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.
The little house on Plum Creek finally came into view. Laura and Almanzo had been traveling all day and their bodies ached. Laura longed to stretch out on her bed and she was sure Almanzo would collapse soon after he arrived home.
Almanzo tugged the reins. “Whoa!” he called to his Morgans, pulling them to a stop in front of the Ingalls’s house.
Wrapping the reins around the braking bar, he turned to get down from the wagon seat. Laura tugged at his arm. “That’s all right, I’ll get my own bag.”
“Beth,” he began his complaint.
Her brows furrowed. “Manly, you’re recovering from pneumonia. The doctor told you not to do too much and you better listen to him.”
Almanzo raised his hand to his forehead in a mock salute. “Yes Sir.”
They laughed together, but Laura wanted him to know she took the doctor’s orders seriously. The thought of how she almost lost him remained fresh in her mind. They would take no chances.
“I mean it Almanzo.” She caressed his cheek. “I don’t want you to go back to taking care of the farm too soon.”
He shook his head and his wide eyes looked at her as if she had sprouted another head. “Eliza Jane’s been takin’ care of the farm all by herself for weeks now. Who knows what needs fixin’.”
Why is he always so stubborn? Laura clasped her hands around his. This wasn’t a matter for discussion. He would just have to listen to her. “I’ll talk to Pa. If he says it’s okay, I’ll come over in the morning and help with the chores. You can drive me into school with your sister and then we can go back to your place after school and I’ll do what I can.”
“That’s plumb ridiculous. You’re not gonna help me run my farm.”
A sigh escaped her lips and she could feel the tension behind her eyes. “Aren’t I going to help you with the farm once we’re married?”
Almanzo’s eyes scrunched into mere slits. He removed his hat and ran his fingers through a mass of wavy blonde hair. “Yes, but we’re not married. Besides, ya got your own chores to do.”
“Albert will be more than happy to do my chores for a couple more weeks until you get your strength back.” A loving smile covered her face. “My family owes you a lot.”
He slapped his leg hard. She could hear his breathing becoming more labored and a coughing fit gripped him for a few seconds. Laura’s hand clenched his leg as she stared at his red face.
Almanzo exhaled as slowly and as deeply as he could, then wiped the sweat from his brow. “That’s why I don’t want ya helpin’ me. I didn’t help with the rent so that you would havta be nice to me.”
Laura reached for his hand and kissed it. “No, you did it because you’re an honorable man…and because you love me.”
Yes, she knew he loved her, and she certainly loved him. But could she trust him again? Could she put her faith in him again?
“That’s why I can’t understand how you could leave. It wasn’t honorable or responsible.”
Almanzo fiddled with the rim of his hat. He had done the same thing the day he had asked her to the church social. Why can’t we go back to that day and keep all the bad things from happening?
“I told ya, I couldn’t go on pretendin’ that I agreed with your pa. I didn’t want to wait. You said you didn’t want to wait and I couldn’t reason with him.” His gaze looked out in front of him, staring at nothing in particular. “I felt that I had failed ya somehow, failed us.”
“But I—“ she began, but he put up his hand to silence her.
Placing his hat back on his head, he clasped both her hands in one of his. “Can’t ya understand? I couldn’t stay here after your pa said no. I would see him in town and at church services. We would both know we didn’t agree, but I would havta pretend like we did. I fought for what I wanted and failed.”
Laura swiped her hands away and jumped off the wagon seat. “Will you stop saying that!”
Darkness had fallen since they arrived and Laura could see people going back and forth in the front room window. Ma must be having a heck of a time keeping Pa inside.
Laura rubbed at the tension behind her eyes. Almanzo slid over to her side of the wagon seat and climbed down. Clasping both her shoulders, he gazed into her chocolate brown eyes.
“It was time for me to start decidin’ what I wanted out of life and goin’ after it.” His hands slid down her arms and he wound his fingers around hers. “Only thing was, I thought we wanted the same thing.”
She squeezed his hands as the tears swam around in her eyes. When she looked up at him, she saw his pain staring back at her. “Oh Manly, I want all those things…and I want them with you.” She reached up and caressed his cheek. “But I couldn’t do what you asked me to do.”
Laura worked hard to keep her tone from sounding confrontational. He had hurt her, but more than wanting him to feel sorry, she needed him to understand why she said no.
“We were making plans to live here where our families and friends are, but suddenly the plans changed and I had no say in it. We had no land and no home. And it felt like we were running off to get married just to spite Pa.” She anticipated an objection but he said nothing, so she continued. “I didn’t make a choice between you and Pa because there really wasn’t a choice. I have school and chores here. My family is here. And I didn’t want to leave them without giving it a lot of thought. You wanted an answer right away. I didn’t have one.”
Almanzo looked through their clasped hands at the ground and nodded. He exhaled deeply and Laura was relieved to not hear any sign of difficulty breathing.
“I guess that wasn’t much of a choice.” His shoulders rose and fell. “I just didn’t wanna wait.” He tucked a tendril of hair behind her ear. “I’m sorry for what I said that day. I never shoulda called ya a little girl. I was just so sure you’d say yes that when ya didn’t, I got angry.”
Laura turned away and looked up at the night sky. Wringing her hands, she knew she had to say it, but she didn’t want to risk another fight. The full moon shone high above them and the sky was filled with hundreds of twinkling stars. When she worked the courage up to face him, she saw their brightness reflected in the blue of his eyes. Taking a step toward him, she continued wringing her hands.
