Friday, April 6, 2018

Star Gazers: LHOP Fan Fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos



Star Gazers

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 walked into Nellie's Restaurant on Almanzo's arm. Everyone in town knew they were courting, but they hadn't been seen together since the night of the church social. It was suppertime and the restaurant was full of hungry people. They were lucky to get the last table in the far corner of the room.

Nellie had spied them as they came out of the kitchen. She had once thought Almanzo would make a perfect suitor for her, but she would never be a farmer's wife. She was much too dignified. She walked to the other side of the room and filled Mr. Marshall's coffee cup. Then she took Silas Moffet's payment before moseying over to Laura and Almanzo's table.

"Why Laura dear, how nice it is to see you again," she said, feigning politeness. Her teeth hurt from clenching them so tightly.

The tension was clear in Laura's voice. "Hello, Nellie."

"So how's that job in Curry going? Are you tired of teaching those dirty, little waifs yet?"

Laura pressed her lips together. It was so easy to rile her. "The children are doing very well," she said. "One of them is studying to become a doctor."

"Probably a horse doctor." Nellie scrunched up her nose.

"Well he'll be of good use to you then, since you're acting like a horse's…"

Almanzo cleared his throat. "Uh Nellie, why don't ya bring us a couple of coffees to start off with."

"Coming right up." Nellie danced off to the kitchen, her blonde curls bouncing as she went.

*

Once Nellie had disappeared behind the swinging door Almanzo allowed a chuckle to escape from his lips. Laura was as feisty as ever.

"And what's so funny?" said Laura.

"Every time I see the two of you together I think of that day I stumbled across you fighting in the mud." Laura's face turned almost as red as her hair. "Aw Beth, don't be embarrassed," he said, putting his hand over hers. "I like the way ya stand up for yourself."

"Thanks Manly, but I would have preferred if you never saw that. Nellie just…"

"Just what?" Nellie put two cups of coffee on the table.

"You're just so good at taking care of people." Almanzo felt certain Laura would explode if she had to be nice to Nellie too long. He had heard enough about the two of them in the years he lived in Walnut Grove to know they would never be friends. And there was that cinnamon chicken incident he would never forget.

"Thank you. Now what can I get for the two of you tonight?"

"I'll have the fried chicken please," said Laura.

"And I'll start with a bowl of beef stew, and then a nice big steak with a couple of eggs, sunny side up." Laura and Nellie gawked at him.

"Is that all?" Nellie asked sarcastically.

"Yeah, I wanna leave room for dessert."

*

After Nellie left, Laura shook her head at Almanzo. "Do you always eat that much?"

"I've always had a big appetite. Bein a farmer's hard work."

"Eliza Jane must spend all her free time in the kitchen."

They chatted about Laura's week in Curry. Out of the corner of her eye, Laura could see Nellie and her mother, Harriet whispering and looking over at the table she shared with Almanzo. She could just imagine what they were gossiping about. She knew Nellie had tried to get Manly to court her when he first moved into town. Maybe she was still interested.

Almanzo and Laura stepped outside and strolled hand in hand along the road that led behind the schoolhouse. It had been dark for an hour, and the clear sky seemed to hold a million stars. The full moon guided their steps. The temperature had dropped, but Laura didn't notice. Her eyes glanced back and forth between the starry sky and Almanzo's face. It was still so hard to believe he was her beau.

"What are ya thinkin?" he asked.

She shrugged. "Sometimes this all seems like a dream."

He gave her a crooked little smile. "Ya ain't dreamin, Beth. I'm here and you're here…" He embraced her. "It's real."

Laura trembled as she felt his lips. Was it the same for him when they kissed? Her mind spun. Her legs felt as if they could no longer hold her up. Her heart pounded hard enough to burst out of her chest. She had long stopped considering herself a little girl, but this was all so new.

When they pulled apart, Almanzo tucked her arm under his and they continued their walk in silence. Laura wondered if he was dreaming of the future like she was. She pulled up the collar on her coat.

