Happy New Year!
LHOP inspired fan fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos
Disclaimer: I do not own the Little House on the Prairie television series, book series, or any of the characters.
Laura rocked in her chair next to the fireplace. A quilt wrapped around her, she gazed into the yellow and orange flames of the roaring fire. How much longer?
The mantle clock chimed five times and anxiety bubbled inside her. She had no reason to be nervous. Manly made this trip in worse weather at least half a dozen times. But this was different. That was before they were married…before she moved into the tidy white house Almanzo used to share with his sister.
Through the glass she saw the darkening sky and heard the steady slap of wind blowing sleet against the window panes. He hadn’t told her when he would be home, but Manly never liked to be late for supper. A thick, hearty stew simmered on the stove. The freshly baked loaf of bread he enjoyed dipping into the gravy so he could scoop up every last drop had cooled by now. The smell of percolating coffee wafted from the kitchen.
She stood and pulled the quilt tight around her shoulders before trudging to the front window. The snow that had fallen yesterday hugged the sides of the barn and chicken coop where they met the ground. Today’s icy storm would make the roads slippery. Could Almanzo’s cutter have slid off the road? Laura couldn’t keep her mind from conjuring up an image of Manly trapped underneath his tipped over cutter in a ditch slowly freezing to death. She shuddered. No. It will do no good to think like that. He’ll be home any minute.
But he wasn’t home any minute.
She ate supper and he didn’t come.
She washed the dirty dishes and wrapped up the bread and he didn’t come.
She stoked the dying fire three times and still there was no sound of sleigh bells in the front yard. Oh, Manly, she thought as she looked out the window for what seemed like the thousandth time. Where are you?
By ten o’clock it was all Laura could do to keep herself from saddling up one of the horses to go out in search of her husband. She knew it made no sense. She could only assume he took the usual route home from Sleepy Eye. If the road were blocked or he had to seek shelter from the storm, she would have no idea where to find him. Frantic, she dashed upstairs to her bedroom and grabbed her Bible. Then going back to the chair in front of the fireplace, she turned up the kerosene lamp, snuggled into the quilt, and searched for the peace and comfort only the Bible’s pages could provide.
Laura found the passage right away. When she was still a child, Ma would recite this portion of Scripture before Pa left on any journey and every night until his safe return. It was a tradition she continued in her own home now that she was married. This was only the third time Almanzo had been away since their August wedding, but she found it especially lonely without him around the place. She took a deep breath and then recited slowly:
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.
Her gazed lingered on the last line of the Psalm. She closed the Bible, leaving her right thumb in between the pages to hold her place. She breathed slow and steady, her eyelids suddenly heavy from lack of sleep.
A cold rush of air startled Laura awake.
“Were ya sleepin’? a snow covered Almanzo asked from the front door.
She sprung up from the chair and ran over to embrace him. “Oh, Manly, I am so glad you’re home!” He chuckled as she pecked his cheek with kisses.
He tried to pull her arms away from his neck. “You’re going to be all wet.”
“I don’t care.”
“Well, at least let me take my coat and hat off.”
She stepped back. “Oh, I’m sorry.”
“I woulda come in through the back door to avoid this mess on the carpet, but it was iced shut.”
Laura fluttered her hands. “It doesn’t matter. I’m just glad you’re home safely.” She took his hat into the kitchen and shook the melting ice off in the sink. His dripping boots squished and thudded on the floor behind her as he walked into the room.
Pulling off his coat and the muffler that hung around his neck, he put the wet clothes on hooks by the back door so they could dry. Once Laura had placed his hat on another hook, he scooped her up in his arms.
“I’m sorry I was so late.” He planted a soft kiss on her forehead. “Had to wait for a shipment to arrive. I promised Mr. Crowley I would help him unload before I left.”
Leaning her head against his broad chest, she heard the thump, thump of his heart. “That’s okay. Are you hungry?” she asked, though she was sure she knew the answer.
Laura pulled away. “I made beef stew—”
Before she knew what was happening, he had drawn her back to him and engulfed her with a deep kiss. Moments passed, and when they finally parted, Laura’s heart raced in her chest. “What was that for?”
“Listen,” he said. The clock chimed once, twice, and then ten more times, signaling the beginning of the new year. “Happy new year, Beth.”
“Happy new year, Manly.”
They kissed once more, whispering I love you to each other. The moment they parted a crooked smile turned the corner of his lips. “Can I have that stew now?”
“Oh, Manly!” She playfully slapped him before grabbing a bowl and spoon from the table. Everything had worked out fine, just as the Scripture had said. I pray this is a sign of a wonderful new year.
Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.