Saturday, July 25, 2020

Together Again: LHOP inspired fan fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos



Together Again

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.


Laura strolled through the open door to the barn and found Pa pulling the harness off the wall.

“Thought you were heading over to Almanzo’s this morning, Half-pint.” Charles marched toward her, harness in hand. He smiled at Laura and motioned for her to follow him to the wagon. “I wish I could ride you over to Almanzo’s,” he said, adjusting the harness. “But I’m heading in the opposite direction.”

She shrugged, not feeling in any great hurry to get there. “That’s okay. I don’t mind walking.” She put down her books and dinner pail in the bed of the wagon.

Laura watched him work, staring as if she had never seen him hitch up the team before. Charles looked up at her a few times, but mostly his eyes focused on his work. When he came around to the other side of the wagon, he stopped and rested his hand against the front wheel.

“Something on your mind, Half-pint?”

Laura lowered her gaze to her fingers that nervously fumbled with the string of her bag. “I saw you talking to Almanzo last night.”

“U-huh.”

“Well…uh…” She shifted her weight from one foot to the other. “You seemed happy.”

Charles nodded. “I am. The boy just recovered from a serious illness.”

Laura’s hands traveled to her hips and she shifted all her weight onto her left leg. Doesn’t he remember what Almanzo did to me? Her mouth creased into a frown. “Aren’t you angry for what he did?”

Charles’s eyebrows rose and fell as he nodded. “Oh, that’s what this is all about.”

Laura’s eyes widened. “What?” She saw the smile coming before it appeared on his face.

“You think I should hold what he did against him.”

She titled her chin downward  “No,” she said, her voice barely louder than a whisper. Is it awful that I hoped Pa could understand?

Charles placed one hand on each of her shoulders and stared the kind of stare that only a father about to impart years of wisdom and life experience could give. Beads of sweat dotted her forehead and she was certain she wasn’t going to like what he had to say.

“Half-pint, Almanzo made a mistake. He let his anger get the best of him, and he allowed that anger to guide him in making a decision.” He shrugged. “He probably realized it almost as soon as he got to Sleepy Eye.”

Laura sighed. Why are men so difficult to understand? “Then why didn’t he come right home?”

Charles’s chuckle made Laura’s anger bubbled up inside her. There was nothing funny in all of this. How could he be so insensitive to her feelings?

“Why didn’t you go apologize to Almanzo after he ate that cinnamon chicken like your ma told you to?”

He just had to bring that up. As if apologizing to Almanzo wasn’t enough, it reminded her of how long it took her to convince Almanzo she wasn’t a little girl, and how he threw it right back in her face when she refused to run away with him.

Charles’s firm grip clasped both her arms. “Because you were embarrassed and not ready to admit your mistake. Right?”

His words pounded through her head as she tried to block them out. Almanzo had hurt her. Naturally, she felt angry. Laura nodded, but couldn’t meet her father’s gaze.

“Half-pint, I’m not saying I like what Almanzo did.” He lifted her chin so she was forced to look him in the eye. “I’m just saying that I understand why he did it.”

She nodded halfheartedly and then gazed out over the field behind the house. “I have to get over to Manly’s.” Her voice ragged from containing her emotions, she cleared her throat before picking her books and dinner pail.

Charles caressed her hair and smiled before Laura turned around and headed down the road to the Wilder farm.

*

Laura collapsed onto her bed in an exhausted heap as soon as she slid her nightgown over her head. She couldn’t remember the last time she worked so hard.

After cleaning out the stables and feeding the stock at Almanzo’s, she taught classes during the afternoon while Miss Wilder graded papers. Then she walked back to the Wilder farm for afternoon chores followed by homework after supper. Every muscle ached. How will I get up tomorrow morning?

It seemed like only moments had passed when the sun snuck in through the cracks in the shutters and teased her eyelids open. Stretching and yawning, Laura dressed and fixed her hair. She heard the clattering of Ma’s pans at the cook stove and raced down the ladder so she could talk to her for a few minutes before her siblings awoke.

“Good morning, Laura.” Caroline’s radiant smile already beamed on her face. “I hope I didn’t wake you.”

Laura shook her head. “I needed to get up anyway.” She grabbed her apron from the peg next to where her Ma’s apron hung when not in use. Tying it around her waist, she walked to the cupboard to remove the plates.

“Where’s Pa?” she asked, entering the kitchen with the stack of plates and putting them down on the table next to the stove.

Caroline cracked one egg after the other on the rim of a glass bowl before pulling apart the shells with one hand and stirring a pot of oats with the other. “In the barn.”

Laura wandered into the other room and pulled the cups out of the cupboard and placed one in front of each seat at the table. “Ma?” she called with a sense of timidity. A “yes” floated through the doorway between the kitchen and the front room. “How did you feel when Pa left the Big Woods and you didn’t know where he was?”

For a few seconds, all Laura heard was a flurry of activity in the kitchen. She strolled to the doorway and leaned against the jamb. Laura watched the precision with which her mother worked. Caroline would have everything on the table together, steaming hot, by the time Pa came back from the barn, just like every morning.

“Hurt and angry.” Caroline answered. “Sometimes more one than the other.” Caroline poured the beaten eggs into a heated pan and waited for the edge to form along the sides of the pan before scraping the eggs together.

Laura moved to stir the pot of bubbling oats. Caroline glanced at her with a raised eyebrow that seemed to tell Laura to move out of the way. Laura stepped back to the front room and brought down the container of molasses to sweeten the oatmeal. Placing it in the middle of the table, she searched for something else to do. Peeking into the kitchen, she saw that Caroline, as always, had everything under control. So, she decided staying out of the way was probably her best plan of action…especially if she wanted Ma’s advice.

“Did you forgive Pa right away?” Laura hoped she knew the correct answer to this question. It would be horrible if no one understood how she felt about Almanzo abandoning her.

“Yes, I forgave him.” Laura’s heart fell. “But it wasn’t easy to forget what he did.”

Finally! Laura straightened as her confidence grew. “What did you do?”

