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 Life without Her

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bethandmanly
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PostSubject: Life without Her   Wed Dec 26, 2007 11:21 pm

Here is a Christmas present I gave to my Divas who had asked me to dig into Almanzo's feelings while he was separated from Laura in the episode "He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not". This story is intentionally disjointed, as Almanzo's emotions are all over the place--angry one minute, then missing Laura and wanting to seek forgiveness the next. Almanzo's internal thoughts should be in italics, but there were too many to do that all here.

Hope you enjoy it!

Cheryl

Life without Her

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.

Author’s note: I have used some of the dialogue from “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not” when appropriate.


I stretch my arms toward the ceiling as I force myself awake. Scanning the room, disgust creeps into my soul. What am I doin’ here? Ever since I left Walnut Grove and moved to Sleepy Eye nothing seems right. I miss the farm and my sister. Eliza Jane and I have never lived apart before.

But most of all, I miss Laura. Spying her walking over the bridge into town each morning for school; Sunday afternoon buggy rides, picnics, and dinners at Nellie’s. The memories flood my mind bringing forth a waterfall of fresh pain as I think about our last conversation. How could she choose her Pa over me? The sting of Laura’s rejection still radiates on my face. A sly thought lingers…maybe she didn’t wanna marry me. No, I couldn’t have mistaken the look of love shining in her eyes when she accepted my proposal.

I rake my fingers through my hair and stand up. Time to go downstairs and get breakfast before heading off to work. I miss those days when I looked forward to doing the chores. What if I never go back to the farm?

*

“Good morning Almanzo,” says Mr. Crowley, with a wide smile. He’s happy to see me. I wish I could say the same.

I remove my hat out of respect. “Good mornin’ Mr. Crowley.” I don’t return his smile.

“I’ve got some crates that need unloading.” He wipes his hands on the white apron tied around his waist.

“I’ll get right on it.”

I escape into the back room where I can be alone with my thoughts. But I don’t want to think about any of it. Laura, the farm, my sister all alone in Walnut Grove. I just want to forget the day I left Spring Valley to move to the place that I met Laura. I wish I knew how to do that.

*

I catch a glimpse of the hat first. The green and white plaid ribbon tied around straw, white and yellow flowers sitting on the rim. It’s the one she wore for her teaching job in Curry. What could Beth be doin’ in Sleepy Eye? Suddenly she has become Beth again. My Beth. Her Pa always hated when I called her that. He wanted me to call her Half-pint. I never saw her that way. I was never her father, just a friend…so I thought. Until that day in Curry when Beth looked so much older. I lost my heart that day. I don’t think I’ll ever get it back.

Pushing aside the crowd of men in front of the restaurant, I see her reddish brown curls bouncing up and down as the wagon travels along the bumpy road. I inhale and imagine the scent of lemon verbena fills my nostrils. Beth’s hair is always soft and sweet smelling.

The wagon pulls further away and I stare after it. I must look like a long lost puppy searching for a home. My face is sad and serious. My eyes huge round marbles floating in a sea of salt water. I long to jump on the back of the nearest horse and catch up to the wagon so I can beg her to forgive me and draw her close for a deep, long kiss. The wagon rounds the corner and my shoulders heave a sigh of resignation. I’ve lost my chance. I may never see Beth again. I am suddenly angry with my actions. It is her fault I left Walnut Grove. She decided she would rather listen to her Pa than have a life with me. I won’t be the one to go running back…even if it tears me apart.

*

There’s a flurry of activity at the courthouse. They must have finally rented the place out. Kids mostly, running back and forth with brooms, rags, and buckets. Some of the kids look familiar, like I’ve seen them in church before. But not here. I walk closer to get a better look.

My heart stops as Beth walks along the platform. Even smudged with dirt she looks beautiful. Her freckles peek out from under the splotches of grime and her hair is tied back in a red kerchief. She doesn’t smile as she searches through a crate.

“Hi Beth,” I say, wondering if it’s a smart thing to do.

Her head flies up and big chocolate brown eyes meet mine. She hesitates. “Hi Manly.”

