Friday, December 22, 2017

Sleigh Ride: LHOP Fan Fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Sleigh Ride

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.

            Winter weather had come to Walnut Grove and the brown prairie was covered with white, fluffy snow.  Christmas was only a week away and Almanzo decided it was high time to take his beloved on that promised sleigh ride.  When he arrived at the Ingalls farm he found Charles hauling firewood to the house.

            “Afternoon, Mr. Ingalls.”

            “Afternoon, Almanzo.  A bit chilly for a social call, isn’t it?”

            “I was hopin you would let me take Beth on a sleigh ride.”

            “I don’t know Almanzo…weather like this; a blizzard could blow up any minute.”

            “Not a storm cloud in the sky, sir.  I promise if it looks like snow I’ll bring her right back.”

            Charles shook his head and smiled.  He knew better than to try and convince Almanzo of something once he got his mind made up.  “All right, but even a hint of snow and you head right back here.”

            “Thank you, sir.”

            Almanzo stepped out of the sleigh and followed Charles into the house.  He loved the little house on Plum Creek.  He had enjoyed many fine suppers around the kitchen table and Charles playing the fiddle by lamplight.

            "Half-pint,” Charles called up the ladder.

            “Yes, sir.”

            “Almanzo’s here.”

            Laura had already heard Manly’s voice and hoped he was there to follow through on his promise.  “I’ll be right down.”

            “There are a couple of bricks and some potatoes in the fire if you want them,” said Caroline.

            “Thanks, Mrs. Ingalls.  I brought some extra bear skins too."

            Laura stood at the base of the ladder. She and Almanzo shared a smile.  “Hi, Manly.”

            “Howdy, Beth.  Ya better dress warm.  It’s a cold one.”

            Laura put on her long coat over her layers of clothes.  She grabbed her hat and tucked her left hand into her muffler. 

            “Remember Almanzo, one hint of snow…” said Charles.

            “Oh Pa, we’ll be fine.  I’m not a baby you know.”

            “I still want the two of you to be careful.”

            “We will,” she replied. 

“Why don’t you take the corn bread and molasses in case you get hungry,” said Caroline.

Laura grabbed the package off the counter and took the jar of molasses out of the cupboard.  She kissed her parents goodbye before following Manly outside.

            Covered in warm bear skins, with bricks at their feet and potatoes in their pockets, the young couple headed out, the sound of sleigh bells filling the prairie air.  They rode out of town and past the lake which had already been frozen for two weeks.  Almanzo kept one eye on Beth and one on the sky.

            As they huddled together they shared their dreams of what the future might hold. 

            “How big of a farm do you want Manly?”

            “I reckon 150 to 200 acres would feed the house and give me plenty of money in the bank.”

            “Whoever your wife is will be a busy woman then,” she said with a smirk.

            He flashed his crooked smile at her. “Pretty much, between the farm and all the young’uns I plan on havin'.”

            “She’ll have to be a special woman to want to work that hard.” 

            “I’m sure she will be.”

            Dark gray clouds blew in and the temperature began to drop rapidly.  Almanzo looked up with concern at the now stormy sky. 

            “Fun’s over.  Looks like a storm’s headed our way.  Hold on, I’m gonna try to get back as fast as I can.”  She nodded and grabbed onto the right side of the sleigh.  “Ha! Ha!” he called to his Morgans.

            The horses raced back towards town.  A nervous Almanzo looked around at the ever darkening sky.  “Dagburnit!” he cursed.  “I never shoulda come out this far.”

            Laura furrowed her brow.  “We’ll make it back, won’t we?”

            “Not by the look of them clouds.  It’ll be snowing by the time we reach the lake.”

            “The old Edwards place is the closest," she said. 

            Almanzo nodded.  “All right.  Tell me how to get there.”


            Laura and Almanzo felt relieved to have made it to the Edwards farm.  Three inches of snow had fallen by the time they got there and it was falling harder all the time.  The wind had picked up, making it difficult to see.  It was a good thing Laura knew where she was going.