Caroline moved the frying pan full of eggs away from the heat and covered it to keep the food warm. Then she did the same with the pot of oatmeal. Wiping her hands off on her apron, she sat down at the table and motioned for Laura to join her.

“By the time your pa came back, I already knew I wanted to spend my life with him. You see, unlike you, I wasn’t so sure about getting married. I knew your pa wanted to move west, and that meant no schools and no churches.”

Caroline folded her arms in front of her and leaned them on the table. Laura always enjoyed hearing stories of Ma’s and Pa’s younger days before they were married. The stories helped Laura imagine Ma and Pa as children, and when Ma spoke of their courtship, it allowed Laura to see that maybe they went through some of the same things she and Almanzo did.

“It also meant more of a risk to our safety, and I wasn’t ready for that. That caused most of our arguments.”

Caroline smiled and gazed wistfully around her. “But as soon as I realized how much I loved your pa, none of that mattered. What did trouble me,” she pointed a finger on the table’s surface, “was that he had left me, and I never knew if he planned to return. I wasn’t sure if I could put that aside.”

Tears formed in the corners of Laura’s eyes. She knew exactly how Ma must have felt. Why do men do such things? “Ma, I love Almanzo.”

Caroline slid her hand across the table and laid it over Laura’s. “I know you do.”

“But it seemed like I didn’t even matter to him when he took off for Sleepy Eye. He tossed away the plans we had made just because he didn’t get his way. I know he hurt, too, but how do I know he’ll never leave again?”

“There aren’t any guarantees in life, Laura.”

Tears slid down Laura’s cheeks and Caroline leaned over the table to embrace her. She tucked a tendril of hair that had escaped her bun behind Laura’s ear.

“Almanzo made a hasty decision and, because of that, you got hurt; but I think the fact that he helped Mary and Adam with the blind school shows how important you are to him.”

Laura heard rustling upstairs and knew Albert would be down soon. Caroline stood up and Laura followed her into the kitchen.

Caroline scooped eggs onto a plate and plunked a piece of the corn bread she had made yesterday next to them. “Now you’re going to have to decide which is greater—your love for Almanzo or your fear of getting hurt.”

“Oh, Ma. What should I do?” Desperation clung to her words as she gazed with pleading eyes at her mother.

Caroline handed her a plate of food to carry to the table. “That’s a decision only you can make.”

*

The Wilder farm came into view and Laura slowed her pace. The barn door hung open, and as she entered the yard she could see a tall, lean figure raking out a stall. His joyful whistling blended into the animal noises surrounding him.

“Trying to teach the animals to sing?” Laura teased from the doorway.

His head spun around and he smiled. “You wanna give it a try?”

A laughed escaped her lips and she shook her head. “I think I’ll leave that for you.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “What are you doing?”

He shrugged as if she had asked a ridiculous question. “Looked like you were running late, so I started without ya.”

“Almanzo Wilder.” Her tapping foot swirled dirt around her feet. “Your doctor ordered no farm work for a week, and I intend to see that you follow those orders.”

His crooked smile crept across his face. She always loved that smile. Sometimes it meant he was being mischievous and other times it hid his embarrassment. This time it definitely meant the former.

“And just how do you plan on doing that?”

The heat rose up her cheeks, turning them red. “I’m serious, Almanzo. I almost lost you. I won’t let that happen again.”

As she spoke, he slowly closed the gap between them. Pulling off his work gloves, he reached up and caressed her cheek. “That does sound serious.”

His sudden closeness left her senses reeling. Her chest tightened, breathing suddenly hard. She tried to moisten her lips, but her mouth was as dry as a shriveled plant left to burn in the sun.

Laura swallowed away the lump in her throat. “Manly, please.”

His blue eyes remained steady, staring deeply into hers. They seemed frozen there, standing in Almanzo’s barn, reading one another’s hearts. When at last he broke the silence, his voice sounded raspy and barely a whisper.

“Just for you.” He cupped her chin and leaned down to place a lingering kiss on her lips.

He leaned the rake against the barn wall and tossed his gloves down on the shelf. Without another word he walked out of the barn toward the house. Laura watched his long, thin body moving almost as smoothly as normal. If she hadn’t seen his left leg wobbling as he climbed the porch steps, she would have sworn he had never been sick. Is he being strong for me?

*

When Laura entered the dining room searching for Almanzo, she found a cup of steaming tea waiting for her on the table. Had he been watching from the window? Almanzo appeared in the doorway leading from the dining room into the kitchen.

“Why don’t you sit down and relax a minute before heading off to school?”

Laura pulled out the chair in front of the cup of tea and sat down.

“Mind if I join you?”

She motioned to the chair to her right as she sipped the hot liquid from the cup. She suddenly felt eyes behind her followed by the muffled sound of high-heeled boots across the carpeted parlor.

“Good morning, Laura,” Eliza Jane said as she entered.

Eliza Jane’s hands full of books, the bag she carried with her to school every day hung on her arm. “It’s such a lovely day,” she said. Her eyes focused on Laura’s face. “I think I’ll walk to school this morning.”

She placed a hand on Laura’s shoulder. “Now, don’t worry if you’re running a bit late. I’ve scheduled you to teach classes after lunch.”

Eliza Jane’s skirt twirled as she sashayed out of the room toward the front door. “Have a good day,” she sang before the door clicked shut.

Almanzo and Laura laughed.

“Well that was subtle,” he said. He reached across the table and grasped her hand in his. “Maybe it’s time we talk.”

Laura turned away, a feeling of dread filling her every thought. Her shoulders rose and fell. “I really don’t know what to say.”

The beginnings of a crooked smile appeared on his face. “Well, then, why don’t you let me give it a try.” He breathed deeply and leaned his elbows against the table. “I feel like something has changed between us.”

With her arms crossed and resting on the table’s surface, she nodded. “It has.”

Her words sounded harsh and she feared he might misunderstand her feelings.  Making a point to soften her tone, she blinked three or four times before being able to gaze up at him. “I still love you, and I still want to be your wife. I just don’t know if I can forget how much you hurt me.”

