Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Divorce, Halloween Style: New LHOP Fan Fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos



Divorce, Halloween Style

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.

Friday, August 4, 2017

New Laura Ingalls Wilder Themed Books Coming This Fall

COMING IN SEPTEMBER


A must-read companion to the Little House books

2017 is the 150th anniversary of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s birthday. Her beloved Little House series tells a classic coming-of-age story based on Wilder’s own family life and is a reflection of the pioneer spirit of the time. They are also deeply rooted in the natural world. The plants, animals, and landscapes are so integral to the stories, they are practically their own characters.

The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder, by New York Times bestselling author Marta McDowell, explores Wilder’s deep relationship to the landscape. Follow the wagon trail of the series, starting in the Wisconsin setting of Little House in the Big Woods to the Dakotas and finally to Missouri. Throughout, you’ll learn details about Wilder’s life and inspirations, discover how to visit the real places today, and even learn to grow the plants and vegetables featured in the stories.

The artful package includes original illustrations by Helen Sewell and Garth Williams, along with historical and contemporary photographs. The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder is a must-have treasure for the millions of readers enchanted by Laura’s wild and beautiful life.

COMING IN OCTOBER




A life on the prairie is not all it's cracked up to be in this middle-grade novel where one girl’s mom takes her love of the Little House series just a bit too far.

Charlotte’s mom has just moved the family across the country to live in Walnut Grove, “childhood home of pioneer author Laura Ingalls Wilder.” Mom’s idea is that the spirit of Laura Ingalls will help her write a bestselling book. But Charlotte knows better: Walnut Grove is just another town where Mom can avoid responsibility. And this place is worse than everywhere else the family has lived—it’s freezing in the winter, it’s small with nothing to do, and the people talk about Laura Ingalls all the time. Charlotte’s convinced her family will not be able to make a life on the prairie—until the spirit of Laura Ingalls starts getting to her, too.



Visit Goodreads for more information.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Coming in September: KENT McCRAY: THE MAN BEHIND THE MOST BELOVED TELEVISION SHOWS


A behind the scenes look at the world of the production and producing for some of the television legends of yesterday and today. The book chronicles the illustrious career of Kent McCray from his days at Hartt School (University of Hartford), running the Central City Opera House , working in Live Television then into film.

During the apex of his career McCray has worked with television greats as Bob Hope, Red Skelton, Groucho Marx, Ralph Edwards, Michael Landon and many others. McCray shares his experiences which led to his being head of the production and producing his caliber of television entertainment still being aired today to an ever-growing vast audience around the world.

Will be available September 18 at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Visit Kent's book website for more news at http://kentmccray.com

Lessons from the Prairie by Melissa Francis


Check out what I bought for my birthday! Listening to it right now. One little thing I have an issue with is in the description; Little House on the Prairie was not a soap opera. 

"Lessons from the Prairie delivers one belly laugh after another as Melissa tees up an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide to tackling life's toughest challenges, and making your life happier." - Megyn Kelly


For fans of the beloved TV show Little House on the Prairie, a self-help book by Melissa Francis, bestselling author of Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter and child star of Little House, revealing important life lessons inspired by a childhood on set.

Melissa Francis was only eight years old when she won the role of a lifetime: playing Cassandra Cooper Ingalls on the world's most famous prime-time soap opera, Little House on the Prairie.
Now in Lessons from the Prairie, she shares behind-the-scenes stories from the set, and lessons learned from the show's dynamic creator, Michael Landon, that have echoed throughout Melissa's adult life. With novel insights on hard work, making mistakes, and even spirituality, Francis shares inspirational and practical life lessons that will appeal both to her current TV fans, and fans of one of the most adored TV shows of all time.

You can order your copy at Amazon.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Independence Day!





Wanted to take a minute to wish all my fellow Americans a happy and safe Independence Day. Thank you to all those who serve(d) our country and their families. God bless you all and God bless America.

Click the link below for a post from Beyond Little House that discusses a bit of what Laura's Independence Day was like:

http://beyondlittlehouse.com/2011/05/04/little-town-on-the-prairie-chapter-8-fourth-of-july/

Friday, June 30, 2017

New Book from Melissa Francis: Lessons from the Prairie


For fans of the beloved TV show Little House on the Prairie, a self-help book by Melissa Francis, bestselling author of Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter and child star of Little House, revealing important life lessons inspired by a childhood on set.

Melissa Francis was only eight years old when she won the role of a lifetime: playing Cassandra Cooper Ingalls on the world's most famous prime-time soap opera, Little House on the Prairie. Now in Lessons from the Prairie, she shares behind-the-scenes stories from the set, and lessons learned from the show's dynamic creator, Michael Landon, that have echoed throughout Melissa's adult life. With novel insights on hard work, making mistakes, and even spirituality, Francis shares inspirational and practical life lessons that will appeal both to her current TV fans, and fans of one of the most adored TV shows of all time.


