A Special Gift
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.
Almanzo wanted to get Laura a special gift for their first Christmas together. After months of eyeing it in the jewelry case at Oleson's Mercantile, he could finally afford to buy it. He hopped up the front steps, whistling as he opened the front door of the mercantile. Almanzo strolled up to the counter with a smile on his face, removing his hat.
"Good afternoon, Almanzo," said Nels Oleson.
"Afternoon, Mr. Oleson."
"What can I help you with?"
"I'd like to buy something out of your jewelry case."
"Sure, let me get it for you."
Nels placed the case down on the counter. Almanzo's eyes moved to where the item had been every time he came in to glance at it, but all he saw was an empty spot in the blue velvet.
His face fell. "Where's the brooch that was in the case?"
"I sold it," Harriet Oleson said from the far end of the counter.
Harriet slithered over to where he stood. "I sold it just yesterday."
"Why? I told ya I wanted to buy it."
"Mr. Wilder," Harriet said in her trademark condescending tone, "you said you wanted to purchase it, but couldn't afford it."
"But I said I was workin' on getting the money," he said through clenched teeth.
"Be that as it may, a fine looking gentleman came in yesterday and he had more than enough money to purchase it. I had to decide if I wanted to go for a sure sale or risk having it left in inventory."
Almanzo felt the angry heat rising up his face. "That brooch was gonna be my present to Laura for our first Christmas together."
"Harriet, how could you do such a thing?" Nels shook his head. "Almanzo, I'm awfully sorry. Perhaps I can help you find something else for Laura."
"Yes," interjected Mrs. Oleson. "Maybe something more suitable for her, like an apron or a new cast iron pot. It pays to be practical when you're short on cash."
Almanzo glared at her. "No thanks. I'll just go to Sleepy Eye tomorrow. I'm sure Mr. Crowley's General Store has a better selection." He yanked his hat on and stomped out, then slammed the door behind him.
He kept the horses at a slow trot. He wanted to let his anger cool before he reached home. Besides, he needed to figure out what story he would tell Laura for his unplanned trip to Sleepy Eye in the morning.
Laura thought Almanzo seemed unusually quiet during the supper. He must have something on his mind.
"Manly, are you all right?"
"Yeah," he answered shortly.
"Are you sure there's nothing wrong?"
"Nothin's wrong," he answered in a sharp tone.
Laura shrugged. "Okay, if you say so." She stared into her plate and picked at her chicken.
Almanzo reached for her hand. "I'm sorry, Beth. I had a bad day and now I gotta go to Sleepy Eye tomorrow."
"Mr. Oleson needs me to pick somethin' up at the train station. It's a rush order."
"Oh, all right. Are you going to leave first thing in the morning?"
"Yeah, I wanna get back home as soon as I can."
"Well, I'll pack you enough for three meals and a few snacks."
"Thanks sweetheart. You're not mad that I'm leavin' so close to Christmas are ya?"
"Christmas is three days away. You'll be back in plenty of time. Besides, it will give me a chance to work on your present," she said with a smile.
Almanzo tried to hide his disappointment when she mentioned presents. He still couldn't believe Mrs. Oleson sold the brooch.
In the middle of the night, Almanzo jumped out of bed and rushed to the window. The wind howled through the trees and big snow flakes smacked against the sides of the house. Almanzo sighed. "Looks like I won't be goin' to Sleepy Eye in the morning."
Almanzo plodded through a foot of snow to do his chores as the sun came up. His warm breath caused puffs of smoke to fill the cold air. He tended to the animals and then rigged a rope from the barn to the house in case the snowfall became heavy.
Hours later, Walnut Grove got pummeled by the first blizzard of the season. The winds rattled window panes, the snow slapped against everything, hurting exposed skin when Almanzo went outside for more firewood. Traveling away from home — even into town — would be dangerous. So after bringing the firewood inside, Almanzo sat in his chair in front of the fireplace with Laura on the other side of him.
She hummed 'Silent Night' as she darned his socks. Almanzo ran his right hand through his wavy mane, deep in thought. What could he give Laura for Christmas? He didn't want anything practical. He wanted a special token of his affection.
There was no way he could go to Sleepy Eye now, and by the time the roads were safe for travelers it would be too late. He guessed he would have to swallow his pride and buy Laura something from Oleson's. But what? The brooch was perfect. He didn't want to buy her something just for the sake of having a present to hand her on Christmas morning.
Almanzo thought about Laura's gift all day as he listened to the blizzard rage outside. Having feed the stock for the last time that day, he made his way back from the barn, holding tightly to the rope to avoid losing his way.
When he finally settled into bed, he still had no idea what to buy for his young wife. "Maybe if I sleep on it, something will come to me," he whispered to himself.
The next morning was Christmas Eve. The snow still fell, but the flakes were tiny and light. The storm would be over soon. But the three feet of snow delayed Almanzo's intended trip into town. He wouldn't have a gift for Laura on Christmas morning.
He moped around the house most of the day, causing Laura to ask him several times what was wrong. Almanzo always said, "Nothing," but the longer he sulked the more concerned Laura became.
At the supper table, Laura ate in silence. Almanzo pushed his food around his plate, barely eating any of it.
"I saw a purple cow in the yard today," she blurted out.
"You didn't even hear a word I said."
"I'm sorry, Beth. What were ya sayin?"
"Never mind about that. I want you to tell me what's wrong."
"Manly," she said in a tone which made him look up, "You've been moping around here for two days. You barely speak to me. I know something is wrong. What is it?"
Almanzo sighed. Now was as good a time as any. "I don't have anything to give ya tomorrow. I mean…ya see…I saw this pretty brooch at Oleson's a few months back, but I didn't have the money for it. When I went in there the other day to buy it, Mrs. Oleson had already sold it. That's why I planned on goin' to Sleepy Eye. I wanted to find you something special to show ya how much I love you."
Laura smiled. "Oh Manly, you're so sweet." She reached over and hugged him. "But I don't need a brooch as a token of your love. You show me every day how much you love me."
"You work hard to provide for us. You treat me as your equal." She blushed for a second. "I love when you sneak a kiss and I'm not expecting it. No piece of fine jewelry could mean more to me."
"Aw, Beth, I love ya," he said, caressing her cheek.
"I love you, too."
Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.