Home is Where the Heart is"

Chapter 1 BACK TO SCHOOL AGAIN

Carrie Ingalls was walking slowly towards the school house, holding her little sister’s hand. Grace was only 6 years old, and this was her very first day of school. Poor Grace! Her blue eyes were filled with panic. Although she had always wanted to go to school with her sisters, now that she was finally old enough, she wasn’t all that keen on going.

“Don’t worry, you’ll like school”, Carrie assured her. At age 13 she was used to school. Their 11 year old sister Cassandra was walking in front of them. She kept telling them to hurry. Cassandra couldn’t wait to be back in school - but Carrie sure could! Although she was a good student, she didn’t enjoy school very much. Things had been different a year ago, when they had all still lived in Walnut Grove. Walnut Grove was a very small town, with only one small school house for both the girls and the boys. Everyday the Ingalls children had walked together to school, and their older sister Laura had been their teacher. Back then Carrie had almost always had fun in school. During the recesses Carrie and her siblings would play with their friends, and then after school they’d all walk home together to do their chores and their homework. Almost every night their Pa would play his fiddle to them, and on Sundays they always had a picnic by the creek.

But here in Burr Oak things were different. Their two brothers, Albert and James, went to the boy school at the other end of town, while Carrie and her sisters went to the girl school. Pa’s fiddle hang silently on the wall at night, and there were no more family picnics. They were all too busy for that. Besides where would they have a picnic in a big town like Burr Oak?

When they reached the school stairs, Grace suddenly stopped. Carrie looked her. “What’s wrong?”, she asked her. “I can’t go inside, I just can’t!”, replied Grace. “Why not?”, Carrie asked. She was getting impatient, Cassandra and the other kids had already gone inside the school house. The bell was going to ring any minute now. “I feel stupid in this dress!”, Grace complained. Carrie took a look at her little sister, and smiled. Grace looked really pretty. Her blonde hair was braided for the very first time, and Ma had found Laura’s old blue Sunday dress, and changed it so it would fit Grace. Carrie remember that Ma had made identical dresses for Laura and Mary when they were little girls, and Ma was really surprised when she found Laura’s when they packed up their things to leave Walnut Grove! Ma had saved the dress for Grace to wear later. It still looked really nice, Carrie thought. “Don’t worry, you look fine”, she told Grace. “But this dress is so old”, Grace complained. “Well, no one knows that. Ma fixed up, so it looks brand new”, Carrie reassured her. Grace still looked unsure, but finally she gave her sister a smile and followed her into through the doors of the school house. Carrie told Grace to take a sit in the front row, where they youngest girls always sat. Then she sat down next to Cassandra in their usual seats.

Their teacher, Miss Peters walked into the room. She had dark black hair and wore glasses. Although she was strict and didn’t allow anyone to misbehave in her classroom, she was always fair. But Carrie still didn’t like her. Miss Peters never smiled! The teacher started calling out the names. Cassandra replied “here, Miss” when Miss Peters called out “Cassandra Cooper”. Even though Carrie always thought of Cassandra as her sister, Cassandra and her brother James had been adopted by the Ingalls’ Family about two years ago, after their parents had died in an accident. Both James and Cassandra still used their real parents last name. Pa had asked them before they started the Burr Oak school, if they wanted to use Ingalls as their last name, but James and Cassandra had agreed that they wanted to keep their own last name, out of respect for their parents. Albert had been adopted a few years before James and Cassandra, but he had always used Ingalls as he last name. He had no memory of his real parents, so to him it was natural to be an Ingalls.

“Caroline Ingalls?!”, Miss Peters called her name again. Cassandra gave her a little pinch. “Here, Miss Peters” Carrie replied. She could never get used to being called Caroline. Even though it was her name, no one had ever called her that before they moved to Burr Oak. Since Caroline was also her Ma’s name, it would cause too much confusion around the house with two Carolines. So she had always been called Carrie, and as far as she was concerned, that was her name. In the Walnut Grove school the teachers had always called her Carrie. But Miss Peters didn’t allow any nicknames. So Carrie just had to try to get used to being Caroline at school. “Grace Ingalls”, Carrie looked up to see how her sister was doing. “Here, Miss Peters”, Grace replied. “Perfect”, Carrie thought, feeling proud of her little sister.

At lunch the three sisters ate together. But as soon as they had eaten Cassandra went over to her friends; Sarah Bowman, and the Parker sisters – Jane and Louisa. Sarah was 15 years old, and looked like an adult next to Cassandra, who was rather short for her age. Her father worked in the bank, and Sarah always wore very fancy clothes. Jane was 12, and her sister Louisa 14. Their father owned the saloon, and if possible their clothes were even more beautiful than Sarah’s. Cassandra had gotten to know the three girls last year, and was really proud they wanted to be her friend. After all they all came from wealthy families, while Cassandra’s parents had been farmers until they moved too Burr Oak. Also Cassandra was “just” an orphan, which some of the other kids made sure to point out. But spending time with her new friends also made Cassandra feel both boring and childish. They all seemed much more grown-up than she was. But what bothered Cassandra the most was the clothes. Cassandra often had to wear her sisters old dresses, and if she ever got a new dress Ma made sure it was practical. The other girls all had such beautiful dresses! Cassandra was sure their mothers never said clothes had to be practical.

