44 - Reunited: Day Fifty

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Melanie sat eagerly on the couch in Mel's hotel room as Mel opened her laptop on the coffee table in front of the two of them and logged into the Skype app. Mel looked at her and smiled as the sound of the app dialling flooded the room.

"You ready?" she asked, wrapping her arm around Melanie's waist and squeezing her tightly. Melanie nodded and stared at the screen, waiting for her mum to appear. They had Skyped with her parents every few days since their departure. She had been confused through the first few calls, not understanding why her friends were suddenly able to communicate with the people on the screen. She never spoke a word during their calls and eventually lost interest completely, not interacting in any way when they called her parents. This particular day, however, she was excited to ring up her mum.

The ringing ceased and Joan appeared on the screen, smiling happily from her own dining room in Widnes.

"Hello, girls," Joan greeted. "How is everything going?"

"We're great," Mel replied. "Melanie's feeling loads better and she's totally off medication now."

"Hi, mum," Melanie chirped with a grin. Joan's eyes widened and she sat in shock for a moment, taking in the fact that her daughter had finally spoken to her without direction.

"Look who's finally speaking," Mel announced, smiling at Joan and squeezing Melanie tightly once more.

Collecting herself, Joan smiled brightly and immediately began talking excitedly, telling Melanie how happy she was and asking her a barrage of questions. Melanie stopped smiling and she looked at Mel apprehensively, holding up two fingers and waiting for Mel's response.

"Girl power?" Mel laughed questioningly, not understanding what Melanie was telling her. "I don't know what you're trying to say. Use your words."

Melanie seemed to be struggling with something as she held up one finger and cocked her head to the side. Mel stared at Melanie's finger and frowned as she struggled to figure out what Melanie was saying. She turned to look at Joan and shrugged.

"Sorry, Joan," she chuckled. "We're not 100% there yet, but we're working on it."

"That's all right," said Joan kindly. "It was a nice surprise. I saw you on telly last night, darling. You looked wonderful. Are you getting on all right?"

"Yes," Melanie replied softly, putting her finger down and looking over at Mel.

"Oh!" Mel exclaimed, laughing once she'd figured out what Melanie had meant. "You can say more than three words. That was just to get you started before."

Melanie smiled and looked at Mel excitedly. "More?" she confirmed.

"As many as you want," Mel laughed. She turned back to Joan and explained what Melanie had meant, sitting back as Melanie excitedly told her mum about the things they had been up to and that she was going to sing with the girls for their next television appearance. Joan listened intently, smiling until her cheeks hurt and trying not to let Melanie see that she was ready to cry.

Melanie's speech was somewhat broken and juvenile. She tried to say as few words as she could to express a complete thought. Lucy assured the girls that it was Melanie's way of being careful, that Melanie thought she'd get in less trouble that way if her friends suddenly decided it was no longer appropriate for her to speak. It was a big enough breakthrough that everyone was all right with it.

"Your home?" Melanie asked curiously, pointing at the screen. Joan once again struggled to compose herself as another wave of sadness washed over Joan's face, noticed only by Mel. Melanie was too focused on the image on the screen, observing the room and the decor behind Joan.

"Yes," Joan replied. "You bought this house for Dennis and me. You have a bedroom here as well."

"My home?" Melanie asked, cocking her head to the side and looking at her mum curiously. Joan smiled and nodded tearfully.

"That's right," Joan replied. "You have a flat of your own in London, too, but you're going to come and stay here with us once the trial is over. Shall I take you on a tour?" She lifted her laptop and faced it away from herself as she walked around the house, showing Melanie the layout of her home and photos on the walls.

Mel smiled as she watched Melanie. Had Melanie been herself, Mel would have taken the Mickey out of her. Melanie was staring at the screen, barely blinking and completely engrossed in the video as she continuously pointed at objects around Joan's house and asked what they were.

Joan ended the tour in Melanie's room, showing her where she would sleep, some of her favourite personal items, and showing her the photos on the walls. She sat on Melanie's bed and turned the laptop back to look at her daughter who looked absolutely in awe of everything she'd just seen. They spoke for a while longer before ending the call. Melanie sat quietly as Mel closed the laptop and began packing it away.

When she looked back, Melanie had her head bowed and was looking guiltily down at the floor. Mel frowned, confused, and sat next to her, wrapping her arm around her and pulling her close.

"What's wrong?" she asked, receiving a subtle shrug from Melanie. She sat with her and tried to get her talking, not sure what had made Melanie's mood change so drastically. She'd seemed so happy while she was talking with her mum. "Come on," Mel pressed. "You can keep talking."

Melanie sighed and turned her head away, attempting to let Mel know she didn't want to talk. Mel continued to try to get her to open up, but Melanie had completely shut down.

She knelt in front of Melanie and tried once more to get her to open up, but Melanie kept her head bowed and only briefly looked up at Mel.

"I make her cry," Melanie stated softly, catching Mel off guard.

"You don't," Mel assured her, getting up and sitting next to her so she could wrap her arms around her. She held Melanie tightly, smiling sadly as she caught Kevin's eye. She silently let him know everything was okay and turned her attention back to Melanie. "Those were happy tears," she explained softly. "Your mum was just excited that you wanted to talk to her."

"Before?" Melanie asked, looking at Mel skeptically.

Mel sighed and leaned back to look Melanie in the eye. "You didn't make her cry," she said firmly. "She cried before because of what those tossers did to you. They made her cry, not you." Melanie looked up at Mel and nodded. 

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