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.
"I've never seen you so embarrassed," said Laura.
"It was only our second time out together and ya ended up drippin' wet," Almanzo replied.
"I don't care what happens as long as I'm with you."
He smiled at her, still amazed at how deep his feelings for her ran. Why hadn't he ever realized their immediate connection meant they were destined to be together?
"Get away from that window." Caroline wagged a finger at Charles.
He blushed. "I was just…"
"You were just spying on them."
Charles shrugged his shoulders. His wife knew him too well. It was hard to stand by and watch Almanzo Wilder take his place in Laura's heart. He shuffled over to the mantle and leaned against it, staring into the glowing embers of the fire. He felt Caroline slide her arms around his middle.
"Laura will always love you," she whispered. "No matter what other man comes into her life."
Charles turned around and faced her. He cupped her chin in his hands and said, "I love you," before placing a tender kiss on her lips.
The door clicked open and a wet Laura walked in.
"What on earth happened to you?" asked Caroline, rushing her daughter over to the fireplace.
"Almanzo and I fell in the lake."
"I thought he was taking you on a picnic not for a swim," teased Charles.
"Well, let's get you out of this wet dress," said Caroline. "We don't want you catching your death before you leave for Curry tomorrow."
The next morning after church services, Laura and Almanzo spent a few moments together. They avoided talking about being separated for the next five days.
"Laura, it's time to go," she heard Pa say.
"I'll pick ya up around three," said Almanzo.
She nodded. "I'll be ready."
Eliza Jane strolled over towards him and placed a hand on his shoulder. "The week will be over before you know it."
"Yeah," he replied, unconvinced. He plunked his hat on his head and moseyed over to his wagon.
A little before three Charles heard wagon wheels in his front yard. He stepped out of the barn and saw Almanzo's buggy in front of the house.
"Hi, Almanzo," he said with a genuine smile.
"Afternoon, Mr. Ingalls."
The boy didn't seem as upbeat as usual. "Something wrong?" Charles asked.
"No, it's nothin."
Almanzo nodded. "Yeah, everythin's fine. Is Laura ready?"
"I don't know. Let's go inside and see."
Removing his hat, he followed Charles. Though he was taller than Laura's Pa, he knew how strong Charles was. He also knew he had a swift temper. Without thinking Almanzo rubbed his jaw. He certainly didn't have plans to anger Charles Ingalls again anytime soon. They stepped inside and were greeted by a wide smile.
"Hello, Almanzo," said Caroline.
"Howdy, Mrs. Ingalls."
"Laura's almost…" the sound of footsteps on the ladder interrupted her. "Never mind, there she is."
Laura stepped onto the floor and faced Almanzo with a look of excitement and sorrow. "Hi, Manly."
"Hi, Beth. Ya ready to go?"
"Just about." Caroline handed her a dinner pail full of food for the trip. "Thanks, Ma."
Laura walked up the steps to Miss Trimble's house. She turned to see Manly waving goodbye. She smiled and waved back. What a long week this was going to be. Miss Trimble pulled up in her wheelchair when Laura closed the front door.
"I was wonderin' if that young man was your beau," she said.
"He wasn't until this past Friday."
"Seems like a mighty fine birthday present."
Laura laughed. "It was."
"Well, ya gonna tell me all about it?"
"How about over supper? I want to put my things away and wash up."
"All right then, I'll get to cookin'."
"Sounds good, Minnie."
"Don't keep me in suspense too long," the older woman shouted down the hall.
The two teachers enjoyed a meal filled with tales of Almanzo. Laura felt for the first time that she could share her affection for him with someone other than her family. She told Minnie how she had called him Manly by mistake and how he nicknamed her Beth. She spoke of the past two years which were filled with disappointment as she tried to make him see her as something more than a young friend. Minnie smiled when Laura told her about the conversation with Almanzo in front of the schoolhouse after her first week in Curry and his asking her to the church social.
"I'm surprised ya didn't say yes when he asked," said Minnie.
"Ma told me not to seem too eager. She said men like to pursue."
"That they do," she chuckled.
"What about you, Minnie? Didn't you have any beaux pursuing you when you were my age?"
