How Do I Go On?
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 used a bit of the dialogue from the episode, “He Loves Me, He Love Me Not” for this story.
Laura trudged toward the Walnut Grove schoolhouse, a dinner pail swaying from her right hand. Heavy feet shuffled along the dusty road unconsciously kicking up rocks. I wonder where he is now.
Miss Wilder would be wondering where she was too. School started over an hour ago.
Yesterday she had been deliriously happy. The man of her dreams had asked her to marry him and she said, “yes”. Knowing Charles wanted his daughter to wait until she turned 18, Almanzo suggested they run away, but she convinced Manly to talk to her Pa first. Why didn’t I listen to him?
Her mind wandered back to the moment she heard wagon wheels pulling out of the yard. Stepping into the darkness, the only person she saw was Pa.
“He left?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Pa mumbled, nodding as he stood there with his hands tucked into his pockets.
“Why? What did you say to him?”
“I told him you would have to wait.”
Breathing became difficult as her chest tightened around the fury and anger bubbling up inside. “I won’t lose him. If waiting means I’m going to lose him, I won’t wait. I mean it Pa!”
Somehow her legs carried her up into the loft and onto her bed where her body convulsed in a torrent of tears. Ma came up several minutes later; and just like she always does, made it seem like everything would be okay. But nothing would ever be okay again.
Ma had told her that Almanzo would wait if he really loved her, and encouraged Laura to make up with Pa. He had loved her for sixteen years, after all. She spoke to Pa that night, but it didn’t help much. Their talk only served to make her more nervous about facing Almanzo in the morning. Why did she have to choose between the two men she loved most?
Gulping down breakfast Laura raced out the door, school books and dinner pail in hand, to head out to the Wilder farm before school started. She had to convince Almanzo to wait.
Her heart fluttered when she saw him coming toward her in his wagon. Little did she know, her happy world was about to crumble.
Which of his words hurt the most: Almanzo’s announcement that he planned to leave Walnut Grove or his calling her a little girl? Almost shocked into silence when he declared, “I’m leaving Walnut Grove,” she immediately wondered if she meant anything to him at all…until he asked her to come with him.
Though defiant and brave when she faced Pa the night before, she could never turn her back on him and defy his wishes.
“I can’t. Not now. I just need some time,” she said.
Almanzo glared with disappointment and disgust. “I guess your Pa was right; you’re still a little girl.” His words tore into her like barbed wire, not only scratching, but digging in and tearing away tender flesh.
She watched him drive off. Please come back!
Sneaking up to the back door of the schoolhouse Laura sipped cool water from the cup she dipped into the water bucket. Smoothing her hair and straightening her dress, a deep breath prepared her to enter the schoolhouse where everyone had been working for nearly two hours. Dozens of heads swung in her direction at the click of the door.
“Oh Laura,” said Miss Wilder. “I wondered where you were. You’re not feeling sick are you?”
Her mouth felt as parched as the prairie fields during a drought. The heat of everyone’s stare burned on her face. “No Miss Wilder. I had something to take care of. I’m sorry I’m late.”
“That’s all right,” she smiled. “The class is just reading silently until morning recess. Why don’t you take your seat.”
The weight of her classmates’ stares felt like sacks of grain tied to her arms and legs as Laura trudged to her seat; their whispers leaving her too embarrassed to look up. Minutes ticked by as slow as the winter thaw seems to turn to spring, each moment a painful reminder that Almanzo was on his way to start a new life without her.
“All right class,” said Miss Wilder standing up from her desk. “You may go out and play.”
Laura could feel her brother Albert standing next to her; the gravity of his stare bore down on her, though she never glanced up from the book she pretended to read. Miss Wilder advanced toward them.
“Albert, would you take my watch and make sure to call everyone back in on time. I need Laura to help me with something.”
“Sure Miss Wilder.”
Laura chanced a look up when she heard the front door close. Removing her glasses, Miss Wilder sat down on the bench in front of Laura.
“He must be halfway to Sleepy Eye by now.”
Laura gasped. “You know.”
“He had to tell me that I would need to find some help around the farm.”
Laura diverted her gaze to the floor, then nodded. She hadn’t given any thought to the farm. Miss Wilder certainly couldn’t run it herself.
“Do you know where he went?”
Miss Wilder tugged at the neck of her blouse. “No, I’m sorry. He didn’t say much before he left this morning, though we talked a bit last night.”
“What did he say?”
Laura bit her lower lip as Miss Wilder told her what she knew—which wasn’t much. Her head collapsed into her folded arms across her desk. How can this be happening? Her chest started to heave as she forced back the tears.
“You don’t have to be here today,” said Miss Wilder. “Go home.”
“Are you sure?”
Laura collected her books from the bench and pushed herself off the seat. Tears welled up in her eyes and threatened to tumble down her cheeks. Shuffling feet scratched along the hard, wooden floor as she wandered toward the back door. She turned to face her teacher, the compassion in the older woman’s eyes a bit of comfort.
“Thank you Miss Wilder.”
She smiled. “You’re welcome. And try not to worry, he’ll be back.”
Wide eyes gazed across the classroom. “How do you know?”
Miss Wilder shrugged. “I know my brother. He doesn’t give up too easily.”
Laura managed a weak smile then snuck out the back door as she heard Albert calling everyone back inside. As she wandered toward the little house on Plum Creek, she took solace in Miss Wilder’s words. She had no idea how she would get through the rest of the day, or tomorrow, or even the next day, but she had to hold onto that hope that what Miss Wilder and her Ma said was true…he’ll be back.