignacio stated firmly.

Mayte was not an uncaring man, he had a family of his own and he knew that if the positions were reversed, he would not leave his wife either. "Very well Senor, you and your family can stay until it is safe for you to travel. I will take a room in the tavern, while you can stay in your quarters."

Carolina gave him a warm smile. "Gracias Senor."

Mayte smiled back. "If I didn't, my wife would make my life a misery."

She chuckled. "Yes, we can do that to our husbands."

Ignacio snorted and he shared a knowing look with Mayte.

Four days later a very anxious Ignacio was pacing the floor of the tavern, his wife was in labour and he was concerned. Concerned because of her age, she had just turned forty-two and it was dangerous for a woman her age to have a child. He was also worried about what kind of father he would be. His own father wasn't the kind, loving man that Don Alejandro was to his son. He knew that part of his ruthlessness and bad behaviour came from his father, from his own indifferent childhood but he would raise his own child differently. They would raise their child with love and respect, just as Carolina had raised Juanita.

"Dios, how long does it take?" he wailed as he crossed the floor for the hundredth time.

Just then Doctor Hernandez came in with a large smile on his face "Senor de Soto..."

Ignacio turned. "Doctor, is everything okay?"

He grinned. "Yes senor, everything is fine. Your wife has delivered a boy."

Ignacio staggered and if it wasn't for the chair that caught his fall, he would have dropped to the floor. "A son, I have a son..."

Doctor Hernandez nodded. "Si, a healthy boy."

"Dios and she okay?" his voice shook slightly.

The doctor smiled reassuringly. "Yes, your wife is doing fine. You can go and see her now."

Ignacio stumbled to his feet. "I have a son." he said again.

"Congratulations Ignacio." Diego grinned.

"Gracias Diego." he said with a grin of his own as they shook hands.

"Well don't you think you better go." Victoria giggled, she had never seen him so flustered before.

"What...what...oh yes, thank you." Ignacio shook his head and walked briskly out of the tavern.

Ignacio opened the door to their quarters quietly and slipped inside the room. He saw his beloved wife sitting up in bed, with a small bundle in her arms. "Ignacio, come and see our son." she smiled at him.

He moved closer to the bed and eased himself down gently on the mattress. "Dios, he's so small." he whispered as he gazed down at his son. His heart melted completely at the tiny babe.

Carolina chuckled. "He will grow soon enough. Have you decided on a name yet?"

Ignacio slowly reached out and touched the soft fine hair on his child's head. "I was thinking Sebastian or Xavier or Felix."

"Oh I like Felix, Ignacio. We are lucky to have him. You know that I should not have any more children."

"Si, I know. And I was fortunate not to lose you both." he planted a gentle kiss to her head. "Felix it is."

"Ignacio meet your son, Felix de Soto Chavez."

"Hola Felix." he gently placed a soft kiss to his son's head.

A month later, the citizens had gathered in the plaza to bid farewell to Ignacio, Carolina and their children. They had come to respect him and the pueblo had flourished under his rule. He stood in front of the crowd by the coach that would take them to San Diego, where they would catch the next ship back to Spain.

"Citizens, it is time to say goodbye for the final time." he paused then grinned. "But who knows, you may not have seen the last of me yet."

There were a few chuckles at this comment

"I have been honoured by my time here in Los Angeles and I will never forget you, as I am sure that you will never forget me. I returned to Los Angeles with a plan, a plan to make this pueblo a place to be proud of and I believe that I have accomplished that. But I could not have done it without your help, without your respect. I leave this flourishing pueblo in good hands of Senor Mayte."

There were cheers at his words and many of the citizens came up to them and gave them best wishes for the future.

"Good luck Ignacio, in whatever you do." Diego said as he held out his hand.

"Gracias Diego" they shook hands for the last time.

"Goodbye Carolina." Diego bowed slightly to the lovely woman, carrying her son in her arms.

She smiled. "Goodbye Diego."

Victoria came up to Ignacio, who bowed his head. "I never did apologise for my behaviour Doña Victoria. I am truly sorry for everything."

"You know, I believe you really are." she smiled.

He smiled back. "I wish you all the happiness Victoria." he kissed her hand.

"You too Ignacio."

She turned to Carolina and hugged the older woman. "I will miss you and Juanita and this gorgeous baby." she said.

"And I will miss you Victoria."

Thirty minutes later they were well on their way to San Diego, when Carolina settled Felix more comfortably in her arms and turned to her husband. "Ignacio, do you have any idea what we will do when we get back to Madrid, will you get another posting?"

He shrugged. "I'm not sure but I would like to spend some time together as a family first." he stared down at his son asleep in his mothers arms. He still had ambition, he still wanted another posting but his ambitions had been tempered with compassion and understanding. "I hope to get another posting but whatever happens, I want us to be together. You, me, Juanita and Felix."

Carolina nodded. "Si, we are family Ignacio, that's all that matters."

He nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, that is what life is really about isn't. It's taken me all this time to understand, that life is about family and friends. It's not about accumulation of things or by how much power or authority that someone may have, but it's about love, it's about how you live your life."

Ignacio stared into her warm eyes and felt his heart melt with his strong love for her. "I do love you Carolina."

"I love you too Ignacio." she replied softly as she felt her own heart flutter at the love that poured from him.

Juanita let out a sigh and rolled her eyes at the sight of her mother and stepfather making eyes at each other. It was bad enough that they showed their feelings in the privacy of their quarters but to display it in public was disgraceful. But deep down, she was happy for her mother, for her father had never shown the kind of love that Ignacio showed her mother. She had always thought that her mother was sad somehow but it wasn't until Ignacio married her, did she really see a change in her mother, she saw her happiness.

Ignacio and Carolina shared a look of understanding at their daughter's actions but neither of them scolded her, for they knew that although she might be exasperated by the open display of emotions, Juanita was happy for them. She had come to love her stepfather, almost as much as she loved her father.

They had indeed become a family.