"Politics," Paloma scoffed under her breath, glancing at Hank. The television in front of her, Sheridan,
Luis, and Hank cast a soft glow around the dark livingroom. Theresa and Pilar were sleeping in their rooms still
-- it was only two o'clock in the morning -- and Miguel...
Miguel? Paloma wondered again. No one had even mentioned his name in the time she'd been home.
Suddenly overly curious, Paloma tapped Luis's knee. He was on the side of the couch nearest to her -- the right
side -- and Sheridan was as far away from him as she could get, perched on the left side. Paloma and Hank were
sitting in front of the couch, on the floor.
"Yep?" Luis asked, turning his gaze away from the television and on her.
"Er," Paloma began uncertainly, "where's Miguel?"
Luis blinked, as if he didn't even recognize the name. "Huh?"
"You know," Paloma said, lifting her eyebrows. When he didn't seem to understand, she expelled an exasperated
sigh, and informed him, "He's your younger brother, Luis."
"Oh!" Luis offered a helpless smile. "Er, I think he's at the Bennetts' house. That's where he's
at these days...always..."
"Why didn't Mama tell him I came home?" Paloma inquired, confused.
"I think she forgot about him." Luis bit his lip, and then added, "Shush. I'm watching Pretty Woman."
Paloma rolled her eyes and slouched back against the foot of the couch again. She'd just have to talk to Miguel
at another time...and wasn't Pretty Woman something only girls watched?
Her family had gone nuts.
"Politics," Hank muttered under his breath, glancing Paloma's way. "How stupid could I have been?
He shook his head, mentally beating himself up. He hadn't watched a minute of Pretty
Woman -- his thoughts were still focused on his earlier
slip-up. And, besides, he thought, looking briefly at Luis -- wasn't Pretty
Woman something only girls watched?
Rolling his eyes, he sighed and said, "I'm going to the kitchen. This movie is boring."
No one even glanced his way as they replied in a zombie-like way, "Have fun."
He stood up and yawned, suddenly tired, then meandered into the kitchen.
It was four o'clock in the morning when Luis and Sheridan finally arrived back at her cottage. The approaching
of dawn had lightened the sky, but only a bit. Clouds still hovered over the dulling moon, and the sky was an inky
The wind had sped up, breezing through Sheridan's thick jacket. She shivered as she and Luis approached her cottage
"I'm going to stay outside a bit," she told him when he opened the door.
He glanced her way. "Okay...be careful. I'll just be inside. Call me if anything happens."
Sheridan rolled her eyes. "Sure thing, Lu-Lu."
Luis offered a sarcastic smile and stepped inside, shutting the door behind him.
Leaning against the closed door, Sheridan released a sigh. She should have been tired, but she wasn't. In fact,
she felt more awake than she had in a long while.
Her thoughts lingered on Luis longer than she would have liked, but she forced his image out of her mind and focused
on the situation between Paloma and Hank.
"Politics," she scoffed, grinning. "I would think he could come up with something better than that....
He obviously likes her." She frowned, deep in thought. It was only when a shadow approached her that she snapped
out of it.
"Sister, dear," Julian greeted, grinning. He sipped from a small glass of brandy, clasping a hand on
her shoulder. "Let's take a walk, shall we?"
Sheridan narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "What do you want, Julian?"
"Why, your company. What else?" He gave her a warm, obviously feigned, smile.
Gesturing towards the Crane estate, he said, "Let's walk over there, hmmm?"
Sheridan frowned at him. What was he up to...?
Having no choice, she traipsed alongside her brother as he engaged her in a painfully boring conversation about
-- what else? -- politics.
They stopped next to an urn on the sloping green lawn in front of the Crane mansion. Sheridan gave a curious look
in her brother's direction.
"Why did we stop?"
Julian waved a hand in front of his face, fanning himself. "I must be getting old," he panted. "That
was one long walk...."
Sheridan lifted an eyebrow in disgust, hugging her jacket to herself in an attempt to stop the cold winds from
"You need to get out more often, brother dear."
"Was that a hint of sarcasm I heard in your last words?" he said with nasty look in her direction.
