Authors: Jessica Verday
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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First Simon Pulse hardcover edition August 2010
Copyright © 2010 by Jessica Miller
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Designed by Paul Weil
T he text of this book was set in Caslon.
Manufactured in the United States of America
2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1
Library of Congress Catalog Number 2010922986
ISBN 978-1-4169-8542-6 (eBook)
For Lee—You man the lifeboat and row me to shore
when my arms get tired. Thanks.
I was so lost when Kristen left. When she died. Then Caspian found me. I got to know him. Fell in love with him. He helped me deal with the fact that my best friend was never coming back. And when I found out that she’d been keeping so much hidden from me, he helped me try to understand.
But he had a secret too. A secret he should have told me from the beginning. Now I don’t even know if he’s real, or if I dreamt him up to help me process the pain. I can’t stay away from Sleepy Hollow forever.
Will he be waiting for me?
Besides, there is no encouragement for ghosts in most of our villages…
—“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving”
I’m not ready to go back.
“Can I just stay here forever?” I leaned my head against the seat of Aunt Marjorie’s car. “I don’t eat very much, and really, who needs to graduate from high school?”
Aunt Marjorie laughed. “
need to graduate, for one thing. And don’t you miss home? Your parents? Friends?”
I looked out the window. I
miss Sleepy Hollow. But not much else. I missed my best friend, but Kristen wasn’t there anymore. Only her grave was. “I think farm living is the life for me. Mom and Dad can come visit, and I’ll just stay here. There’s a lot I still need to learn about flying your plane.”
Her brown eyes sparkled. “We should take her out again
tomorrow. We’ve only got a couple of weeks left until you
have to go home.”
“Aunt Marjorie, that’s what I’m trying
to think about,” I groaned. “Help me out here.”
“Okay, okay,” she said. “You don’t think about how
ready you are to go back home, and I won’t mention how many chances we have left to take the plane up together. Deal?”
“So, how was the visit with Dr. Pendleton this morning?”
“It was good. Really good.” A big red barn came into view. We were almost back to Aunt Marjorie’s house. She turned onto a rutted road, and we bumped our way down the grassy lane. “He thinks I’ve made a lot of progress, and I agree.”
“Will you be seeing any doctors when you return home?”
“I don’t think so. I feel like I’ve finally gotten a handle on… things.”
Well, as much of a handle as you can have on thinking you were in love with a dead boy, and that you’d had afternoon tea with Katrina Van Tassel and the Headless Horseman from “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”
“I feel like I can deal with it all and put it in its place.”
We pulled up to the old farmhouse with its faded black shutters, and Aunt Marjorie parked the car under a metal carport right next to the front door. “And what place would that be?”
I unbuckled my seat belt and shrugged at her question before getting out. Aunt Marjorie still didn’t know the whole story—just the parts about how I needed time away from Sleepy Hollow and professional help because I couldn’t deal with Kristen’s death. Which was technically, sort of, true. Everything that
happened to me all started on the day of Kristen’s funeral.
“Just… in their place,” I said. “Head grasping facts, heart dealing with emotions. Death is a natural part of life, and I don’t have to feel guilty about living because Kristen isn’t here to share it anymore.” I was spouting psychobabble I’d lifted almost word for word from Dr. Pendleton, but it sounded good.
And sometimes I could almost convince myself that it was true.
Aunt Marjorie nodded and held the screen door open for me as I followed her into the house. “He sounds like a smart fella. I think I’d like him.”
“I think you would too, Aunt Marj. Call me down for dinner?” She agreed, and I headed up to my room. It was formerly part of the attic, a section that had been converted and walled off into a tiny reading nook. I’d begged Aunt Marjorie to let me have it the instant I’d seen it. She’d wanted to give me a larger, “more comfortable” guest room downstairs, but I told her this
room was perfect. It had a window seat, like my room at home, and a round, leaded-glass window with a view that stretched across the entire farm.
It was absolute heaven to curl up and read there while warm sun slanted in on my shoulders, making me feel like a fat, lazy cat. Cats don’t have any worries.
I threw my messenger bag down onto the neatly made bed and crossed over to the lone bookcase that stood directly across from the window, propped up next to a dormer arch. Perusing the wooden shelves like I’d done at least a dozen times over the last three months, I pulled down
Turning to the ribbon that marked my place, I kicked off my shoes and climbed onto the seat, tucking my feet up underneath me. Where could I find myself a Mr. Rochester? Preferably one who
have a crazy wife hidden away in his attic… But a sexy and mysterious hero to call my own? Sign me up.
You found a sexy and mysterious hero to call your own,
my subconscious whispered. But I ruthlessly pushed that thought away.
dead and a figment of my hallucinations, please
. Finding my last stopping point, I began to read… and was promptly jerked away from the page by the sound of my cell phone ringing.
I glanced over at it lying on the small nightstand next to the bed. Something told me not to pick it up. Not to go over and see who it was. But I did.
“Hi, Abbey, it’s Dad. How are you, sweetie?”
Waves of homesickness washed over me at the sound of his voice. I really
miss my bed. And my room. And the rest of my perfume supplies. “I’m good, Dad. I’m doing good.” Yeah, and okay, maybe I missed Mom and Dad a little bit too. “What’s up?”
“Well…” He hesitated. “Your mother and I wanted to talk to you about something.”
I could hear Mom in the background telling him to hand her the receiver.
“What is it, Dad?” My stomach did nervous flip-flops. “Just tell me.” I hated drawn-out phone calls. Especially
types of phone calls.
“They finished the work on the Washington Irving Bridge,” he said. “It’s all done.”
I had a quick flashback to a memory of sitting with Kristen under that bridge before the construction work had ever started. Before she’d fallen into the Crane River. “That’s great, Dad.”
But why is it significant enough to call and tell me about?
Mom picked up the other line. “Abbey, what your father is trying to say is that the town council will be holding a ceremony there soon, to celebrate the finished project. I told them that I’d make arrangements for you to be a part of it. To say something about Kristen and to dedicate the bridge to her memory.”
A loud ringing filled my ears, and for a second I thought it was coming from the phone. Holding the receiver away from my ear, I shook my head to stop the noise.
Dad spoke up now. “Your mother and I think that this would be really good for you, sweetie. To help you get over your… issues.”
The buzzing was growing fainter, but my stomach was still flip-flopping. “I can’t,” I blurted out. Thinking as quickly as I could, I added, “I’m not supposed to come home until the end of June.”
“We know it’s earlier than expected, but you’ve made remarkable progress,” said Mom. “The weekly reports from your therapist have shown
improvement.” Her tone was enthusiastic, but I couldn’t tell if she was trying to convince me, or herself. Mom never called Dr. Pendleton my psychologist. He was always my “therapist.”