Madelyn Shannon was eager to begin her day. She had been wide awake before the warm rays of sunlight had even begun to peak through her window, too much excitement thrumming through her to stay asleep any longer. She had showered quickly, dressed in record time, and even managed to choke down her glass of liquid protein all within the span of ten minutes.
The only other person awake in the house at this hour was her father, and though he had been away for so long, he was clearly unphased by the familiar morning routine she had. He watched in amusement as he mixed his own protein shake together, smiling into his glass as she quickly pulled on her boots.
"Goodbye Maddy," he said, pausing at the door once he had finished, preparing to head off to his new position as a member of the colony security force. She returned the sentiment, kissing his cheek briefly before he could leave the house, and quickly resumed getting ready.
Once he was gone, Maddy took it upon herself to wash out their dirty glasses, only to dash directly into the bathroom to brush her teeth.
It was true that she had always been a morning person. She could not help but wake early, usually spending the extra ours reading or studying ahead while she waited for the rest of the world to catch up to her.
That was not the case today. She had no reason to study, as school would not begin for her, or her two siblings, until next week. She could probably curl up on the couch and read one of her favorite books but she was far too anxious to sit still.
The reason Maddy was so excited this morning was because she was in a whole new world here, one where she could actually go outside and just enjoy the fresh air. She was living her ultimate dream just by being in Terra Nova, and she would not take that fact for granted; not like her ancestors did before her, because there was just so much to see and learn and she intended to see as much as possible in one day.
The previous two days had already proven that, even though she knew quite a few facts about Terra Nova itself—the scientific data and information she had soaked up through a cortex—she really knew nothing about the world around her. And really, what were all the books she owned going to teach her that she couldn't discover on her own, first hand right outside her front door?
Of course nothing ever goes as she plans. Her brain had a tendency of overthinking things, and even though she knew exactly what she wanted or where she wanted to be, sometimes there were obstacles obstructing the path she was taking… something she had not foreseen.
… And he was one of those obstacles.
It happened so quickly that Maddy had not even had the chance to comprehend what was happening until her lips were already brushing against his collarbone, her upper body pressed against the strong, firm muscles of his chest.
One minute Maddy had thrown the door open, eagerly hurrying forward so she could go exploring outside; and the next, she was held safely against him, his arms keeping her from falling flat on her face.
Maddy gasped the moment she realized what she had done, instantly jerking away from him with her cheeks tinged pink in embarrassment. Her lips were still tingling, and when she licked them, there was an unfamiliar, almost salty taste that was not entirely unpleasant, though she could not focus on that at the moment.
She had literally just launched herself into his arms!
Granted, Maddy had not known he was standing right in front of the door at the time she had barged through—and why had he been standing there to begin with? she wondered—but still! And of all the people in the entire colony, it had to be him.
Closing her eyes briefly, Maddy was unable to stop the incoherent strong of syllables escaping her mouth in a jumbled mess; her failed attempt at an apology.
Maddy had not been privileged to learn his whole name quite yet, just what she had seen marked on his fatigues, though in her most private thoughts she had certainly entertained the idea that the name could be her own.
M. Reynolds, as in Madelyn Reynolds.
It was a ridiculous thought, and she had not even been sure why she had even entertained the notion. This young man was entirely too charming for his own good, with his wide, enchanting smile and his beautiful eyes. She had developed a crush on him the minute he had directed that smile at her.
Boys simply did not think of her that way, especially not boys like him who could make her heart flutter and her superior mind turn into absolute mush.
Like right now, the small smile on his lips, and the amused tilt to his eyes as he watched her in silence.
It was then that Maddy realized that she had just been standing there, staring at him now that they had parted. She wanted to whimper because this situation was just too humiliating.
First she had practically jumped on him, somehow managed to inadvertently kiss his clavicle, and now she was gawking at him.
Brilliant job, Maddy thought to herself.
If there was ever a point in time for traveling to the past, it was now. She would love to simply slip through a time fracture to about ten minutes before. Just ten minutes, that was all she needed to avoid this entire situation; open the door calmly, like any sane person would, instead of vaulting out of it.
What he must think… she lamented, inwardly grimacing at the mere thought of how he could have interpreted her bizarre actions.
"Hello," she greeted belatedly with great awkwardness, shifting anxiously from foot to foot. She wanted to say something clever, something to make up for her embarrassment with some kind of intelligent comment using her extensive vocabulary—she could usually talk her way out of any situation by using large enough words at a rapid pace to confuse people with, after all.
It would have been a wonderful plan had she actually been able to think of a single word at the moment, let alone form a coherent sentence.
Maddy felt completely out of her element.
"Good morning, Miss Shannon," he replied, that same amused smile still firmly in place.
Maddy found herself growing even more flustered with how he identified her. Miss Shannon. He was just so… so gentlemanly. It was as if he had stepped directly out of one of her favorite romance novels.