"Are you cold?" he asked.

"A little."

"I should be getting ya back home anyway. Your pa will be wonderin where ya are."

As he helped her into the buggy they caught sight of Nellie Oleson locking up the restaurant for the night.

Nellie planted her hands on her hips. "Out a bit late aren't you, Laura?"

"I don't see how it's any concern of yours."

"I can't imagine your father approves."

Laura could feel her temperature rising. There were so many things she wanted to say to nasty Nellie. Trying to remember she was too old to act so impulsively, she thought a moment before responding. "He knows where I am."

"Well, a respectable young lady wouldn't be out this late." Nellie lifted her nose in the air. Laura was sure she had done that the first day they met each other in the school yard. Some people never change.

"That's probably why you're still out."

Nellie growled. She stomped off towards her house. Laura covered her mouth with her hand to silence a giggle. It was too easy to anger her rival sometimes.

Almanzo chuckled. "Remind me not to get your dander up," he said as he chirruped to Barnum and headed back to the Ingalls farm.

*

When Charles heard Almanzo's buggy pull into the front yard, he wanted to run outside and scold him for keeping Laura out so late.

"I know what you're thinking," said Caroline. "Don't do it."

Charles glanced back at his wife. "I thought she wasn't going to be late."

"She's not a child anymore. Other young women her age stay out after dark with their beaus."

"I don't care what the others do. I don't want Laura to forget she still has school to finish and responsibilities here at home."

Caroline strolled across the kitchen and came to stand in front of him. "I don't think she's forgotten either of those things. They've just begun courting. She's excited about having a beau. I bet Almanzo is excited too. They're trying to get to know each other in a different way. They just want to spend time together and allow that to happen."

She put her arms around Charles's neck. "I know it's hard to watch her grow up, but we went through the same thing with Mary. Don't you remember how we felt when she told us she wanted to move to Winoka?" Charles nodded. "And she was a bit younger than Laura is now."

"I'd forgotten that," said Charles.

"After next week, Laura will be back in Walnut Grove for good. Her job in Curry will be over and you'll probably find Almanzo spending time getting to know us better, too, instead of wanting to be alone with her so much."

Charles sighed. "I hope you're right."

*

"One more week to go," said Laura. "Then I'll be home for good."

Almanzo wrapped the reins around the brake. "Can't wait."

"I should probably have you over for supper once I'm back. I think it will make Pa feel better."

"Sounds real nice. I should be gettin' to know your family."

Laura sighed. "Well, I don't think Pa really wanted me to go tonight. Not that he doesn't like you, it's just he thinks we spend too much time together."

Almanzo's eyebrows rose. "I don't feel like I see ya enough."

"Hopefully it will be better once I'm not in Curry. There's going to be a literary meeting at the school in two weeks. Your sister asked me to recite the Declaration of Independence. I hope you'll come."

"Only if I get to bring ya home."

She playfully punched his arm. "My feelings would be hurt if you didn't." Laura pointed at the front door. "I should go."

Almanzo gave her a tender kiss before helping her out of the buggy. "I'll see ya in church tomorrow."

Laura nodded from the breezeway. She greeted her parents once she was inside. She sensed they had been talking about her. Before her pa could say anything she mentioned, "Manly is going to come to supper once I'm back from Curry. He should get to know you better if we are going to be courting." Caroline flashed a smile filled with I told you so at her husband.

"I'm glad to hear it," said Charles. "I don't like it when he keeps you out so late."

Laura rolled her eyes. "Oh Pa, I'm not a little girl anymore."

"I know, but I'm not ready for you to be a woman just yet." Charles's eyes glistened.

Laura hugged him. "I love you, Pa."

"I love you too, Half-pint."

