This is a story I wrote a while back, but didn't have time to enter into the PC until recently. In this one, Laura and Almanzo stop by their old house--the one Almanzo and Charles built after Manly's stroke--to say goodbye before the town is blown up.
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.
“Well, here we are.” Almanzo’s voice sounding raw, he set the brake against the wagon wheel and twirled the reins around the brake shaft.
Both he and Laura stared at the little house Almanzo had built after his stroke. Laura glanced over at him and then gazed around the farm she had called home during the first years of their marriage.
Clouds of dust swirled around Almanzo’s feet as he jumped from the wagon. His hands encircled Laura’s thin waist and helped her down from the wagon seat. She turned to look into his careworn face, her own eyes reflecting their pain. The past several weeks had been mountains and valleys of emotion. The railroad was coming to Walnut Grove. What should have been an exciting time quickly turned to sorrow as the rich and powerful railroad company swooped in like a hawk and stole their land out from under them. The railroad generously offered to let them stay and work the farms that used to belong to them. What man or woman wanted to be enslaved that way?
Almanzo wrapped his arms around her. “We’ve faced worse things than havin’ to move.”
She nodded, wiping away the tears that trickled down her face. “I know.”
“And we’ve started over before. It should be easier this time. At least we know we have a place to live.”
“Oh Manly,” she cried. “Walnut Grove has been my home for most of my life.” She nestled into his chest, needing his comfort. “I can’t imagine leaving. At least the last time we started over we did it here.”
Pulling her closer, he rubbed her back like a mother comforting a small child who has scraped her knee. “It’ll be okay, Beth. I promise.” Tucked inside his arms, she wanted to believe him. How could moving to Burr Oak be okay?
“Do ya wanna go inside?” he asked, smiling as he backed up.
Wiping away the remaining tears, Laura straightened and lifted her head with confidence, but her white-knuckled hands remained clenched at her sides. She reached for the white knob on the front door and the memory of Almanzo standing in the doorway of their new home flashed into her mind. This house he and her Pa had so lovingly built remained a symbol of Almanzo’s commitment to his family after months of recovery from his stroke. She pulled her hand away as it had been burned by the stove. If she went in it would mean she really was saying goodbye.
Almanzo’s strong hand rested upon her arm. Nodding, Laura pushed through the open door and marched inside. Her confidence failed as soon as she spied the kitchen table and chairs. Her hand ran along the hard, smooth table top.
“Do you remember our first meal at this table?” she whispered.
“Yes.” He embraced her. “It was the first day you saw our new home.”
She smiled as tears streamed down her face. “It was the day I saw you walk for the first time since your stroke.”
Almanzo chuckled. “That too.”
“I was so angry at Ma for making me get out of the house to go for my check-up. When she turned down the road that would go by our tornado ravaged house I swore I wouldn’t look.” Laura laid her head down on Almanzo’s chest.
Tender fingers stroked her hair. “I’m sorry I kept it from ya, but it sure was worth the look on your face.”
Laura gazed into Almanzo’s eyes. A smile curled the corner of her lips. “I never thought I could love you more than I did, but my heart almost burst as you walked toward me.” She shivered.
He pulled her close again. “I’m sorry I made it so tough on you. I have very few regrets in life, but that’s the greatest: that I couldn’t see beyond my self-pity and reach out to the one person I needed the most.”
Laura’s arms slid up around his neck as she stood on her tippy-toes to place a gentle kiss on his lips. “It was a hard time for all of us…even Eliza Jane.”
“I miss her.” Almanzo wandered over to the fireplace. His fingers traced around the different shaped rocks of many colors that Charles and he had cemented together.
“I do too.” A sigh escaped from Laura’s lips. “Maybe we should visit her before leaving Minnesota. She was so upset when I wrote her about what happened.”
“Ya know, that’s not a bad idea. I’ll talk to Charles and see when he has to get back.”
Laura glanced down at the grooves in the hardwood floor caused by her rocking chair. She loved sitting at night across from Manly sewing or tending to Rose as he read the newspaper.
“What do you think will happen to Mr. Edwards?”
The crooked smile that had won her heart many years ago widened across his face. “Don’t worry about Isaiah. He’s started over more than once and he’ll find a way to do it again.”
“But he’s all alone.” What if he starts drinking again? Is what she really wanted to say. Mr. Edwards wasn’t the same man who had wandered back into Walnut Grove a couple of years ago. He had worked hard to put his life back together. Being around friends who loved him is what helped him the most, Mr. Edwards had once told her. “Do you think it’s smart for him to go visit Carl? What if he turns him away?”
Almanzo shrugged. “I guess it’s possible, but there’s always hope. Carl wrote back when Isaiah wrote to him. I can’t imagine he would bother if he didn’t wanna see him.”
“When I received Carl’s last letter he seemed worried. I pray it all works out. They used to be so close.”
Laura bit her lip as she stood before the door to the spare bedroom. No matter how hard she tried, her hands trembled upon the doorknob. “I remember when you built this.”
“There are still days I expect to see Royal comin’ through that door.” Almanzo tucked his hands into his pockets and swallowed hard. Tears swam in his eyes. “I keep thinkin’ how unfair it was for Jenny to lose both parents. With Myron at the seminary and Rupert in medical school it must have been so hard on her.”
