Five months later, the entire community turned out for the long awaited wedding between Diego de la Vega and Victoria Escalante.
Don Alejandro sat on the front bench in the mission chapel with his nephew Rafael, his wife Margaret along with their two children; a boy and girl, while Victoria's brothers, Ramon and Francisco were sitting on the other front bench, after Francisco, in full uniform, had proudly escorted his sister down the aisle towards her husband to be. As he watched his son exchange marriage vows with Victoria, he felt such an overwhelming feeling of love in his heart that he had to fight back tears of happiness. He had been waiting for so long for this moment that he never really thought that it would actually happen and now that it had, he wished that his beloved Felicidad was there with him, witnessing their son's wedding.
Thinking of how proud his wife would be at Diego marrying the woman he loved, made him reflect on their other son Gilberto. He felt a wave of sadness that Gilberto had not known the love and joy and even the frustrations of being raised within their family, that he had not known the love of a good woman who could bring out the best in a man, had greatly sadden him. Although he had finally accepted and then forgiven himself for not being at the birth of his twin sons, he still had been sickened when Diego had showed him de Soto's letter about the Gilberto's conspiracy against the King and like Diego, he too felt that there was more to the story than what de Soto had told them.
It had brought back all those feelings of regret, hurt, anger and even hatred against the woman who had stolen his son and raised him in such a hateful way. Was there nothing that woman would not have done in her quest to destroy his family? Was that woman's bitterness so twisted that she would conspire against the King as though it meant nothing except as a means to get what she wanted? For he knew that the plot had been hers and Gilberto had carried it out. Alejandro knew that his son was far from innocent, in fact he had been a tyrant himself but it always came back to her and how she had manipulated him as a child and continued to do so into adulthood.
But as time went by and with Diego's support, he was able to let go of the pain and anger. The only good thing that came out of the whole disastrous affair was that it brought him closer then ever to Diego and he with him.
His musings were interrupted by a slight movement to the side of him and he smiled to himself as he saw Mendoza sitting beside Señora Solis, who had returned from Mexico City only three days before. They had become something of an item during her two week visit all those months ago and he knew that they had been corresponding ever since she had left. Now she had returned to Los Angeles for another visit and he wouldn't be surprised if there would be another engagement in their community very soon; if their appearance of happiness was anything to go by. It was wonderful to see Mendoza happy with a good woman, he mused to himself as he turned his attention back to the ceremony.
He watched Diego turned to his son, Felipe, for the ring and he chuckled to himself as he watched the younger man fumble in his pocket; whether it was intentional or not he couldn't tell but Felipe seemed to take a long time before he finally pulled the ring out from his jacket and with a large grin he handed it over to a much relieved Diego, who in turned handed it over to Father Benitez to bless.
The adoption of Felipe became official three months ago and it seemed in that time he become more aware of himself, more taller, more mature in many different ways and he was proud to call Felipe his grandson. At first he had some misgivings over whether Diego should adopt Felipe; the age difference for one. There was only about ten or twelve years between them which would make them part of the same generation. In fact that would have been the same age gap between Diego and his sister if she had lived but at the same time, Diego had always acted more mature than his physical age even when he had been a teenager so it could be said that maturity wasn't the issue.
Then there was Victoria. Even though Felipe wasn't going to be Diego's first male heir, he didn't think that she would want teenage son but Victoria had surprised him, saying that she didn't mind at all; she knew how much they meant to each other and she wouldn't stand in the in way of what they both wanted.
But in the end it was Felipe himself who had settled the discussion. Felipe had told them that he didn't see Don Alejandro as a father figure as he did Diego; he saw him more as a grandfather figure, as a somewhat authoritarian figure and even though he knew that the older man would do anything for him, he just didn't feel the same connection that he felt with Diego. HE wanted to be Diego's son not Alejandro's. So in the end everyone was agreeable with the adoption of Felipe by Diego.
Don Alejandro focused his thoughts once more on the ceremony and watched with pride as Diego placed the simple gold band on his bride's finger and repeated the solemn vows after the padre.