Laura kissed her mother before disappearing into the loft. She crawled into bed after saying her prayers. She couldn't get Pa's words out of her mind. He actually seemed sad at the thought of her growing up. Is that what it's like to be a parent? she wondered. Would she be the same with her own children? She hoped they would be Almanzo's children too. Their night out filled her with joy. She hated the thought of leaving him again. But it would be her last week away from home, and then she could stay in Walnut Grove and begin planning her future…a future she hoped Almanzo would play a big part in.

Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Book Review: Caroline: Little House, Revisted by Sarah Miller

Every Laura fan is going to want to own a copy of Caroline: Little House, Revisited by Sarah Miller.

This novel is the story of the Ingalls family's journey from the Big Woods of Wisconsin to their settlement in Kansas told from Caroline's perspective. By the time the Ingalls family leaves home, Caroline is pregnant with their third child. She faces isolation with her family no longer close by. She fears the danger that settling in Indian Territory could present. As Caroline struggles against the hardships of pioneer life and rises to the challenges, the reader appreciates this story in a new way that makes Caroline Quiner Ingalls more than just Ma.

I cannot even express how much I loved this novel. From the opening pages, Miller's fine descriptions combined with her touching and real portrayal of Caroline, pulled me in and held me fast until the last page was done. As a wife and mother, I relate much more to Caroline than the young Laura who first shared her stories.

One thing the reader needs to be aware of is that this novel may include some scenes you wouldn't expect in Laura land. Caroline is married and already a mother of two with another baby on the way. She and Charles obviously enjoy some alone time. There are a few moments when the author explores Caroline's feelings on this subject. Part of the story delves into her attraction to Charles, how she feels when he looks at her a certain way, and there is a tastefully done sex scene. It's not vulgar or obscene but it is descriptive of how he makes her feel while performing her wifely duties and how her body reacts. Truly, this took nothing away from the story for me, but it was surprising.

Caroline is a book that was way overdue. It captures how amazing a person Caroline Quiner Ingalls was to follow Charles from place to place, how she worked alongside him, how what her mother taught her prepared her to be a good wife and mother, and how she envied the freedoms and rights Charles had because they were denied to her as a woman in the 1800s. All these things make this a timely story for women today. My admiration of Caroline has grown as a result of reading this novel. It's definitely a must read for Little House fans.

Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (June 12, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 006268535X
ISBN-13: 978-0062685353

I purchased a copy of this book for my Laura Ingalls Wilder collection. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

New Arrival: Kent McCray: The Man Behind the Most Beloved Television Shows by Marianne Rittner-Holmes

Picked up a copy of this book with the gift card I received for Christmas. Can't wait to read it!

 

Ask people who Kent McCray is and the question will draw a blank stare. Ask people if they remember Bonanza, The High Chaparral, Little House on the Prairie and Highway to Heaven, and a smile will invariably come to their faces as they recognize the titles and share how these beloved shows influenced their lives. In fact, all four series are still being broadcast 30 to 55 years after their original debuts. They are more than historic; they are iconic because they continue to reach out to new generations of viewers on a global scale.

It all started in 1951. The world was no longer at war; peace-time technology focused on the new medium of television; and AT&T connected the East and West Coasts via coaxial cable creating an explosion in television programming and broadcasting. This was the stage Kent McCray entered in that same year. A live stage. One that put the young NBC production specialist among the likes of Red Skelton, Milton Berle, Ralph Edwards, Groucho Marx, and Bob Hope. He became part of the history of television as it evolved from live TV to videotape to film, from black & white to color.

Kent McCray shares stories that span 50 years of television including production obstacles and solutions, his extraordinary collaboration with Michael Landon, and his legacy of philanthropy, all against the backdrop of current events that helped shape the television industry.

Join Kent McCray as he revisits his incredible life and works that live on to this day.

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Ten-K AlphaDox Publishing; 1st Edition edition (September 18, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0998296007
ISBN-13: 978-0998296005
Order at Amazon!

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.

            “What?”

            “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.

            “Starving.” 

            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.

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