A Trip to the Lake
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 seat rocked Laura back and forth as Barnum pulled the buggy in the direction of the lake. She and Almanzo rode in silence, their newfound relationship making the ride uncomfortable, unlike the others they had been on. She had never ridden alongside him as her beau. She assumed that's what Pa and Almanzo had been talking about when she had seen them in the yard.
"I was surprised to see you this morning," she said.
He glanced over at her. "Were ya now?"
Afraid she might have offended him, she added, "But it was a pleasant surprise."
A crooked smile crept across his face. "Did ya have a good time last night?"
"Oh yes." Laura felt the warmth of her blush and covered her cheeks to hide their scarlet color.
"I was hopin ya did."
"I didn't know you could dance."
Almanzo shrugged. "With three sisters in the house I didn't have much of a choice. They were always using me for practice."
"They taught you well."
Laura wanted to reach out and touch his hand, but he was busy driving Barnum. As if he read her mind, he switched the other rein into his right hand and picked up her small, white hand in his. He brought her hand up to his lips and then ran his thumb over the back of it, before placing her hand down on the seat and switching the rein back into his left hand.
Should she ask. It was driving her crazy not knowing. "What were you talking to Pa about this morning?"
"I was askin his permission to court you…if ya want me to." He looked at her out of the corner of his eye.
Her heart skipped. Could this finally be happening? It would be awful if she woke up and found it was all just a dream. "I do."
"Well, now that's settled, why don't we enjoy the day."
Laura couldn't imagine how she would find any fault with this day after taking a ride with Almanzo as her beau.
After tying up Barnum, he led her by the hand to an area of grass alongside the lake. It was a cool afternoon, but the bright sunshine would make it comfortable enough for them to enjoy their picnic.
Almanzo laid the blanket down. He had tucked one away in the back of his buggy. They sat down on the blanket, the basket between them. She didn't dare reach for the contents of the basket. She was so nervous, she was certain eating would make her ill. Almanzo began sharing his life in Malone, NY where he grew up. He spoke fondly of his parents and the farm where his mother spun wool and he had broken in his first colt.
"What was your brother, Royal like?" she asked.
"Typical older brother, I guess. He knew everything, and did everything better than me. I hated it when I was growin' up, but now I look up to him."
"Sounds like Mary. She was smarter and prettier than I could hope to be. She had boys lining up to carry her books home from school every day. She liked to sew and always wore her bonnet. She sure knew how to do the right thing all the time."
"And what about you. Beth?"
Laura shook her head when she thought back to some of the schemes she had played a part in. "Me — I was always in trouble. I got into a fight with Nellie Oleson on my first day of school."
He smirked. "I can understand how that might happen."
She slammed her hands down in her lap. "My temper always gets the better of me."
"Ya, don't say."
"And what are you smiling at?" She puckered her lips up like a pouting child.
"Seems I've seen that temper a couple times myself."
Laura blushed thinking back to her theatrical performance in the parlor of the Wilder's house, screaming how she was a woman and that she hated all of them. Again, a blush rose in her cheeks. "I was distraught over how Nellie's trick forced me to fail my test."
She crossed her arms over her chest. "And of course there was that part about you calling me a little girl."
He glanced away. "Yeah, I thought we'd get to that." Almanzo pulled out a glade of grass and twirled it in between his fingers. "Does it help knowing I don't think of ya that way anymore?"
"Yes," she admitted. "Just don't go punching any more of my students."
His cheeks went instantly red and she knew he was thinking of Chad Brewster. He quickly recovered and pulled her against him into an embrace. "What a pair we make."
After lunch, they took a stroll along the shore. Laura threw some bread crust she had saved from her sandwich to the ducks. She knew they would be flying south soon, and the green grass and autumn colored leaves would be replaced by the beauty of a white winter.
"What are ya thinkin about?" asked Almanzo.
"A frozen lake with its ice shimmering in the sunlight, surrounded by barren trees decorated with snowy white leaves."
"Would ya like to go on a sleigh ride this winter?"
Now it would be her turn to tease. "Depends on who's doing the driving."
"What if I was doin' the driving?"
"Then I'd be happy to go," she said, "...as long as Pa agrees."
Almanzo nodded. "I have a great deal of respect for your father."
The young couple walked hand in hand, admiring the beauty of nature and thrilling in the joy of being together. Clouds had slowly moved in and the sun disappeared. The breeze had picked up too. Laura noticed just as the first few drops of rain hit her hair. The shower quickly turned into a downpour and they ran towards the buggy.
Almanzo, whose feet were close to the shore, slipped on the wet grass and tumbled sideways into the lake, bringing Laura down with him. He jumped up and helped Laura out of the water.
When they were on solid ground Almanzo tried to brush off her wet, muddy dress. "Oh Beth, I'm so sorry."
Laura glanced up at him and then back to her dress before busting out in laughter. The sides of her stomach ached by the time she was able to stop.
"What in the heck is so funny?" he asked.
"Once again, you get to see me looking graceful."
They laughed together, thinking about how Almanzo had brought Laura back to his place to dry off when she had that terrible mud fight with Nellie Oleson over failing her test.
He pulled her in closer. "I love you," he said before placing a small kiss on her cheek.
Her gaze fixed on him and she whispered, "I love you too."
Their lips met in a passionate kiss. The rain continued, but she didn't notice. Laura had waited two years for this. She had tried so hard to make him see her as a woman, and in the end it had all been worth it. As she shivered in his arms, she felt protected and loved.
He pulled away and gazed into her eyes, the rain slowing to a steady shower. He reached over and removed the pins holding her bun in place. He tucked the pins into his pocket and began to unroll her hair. She shook her head to help him. When he was done, he stepped back and stared at her, his eyes blinking away rain drops.
His actions confused her. "What?"
"Like this," she said, making a face at her wet dress.
"Yeah, like that."
He cupped her face in his hands and placed a gentle kiss on her lips. "I should get ya home," he whispered.
"Let's go slowly." Laura didn't want their time together to end.
On Almanzo's arm she strolled back to the buggy. He helped her up and then jumped in himself. He gave her his coat, which he had left on the seat. It was drier than everything else and would keep her warm until they arrived back at the Ingalls farm.
As Barnum pulled the buggy back towards the little house on Plum Creek, Laura leaned against Almanzo's shoulder. He kissed the top of her head. Her stomach was filled with butterflies and her heart was filled with joy. She didn't know how she was going to leave him tomorrow to go back to her teaching job in Curry.
Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.