A Trip to the Lake
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.
Barnum pulled the buggy in the direction of the lake. Almanzo and Laura rode in silence, their newfound relationship making this ride uncomfortable, unlike the others they had been on. Laura had never ridden alongside him as her beau. She assumed that’s what Pa and Almanzo had been talking about when she had seen them in the yard.
“I was surprised to see you this morning,” she said.
He glanced over at her. “Were ya now?”
Afraid she might have offended him, she added, “But it was a pleasant surprise.”
He smiled. “Did ya have a good time last night?”
“Oh yes,” she said with enthusiasm. She felt the warmth of her blush and covered her cheeks to hide their scarlet color.
“I was hopin ya did.”
“I didn’t know you could dance.”
“With three sisters in the house I didn’t have much of a choice. They were always usin me for practice.”
“They taught you well.”
Laura wanted to reach out and touch his hand, but he was busy driving Barnum. As if he read her mind, he switched the other rein into his right hand and picked up her smaller, whiter hand in his large, dark one. He brought her hand up to his lips and then ran his thumb over the back of it, before placing her hand down on the seat and switching the rein back into his left hand.
“What were you talking to Pa about this morning?”
“I was askin his permission to court ya…if ya want me to.” He looked at her out of the corner of his eye, fairly certain of her answer.
“Well now that’s settled, why don’t we enjoy the day.”
Laura couldn’t imagine how she would find any fault with this day after taking a ride with Almanzo as her beau.
After tying up Barnum, Almanzo led Laura by the hand to an unsheltered section of grass alongside the lake. It was a cool afternoon, but the bright sunshine would make it comfortable enough for them to enjoy their picnic.
Almanzo laid the blanket down on the grass. He had tucked one away in the back of his buggy in case Charles said yes. Laura and Almanzo sat down on the blanket, the basket between them. Neither of them was hungry, so they began to talk about Almanzo’s life in Malone, NY where he grew up. He spoke fondly of his parents and the farm where his mother spun wool and he had broken in his first colt.
“What was your brother, Royal like?” she asked.
“Typical older brother, I guess. He knew everythin, and did everythin better than me. I hated it when I was growin up, but now I look up to him.”
“Sounds like Mary. She was smarter and prettier than I could hope to be. She had boys lining up to carry her books home from school every day. She liked to sew and always wore her bonnet. She sure knew how to do the right thing all the time.”
“And what about you Beth?” he asked with a crooked smile.
Laura shook her head when she thought back to some of the schemes she had played a part in. “Me — I was always in trouble. I got into a fight with Nellie Oleson on my first day of school.”
“I can understand how that might happen,” he joked.
“My temper always gets the better of me.”
“Ya don’t say,” he replied.
“And what are you smirking at?”
“Seems I’ve seen that temper a couple times myself.”
Laura blushed thinking back to her theatrical performance in the parlor of the Wilder’s house, screaming how she was a woman and that she hated all of them.
“I was distraught over how Nellie’s trick forced me to fail my test,” she said in her defense.
“And of course there was that part about you calling me a little girl.”
“Yeah, I thought we’d get to that,” he said with a twinge of embarrassment. “Does it help knowin I don’t think of ya that way anymore?”
“Yes,” she admitted. “Just don’t go punching any more of my students.”
It was Almanzo’s turn to blush as he thought of Chad Brewster. He pulled her against him into an embrace.
“What a pair we make,” he said.
After lunch, they took a stroll along the shore. Laura threw some bread crust she had saved from her sandwich to the ducks. She knew they would be flying south soon, and the green grass and autumn colored leaves would be replaced by the beauty of a white winter.
“What are ya thinkin about?” asked Almanzo.
“A frozen lake with its ice shimmering in the sunlight, surrounded by barren trees decorated with snowy white leaves.”
“Would ya like to go on a sleigh ride this winter?”
She smirked. “Depends on who’s doing the driving.”
“What if I was doin the drivin?” he asked, playing along.
“Then I’d be happy to go, as long as Pa agrees.”
Almanzo nodded. He remembered the conversations he had with Charles about his relationship with young Laura. Being ten years older than she, he was expected to be the more responsible, level-headed one. And as much as he needed to prove his love to Laura — because he had seen her as a child for so long, he also wanted to gain Charles’s approval. Like the rest of the town, he had a great deal of respect for Mr. Ingalls.
The young couple walked hand in hand, admiring the beauty of nature and thrilling in the joy of being together. Clouds had slowly moved in and the sun disappeared. They felt drops of rain in their hair. They turned back towards the blanket and their picnic basket. The shower quickly turned into a downpour and they ran towards the buggy.
Almanzo, whose feet were close to the shore, slipped on the wet grass and tumbled sideways into the lake, bringing Laura down with him. Embarrassed, he jumped up so he could help Laura out of the water.
When they were on solid ground Almanzo tried to help Laura brush off her wet, muddy dress. Mortified, he apologized.
“Oh Beth, I’m so sorry.”
Laura glanced up at him and then back to her dress before busting out in laughter. The sides of her stomach ached by the time she was able to stop.
“What in the heck is so funny?” he asked.
“Once again, you get to see me looking graceful.”
They laughed together, thinking about how Almanzo had brought Laura back to his place to dry off when she had that terrible mud fight with Nellie Oleson over failing her test.
He pulled her in closer. “I love you,” he said and then placed a small kiss on her cheek.
Her gaze fixed on him and she whispered, “I love you too.”
Their lips met in a passionate kiss. The rain continued, but neither one of them noticed. Laura had waited two years for this. She had tried so hard to make him see her as a woman, and in the end it had all been worth it. Almanzo felt Laura’s body shivering in his arms. He wanted to hold her, protect her, and love her in ways he never could have imagined when they first met.
He pulled away to look into her sweet, young face. The beauty of her reddish-brown hair could not be diminished by the rain, which had now slowed to a steady shower. He reached over and removed the pins holding her bun in place. He tucked the pins into his pocket and began to unroll her hair. She shook her head to help him. When he was done, he stepped back and stared at her, his eyes blinking away rain drops.
His actions confused her. “What?”
“Like this,” she replied, making a face at her wet dress.
“Yeah, like that,” he said, swallowing away the lump that had formed in his throat.
He cupped her face in his hands and placed a gentle kiss on her lips. “I should get ya home,” he whispered.
“Let’s go slowly,” she replied, not wanting the moment to end.
On Almanzo’s arm she strolled back to the buggy. He helped her up and then jumped in himself. He gave her his coat, which he had left on the seat. It was drier than everything else and would keep her warm until they arrived back at the Ingalls farm.
As Barnum pulled the buggy back towards the little house on Plum Creek, Laura leaned against Almanzo’s shoulder. He kissed the top of her head. Her stomach was filled with butterflies and her heart was filled with joy. She didn’t know how she was going to leave him tomorrow to go back to her teaching job in Curry.