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 awoke, blinking several times to adjust her eyes to the darkness. The ground was damp and cold underneath her and the smell of moist dirt filled her nostrils. The root cellar, she thought. How did I get down here?
She sat up. Ouch! She lifted her hands to cradle her throbbing head. Last thing she remembered was talking to Manly as he came in from doing the evening chores. The fall night had a bite to it now that the last day of October was here. His cheeks were a rosy red and his wavy mane a squashed mess from the Stetson hat he always wore. She had turned to finish cutting up the ham for supper when…she felt the large bump on the back of her head. No wonder the room was spinning.
Carefully Laura brought herself onto both knees, planting both hands in front to steady her. Still a bit dizzy, she waited a few moments before squatting and then standing up. Luckily a shelf filled with jars of pickled beets was nearby when she tottered.
This made no sense. Where was Manly? Had something happened to him? Laura raced up the ladder as quickly as she could. She pounded with the palm of her hand against the trap door but it wouldn’t budge. “Manly! Manly!” She kept pounding. Where was Manly? Oh, my gosh, Rose! Laura’s heart thudded in her chest. She was stuck in this stupid root cellar and her family might be in danger. I have to get out of here.
Laura climbed down the ladder and looked for something, anything she could use to break open the door. Jars, baskets, fruits, vegetables…NOTHING! Rushing back up she pounded as hard as she could bear, the vibration making her head hurt even worse. “Manly! Can you hear me?” Tears sprang from her eyes. “Help me.”
The trap door flew open and Laura squinted to shield her eyes from the light flooding the opening. A tall figure stepped into the opening and blocked out some of the light. She backed down, unable to recognize who it was. As the figure descended, Laura recognized the familiar step of Almanzo’s boots on the ladder. She clutched her chest and exhaled.
“Oh, Manly! Thank God.” She ran to him and tossed her arms around his neck. “I was so scared—”
He didn’t embrace her. He stood with his arms by his sides, saying nothing at all. Laura couldn’t stop the chill that raced down her spine. Equally afraid to look as not to look, she raised her chin and gazed upon his face. Almanzo’s blue eyes flashed with anger and his teeth were clenched tightly as he glared at her.
“Be quiet,” he seethed.
Laura stepped back but Almanzo gripped her arm and squeezed her wrist. “Stop it,” she said. “You’re hurting me.” She slapped his hand over and over, pulled her arm until it felt like it would rip right out of the socket, but still he held tight. “Let go of me, Almanzo,”
He yanked her into him. “I said ‘be quiet’.”
Her mind reeled. What is wrong with him? This was the man who loved her so much he said he would “wait two years or twenty years” to marry her when Pa would not allow her to marry before turning eighteen. The same man had come back from a horrible stroke and paralysis to make a home for his family. She didn’t even know the person standing in front of her, his face snarled in anger.
She stopped pulling away from him. Maybe if she didn’t fight him he would calm down. “Manly, please, tell me what is going on. How can I help you if I don’t know why you’re so angry?” She laid her free hand on top of his and caressed it.
He pushed her away so hard she tripped over a basket of apples and landed on her backside. Afraid, she quickly stood and shifted her weight to be better balanced in case he lunged at her. How could this be happening?
“Help me?” he said with a snort. “Help me? Oh, I think you’ve helped enough.”
Now, totally confused, Laura raced through her recent memories to see if she could recall anything she could have said or done to upset him. Coming up with nothing, she figured keeping him talking would occupy him long enough for her to think of how to get out of the cellar. Rose must be sleeping. I need to find her.
“Manly, I really don’t understand what’s going on. I can’t think of anything I’ve done to upset you.” She took a few baby steps to the left. “If you only tell me what I’ve done, I’m sure we can work it out.” Two more steps to the left.
Almanzo planted his hands on his hips. “After all this time together, you still don’t know me very well, do you?”
Laura shrugged. “I thought I did. We’ve had our ups and downs, but I thought we were happy here in our new home.”
“Happy?” He shook his head. “How could I be happy when all these years I’ve been separated from my one true love?”
Laura’s eyes widened. Where is this coming from? “What are you talking about?”
“She came here, but you made sure she left real quick.”
Who could he be talking about? Three steps to the left, the ladder getting closer and closer. “I honestly don’t know who you are talking about. Came here? When?”
