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 The Christmas Present

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Little House Lady
Little House Lady

Number of posts : 2749

PostSubject: The Christmas Present   Thu Feb 22, 2007 4:31 pm

[wave2]I'm moving several of my fan fics from the old board to here, along with their comments. grinsmiley

"These Happy Golden Years" is probably my favorite of all the LH books, and this year I got to thinking of how could it be interwined with Laura and Almanzo's relationship on the TV show. This is what I came up with...it was fun to write, but I'm not sure how well at did at mixing the 2 storylines...read on to see what I mean ;)

The Christmas Present

Disclaimer: Some passages quoted from "These Happy Golden Years" by Laura Ingalls Wilder

“You gonna sleep all day?” Albert’s voice came from beyond the curtain.

His older sister, Laura, pulled the covers over her head. “Can I sleep through the next three months?” she mumbled.

“What?” Albert moved the curtain aside and stepped onto his sister’s part of the loft they shared.

Reluctantly, Laura moved the covers. “I just don’t want to face today,” she said with a sigh. The day before has been wonderful; it was Thanksgiving and her family had spent it all snug and cozy in their little house on the banks of Plum Creek. Laura’s beau, Almanzo, or Manly as she called him, had been there for dinner too. Laura and Almanzo had just gotten engaged that past Spring. For Laura, it was a tumultuous time filled with emotions. She was young and starry-eyed at the idea of being engaged. Yet sometimes she worried if she could be a good wife. She had no idea how to be a wife. But she knew she had time to figure it out; her father has told Almanzo he would have to wait until Laura was seventeen to marry her.

Now they planned to be married next spring, after Laura’s birthday. But it was only the end of November and that very day, Almanzo was taking his sister, Eliza Jane, home to visit their parents in Minnesota. They would spend Christmas there and return in February, weather permitting. If the winter was a snow-filled one, they might not return until a month or two later than that. She knew Almanzo hadn’t seen his family since he’d moved to Walnut Grove a year earlier, but at the same time, she didn’t think she could bear being separated from him for so long, especially at Christmas.

These thoughts tumbled through Laura’s head as her brother sat down beside her. “I know you’re gonna miss Almanzo, but he’s not going away forever. Besides, by this time next year, you’ll be married and planning Christmas in your own house.”
“I know, Albert. Thank you,” Laura said. “It’s just…I don’t know. It’s like I’m not looking forward to Christmas knowing Manly won’t be here to share it with.”

“Laura!” her mother, Caroline, called from downstairs. “Almanzo’s here!”

“Land’s sakes!” Laura threw back her covers and jumped up. “He said they were getting an early start but I didn’t think this early. It’s barely six!” She shooed Albert out of the loft and quickly put on her closest dress. She jumped towards the table and wished desperately for a wash bowl. “I can’t possibly fix my hair,” she mumbled to herself, rubbing her cheeks with her hands. Lastly, she tugged her hairbrush through her long brown hair.

“Laura?” Caroline called again.

“Ow! I mean, coming, Ma.” Quickly, she pulled the brush away from the tangle it had snagged on and grabbed her shawl. “Ready or not,” she said, taking a deep breath. Then she was off, scrambling down the ladder. She dashed past Eliza Jane, who was sipping a cup of coffee with Laura’s parents, and out the door, where Almanzo stood waiting by the wagon.

He smiled when he saw her. “Hi, Beth. I hope I didn’t get you up out of bed,” he apologized, using his nickname for her.

Laura gulped. “I must look a sight.”

Almanzo caressed her cheek with the back of his hand. “I think you look beautiful.”

“Thanks.” Laura forced a smile back at him. It was hard to realize that this was the last time she would be gazing into his eyes for at least three months. She has to swallow around a lump in her throat. “All ready to go?” she asked at last.

“As ready as we could be,” Almanzo replied. “Eliza’s packed us a feast so we won’t go hungry, that’s for sure. Hopefully the weather will hold for us.”

“If – if it doesn’t, find shelter somewhere,” Laura advised. “Even if, in February, the weather is bad, stay put for awhile. I’d – I’d rather know you’re safe at your folks’ house than trapped in a storm somewhere.” She bit her lip.