“What are you doin’ here in Sleepy Eye?”

“We’re renting this building for the blind school.”

I gaze up and down the building, collecting my thoughts. “Needs some work.”

“We’re getting it done.” She shrugs, while trying to hide that she doesn’t want to look me in the eye.

I nod, not knowing what else to say or do. Funny, we never had trouble talkin’ before.

Her curiosity takes over. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m livin’ here now.” I am triumphant as I tell her about my great new life. “I’ve got a good job at the general store doin’ some clerkin’ and loadin’.”

She shuffles through the box, eyes concentrated on looking for something that probably isn’t even there. There must be somethin’ I can say. Aha!

“How’s my sister?”

“Fine,” she says flatly.

I fiddle with the rim of my hat as I hold it in my hands. “How’s your folks?”

“They’re fine.”

Aw c’mon Laura, say something more than that. I want to know how she’s doing, but I don’t want her to know I’ve been thinking about her every day since I left Walnut Grove. Her eyes, her hair, how she felt in my arms. Stop it! I’ve got to say something.

“How are you doing?” we say at the same time and then look away as discomfort surrounds us.

Our silence is louder than the hustle and bustle of the town’s main street. I need to get away before I tell her how much I miss her, but all I want to do is kneel down and plead for her to take me back. I can’t do that though. I didn’t do anything wrong except ask her to be my wife. But that wasn’t enough for her.

“Well, I gotta get back to work,” I point my hat in the direction of the store.

“I’ll be here in two weeks. I’m going to stay here a while.”

She seemed eager to tell me that. Maybe she’s regretting her decision. I should ask her if she would like to go out to dinner one night, but the pain of her rejection is nagging at me, like the hard, unbroken leather of new boots against my ankle bone, digging in and scrapping away the tender flesh.

“I’m surprised your Pa would let you out of his sight that long, seein’ as he loves you so much.”

I see within seconds it was the wrong thing to say. Her eyes slink down into mere slits filled with red, hot anger.

“I’ve been out of your sight longer than that and you were supposed to have loved me.”

Supposed to? As if she didn’t know my love was real. I rush to defend myself. “That was your decision, not mine. You made that choice.”

“You didn’t give me any choice!” she yells.

I gave her a choice and she didn’t choose me. What was I supposed to do, live in Walnut Grove with men thinking some woman got the better of me?

“It’s good you’ll be back in two weeks; it will give us another chance to argue.”

Her fists are clenched tightly around the edge of the crate. “Don’t come around and you won’t have to argue.”

Laura’s words rip my heart out. Surely she can’t mean she doesn’t want to see me.

Two men come toward us. The smaller one with the moustache doesn’t look happy. His mouth is pursed into a thin line of dissatisfaction. The Bowler on top of his head is put on so tightly that it would probably make a popping noise if he pried it off.

I watch as Laura tries to convince the tiny man in the Bowler to wait for the balance of the rent. The hot fire in her eyes has shriveled away. I expect her to beg the man for more time, but that heartless, uptight, puny person rudely tells her she has to have all the money on Saturday or leave. He turns on his heels and stomps away, the older man with wisps of hair poking out from under his hat rubbing salt in Laura’s wound by reminding her he told her that’s how it would be before hobbling back into the building.

Laura’s grave expression stirs up protective feelings inside me. I want to pound that obnoxious, tiny man into the dirt for taking away her fire. I know if she didn’t need the building so badly she would have given him what for. She turns to me, perhaps for comfort.

“Goodbye Almanzo,” she says without emotion and walks back into the courthouse, leaving me there to pick up the shatter pieces of my pride off the ground.

I want to be angry with her, but I can’t. I don’t like to see her this way--needy, helpless, uncertain. Where is the feisty, self-assured girl who sprinkled cayenne pepper on my cinnamon chicken and screamed she was a woman when I dared call her a little girl? This can’t be the same person who rallied the students to force Bart Slater to behave in school and who left a dripping wet Christie Norton standing in the middle of a circus with her skirt around her ankles.

