Joy's Background

Joy was born to loving parents, a pair of students at the University of Chicago in the last year of their undergraduate studies. While she hadn't been planned, their relationship had been a serious one, with discussions of marriage having taken place for some time before she'd made her presence known. As such, thankfully, the surprise was ultimately a happy one, and two lives soon became three, or one, depending on how one looked at things. Her mother, Kaede Yamamoto, a fourth-generation Japanese-American, had been working to become a doctor at the university's medical school and continued her fulltime studies after her birth; her father, Aleksander Lied, a first-generation Norwegian-American who had been moving toward studying psychology, developmental psychology in particular, elected to be a stay at home dad, at least for the first few years, often joking that it was 'extra-credit work'. He turned out to be quite good at it, his own mother, who'd raised him since his father died while he was still a child, having died as well, when he was in his senior year of highschool, leaving him to learn to take care of himself, and with extrapolation, of others. Joy helped out by being an amazingly good-tempered and quick-learning infant, traits that only continued to grow as she did…enough that her parents began to wonder at just what her capabilities might be before very long at all.

As it turned out, Joy was very exceptional indeed. A prodigy, she exceeded every expectation, in every benchmark, physical, mental, social. And it wasn't just the speed with which she developed, but the heights, as well. With some help from her father's undergraduate (and later advanced studies) professor, a guidebook was provided to help them in nurturing her gifts, while other guides offered their own services in assisting her parents in the effort, in return for a chance to simply work with her. A prodigal genius in the arts visual, musical, written and physical; her mastery of physical interaction with the world around her a match for her endless perception and understanding of it, of how things, people, natural laws, languages, numbers, and even herself, inside and out, worked…and how to use that knowledge. She excelled at everything she attempted, and constantly sought new experiences and feats to attempt, and friends to make; everything she tried a source of happiness for herself, and of pride and joy for her parents, her namesake proving prophetic, indeed. It was a wonderful life.

That wonder was cut short on a night in september, roughly three months before her seventh birthday. She'd been with her mother at the hospital she was working on her residency, and had interned at in the first place. A common enough event; she'd become a familiar face there, popular with the staff for her enthusiasm and her infectiously ebullient personality alike. Her father arrived to pick them up in the family car around 8 pm, coming from the University, where he'd been working late, and things were as good as they ever were; Joy was leaning forward between the front seats, forgetting about safety rules in her excitement, to show him the pictures she'd drawn while they'd paused at a red light, her mother laying out supplementary details as she munched on a piece of the pizza he'd picked up on the way to meet them. The truck seemed to come out of nowhere, smashing into them nearly head-on, before Joy could do more than begin to form a denial of what was happening on her lips, widening eyes transfixed by the headlights; a maelstrom of noise and screams and blinding pain erupted, and everything changed in an instant. When the fire crew and paramedics arrived on the scene five minutes later, finding the flaming wreck of two vehicles twisted into one mass of destruction, the worst seemed a bygone conclusion. It was only when the fires had been extinguished and a firefighter got close enough, that they could hear the screaming from inside; a rush of heroism and horror ensued, and within a few minutes more, an ambulance was speeding back to the hospital the family had left less than a half hour before.

The sheer scale of the damage had never been seen by the majority of the people that worked to keep her alive that night. The senior ER resident at the time had served as a front-line surgeon in a hot warzone in his youth, and later admitted that while he'd seen worse…none of those patients had actually survived. Some of them wondered if she'd really want to, by the time they'd finished stabilizing her enough to send her to the OR; the fact that most of them knew her only made it worse, and the hospital's psych department found itself busier than usual for weeks afterward. She woke up six hours later in her private room in the ICU, having been moved there to avoid upsetting other patients, as the anasthetic began to wear off…and started screaming, a few seconds after that. The nurses had been monitoring her closesly, wisely as it turned out; when she saw, and realized, that she'd lost her right arm, both her legs, her right eye, and felt the post-surgical agony in her torso…well, it only magnified the nightmarish loop of the accident that'd been playing itself inside her anasthetic dreams. Eventually, she was…calmed down, though the ordeal left the younger nurse involved in said calming on the list to see the hospital's counselling department as well.