It was odd in the most wonderful way. Boys from modern day Chicago were rude, angry, loud, mean, and perhaps about a million more not exactly flattering adjectives she could think of. She usually tended to stay as far away from boys as humanly possible, and yet with him… with him she found herself yearning to spend more time with him.
M. Reynolds had a certain effect of her that she was not sure she wanted to analyze just yet.
"Good morning," she breathed out in reply, biting down on her lip slightly.
Maddy glanced around in an attempt to collect herself, desperately wanting to avoid another conversation such as the brachiosaurus blunder—as she had taken to calling it in her head—from yesterday, where she had hopelessly babbled on about the dinosaurs dietary habits until he had simply walked away.
At that point Maddy had been sure that she had scared him off for good, and had resigned herself to never speaking to him directly again.
Except… he had surprised her.
Last night Maddy had anxiously waiting with her little sister, Zoe, in their new home. They had been waiting for their parents to return with the fate of their reckless brother, Joshua.
Josh had snuck out of the colony with his new friends sometime this afternoon, sneaking out into the dangerous jungle with no protection, and as the day began to end, a rescue party had been sent to find them. Their parents had accompanied the convoy, leaving the two girls alone and worriedly awaiting any news.
M. Reynolds had appeared on her doorstep.
Maddy had initially been bewildered by his sudden presence, struggling to find an answer as to why he had appeared; her curiosity had been encompassed by just how relieved she was to see him standing there.
Before that moment she had never fest so alone. She had been clinging desperately to her sister, moisture gathering in her eyes that she tried to suppress because this was supposed to be a better place, a place where her family could be together and her brother could die out there.
It terrified her to realize this place was just as dangerous as the world they had left behind. And then he came and chased away her fears.
A knight in shining armor, just like in all of the old, printed books she had so regretfully left behind. He had soothed her worries with his calming presence, keeping her and Zoe company until their family had been reunited once again.
Just as quickly as he had arrived, he departed into the night with only a brief farewell.
"Are you going somewhere…?" he asked her, his head tilted.
Maddy blinked uncertainly. She wondered why he was asking her that, only to suddenly realize that they were still standing on the front porch, the door still hanging wide open.
"Yes," she smiled nervously. "I noticed yesterday that there are various pathways throughout the entire facility, and my plan is to go down one every morning and just kind of get my bearings. There is just so much to look at, and I'm sure that if I go down at least one path a day, then I should know my way around pretty well by the time we begin classes next week. So I just… um…"
Eyebrows lifted at her sudden silence, and she bit her lip.
"Sorry," she apologized meekly, drawing her arms around herself without realizing it. "Sometimes my mouth works faster than my brain does—which is redundant considering that my brain controls my speech—and innocent bystanders end up with an overload of information they probably already know, or just don't want to hear. As you learned already, with the long-winded explanation on brachiosaurus dietary habits I gave you yesterday."
Reynolds smiled at her, a slow, heart melting smile. "Don't worry about it," he told her gently, stepping back away from the porch. "Which path were you planning on taking?"
Maddy followed hesitantly once the door was shut behind her, her heart racing within her chest as she realized it was his intention to accompany her when he fell into step beside her.
"Honestly, I have no idea if any of these pathways have names, like street addresses or not, but the one with the purple flowers planted around those large green bushes looked like it might have some very interesting flora to observe. Eventually I hope to record and catalog all the different forms of plant life in Terra Nova in my science journals. Do you know how many different forms of flowers there are in this time period? Or other forms of vegetation, like fruits or vegetables?"
"Not really," he answered easily.
"Exactly!" she grinned. "No one really does. Everything that grows in this region is probably completely different when compared to something growing somewhere else. Do you know if they go out often to collect samples from foreign territories? Because that would be wonderful; imagine everything they could find out there."
Maddy shook her head in wonderment. "There is so much to experience! Are the fruits here very good? What about the vegetables? I know that Hope Plaza sent a few things through from the other side for us to cultivate, but what about the native fruits? Do you know how long we have to stay on the enzyme shakes? Because all the orientation people said was that it would take a while for our bodies to adjust to the unprocessed and non-synthesized food here…"
"Usually people are weaned off of the protein shakes after a week," Reynolds informed her kindly, thankfully not put off by her childlike exuberance. He walked beside her as they reached the pathway she spoke of though she barely noticed because she was too busy listening to his reply. "Some of the mild solid foods are gradually introduced, and by next week you should be able to eat anything without making yourself sick."
Maddy was disappointed. She wanted to try some of the colorful foods she had seen out in the market yesterday, and waiting until next week seemed too long.
"There are a variety of fruits and vegetables that we harvest, and some are better than others," he continued. "It depends on your preferences. And the science division goes on routine expeditions for new plant life several times a week. They also have several research stations out on six month rotations, and they usually haul in some interesting things when they return."
