Dr. Winklebaum made a few last minute edits to her slides before submitting the final version to the conference board in anticipation of her appearance. She was gratified by their acceptance of her presentation at the symposium and the warm praise they gave in anticipation of her talk describing her discovery of the Hanjub Syndrome.
The doctor had used the intervening months since the discovery to explore more thoroughly the imaginary friends of her other young patients. She consulted with colleagues and reviewed the literature and, while the evidence was not all in, she believed she saw the red flags of sexual abuse in these play companions previously regarded as harmless.
Dr. Winklebaum would use the presentation to point out to her colleagues the clues to sexual abuse that were clearly evident in children’s play with imaginary companions. It would be a ground shaking revelation when she presented the true origins of imaginary companions as psychic mechanisms for managing sexual abuse and how they could be used to reveal the abusers and aid in the treatment of the child.
Unfortunately, the doctor would not be around to help CarolLee in her recovery. The clumsy investigation by the detective did not result in charges being brought, but it did result in the father loosing his job, and the insurance which paid for the child’s treatment with her psychiatrist. There was enough suspicion, though, that the District Attorney threatened the family with prosecution until the children were placed in foster care with the requirement that they all attend family counseling before they could be re-united. Saundra took comfort in knowing CarolLee’s healing journey, although endless, had begun and she would no longer be abused. The psychiatrist remained frustrated the father, like Saundra’s parents, did not get the punishment he deserved. She did hear the detective had been disciplined for beating up the father, and she knew it was wrong to take satisfaction in such vigilante justice, so she tried not to.
Brian rang the doorbell at the address given in the letter in the tacky residential neighborhood. A very short, hard-as-nails looking guy answered the door. He called himself Hoss on the phone, which Brian thought was a stupid name. It was a good fit for his face though, because he looked stupid, too.
“Hi,” he said. “I’m Brian. I called earlier.”
The man turned and yelled, “CarolLee, your uncle is here.” He faced him again. “You’ve got half an hour. Stay on the porch where I can see you, and anything you have to give her, I see first. Got it?”
Brian politely agreed, handed him a large drawing tablet and charcoal pencils, which Hoss shook to make sure there was nothing hidden inside. He returned them to Brian when he was satisfied, and Brian sat on one of the white wicker chairs arranged in front of a big window overlooking the porch. He looked up to see CarolLee step outside, close the door, show the thinest of smiles, and sit across from him. She had always been a big girl for her age, but now her face looked older, too. She was still cute, but with an unfamiliar toughness.
He handed her the pad and pencils, and said, “Happy birthday. I would have brought them before, but I didn’t know where you were until I got your letter.”
Her smile broadened as she accepted the gift. “Thanks, Brian,” she said. “They’re wonderful. I’m so glad you came.”
I was glad you wrote me,” he said. “Your’s is the only letter I’ve ever gotten, except from my grandmother.”
“They won’t let us have cellphones, or use email,” she said. “I had to tell them you were my uncle because only family can visit.”
“Sure,” he said. “It’s the same with Adam. I was his step-brother when I saw him.”
“How is he?” she asked.
Brian said, “He’s pretty good. He said the group home is not bad. And he likes another gay guy there. They don’t know he is gay, of course.”
“I hope he is happy,” she said. “We fought all the time, but I miss him, now. Is he still mad at me?”
Brian hung his head, “Yeah, a little.” CarolLee started to cry, and that made Brian feel terrible.
As she wiped at the tears, she asked, “Were you able to see my parents?”
Brian didn’t want to answer for fear of making her feel worse. She looked at him expectantly, though, so he said, “I saw your mom. She looked like she had been crying a lot.” CarolLee nodded, and Brian continued, “I saw your dad when I went to pick up your drawing pad. He said he got fired when they found out he was being investigated for… you know. He looks pretty… well, bad, I guess.”
This precipitated more tears from CarolLee, and Brian wished he knew how to make her feel better.
“I ruined everything,” the girl sputtered. “just like Adam said. Now they all hate me.”
“Don’t worry,” Brian said. “they’ll get over it.” He wasn’t at all sure that was true.
“That stupid doctor kept telling me I needed to admit my family was abusing me. No matter what I said, she wouldn’t believe me.”
“It was a pretty weird story.” Brian said. “Why an Indian?”
“I don’t know. It just came to me,” she said, a long sigh following her words. “Then everybody thought he was so interesting. Mom talked to me, Dad played chess with me, even Adam paid attention to me. That doctor always wanted to talk about him. So I started looking things up and kept adding things to keep them interested.”
“You said the Indian told you things,” Brian said, “about your mom having an affair, and Adam being gay. How did you know all that stuff?”
“In the attic there are holes into Adam’s room, and Mom and Dad’s room. Sometimes when I got lonely I would watch and listen.”
“You’re something else, CarolLee.” Brian felt part wonder and part affection for the girl. “When do you think you’ll get out of here?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “They couldn’t send them to jail because I refused to say they molested me, but they won’t let us live together again until Mom and Dad and Adam all admit they were abusive, and get counseling.” CarolLee leaned closer, her face hopeful, and asked, “Did you tell them if they just admit it, we can all go home?”