Almanzo straightened in his chair, defenses up. She placed a hand quickly over his.

“How much we hurt each other. How do we get by it, Manly?”

“One day at a time, like most folks.” His chair scrapped the floor as he moved closer. “Beth, I can’t promise I won’t ever hurt you again. I can’t make promises that are impossible to keep.” He lifted her chin and his eyes penetrated her with their sincerity. “All I can promise is that I’ll never try to hurt you.”

Laura remained silent for several seconds. Glancing around the room, she looked as if she might find the answer on the wall. “We’re still going to have to wait two years to get married. Are you all right with that?”

“Don’t have much of a choice, now, do I?”

A giggle escaped her lips. “No.”

His smile returned and he leaned closer. Laura felt the warmth of his breath on her face.

“I love you, Beth.”

Before she could respond, his lips captured hers with several soft, tender kisses. Their foreheads leaning against each other, Laura’s fears began to melt away.

“I love you, too, Manly.”

Her lips sought his. School, the farm, and the whole world momentarily forgotten as they lingered in their kiss.

“Almanzo?”

“U-huh?”

“I still can’t promise to obey.”

The laughter started deep inside him. She could hear him struggling to contain it, but it became louder and his face reddened until he finally inhaled deeply and the laughter filled the room until he had to grip his aching sides.

“I certainly wouldn’t be foolish enough to expect you would.”

Laura’s arms folded over her chest. What does he mean by that?

“Aw, Beth,” he said. "Don’t you know by now that I love you just the way you are?" He smirked. "Houston says that you are plumb feisty.”

She could hear the harrumph in her voice. “Thanks a lot.”

Almanzo shrugged. “He’s right. Seems I’ve been on the receiving end of that myself a few times.” Laura’s face turned crimson. “All that means is that nothing is ever gonna keep you down, and you won't let anything stand in your way.”

He cupped her chin and leaned in closer. “Seems like good traits for a farmer’s wife.”

Laura laughed at herself. What’s wrong with being feisty anyway? It had certainly allowed her to keep up with Nellie Oleson all these years. A mischievous grin slid across her face. “What if I don’t want to be a farmer’s wife?”

“Well, then, you best be getting yourself a new man, because God made me to be a farmer.”

Her hand reached up and touched his cheek. “I guess I’m destined to be a farmer’s wife then, because there is no one in the whole world for me, but you, Manly.”

Their lips connected and sparks shot through her. Being this close to him always left her in a daze. It seemed like months since she felt that connection to him. Things will be just fine between us.

Laura stood up and planted a quick kiss on his cheek before refilling their tea cups. Then the conversation started—that easy kind of talk about anything and everything that had been missing since he went away. He told her about the plans he had for the farm before winter, and she shared the challenges of being a fellow student and a teacher to her classmates, many of whom she had known for years. Eventually they would have to drive into town but, for now, Laura settled in to spend time with Almanzo so that the healing could begin.


Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Book Review: The Beautiful Snow by Cindy Wilson

If you're a fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Little House books, or pioneer history, you'll want to grab a copy of The Beautiful Snow by Cindy Wilson.

If you've read the Little House books, you will recall The Long Winter, where Wilder describes the winter of 1880 - 81 and her family's struggle to survive when blizzards from October through April cut off the railroad town of De Smet, SD from essential supplies.

Wilson's thoroughly researched account of that hard winter, weaves history through Wilder's fictionalized tale, focusing on the weather, the railroads, and the pioneering spirit that kept the settlers holding on until the trains finally arrived in May.

Wow! What a book. It's not a book I could read in one or even two sittings. Wilson does a fabulous job of providing so much information that you need time to digest it.

The introductions and background set the stage for a month by month journey through that hard winter of 1880-81. Each month starts off with a calendar that shows weather reports compiled by various newspaper articles. The Beautiful Snow brings you through that period of American history as settlers were wooed into moving west and following the railroad, all to be stranded on the unforgiving prairie once the blizzards started. Historical figures, maps, photos, and informative sidebars add to the reading experience, truly immersing you in the time period. The epilogue and various appendices provide additional information that rounds out this account perfectly.

Though I definitely believe this is a book for Wilder fans, history lovers and those interested in the history of the American railroads will enjoy The Beautiful Snow. I will treasure this book as part of my ever-growing Laura Ingalls Wilder collection.

Highly recommended!


Paperback: 376 pages
Publisher: Beaver's Pond Press (February 7, 2020)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1643439057
ISBN-13: 978-1643439051

I purchased a copy of this book in January 2020. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Book Review: Ketty Lester: From The Cotton Fields To Grammy Nominated "Love Letters" to Little House on the Prairie by Revoyda F. Buckley

For fans of Little House on the Prairie, she is known as Hester-Sue Terhune. To her family, she is Re-V or Vorda--a unique name given to a talented woman who had careers as a pop/R&B singer and an actress in movies and television.

Ketty Lester: From The Cotton Fields To Grammy Nominated "Love Letters" to Little House on the Prairie brings you through Buckley's beginnings as the fifteenth child to a farming family, to leaving home and attending college for nursing, to her performing in clubs as Ketty Lester and recording records, to her acting career which spanned decades.

Told in a style as if you were sitting across the table with Buckley asking her about her life, you discover she has loved and lost, she has known the challenges of having a career in a competitive industry, she dealt with discrimination and unequal pay, and she has met and worked with other amazing industry professionals.

This is a story told in chronological order which includes several pictures, her filmography, and discography.  This autobiography held nothing back. It will make you admire and feel compassion for Buckley. Though she is now retired, her mark on music and film remains.

As a fan of Little House on the Prairie, I am glad I read this story. I learned more about this talented woman than I knew before. Though the editor in me wanted a more polished version of the story, I totally believe that there is a lot to be said for being true to yourself and telling an authentic story in your own way, which is just what Buckley did.

Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher:  Elite Publishing House (April 20, 2020)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0578662337
ISBN-13: 978-0578662336

I purchased a copy of this book from Amazon. This review contains my honest opinions, which I was not compensated for in any way.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Going Home: LHOP inspired fan fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos




Going Home

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.


