You thought she was lost to you before. Now you’re not sure you knew the meaning of the word, because she’s lost to you now.
You try to make her eat with you. She refuses. She eats alone, in her room, always. If she has to eat with company, she loses her appetite and barely has anything. When you or someone else inquires if she’s feeling all right, she doesn’t answer, not with words. She just looks, and her eyes are haunted, and she’s back in the past. Back in the forest of Cerberus II. Back with her friends, most of them dead. Back in something that never should have happened again.
You try to make her sleep. Sometimes, you even offer to let her sleep next to you, with your arms around her, protecting her. She refuses. She sleeps alone, in her room, always. And every night, you lie waiting for her screaming and crying to start, or waiting for the sensation of not everyone being asleep. You go into her room when she starts screaming and crying, and you turn on the lights and say nothing, just hug her, and she looks at you with haunted eyes, and you wonder if you’ll ever see your daughter again. You wonder if it’s your fault—yours and Jocelyn’s fault. You can’t answer that.
You try to make her talk. You pry her with books, movies, games, everything you know she’s interested in. She refuses. She only talks to her surviving friends, and she watches and reads and plays alone, in her room, always. Sometimes you watch her. Sometimes she looks at you, and her eyes are haunted. You wonder if she’s getting any pleasure out of it, or if she’s just trying to distract herself and pass the time, or if she’s only doing it because that’s how it used to be and she’s trying to reclaim the only semblance of her old life that she can reclaim. You’re not sure which of those two latter possibilities is worse.
But you can’t treat her. Not only is it outside your range of expertise, but you don’t know her anymore. You’ve been gone too long. You get her reactions and interests and everything about her all wrong, and that’s the worst thing of all. You send her to a counsellor, but nothing changes, not even after weeks, not even after months. The counsellor eventually says therapy isn’t the right thing for her, and you’re helpless. What could be the right thing for her? You don’t know, and Jocelyn doesn’t, either. Nothing, it seems, will help.
"She may have to make it on her own," the counsellor says, and slowly, you withdraw. You return to your old ways, and frighteningly and depressingly enough, it’s easy to do so. More than ever, you know you were not meant to be a parent. But when you do, things start changing. She eats around company, she sleeps, she talks, she reads and watches and plays games and seems genuinely interested, she’s less troubled by nightmares. Against all odds, she’s recovering… on her own. It gladdens you beyond words to see her slowly tread the path towards recovery, but then it breaks your heart to know you cannot help her along. Because of your past, because of the divorce, because of your own distance and neglect and Jocelyn’s, too, she has learned it is better to do everything alone. She loves you, but she can’t trust you. You think she may never trust you, and you can’t blame her for it.
You tell Jocelyn all this over a video call, and for once, she’s in perfect agreement. She stares at you, when you’re done, and you stare back, and for the first time in a very long time, you’re both in complete understanding of the other, and you understand you both went so very badly wrong. It is your fault.
And Joanna? She was never yours to keep. She goes alone, and you will never be the ones to change that.