Almanzo pulled her closer to him and looked down into her eyes. “I’ll be fine, Beth. I’ll be back as soon as I can be. And I’ll write to you, as often as I can. As soon as I get there and everyday after.”

Laura gave him another teeny smile. “I’ll write to you too,” she whispered, trying desperately to swallow back her tears.

As he enveloped her in a hug, Laura laid her head against Almanzo’s chest. “I’m going to miss you so much, Manly,” she said, her voice shaky with tears.

“I’ll miss you too,” Almanzo said gruffly. He found he had a lump in his throat as well. “I can’t wait until I’m back here with you. And we won’t have to be apart like this again.” He leaned his head against hers and smiled. “I’d love to bring you home to meet the folks, show you off.”

Laura smiled for real this time. “Manly,” she admonished him. “I’m not much to show off.”

“You are to me,” he responded. “You make sure you don’t go meeting any new young men in town while I’m away.”

“Don’t you go finding any old girlfriends.”

“I promise I won’t. I’ll be thinking about you all the time,” Almanzo said. After a moment of just holding each other, he said, “I should get going.”

“Okay.” Laura pulled away and sniffled. “I don’t want to make you late. Have a safe trip,” she said.

“I will.” Almanzo kissed her gently. “I love you.”

Her eyes were bright with tears. “I love you, too.”

Almanzo kissed her again and felt his heart pitter-patter the way it always did when he was around his Beth. He knew he had to make those feelings last; February was a long time away. He was going to miss her so much.

“I’ll see you…soon,” Laura finally declared with another small smile.

“See you soon,” Almanzo replied. He watched her walk back to the house and soon Eliza Jane came out.

She saw his sad expression. “I’m sorry, Manny,” she told him. “I wish we needn’t travel so far away.”

“Me, too,” he said, helping her into the wagon.

“She’ll be all right. And she’ll be here when you get back.”

“Yeah.” For some reason Almanzo couldn’t explain, there was more than that. Being away from Beth at Christmas, a time when you should be surrounded by people you love, somehow gave the holiday a hollow, empty feeling.

* * * * * * * * * *

The days passed and Laura was lonelier than she had ever felt before. She remembered the last time Almanzo had been away from her. It was after they had gotten engaged; Almanzo had wanted to marry Laura right away while her Pa wanted them to wait. Manly was furious that Laura obeyed her Pa’s wishes and refused to run off with him. Now, they both knew what a foolish mistake it had been. Tempers can run high, especially with someone you care about, and they both had said things they didn’t mean. Almanzo came back to Walnut Grove and accepted the fact that he and Laura would need to wait a year before they got married. Besides, he said, it gave him time to find the perfect place to build their home.

Laura was busy while they were away. Miss Wilder had left her in charge of the school, so she was teaching her brother and sister as well as most of the other pupils she had grown up with. It was a little strange at first, but she decided that the work was good for her because it kept her mind occupied. Still, she couldn’t help but daydream in her free time. She was so worried that Almanzo would find someone else; she just couldn’t help herself. She knew it was a worry she’d had in the past and he had assured her that she had no need for worry, but she couldn’t help it. She was so much younger than him and hadn’t had much experience in the world yet. She had only been away from home twice; once when she taught at her first school earlier that year, and another time while Almanzo was away to help her brother-in-law, Adam. Also, she knew that Manly had only come to Walnut Grove in the first place because Eliza Jane was offered to teach at the school. Almanzo had come with her so she wouldn’t be alone and also because he could have his farm. But now, Eliza knew the people in Walnut Grove. And surely Manly could find a farm back home if he really wanted to. She wondered if he ever regretted getting engaged before he went back home.

On the second of December, a letter was waiting for Laura at the post office. She stopped to ask everyday, and on that day, Mrs. Foster smiled and handed her a letter. She tore it open eagerly, as she walked home from school. “Dearest Beth,” it read. “We’ve reached Mother and Father’s home. It was a fine journey and we weren’t delayed a bit. My family is delighted to hear of our engagement; I’ve told them all about the brown-eyed beauty who stole my heart. I miss you greatly and I’ve been thinking about you every step of the way. Please give my best to your family and know that I’m with you in my thoughts and my dreams every night. All my love, Almanzo.”

