A Word of Thanks
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 waited in his wagon for Eliza Jane to walk out of the schoolhouse. His mood was somber. Tomorrow morning, he and his sister would be leaving Walnut Grove behind. Bart Slater and his wealthy father had come to town. They had been nothing but trouble. Bart had bullied his smaller classmates and caused so many disruptions that Eliza Jane had begged the School Board to intervene. Instead, Harriet Oleson and some of the Board members threatened to replace her with someone who could manage the school properly. Keeping Mr. Slater’s money in town was deemed more important than keeping Eliza Jane as a teacher. The more Almanzo thought about it, his anger simmered.
When his sister appeared on the door step, she seemed nothing less than ecstatic. That’s strange. What happened today? Laura Ingalls followed behind her.
"I can't thank you enough, Laura." Almanzo’s normally reserved sister looked like she would hop up and click her heels together at any moment. What is going on?
"I'm glad I could help, Miss Wilder."
Eliza Jane hugged Laura, and then they walked down the stairs together and stood in front of the wagon.
Almanzo’s overflowing curiosity threatened to explode. “Howdy, Beth. What are you two—”
"Hey Laura, you comin?" her brother Albert called from the bridge leading out of town.
"Gotta go," she said. "Bye, Miss Wilder. Bye, Manly." Laura raced off, her braids flying around her head.
Almanzo helped Eliza Jane into the wagon. "What was that all about?"
His sister seemed almost ready to jump out of the seat. "Remember the ruckus in front of school this morning?” Almanzo nodded. “Laura rallied the other children into beating up Bart Slater. He's promised to behave from now on. Not only that, he apologized for his dreadful behavior."
"So we aren’t leaving Walnut Grove?"
"No." Almanzo’s heart skipped a beat. Thank God. "I guess I better stop by the Feed and Seed and ask Mr. Miller for my job back." Proud as a peacock, Eliza Jane sat beside him, her fingers fidgeting with the strings of her bag. He couldn’t resist teasing her a bit. "Sure seems strange you approving of fightin’."
Eliza Jane lifted her nose in the air. "I did no such thing. I told the children they shouldn't bully each other." She glanced over at Almanzo. “But if it wouldn't have been improper,” she paused for a second, “I would have enjoyed the chance to give Bart Slater a punch or two myself."
Almanzo chuckled as he directed the wagon toward the Feed and Seed.
The next morning, Almanzo saw Laura and her siblings walking into town for school. Laura and Albert were laughing, and even Carrie seemed more at ease than usual. Almanzo jumped down from the platform and ran over to greet them.
"Mornin," he said. "Can I talk to ya for a minute, Beth?"
"She won't be late for school," he told Albert and Carrie.
Almanzo led her by the hand to the bench in front of the Sweetheart Tree. Laura peeked at the names carved into its trunk before sitting down next to him.
"I wanna thank you," he said.
"For getting that Slater boy to toe the line." Almanzo removed his hat and fiddled with the rim, finding it difficult to say what he felt. "I really didn't want to leave Walnut Grove. I've made a lot of friends here. I would have done it for Eliza's sake…but I hated the thought of it."
"I didn't want you go either." Laura’s cheeks flushed red.
"That's sweet of ya." Almanzo looked into her chocolate brown eyes. "I didn't know you were such a great leader."
Laura shrugged. "I just wanted to help Miss Wilder. She's a good teacher, and the rest of us shouldn't have to lose her because of one troublemaker."
"It means a lot to my sister that you would do somethin’ like that when others were too interested in not angering Mr. Slater."
"Having money doesn't give you the right to treat others poorly."
Almanzo nodded. "It meant a lot to me, too."
The crimson color returned to her face and Laura lowered her head.
Almanzo lifted her chin and smiled. His hand instinctively went up and caressed her hair, then traveled down her braid. "Remind me not to get you angry at me," he teased.
"You already have."
"Well, at least ya didn't get a bunch of people together to beat me up."
"Oh, Manly," she said before pursing her lips. The school bell rang. "I should go."
"Have a good day."
"I will now that Bart doesn't cause any trouble."
Almanzo watched Laura run up the stairs to the schoolhouse. Hands on his hips, he shook his head. "She sure is a feisty one," he said out loud. He hopped back onto the platform of the Feed and Seed. Almanzo shot a quick glance at the schoolhouse. He wondered what Laura would do to amaze him next.
Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.