Why Can't He See It?
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 stopped as the Wilder farm came into view. Her rapid breathing reverberated in her chest as she stared down at the shaking dinner pail in her trembling hand. She patted down the stray hair that had escaped the confines of her tight braid and smoothed out her dress. Placing her hand over her heart, she breathed in deeply, trying to calm her nerves.
"Everything will be just fine," she told herself. "It's only Manly. I've talked to him dozens of times."
But this time was special. She wanted to tell Almanzo that she would start teaching Daniel Page that morning. Surely, Almanzo would now recognize how much she had changed. She had her first student, and soon she would earn her teaching certificate.
Almanzo stepped off the front porch and moseyed towards the barn. Laura snuck behind a nearby tree, hoping Manly hadn't seen her coming down the road. She watched him for a few moments from her hiding place, her eyes wide as they gazed upon his tall, lean form in the shadows of the barn. He pitched dirty hay out of a stall. Bending, digging in with the pitchfork and then tossing the soiled hay into a pile in the center of the floor, whistling while he worked.
"It's now or never," said Laura, trying to convince her body to move. Her legs felt like wooden blocks and her arms hung at her sides like thin tree branches weighed down with wet, heavy snow. Laura closed her eyes and took another deep breath. Marching with confidence, she hoped her trembling hands didn't give away the tight, nervous feeling in her stomach. "Hi Manly."
"Mornin, Beth. Whatcha doin out here so early?"
Laura's mouth felt as dry as the road. She tried to swallow away the lump in her throat made worse by Almanzo's stare. He placed a hand on her shoulder. "Is somethin wrong Beth?" he asked.
She shook away her fears. It was the only way he would stop seeing her as a child. "Oh no, nothing's wrong. I just wanted to tell Miss Wilder that I have my first student."
"Gosh darnit, is that all." He exhaled. "By the way you were acting I thought there was an epidemic or somethin'." The right corner of his lip curled, then stopped, and then curled again. Shaking his head, he gazed down at the pile of hay and then back up to Laura. "Couldn't ya have told her that when you saw her at school on Monday?"
The handle of Laura's dinner pail rattled in her trembling hands. She tucked the sign language books under her arm and clasped the pail handle with both hands. "I was so excited, I wanted to tell her right away."
"Oh, well, she's comin' out now. If you'll excuse me, I gotta hitch up Barnum. I'm gonna meet Sara at Nellie's for breakfast and I don't wanna be late."
"Sure." Laura shuffled away, discouraged that her big news hadn't warranted a more enthusiastic response.
Miss Wilder and Laura walked towards Almanzo and his buggy as they chatted.
"Mannie, did you hear? Laura is going to be teaching Daniel Page sign language?" Miss Wilder said.
"Yeah, she told me." Almanzo checked the harness.
"Won't it be wonderful if he can communicate with others?"
"Hop in Laura," said Almanzo. "I'll give ya a ride home."
"No thanks. I'll walk. I'm going over to see Daniel now anyway."
"Mr. Page's place is on the way. I sure would like some company."
Laura shrugged. "All right." She ignored the hand he held out to her and climbed into the buggy.
Almanzo's glanced over at Eliza Jane and stepped into the buggy. Grabbing the reins he said to his sister, "I'll be back in a couple of hours."
Eliza Jane nodded. "Say hello to your parents for me, Laura."
The buggy bounced as the wheels turned over the rocky, rutted road. Almanzo's shoulder bumped her a few times, causing the butterflies in her stomach to somersault. She leaned against the side of the buggy to avoid further contact. Why did I come all the way out here? Almanzo doesn't even care about my teaching job. How could I have been so foolish? Maybe Albert was right—Almanzo is too old for me and I should just forget him.
Laura glanced at Almanzo's profile out of the corner of her eye. His hat covered his high forehead. Most of his hair was hidden, but the ends peeked out from the rim, strands of strawberry-blond fineness that Laura wished she could touch at least once. His slender, long nose jetted out almost to a point, and his cheeks dimpled whenever he spoke.
Laura felt relieved when they finally reached the Pages' farm. She jumped out quickly. Almanzo handed Laura her books and dinner pail.
"Thanks for the ride," she said.
"Thanks for the company..though you were a bit quiet."
"I guess." Laura's boot traced a circle in the dirt.
"Ya sure nothing's wrong?"
Nothing except you not noticing I'm a woman, thought Laura. "No, I'm just excited about my first student."
"Well, good luck. I gotta run. I don't want Sara to think I forgot."
Sara—perfect, pretty, and old enough for Almanzo. Laura sighed as she thought of what would happen in town. A slim figure with white gloves and a fitted bodice on her store-bought dress standing on the porch of Nellie's. Her pretty brown hair curled and tied with a satin ribbon and decorated with flowers.
Almanzo would arrive, smiling that crooked smile that melted Laura's heart. Sara would slip her dainty hand in his larger, stronger one and they would waltz into Nellie's, sharing breakfast and conversation. Sara would smile, exposing her perfect, white teeth and Almanzo would look into her brown eyes as she cooed over his every word.
Laura wished for a magic potion to stop time so that Almanzo would wait for her to grow up. But there was no potion, and the lingering fear ached in her heart that Almanzo would be off and married before she even had her first real teaching job.
"Hullo Laura," said Mr. Page. "Daniel's inside waiting for you."
"Thanks. Is it okay if we go out to the lake later? I brought lunch with me."
Laura headed towards the house. She turned when she heard Mr. Page call her name. "When did you grow up into such a fine young woman? I swear it was only yesterday when you first came to Walnut Grove."
A faint smile turned the corners of her lips. The kind of obligatory smile you give your grandmother when she talks about you being all grown up. "I just wish Almanzo felt that way," she whispered.
Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.