Word Count 1,710
Disclaimer: I do not own or make any profit from Lancer or its characters.
Author’s note: First, I’d like to thank my beta, Maureen Preuss for helping me flesh out this little story and put life into the characters. I’d also like to thank my friend Sandy Williams who caught a couple of things I hadn’t noticed when I was working on putting the second draft together. Thanks ladies, this story wouldn’t have been completed to my satisfaction without your input.
In my story line, Scott and Johnny arrived at Lancer in early April of 1870. At this time, Scott is 24, Johnny 20 and Teresa is 16. This particular story (which has a connection to a larger piece I am working on) is told from the point of view of the character Cipriano, who I always felt should have been featured as a regular in the television series; he was, after all, the Segundo of the ranch and should have been more important than to appear in only a couple of scenes. Thankfully, many fan writers have included him in some wonderful stories. I hope my interpretation of him measures up to those. Furthermore, I don’t recall the series ever giving him a last name, or a wife, so I’ve given him both, as well as providing details to some other minor characters that appear here.
Summary: New beginnings for Christmas at Lancer
Wishing you all Bright Blessings and a Merry Christmas.
Christmas Day 1870
“It is fitting.” Cipriano Navarro whispered and folded his well-muscled arms across his broad chest. The women had just finished setting out the last of the food prepared for the Christmas feast, and returned to the kitchen.
Cip’s wife, Nohemi, inspected the place settings while her cousin, Maria Vega, the cook for the Patron and his familia, put a few final touches on the placement of the bowls and platters. Satisfied, she smiled in approval and disappeared to her cocina.
“The Patron and his family will be very pleased,” Cipriano said to his wife.
“It has been so many years since Senor Lancer has held the Christmas feast for all of us.”
A low whistle stole their attention and Cipriano raised his chin slightly in greeting to his friend, Frank Williams; the tall, black ranch hand, one of Lancer’s best, had worked with Cip for over ten years. He deposited an arm load of wood beside the fireplace then gazed in utter delight at the tables. “My goodness!” he declared. “Been a long, long time since I seen a table and spread this fine.” Turning toward his friends, he bowed slightly to Nohemi. “It’s perfect, Señora.”
A blush rose to Nohemi’s cheeks. “Gracias Frank. A lot of people worked very hard to make it so.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Frank shook his head in amazement. “Gonna be a good Christmas this year.” He gave Cip a friendly slap against the shoulder before leaving the room. “I’ll see ya’ll in a bit. Gotta go get cleaned up before I sit down to this excellent feast!”
Nohemi took Cip’s hand. “It is muy bueno, is it not, mi esposo?”
Cipriano nodded. Before them, the tables were covered in fine, embroidered linens. The silverware had been polished to a high sheen and the best of the Patron’s china and glassware were all set in proper fashion. In the center of each plate was a rolled, white napkin held in place by three intertwined ribbons: one green, one gold and one red. “This year will indeed be a celebration like no other,” Nohemi stated.
“Save the one twenty-one years ago…” the Segundo answered as he moved closer to his wife. A smile deepened the well-earned lines etched on his face.
Nohemi gazed up at him. “That was a beautiful Christmas, a special celebration with the birth of little Juanito.”
“John Michael Lancer,” Cip mused. He remembered clearly that December twenty-third evening when Senor Lancer’s second son was born. “He will always be Juanito to many of us here.”
The lit candles lining the middle of the tables betrayed a tell-tale gleam in Nohemi’s eyes. She took an edge of her apron and dabbed at the corners of her dark brown eyes. Cip heard her breath catch and he bent forward over her. The enticing scent of rose water in her hair took his breath away. He planted a sweet kiss within the thick, wavy tresses, still dark and beautiful despite their years.
She drew his arms about her waist, rested her hands upon his and raised her face upward. Her full lips gave him a special smile that bespoke all the qualities Cipriano had fallen in love with, so many blessed years before.
After a moment she asked, “Do you remember the Patron’s first Christmas here?”
“Indeed, querida. It was magnifico.” Cipriano laughed a little. “We were all so surprised that the Patron had us all join him and Señora Catherine for their Christmas feast.”
“Señora Catherine…” Nohemi reflected. “A fine lady, generous and gracious. She remined me of the angels I once saw in a painting.”
“The Patron loved her very much.”
“He always will. As so many of us still do.”
Cipriano remembered when the Lancers first arrived at the estancia. No one knew what to expect. After all, these were gringos, and their ways were different. But the Patron and his wife soon put everyone’s suspicions to rest. They did not look upon the local people with bigotry or distaste, instead appreciating and welcoming their language and customs into their own lives.
The Segundo remembered too the years of grief following the Señora’s passing and the sadness that darkened everything with the absence of the son she had borne: Scott Garrett Lancer, stolen away to be raised by his cold-spirited abuelo. Damn the man for never returning the boy to his father!