She couldn’t help but smile when she read that. It was good to know that Almanzo was thinking of her as much as she was thinking of him. But as Christmas drew closer and she and her brother and sisters busily worked and hid presents around the little house, Laura noticed Almanzo’s letters dwindling in their amount. At first, there had been several a week. Then, only one. Now she had not received a letter for almost two weeks. I knew it,[/]i she lamented.[i] I knew Manly would forget about me once he was back home. Home. The word echoed in her mind. His home is here. He should be here with me. Now he’s with his old friends and girls he used to know.

"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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Little House Lady
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PostSubject: Re: The Christmas Present   Thu Feb 22, 2007 4:31 pm

Laura tried so hard to hide her feelings but when Christmas Eve came, she was miserable. It didn’t help that it began to snow at ten o’clock that morning. The family was supposed to travel into town and celebrate Christmas with their neighbors at church, but that evening, Charles said, “It’s too dangerous to risk it.”

No plans had been made to have Christmas Eve at home, so everyone was busy. Carrie, Albert and Grace were especially cheered when Charles went to the cabinet in the kitchen and brought out a bag of candy he’d bought for Christmas morning. “I don’t see why we can’t have this now to celebrate,” he said.

Albert and Laura cooked popcorn in the kitchen, and stood by watching as Ma squeezed the freshly popped corn into popcorn balls. Albert even helped make a few, but Laura stood gazing out the window.

“Albert,” Caroline finally said, “Bring this bowl to the table, please.” After handing him the bowl filled with popcorn balls, she stood next to Laura. Placing her arm around her daughter’s shoulders, she said, “I know this hasn’t been easy for you. Being away from Almanzo for so long. Especially at Christmas.”

“It’s been…really hard,” Laura admitted. She didn’t want her folks to know how she was feeling; she didn’t want to trouble them and even more so, she was a little uncomfortable sharing these feelings. After all, she was engaged and saw herself as a woman; yet to her parents, she would always be their little girl.

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” Caroline reasoned. “Just think how wonderful it will be to see Almanzo when he comes back.”

“Yes, that’s true, I suppose.” Laura forced a smile. “Thanks, Ma.”

She could tell her mother knew she wasn’t being forthcoming with her feelings but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Talking about it wouldn’t make her feel any better, she thought. She couldn’t stop the thoughts of Almanzo deciding not to come back, or meeting someone new. He’ll wish he hadn’t asked me to marry him.

Charles broke into her thoughts. “Bring me the fiddle, Half Pint, and we’ll have some music.”

Laura brought him the fiddle box and he asked, “What shall I play?”

Everyone thought for a moment. “How about Mary’s Song?” Caroline finally suggested. “I’m sure she’s thinking of us.” Mary, Laura’s older sister, was living in Sleepy Eye now with her husband, where they taught at a blindschool. Even if the weather had held up, they were not planning on coming home for Christmas. Some of their students lived at the school yearround, and Mary and Adam wanted to be there for them.

Charles drew the bow across the strings and sang,

“Ye banks and braes and streams around
The castle of Montgomery,
Green by our woods and fair your flowers,
Your waters never drumlie;
There summer first unfolds her robes
And there the langest tarry,
For there I took the lat fareweel
Of my sweet Highland Mary.”

Caroline sat in her rocking chair beside the fireplace with Grace in her lap; Carrie and Albert in their places at the table. Charles sat at the head of the table, but Laura moved restlessly around the room.

Charles continued playing, a sweet melody that Laura recognized as “O Little Town of Bethlehem”. She was surprised when, at the end of the song, he began playing a faster tune. Caroline got up, taking Grace with her, and pulled Carrie to her feet to dance. Albert tapped his feet to the rhythm and Laura herself smiled on, thinking of the years when she and Mary used to dance together with Caroline while baby Carrie stood watching. Now, the three of them were all near grown up. She wished fervently for Almanzo to be there with her next Christmas to share the memories with. Then Charles sang:

“Oh, do not stand so long outside,
Why need you be so shy?
The people’s ears are open, John,
As they are passing by!
You can not tell what they may think
They’ve said strange things before
And if you wish to talk awhile,
Come in and shut the door!
Come in! Come in! Come in!”