"More than enough, not that ya would think it to look at me now."
Laura sipped her tea and then dabbed her lips with a napkin. "And you never wanted to get married?"
"Sure I did, just not as much as I wanted to teach." Minnie shrugged. "I kept hopin' I would find a man who would let me teach and be his wife too, but they don't make too many of those."
Laura enjoyed their friendship. Minnie had always treated her like an equal. They spoke as if they had known each other forever. It was fun to share stories of Almanzo with her.
"Minnie, I want to thank you for all you've done. I've learned a lot from you since I came here." She sighed. "I can't believe it will all be over at the end of next week."
"Don't think anythin' of it Laura." Minnie patted her hand. "We teachers have to stick together. But we've gotten off track, ya didn't tell me about the church social."
Laura laughed. She picked up her story where she left off, telling the older woman about the best night of her life.
The week had dragged on. Laura found herself distracted with thoughts of Almanzo. She had hoped he would pay her a surprise visit in the middle of the week, but he must have been busy. Thankfully it was Friday and school was almost over.
Ten minutes before three, Laura heard the sound of wheels in front of the school. As she glanced out the window, she saw Almanzo pulling up with Barnum.
"Since it's the weekend, I'm going to dismiss you a bit early today." The children hooped and hollered. She put up her hands to silence them. "I expect you'll use the extra time to study for the spelling bee on Monday morning. Don't forget to invite your parents."
After the children left, Laura rushed to clean up the classroom. Within a few minutes she heard footsteps on the porch and turned to see who was coming back in. Her eyes landed on Almanzo's smiling face. She noticed he had closed the door behind him.
She ran to him and threw her arms around his shoulders. "Oh Manly, I'm so happy to see you."
He twirled her around as he kissed her. "Aw, it's good to see ya, Beth. How'd your week go?"
"Good." She scanned the room. "I'm just about finished in here. I have to wipe down the chalkboards and fill up the coal pail next to the stove."
"I'll get the coal," he said.
A few minutes later, Laura shut the door and Almanzo helped her into in his buggy for the journey home.
It was nearly dark by the time Almanzo's buggy stopped in front of the Ingalls farm. Caroline and Charles rushed out to greet them.
"Where have you two been?" Caroline asked, concern etched into her face.
Laura and Almanzo looked at each other. She hoped her parents couldn't see her flushed cheeks. "Um…uh…you see, we lost a wheel and it took a while for him to put the new one on." She smiled at Manly, who said nothing.
"As long as you're both all right, that's all that matters," said Caroline. "Would you like to stay for supper, Almanzo?"
"No thank you, Ma'am. I'm sure Eliza Jane already has food on the table. I'll see ya tomorrow, Beth." Almanzo chirruped to Barnum and drove off.
"What's going on tomorrow?" asked Charles.
"Manly wants to take me to supper at Nellie's."
"You just saw one another and he'll be picking you up again on Sunday."
Caroline clasped her husband's arm. "Charles, I don't think driving Laura back and forth to work is the same thing as spending time together."
Knowing Ma understood how she felt warmed Laura's heart. "Please, Pa. We won't get back too late." She could tell he wanted to say no.
He pulled the pipe out of the corner of his mouth. "As long as your chores are done, you can go."
Laura hugged him. "Thanks, Pa." She ran into the house to bring her bag upstairs.
Charles shook his head. "Do you really think he lost a wheel?"
"Not for a second," Caroline said. "They probably got distracted on the way home. She was gone for a week and their courtship is still so new."
He nodded. "Almanzo wasn't the same while she was gone. He was moping around town like he had lost his best friend."
"Oh come on now, Caroline, you don't think they're that serious yet, do you?"
There were days she couldn't believe how blind her husband could be. "Charles, she has been in love with Almanzo Wilder since the day she met him."
"But she's still so young."
She would need to choose her words carefully. Watching Laura grow up was especially hard on Charles. "Try not to worry so much. She has to experience life for herself...just like we did. I know we've prepared her well."
Charles smiled at his wife as he pulled her into an embrace. "I love you, Caroline Ingalls."
Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.