I hate this! I should be the one she comes to for help. Instead, she’s all alone facing something that she shouldn’t even be dealing with, and I’m left standing her on the street holding my hat, unable to reach out to her because I’ve been dismissed like some beggar in a rich part of town.

Reassembling my pride I walk back toward Mr. Crowley’s store. I’m going to make sure the blind children have a place to stay. No angry, greedy, little man is going to toss those kids out onto the street. It just isn’t right. Laura doesn’t need to know. I’ll talk to the older guy who hobbled away from her after the man in the Bowler stomped off. I bet I can get some information from him. I’ll have to make it clear that Laura can’t find out. I don’t want her being nice to me because of the money.

*


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bethandmanly
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PostSubject: Re: Life without Her   Wed Dec 26, 2007 11:21 pm

* the story continues...

I feel the phlegm rattling in my throat. Every breath is agony. I’m sicker than I’ve ever been. But I can’t stop working. Houston needs the money by tomorrow. I’ll have just enough time to go to the school and give him the money before I head back to Mr. Crowley’s to work my other job. It sure was lucky that he had that second job available when I needed it. I don’t know how I would have helped with the rent otherwise.

My fever must be pretty high. I’m shivering and my body aches all over. I could go back to my room and sleep for a week. I can barley swallow my throat hurts so bad. That broth I had before hauling ice tonight, didn’t help much. As I walk along the muddy road towards the blind school, my soaked-through boots splash mud onto my pants, which makes me even colder. My head is spinning and everything keeps getting blurry, either from the pelting rain or the fogginess in my head. I rub my eyes but no matter how I try to force it away, the blurriness only leaves for seconds before making my world all fuzzy again. God, please stop this poundin’ behind my eyes.

Using the railing for support I climb the stairs to the blind school and walk inside. Each step up to Houston’s room leaves me gasping for breath. It’s early in the morning. Maybe no one else is awake yet. Houston’s harmonica plays a shrill melody which drives through my head like a sledgehammer. I knock on Houston’s door and the harmonica stops. He rushes me in and when I ask him if he has said anything to Laura, he tells me she’s gone home. His words crush what is left of my spirit. My despair quickly turns to anger.

“There’s nothin’ to keep her here anyway,” I manage to say in between coughing fits.

The old man keeps telling me to see a doctor. Who has the time? I must will myself to get better or there won’t be enough money for the rent. Speaking harsher than I mean to, I tell Houston it will pass and walk out. I have five minutes to get back to Mr. Crowley’s.

My throat is tight. Each cough strains muscles I never knew I had. The hallway is swaying in a wave of feverish hallucinations as I reach for the railing. With what little strength I have left I step onto the top stair, but it isn’t there. I’m falling and I can’t clear my head to grab onto anything. The pain…ouch! My body hits one stair after another, sending sharp pains through me. I’m going to pass out.

*

It’s cold. Why is it so cold? Did I fall asleep in the ice house? I hear a voice calling my name. I struggle to gain consciousness. Why does she sound so worried? What’s wrong with Beth?

My mouth feels like it’s moving, but maybe it’s all in my head. “Where am I?” I think I spoke out loud.

Beth’s sweet, soft voice travels through the grogginess into my ears. “You’re in Houston’s room at the blind school.”

I’m shivering. I’ve never been so cold. Why is it so cold? “Oh, I thought I fell asleep in the ice house.”

“That’s to keep your fever down; you’re real sick.”

Her cool hands touch my forehead and push back my sweat-soaked hair. If it weren’t for the cold, I would swear I was in heaven. Wait! If I’m in Houston’s room, then why is she here? Houston told me she left.

I force my heavy eyelids open and gaze at her suspiciously. “What are you doin’ here?”

She smiles, but I don’t know why. “My Pa brought me here to take care of you.”

Laura caresses me and I shiver; this time not from the cold, but from the way her touch makes me feel. I think I see love shining in her eyes…or is that just the confusion of the fever.

“Your Pa did that?”

I can’t stop shivering. The ice is all around me. Where’s my shirt? I’m suddenly conscious that I am naked under the covers and Laura is right next to me. What is going through her mind right now?

“Why didn’t you tell me about the rent?”