The little house on Plum Creek finally came into view. Laura and Almanzo had traveled all day and her body ached. She longed to stretch out on her bed. Almanzo would probably collapse soon after he arrived home.

“Whoa!” Almanzo called to his Morgans, pulling them to a stop in front of the Ingalls homestead. Wrapping the reins around the braking bar, he turned to get down from the wagon seat.

 Laura tugged at his arm. “That’s all right. I’ll get my own bag.”

“Beth,” he began his complaint.

Her brows furrowed. “Manly, you’re recovering from pneumonia. The doctor told you not to do too much. You better listen to him.”

Almanzo raised his hand to his forehead in a mock salute. “Yes, Sir.”

They laughed together, but Laura wanted him to know she took the doctor’s orders seriously. The thought of how she almost lost him remained fresh in her mind. They would take no chances.

“I mean it, Almanzo.” She caressed his cheek. “I don’t want you to go back to taking care of the farm too soon.”

He shook his head and his wide eyes looked at her as if she had sprouted another head. “Eliza Jane’s been taking care of the farm all by herself for weeks now. Who knows what needs fixing.”

Why is he always so stubborn? Laura clasped her hands around his. This wasn’t a matter for discussion. He would just have to listen to her.

“I’ll talk to Pa. If he says it’s okay, I’ll come over in the morning and help with the chores. You can drive me into school with your sister. Then we can go back to your place after school, and I’ll do what I can.”

His mouth pulled into a thin line. “That’s plumb ridiculous. You’re not gonna help me run my farm.”

She planted her hands on her hips. “Aren’t I going to help you with the farm once we’re married?”

Almanzo’s eyes scrunched into mere slits. He removed his hat and ran his fingers through a mass of wavy blonde hair. “Yes, but we’re not married yet. Besides, ya got your own chores to do.”

“Albert will be more than happy to do my chores for a couple more weeks until you get your strength back.” She smiled. “My family owes you a lot.”

He slapped his leg hard. His breathing became more labored. He coughed and coughed, his face reddening. Laura felt her heart pounding in her chest. Within moments, the coughing fit passed.

Almanzo exhaled as slowly and as deeply as he could, then wiped the sweat from his brow. “That’s why I don’t want you helping me. I didn’t help with the rent so that you would have to be nice to me.”

Laura reached for his hand and kissed it. “No, you did it because you’re an honorable man…and because you love me.”

Yes, she knew he loved her. She loved him, too. But could she trust him again? Could she have faith in him again?

“That’s why I can’t understand how you could leave. It wasn’t honorable or responsible.”

Almanzo fiddled with the rim of his hat. He had done the same thing the day he had asked her to the church social. Why couldn't they go back to that day and keep all the bad things from happening?

“I told you, I couldn’t go on pretending that I agreed with your pa. I didn’t want to wait. You said you didn’t want to wait, and I couldn’t reason with him.” His gaze looked out in front of him, staring at nothing in particular. “I felt I had failed you. Failed us.”

“But I—“ she began, but he put up his hand to silence her.

Placing his hat back on his head, he clasped both her hands in one of his. “Can’t you understand? I couldn’t stay here after your pa said no. I would see him in town and at church services. We would both know we didn’t agree, but I would have to pretend like we did. I fought for what I wanted and failed.”

Laura swiped her hands away and jumped off the wagon seat. “Will you stop saying that!”

Darkness had fallen since they arrived and Laura could see people walking back and forth in the front room window. Ma must be having a hard time keeping Pa inside.

Laura rubbed at the tension behind her eyes. Almanzo slid over to her side of the wagon seat and climbed down. Clasping both her shoulders, he gazed down on her freckled face.

“It was time for me to start deciding what I wanted out of life and going after it.” His hands slid down her arms and he wound his fingers around hers. “I just thought we wanted the same thing.”

She squeezed his hands as the tears swam in her eyes. When she glanced at him, she saw pain staring back at her. “Oh, Manly! I want all those things…and I want them with you.” She reached up and caressed his cheek. “But I couldn’t do what you asked me to do.”

Laura worked hard to keep her tone from sounding confrontational. He had hurt her, but more than wanting him to feel sorry, she needed him to understand why she said no.

“We were making plans to live here where our families and friends are, but suddenly the plans changed and I had no say in it. We had no land and no home. It felt like we were running off to get married just to spite Pa.” She anticipated an objection, but he said nothing. “I didn’t make a choice between you and Pa because there really wasn’t a choice. I have school and chores here. My family is here. I didn’t want to leave them without giving it a lot of thought, but you wanted an answer right away." She shrugged. "I didn’t have one.”

Almanzo looked through their clasped hands at the ground and nodded. He exhaled deeply, and Laura was relieved to not hear any sign of wheezing.

“I guess that wasn’t much of a choice. I just didn’t wanna wait.” He tucked a tendril of hair behind her ear. “I’m sorry for what I said that day. I never should of called you a little girl. I was just so sure you’d say yes that when you didn’t, I got angry.”

Laura turned away. Hundreds of twinkling stars filled the night sky. Wringing her hands, she knew she had to make her feelings known, but she didn’t want to risk another fight. The full moon shone high above them and wisps of clouds floated overhead.

When she worked up the courage to face him, she saw the moon's brightness reflecting in the blue of his eyes. Taking a step toward him, she continued wringing her hands.

“Manly, I need you to know something. I probably should have told you this before I accepted your proposal, but I…I was too excited.”

The smile disappeared from his face and he went suddenly pale. She felt sure his knees wobbled when he casually leaned against the wagon.

He swallowed hard. “What is it?”

Laura felt warm under her coat. Beads of sweat formed at the small of her back and the collar of her dress seemed to be cutting off the air. She undid the first two buttons of her coat and tried to slow her breathing, which had unconsciously quickened. Her mouth felt as dry as the sun baked laundry. Licking her lips, she took a deep breath.

“I can’t promise to obey you. I’ll always love and cherish you, but I can’t promise to obey. Maybe that worked for your ma and mine, but I’m not going to make a promise I can’t keep. I have my own mind and I don’t plan to submit it.”