"Thank you," Maddy blurted out unexpectedly, taking them both by surprise. She blushed for what felt like the hundredth time today as he side glanced at her questioningly. "For yesterday, I mean," she told him, looking down at her feet. "Thank you."
Maddy twisted her fingers together nervously.
"You have been so great, and you have no idea how much I appreciate it all. Everything, from being nice to Zoe, to what happened in the market with those people waving their weapons around—even if that was probably unintentional—and then last night…"
A warm hand gently grasped at her elbow, easing her to a stop and she glanced up through her eyelashes at him.
"Zoe was only a little bit scared last night, and it was probably all my fault," she continued quietly. "She was less upset about what was happening than she was about my impending meltdown. I was so close to completely freaking out, and if you hadn't shown up when you had, I would have probably just broken down into tears because my brother is a reckless moron who is apparently trying to scare me to death and…"
"Shh," he interrupted in a whisper, his thumb sending small tingles up her spine as it ran over the sensitive flesh of her forearm in slow circles. "I understand. Don't worry about it." He slid his hand down to hers, squeezing it in reassurance. "It was an upsetting situation, and I'm only glad I could help."
Maddy released a slow breath, nodding her head slightly.
It was difficult not to notice that he made no effort to remove his hand from hers as they resumed their slow pace. Maddy could not determine if this revelation held any significance or not, but surely boys did not hold the hands of girls so tenderly for no reason… right? Or was she reading too much into the action because she liked his eyes and his smile and the way he was so nice to her?
"This is one of the observation decks," Reynolds said, and she realized that they had come to a stop in front of a set of wooden stairs. He gestured for her to go first, and she climbed curiously, drawing in a sharp breath once they reached the top. He smiled at her reaction, drawing her closer to the end of the balcony.
"It's so beautiful…" she whispered, as if speaking any louder might disrupt the tranquility presented with the scene before her. She felt all of her lingering doubts and reservations about coming here melt away with a single glance at the majestic fields and meadows, the dawning sunlight illuminating them with iridescent light.
"You mentioned the plants we cultivate… some of these are things we brought through and the rest are native plants that we grow here in our botanical gardens," he explained to her. "Each section grows certain things, such as the one below… it's mainly medicinal herbs that the infirmary uses to treat patients." He was silent for a moment, studying her reaction, and then he smiled. "I thought you might like this."
Maddy could not tear her eyes away, and he was absolutely right; she liked this very much. "Before we came through the time fracture… the only plants I had ever seen were the ones in archives or books," she told him sadly. "How could humanity take something as beautiful and pure as this… and pollute it into what it was?"
It was heartbreaking to know what the world had become in another time while standing here in this magnificent sanctuary now. Her throat felt constricted, her eyes growing damp as she was overwhelmed by just how sad it was.
Maddy wiped at her eyes quickly, hoping he would not notice just how emotional she had become over this. She drew in a shuddering breath as she tried to compose herself.
However he had indeed noticed, and he gently urged her to face him with concern etched into his features. He raised his hands to her face, cupping her cheeks within his palms as he wiped away her tears with calloused thumbs.
"Maybe people just didn't realize just how beautiful the world around them was," he mused quietly. "Perhaps they needed more people like you to point it out to them."
Maddy could scarcely recall how to breathe with such a suggestion, because the way he was looking at her made it feel as if he was directing that comment in a much more meaningful way.
She felt uncertain and taken aback by her own sudden rush of emotions that she couldn't even attempt to decipher exactly what the look in his eyes could possibly mean. It was intense, however, and it rendered her still as she gazed up at him.
For a moment, Maddy thought that he might kiss her.
And then reality reared its ugly head as a sharp beeping reached her eyes, coming from the small digital watch attached to his wrist. It jolted them both away from each other slightly, Reynolds slowly retracting his hands as he silenced the device, and Maddy was holding herself as she tried to catch her breath.
He looked at her regretfully. "My shift is about to start."
Maddy nodded hesitantly, pressing her lips together lest she blurt out something to make things even more awkward than she felt they already were. She had been imagining it… too many romantic fairy tales coupled with the fact that this boy was being kind to her was making her believe something was there when it wasn't.
"Can you find your way back?" he asked, seemingly unwilling to abandon her here.
Maddy had not really been paying much attention to her surroundings on the walk over here now that she thought about it, despite the fact that she had ventured out this morning solely for that purpose. M. Reynolds certainly was distracting.
"I'll be fine," she assured him.
The young man still seemed hesitant to leave her, apparently quite attuned to her mood. But Maddy had grown up in a proverbial hell, and she knew how to be at least somewhat convincing. She had smiled her way through countless psychiatric evaluations just to be here after all.
Maddy plastered on a convincing smile, urging him away with a wave goodbye. "Better get to work, Mister Reynolds…"
Reynolds smiled in return. "Have a good day, Miss Shannon."