The Aftermath of Annabelle
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.
London’s Circus and Annabelle had packed up and moved on to the next town. But the circus had left its effect on members of Walnut Grove, and for some, those effects were just beginning to take shape.
Almanzo still wasn’t sure how to handle what Beth had done. He had asked Christie Norton to the circus, and Beth had not seemed pleased. It was obvious they didn’t like each other, though Manly wasn’t privy to what caused the problem between them. Almanzo ended up not caring for Christie either, but it didn’t excuse Laura’s actions.
He was working at the Feed and Seed when he saw her. Laura and her siblings were making their way into town for school. Laura glanced up at Almanzo, not sure if he knew. When Almanzo started walking towards her with that look in his eye, she feared he might have heard the whole story.
“Howdy Beth,” he said when he reached her.
“Can I talk to ya for a few minutes?”
“Well, I really should get to school.”
“We have five minutes before the bell rings,” interjected Albert, thinking he was being helpful. Laura glared at him.
“Hey Albert, do me a favor will ya, “ said Almanzo. “Let my sister know Laura’s with me and she’ll be at school as soon as we’re done.”
Albert shrugged. “All right.” He grabbed Carrie’s hand and headed towards the schoolyard.
Almanzo put his arm around Beth’s shoulder and led her to the bench next to the Sweetheart Tree. Laura could tell by his tone that he knew she was the mysterious clown who had kissed him.
“Beth, I wanna talk to ya about what happened at the circus.”
“Are you mad?” she asked without looking at him.
“No, just kinda confused. Why would ya do such a thing?”
“I don’t know what came over me Manly.”
He lifted her chin up so he could see her face. “Ya know I’ve never tried to encourage this crush of yours.”
She turned her back to him. His choice of words stung her. She didn’t have a childish crush on him; she loved him. Why couldn’t he see that?
He spoke to her softly, like a father talking to a child. “You’re gonna get over it when ya meet someone your own age. Then you’ll probably have a good laugh.”
“No I won’t,” she replied, wiping away the tears she refused to let him see.
The school bell rang and she started to stand up. She wanted to get away from him and this conversation. She felt his hand on her shoulder, pushing her back to the seat.
“I’m not done yet. Christie was very embarrassed. I know the two of ya don’t get along, but I don’t think it was very nice of ya to humiliate her like that.”
“You were laughing too,” she accused, squinting at him in anger.
“You’re right. I wasn’t havin as much fun with her as I thought I would. But it was wrong of me to laugh. I went to see her the next day and apologized. She told me there was a problem with her dress. Is that true?”
“I basted the skirt but I didn’t sew it to the bodice.”
“So ya planned all this.”
Laura looked down at her feet and nodded.
“That was meaner than the trick ya played on Nellie and me with the cinnamon chicken. I hope you’ll grow up and stop playing these childish pranks on people.”
As soon as the words tumbled out of his mouth Laura saw red. Her anger took over and she stood up with a face full of fury. “I’m not a little girl anymore Almanzo. I’m a woman. Soon I’ll be a teacher.”
“Beth, there’s more to bein a woman than age.”
“You’re just like Pa. He wants me to stay his Half-pint forever, and you want me to keep being your favorite girl. Neither one of you can see how much I’ve changed.”
Almanzo thought about what she said. Maybe she had changed since they first met, but she was still far away from womanhood. He figured he would try to make her feel better. “Beth, I know you’ve grown up some, but there’s no reason ya havta change overnight. It’ll happen in its own time.” He toyed with one of her braids, as he often did.
A furious Laura pulled away from him. “I’m a woman Almanzo, and I’m going to make you see it. You just wait.” She picked up her things and stomped out of town.
“Beth,” he called after her. “Come back Beth.”
He stood in the middle of the street with his hands on his hips until he lost sight of her. He moseyed on back to the Feed and Seed and grabbed the clipboard off the nail in the office. He glanced at his list of orders. Within moments, he threw the clipboard on the desk and began to pace the platform. He glanced over at the schoolhouse where Laura should be. What was it that didn’t allow him to keep his distance from her? He looked forward to seeing her walking into town every morning on her way to school. She would smile and wave, making his day go smoother.
He chuckled when he remembered Laura sitting in the front room in his robe after her fight with Nellie Oleson. Being feisty always got the better of her, and yet, it was the thing that made her so special; she never backed down from a confrontation and never shied away from speaking her mind. He witnessed that today.
Sitting down on the platform he let his legs dangle over the side. Visions of Laura’s visit to the Wilder farm to return his robe a few weeks back flashed through his mind. When he had stared into Beth’s face, he thought for an instant he felt an attraction to her. But Almanzo wrote it off as a slight concussion from when they bonked heads reaching for the basket at the same time. Maybe Beth took that as a sign he was interested in her.
Almanzo stood up with determination and started stacking sacks of grain for Mr. Carver’s order. As much as he enjoyed Laura’s company, he would have to work hard to keep a safe distance from her. He didn’t want to encourage her feelings for him. It would be unfair to let her believe they would ever be anything more than just friends.