His laugh rose up from his belly and exited his mouth with such force that soon he doubled over and began coughing. Even as he coughed he continued to laugh. Laura stood in front of him with her arms crossed over her chest. What is so funny?

Laura opened her mouth to protest, but Almanzo waved her off as he shook his head. He finally stood straight up and wiped the moisture from his eyes.

“I had never noticed that about you.” He chuckled.

Laura’s foot tapped the ground. With raised eyebrows and pursed lips she glared at him. “Almanzo Wilder—“

He pulled her into him with both hands and held her close. Kissing the top of her head, she couldn’t help but notice how wonderful it felt to be in his arms again. Their foreheads now touching each other, he gazed into her eyes.

“I wouldn’t have you any other way.” He captured her lips with his.

The entire world disappeared as they kissed, her legs weakening as she leaned into him.

“I love ya, Beth,” he whispered into her ear.

“I love you too, Manly.” She laid her head against his chest and smelled the faint scent of hay on his coat. He’ll always be a farmer.

Laura knew their time was almost up. It amazed her that Ma had managed to keep Pa inside this long. She walked to the back of the wagon and grabbed her bag.

“Do you want to come in for a cup of coffee?” she asked.

“No, thanks. I best be getting home. I’m tired. And, I don’t think I’m your Pa’s favorite person right now.”

“You’re wrong, Almanzo. Leaving me the way you did made Pa angry, but after what you’ve done to help with the blind school he doesn’t feel that way anymore.”

“Dagburnit, Beth!” He pounded his fist against the back of the wagon. “I didn’t do it for that.”

She put a hand over his heart. “I know you didn’t. All I’m saying is that Pa admires and respects what you did. When he came back from Sleepy Eye that night to tell me you were sick, he said that you were a very special man who must have a great deal of love for me.” Her beaming smile expressed her own feelings. “Believe me, he knows why you did it.”

Moments later the front door opened and Charles walked out. Laura could hear Ma’s protests behind him.

“Evening, Almanzo.” A pipe hung from a corner of Charles’s mouth. He extended his arm to Almanzo and they shook hands.

“Evening, Mr. Ingalls.” Almanzo glanced behind him. “Mrs. Ingalls.”

Caroline squeezed Charles’s arm. “I’m sorry Laura. We are just anxious to see you.”

Laura could barely hold back the laughter bubbling inside. “That’s okay, Ma. Almanzo was just heading home.”

Caroline nodded. “Thank you for driving her home, Almanzo. I’m glad to see you’re feeling better.”

A smile tugged at the corner of his lips. “Thank you, Mrs. Ingalls.”

Almanzo cupped Laura's elbow. “I really need to get home.” He pecked her cheek and said goodnight to Charles and Caroline.

Laura noticed his walk seemed much slower and his left leg trembled a bit. She placed a hand over his as he reached up for the wagon seat. “Are you sure you don’t want to stay in our soddy tonight?”

“Naw, I’ll be all right. Beside, Eliza Jane is expecting me. She might get to worrying if I don’t come home.”

She released his hand and stepped back so he could climb up. Almanzo waited a couple seconds before pulling himself onto the seat. He seemed relieved to be sitting again.

“I’ll be by in the morning,” said Laura, reminding him of their deal.

Charles removed the pipe from his mouth. “What’s going on tomorrow?”

Laura turned to face her father. “I promised Manly that I would help him around the farm until he gets his strength back.”

Charles's gaze took in one and then the other before he nodded. “That’s fine.”

Caroline circled an arm around Laura’s shoulders. “Good to see you again, Almanzo,” she said as the two women walked toward the house.

Laura glanced back at Almanzo and her father in the yard. She knew Pa wanted a moment to talk to Almanzo alone. Is that a good thing or a bad one? She waved at Almanzo and followed her mother into the house.

She watched from the window of the front room; the same window she knew her pa had been watching them from ever since she and Almanzo had pulled into the yard. Almanzo smiled and nodded at Pa. The two men shook hands and Almanzo prompted his team toward home.

Laura felt blessed to have two men who loved her so much, but at times it made life challenging. She wondered if Pa would change his mind about making them wait to get married. She certainly didn't plan to bring it up. Telling Almanzo that she couldn’t promise to obey helped ease her anxiety. At least he knew how she felt.

The pain of Almanzo’s rejection still lingered, but she hoped after talking it out they could work together to get by it. Almanzo had been hurt, too, and maybe this was the kind of situation that could help prepare them to be married one day. In the meantime, they could make plans and think about the future…a future that included her becoming Mrs. Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

What Should I Do?: LHOP inspired fan fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos



What Should I Do?

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.

Laura sat in Houston's chair at the blind school watching Almanzo sleep. She pulled her white knitted shawl tighter around her shoulders. Almanzo's chest rose and fell with great effort and a snore of congestion sounded with each intake of breath. His life still hovered over death's door, but speaking to him earlier and gazing into his eyes filled with recognition and love brought Laura some relief. Please, Manly, don't leave me!

Days passed with only minor improvements in Almanzo's condition, but the doctor no longer frowned each time he listened to his chest, which brought Laura some hope. Today, Almanzo felt strong enough to drink some broth. Laura plumped his pillows while Adam and Houston helped him into a sitting position.

"Comfortable?" she asked once Houston and Adam left.

Almanzo's fingers reached out for the tendril of hair that had fallen over her face. "How about you? Ya look tired."

"I'm not the one battling pneumonia." Laura blew onto the spoonful of broth and lifted it to his lips. "Open up."

Almanzo exhaled as deeply as he could after the warm liquid slid down his throat. If the raspy sound of his voice were any indication, his throat must be raw from coughing.

"Really, Beth. How are you?"

She sighed and rolled her eyes at him. "Ma says that we Ingalls women are bred just as strong as our husbands."

A crooked smile crept across his face. "So, I can expect to see you plowing the field next spring?"

"Manly." She scowled for a second, but quickly softened her expression.

