“Tisn’t an imposition at all! You’re family!”
Sarah covered her mouth to hide yet another yawn. Her father and aunt had been arguing back and forth for the better part of half an hour as to whether they would stay for the night or not.
William sighed. “All right, we’ll stay, if only to get you to stop pestering me.”
Aunt Jemima smiled smugly and began calling for the maids. Sarah shook her head.
“Papa, Aunt Jemima doesn’t always need to win an argument,” she said later as they went up to their rooms. “I know she can be insistent, but still.”
William chuckled and patted her arm. “Sarah, my dear daughter. The day my sister actually listens to me is the day I die.”
“And that won’t be for a long time yet,” Sarah replied. She kissed his cheek. “Goodnight, Papa.”
As they turned to part, she called after him. He stopped and she said in a low voice, “Papa, if you’re going to do what I think you’re going to do, please be careful.”
He furrowed his brow. “Pray tell, what is it that I’m doing?”
She gave him a knowing look.
“Ah. Yes, that. Not to worry, I’ll be careful. I always am.”
“Edward almost caught you, Papa,” Sarah said. “That’s another reason why we shouldn’t have come.”
“Sarah, it’ll be fine,” William said. “Besides, I was able to get plenty of information from him, and I have someone waiting to contact me.”
“You two had best get some sleep,” Aunt Jemima interrupted as she came up the stairs. “You have quite a distance to travel tomorrow. Now go on, off to bed!”
“Jemima, I am a grown man who can take care of himself. Not a little boy who wanders off when he’s not supposed to.”
“Oh, is that so?”
Sarah slipped away to her room, leaving the two to bicker and banter with each other, as they always did.
Once inside the room prepared for her, she opened the curtains to let some moonlight in. For a few minutes, she soaked in the scene outside.
The darkened forest, where the nightlife was sure to be singing their nightly songs. The bridge on which she had seen Isaac Hale’s horse. The flash of orange bobbing in the distance.
Flash of orange?
She opened the windows and leaned out in an attempt to look closer. A lantern came into view, along with a horse and a rider upon its’ back.
She tilted her head. Something about the rider seemed peculiar, almost as though he didn’t have a-The horse stopped in the middle of the bridge, directly under the moon.
The rider lifted his lantern up higher, but it shone into nothingness.
Her gasp caught in her throat.
A headless rider.
“Papa…” she squeaked. She turned from the window and ran from the room, feeling like a little girl again running to her parents’ room. “Papa!”
He came out of his room, and Uncle George and Aunt Jemima appeared seconds later.
“Sarah, what is the matter?” William asked.
“The poor child looks as though she’s seen a ghost!” Aunt Jemima exclaimed, drawing her shawl tighter around herself.
“Such as the Headless Horseman?” Uncle George said dryly. Sarah nodded, her voice still coming out in stammers and squeaks.
“Sarah, calm down,” William said, and she took in a few deep breaths. “There. Now, where did you see this supposed headless-horseman?”
“Bridge,” she finally managed. “The bridge. He was there!”
The elders shared glances, then looked at her. Uncle George and Aunt Jemima seemed to be the only ones who believed her, and her father-well, he looked as skeptical as she had once been.
Unless she had been seeing things. Yes, that was it. It had only been a trick of the light. Headless riders didn’t exist.
“Never mind,” she said. “It was simply my imagination. I’m off to bed now. Goodnight.”
Yet, even as she closed the window and settled under the covers, she knew no amount of denial would erase what she had seen.
©H.S. Kylian 2019
(Critiques are welcome and appreciated!)