Hardcover: 264 pages
Publisher: Weinstein Books (April 25, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602863067
ISBN-13: 978-1602863064

Monday, June 26, 2017

Separated: LHOP Inspired Fan Fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos



Separated

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 buggy carrying a wet, shivering couple arrived in front of the little house on Plum Creek. They were laughing as they talked through chattering teeth about Almanzo's tumble into the lake.

"I've never seen you so embarrassed," said Laura.

"It was only our second time out together and ya ended up drippin' wet," Almanzo replied.

"I don't care what happens as long as I'm with you."

He smiled at her, still amazed at how deep his feelings for her ran. Why hadn't he ever realized their immediate connection meant they were destined to be together?

*

"Get away from that window." Caroline wagged a finger at Charles.

He blushed. "I was just…"

"You were just spying on them."

Charles shrugged his shoulders. His wife knew him too well. It was hard to stand by and watch Almanzo Wilder take his place in Laura's heart. He shuffled over to the mantle and leaned against it, staring into the glowing embers of the fire. He felt Caroline slide her arms around his middle.

"Laura will always love you," she whispered. "No matter what other man comes into her life."

Charles turned around and faced her. He cupped her chin in his hands and said, "I love you," before placing a tender kiss on her lips.

The door clicked open and a wet Laura walked in.

"What on earth happened to you?" asked Caroline, rushing her daughter over to the fireplace.

"Almanzo and I fell in the lake."

"I thought he was taking you on a picnic not for a swim," teased Charles.

"Oh Pa!"

"Well, let's get you out of this wet dress," said Caroline. "We don't want you catching your death before you leave for Curry tomorrow."

*

Laura had almost forgotten about Curry. The joy of the day's events was now marred by the realities of life. After tomorrow, it would be an entire week before she saw Manly again. It would seem like forever.

The next morning after church services, Laura and Almanzo spent a few moments together. They avoided talking about being separated for the next five days.

"Laura, it's time to go," she heard Pa say.

"I'll pick ya up around three," said Almanzo.

She nodded. "I'll be ready."

*

Almanzo watched Laura walk to her pa's wagon. She glanced over at him before crawling into the back. His hat still in his hand, he stood there staring as Charles drove off.

Eliza Jane strolled over towards him and placed a hand on his shoulder. "The week will be over before you know it."

"Yeah," he replied, unconvinced. He plunked his hat on his head and moseyed over to his wagon.

*

A little before three Charles heard wagon wheels in his front yard. He stepped out of the barn and saw Almanzo's buggy in front of the house.

"Hi, Almanzo," he said with a genuine smile.

"Afternoon, Mr. Ingalls."

The boy didn't seem as upbeat as usual. "Something wrong?" Charles asked.

"No, it's nothin."

"You sure?"

Almanzo nodded. "Yeah, everythin's fine. Is Laura ready?"

"I don't know. Let's go inside and see."

Removing his hat, he followed Charles. Though he was taller than Laura's Pa, he knew how strong Charles was. He also knew he had a swift temper. Without thinking Almanzo rubbed his jaw. He certainly didn't have plans to anger Charles Ingalls again anytime soon. They stepped inside and were greeted by a wide smile.

"Hello, Almanzo," said Caroline.

"Howdy, Mrs. Ingalls."

"Laura's almost…" the sound of footsteps on the ladder interrupted her. "Never mind, there she is."

Laura stepped onto the floor and faced Almanzo with a look of excitement and sorrow. "Hi, Manly."

"Hi, Beth. Ya ready to go?"

"Just about." Caroline handed her a dinner pail full of food for the trip. "Thanks, Ma."

*

Laura walked up the steps to Miss Trimble's house. She turned to see Manly waving goodbye. She smiled and waved back. What a long week this was going to be. Miss Trimble pulled up in her wheelchair when Laura closed the front door.

"I was wonderin' if that young man was your beau," she said.

"He wasn't until this past Friday."

"Seems like a mighty fine birthday present."

Laura laughed. "It was."

"Well, ya gonna tell me all about it?"

"How about over supper? I want to put my things away and wash up."

"All right then, I'll get to cookin'."

"Sounds good, Minnie."

"Don't keep me in suspense too long," the older woman shouted down the hall.