Carrie watched Cassandra from a distance. Her sister seemed to be having a great time with her friends. She was a little bit jealous of Cassandra, since she herself didn’t really have that many friends. Carrie had tried talking to Sarah and the Parker sisters, but she had soon found them to be both unfriendly and boring. The only thing they ever talked about was clothes. Although Carrie liked pretty dresses too, she didn’t think they were THAT important. Sarah, Jane and Louisa, on the other hand, thought Carrie was too serious and simple. She’d rather talk about a book she had read than the latest fashion. Also Carrie absolutely refused to gossip, which the other girls loved to do. So Sarah and the Parkers had made it clear that they didn’t want to have anything to do with Carrie, and Carrie didn’t really mind. The only thing that bothered her was that Cassandra would rather spend time with them than with her. “There are other girls at school”, Cassandra always said, “go talk to them”. And Carrie had tried talking to them. Some of them were nice, some of them were not, but none of them she would really consider a friend.

“Carrie!”. Carrie suddenly noticed Grace, who had been sitting next to her the whole time. “What are you thinking about?”, Grace asked, “it’s time to go back in now. The bell is ringing”. “Nothing”, Carrie replied, as she got up and walked back inside with her sister.

Carrie was really glad when the school day was finally over. She gathered up her books, and went over to help Grace with her things. When they got out of the school house, Grace noticed Cassandra was missing. Carrie looked around and saw Cassandra hurrying off with Jane and Louisa. “Come on”, she said to Grace. “Let’s go home. “Not without Cassandra”, Grace protested. “Look, she doesn’t want to walk home with us, ok?”, Carrie said. She was getting really annoyed now. It was one thing that Cassandra had to just forget about her, and run off with her friends, but did she really have to do it on Grace’s first day? After all Ma had told them both to take care of Grace, but of course Cassandra had ignored that. “I guess I am the big sister of the family now”, Carrie thought. Her two older sisters Mary and Laura were no longer living with the family. Mary was married to Adam, and they had moved to New York a few years ago. Laura and her husband Almanzo still lived in Walnut Grove with their little daughter Rose. Thinking about her sisters made Carrie a bit sad. After all she hadn’t seen them in such a long time now. Carrie started thinking about how things had been when she was little. It sure had been great being the youngest sister! She completely forgot how much she had used to complain about being the youngest! Back then Carrie had always wished she was older, so she could do all the fun things Mary and Laura were allowed to do. But now all she could remember all the great times they had shared in their little house by Plum Creek.

When they got home, Grace ran inside to tell Ma all about her first day of school. Carrie slowly followed. Ma was baking in the kitchen. She smiled when she saw Carrie. “So, how was your day, Carrie?”, she asked. “Grace has already been telling me what an exciting day she had”. “Fine”, Carrie replied. “Fine?”, Ma asked. “You don’t look too happy. Is something wrong, Carrie?”. “No, I’m just tired”, Carrie replied. “Where’s your sister?” Ma asked. “What sister?”, Carrie said. “Cassandra? Remember her?”, Ma was starting to look a bit puzzled. “I don’t know. She left with Jane and Lousia”, Carrie said. “Why? Was I supposed to look after her too?!”. “Carrie!”, Ma said. Her voice was sounding angry. “What’s wrong with you today? If you are going act that way you can go up to your room and stay there until your in a better mood”.

Carrie ran out of the kitchen, and upstairs to the room she shared with Grace and Cassandra. Next to it was the room Albert shared with James. Carrie checked to see if her brothers were home yet, but the room was empty. She went into her own room, and laid down on her bed. She looked around. The room was rather big, and had a lovely wallpaper with small pink flowers. “Perfect for my princesses”, Pa had said. But it didn’t seem all that perfect to Carrie today. Carrie sighed. She wasn’t used to being sent to her room. Of all the siblings, she was probably the one who most rarely got into trouble. But she couldn’t really blame Ma for getting angry with her. She shouldn’t have talked that way about Cassandra. But somehow Carrie had just felt that she had had enough. She always had much more chores than Cassandra, more responsibilities, and she still managed to do rather well in school, but her parents still seemed to prefer Cassandra. “It hasn’t been easy for Cassandra”, Ma always said. And her Pa was always talking about how bright and talented she was. “That girl is special”, Pa used to say. Carrie started to cry when she thought about it. After a while she fell asleep.

Carrie woke up when Grace knocked on the door. “Can I come in?” she asked. “Sure”, Carrie said. Grace walked into the room, and sat down on Carrie’s bed. “Are you still mad at me?”, Grace asked. “Mad at you? What are you talking about?”. “You were angry cause you had to watch me in school” Grace said. “ No, I didn’t mean that. I wasn’t mad at you”, Carrie assured her sister. Grace gave her big sister a hug. “I’m sorry you’re sad today”, she said, “but I’m glad you’re not angry with me”. Carrie couldn’t help smiling. She and Grace had always been close, and although she often complained about having to watch Grace all the time, she didn’t really mind spending time with her little sister.

Suddenly Ma walking into the room. “Time for supper, girls” she said. Carrie looked at her, to see if she was still upset with her, but Ma just smiled. Carrie followed Grace and her Ma downstairs. Everyone else was already sitting at the table. Albert was telling Pa about school, and Cassandra was talking to James. Everything was just like normal, but Carrie couldn’t help still feeling a bit sad.

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