This month is the first installment of a new Friday Fiction series. Two friends, Lauren and Hannah, decide to take a summer long road trip. With the exception of their first destination, they don’t have a specific places in mind, but to go wherever the road takes them.
Their first stop is at a place called the Sleepy Hollow Inn. With a name like that, one might imagine all kinds of stories and mysterious happenings. So let’s join Lauren and Hannah for the first part of their summer journey.
Lauren Richards glanced toward the passenger seat where her friend Hannah Wilson sat fidgeting with her smart phone. “Can you believe we’re finally on the road? All those months of dreaming. Now the time has arrived. This is going to be a great summer.”
“It will certainly be different.” Hannah looked up from the phone long enough to check the mile marker, then looked back down.
“Hannah, can’t you for once enjoy yourself. Look around at this is beautiful country. You’re missing some lovely scenery. Seems like you always have that phone in your hands.”
“I’m verifying our location is correct.”
Lauren rolled her eyes. “And is it?”
“Of course. Just making sure in case we need it.” Hannah laid the phone on the console and turned to look out the window. “So when do you think we’ll be in Collinsville?”
“Didn’t the GPS tell you?”
Hannah turned in surprise. “That was uncalled for.”
“I’m only kidding. We should be there in less than hour. Our exit isn’t far.”
Lauren hoped Hannah would let her guard down and enjoy the trip. The two of them had been friends since high school. They roomed together in college. Now in their late twenties, they worked at the same school. Lauren taught history and Hannah was the school librarian. In many ways, they were total opposites. Lauren was adventurous and more spontaneous. Hannah was reserved and often overly cautious.
Yet when Lauren first got the idea of taking a summer road trip, she didn’t hesitate to ask Hannah. While she would have traveled alone, it was nice to have someone with her.
A half hour later, they reached the exit for Collinsville. Lauren turned onto a winding two-lane road.
Hannah reached for her phone. “According to this, Collinsville is another fifteen miles.”
“Right,” Lauren said, and pointed to a road sign that confirmed Hannah’s observation. “The Sleepy Hollow Inn is another ten miles from there. We should arrive around four. We’ll have plenty of time to freshen up before dinner.”
“I thought you said we wouldn’t plan our stops during this trip,” Hannah said. “You wanted to see where the road took us. Not that I’m complaining. I prefer to know where I’m going.”
“After this first stop, we’ll be more spontaneous, but I’ve wanted to visit the Sleepy Hollow Inn for years. This is our chance.”
“What’s so special about it?”
“For one thing, it’s over a hundred years old. It’s a cross between a bed and breakfast and an old-fashioned rooming house. They serve family style meals in the dining room where everyone sits together around one large table. After dinner, everyone gathers in the parlor for what they call story time. A local resident and historian tells stories about the history of the inn as well as some folklore. I can’t wait to hear them.”
“Oh it’s lovely,” Lauren said as she parked the car in front of the inn. She got out and stood for a moment, soaking in her surroundings. A gentle breeze blew a long strand of brown hair across her face and she tucked it behind her ear. A sweet fragrance of honeysuckle filled the air. The two-story inn had white clapboard siding and fireplaces on both ends. A covered porch ran the entire length of the front of the house. “Just think of the stories this place could tell if only walls could talk.”
“Guess I shouldn’t expect them to have Wi-Fi.” Hannah said.
“Why on earth do you need it?”
“Oh, I didn’t tell you. I’ve started a travel blog. I’m going to write about our adventures this summer.”
“Good for you! But I wouldn’t count on being able to post anything tonight.”
They walked together to entrance. A woman who appeared to be in her mid-sixties greeted them from the reservation desk. He gray hair was smoothed back and fastened in a low bun. “You must be Lauren and Hannah. I’m Millie Hudson, owner of the inn. Welcome!”
“We’re glad to be here,” Lauren said. “I’ve always wanted to visit this place.”
Hannah stood back, searching for something on her phone while Lauren completed the reservation forms.
“You’ll be in room 212,” Millie said. “It’s at the end of the hall on the left—one of two rooms with a private bath. We serve dinner at six. There are storms forecast for this evening. We often lose electricity, but don’t worry. We have plenty of candles and oil lamps.”
Millie pressed a vintage desk bell and a man appeared in the room. He was tall and lanky with long arms and a head that seemed too small for his body. He was exactly how Lauren imagined Ichabod Crane might look. Hannah let out a soft gasp, but was quick to cover it with a cough.
“This is Ivan,” Millie said. “He’ll help with your luggage.”
Ivan didn’t speak as he went about his task. In spite of his large feet, he made no noise as he climbed the stairs. He sat their luggage on the floor, nodded, then turned and left before either of them had a chance to tip him.
Hannah closed and locked the door. “He’s creepy. You can’t even hear him when he walks. Maybe coming here was a mistake.”
“I’m sure he’s harmless,” said Lauren.
“Yeah, well I just checked about this place. Do you know some people say it’s haunted?”
“Hannah, you can’t possibly believe in that stuff.”
“One can’t be too careful. I just hope we don’t meet up with any headless horsemen.”
The sound of thunder rumbled in the distance. Lauren smiled and looked out the window. “I doubt it. But it might be a dark and stormy night.”
~To be continued…