The physical recovery alone took over two months, simply for all the incisions to heal, and the post-surgical pain to begin to fade. In the meantime, however, it became abundantly clear that the mental recovery would take far longer. The psych department's most skilled doctors came to agree that it was the most severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder that they'd ever seen, with Joy's exceptional mind, perceptions, and perfect memory making the trauma of losing both parents and much of her own body all the more potent than they would be for a more normal child. Friends and family, of herself and her parents both, tended to leave quickly after arriving to visit her; if the damage wreaked upon her didn't drive them away, her cold and withdrawn behaviour, alternating with bursts of blazing, sharp-tongued rage would. Her mother's side of the family, as they had been her entire life, were nowhere to be found, and made neither appearance nor reply to her letters; her father's consisted of his grandmother in Norway, who, despite having proved an excellent host during a holiday visit when Joy was five, was in her eighties now, and suffering from end-stage terminal cancer, though her father had kept it from her. Before she knew it, Joy had become a ward of the state, and it was beginning to seem that this state of affairs would not be changing in the foreseeable future.

Once her bodily wounds were judged adequately healed, she was sent away from the hospital, to a small grey room in a grey building filled with grey people; an 'assisted living facility', wherein she became the only patient under sixty…institutional care. She was bussed (an experience that had become more frightening in and of itself than she could've imagined anything being before the accident) to the hospital for her physical rehabilitation. Learning to live without stereoscopic vision, to learn to use her new prosthetic arm, and to try to learn to walk again…the odds of achieving anything approaching her pre-accident capabilities, of course, she was told would be extremely slim, at best. But she'd shown a loathing for the wheelchair since the very first time she was placed in one, a symbol of the loss of independance of physical mobility, refusing to even consider an electric chair and insisting that she would walk, would run, again, with a stubbornness exceeding anything before the accident as well. And so she struggled, fell, and struggled on again, to the ever-increasing admiration of her physical therapists, tempering the opinions of her shaped by her outbursts of less than sociable behaviour. Unfortunately, for a time, it seemed to be the only thing she cared about, as distant, or alternately vicious, toward the nurses, orderlies, and particularly her fellow patients of the home as she'd been to her friends, no one daring to get too close, lest they get bit…mostly metaphorically speaking, of course.

Things began to improve after she'd been in the home for a couple of months when the nurse on duty during the overnight shift, a young man by the name of Stephen Campbell, began making an effort to be there for her beyond the minimum he was being paid to, beyond what his job alone required. He was there for her nightmares, after the first time he'd heard her sobbing through the door on his rounds, and her trust in him, in anyone, began to grow for the first time since the accident, as well. The relationship grew, slowly but steadily, over time, with him doing what he felt was right, for this damaged, but still remarkable, child that'd touched his heart despite his best efforts, and her trust and willingness to begin to open up to this man that really seemed to care about her, accepting her without comparing her to how she'd been before the accident. The nursing home's resident psychiatrist, who had been trying to take care of her since her transfer, gave him her 'blessing' in his attempts to reach out to the girl, particularly once she saw the dividends it produced in her therapy, and in her general mood and behaviour; both of which did improve, at least a little. He even began adoption proceedings; life was beginning to look a little brighter for her, for them…

…and then his father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His condition worsened dramatically and rapidly. His mother's health began to suffer as well, and his entire family was covered with a dark cloud. He attempted to go forward with the adoption, despite all of this…and then his father died. And he was heartbroken, just as she'd been when she lost her parents…and he ran away. He turned in his resignation at the home, telling her, in a meeting where he refused to meet her eyes, that he was sorry he couldn't be what she needed of him. And then he turned…and left her. She called out after him, falling out of bed trying to get him to come back, but to no avail, as she was left alone, abandoned…again. And she began to deteriorate again, in turn. She continued struggling forward with her physical rehabilitation, but her psychological sessions became noticibly more difficult, as she not only withdrew into herself, but began lashing out at her remaining caretakers, fellow residents, and anyone else that set her off, which only made those caretakers all the more hesitant to really try and help her beyond the bare minimum required. And left her all the more isolated and easy to target and threaten by inappropriate behaviours at the hands of at least one staff member.

