Katrina

T

The story of Ichabod Crane did not end with Brom Van Brunt's cruel prank. Rather, an entirely new story began.

Disclaimer: I make no profit off this story. It is entirely based off The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving.


Chapter One
All Hallow's Eve

It was only in the day, when the sun was bright, that the residents of Sleepy Hollow went to the little church just outside the forest. They were particularly cautious about nearing the cemetery at the time of year when October began to give way to November, as the last breaths of summer faded into certain autumn and winter lingered just over the horizon. As All Hallow's Eve drew closer, the citizens of the little town had been abuzz with the stories of the Headless Horseman. Every year, they revived, this year in particular. There were stories of hearing the Horseman riding through the town, tales of seeing his Hell-sent beast idling by the farm of the Van Tassel family, where the young couple, Abraham and Katrina Van Brunt, also lived.

Truly, it was the Van Brunt farm now. Baltus Van Tassel was a widower of two years, and his only daughter lived with him along with her husband and her four-year-old son, also named Abraham.

Despite the stories of the Headless Horseman, the Van Brunts were devoted to the idea of continuing the Van Tassel family tradition. Their home would be opened to the people of Sleepy Hollow for food, wine, music, and dancing.

The preparations had consumed the attentions of the lady of the house for almost a week, and seeing them so richly realized was reward enough for her. Well, seeing them realized and knowing that she would be the talk of the town for several weeks to come.

Brom had taken the hand of young Patricia Roemer and led her into the center of the dancefloor. She was a pretty girl, her red hair shining the candlelight, but she was thinner than most men would prefer. Still, seeing her in the arms of Brom Van brunt drew the eyes of the young men who were not married. Katrina smiled, indulgently, when Brom caught her eye. In six months time, she was certain, little Patricia would be married. She only needed someone to show her off.

Leopold Halse came up behind Mrs. Van Brunt and touched her hand. He was twenty to her twenty-five, the son of the grocer. She smiled at him and allowed him to lead her into a dance. He was a very good looking young man, she decided. Not quite as widely built as Brom, and his hair was sandy. He had a moderate income, certainly enough to support a woman from a good but not wealthy family. A family like the Roemers. Katrina giggled as she danced with Leopold, catching Brom's eye.

The couples approached one another, and, on a strike from the musician on his fiddle's strings, changed partners. Katrina came into her husband's arms, and Leopold was left holding Patricia. Katrina watched the young pair dance, satisfied with what she saw as Leopold touched the small of Patricia's back and a smile was shared between them. Brom looked at Katrina and shook his head slightly, though he chuckled under his breath.

"What are you planning?" Brom whispered, and Katrina giggled, pecking him on the lips before he whirled her around.

Amidst the gaiety and colors, she thought she saw a dark shadow, tall and lanky. She thought she saw a lighted pumpkin, carved with a sinister expression. She gasped, ceasing to move until she felt her husband's hands on her arms again.

"Katrina?" he whispered. "What is it?"

"I," she murmured, staring at the empty corner, "I thought..." She turned back to him, smiling. "It's nothing." She positioned her hands, one on his shoulder, one in his hand. "It isn't anything, my dear."

He doubted her, but he did not argue and instead drew her into another dance. She glanced over her shoulder and to each side a few times, but she tried to resume her merriment. Her smile was fake, and her husband knew it, but he did not question her. Instead, he did his best to make sure that her smile was genuine again.

For her part, Katrina Van Brunt tried to assure herself that everything was fine, that she had merely imagined the man she had seen a moment ago. There was no way that Ichabod Crane could be here. Ichabod was either long dead or long gone from Sleepy Hollow.

She tried to smile at the thought of him. Ichabod. His physique would have put any scarecrow to shame, tall and lanky, and his manner was peculiar but with a debonair polish. He had always been ready with a verse from one of his books or a song, and he had won many friends of the ladies in the town with his appreciation for their cooking and his command of their sons. A superstitious old schoolmaster, yet, despite his fear of the hobgoblins and ghosts of Sleepy Hollow, always wanted to hear another tale from the men and women.

She looked at Brom as they danced, and she pulled away with a whispered apology.

"Katrina--"

"Please, stay here," she replied, touching his hand. "I only need a moment. I want to check on Abraham."

"You worry too much about him."

Katrina did not argue, but she excused herself politely from the fray. She glanced back at the laughter-filled room and wondered how it was that she had ever suspected that a malicious creature might be lurking there. That was completely absurd.

She climbed the stairs, trying to pay no more thought to Ichabod Crane. Still, he invaded her thoughts. Oh, how sweetly he had proposed to her on a night not terribly unlike this. Really, his intentions had been a sweet proposal, but the words had come out rather muddled and confused. She might have even laughed at him.

