SPRIGS OF LAUREL – TOKENS OF COURTSHIP
By Delia Lavender
(I do not own the television series "Terra Nova". Nor do I own any of the characters -
such as Alicia Washington, Nathaniel Taylor, or any other character mentioned
in the series. I write only for fun – not for profit.)
The first time he left a laurel sprig, he had encountered Willy McFall. The lad carried a flowering sprig of his own, and was just about to leave it on Leilani's doorstep.
"Hi there, Willy. What are you doing here?"
"I'm leaving a laurel sprig for Miss Caruso...'cause I'm going to marry her, someday."
"I think that sprig would be more appreciated by your mom, son."
Willy's freckled jaw thrust forward. His green eyes flashed, as he noticed what Nathaniel was carrying.
"You can't leave a sprig...I saw her first!"
"I suggest you go home, Willy. You're too young to leave sprigs."
"Oh yeah? Well...why should I obey you?" he asked belligerently.
"Because, son - my sprig is bigger than your sprig." replied the Commander. He took a menacing half-step toward Willy.
The boy turned and ran down the street, crying loudly and calling for his mother.
Willy probably wouldn't become a soldier, thought Nathaniel. The kid simply didn't take orders well enough...
So, after that morning, the Commander's laurel sprigs were the only ones left on Leilani's doorstep.
So now here he was, with his magnolia bouquet, finally confronting Leilani in person.
She froze when she recognized him, and her face lost some of its color.
Was she afraid of him? He wondered what stories she'd heard. He would be careful, he promised himself. He would be very careful.
He tried to smile "Miss Caruso? Please let me in...I'd like to talk to you. There's nothing wrong - I promise. This is just a social visit."
She stared up into his eyes, then nodded briskly and let him in.
"Would you care for some cookies?" she asked him, as she closed the door. "I also have some iced herb tea. Would you like to try some?"
Why is she being so formal? He asked himself, as he handed her the bouquet.
"Why, thank you. Magnolia blossoms...so beautiful. I hear that magnolia was among the first flowering plants..."
"...As well as laurel." he pointed out. His eyes strayed toward the tall vase, which was filled with flowering laurel sprigs.
"Yes, I heard that. Laurel is lovely, too. These came from a neighbor of mine...he's five years old. I'll probably have him in my class, when Mrs. O'Malley thinks I'm ready to teach." she gently touched the pale pink laurel blossoms.
He wondered if he should tell her the truth - but then, as she gazed back at him, he knew she'd already realized it. Leilani was sharp...
She gave a little gasp "These...didn't come from Willy, did they?"
He simply shook his head.
"Why? Is it customary...a sort of welcome for unattached women? I appreciate the sentiment, but..."
"...This could create a problem. One of the others might misunderstand. I think it would be better if..."
"...You haven't misunderstood a thing. I haven't left laurels anywhere else, Leilani. I'm here to court you. I wanted to ask you to come to the Canteen Dance with me."
Her jaw dropped open and she sat down on the sofa. The magnolia blossoms scattered over her lap.
"I...don't know why you've singled me out, but I'm not..."
"Yes you are. You're single, and you're coming to the dance. This coming Saturday."
He walked over to the sofa, sat down and took her hand.
"I'm sorry to be so blunt, Leilani - but I haven't courted anyone in a very long time, and I'm out of practice. Please come with me. You'll be able to dress up...I'm sure you have a dress or two..."
"How do you know what I have?"
"You're a dressmaker...I just assumed..."
"I'm sure I haven't anything suitable."
"How about the black dress? I'll wear my best uniform...it's black, too. We'll match each other." he playfully squeezed her hand.
There was a long pause "It was you, wasn't it? You arranged for me to come here. You were the reason those soldiers came to get me...and you're the reason they packed my dresses. I wondered what on earth I was supposed to do, with formal dresses in Terra Nova. Try out for Prom Queen? Dress up the dinosaurs?"
He chuckled, then slipped one arm around her shoulders.
"Well, I guess you caught me. But maybe it's better this way: now we can be honest with each other..."
"I'm a widower, Leilani...I've been alone for a long time. I loved my wife very much. When I saw your hologram, I was struck...you were so like Lyanni. And you're strong...and sweet...and beautiful, as she was. I want to make you an offer. We could be very good together. All I want is a faithful woman, to be with me. You will have the best that Terra Nova has to offer.