The two teachers enjoyed a meal filled with tales of Almanzo. Laura felt for the first time that she could share her affection for him with someone other than her family. She told Minnie how she had called him Manly by mistake and how he nicknamed her Beth. She spoke of the past two years which were filled with disappointment as she tried to make him see her as something more than a young friend. Minnie smiled when Laura told her about the conversation with Almanzo in front of the schoolhouse after her first week in Curry and his asking her to the church social.

"I'm surprised ya didn't say yes when he asked," said Minnie.

"Ma told me not to seem too eager. She said men like to pursue."

"That they do," she chuckled.

"What about you, Minnie? Didn't you have any beaux pursuing you when you were my age?"

"More than enough, not that ya would think it to look at me now."

Laura sipped her tea and then dabbed her lips with a napkin.  "And you never wanted to get married?"

"Sure I did, just not as much as I wanted to teach." Minnie shrugged. "I kept hopin' I would find a man who would let me teach and be his wife too, but they don't make too many of those."

Laura enjoyed their friendship. Minnie had always treated her like an equal. They spoke as if they had known each other forever. It was fun to share stories of Almanzo with her.

"Minnie, I want to thank you for all you've done. I've learned a lot from you since I came here." She sighed. "I can't believe it will all be over at the end of next week."

"Don't think anythin' of it Laura." Minnie patted her hand. "We teachers have to stick together. But we've gotten off track, ya didn't tell me about the church social."

Laura laughed. She picked up her story where she left off, telling the older woman about the best night of her life.

*

The week had dragged on. Laura found herself distracted with thoughts of Almanzo. She had hoped he would pay her a surprise visit in the middle of the week, but he must have been busy. Thankfully it was Friday and school was almost over.

Ten minutes before three, Laura heard the sound of wheels in front of the school. As she glanced out the window, she saw Almanzo pulling up with Barnum.

"Since it's the weekend, I'm going to dismiss you a bit early today." The children hooped and hollered. She put up her hands to silence them. "I expect you'll use the extra time to study for the spelling bee on Monday morning. Don't forget to invite your parents."

After the children left, Laura rushed to clean up the classroom. Within a few minutes she heard footsteps on the porch and turned to see who was coming back in. Her eyes landed on Almanzo's smiling face. She noticed he had closed the door behind him.

She ran to him and threw her arms around his shoulders. "Oh Manly, I'm so happy to see you."

He twirled her around as he kissed her. "Aw, it's good to see ya, Beth. How'd your week go?"

"Good." She scanned the room. "I'm just about finished in here. I have to wipe down the chalkboards and fill up the coal pail next to the stove."

"I'll get the coal," he said.

A few minutes later, Laura shut the door and Almanzo helped her into in his buggy for the journey home.

*

It was nearly dark by the time Almanzo's buggy stopped in front of the Ingalls farm. Caroline and Charles rushed out to greet them.

"Where have you two been?" Caroline asked, concern etched into her face.

Laura and Almanzo looked at each other. She hoped her parents couldn't see her flushed cheeks. "Um…uh…you see, we lost a wheel and it took a while for him to put the new one on." She smiled at Manly, who said nothing.

"As long as you're both all right, that's all that matters," said Caroline. "Would you like to stay for supper, Almanzo?"

"No thank you, Ma'am. I'm sure Eliza Jane already has food on the table. I'll see ya tomorrow, Beth." Almanzo chirruped to Barnum and drove off.

"What's going on tomorrow?" asked Charles.

"Manly wants to take me to supper at Nellie's."

"You just saw one another and he'll be picking you up again on Sunday."

Caroline clasped her husband's arm. "Charles, I don't think driving Laura back and forth to work is the same thing as spending time together."

Knowing Ma understood how she felt warmed Laura's heart. "Please, Pa. We won't get back too late." She could tell he wanted to say no.

He pulled the pipe out of the corner of his mouth. "As long as your chores are done, you can go."

Laura hugged him. "Thanks, Pa." She ran into the house to bring her bag upstairs.

*

Charles shook his head. "Do you really think he lost a wheel?"

"Not for a second," Caroline said. "They probably got distracted on the way home. She was gone for a week and their courtship is still so new."

He nodded. "Almanzo wasn't the same while she was gone. He was moping around town like he had lost his best friend."

"He did."

"Oh come on now, Caroline, you don't think they're that serious yet, do you?"

There were days she couldn't believe how blind her husband could be. "Charles, she has been in love with Almanzo Wilder since the day she met him."

"But she's still so young."

She would need to choose her words carefully. Watching Laura grow up was especially hard on Charles. "Try not to worry so much. She has to experience life for herself...just like we did. I know we've prepared her well."

Charles smiled at his wife as he pulled her into an embrace. "I love you, Caroline Ingalls."

Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Reprint: Happy New Year! LHOP Inspired Fan Fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos

This is a fan fiction story from the end of last year that I am posting again in honor of the new year. Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy 2017 filled with blessings.



Happy New Year!

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 rocked in her chair next to the fireplace. A quilt wrapped around her, she gazed into the yellow and orange flames of the roaring fire. How much longer?

The mantle clock chimed five times and anxiety bubbled inside her. She had no reason to be nervous. Manly made this trip in worse weather at least half a dozen times. But this was different. That was before they were married…before she moved into the tidy white house Almanzo used to share with his sister.

Through the glass she saw the darkening sky and heard the steady slap of wind blowing sleet against the window panes. He hadn’t told her when he would be home, but Manly never liked to be late for supper. A thick, hearty stew simmered on the stove. The freshly baked loaf of bread he enjoyed dipping into the gravy so he could scoop up every last drop had cooled by now. The smell of percolating coffee wafted from the kitchen.

She stood and pulled the quilt tight around her shoulders before trudging to the front window. The snow that had fallen yesterday hugged the sides of the barn and chicken coop where they met the ground. Today’s icy storm would make the roads slippery. Could Almanzo’s cutter have slid off the road? Laura couldn’t keep her mind from conjuring up an image of Manly trapped underneath his tipped over cutter in a ditch slowly freezing to death. She shuddered. No. It will do no good to think like that. He’ll be home any minute.

But he wasn’t home any minute.

She ate supper and he didn’t come.

She washed the dirty dishes and wrapped up the bread and he didn’t come.

She stoked the dying fire three times and still there was no sound of sleigh bells in the front yard. Oh, Manly, she thought as she looked out the window for what seemed like the thousandth time. Where are you?

By ten o’clock it was all Laura could do to keep herself from saddling up one of the horses to go out in search of her husband. She knew it made no sense. She could only assume he took the usual route home from Sleepy Eye. If the road were blocked or he had to seek shelter from the storm, she would have no idea where to find him. Frantic, she dashed upstairs to her bedroom and grabbed her Bible. Then going back to the chair in front of the fireplace, she turned up the kerosene lamp, snuggled into the quilt, and searched for the peace and comfort only the Bible’s pages could provide.

Laura found the passage right away. When she was still a child, Ma would recite this portion of Scripture before Pa left on any journey and every night until his safe return. It was a tradition she continued in her own home now that she was married. This was only the third time Almanzo had been away since their August wedding, but she found it especially lonely without him around the place. She took a deep breath and then recited slowly:

Psalm 121
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Her gazed lingered on the last line of the Psalm. She closed the Bible, leaving her right thumb in between the pages to hold her place. She breathed slow and steady, her eyelids suddenly heavy from lack of sleep.

A cold rush of air startled Laura awake.

“Were ya sleepin’?" a snow covered Almanzo asked from the front door.

She sprung up from the chair and ran over to embrace him. “Oh, Manly, I am so glad you’re home!” He chuckled as she pecked his cheek with kisses.

He tried to pull her arms away from his neck. “You’re going to be all wet.”

“I don’t care.”

“Well, at least let me take my coat and hat off.”

She stepped back. “Oh, I’m sorry.”

“I woulda come in through the back door to avoid this mess on the carpet, but it was iced shut.”

Laura fluttered her hands. “It doesn’t matter. I’m just glad you’re home safely.” She took his hat into the kitchen and shook the melting ice off in the sink. His dripping boots squished and thudded on the floor behind her as he walked into the room.

Pulling off his coat and the muffler that hung around his neck, he put the wet clothes on hooks by the back door so they could dry. Once Laura had placed his hat on another hook, he scooped her up in his arms.

“I’m sorry I was so late.” He planted a soft kiss on her forehead. “Had to wait for a shipment to arrive. I promised Mr. Crowley I would help him unload before I left.”

Leaning her head against his broad chest, she heard the thump, thump of his heart. “That’s okay. Are you hungry?” she asked, though she was sure she knew the answer.

“I’m starved.”

Laura pulled away. “I made beef stew—”

Before she knew what was happening, he had drawn her back to him and engulfed her with a deep kiss. Moments passed, and when they finally parted, Laura’s heart raced in her chest. “What was that for?”

“Listen,” he said. The clock chimed once, twice, and then ten more times, signaling the beginning of the new year. “Happy new year, Beth.”

“Happy new year, Manly.”

They kissed once more, whispering I love you to each other. The moment they parted a crooked smile turned the corner of his lips. “Can I have that stew now?”

“Oh, Manly!” She playfully slapped him before grabbing a bowl and spoon from the table. Everything had worked out fine, just as the Scripture had said. I pray this is a sign of a wonderful new year.

The End.




Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.