Laura sat down on the straw mattress and reached for Almanzo’s arm, encouraging him to join her. “She’s blossomed quite nicely this past year, don’t you think?”
“She’s becomin’ a young woman right before my eyes.” Again he swallowed away a lump from his throat.
“Just think of all the opportunities for schooling Jenny and Rose will have in Burr Oak.” The urge to tease him overtook her. “Of course, maybe Jenny will settle down with a nice young man and get married instead of going to school.”
Almanzo jumped off the bed as if he sat on a tack. “That girl’s too young to be thinkin’ about marriage.”
Laura rolled on the bed as fits of laughter seized her. “That’s what my Pa thought about me,” she managed in between chuckles. Her sides aching she clutched her stomach until she lay across the bed breathless. Dabbing her eyes she could resist going further with her little joke. “Are you going to forbid her to get married before she turns eighteen too?”
He pounced on her and began tickling her sides. Laura squealed and begged for him to stop, all the time trying to pry his hands off her. “Stop…please…stop,” she panted.
“Aunt Laura? Uncle Manzo?” Jenny’s voice called from the kitchen. Laura and Almanzo appeared in the bedroom doorway. “What were you doing?”
Still breathless, Laura crossed the kitchen floor to hug Jenny. She shot Almanzo a devilish smile. “Uncle Manzo and I were just discussing why you should wait to get married.”
“Married! I haven’t even finished school yet.” Jenny’s wide eyes traveled between her aunt and uncle.
Chuckling, Laura tapped Jenny’s arm. “You just made Uncle Manzo very happy. Seems he’s much more like my pa than he realized.”
“What?” Hands planted on her hips, Jenny continued to stare at Laura.
“Never mind. Where’s Rose?”
“Mr. Edwards has her. He wanted to take her for a walk, so I thought I would visit Papa’s grave.”
Laura hugged Jenny for a long moment. “Your parents would have been so proud of you.”
A flash of red tinged Jenny’s cheeks. “I hope so.”
“They would,” said Almanzo, kissing Jenny on the cheek.”
“Are you ready to head home yet?” Jenny asked.
Almanzo leaned his rear end on the kitchen table and folded his arms over his chest. “Why don’t you wait in the wagon. We’ll be out in a minute.”
“Okay Uncle Manzo.”
Laura gasped when the thought occurred to her. She seized Almanzo’s arm and her face turned suddenly ashen. “You won’t blow up this place.” Her mouth felt as dry as an unused mill wheel.
“Never,” he whispered. “I don’t know what the railroad will do to it once we leave, but I don’t have the heart to destroy it.”
Relief mingled with a fresh wave of tears and Laura snuggled into Almanzo’s arms. “Oh Manly, I don’t know how to say goodbye.”
“Me neither Beth. Me neither.”
They held tightly to each other as they glanced around the home that had been built out of love. This home would always be in their hearts, no matter where they lived. The promise of a fresh start that began when Laura first laid her eyes upon its wooden frame and the love she felt when Almanzo stood up from the wheelchair he had been bound to since his stroke and then walked to her would follow them to Burr Oak and whatever place the future brought them to.
“Ya ready?” he asked.
She waved a finger at him. “Just give me another minute.”
He nodded. “I’ll be waitin’ outside with Jenny.” He pecked her on the cheek and walked out.
Roaming from room to room Laura allowed the memories they had created to fill her thoughts. Glancing into their old bedroom she saw the straw mattress on the floor. The headboard and bed frame had been brought over to the boarding house so they could bring it with them. I can almost see him laying there in his cradle. She had visited the cemetery yesterday and said her farewells to Baby Boy Wilder, but she knew that no matter where they ended up or what happened to the town, that one piece of her would always be buried in Walnut Grove. Her chest heaved as she struggled to hold back her tears.
“I like to think he’s lookin’ down on us.” Almanzo’s words pierced through her wanderings.
She jumped. “I didn’t know you were there.”
“I figured I should come check on ya.” Almanzo wiped away the stray tear that had escaped.
“I’ll never be able to visit him again.” Her head hung low, Laura squeezed her eyes tightly to keep a fresh wave of tears from flowing down her face.
Almanzo caressed her cheek. “Yes you will.” He nodded and pointed to her heart. “In here. You’ll carry him with you…just like I do.” He swallowed back the lump in his throat. “There are days it still hurts, but then I think of him lookin’ down on us from heaven and it doesn’t seem so bad.”
They embraced and stood together for several minutes in silence until Almanzo led Laura out of the bedroom. “It’s time to go.” Laura nodded, glancing back toward the bedroom one last time.
“Are ya gonna be okay?” he asked.
Clasping Almanzo’s hand Laura walked through the kitchen toward the door. “As long as we’re together I’ll be just fine.” Hand in hand they strolled outside. Taking one last look into the house, Laura pulled the white knob and forever shut the door on the house made of love. She didn’t know what the future would bring or if Burr Oak would be the last place the Wilders would call home.
With Almanzo’s help, Laura took a seat beside him in the wagon. A crooked smile swept across his face and Laura’s eyes shone with love. The future might be uncertain, but together Manly and she could do anything…even, say goodbye.