"Sure was," she replied, smirking.
Her gaze suddenly focused on something behind Julian, and her mouth dropped open. Her brother spun around.
Sheridan's eyes bugged at the sight of a headless horseman trotting across the lawn. Sure she was imagining things,
she closed her eyes tightly in an attempt to block out the image.
When she opened her eyes again, the headless horseman was still trotting onwards. Gasping out in disbelief, she
stumbled backwards a few paces. The horseman -- and his horse -- were transparent, and glowed in the darkness.
She viewed incredulously as the horseman disappeared without a trace. Her brother cleared his throat, and she suddenly
noticed that he was peering at her strangely.
"Sheridan?" he asked.
"D-Did you see that?" she stammered, pointing in the direction of the spot the horseman had been in previously.
"See what, dear?" he said, glancing where she pointed to.
"Th-the horseman! Didn't you see it?" She left his side to go to the spot where the horseman had been.
Julian went after her.
"Huh?" he replied dumbly.
"There was a horseman! He was riding a horse, and--and he was all...transparent."
Julian gave her a funny look. "You must have been hallucinating...I didn't see anything. You had this look
of shock on your face, but when I turned and looked, there wasn't anything." He put on a concerned look. "Maybe
we should take you to a psychiatrist..."
"No! I wasn't imagining things! I swear, I saw it." She was growing hysterical as she glanced around,
looking for any trace of the horseman. Turning her gaze on Julian, she gave him a pleading look.
"You have to believe me," she told him helplessly.
Julian shook his head, a disbelieving look marred into his features. "Er...Sheridan, dear, have you had any
rest? Perhaps we should get you back to your cottage..."
"I'm not tired! Julian, I saw it! You must have seen it, too." She studied his face. He looked clueless...but
what was that gleam in his eyes?
"Ummm...dear, go to your cottage...get some rest. I'll see you in the morning."
Frustrated, Sheridan finally gave in, and stalked back to her cottage. Julian watched her go, took a satisfying
sip of his brandy, and then lifted the glass to the sky in a toast.
"To sanity," he said triumphantly.
Paloma groaned and rolled over, her bedsheets tangled around her legs. Was someone whispering her name?
She exhaled and closed her eyes tighter, trying to summon up the images of Hank that had floated through her dreams.
Whining, Paloma said softly, "Go away."
"Paloma," came the whisper once more.
"DARNIT! WHY DOES EVERYONE INSIST ON WHISPERING MY NAME IN THE DEAD OF THE NIGHT? WHO IS IT?"
Someone squealed in shock at her outburst. Angrily, she sat up and threw her sheets to the side before stumbling
to her feet. A light flickered on. Theresa looked at her in wide-eyed surprise.
"Who's out there?" Paloma demanded, ignoring her gaping sister and stalking over to the window.
Hank was there, his mouth hanging open in surprise.
"Er...Hank." Paloma shifted uncomfortably and gestured for him to come inside. He scrambled through the
window, landing with a thud on his feet.
"Sorry...that's twice someone's whispered my name tonight."
"Three times," Theresa piped up, climbing out of her bed and wrapping a cotton robe around herself. "Twice,
it was Hank."
Hank flushed red and lowered his head. "Politics," he mumbled.
Theresa stifled a giggle.
"Er, what did you want?" Paloma questioned softly.
Hank's gaze bore into hers. Something passed between them...something Paloma couldn't understand.
Finding that she couldn't tear her eyes away, Paloma remained glued to the spot.
Theresa finally cleared her throat, breaking their moment. Paloma lowered her eyes and inhaled, remembering the
look in his eyes. It was almost as though she'd been able to see right to the very core of him.
"What did you need, Hank?" Theresa asked him.
Paloma looked up, curious as to his response.
"I, uh, wanted to..."
"To?" Paloma prodded.
"To, ah, discuss...politics."
Theresa burst into hysterical giggles.
Paloma grinned at him. "Well then, we'll need privacy. Will the livingroom do?"
Hank blushed at her mocking tone. "Sure," he said tentatively.
Paloma laughed and followed him out of her room.