You'll be respected – I'll see to that. I'm not a changeable man, so I would never replace you with another woman. I'd take good care of you..."
"Please call me Nathaniel." he leaned in a bit closer, his hand slipping downward from her shoulder. Gently he caressed her, his hand sliding beneath the thin, crisscrossed straps holding the back of her dress together.
"Commander...I need a little time to think about this..."
"Just don't take too much time. I need you, Leilani...you've no idea how much..."
Leilani abruptly tried to rise - just as the Commander, leaning off-balance, made a determined grab...
Wash had been passing by Leilani's house, when she heard a brief scream and a crash. Was Leilani in trouble? Had she fallen? She turned up Leilani's walk, to investigate.
Leilani...are you all right?" she called, as she reached the porch. There was
was no answer, so Wash tried the door...
It opened immediately. Why would Leilani leave her door unlocked? Wash drew her gun...
Her sudden entrance interrupted a scuffle-in-progress. Wash kept her composure, as she surveyed the scene before her. The Commander was on the floor, with Leilani trying to scoot away from him.
Oh, wonderful. Wash holstered her gun.
"Good afternoon, Leilani. Good afternoon, Commander. I was just in the neighborhood, and thought I'd drop by.
Leilani rose admirably to the occasion.
"Oh, Alicia...how good of you to come. Would you care for a glass of iced herb tea?
What Wash wanted, actually, was to pour the iced tea over the both of them. The Commander glanced up at her, his face a picture of chagrin mixed with struggling dignity.
Leilani rose gracefully to her feet, smoothing out the long folds of her cotton dress. "The Commander was about to leave. He was just here to...to welcome me personally to the colony. Weren't you, Commander?"
Commander Taylor also got to his feet. His composure had returned. Wash could no longer read his expression.
Ladies – it's been delightful, but now you must excuse me." he said. He let himself out the door, gently closing it behind him.
"What was THAT? Leilani..."
But Leilani had burst into tears "He tried to grab me...and then we fell off the sofa! He wants me to be his mistress...because I look like his wife!" the next few words were incoherent, lost among her choking sobs.
Wash stepped forward, taking Leilani into her arms "Tell me what happened. How long have you been seeing him?"
"Since never," sobbed Leilani, crying onto Wash's camouflaged shoulder "I only met him today. He asked me to the Canteen Dance...and somehow I guessed...somehow I knew that he was responsible for bringing me here to Terra Nova!"
"It's certainly possible - but how did you know...for certain, I mean. Did he say something to you?"
"Not at first. But he knew what I had in my closet...and he couldn't have known that - unless the Bison boys had told him. And they did all my packing..."
"What am I going to do?
"What do you want to do? Leilani...you could do a lot worse than the Commander. So he got carried away...it's been a long time for him. Usually his judgment is better than this..."
"...I'll request a transfer to the barracks, tomorrow. I can't stay here..."
"Yes you can - if you want to." Wash took Leilani's shoulders and gave her a slight shake "The Commander is lonely...but he's a good man. The best man I've ever known. He forgot himself, today. I knew Lyanni - you do look something like her - and apparently this resemblance has fired something in the Commander. He needs someone - and this whole colony needs the Commander. Any woman here would be happy to have him. Everyone's well-being depends on him, and...and..."
Leilani was looking up at her, a shrewd expression in her dark eyes. That expression stopped Wash cold.
"You're in love with him, aren't you, Alicia?"
Wash swallowed and pulled herself together. She couldn't allow Leilani to guess the truth - it would just give her another excuse to refuse Nathaniel. She had to lie convincingly...
"No, Leilani - I don't love the Commander. Except as a good soldier loves his C.O. I've served...under him a long time. And I have the utmost respect for his leadership. He's been through more than anyone can imagine...and I want him to have a little happiness. He deserves it. You're part of Terra Nova so - for the good of the colony - won't you give him a chance? You won't regret it."
Leilani was silent for several, very long moments. Then she looked up again, right into Wash's eyes. For a moment, she seemed to be struggling with herself, searching for any lie within the other woman's face. Then she nodded.
"Tell the Commander I'm sorry. Tell him that...if he wants...I'm ready to make a deal with him."
Wash watched her Commander, as he slept in the infirmary.
He looked peaceful. He hadn't thrashed around, so he couldn't know about the restraints.
Putting him in restraints...it was horrible. Almost as horrible as telling him, for the second time in six years, that his wife had died.