This sorry state of affairs went on for nearly a year and a half before the situation abruptly changed, not from any changes from within, but from an unexpected outside source. Her mother's relatives in Japan, the Asahinas, seperated by several generations, had sent a letter to the department of child services inquiring about her case, and, after some further long-distance correspondance, made an application to take custody of her. With her record and negative reports from her caseworkers, knowing she'd likely never be accepted by a group home or foster family, and with the cost of her care being quite steep, special dispensations were requested, and before too long, granted, and within a week, she was packed up and carted off to Ohare, then escorted, as she refused to take a wheelchair, onto the plane, and a long, silent, flight to Japan with a stony-faced social worker sitting beside her taking care of some missed paperwork on the way. She was met by a pair of people she'd never met, even heard mentioned, before, who made the woman that'd accompanied her look positiviely lively. The ride back to their house, which was quite nice by the standards of Japanese Real Estate, was made in silence, where she met her pair of cousins for the first time, in particular, Hanako, who was only a year older than herself, and who established the tone of their relationship-to-be early on with her first words, given once they were alone, after the intial introductions. "You don't belong here. Don't forget it."

She was placed into the same grade as her younger cousin despite her age, another strike against her in the girl's eyes that she hadn't even asked for, and while she did try, to her credit, to make a fresh start, to resist her damaged impulses, she didn't last long before the first incident. Even if there were some minor nudgings from her beloved cousin, the truth is that she was, in fact, the one that stabbed the boy hassling her about her right hand in the shoulder with a pen. A month later, she was the one that pushed a sixth-grader girl that'd made a comment about her parentage down a flight of stairs. Two months after that, she was the one that 'accidentally' knocked a teacher's hot coffee not only all over the papers she was grading, but her lap, as well. Needless to say, the school's faculty, administrators, and students soon came to have a less than positive opinion of this new half-American girl causing so much trouble in their midst, but it turned out that her new family had a surprising amount of sway, and they kept using it to get her second, third, and fourth chances.

It was a little over a year later when she had her third really bad day. She never came returned from school, and the police were notified in the late evening. Her backpack was found six blocks from the family home, stuffed into a garbage can, with traces of blood that turned out to be hers, and the only fingerprints other than Joy's own were from her cousin, Hanako, which wasn't considered relevant to the situation. A few bloodstains, torn out blonde hairs, and a piece of torn clothing was found in an alleyway two blocks from home, and while the lock on a doorway leading into a bordering private park was tampered with, no investigation of the area within was conducted, for unexplained reasons. It was a place with a lot of rumours surrounding it, but with only an unofficial, need-to-know policy within the district government to keep curious citizens and employees alike out. The last recorded entrance being by a police officer in the late 70s, who, as with the secret files on other trespassers, didn't ever come out. Whispers within the department were that she'd never be seen again, if she was in there.

There was no further sign found of her for three days, until, abruptly, in the early morning of the third night since she'd disappeared, she was found at the front gate of the family home, dehydrated, covered in dried blood, prosthetics severely damaged, or in the case of her eye, missing, a serious head wound, and numerous smaller wounds with infection beginning to set in interspersed over her body. Still concious, if barely so, as she'd managed to press the intercom button before collapsing. She spent the following two weeks in the hospital, recovering from her wounds and undergoing surgery for her second orbital reconstruction and to replace her eye prosthesis, as well as repairing and replacing her other prosthetics. During this time, she refused to speak of what had happened to her or where she'd been, and her family refused police requests to cooperate with the investigation. Without any other clues, it died more or less stillborn, and was soon more or less forgotten about in the media, local and otherwise. Even when she returned home, she didn't speak about it, and her aunt, uncle, and cousins didn't ask. She had a secret, after all, and for the time being, at least, she'd keep it to herself…

Joy's everday life isn't a particularly easy one by any means, but she's the last person that would admit it or complain about it. And she never cries, not since that first night in the hospital after the accident. Even the simplest tasks, like standing up or ascending and descending stairs are struggles for her, and while she's done amazingly well with her physical rehabilitation and more or less mastered her prosthetics, they can only go so far in replacing the real things. And yet she insists upon using them, rather than taking an easier path with a motorized wheelchair, fighting for each step, and biting back any sounds of pain or effort, insists upon walking to school just as her cousin does, each trip a miniature marathon, as she burns over three times the energy to walk that an intact-bodied person her age and build would. She'll generally wear thigh-high opaque stockings over the cosmetic shells that cover her leg prosthetics skeletal-like structures, giving her artificial legs the general shape of real ones, even though those shells add weight and bulk that make it harder for her to get around; a realistic looking silicone glove covers her right arm's plastic form, rendering it somewhat normal looking, at least from a distance, though its lack of range of motion gives it away to anyone studying it for any length of time…she knows that wearing a glove over it would only draw more attention to it, so she generally won't…but she only wears long-sleeved shirts, as well. That lack of motion makes many tasks requiring two hands to perform difficult at best, impossible in most cases. Finally, with her right eye missing, her stereoscopic vision and its accompanying depth perception have been taken from her, leaving many tasks more difficult to perform than they'd normally be, and prompting a popular 'game' to pick on her with the tossing of small objects toward her, things that most people could catch, or at least bat away; with her difficulties in judging distance and positions of object in space, particularly moving ones, these objects 'get through' to her with a distressing frequency, despite her best efforts, displays of clumsiness more hurtful to her than the actual impacts.