Almanzo's body shook as he struggled to catch his breath. His face turned red. The spoon trembled in Laura's hand as she sat helplessly waiting for the fit end. Almanzo clutched his chest once the coughing stopped, and a long wheeze escaped his lips.

Laura placed the bowl of broth down on the nightstand and wiped his sweaty brow with a cool cloth. Relief washed over her when the color of his cheeks calmed to a healthy shade of pink.

Almanzo clasped her hand and drew it to his lips. "Why did you come?"

Laura's forehead crinkled over her chocolate brown eyes. "What?"

"Why did you come when ya found out I was sick?"

Her hand traveled up to caress his cheek. "How could I not?"

He shrugged. "You didn't seem too happy to see me that day you were cleaning up this place."

A sigh escaped Laura's lips. He can't be serious. It was a good thing she didn't have the bowl of broth in her hands. She might have dumped it in his lap and stomped out.

Laura's back straightened and her nostrils flared. "You left town when I refused to run off with you, and then you insulted my Pa. What was I supposed to do, jump down from the platform and hug you?"

His brow furrowed over eyes shrunk to mere slits. He pushed himself up and folded his arms across his chest. "So you expect me to be happy that you chose your Pa over me?"

She shot out of the chair and the front two legs lifted before slamming back down again. "I never chose Pa over you."

"A wife should go where her husband goes."

She thought he would have shouted if he could, but his labored breathing made it impossible. "A respectable man never would have asked a woman to run off like two thieves in the night just because his pride got hurt."

Laura gasped and her hands flew up to cover her mouth. She had gone too far. “Oh, Manly, I'm sorry. I-I-I didn't mean that."

He grunted under his breath and turned his head away, his white knuckles tightening. "You meant it," he said through clenched teeth.

"Please don't assume you know what I mean to say." Her voice had lowered to almost a whisper.

She grabbed her skirt and sat down on the bed. Laura's hand traveled through his hair, the edges still wet from the fever and cold compresses. His muscles tensed under the covers. "Will you look at me?" He didn’t respond. "Please."

Slowly, Almanzo's turned his face toward her. His blue eyes sparked with anger and pain. How could she make up for her cruel words? The heat of his glare forced Laura to look down at the trembling fingers in her lap. He has to know I didn't reject him.

She raised her eyes and smiled. Wishing she could calm the nervous tumbles inside her stomach, she risked touching his crossed arms. He didn't tense up, but his expression never softened.

"I love you." He said nothing. "I never saw it as choosing Pa over you. I could never make that kind of choice. Don't you know by now that each of you owns my heart?" Her voice cracked, making the last few words ragged. Tears formed in the corners of Laura's eyes and she had to swallow away the lump in her throat before she could continue. "I would rather rip my heart out than hurt either of you.

"I fell in love with you the day we met." She gripped his arm. "From the first moment I saw you and stumbled over my words, nothing would ever be the same."

He chuckled at her recollection and his arms fell back down to his sides.

"I used to be so sure of myself and what I wanted, but meeting you … I had all these strange feelings I never felt before and, suddenly, I couldn't be sure of anything."

Almanzo caressed her cheek. "You seemed pretty sure of what ya wanted that day at the bridge."

"But, I wasn't." She sighed. How can I make him understand?

She grabbed his right hand in both of hers. "After you had that argument with Pa about waiting to get married—" He nodded. "I told him that if waiting meant I was going to lose you, I wouldn't wait."

Lines crinkled his forehead. "Really?"

"Yes. I spent two years trying to get you to notice me. I certainly wasn't going to toss it all away. Hearing you say you loved me and asking me to marry you was a dream come true."

Laura exhaled deeply and her left hand rubbed her closed eyes as if to wipe away the tension. "You didn't see my Pa's face when I said it. I might as well have punched him in the stomach. After I ran up to the loft, I could hear Ma and Pa talking. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but I knew it was about us."

Laura slid up closer. She had to be careful how to word this. "Do you know what my Ma said when she came up to the loft that night?" He shook his head. "She asked me to think of how Pa was feeling? And, how can I not, Almanzo? All Pa wants is what's best for me … and for you, too."

Almanzo's large hand entirely covered her tiny one. "Beth, don't you think you're old enough to know what that is by now?"

"I can't disregard Pa's feelings, Almanzo. Just because I've reached a certain age doesn't mean I'm going to stop asking Ma's and Pa's opinions on things, especially something this important."

Her gaze fell upon their hands. If only they could go back to that day at the lake where he had asked her to marry him. Things seemed so much easier then.

"If I thought Pa acted unreasonablly, I would have stood up to him." She shook her head, still amazed that she had considered running away for even a second. "I might even have gone off to Sleepy Eye with you."

The bedroom suddenly felt warm. Laura slid her finger under the collar of her dress. Beads of sweat formed on her back. She shivered. She stood up and wandered over to the window, needing to put some distance between them. The heat of his stare burned on her back.

The tears welled up, and she tried to blink them away. Even though she loved him and still wanted to be his wife, she couldn't deny the pain. It gnawed away at her like a moth chews a hole in a piece of clothing. Her warm breath frosted the window pane and quickly evaporated just as a new gust of breath frosted the pane white again. How could he do it?

"I think Pa is right," she said flatly. The collar of her dress suddenly seemed to be choking her, so she tugged on it.

"What?" The confusion and anger in his voice lingered in the air.

Laura turned to face him, her fingers still running along the edge of her collar. "I think Pa is right."

His head cocked to one side, he knitted his brows. She walked toward him slowly, hoping that he would think about every word she said.

"We're not ready for marriage." Her voice cracked as she struggled to hold back the tears.

His lips parted then shut again. Almanzo turned away to look at the barren wall next to his bed before returning his gaze to her face. "I-I-I didn't think you wanted to wait."

Laura's fingers instinctively traveled up to dab at the tears sliding down her face. "You left Walnut Grove because you didn't get your way."

She wanted to feel angry, but the pain blocked out every other emotion. Her chest heaved up and down as she fought to compose herself. "We were planning a life together, but you were willing to throw it away because you had to wait two years."