Brian hung his head again, “Yeah. Your mom is willing. I think she would say anything to get you back. Brian doesn’t want to, but I might be able to talk him into it. Your dad, though… I don’t think he is going to go for it. He’s still pretty mad.”
Brian watched as CarolLee’s disposition seemed to change as she absorbed his words. The tears stopped abruptly, and her expression hardened. Too hard for one so cute and young, he thought. She lifted her unbraided, long hair and pulled a cigarette from behind her ear, a single match from her pocket, struck it on the wicker chair, and lit the cigarette. Brian stared with astonishment at her being allowed to smoke.
“I suppose you’re mad at me, too?” she said, the first expression of anger he had ever seen on her.
“Heck, no,” he said, blushing. “I really like you. I… I always have.”
CarolLee didn’t look like she believed him, or worse, didn’t care. “Were you able to find it?” she asked.
“Ah…yeah. I hid it in the bushes like you said.”
“Thanks. I’ll be able to get it later,” CarolLee gestured to the window, “when Hoss isn’t looking.”
“CarolLee,” he asked, “what are those things in the bag?”
“You don’t know?” she said, as though he should. “They’re butt plugs.”
Brian had no idea what she was talking about. “What are butt plugs?”
“You stick them in your butt,” she said, not at all embarrassed. “to stretch it out.”
“Why?” he asked, still confused.
“So a really big cock will fit in there,” she said.
It took a few seconds for Brian to process the idea. “Damn, CarolLee. That’s the dirtiest thing I’ve ever heard.” CarolLee smiled and after a few more seconds of processing, he asked, “Where’d you get them?”
“There’s a girl at my school,” CarolLee started. “Her uncle gave them to her so her butt would stretch until his penis would fit. He got arrested when he finally put it in her, though. She was too embarrassed to tell them about the plugs, so she gave them to me.”
“Why are there so many?
“Each one is little bigger. You wear each one for a while, then your big enough for a penis.”
“And you stick them in your butt?” he asked, to make sure he understood.
“You should try it,” she said. “It feels really good.”
“Damn, CarolLee, you sure know a lot about… that stuff.”
“That’s nothing,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot dirtier stuff than that being in group homes for three months.”
“Like what?” he asked.
“How to give hand jobs, how to suck a dick, how to fuck.” She blew a lung full of smoke at him, and said, “Surprised?”
Brian was too surprised and envious of the eleven-year-old’s sexual experience to even speak.
“That’s why I need those butt plugs,” CarolLee said, jerking her thumb toward the window again. “He has a cock like a horse. If I’m ever going to get it in there I need to stretch it a lot.”
“You mean you’re going to let Hoss put his penis in your butt? Why?”
“It’s all about earning privileges here,” she said, displaying her cigarette to him. “The more you do, the more you’re allowed to do.”
Brian was stunned. “CarolLee, I don’t think they’re allowed to do that. You should tell someone.”
“I did,” she said, her expression one of exasperation with his ignorance, “in the first group home. That’s how I ended up here. The people are different, but the rules are the same. So now I’m going to use the butt plugs so Hoss doesn’t rip me apart when he gets his chance. Maybe I’ll get to go to the mall once in a while.”
Brian tried to imagine the young girl he liked so much bending over while the man who looked as stupid as a horse stuck his horse-sized penis in her. It made him shiver with disgust. “You shouldn’t have to do that CarolLee,” he said. “It’s not right.”
“I’m sure I’ll like it,” she said.
Brian stared, not believing she meant it.
“It’s because I have so much blood in my ass now,” she said as she took a long draw on the cigarette. “Besides, I wrecked my family with a stupid game. I deserve whatever happens to me here.”
Brian felt like he was going to cry, but he showed nothing.
“You know the crazy part?” she asked, and answered when he looked up. “I miss Hanjub.”
“You said you made him up,” Brian said.
“I did, but he was interesting, and he was going to take me to India and put me in his harem. That sounded so… exciting. I wish he would take me right now.”
“But he isn’t real,” Brian said, confused.
She looked at him with hope in her eyes. “You could take me,” she said.
Brian stuttered, “To India?”
“No, silly. To California. I could wait until his wife falls asleep, and Hoss is fucking one of the other girls, grab the petty cash box, and we could take a bus. The station is really close.”
“I don’t know, CarolLee,” he said. “What would we do in California?”
“We could get jobs. The kids here say guys would pay a lot of money to put their cock in my butt,” she said. CarolLee’s face softened a little, and she said, “I’d let you put your cock in my butt, too. If you want?”
Brian flushed with embarrassment, unintentionally showing his enthusiasm for the idea. “Damn, CarolLee.” He didn’t know what to say after that, so he just grinned at her.
CarolLee extinguished the last of her cigarette on the sole of one of her flip flops, glanced at the window to see if anyone was looking, and flicked it into the bushes. “They have lots of Indians in California,” she said. “Maybe we could find Hanjub.”