            She paced the floor of the kitchen, gazing out the window towards the barn for some sight of Manly.  She knew how dangerous weather like this could be. 

            The door flew open and she raced to Almanzo and him tightly.  “Oh thank God!” 

            He shivered inside his snow-covered coat and hat. “I’m all right Beth, just cold.”

            “I started a fire.  Why don’t you come sit over here?” She led him to the floor in front of the fireplace where she had laid down the bear skins from the sleigh. 

            “Mmmm, that’s better,” he said as he rubbed his hands together.  He pulled off his wet boots and wiggled his toes.

            “I guess it’s a good thing Ma told us to take some food.”

            “We’ll have to ration it.  We might be here until morning.”  Laura nodded.  “I’m sorry, Beth.  I shoulda listen to your pa.  He told me not to take ya out today.”

            She smiled. “We found shelter and there’s plenty of firewood to keep us warm.  I just hope…” Her words trailed off.  She was afraid to speak them.


            “I just hope Pa didn’t go out looking for us.”

            “With as fast as that storm blew up, I doubt it.  I’m sure he’s safe at home.”

            He pulled her into an embrace and they sat together in silence listening to the howling blizzard outside and hoping it would end as quickly as it had started.


            Three hours later the storm raged on.  Almanzo found a half empty kerosene lamp and lit it with some matches he had in his pocket. “It’s gonna to be nighttime soon,” he said.  “We can use this lamp for a while, but we should turn in early so we don’t waste the kerosene.”

            “Are you hungry?” she asked.


            Laura cut up some of the corn bread and spread molasses on it.  They sat by the fireplace, eating and drinking water from his canteen.  Almanzo would go to the window often and come back shaking his head.  He grabbed his hat and coat and stomped on his boots.

            “I’m gonna get some more firewood.  Looks like we’ll need it.”  A frown covered his face as he headed out the door. He came back in and piled the wood on the floor.  “We’ll havta take turns watchin the fire. Why don’t ya try to get some sleep and I’ll wake ya when it’s time.”

            She stood up on her tippy-toes to kiss his cheek.  “It’ll be all right.”

            He nodded, but he wasn’t sure. She wasn’t the one who was going to hear it from Charles the next day.  Almanzo held her close and pecked her on the cheek. “You have a good sleep.”  

            Laura sat down on the floor and untied her boots, slipping them off.  Her hands went up to the pins holding her bun in place.  She unrolled her hair and smoothed it out with her fingers.

            “I like when ya wear your hair down,” said Almanzo.  “It looks real nice.”

            “Thank you,” she replied, the darkness hiding the scarlet color in her cheeks.

            She laid down between the warm bear skins and tried to sleep.  The sound of the howling wind and the swirling snow hitting the windows caused her to pray the storm would soon be over and that everyone in town was safe.  She drifted off, dreaming of Manly and the future he had told her about.

            Almanzo watched her sleep for a while.  Her tiny body seemed lost under the covers.  Her long, reddish-brown hair framed her tranquil face and Laura’s soft, pink lips seemed to beg for his kiss.  He slid out of his chair and crawled along the.  He knelt down next to the sleeping Laura and brushed a wisp of hair away from her face.  Bending down, he could feel the warmth of her breathe on his face.  He shuddered as he felt her soft lips against his.  He placed another gentle kiss on her freckled cheek, and then got up and walked across the room to view the storm through the window. 

            He listened to the silence as the storm began to move on and the wind died down.  He was thankful it would soon be over.  A crackle from the fireplace made him glance over at Laura again.  He strolled back to his chair and took his place as guard.  He would wake her soon, but for now he enjoyed watching her sleep.