So she knows. Why did Houston tell her? Now she feels sorry for me, indebted because of what I’ve done. I don’t want her gratitude.

“Houston shouldn’t have told you about that.”

She smiles and my insides turn to butter. “It shouldn’t have been a secret in the first place.”

“Well, I didn’t want you to think you had to be nice to me because of the money.”

Her fingers are in my hair, comforting me and reminding me how much I miss her touch.

“Be nice to you,” she almost laughs. “I love you, you silly man. No one will ever love you as much as I do.”

She loves me? After all that’s happened, I didn’t think it was possible. I try to control my shivering so I can look at her. My chest tightens and the coughing starts. I will my body back under control.

“I thought I could try to forget you…but I can’t.”

Our hands are folded together on top of my chest. Her smaller, softer, whiter hands melt into my larger, rougher, sun-worn ones.

“If I have to wait two years or twenty years, I’ll wait.” I clasp her hands tighter. “Cause there’s no one in the whole world for me, but you Beth. I love you.”

Her eyes filled with moisture, she leans into me and our lips touch. Warm sensations travel through my body, making me tingle. I forget about the ice. I reach for her and hold her close. If she minds the ice, she says nothing. We are together again. I won’t ever let her go.

*

We are heading back today. I feel bad leaving Mr. Crowley stranded without help, but Walnut Grove is where I belong. I never want there to be such a distance between Laura and me again.

Adam and I had a long talk last night. He thanked me for helping them get the blind school started. Now that more kids have registered, they should be fine without my help. He didn’t like the way I treated Laura and I can’t say I blame him.

“Almanzo,” he said. “I know I can trust you to do right by Laura.”

He stepped in closer and held my shoulder firmly. His eyes bore into me as if he could actually see me. “I never want her to be that upset again.”

Adam squeezes my shoulder. I don’t know what to say. How does one respond to a threat from a blind man? I swallow hard.

“I’ll do my best to make sure it doesn’t happen,” I said as he continued to glare at me.

“Good.” He slapped me on the back. “Now, let’s get some of Mary’s apple pie before it’s all gone,” he said in such a friendly manner that it’s like the previous words never were spoken.

*

Beth is sitting beside me on the wagon seat. The horses are taking their usual route home--a route they have traveled so often I could nap in the back of the wagon and still arrive at the right place. Her shoulder brushes against mine when the wagon hits a bump. It feels good to have her so close again. But there are still two years of waiting before we can truly be together the way I want to be. How will I wait that long? I want Beth to be my wife right now. I want to show her what she means to me. I don’t expect Mr. Ingalls will change his mind after the stunt I pulled. There’s a conversation I’m not lookin’ forward to havin’.

Beth touches my arm. “What are you thinking?”

A crooked smile appears on my face. “How much I love you.”

Our lips touch and I loosen my grip on the reins as I loose myself in her kiss.

*

We’re standing in the meadow watching Nellie and Percival drive away toward their honeymoon. The pneumonia has left me a bit weak, but I should be fine in a few days. The children are still running after them throwing fistfuls of rice. I wish that were Beth and me. Two years seems like forever.

“Almanzo,” Mr. Ingalls comes up alongside me.

He’s been very quiet about what happened and I’m afraid of what he might say.

“One year. You have to wait one year and that’s my final word.”

Beth and I watch him walk away. He doesn’t look back and he never cracked a hint of a smile when he said it. His words sink in and I scoop Beth into an embrace. No words are spoken between us. We kiss and the sound of her laughter tells me all I need to know. She loves me and I love her. In one year, she’ll be my wife. If I had to speak, I couldn’t. Thoughts race through my head. I need to find land so I can build her a home, and then there’s the wedding, and…Oh, it’s too much to think about right now. All I want to do at this very moment, is hold her close and tell her I love her.


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ChristinaAL
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PostSubject: Re: Life without Her   Thu Dec 27, 2007 1:18 pm

Very nice, Cheryl. I especially loved the little exchange between Adam and Almanzo too - it was sweet to see Adam defending his sister-in-law, they never really had very many scenes together. It was nice to get a glimpse of Almanzo's feelings on things too, and see what was going on inside his head when he was away from Laura.




