Mel and Abigail stayed up their entire first night together, talking and laughing like old times. Mel made dinner and watched with pride as Abigail ate every last speck of it. “Yeah, I’ve just been living off nutrient paste for so long, this is like a feast!” Abigail laughed. She also complimented Mel profusely on her tea. Abigail had stories from a dozen different systems and Mel listened intently to each one. The birds were calling to signal the approaching dawn by the time they finally fell asleep. They awoke together the next morning, nestled on the couch by the window where they'd dozed off.
Mel put together a simple breakfast for them and grabbed her morning medication. Abigail watched warily as Mel dripped her Xenodrugs into a glass. “I don't know how you can take that stuff.” Abigail remarked as Mel took a sip of her medicated water.
Mel looked up, surprised. “My meds? What do you mean?”
“The Xeno shit.” Abigail said, chewing her lip. “It messes with your head, makes you dull. I wouldn't touch it if I were you.”
Mel put down her glass as Abigail gave her a concerned look. “Just because you don't trust them doesn't mean they're bad for me.” Mel said. “I feel so much better now that I'm on them, like I can finally regulate myself, or-” she was interrupted as Abigail reached across the table and flicked her nose. “Ow! Abby, what was that for?”
“You're slow. I see it in everything you do.” Abigail said softly. “You move like you're in a daze, you forget sentences halfway through saying them. The Melrose I remember would have caught my hand before I even got near her face.”
Mel stared into Abigail's somber eyes, confused. “Abby, I'm still me!” Mel cried, “So what if I'm a little slower? I used to be so high strung I didn't sleep half the time! Now I'm finally mellowed out, and you think it's a bad thing?”
“I want to make sure those damn plants aren't messing with your mind, beating you down!” Abigail snarled.
“And I want you to stop being so distrustful for once in your life when something is finally going well for me!” Mel shouted back.
The two looked at each other in silence. “I'm sorry!” they both said at the same time, and after an awkward pause burst into laughter together.
“Mel, I want to be sure you're still the girl I remember, you know?” Abigail said quietly.
“And I want to make sure you're taking care of yourself out there, Abby!” Mel replied with a smile.
The two women were very amenable after that confrontation. Mel made a point to show Abigail around the changes on Thypso since she'd left, including the improvements and amenities the Affini had built. Abigail remained dismissive, refusing to hide her dislike for the plant creatures. Abigail did like Orion's Blossom though, walking through the hydroponic greenhouse with a look of wonder on her face. She ran a hand gently up the stalk of one of the plants, admiring its verdant leaves. “Mel, you did all this?” She asked, grinning up at her friend.
“Yeah! You know, with a little help.” Mel said proudly.
Mel had decided to close the kiosk while Abigail visited, so the seating area outside was quiet. They waited together at a small table under the canopy until Mel saw a familiar form approaching. She waved the Affini over and watched Abigail's expression sour once more. “Abby, I told you,” Mel chided, “she's important to me, and I'd like you to meet her. Just a short talk, okay?” As the Affini approached the table, Mel stood and said, “Hi Sylnathi, thank you for joining us!”
“My pleasure, dear!” Sylnathi smiled sweetly. “And you must be Miss Abigail, yes?”
“Charmed.” Abigail muttered with a scowl.
The three of them talked for maybe half an hour. Mel and Abigail recounted their youth growing up on Thypso, while Sylnathi talked about how proud she was of Mel's accomplishments since they'd met. “If not for your little friend here, I'd have had a much harder time figuring out your local botany.” the plant woman laughed. “Who would have thought 'corn' would prove such a tricky puzzle for me?” Sylnathi wrapped an affectionate vine around Mel's shoulders as she spoke. Mel relaxed, leaning happily into the embrace. But as she looked back across the table she saw Abigail staring at her, a disgusted expression across her face.
“Abby, what's wrong?” Mel asked.
“This.” Abigail said, her voice hushed and nervous. “This is wrong, Mel.”
Sylnathi gently extended her hand across the table and said, “Miss Abigail, I-” but Abigail leapt up away from her with a shriek.
“Don't- Fucking touch me!” she yelled. A dead silence hung in the park, save for the chirping of the birds. Mel watched in shock and confusion as tears streamed down Abigail's cheeks. “I can't watch this.” Abigail muttered quietly, turning away and walking quickly out of the park.