From the time she wakes up in the morning, donning her prosthetics before she even gets out of bed, then slowly and deliberately making her way around the morning rituals of hygiene and nourishment that most children partake in, to leaving the house and making her way to school, she takes an average of 40% longer than an average girl her age would. This means waking up earlier than her cousin, and spending more time preparing the night before, and that means less sleep than most might get, without needing to spend it on more common distractions. Once she arrives at school, she's generally the last one into class, usually (but not always) just before the last bell rings, another minor strike against her in the minds of many of her teachers, whether they'll admit it, to themselves or others, or not. She doesn't take notes in class, unlike any of the other students, and rarely even glances at the board, only once or twice a class; as a result, she tends to look like she isn't paying any attention at all, often looking out the window, or simply resting her head on her arms, atop her desk. Despite this, she's never fallen into a teacher's trap to 'prove she's paying attention', whether it's repeating what's been said, or solving problems in front of the class, orders to come up from her seat to the board as much a physical punishment as an attempt to catch her napping, these days…she consistently leads any class she's in with perfect test scores, whether its the sciences, humanities, languages, or arts; physical education is her only achilles heel, for obvious reasons, but even there she doesn't seek an excuse to sit out or be excused, but changes from one uniform to the other like anyone else (if taking a bit longer to do so), then takes her place in the exercises, giving her all…even as she generally falls to last place in every class, and falls more literally just as often. Naturally, she refuses any attempts at help, sometimes more vehemently than others.

When the times for small groups to gather and social interaction between students come up, she's always on her own, the island of one surrounded by more densely populated groups. She tried seeking out others in her earliest days in this new environment, but after several spectacular disasters, she's given up on trying, and her fellow students have decided that she's off-limits for one reason or another in turn. Once the school day ends, not belonging to any extracurricular activities, she either walks home alone, or she's picked up and taken to one appointment or another, whether it's physical rehabilitation maintenance, her psychiatrist (at a private mental hospital, the only facility in the city equipped to deal with her level of problems), or her prostheticist, to keep her artificial limbs adjusted to her body's parameters and in properly maintained shape. When she doesn't have one of these appointments to be at, she's at home, putting the minimal effort into her schoolwork assignments, occasionally working on her own creative urges in the form of drawing, writing, or composing, some of which she's been uploading to the internet under various aliases, working on her exercises to keep herself physically able to continue her day to day routines, and, each night, undertaking the arudous task of her daily bath, something that her aunt or cousin never offered to help with, and she never asked them to…a difficult and time-consuming task indeed, particularly since it involves removing her prosthetics in so doing. She spends what time she has left over each night on her computer, watching a few programs on the satellite-delivered television in her room. Normally, she's seemingly unnoticed by the rest of her new family, even when sitting at the table with everyone else for breakfast or dinner, rarely included in conversation, and has often been left at the house alone when the rest of the family has gone on rare local outings on weekends or holidays, those few she has been brought along on, generally longer trips to the seaside or the family's country house, she's usually as alone as she is at home.

Occasionally, since recovering from her three day sabbatical, she slips out of her room at night or comes home late from school, even goes out on her own on the weekend, the first done surreptitiously, no one bothering to check on her, the latter done without any real expalantion for where she's going or what she's doing…which is easier than most for her to get away with, since no one asks, though Hanako does wonder, occasionally. Just what she actually does when she's on her own…well, she isn't generally seen struggling along with her prosthetics, or fumbling to do everyday things…indeed, when others see her, she isn't recognizable at all.

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