At her son's door, she peeked into the room, watching him sleep. He slept without a care in the world, and his mother envied him. She always thought about poor Ichabod on Halloween. Really, though! It wasn't her fault. Of course she couldn't marry him. He had been liked enough, that was true, but he had no social possibilities. All of his worldly possessions had fit into a single handkerchief. He had no money to his name. He probably knew nothing about running a farm! He could never have supported her! Let alone children! Doting as the man had been, he had been an entirely impractical choice.

Though, she smiled to herself, he had helped her be sure that Brom truly wanted her, rather than think that he was merely considering her. The look on his face when she'd retired to a back room with Ichabod that night! Oh, she never would forget that! Come to think of it, that was why she had laughed at Ichabod's proposal. Hearing him faltering, trying to ask her to marry him, remembering Brom's baffled, puppy-dog look. It had simply been too much for her, and she had laughed at them both, though only Ichabod had heard her.

She'd been kind to him, though, in her dismissal. She'd told him he was a dear. She'd even given him one of her handkerchiefs and a kiss on the cheek. The last thing she wanted was for there to be hard feelings between he and Brom. He had been so very kind, if a bit odd.

She ghosted into her son's room and sat on his bed. She touched his hair, kissed his forehead. Such a pity that little Abraham would never know Ichabod. She was sure they'd have gotten along famously. She kissed her son again before rising. She should rejoin the party. Brom would worry about her if she was gone too long.

On the stair, she caught a glimpse of the moon out the window and smiled to herself. It was a beautiful night out, and she felt tired. A little fresh air would rejuvenate her, would breathe a new life into her, one that would allow for a good deal more mirth when she rejoined her guests.

She stole down the stairs and slipped out the kitchen door. The night air was fresh and cool, and she took a long breath of it. She could hear the laughter and music coming from the main room in the house, and she smiled to hear it. A moment outside, and she would be full of the vitality she would need in there. She wondered if Leopold and Patricia were still dancing together. Hopefully they were. Leopold was a fine boy, and Patricia was perfectly wonderful. How delightful a thought, imagining she and Brom dancing at their wedding.

She heard a noise and walked around to the side of the house. She smiled at the sight of the gate closing. There was Leopold, his hand on Patricia's back, no doubt escorting her home. Katrina kept a ways back, but she followed them, slipping past the gate herself as quietly as she could, and she watched them until they disappeared down the lane, out of sight.

There would be an announcement before the year was out, if her intuition was right, and it simply had to be in matters such as this!

She stood on the path for several moments, dreaming of lace and silk and white and roses. She would go to Patricia as soon as the announcement was made and offer to help her with her hair. If there was one thing Katrina prided herself on, though there were, in actuality, many things she prided herself on, it was that she could tame any young woman's hair. Patricia's was particularly docile, so that would not be any trouble at all.

She turned back toward the house, humming to herself, and stopped. On the porch, right beside the main door, there was a carved pumpkin, a candle set into it. She knew it had not been there when her guests started to arrive, and she knew that Brom would not have cut such a sinister expression into a decoration for her social. She recognized it. It was the same face she had seen when she danced with Brom, the pumpkin that had been accompanied by that physique which had called her former suitor to her mind.

The sight paralyzed her, and she raised a hand to cover her heart. Her eyes closed. She drew first one breath then another, assuring herself that it was nothing. It was not possible that Ichabod Crane, or his spirit had the Horseman made off with him that night, was here. He had no reason to haunt her. Yes, she had dismissed him, but she had done so gently! Brom had been his rival, but he had lost fairly, and Ichabod would understand that, certainly.

However, the young Mrs. Van Brunt was going to tell her husband about that disturbing smile that alighted their porch and ask him to remove it. Perhaps he would know who had placed it there and could properly chastise whomever had thought it an amusing joke. She would not be surprised if some old friend of his, one of the Sleepy Hollow Boys as they were known, had done it, meaning only merriment. If that were the case, Katrina wished only for an apology for causing her fright. It was surely done in a good nature.

Brom appeared at the doorway, as if summoned by Katrina's thoughts. She smiled at him in the darkness.

"Darling, what are you doing?" he asked.

"Merely seeing a guest off," she replied. She gestured beside him, opening the gate. "Do you know who left that?"

He looked at the pumpkin and frowned. "No. It's a ghastly thing, isn't it?"

"It is," she agreed.

Before she could cross the threshold from the path to her family's land, a sound stopped her. A horse was galloping with all its heart. She stopped and looked around, bewildered.

She did not manage to get past the gate and close it before the beast was upon her. She looked up at the rider and screamed before falling into a faint. He was ready for that and caught her arm before she could fall. Brom leaped forward, but the rider was faster. He pulled the young woman onto the horse and dug his heels into its sides. Brom ran for the stable, but by the time he had mounted Daredevil and hurried back to the path, all was still.

He was left alone to tell his guests and father-in-law, barely able to believe the tale himself, that the Headless Horseman had carried off his wife.