Not for the first time, he attempted to imagine her as she would have looked had she been born into his world. It was easier to envision here, alone in the cabin. He did not always eschew the electric lighting system, but he preferred to think and read in the soft glow of candles. It made the world seem familiar and unreal, and allowed his mind to wander.
It was highly probable she would have been a slave, of course, filthy and uneducated. At best, she would have been a free woman, perhaps one who'd scratched out some semblance of a life, as Mr. Bernard had, but likely just as poor and just as desperate as those in chains. But he refused to imagine her like that. It was impossible to envision her in a state of servitude, the woman who stood as if she were taller than he, who could demand silence with a purse of her lips.
First, he tried to imagine her in the simple clothes of the Quakers he had grown to love. He strained to picture her hair drawn up under a bonnet, her body cloaked by long skirts. Somehow, though, it was impossible for him to see her with a distaff in her hand instead of a firearm or set of automobile keys. He shook the shadowy image away.
This time, his mind's eye attempted to enrobe her in the clothing he had known in England as a young man, but he laughed aloud before he could conjure a vision of her in such an impractical quantity of silk, with quite so many seed pearls.
No, she belonged in her "pants" (how scandalized he was when he heard her refer to the garment as such!) and her short coat, just he belonged in his breeches and great coat, no matter how she teased him for it. She was a woman of her time, as he was a man of his. As evidenced by the fact he knew not what to call her in his head. For now,the only name he could offer was were pronouns—"she" and "her."
Perhaps Katrina should have been the only she in his world, and his wife was certainly foremost in his heart. But with Katrina, nomenclature was simple: she was "miss" until she became his wife, at which point she was Katrina in private and Mrs. Crane in public. The rules were exceedingly clear on that front—though, had he used his father's title, things would have become murkier. But no, his wife was Katrina, and so he held her in his head and his heart. But with his friend, things were clear as mud, as she was so fond of saying.
At first, lieutenant seemed appropriate. She held a man's position, dressed in a man's clothes, and was involved with a paramilitary organization. Thus, she was defined by her profession instead of her familial relationships. And that had been good. Simple. Perfectly proper.
It was only when he began to see her as an entire person that the situation clouded. In time, he came to understand her as a person, one who loved baseball, no matter how deathly dull it was, and who took her coffee with an alarming quantity of sugar. He had seen some of her darkest moments, when she forced herself to be brave and to face her own shame. He had seen her do the right thing, even though it shook her to the very foundations of her soul. And in turn, she had seen him lost, frightened, afraid in so many ways. And she had stayed by his side, though she was just as terrified as he.
When you knew someone so deeply, and when they came to know you with the same intensity, it was impossible to maintain the pretense that their relationship was purely professional. She became his friend—though the word seemed wholly inadequate- and as such, she was entitled to more intimate forms of address.
That had all been satisfactory until he'd gone and complicated things. No one to blame but himself, really, and his inability to see another way. When he thought he was going to die, when he thought he must die in order to preserve this wonderful, horrible world he'd awoken in, he called her Abbie. Not Abigail, not even Miss Abbie. Abbie, as though they were wed.
Or, he hastened to remind himself, as if they were siblings. That would have been entirely proper as well. Some part of him protested that the use of her Christian name was an adaptation to the twenty-first century and its startling lack of formality. But he had never bothered trying to fit into that world before; why would he start on the brink of death?
And despite this world's lack of ceremony and titles, Abbie had seen the significance of the moment, and it had meant something to her. Just as, against all odds, he meant something to her.
He closed his eyes and tried to imagine once more. This time, he tried to see their roles reversed, to imagine that an oddly attired, bizarrely spoken woman had appeared in his village, raving nonsense about demons and traveling through time and all the rest of it. Would he have been so kind to her as she had been to him? Or would he have taken her to the nearest hospital for disturbed minds?
While he would hope he would have been as stalwart as she, he wasn't at all sure. The incident with Mr. Bernard—Cicero, alas! Another naming quandary—had taught Ichabod that while he tried to do the morally upstanding thing, it sometimes took him a bit to see exactly what that was.
Church bells boomed beside him and he started out of his seat as he always did. "I thought the ring tone would remind you of home," she had mocked gently as she handed him the plastic device not much larger than a snuff box. He had fought the communication method-"If you wish to speak to me, simply come and speak to me. The distance is trifling with your automobile"-but she had insisted that sometimes speed was of the essence. Then she'd made some crack about Paul Revere and he'd been too exhausted to explain that Revere had nearly bungled the entire mission. He just accepted the telephone—the linguist in him appreciated the name, at the least—and promptly ignored it whenever possible.
But now he took it in his hand, gazing at the glowing letters. "Call from...Abbie," it read. She'd put her identifying information into it, had named herself. He laid the phone on the table, waiting for the bells to fall silent.
It was easy to become distracted with these toys and this new life and with Lieutenant Miss Abigail "Abbie" Mills. It was easy to forget that somewhere, Katrina was suffering in a misty purgatory, unable to move on, unable to render aid except through visions and dreams when they were at the very precipice of death. It was easy to think of only his new life here, with her, and to forget Katrina's mischievous smile and kind eyes and bold, brave heart.
After all, had it not been for Katrina, he would be dead right now. Dead two hundred years ago, and dead now, a Mason martyr, another body for the lieutenant to bury beside her beloved sheriff, if his brothers had even allowed her to claim his corpse. But together, the two hers in his life had saved him, in ways that were the same and so very, very different.
Fate had not merely bound together two witnesses; they were a trinity of believers. Whether any of them liked it or not, they would not escape each other.
The telephone squawked, indicating a message of some sort. But Ichabod merely watched as wax dripped its way down the candle beside him, dissolving into a soft white pool.