"I, Diego Sebastian, take Victoria Maria as my lawful wedded wife, to love, cherish, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others until death do us part." His voice strong as he gazed into Victoria's joyful eyes as she repeated her vows.
"I, Victoria Maria, take Diego Sebastian as my lawful wedded husband, to love, cherish and obey, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others until death do us part." Her voice sure and full of happiness.
Father Benitez smiled warmly over the couple who had waited for so long to marry. "I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride."
Diego grinned, he didn't need any further urging as he leant forward and claimed his kiss from his bride and then they were walking down the aisle with loud cheers and applause, as husband and wife before they crossed over the dusty plaza to the tavern for the party that Don Alejandro was hosting.
Many hours later, after everyone had said their goodbyes to the newlyweds before they left for their two week holiday to San Francisco, Don Alejandro arrived home with his grandson, feeling very pleased with himself. The party had been a huge success; there had been plenty of food and drink and the musicians had played all the favourite tunes that everyone danced with much enthusiasm. He had even managed to persuade the somewhat shy Senorita Ramona Casárez, to sing a beautiful but haunting love song which made a several ladies daub at their eyes at the sad romantic words.
He had danced with his daughter-in-law on several occasions and he had never seen her looking so happy, so full of life than she did on this day of her wedding. He felt a tug in his heart as he remembered how his own wedding day had been, of how his bride had glowed with exuberance of live, of love for him and he with her. And as he handed over a beaming Victoria to his son for the next dance and saw the love that they have for each other, he had to fight back against another surge hot tears of happiness that threatened to break out.
But now, instead of entering his home, he walked towards the family cemetery on the small hill, carrying a small bunch of flowers that had decorated the tavern, while Felipe entered the house.
He reached the cemetery and gazed down at the headstone of his wife's grave. "Ah Felicidad, our son has finally married." he said as he knelt down and placed the flowers on her grave.
"You would have been so proud of him, querida. He loves Victoria so very much and she loves him. She has a fine spirit and I think he needs that just as much as I needed yours." He paused and smiled wryly. "The de la Vega men can be a bit strong headed at times and it takes a strong woman to keep us in line. Victoria will do just fine with our son and their future children." He paused once more as he ran his fingers through his silver hair.
"As much as I love Felipe and accept him as our grandson, I find myself longing to hold a grandchild of my own blood. Is that wrong of me, querida?" he asked softly. He never kept secrets from his wife and he wasn't going to start now. Anyway she already knew what was in his heart of hearts.
"No, my dear, it's not wrong. Your heart is so big Alejandro, that there is plenty of room to love ALL our grandchildren, both of blood and by choice." came a soft feminine voice.
He nodded. "I will love all of them, my dear, that's my promise to you. I just hope that they will have a long and happy life together. I want them to know the joys of having children, to watch them grow and to see their own grandchildren come into the world. They deserve peace and happiness after all they have gone through in the last six years."
"They will, Alejandro, they will and then when the time comes, we'll all be together once more, as a family."
Don Alejandro nodded as he traced his fingertips across the etchings of the headstone. "Yes, we'll be a family once more. You, me, our children and their children." he said softly before he stood up and said a silent prayer for his family and then he left the cemetery.
As he entered his home and walked into the library, he saw his grandson coming around the corner. "Ah Felipe, there you are. You know, things are going to be very different around here, now that there's going to be a woman in the house, just you wait and see." he said with a large grin on his face as he placed his arm around Felipe's shoulders.
"Come, we have a lot of work to do between now and the next two weeks." he said as he guided the young man towards the rear of the hacienda.
Hope everyone enjoyed this story.
There was just one small thing that I didn't resolve fully and that was the issue of the Marquis for Diego but I just couldn't get my mind around it so I'm leaving as it is. This is where I planned to finish the story anyway but if I do write more it will probably be a sequel and not added on to this one.
This last chapter also brings up half a million words that I've written !