That recollection gave rise to the unwelcome memory of more years of devastating sorrow and consuming bitterness.
The muscles in Cipriano’s arms must have tensed, for Nohemi looked into his eyes. “You think of Maria.”
“I cannot think of the Patron’s second wife without thinking of…Madre de Dios forgive me, I cannot call that woman “Señora”!”
“She should have left the boy here. She took him away only to hurt her husband.”
Cipriano’s voice shook with anger. “And for that, Juanito was subjected to poverty and cruelty no child should ever suffer. How his life must have been…”Cip shook his head. “It is a miracle he survived.”
Nohemi shivered in his arms. “The memory of his mother haunts this place still. But one day, one day it will no longer be so. In time the good Dios will see that all the bad memories are laid to rest, then the shadows of Maria’s ghost will no longer cast darkness upon the Patron and Juanito.”
“I look forward to seeing that day.”
For today, however, Cipriano would celebrate not only this holiest of holidays, but the first at which the Patron’s sons, now strong and tall at twenty-five and twenty-one, would sit beside Murdoch, their father, confirming the legacy of the estancia. Cip raised a hand to his eyes, the tears of gladness warm upon his weathered palm.
“Too much time has passed since this day has seen such happiness,” his wife said.
Cip felt the anger rise again. “Not since the year Juanito was stolen away by that…that bruja!”
“Por favor!” Nohemi made the sign of the cross upon herself and faced him. “You would curse us with bad luck? That time is over, Cipriano. Much has changed since the Patron’s sons have come home.”
Cipriano and Nohemi’s attention was suddenly drawn to Senor Lancer as he entered the room with Scott and Johnny and Teresa. “Home.” Cipriano drew the word out in a single breath. “Where this familia belongs together.”
It wasn’t long until the room was filled with those gathered to share this day. Murdoch Lancer stood before them. “I don’t have enough words to say how grateful I am to you all for making this Christmas possible. This year, we came so close to losing everything…It was not without great sacrifice. To those souls we miss at this gathering, I promise, they will never be forgotten.” All heads were bowed for a moment. Not surprising, most crossed themselves, and to Cipriano’s great astonishment, so did Juanito! “This day,” Murdoch continued, “this day means so much to all of us and if I may say so, for me especially. It took a long time to bring my family together and it is my sincere wish that we all celebrate this day for many, many years to come. God bless all of you.” Everyone followed suit as he raised a goblet of wine. “To abundant happiness, good health and excellent fortune. Feliz Navidad!”
Cheers echoed on the stucco walls, traveling out of the hacienda in all directions. For the first time in over eighteen years, Cipriano witnessed Murdoch’s face light up with the joy of the holiday. The Segundo made a silent prayer, the lines on his face deepening with the smile on his face. He knew God would not let him down.
Dec 25 1873
Along with everyone else gathered for the Christmas feast, Cipriano raised his wine glass in salute to the blessings and good fortune the Patron asked for all his family, the people who worked and lived at the estancia, and the friends invited to join the festivities celebrated this day. Cipriano sipped his wine, overwhelmed with a sense of peace. Three years ago he had said a special prayer – and though God had taken his time about answering, He had not let him down – the Lancer family had grown. This holiday season, Senor Scott was joined by Eva, his beautiful wife of sixteen months. Today marked another “first” Christmas, for this past summer the Patron’s first grandchild had been brought into their lives. Richard Murdoch Garrett Lancer gurgled contentedly in his abuelo’s arms.
Cipriano’s gaze drifted, settling on Teresa, now a grown woman at nineteen. Beside her sat her intended, Eugene. It was a very good match, a love match. Eugene was from a good and honorable family, and would take good care of Teresa. Cipriano knew in his heart that her late father, Señor O’Brien, would be pleased with the match. Murdoch, her loving guardian, certainly was.
Sitting to his father’s left, Johnny Lancer took a drink of wine, blue eyes bright with a certain smile Cip found easy to interpret; it had not gone unnoticed, by nearly everyone, that the young man’s attention was riveted on a particular young woman, Reina, seated with her family beside Teresa’s fiance. A blush colored the flawless, olive skin of her cheeks. She returned Johnny’s brilliant smile, her honey-brown eyes sparkling in answer to his silent flirtation. When Reina and her family had first come to the area, it had been a tense, if angry reunion between she and Johnny. But the young man had persevered to make things different – clearly he had won. The Segundo could not have been more delighted.
Cipriano Navarro made yet another special, silent prayer. He felt his Nohemi place her hand in his, knowing that she, too, noticed the attraction between Juanito and the lovely Reina who held his heart more and more with each glance. Cipriano whispered in his wife’s ear, “Next year will bring us another first for Christmas.”
“Por favor, mi esposo!” Nohemi gently scolded in a whisper, making the sign of the cross upon herself. “You would tempt the good Dios?”
“Sí, querida,” Cipriano shrugged and smiled mischievously. “He has not let me down yet.”
~ end ~
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