It was every parent's worst nightmare: Claire Fontaine came home one night to discover her 15-year-old daughter, Mia, had vanished.
That night began a long struggle for both mother and daughter, one that took them through drug abuse, self-mutilation, depression and nearly 20 months of separation while Mia was enrolled in two different "behavior modification" institutions to try to help her overcome her drug problems and other difficult issues.
While Mia searched for herself, Claire struggled to figure out how this could have happened to her family.
Both Mia and Claire recovered and have now chronicled their family's struggle in, "Come Back: A Mother and Daughter's Journey Through Hell and Back."
You can read an excerpt of their book below.
To protect their identities, the real names of both mother and daughter have been replaced by pseudonyms.
It is its own religion, this love. Uncontainable, savage and without end, it is what I feel for my child.
She signs everything she gives me, "Your one and only daughter, Mia," or, "Your One, True Child, Mia." Curled into my lap, she reads about the baby bird that fell from the nest and can't find her mommy. Mia squishes into my chest, "I'm glad I came out of your egg, mudder."
From the moment I take her out into the world, we hear it, every day - those eyes! Mia has huge, blue-gray eyes, with pale blue whites, framed by a mass of amber curls. But the brows leap out above them - they're thick, wide, shiny dark swoops. Like the brows of ancient Persian women, painted in profile. "My God, where did she get those eyes -- is she adopted?" "Are those brows real?" "She's not yours is she"' This we hear often; it frightens her. She has no idea we look nothing alike. She thinks we are identical.
My fear that the constant ogling will make her vain seems confirmed when I overhear her, at age 4, at the bathroom mirror, murmuring, "Those fabayous eyes! She is so gordzuss." I wince, moving to the door to have a little talk on the importance of inner beauty, then stop, still unseen by her. She's referring to Betty Ann, the doll that was once mine, smiling down at her. She then scowls at the imaginary idiot who'd dare question their relationship, "Of course, she's mine! Mine, all mine!"
I step back in silent mirth, happy that what she takes from those encounters is how much I love her. Before I had Mia, I had never deeply loved, nor felt loved deeply. I was unshared.
Mia is fifteen now and she and I are in the clouds above Austria. The sun has not risen and she is spread across her seat and mine, asleep. I watch her sleep, as I have done nearly every night of her life. We are on our way to Eastern Europe. Not to see castles or rivers or onion-domed villas. Not to see long-lost family. Not even to see each other. I am leaving her there.
Mia will be locked up. She is broken now. Thin, pink scars beribbon her thighs and stomach, her ankles are bruised by a felon's leg shackles, her wrists by handcuffs. She is medically malnourished and made up like a whore. Inside, she is dark and damaged and gone. I don't know if I'll ever see her again, my one true child. My desperate hope is that she can be repaired, even badly patched. Mostly, though, I simply hope they can keep her, that she not escape, as she has done again and again and again and again. Each time to do worse things with worse people, criminals finally. The only thing left would be death, hers or someone else's.