26 - Reunited: Day Eight

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Melanie sat quietly on a chair in the den of the penthouse suite with her head down. She'd done all of the things that were expected of her that morning. Taking Penny's advice, Melanie's mum had created a routine that her daughter was to follow every morning. Without having to be told, she was to get up and make her bed, shower and use the toilet, take her medication with a full glass of water, brush her teeth, and then join everyone in the penthouse suite. It was obvious that Melanie liked the routine and knowing what was expected of her. She had a similar routine for the evening as well that she strictly followed. The routines guaranteed she was at least getting some water into her and they wouldn't have to constantly keep an eye on her to determine if she needed the toilet. However, once Melanie had finished the routine, she would sit quietly, waiting for instructions or just trying to stay out of the way, as she was currently doing.

The boys had gone out to do a photoshoot for a teen magazine and the girls had been pulled into another hotel suite to do a Skype interview with a British news station. Melanie's brother and Dennis had gone out to do some sight seeing. Since they'd arrived in America, they'd only really seen the inside of the hotel, the hospital, and the woods where they'd helped search for Melanie. No one had been interested in going out while Melanie was missing and since her return, they'd wanted to be around for her.

Alan was out on the balcony, talking on his mobile phone to his wife back home. She'd called wanting to know how everything was going with Melanie and to make sure everything was all right.

Joan was working quietly in the kitchen, wanting to give Melanie some space. Melanie really hadn't had a moment to herself since they gotten her back and Joan wanted to see if it would help to let her do what she wanted without an audience. Unfortunately, Melanie didn't seem the least bit interested in exploring or doing anything really. She'd been sitting in silence for over an hour, glancing up at her mom from time to time before dropping her gaze to the floor once more.

Joan sighed and retrieved a blender from one of the kitchen drawers and proceeded to whip up some meringue. The kitchen smelled warm and homey, with sugar caramelizing in a pan on the stove and fresh strawberries chopped up in a bowl on the cupboard. Desperate to stimulate any memories for Melanie, Joan had been trying to recreate experiences and recipes that had been important to her daughter, but nothing seemed to be familiar to Melanie.

Melanie looked up at her mum and watched as she dropped the meringue onto parchment paper on a cookie sheet and placed it in the oven. As her mum turned back around, she quickly dropped her head once more, not wanting Joan to know she'd been watching her. As she went about making a strawberry sauce, Joan glanced up at Alan to see how he was getting on. He had his back to her, but she could see his shoulders shaking as he sobbed into the phone. Not wanting him to set her off as well, she quickly looked away and bit the inside of her cheek to keep herself from tearing up.

Melanie's return had turned out to be incredibly hard on all of them, causing them all to break down at one time or another. They were all so happy to have her back, but it seemed as though they'd only gotten back the shell of her daughter. It was as though someone had taken out everything that made Melanie who she was and put someone else inside. There were a few little idiosyncrasies and quirks that subtly popped up from time to time, but because she was so scared to do anything, it was rare to see them.

Alan ended his call and took a minute to compose himself before entering the suite. He smiled politely at Joan and looked over at Melanie, visibly disappointed to find her exactly as he'd left her.

"Smells lovely in here," he quipped, clearing his throat. "Is that Eton mess?" Joan nodded and pulled the meringue out of the oven.

"It was one of you favourites, darling," Joan announced, looking over at Melanie. Melanie looked up at her mum, her expression blank. Joan sighed and set the cookie sheet on a towel on the cupboard. "You're not going to eat any of this, are you?"

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