            He had never thought he would feel such love for her.  She was just a schoolgirl when they met.  They had always been close friends who shared an interest in horses and farming, but he had always seen himself as more of an older brother to her than a suitor.  Then she changed.  She became a teacher and her childish ways were left behind.  He had silently watched those changes, never expecting them to bring him to where he now stood — deeply and head over heels in love with her. 

            Almanzo had worked hard to win her father’s approval. Charles had always been suspicious of his intentions toward Laura, and when his feelings for her began to change it was gaining Charles’s acceptance that he feared most.  But it was all so different now, and he knew at some point when he worked up the courage he would be asking Charles for Laura’s hand in marriage. 

            It was time for him to get some sleep, but he didn’t wish to wake her.  He knelt down beside her again and smiled.  He tapped her shoulder and her eyelids blinked open. 

            “Mmmm, is it time to get up already?” she asked.

            “Afraid so, but the good news is the storm’s almost over.  I’ll have ya home by breakfast time.”

            “Good. Pa will be happy.”

            Almanzo shrugged. “I don’t think he’ll be happy with me.”

            “Don’t worry so much,” she said, getting out from underneath the covers and grabbing her boots.  “Right now, you need to get some rest.”

            “I threw some logs on the fire about half an hour ago, so you should be all set for a bit.”

            “Thank you kind,sir,” she said with a curtsy.

            He chuckled.  “Wake me in three hours.” 


            She nodded and wandered over to the window to see what it looked like.  There was at least two feet of snow on the ground, but the flakes were now small and falling lightly.  The wind had gone away and all that was left was the beauty of a world covered in snow. 

            Laura knew she should have been more anxious about being forced to seek shelter from the storm, but how could she be afraid with Manly there to protect her.  She glanced over at his sleeping form.  His face was turned towards the fireplace, but she could see the outline of his body under the covers.  ‘How did I even get here?’ she wondered.

            It had been two years since they met; two years since she accidentally called him Manly and he had in turn christened her Beth.  She had loved him from that first moment, but was frustrated to find that he saw her as a child.  It had taken a great deal of time and her first teaching job to change all that.  She remembered the excited and nervous feeling she got when Pa told her he thought Almanzo might be in love with her.  And that night at the church social they had shared their first kiss.  She would never forget it. 

            Laura walked over to where he laid on the floor.  She stared at his wavy blond hair, wanting to touch it, but afraid she would wake him.  She knelt down behind him and listened to his deep, steady breathing.  Holding her hair back with one hand, she leaned down and placed a small kiss on his cheek.  Almanzo rolled over and opened his eyes.  Still half asleep, he thought he was dreaming when he saw Laura kneeling over him.

            “Beth…” he said with a look of confusion, “whatya doin?”

            Laura felt the blush rising up her face.  She wished she had a good explanation.  “Uh…I…uh…”

            He smiled at her, knowing what she had been up to.  He propped himself up on one arm, the lump in his throat hard to swallow as he gazed into her eyes.  His hand came up to her face.  She shuddered when she felt his fingers on her cheek.  His fingers traveled up into her hair and went down to the very tips which were well past her shoulders. 

            He leaned in closer to her, but stopped within millimeters of her face.  “I love you,” he whispered.

            “I love you, too.”

            He sat up and raked his fingers through his hair.  “Promise me once we’re married you’ll wake me up like that every day.”

            Surprised she could only reply, “Married?”

            “Beth, you’re the only one I want to be with.  I’m not ready yet.  I don’t have enough saved to give ya a proper home. But the minute I do I’m gonna ask your pa for your hand.”

            She smiled at him, trying to hold back tears of joy.  “Oh Manly, I don’t know what to say.”

            “Don’t say anythin…just be ready when I ask.”

            He stood up and walked around the room, knowing he couldn’t lie down again.  His mind was filled with thoughts of her and the life they would share.  They spent the rest of the night sitting at the table, listening to the dying storm and dreaming of what the future held. 

            By early morning the storm had stopped and Almanzo cleared a small path to the barn so he could hitch up his horses.  A short time later he returned to the house and found Laura ready to go.