No one should have to go through this twice.
Would his mind return, once he regained consciousness?
The pathogen he'd encountered, while checking the outpost, had caused amnesia. He'd returned to Terra Nova, out of his mind and believing himself back in Somalia, in the year 2138. He'd injured several of his men, and had taken Mark Reynolds hostage.
He had believed that the Somalians had kidnapped his wife and son.
But something in him must have remembered Wash...must have recalled his trust in her. He had released Reynolds, but had asked for his wife.
And Wash had been forced to tell him once again...that his Lyanni was dead.
He'd tried to slit his own throat. Only Wash's rapid action had saved him. She had fired her stun gun point blank...
He had been asleep for several hours. Dr. Elisabeth and Dr. Malcolm thought he would recover. Dr. Elisabeth had felt the effects of the amnesia, herself. She had made a rapid, full recovery. It was hoped that the surviving scientists from the outpost would also recover.
Dr. Malcolm had brought Leilani in, for just a few moments. She'd been concerned for Nathaniel, and had given Wash a bouquet..."Something for him to see, when he wakes up." she'd told her.
Wash had almost smiled. Had Leilani made a joke? Dogwood...she'd brought Nathaniel dogwood. But she was a newcomer...she probably didn't realize the irony of her gift. The Terra Nova schoolchildren called dogwood the "dirty old man" flower. Probably because of an older man's unsuccessful courtship, "Dogwood for an old dog..." they'd chant.
No, dogwood wasn't an appropriate gift for Nathaniel.
Wash recalled how Lyanni, just before her death, had told her about the Commander's courtship:
"He was the most passionate man I'd ever met – but I was passionate, too. He was a lieutenant in those days, as you are. I thought he was too brash...I'd had an old-fashioned upbringing, and his Commanding Officer was my father. I insisted on a conventional courtship – with candy and flowers and...and courtesy. We were fine for the first three months but then, one night, we lost control. He was...very forceful. So urgent...so...so compelling. My father caught us. A week later we were married..."
Lyanni had been different than Leilani. Lyanni had had blood in her veins. In contrast Leilani, during her most passionate moments, had probably poured tea and passed out cookies...
Although you never knew. Her lover, Evan, had definitely lacked the power to move her. But Leilani still seemed to possess an unconscious sensuality,..
Wash remembered Dr. Malcolm's eyes, when he'd brought Leilani to the infirmary. They'd expressed interest, admiration and astonishment. It was the first time he'd ever met her, and he'd lingered a few moments, his gaze wandering over her face, hair and body.
It was a shame, really. Malcolm was a charming man, but Leilani had already made a deal with the Commander: she'd agreed to spend one night with him. It hadn't happened yet, but the plans had been made. She'd been willing to do it, for the greater good.
She was in for a big surprise. Nathaniel was a real man. She wouldn't have time to think about cookies...because the Commander knew how to keep a woman occupied. Wash had no doubt he'd win Leilani over...
Wash sighed. Well...at least she had a few memories.
Nathaniel began to stir. Dr. Elisabeth, Dr. Malcolm and Jim Shannon hurried over to check on him.
He tried his restraints. Wash almost flinched, but then she told him what had happened.
"You tried to cut yourself, sir...so I shot you."
"Good job, Lieutenant."
The look in his eyes...it was better – warmer – than more articulate praise could possibly have been.
The doctors pronounced him healthy, and the restraints were immediately removed. There were congratulations all around.
And then he wanted to go home. "Will you escort me to my quarters, Lieutenant?
She hoped he would ask her in, although he was too exhausted. But he did turn to her, just before he went inside.
His face was serene, as he looked at her.
"Lyanni is dead."
"I finally can accept that. Thank you, Lieutenant".
"I was only doing my duty, sir."
"You've done more than your duty, Lieutenant. I've been foolish, you know. Tomorrow I must apologize to Miss Caruso. I treated that girl like a chattel..."
"No sir...you saved her life."
"I hope she sees it that way. I will always feel responsible for her. I hope she can find a good man...someone who likes tea. I'm afraid I don't".
Wash grinned. Dr. Malcolm, like Dr. Elisabeth, could swill it by the gallon.
"Well, good night...Lieutenant Wash. I'll see you early tomorrow." and he went inside.
And the next morning, as she left her quarters, Wash found a sprig of laurel on her doorstep.