Crossing his arms over his chest he continued shaking his head, as if amazed she could be so stupid. “She came here with her music,” He sniffled, as if trying not to cry. “Beautiful music. But you didn’t want that here. You didn’t want her here.”
Laura inched closer and closer to the ladder as she thought on what he was saying. When it came to her, she couldn’t stop her mouth from dropping. “You mean Brenda Sue Longworth?” That’s a person I haven’t thought about in years.
“Of course I mean Brenda Sue.”
This should have made things clearer, but they really were just as muddy as the dress she rolled around in when she got in that dreadful fight with Nellie Oleson at the watering hole over failing her teaching exam.
Now Laura was angry. Still scared, but really angry. She felt the heat rising in her cheeks. “What does Brenda Sue have to do with anything?”
“As if you don’t know,” screamed Almanzo lessening the gap between them.
“I really don’t know.” Laura took a big step left. Pretty soon she would be close enough to make a run for the ladder. If only she wasn’t wearing a dress, she could climb up faster. “Back then you told me it was all a misunderstanding. You told Pa you never really like her in the first place.”
“Well, I liked her…a lot. Maybe not when we first met, but when she returned to Walnut Grove I remembered how much we had in common and how she understood my love of music.” Almanzo smiled and looked far off, as if recalling a sweet memory.
Laura shrunk her eyes into slits. She had never been so furious. But she knew she had to focus on getting to safety and finding Rose. They had to get out this house. Almanzo wasn’t who she thought he was and who knew what he would do. He was pondering his next steps. She could tell by the curve of his partially opened mouth.
“What were you planning to do, Almanzo?” A few more steps and she could make a run for it. “Were you going to run away with Brenda Sue leaving me trapped in the cellar and Rose all alone upstairs?”
He straightened his back to show how indignant he was at the suggestion. “Of course not. I am going to take Rose with me. Brenda Sue can’t have children so we will raise her together.”
Laura clenched her fists at her side. As if I would let that woman raise my daughter. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. His plan was preposterous. “And you were just going to leave me down here forever?”
“Your family would have come looking for you if you didn’t show up in town. By then I would already be in Sleepy Eye and on a train back East.” He gave her a satisfied grin.
Laura took three more steps as he spoke. She knew she should just make a dash for the ladder, but she had to give him a piece of her mind. He had put her and their daughter in danger for some ridiculous fantasy that would never work. Even if she gave up trying to find them, Pa would never rest until he brought Rose back home safely…and gave Almanzo a huge piece of his mind.
“Manly, I have never been so disappointed in someone as I am in you right now. We built a wonderful life together and you’re willing to just toss it away as if it didn’t mean anything. How can you do such a thing?”
Almanzo rocked back and forth on his heels, arms crossed over his chest. Had she really made him realize how ludicrous his plan was? What if he changed his mind and this was the end of it? Could she ever trust him again? Deep in her heart she knew the answer was no. This was something she could never forgive. It made her heart ache just thinking about it. Blinking back tears, she knew she had to make a move now.
Taking a deep breath, she shoved him and tore up the ladder. Her petticoat caught on a nail. She yanked hard and heard the fabric tear. Her hands touched the top of the ladder and she was about to lift her leg up to the floor when, suddenly, a hand pulled on her right boot. She looked down to see Almanzo hanging onto the ladder with one of his hands and her boot in the other.
“Get back here,” he said through clenched teeth.
Laura shook her leg trying to release her foot, but he was too strong. Tears stung her eyes. I need to find Rose. We have to get out of here. “Let me go! Let me go!”
“Beth? Beth? Wake up.”
Laura sat up in bed. Drenched in sweat, her heart racing so loudly it pounded in her ears, she rubbed her eyes to clear her head. After several deep breaths, she lay back down on the pillow.
Almanzo laid on his side, leaning on his arm for balance. “That must have been some dream.”
Not able to talk yet, Laura simply nodded.
He touched her arm and she flinched. “You okay, sweetheart?”
It took her a few more seconds but she finally managed, “Yes, just a silly dream.”
“Is it okay for me to blow out the lamp? I just finished the newspaper.”
“Sure.” Her voice sounded like she swallowed a frog.
As he brought his hand up toward the lamp, she grabbed at him. “Do you still have that music book with that song by Brenda Sue Longworth?”
Almanzo crinkled his forehead. She knew it was a strange question. “No, I tossed it. After playing it on the guitar a few times I decided I didn’t really like it.”
Laura breathed a sigh of relief. “Good.”Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.