“Manly, I need you to know something. I probably should have told you this before I accepted your proposal, but I…I was too excited.”
The smile disappeared from his face and he went suddenly pale. She was sure she saw his knees wobble when he casually leaned against the wagon for support.
He swallowed hard. “What is it?”
Laura felt warm under her coat. Beads of sweat formed at the small of her back and the collar of her dress seemed to be cutting off the air. She undid the first two buttons of her coat and tried to slow her breathing, which had unconsciously quickened. Her mouth felt as dry as the sun baked laundry. Licking her lips, she took a deep breath.
“I can’t promise to obey you. I’ll always love and cherish you, but I can’t promise to obey. Maybe that worked for your ma and mine, but I’m not going to make a promise I can’t keep. I have my own mind and I don’t plan to submit it.”
His laugh rose up from his belly and exited his mouth with such force that soon he doubled over and began coughing. Even as he coughed he continued to laugh. Laura stood in front of him with arms crossed over her chest. He must not have taken her seriously.
Laura opened her mouth to protest but Almanzo waved her off as he shook his head. He finally stood straight up and wiped the moisture from his eyes.
“I had never noticed that about ya.” A chuckle escaped from his crooked smile.
Laura’s foot tapped the ground. With raised eyebrows and pursed lips she glared at him. “Almanzo Wilder—“
He pulled her into him with both hands and held her close. Kissing the top of her head, she couldn’t help but notice how wonderful it felt to be in his arms again. Their foreheads now touching each other, he gazed into her eyes.
“I wouldn’t have ya any other way.” He captured her lips with his. The entire world disappeared as they kissed and her legs felt wobbly as she leaned against him. “I love ya Beth,” he whispered into her ear.
“I love you too, Manly.” She leaned her head against his chest and smelled the faint scent of hay on his coat. He’ll always be a farmer.
Laura knew that their time was almost up. It amazed her that Ma had managed to keep Pa inside this long. She walked to the back of the wagon and grabbed her bag.
“Do you want to come in for a cup of coffee?” she asked.
“No thanks. I best be gettin’ home. I’m tired. And I don’t think I’m your Pa’s favorite person right now.”
“You’re wrong Almanzo. Pa was angry with you, but after what you’ve done to help with the blind school he doesn’t feel that way anymore.”
“Dagburnit Beth!” He slapped his hand against the back of the wagon. “I didn’t do it for that.”
She put a hand over his heart. “I know you didn’t. All I’m saying is that Pa admires and respects what you did. When he came back from Sleepy Eye that night to tell me you were sick, he said that you were a very special man who must have a great deal of love for me.” Her beaming smile expressed her own feelings. “Believe me, he knows why you did it.”
Moments later the front door opened and Charles walked out. Laura could hear her Ma’s protests behind him.
“Evening Almanzo.” A pipe hung from a corner of Charles’s mouth. He extended his arm to Almanzo and they shook hands.
“Evenin’ Mr. Ingalls.” Almanzo glanced behind Charles. “Mrs. Ingalls.”
Caroline squeezed Charles’s arm. “I’m sorry Laura, we were just anxious to see you.”
Laura could barely hold back the chuckle bubbling inside. “That’s okay Ma. Almanzo was just heading home.”
Caroline nodded. “Thank you for driving her home Almanzo. I’m glad to see you’re feeling better.”
A smile tugged at the corner of his lips. “Thank you Mrs. Ingalls.”
Almanzo glanced at Laura. “I really need to get home.” He pecked her cheek and said goodnight to Charles and Caroline.
Laura noticed his walk was much slower and his left leg trembled a bit. She placed a hand over his as he reached up for the wagon seat. “Are you sure you don’t want to stay in our soddy tonight?”
“Naw, I’ll be all right. Beside, Eliza Jane is expectin’ me. She might get to worryin’ if I don’t come home.”
She released his hand and stepped back so he could climb up. Almanzo waited a couple seconds before pulling himself up to the seat. He seemed relieved to be sitting again.
“I’ll be by in the morning,” said Laura, reminding him of their deal.
Charles removed the pipe from his mouth. “What’s going on tomorrow?”
Laura turned to face her father. “I promised Manly that I would help him around the farm until he got his strength back.”
Charles looked up at Almanzo and then at Laura before nodding. “That’s fine.”
Caroline circled an arm around Laura’s shoulders. “Good to see you again Almanzo,” she said as the two women walked toward the house.
Laura glanced back at Almanzo and her father in the yard. Pa wanted a moment to talk to Almanzo alone. Is that a good thing or a bad one? She waved at Almanzo and followed her mother into the house.
She watched from the window of the front room, the same window she knew her pa had been watching them from ever since she and Almanzo had pulled into the yard. Almanzo smiled and nodded at Pa. The two men shook hands and Almanzo prompted his team toward home.
Laura felt blessed to have two men who loved her so much, but at times it made life challenging. She wondered if Pa would change his mind about making them wait to get married. She certainly wasn’t going to bring it up. She was glad she had told Almanzo how she felt and that she couldn’t promise to obey.
The pain of Almanzo’s rejection still lingered, but she hoped now that they had talked it out they could work together to get by it. Almanzo had been hurt too, and maybe this was just the kind of situation that could help prepare them to be married one day. In the meantime, they could make plans and think about the future…a future that included her becoming Mrs. Laura Ingalls Wilder.