The Day After
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.
It was the morning after the church social. Laura’s sixteenth birthday had come and gone and she still couldn’t believe what had happened to her. She expected to wake up at any moment to discover it was all a dream.
As Laura brushed her long auburn hair, she saw her smile reflecting back at her in the mirror. How could she not be smiling — Almanzo Wilder had kissed her last night. Every heart break she had experienced over the past two years while she tried in vain to get him to notice her, was melted away by the warmth of his kiss.
Her fingers went up and touched her lips. She traced their outline with her ring finger, remembering the feelings his kiss stirred inside her; feelings she had never known and was scared of, but ones which she would never forget.
Almanzo was lounging in his bed. His chores were waiting for him, but they seemed so meaningless after the night he had. He saw Laura’s sweet, young face surrounded by waves of reddish-brown hair. Freckles decorated her perfectly shaped nose and cheeks. Her soft, pink lips had touched his as they shared their first kiss — the mere thought of them aroused feelings deep inside him; feelings he had never experienced before.
A knock interrupted his daydreams.
“Are you all right Almanzo?” Eliza Jane’s voice called through the door.
Slammed back to reality, he tossed the covers aside. “Uh…yeah Sis. Just tired is all. I’ll be down in a minute.”
“Don’t take too long or your breakfast will get cold.”
He heard Eliza Jane’s footsteps on the stairs and knew it was safe to get dressed. There was one other thing he had to do this morning — visit the Ingalls farm and ask Charles’s permission to court Laura. He didn’t think it would be a surprise to the patriarch of the Ingalls family, but it still made him nervous.
The smell of coffee, fried eggs, and bacon greeted him when he entered the dining room. Eliza Jane slid a plate in front of him and left hers on the table to go pour the coffee.
“Did you have a good time last night?” she asked when she sat down.
“Yeah,” he mumbled, trying to downplay the events.
Eliza Jane smiled. He wasn’t fooling her. “You danced with Laura Ingalls almost all night.”
“Nobody else was askin her.”
“How could they, she was glued to your side?” she teased.
Almanzo glanced up and flashed her a crooked smile. “After I’m done with the chores this mornin, I’m gonna go out to the Ingalls place.”
“That’s fine. I have to grade papers today. Will you be home for dinner?”
“Probably not. I wanna spend the afternoon with Laura…if it’s okay with her pa.”
Eliza Jane reached over and tapped the top of his hand with her fingers. “You’ve chosen a fine young lady.”
He smiled. His older sister’s approval meant a great deal to him.
Almanzo tugged on the reins and ordered his horse to stop. After he stepped out of his buggy, he smoothed his clothes and removed his hat. From behind him, in the doorway of the barn, Charles chuckled. He knew he would see Almanzo today.
“Morning Almanzo,” he called to him.
Almanzo whipped around and found Charles walking towards him. His right arm extended, he shook Charles’s hand as he greeted him.
“Mornin, Mr. Ingalls.”
“What brings you out here?” asked Charles, as if he didn’t already know.
“Well Sir, I…” Almanzo shuffled his weight back and forth on his feet, getting more anxious as he looked at him. “Uh…I…”
“I want your permission to court Laura,” he blurted out.
Charles smiled. Almanzo stood firmly planted in front of him, but his rapid breathing and trembling right hand told Charles the boy was unsure of himself.
“Before I say anything else, let me just tell you that I don’t think Laura could have chosen a better suitor. You’re honest and hard working, and I know you’ll treat her with respect.”
“Thank you Sir.”
“The difference in your ages has always concerned me, and that hasn’t changed. Laura’s still young. She has a chance to continue her schooling and I expect you not to interfere with that.”
Almanzo nodded. “I understand.”
“Good.” He slapped the younger man on the back. “Now why don’t you come inside. I’m sure Laura will be happy to see you.”
“Thank you Sir,” he said with a sense of relief.
Never one to miss the chance to joke around, Charles stopped in the doorway. “Just remember what I did to you the last time I thought you were taking advantage of my daughter.”
Almanzo rubbed his jaw. “Yeah, I’m kinda hopin I never make ya that mad again.”
The two men were laughing as they walked inside. Laura heard Almanzo’s voice and was curious to find out why he was there. She glanced in the mirror and tucked a stray hair back into place before climbing down the ladder.
“Hi Manly,” she said with caution. “What are you doing here?”
“Well, I thought I might ask ya to come with me for a buggy ride out to the lake.” He turned to Charles. “If that’s all right with you Mr. Ingalls.”
Laura looked at her father, hoping he would agree. He glanced at his wife and then back at Laura.
“She has a few chores to do, but I guess they can wait until later.”
A wide smile covered her face. “Thanks Pa.”
“If you wait a few minutes I can whip up some sandwiches for you to take,” said Caroline.
“Thanks Mrs. Ingalls,” replied Almanzo.
Charles slapped him on the arm. “Why don’t you and I go take a walk outside while the women do their stuff.”
Laura helped her ma make ham and cheese sandwiches and wrap some pieces of corn bread. They worked in silence, but Caroline would glance over at her occasionally and see the excitement on her face. When they finished, Caroline packed the food into a small basket and handed it to Laura.
“Don’t forget your shawl. It’s a bit chilly.”
“I won’t Ma. Thanks for the sandwiches.”
The two women walked outside.
“Ya ready Beth?” Almanzo asked when he saw them.
“Ready,” she replied.
He took the basket from her and helped her into the buggy, then he handed it back so he could climb in. They waved and said goodbye before Almanzo chirruped to Barnum and they headed away from the Ingalls farm.
Charles and Caroline stood in the open doorway watching the buggy disappear over the hill. Caroline leaned against her husband while he rubbed his hand up and down her arm. They smiled, and knew more changes were ahead for them, and for Laura.
“Do you remember,” began Caroline, “the day Laura took her final year exam?”
“How could I forget it?”
“Do you know what she said to me when we talked?”
He shook his head.
“She told me she was going to make Almanzo see her as a woman some day.” She smiled at Charles. “And she was right.”
“Yeah.” Charles paused, thinking of Laura as a little girl, running down the hill with her braids flying behind her. “I was wrong about him.”
“What do you mean?” asked Caroline.
“I was never quite sure of his intentions towards Laura.” She gave him a puzzled look. “He was the only other man who shared her heart.”
Caroline looked lovingly at her husband. “Can you think of a finer man to share her heart with?”
“No,” admitted Charles, blinking back tears.
They went inside to have a cup of tea together. They reminisced about the young couple they used to be in the Big Woods of Wisconsin and hoped Laura and Almanzo would find the same true love they did.