Laura glanced up at the ceiling, the tears now a constant stream down her face. How could he do this to me?

When her eyes met his again, his face appeared a mixture of sadness and confusion similar to what she imagined he saw in her face.

"You said it yourself—you tried to forget me. Why would you want to forget someone you love rather than work things out?"

As she spoke, she walked closer to his bed. Her skirt now grazed the blankets. She stood over him with pleading eyes, begging for him to help her understand how he could have left her and their plans behind.

"Night after night, I cried myself to sleep wondering what I did wrong … wondering how the man I love, the man who said he loved me, could just pick up and leave."

"You're angry at me." He grabbed for her hand, but she snatched it away.

Her right boot stamped the ground. "I'm not angry." Fresh tears tumbled down her cheeks. "I'm hurt. You hurt me, Almanzo."

Laura's legs wobbled underneath her, and the emotions swirling inside her head left her dizzy. She sat on the bed and leaned against his chest. His arms immediately held her close. Laura's tears fell upon Almanzo's shirt and her warm breath blew back into her face.

"I thought you loved me."

His arms pulled her closer, and she felt him swallow away the lump in his throat. "I do love you, Beth. I do."

Almanzo stroked her hair. As if that could take away the weeks of anguish she had gone through. Her emotions confused her again. It felt good to be in his arms. How could that be after he had deserted her?

He lifted her chin and stared into her tear-streaked face. "I never wanted to hurt you. Honest truth is, I never thought about it. I'm sorry, Beth."

Laura dried her face and stood up. She wasn't quite sure how to feel about his utter disregard for her feelings that day. How can someone say he loves you and not even consider how much he would hurt you?

She nodded, having nothing else to offer him. "It's late, and I'm tired." She could hear Mary and Adam walking down the hallway saying goodnight to the children. "I'm going to eat a bit of supper and then go to bed."

Laura straightened his covers and plumped his pillow. "Are you comfortable?"

Almanzo slid a bit deeper into the covers and clasped the edge of the blankets with both hands. He nodded. Laura had a vision of a young Almanzo lying in bed looking up at his mother after she had scolded him.

She leaned down and pecked his cheek. "Goodnight, Almanzo."

Laura walked to the door and opened it. She turned to look at him one last time, her eyes dropping with exhaustion.

"Goodnight, Laura."

He didn't smile. In fact, his face held no emotion at all, as if he wasn't sure what to express. Pulling the door shut, her hand lingered on the knob for a moment. He hadn't called her Beth. She wondered why.

The next day, Laura packed for home. When the doctor had come earlier that morning, she stopped him on the way out of Almanzo's room. Out of danger, Almanzo could head home whenever he felt ready. She thanked the doctor and then returned to her room to silently thank God for answering her prayers.

Mary had come up to check on her a few minutes later. Laura hadn't gone down to breakfast. She told Mary she was just tired and wanted to rest. That wasn't the whole truth. Her emotions still raw from yesterday, she couldn't face Almanzo. Now that she knew he would recover, she wanted to return to Walnut Grove as soon as possible. Perhaps Ma or Pa would have some advice on how to heal her wounded heart.

Laura thought back to the day Pa told her Almanzo fell sick. He had said Almanzo must have a great deal of love for her. How could Pa feel that way after Almanzo left? Ma had told her that Pa left the Big Woods once. How did she forgive him?

Two sets of feet walked down the hallway, but there were no voices. One set of feet sounded lighter than usual and a bit unsteady, but she recognized Almanzo's gait along the wooden floor. A knock rattled the door.

Laura picked up a mirror from the nightstand to make sure her hair looked okay. "Come in."

She held her breath as the door clicked and swung open. Almanzo's tall form filled the doorway. "Can I talk to you a minute?"

Someone must have brought him a change of clothes from his room over at the boarding house. Still a bit thin, Almanzo appeared washed and freshly shaven.

"Sure," she said, standing up from the bed.

Almanzo walked inside, his legs a bit wobbly. "Do you mind if I sit down?"

Laura rushed to carry the chair from her desk to the middle of the room. "Of course not." She patted the seat.

As Almanzo walked further into the room, Adam appeared in the doorway. "I have to teach a class. Let me know when Almanzo's ready to go back to his room."

Laura smiled. "I will. Thanks."

Adam smiled back before closing the door, leaving Laura shaking her head. His sense of perception never ceased to amaze her. How could he know she smiled at him?

Laura felt Almanzo's eyes on her. Rather than add to the discomfort between them, she sat on the bed so that she didn't stand over him.

Almanzo's gaze landed on her open, half-packed bag. "Going home?"

"Yes. I need to get back. I have school and chores to take care of."

He nodded and then lowered his gaze. She waited for him to say something, but he didn't. She watched him staring intently at his fingers as if they held something of great value. It reminded her of the day at the lake when he proposed.

"You said you wanted to talk." Her eyebrows rose and she shrugged.

Almanzo leaned over so that his arms rested on his knees, his hands clasped in front of him. "Laura—" Again he did not call her Beth, and it began to gnaw at her. "When I met you at the bridge that morning, I was so sure of your answer, I … I never thought ya would turn me down."

She slid to the edge of the bed, suddenly needing to be close to him. "But, why did you decide to leave town?"

He shrugged and shook his head. "Running into your Pa in town all the time and having to pretend everything was fine between us wasn't too appealing. And, I didn't wanna listen to Harriet Oleson wagging her tongue about it either."

Laura touched a hand to his knee. "But, you love the farm."

"I know." Almanzo raked his hand through his hair. "I guess I just wanted to see if I could make it without my father or Eliza Jane."

What could that possibly mean? Almanzo hadn't spoken much of his life before coming to Walnut Grove. He had told her some stories, but they were mostly about his older brother Royal.

The skin in the corners of her eyes crinkled. "What do you mean?"

Almanzo exhaled a deeper breath than she had heard in weeks. "Growing up on the farm in New York, I always had to listen to Father. I was older when we moved to Spring Valley, but as long as I lived with my parents I had to obey him, even if it was just out of respect."