            She smiled when she saw him.  “Is it time?” 

            He nodded.  Laura slipped her hands into her muffler and walked towards the door.  Almanzo stepped in front of her and placed his hands on her shoulders.  They shared a tender kiss and then braved the cold to make it back to her parents’ house by breakfast time.

            It was a scary ride for the nervous Almanzo who was going to face Charles when he got to the Ingalls farm.  He had worked so hard to win Charles’s approval and now he feared it would all be lost.  Laura could see the anxiety on his face.  She tried to reassure him, but she too was concerned about what Pa would have to say. Sleigh bells jangled as the horses pulled the sleigh in front of the house on Plum Creek. 

          The front door opens and Charles and Caroline dashed outside. 

            “Oh thank, God!” exclaimed Caroline when she saw them. 

            “I’m sorry you were so worried, Ma,” Laura said from the sleigh.  She hopped out and hugged her.  “The storm came up too quick and we had to race to the old Edwards farm.”  She turned to Charles.  “I really am sorry, Pa.  I didn’t mean to worry you so.”

            Charles’s steady glare was on Almanzo.  He hadn’t even turned when Laura spoke to him.  “Caroline, take Laura inside.  Almanzo and I have to talk.”

            Almanzo stepped out of the sleigh and came to stand next to Charles, ready to take his punishment.  “I’m sorry, sir.  I…I went out too far yesterday and we got caught in the storm.  I didn’t want to risk tryin' to get back here.”

            “If you want to be foolish with your life, Almanzo, that’s your business.  But don’t be foolish with Laura’s.  Caroline was up half the night worried about her.  And I didn’t get too much sleep either.”

            Almanzo felt the lump in his throat.  He was sure Charles would forbid him from seeing Laura and he could never bear that.  “I shoulda listened to you.  If I had, none of this woulda happened.”  He shook his head.  “Mr. Ingalls, I have never been in love before, and I didn’t think it would be Beth when I did fall in love.  But by God I love her more than anything. I hope ya know I would never intentionally do anythin' to hurt her or put her in danger.”

            Charles softened towards him.  How could he be angry with a young man who cared so much for his Half-pint?  “When Caroline and I were courtin, I would sneak over to her house and climb the trellis up to her bedroom window and kiss her goodnight.  I’m sure Papa Holbrook woulda whipped me but good if he found out.”  He smiled thinking back to it.  “I remember what it’s like to be young and in love, Almanzo.  That’s why I’m so hard on you.  But if you promise me you won’t ever do anything like that again, I won’t say another word about it.”

            “You have my word, sir.”  Almanzo extended his right arm out to him and the men shook hands.

            He slapped Almanzo on the back.  “Good, now let’s get in the house.  Caroline’s got breakfast ready and I’m sure you’re starving.”


            The two men walked in and both Laura and Caroline were relieved to see the smiles on their faces.  That morning when they all sat down at the table, they thanked God the young couple had made it home safely, and hoped they would hear only good news when they made their way into town tomorrow for church services.

            Right after breakfast Almanzo said goodbye to the Ingalls family.  He wanted to check on Eliza Jane and let her know he was all right.  Laura grabbed her shawl and followed him out. 

            “I’ll see you in church tomorrow,” she said.

            He reached up and cupped her face in his hands.  “It seems like an eternity until then.” 

            His lips found hers and the cold weather was forgotten.  He pulled back and his crooked smile shone back at her.  Hopping into his sleigh he dashed off towards home. 

            Laura watched until the black sleigh disappeared over the hill.  She sighed as she thought back to what he had said last night.  All her insecurities over how he felt and if he could truly see her as anything more than a child floated away the moment he said he planned to ask Pa for her hand.  What an exciting winter this would be as she readied herself to accept his proposal, knowing that one day her dream would come true:  she would be Mrs. Almanzo James Wilder.

Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.

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