LHOP inspired fan fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos
Almanzo poked his head out of the doorway of the Feed and Seed when he heard Eliza Jane call his name. "Yeah, Sis."
Her skirt swished as she walked up to the platform. "I have a favor to ask of you. Laura Ingalls is taking a temporary teaching job in Curry. Would you mind driving her back and forth?"
"I dunno, Sis." His eyes wide, he wondered how he could get out of this. "Can't Mr. Ingalls do it?"
Eliza Jane shook her head. "Caroline was just telling me the other day how busy he is at the mill with Mr. Garvey away.
"And there's nobody else?"
"What's wrong with you, Mannie? Laura and you are friends and you're always saying Barnum could use the exercise."
Almanzo removed his hat and jumped down off the platform. "I just don't wanna give Beth the wrong impression."
She squinted. "What are you talking about?"
"I've tried my best not to encourage this crush of hers." He shrugged. "If I take her, she might think it means somethin' it don't."
Eliza Jane pursed her lips. "I honestly don't believe she feels that way for you anymore."
"Whatya mean?" he asked, surprisingly hurt by her remark.
"I honestly think she's passed being enamored with you. She hasn't said anything about the buggy ride you took her on a few weeks ago, nor has she asked to go again. Besides, there are new young men coming into town all the time. And of course there's the matter of Perley Day. She seemed quite taken with him while he was here."
"Perley Day never woulda been a likely suitor for her," he said. "He doesn't care about anyone but himself."
Eliza Jane placed her hand on top of his arm. "I think you're being too hard on him. I know he's irresponsible and reckless at times, but he truly seemed to like her. I wonder what might have happened between the two of them if he had stayed."
"I don't wanna talk about him, Eliza Jane."
"Then why don't you tell me what's really bothering you."
He lowered his head. "I already told ya."
"I think you're making more of this than there is. All I'm asking is for you to drive her to and from work."
He shuffled his boots in the dirt. "What boys have been noticing her?"
"Jimmy Hill and Christie Kennedy are no longer courting, and I understand he was quite smitten with Laura when his family lived in town before. There's that new boy Seth whose father bought the old Jenkins farm, and even Bart Slater is taken with her...though he knows she would never have him."
"Whatya know about these boys?" he asked suspiciously. "I mean, we all know Slater is trouble, but what about the other two?"
Eliza Jane placed a hand across her chest. "Since when did you become so protective of Laura Ingalls?"
He was stunned by the question. "I…uh…I just don't wanna see her gettin' hurt is all."
"Well, if you ask me, you're acting like someone who is interested in more than mere friendship."
"Don't be silly. Beth is just a kid."
"If you say so, Almanzo. So, are you going to take her?"
"Seein' as there's nobody else, I suppose I havta."
"I suppose so."
"Don't make a big deal out of it when ya tell her."
"I wouldn't dream of it," she replied. After a moment she added, "You know, Almanzo, it seems the only one making a big deal out of this is you." She gave him that older sister look over the rim of her eyeglasses and then walked to Nellie's Restaurant to wait for him to finish working. He would pick her up when he was done.
Almanzo moseyed back into the office of the Feed and Seed. How could Eliza Jane accuse him of being interested in Beth? She was just a friend. They liked the same things and that's why he enjoyed spending time with her. He certainly didn't see Laura as a girlfriend.
He remembered the women he had courted since moving to Walnut Grove; all refined young ladies who could have been good wives, but something was missing — they didn't share his passion for the farm. They tolerated how he went on about his plans for purchasing another hundred acres, but when they sweetly smiled at him he could tell he was boring them to death. But not Beth. Her eyes lit up when he spoke about the farm of his dreams. She even helped him break in Barnum. He had to admit he had more in common with her than any of the young women he had dangled on his arm. Surely though, there was no future with her. She was so much younger than he.
Almanzo took off his hat and scratched his head. He walked onto the platform and gazed over at the schoolhouse. What was it that made him argue against bringing Laura to Curry? There wasn't really any reason he couldn't bring her. Work at the Feed and Seed had been kind of slow. He shook his head. Eliza Jane was right; all he was doing was bringing her back and forth to work. Why should Laura think there was more to it than that?
Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.