His mouth pursued into a thin line and he rubbed is eyes. "That's why Perley Day left. He felt grown men don't need to mind their parents."

They hadn't spoken of Perley Day after he left Walnut Grove. She had seen the youngest Wilder boy walk away after Almanzo had caught up with him on the road, but Almanzo never shared what had transpired between them and, somehow, Laura always felt she shouldn't ask.

Almanzo chuckled, and a crooked smile slid across his face. "You probably can't imagine this, but Eliza Jane is a bossy older sister. Living with her is just like living with my father."

Laura eyes widened. Miss Wilder bossy? She appeared as quiet as a church mouse. Though she saw how Almanzo differed to her judgment at times, she chalked it up to Eliza Jane being older. He had, after all, offered to leave Walnut Grove with her when all that trouble arose with Bart Slater.

His shoulders rose along with his eyebrows. "So, I figured it was time to see what I could do on my own." His gaze fell to the floor, and he shook his head. "You see how well that turned out."

Laura slid off the bed and squatted in front of his chair. She placed her hands over his and gazed into his eyes that were now tinged with disappointment.

"The only reason you were working that second job was to do something nice for my family … and me. I'll never forget it," she whispered, then stood up and placed a tender kiss on his cheek.

Laura looked at his face, relieved that most of the signs of illness had faded. His skin no longer cold and clammy or flushed with fever, his face had a slight pink to it instead of the pale whiteness it held before.

"I didn't like the way that man talked to you," he said. "Besides, that building had been empty for months. He could have waited for the rest of the money."

"My hero." She didn't mean to make light of his actions, but maybe she should break the tension between them.

"Not feeling too heroic right now. Actually, I'm kind of tired."

She ran her fingers through his hair. "I'll go get Adam and he can help you back to your room."

Almanzo reached for her hand. "I think I can make it back if you let me lean on you a bit."

They strolled down the hallway, Almanzo using the railing on the wall to support most of his weight. It felt good to walk together like this. Laura couldn't help feeling that they might be okay. She watched his face as they walked along. He winced from time to time, but it seemed he felt determined to be strong for her.

When they entered his room, Almanzo plopped down on the bed. His forehead dotted with sweat, his breaths came in short pants. Laura listened for a wheeze, but thankfully didn't hear one. She pulled off his boots—not that he wanted her to, but she had insisted—and covered him with the blankets after he swung his legs up onto the bed.

His crooked smile looked back at her. A glimmer of a spark danced in his eyes.

"Now, get some rest." She pointed her thumb toward the door. "I'm a bit hungry, so I'm going to see what I can find in the kitchen."

She turned toward the door.

"Hey, Beth?" he called as her hand touched the door knob.

"Yes?"

"How you getting home?"

She shrugged. "I'll probably call Ma at the restaurant and have her ask Pa to come get me."

Almanzo picked at an invisible piece of lint on the blanket. His Adam's apple bobbed up and down. "I should be ready to head home the day after tomorrow if you wanna join me. I sure would appreciate the company."

A wide smile tugged at the corners of her lips. "I'd love to."

He closed his eyes, and he instantly fell asleep. His breathing still sounded a bit labored as she tiptoed over to the bed and placed a tender kiss on his forehead. He smiled and snuggled deeper under the covers.

Laura snuck quietly out of the room and pulled the door carefully so it didn't make a sound. As she strolled down the hallway, she felt good for the first time in weeks. Almanzo was out of danger and on the mend. With a bit of work, their relationship would mend too. She couldn't wait to head home and talk to Ma and Pa. They could help her heal her heart. For now, she just wanted to look forward to the ride home with Almanzo by her side.


Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Available for Pre-order: Ketty Lester: From The Cotton Fields To Grammy Nominated "Love Letters" to Little House on the Prairie


God has blessed Ketty Lester to achieve so much in her lifetime. Growing up in the cotton fields of Little Rock, Arkansas, to her first performance at the infamous Purple Onion in San Francisco, California, with wonderful greats like Maya Angelou and Phyllis Diller, she is most remembered for her 1962 recording of "Love Letters Straight From Your Heart," also known as "Love Letters," which stayed on the charts in the United States and the United Kingdom for three years and rerecorded by many artists.

The next most-remembered performance was the first horror movie for Blacks in 1972, which was Blacula. She was a lead, playing Juanita Jones, a vampire. The third role, which was her last, longest-running television series, was Hester-Sue Terhune on Little House on the Prairie from 1977 to 1983. She played the only Black female teacher in the series.

Between the Purple Onion and Little House on the Prairie, Ketty Lester's life bubbled over with successes, accolades, and standing shoulder-to-shoulder with many of the "firsts" Blacks in Hollywood to appear in television commercials, on daytime soap operas, and to co-star in Julia, the first weekly series to depict an African American woman, Diahann Carroll, in a non-stereotypical role.

Though Ketty enjoyed one acting role after another, and released multiple albums and singles, life was no crystal stairs or a bed of roses. As you share this journey with Ketty, so will you agree that she is a great role model and that she is puts the "T" in triumph.

Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Elite Publishing House (April 20, 2020)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0578662337
ISBN-13: 978-0578662336

Pre-order here!

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Coming in February: The Beautiful Snow by Cindy Wilson


The Long Winter is one of the most memorable novels in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series. It beautifully details the dramatic events of The Hard Winter of 1880-81, a harrowing time with months of never-ending blizzards leading to railroad blockades that all but cut off fledgling communities. But what really happened that winter? Lively and rewarding, The Beautiful Snow is a new look at The Hard Winter.

Pulling from nearly three thousand regional newspaper articles, The Beautiful Snow weaves the historical record around and through Wilder's fictionalized account. From the tireless efforts to dig out the railroad blockades, to lavish oyster parties, to carefully spun boosterism, The Hard Winter comes to life with extraordinary tales of survival, resilience, and defiance that adds rich context to Wilder's beloved novel.

Paperback: 480 pages
Publisher: Beaver's Pond Press (February 7, 2020)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1643439057
ISBN-13: 978-1643439051

Pre-order here!