"It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong."
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PostSubject: Re: Life without Her   Fri Dec 28, 2007 11:54 pm

I'm glad you liked this one Christina. I wish we would have seen more exchanges between Adam and Almanzo, so I had to add that in. It's just like the lack of conversations he had with Mary; it's like Almanzo and Mary weren't even related.


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georgiagirl1993
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PostSubject: Re: Life without Her   Fri Jan 04, 2008 9:24 pm

Great story Cheryl! I really enjoyed the way it was written.



"All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them." -Walt Disney
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PostSubject: Re: Life without Her   Fri Jan 04, 2008 9:45 pm

Cheryl...you are a WONDERFUL writer. You are able to make us FEEL Almanzo's loneliness and distress when he was far away from Laura. An excellent tale, bery well told! Thumbsup

Vanesa.


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bethandmanly
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PostSubject: Re: Life without Her   Sat Jan 05, 2008 12:58 am

Gee thanks Vanesa. I appreciate your kind words. It's easy for me to write about characters I love.


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PostSubject: Re: Life without Her   Wed Jan 09, 2008 7:05 pm

Cheryl, Its taken me three different trys to read all of this story! Every time I would sit down and get lost in it, I would hear "MOM! or G?(hubby). So today was the day....I was a bit of a computer hog and growled if anyone said anything to me. LOL
I'm really glad you wrote this, you are writting like someone that knows these characters well...duh! I think Laura and Manlys story is why I like the latter seasons of LH better. They go through so much and yet make it just to go through so much more in their young marriage.
LOVE the exchange between Manly and Adam. This kind of writing give us crazy fans alot more to add to our collection.
Keep it up....and I'll keep growling. Smiles....Gin
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bethandmanly
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PostSubject: Re: Life without Her   Thu Jan 10, 2008 12:12 am

LOL! Sometimes that's how long it takes me to edit a story without interruption. The writers certainly put both Ingalls girls through lots of challenges in their married lives. I didn't care for lots of Season 7 because of it. Beth and Manly were fighting all the time. But that was because of Melissa's age. Though it was good for that bathing scene in "Divorce, Walnut Grove Style". Woo-hoo!

Speaking of growling, my youngest does that to express disapproval, especially when I tell her "no." You aren't going to start calling people "big meanies" too, are you? LOL!


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PostSubject: Re: Life without Her   Thu Jan 10, 2008 9:48 am

No dont think so....although if my day dont get better I might!
Have you thought about writing more about Manly and Laura maybe from their home in Mansfield? I've often wondered how she dealt with life without her family and how Manly started over after such challenges. ???
I love anything you write Cheryl...just trying to give you some ideas.




It is the lack of Christianity that has brought us where we are. Not a lack of churches or religious forms but of the real thing in our hearts. LIW.....Words From a Fearless Heart
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PostSubject: Re: Life without Her   Thu Jan 10, 2008 10:19 am

I would love to tackle that Gin, but I am a stickler for accuracy and it would require more research on my part to put that together than a story based upon the show.

BTW, a while back I wrote two stories based upon Mother and Father Wilder's visit to Beth and Manly's after they were married. Granted, I had to use a lot of creative license because I was combining the show and real life and I had no idea how the older Wilders felt about Laura, but it was fun. I think they might be posted here, but if not they are on www.fanfiction.net under my pen name ccmal. They are titled, "The Visit" and "The Decision."

And I love it when people give me ideas, so keep them coming.

Cheryl


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PostSubject: Re: Life without Her   Fri Feb 22, 2008 8:46 pm

Wow. You're a great writer. The thoughts/feelings and dialog are so very descriptive...I'm jealous. Lol.
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PostSubject: Re: Life without Her   Sat Feb 23, 2008 12:33 am

Thanks Trixie. I'm glad you liked it. I've had lots of practice, and Almanzo and Laura are my favorite couple, so my writing ability has grown. I still cringe when I look at some of my earliest stories. LOL!


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PostSubject: Re: Life without Her   Today at 11:29 am

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