Summary: Selima is a young woman brought up in the Western Woods who sees Ichabod Crane from afar and falls in love. But he is attached to Katrina, and when he and Selima do grow close, other forces in Sleepy Hollow will try to keep them apart.
A/N: Please don't think I own Sleepy Hollow. =p Because I don't. This is my first attempt at a Sleepy Hollow fanfic, so be kind. The first few chapters will be told from Lady Van Tassels P.O.V.
If someone reviews this, I'll continue writing and introduce Selima. Remember, reviews help a writer improve and grow!
Chapter One: A Stranger Arrives
The stranger's arrival in Sleepy Hollow was not sudden. A town meeting had been held in the Church two weeks earlier, and the vote had been almost unanimous. The folk of Sleepy Hollow were a wary lot, but under the terrible circumstances which faced them, no one was inclined to disagree. Some help was better than no help at all.
And the stranger did come.
When he arrived that chilly Wednesday afternoon, Ichabod Crane came prepared for more than a crime scene investigation. He had lived the greater part of his life surrounded by cold people: cold commissioners, cold lawyers, cold magistrates and cold gaolers. So when Ichabod stepped out of the carriage and had his bags dropped unceremoniously in the mud by the driver, he wasn't surprised by the warm reception.
Windows were shut and doors bolted one after the other as Ichabod walked the length of the street.
The people of Sleepy Hollow needed help, but a stranger would always be a stranger.
* * *
Lady Van Tassel watched the new comer with interest. So they had sent a stranger from New York, a detective, to solve the mysterious beheadings? Ha!
She would like to see him try. It had been a delicious afternoon, in all, watching the dazed young pup tip-toe around Sleepy Hollow's many egos. He had managed to bruise one ego already: that of the arrogant young Brom, by mistakenly kissing her step-daughter Katrina.
It was past afternoon now. The fireplace in the wealthy Van Tassel house glowed splendidly against the blue shades of night outside. The servant girl, Sarah, went to the windows and drew the heavy curtains, shuddering. One look from the Lady of the house sent her retreating into the shadows of the house.
And now the stranger was among them.
The Lady of the house was watching him attempt to eat dinner with the Van Tassels. To be truthful, the soup was cold – she would have to speak to Sarah.
But that was not the reason Constable Crane was supping his meal with such distaste, No, it had more to do with the fact that her husband, Baltus, was trying not to talk about the murders, which meant he was talking about the murders.
It also had something to do with the fact that Ichabod was quite (unwittingly) smitten with Katrina, and was trying his best to pretend that he wasn't.
Katrina too, was trying her best to pretend the handsome new stranger didn't have any affect on her, which of course, meant a lot of stuttering and starting and awkward silences all round.
Which meant that Lady Van Tassel was left to do most of the talking.
'Constable Crane,' Lady Tassel began, surveying him with her ashen-blue gaze. 'Is the soup not to your liking?' It was a wolfish, knowing gaze, and although the woman smiled, there was something in her manner that discomforted him.
'It is perfect Madam,' Ichabod replied, coughing slightly to cover being caught off his guard. He had been glancing at Katrina out of the corner of his eye, a small, slight glance to be sure, but nevertheless Lady Tassel had spotted him.
'Forgive me my silence,' he offered by way of apology, 'the journey has tired me. The soup is quite good. Truly. Compliments to your cook.'
Katrina allowed herself to smile at him. 'Was it very –' she began, addressing Ichabod, but got no further.
'You see Baltus,' Lady Tassel interrupted, turning to her husband and placing the blue-and-white napkin on the table. 'We have tired the poor gentleman out with all our questions.' She stood, brushing the creases from the thick, silken sheathes of her dress. 'But sir, you shall have your rest.'
This was her signal for husband and stepdaughter to follow.
'We will bid you good night, sir, and hope that you sleep well. Sleepy Hollow welcomes you.' As Baltus struggled out of his seat, Lady Van Tassel curtsied low, and when she raised her head she did so with a seductive, knowing smile.
Katrina also curtsied, but her expression held only innocence, nothing more.
'Goodnight sir, ladies,' said Ichabod, nodding his head at each of them.
That night, Ichabod Crane went to sleep dreaming of wicked women with white blond hair, and girl-childs with eyes the colour of the wood.
* * *
Lady Van Tassel did not have such fantastic dreams. She had not dreamt of any wonder or enchantment since she was a girl of Katrina's age, just emerged from childhood into the mysteries of womanhood. Mysteries! Mary was tempted to laugh out loud, were it not for the fact that her sleeping husband had his arm thrown around her waist. She disentangled herself, noiseless, as she was every night.
It was in these private moments at night that she could think of herself as Mary Archer, the woman from the woods, instead of the wife of Baltus Van Tassel and step-mother to the simpering girl-child Katrina.
And so Mary slipped from the white bed-sheets and positioned herself before the moon that rose above the window. It glowed like a woman's belly, swollen with child. No one had ever seen sadness in Mary's face. She bared her soul to no one – only the moon had that privilege. She would stand for many hours before a harvest moon, just watching the dirt road that snaked into Sleepy Hollow dance and shine under its light.
There, the woman saw faces and landscapes that had disappeared years ago. It was as if the moon was the key to that other world of the woman's past, and if she waited long enough by the light of the moon, she might be permitted to travel there, for such a short time, back into her past. That was why the daylight was meaningless to Mary, as meaningless as the night was to an artist or shepherd who lives by the light of the sun.
Yes, it could be said that Lady Van Tassel was a truly unique woman. She was not contented by her husband's wealth, fine clothes or attention from the village men.
And she was beautiful, though no longer young, so there was no shortage of men to admire her.
And suddenly, for some inexplicable reason, whether she had opened the window accidentally or it had opened up itself, the window clattered open, and Baltus was sitting up, rubbing his eyes.
'Mary my love,' said Baltus, patting the bed sheets before him. 'Come back to bed.'
And as suddenly as the mask had dropped, it was up again.
Lady Van Tassel smiled demurely (as demurely as possible for her seductive nature) and slipped back into the bed.
But while she received Baltus' caresses, Mary's eyes were hung with longing for the secrets that lay out beyond the window, under the light of the moon.
She was longing for the face that had haunted her dreams for so many years….for so long that Mary was beginning to forget what he had looked like.
The face of her lover. Her first love. Her only love. (Baltus didn't count.) The arrival of the stranger, the Constable with the truthful eyes, had reminded her of what she had almost forgotten….
So many years ago......
* * *