27 - Reunited: Day Nine

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Melanie's parents had spent over an hour with Lucy, the psychiatrist that had been assigned to work with Melanie. Lucy had been meeting with Melanie and her family every day and would have a debriefing alone with Melanie's parents afterward to discuss possible tactics to help Melanie.

Joan, Dennis, and Alan were sitting in the hotel suite booked for Lucy's visits, having sent Melanie with Emma following the session. The room housed a small kitchenette and dining area, a sitting area, a detached bedroom and a spacious bathroom. Lucy was sitting on a chair across from Dennis and Joan with a notebook in hand. She hadn't written anything during their session. No progress had been made with Melanie since the day before, so there was nothing to add to the collection of notes she'd written during past meetings. Melanie was still unable to relax and feel comfortable around her family and friends. She was still too scared to eat more than a few bites of anything she was given and she remained on constant alert, never speaking a word and obediently following along with whatever she was told to do.

"She just seems so lost and helpless and we can't get a word out of her," Joan choked. "She spends every waking hour terrified of us. We've tried to show her she doesn't need to be afraid of us, but she cowers any time someone moves too fast or tries to touch her."

"And what do we do about her diet?" Dennis asked. "She's lost at least a stone since before this all happened and she's beginning to look sickly. She very rarely does more than graze and she only drinks when we give her her medication, so I don't know how she's not dehydrated."

"Melanie's doctors are fairly certain that the hallucinogens they found in her system were ingested, so she probably associates all food with those sensations," Lucy replied. "It's going to take some time to build some trust with her, but she'll come around. Remember, she's learned that people are going to hurt her if she does something wrong. She's just going to have to come to the realization that things are different for her now."

"So, what do we do?" Joan sighed desperately. The trio watched as Lucy seemed to consider something.

"Punish her," Lucy suggested finally, receiving looks of shock from Melanie's parents. "Perhaps she just needs to experience what it's like when you're angry with her. Make her punishment harmless, something as simple as a time out. She needs to know that people aren't going to beat her when they're mad at her."

"She's a grown woman," Alan protested. "We can't just put her in a time out."

"She is, but she isn't," Lucy replied. "Remember, mentally she's a child right now."

Joan looked at Dennis, his skeptical expression mirroring her own.

"It can't hurt to try, I suppose," Dennis shrugged. "But she never does anything wrong."

"It can be something as simple as refusing to eat," Lucy suggested. "She's developed a few behaviours that aren't desirable, so we can work towards breaking those as well as showing her that she's in a safe place. You could even try to get her talking. If she doesn't respond when she's asked to, she can be given a time out."

"She'd just be in a perpetual time out that way," Alan laughed.

-0-0-

Upstairs in the suite, the girls were looking through some catalogues that Tommy Hilfiger had sent them. As a gesture of kindness, and to get some free publicity, Tommy had offered each of the girls some free clothing from his recent line. They could each choose two items from the catalogue and he would have them delivered the following day.

The girls were all sitting on the bed, flipping through the pages, talking excitedly, and comparing the items they wanted to buy. Melanie was sitting at the foot of the bed with a catalogue open next to her. She was looking at the pages, but made no move to touch the book. She looked over at the door to the hallway and squirmed uncomfortably. She'd needed to wee for a while and it was getting to the point that she was worried she wouldn't be able to hold it much longer. She could see the door to the toilet from where she was sitting, but she didn't dare go without permission.

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