LHOP inspired fanfiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos
Author's note: I have used some of the original dialogue from the episodes Back to School Parts 1 and 2 for this story.
Laura trudged toward the Wilder homestead. It was Saturday so Almanzo and Miss Wilder weren't in town. On her arm, rested a basket with a robe inside — Almanzo's robe. It was the same robe she had worn home a few days earlier.
Nellie and her evil tricks had caused Laura to fail her teacher's examination. She had studied for weeks. Nellie had told her to pay careful attention to vocabulary. Much to Laura's dismay, when she sat down to take the test she discovered it was mostly history, just as Miss Wilder had told her it would be. After the test was over Laura raced out of the schoolhouse and out of town to have a good cry. She found herself alongside the watering hole by the Wilder farm.
When Laura lifted her head to wipe the tears from her cheeks, the corner of her eye caught Nellie strolling down the road into town. Nellie sauntered up to her. "Oh, Laura dear, how nice to see you. Almanzo and I were just having lunch together. How did the test go?" Nellie's smirk told Laura that Nellie was fully aware of how the test turned out.
"It was all history." Angry heat rose up Laura's cheeks. "Miss Wilder says they're always all history."
"Well, come to think of it, maybe there was more history on the test than I remembered," replied Nellie with an evil smile. "I hope you're not angry."
"Why should I be? It wasn't on purpose was it?"
Nellie raised her chin in triumph. "Of course not."
"Well, neither is this!" Laura pulled her rival into the muddy watering hole. Stronger and more athletic, Laura pushed Nellie's face into the mud, flinging piles of dripping mud on top of Nellie's head while the helpless girl screeched and tried to escape.
Laura vaguely heard the sound of wagon wheels along the road. She didn't care. Nothing and no one would stop her from giving Nellie exactly what she deserved. Almanzo pulled Laura off Nellie, the two of them falling onto the ground. She struggled, but his strong hands held her tight. Seething, all she could think of was pummeling Nellie.
"Let's go get ya cleaned off," Almanzo said to Laura, helping her into his wagon and leaving Nellie to fend for herself.
Laura peeked into the basket on her arm and felt the soft fabric of Almanzo's robe. She smiled and kept on walking. She was almost there.
Almanzo had offered his robe to her after the fight with Nellie so she could get cleaned off. He soaked her clothes in the wash basin outside. They sat and talked while Laura drank hot tea in front of the fireplace. It was a sweet, romantic moment…at least to her. Laura had her eyes on Almanzo from the first time she met him and accidentally called him "Manly" instead of "Mannie." He christened her Beth— a woman's name she had told her pa.
When they heard a knock Almanzo stood up and joked, "I don't think that's Nellie comin back."
He opened the door and Laura's furious pa punched him, sending Almanzo flying over a table. He hit him again and Almanzo toppled onto the staircase while Laura screamed for Pa to stop.
Pa demanded an explanation as to why his young daughter was in Wilder's robe. Laura told Pa what happened, saying Almanzo was only trying to be nice.
"I suppose he was being nice when he kissed you today," said Pa. Confused, Laura scrunched up her face. What is he talking about? "Nellie told me all about it. She said that's why you attacked her."
"He kissed me on the forehead...for luck on my test."
Pa's face fell and his anger diminished. He glanced around the room and then at Almanzo, who was still slumped on the stairs protecting his face from further punishment.
"Yes, Sir," he said. "Ya didn't think that I…Beth's just a little girl."
Laura whipped her head around to face Almanzo. The romance and sweetness of the moment forever ruined, she screamed she was a woman before announcing she hated them and stomping out. After some words of wisdom from her ma, Laura and Pa reconciled, both of them blaming mean old Nellie for the entire misunderstanding.
A few days later Laura was finally ready to retrieve her clothes and return Almanzo's robe. She had slept with it under her pillow, dreaming Almanzo saw her as more than just a friend. She made her way through the front yard of the Wilder homestead. She pulled the robe out of the basket and smelled it one last time. She had refused to let Ma wash it. Dumping the robe back in, she took a deep breath and lifted her hand to knock on the front door.
"Howdy, Beth," Almanzo's voice called from behind her.
Laura turned. "Hi, Manly."
"Whatcha doin way out here on a Saturday?"
"Well…uh…I…uh…" She shoved the basket in Almanzo's direction. "I came to give you your robe back."
"That was awful nice of ya. Why don't you come inside. I think your clothes are in the downstairs bedroom."
Laura followed Almanzo into the house. There was no sign of his sister. "Where's Miss Wilder?" she asked toward the open bedroom door.
Almanzo came out with her red dress and apron. "She's visiting a neighbor."
Laura grabbed her clothes. "Thanks."
They chatted for a few moments, Laura becoming more anxious the longer they spoke. "I really am sorry about the other day," she said. "I didn't mean to lose my temper like that…and Pa feels awful about hitting you."
Almanzo rubbed his jaw and smiled. "I'll think twice before kissin ya good luck again, that's for sure."
"I should be getting home," she said. "I've got chores to do."
"Ya wanna ride? I gotta go into town anyway?"
"Are you sure?"
"Sure, I'm sure. Let me get my robe outta this basket and you can put your clothes in."
They both reached for the basket on the floor between them. "Ouch!" Laura exclaimed as their heads banged together, her clothes falling in pile on the floor. They stared at each other. Laura was sure they both felt a connection. She was almost afraid to breathe for fear the moment would end. His eyes were so blue; as deep as the ocean. She felt the urge to run her fingers through his hair. Her heart pumped inside her chest. Is his heart racing too?
Almanzo shook his head and blinked several times. Why was he looking at her with such an odd expression? He stood up and handed her the basket. "We best be goin," he whispered.
"Yeah." She pulled his robe out of the basket and tossed it on the back of a chair. Tucking her clothes inside, she followed Almanzo out the door.
They drove to the Ingalls farm in silence. What had happened between them? She couldn't speak of it and he certainly didn't seem eager to either. Almanzo tugged the reins and stopped his team in front of the Ingallses' house. Laura jumped out and grabbed the basket before Almanzo could offer to help her.
"Any time, Beth. "He shifted his weight on the seat.
Laura walked inside, never looking back. But she listened for the sound of Almanzo's departure. Moments passed, but no horse hooves or rattling of wheels in the front yard. What is he waiting for? Could she be right? Could he possibly have felt the same connection she did when they were so close she felt his breath on her face? She waited, then seconds later he chirruped to his horses and the noise got less and less until she couldn't hear the wagon anymore. Why had he paused before leaving? That question would keep her awake for hours tonight.
Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.