Charles sang louder, “Come in! Come in!”

Laura looked at him, surprised. All the family turned in astonishment as a knock sounded at the door. Charles nodded to Laura and finished the song. “Come in and shut the door!”

A gust of wind swirled snow into the room when Laura opened the door; it blinded her for a moment and when she could see she could not believe her eyes. The wind swirled snow around Almanzo as, speechless, she stood holding the door.

“Come in!” Charles called. “Come in and shut the door!” He set down the fiddle and added another log to the fire.” That wind blows cold into a fellow’s bones,” he said. “What about your team?”

“I drove Barnum,” Almanzo answered. “I put him in the stable. Could hardly find my way to the house from there.” He was still gasping from being outside in the wind as he shook snow from his coat and hunt it with his cap near the door.

Caroline greeted him. “Good evening, Almanzo,” she said.

Laura, still in shock, had gone to the opposite side of the room where her brother and sisters were gathered. When Almanzo looked towards them, Albert simply said, “Hi, Almanzo!” While Carrie, at the same time, said, “We have lots of candy!”

“Merry Christmas,” Almanzo answered. “I brought some oranges. And I have a package with Laura’s name on it too, but isn't she going to speak to me?” He smiled as Laura whispered, “I can’t believe it’s you. You – you said you’d be gone, at least three months.”

“Don’t sound so disappointed that I wasn’t,” Almanzo teased. “I decided I didn’t want to be away that long. And I was lucky, seeing as the weather held til I got close to Walnut Grove. Eliza’s gonna stay home til February, then she’ll take a stage back,” he explained. “And seeing that you’ll speak to me, here’s your present.”

“Charles, come and put away the fiddle. Albert, Carrie, help me slice up these oranges,” Ma said, taking the bag Almanzo had set on the table.

Laura opened the small package that Almanzo gave her. The white paper unfolded; there was a white box inside. She lifted its lid. There in a nest of soft white cotton lay a golden ring. In its center was what looked like a piece of glass.

“It’s a diamond,” Almanzo told her softly. “It’s an engagement ring. I wanted you to have something special to…to show you how much you mean to me,” he explained.

Laura’s cheeks glowed pink. “It’s beautiful,” she whispered, slipping it onto her ring finger of her left hand. “Thank you so much.”

“Can’t you thank a fellow better than that?” Almanzo teased again. He put his arms around her while Laura kissed him. As her family came back into the room, she whispered, “You being here with me is the best Christmas present I could ever get.”

* * * * * * * * * *

Late that night when they were getting ready for bed, Albert said to Laura, “You know, this was a great Christmas Eve. And we still have tomorrow to look forward to. I never enjoyed the holidays before, until I came to live with all of you. But I think they just keep getting better all the time.”

Laura smiled; she knew exactly what he meant. “Merry Christmas, little brother,” she said.

“Merry Christmas, 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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Little House Lady
Little House Lady

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PostSubject: Re: The Christmas Present   Thu Feb 22, 2007 4:34 pm

Sweet Caroline wrote:
Great job, Christina. I love it!

Rana wrote:
What a nice Christmas-surprise to find your story here today. [clap]
Since I've read "These Happy Golden Years" for the first time I wished they had included this wonderful part from the book to the show. You combined both storylines very well. Just love reading your fanfic. :thumbright:

bethandmanly wrote:
What a great story Christina! I haven't read "These Happy Golden Years" in a while, but parts of your story were familiar. Keep up that writing; you do a great job!


ChristinaAL wrote:
Thanks, ladies! I really appreciate your feedback :)

And thank you for the compliment Cheryl; I love writing but really stopped doing much of it awhile ago. I enjoy writing these fan fics though; they're fun and an escape from the rest of the world! :)

Thanks again for reading :)

"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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New Pioneer
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PostSubject: Re: The Christmas Present   Fri Dec 05, 2008 10:10 am

i found this story while searching for something else...very clever christinaal...i love the way you combined both the book and the tv show...
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Little House Lady
Little House Lady

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PostSubject: Re: The Christmas Present   Sat Dec 06, 2008 6:20 pm

Thank you so much Wave I was surprised when I saw it near the top!

"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: The Christmas Present   Today at 11:08 am

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