20 - Reunited: Day Three

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Penny stepped out of the elevator and turned to hold the doors to keep them from closing. She smiled at Melanie, who was standing with her back to the wall of the elevator. Melanie looked nervously at Penny, then at the hallway just outside the elevator doors.

"Come on, " Penny encouraged patiently. "There's nothing to be scared of." Melanie crept slowly toward the door and peered outside before finally stepping out of the elevator. She flinched when the doors closed behind her and looked back at the elevator with a panicked expression. "We'll go back up after," Penny assured her. "Come, I want you to meet some friends of mine."

Melanie watched as Penny walked down the hallway and stopped at one of the doors. She looked inside the room and waved at someone within, then looked back at Melanie, motioning for her to follow. Melanie sighed and approached the door apprehensively. "I have a few people I want you to meet," Penny explained. "I thought you might enjoy spending some time with them."

Penny walked into the room with Melanie following slowly behind. The room was bright, with colourful murals painted on every wall. There were six beds around the perimeter of the room and toys scattered everywhere. Six girls between the ages of seven and ten were playing in the room. Some of the girls looked up at Melanie with awe while the others smiled and giggled excitedly.

Penny had spoken with the girls earlier, explaining to them that she would bring Melanie to spend time with them and told them about her condition. She thought that spending time with children might help Melanie feel less threatened around people and seeing how comfortable the children were with the hospital staff might break some of the barriers Melanie had put up.

"Remember what I told you girls; try not to get too excited," Penny warned softly. "Melanie, why don't you come and help Paige and Bria with their puzzle?" She gently led Melanie over to the table where the little girls were sitting and she pulled a chair out for Melanie. Melanie looked at Penny apprehensively before obediently sitting down.

"I'm going to be right outside," said Penny. "If you need anything, come get me." She smiled at the girls and stepped out of the room, walking over to the nurses' station where she had a good enough view of the room to keep an eye on Melanie and the girls.

The two girls looked at each other, trying to suppress their excitement. They introduced themselves to Melanie and showed her the picture on the box of the puzzle they were working on. A few of the other children approached the table to watch as the two girls put the puzzle together while Melanie sat stiffly and chewed anxiously at her fingernail. The six girls went back to gossiping and chatting as they had been before Melanie arrived, trying in vain to include her in their conversations. Melanie looked at the door to make sure Penny was still in view, before observing at each of the girls.

Paige smiled at Melanie and held up one of the puzzle pieces. "Do you know where this one goes?" she asked. Melanie looked at Paige and scrutinized the puzzle piece she was holding up.

"Do you see an empty spot that would match that piece?" Bria coaxed, pointing toward the puzzle on the table. Melanie nodded nervously and glanced down at the puzzle as Paige offered her the puzzle piece. Paige smiled encouragingly and waiting patiently while Melanie gathered the courage to take the colourful piece of cardboard from her. She watched curiously as Melanie's hand trembled violently as she gripped the puzzle piece.

"Don't be scared," said Bria. "Where do you think it goes?"

Melanie slowly set the piece on the puzzle and pushed it into place before looking anxiously at Bria.

"Good job!" Paige encouraged. "You can do any of these pieces if you want." She pushed a few of the unused puzzle pieces in front of Melanie before putting the puzzle together with Bria once again. Melanie watched the girls and occasionally contributed when she saw where pieces fit into the puzzle.

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