It wasn’t until midnight when Karen Neubauer went home. After she dropped Dorothy off, she wandered the woods alone, reading a new book she found in the library. Once fascinated with ancient civilizations, her interests took a turn toward ancient cults.
When she walked past her home three times, she finally walked around the back and climbed the trellis and slipped into her bedroom. She read by flashlight for a few hours before drifting off to a fitful sleep.
Karen awoke early and wandered downstairs to get a head start on the day, preferably before her parents, but before she reached the bottom of the stairs she heard her parents arguing in hushed voices.
“I’m getting tired of all of this,” her father said.
“Of what? Your daughter?” her mother asked.
“Not her, just her disease.”
“What disease exactly?”
“You know exactly what I’m talking about.”
“I want you to hear you say it so you hear how ridiculous you sound. Go ahead.”
“Fine, her Asperger’s. It’s too much to handle. I’m going crazy.”
“God, do you even hear yourself? Just because she has Asperger’s, doesn’t mean she has a disease. She needs our help. She needs our love.”
“But she can’t give any back.”
“Maybe not the way you or I think about love, but she loves us.”
“Right. I think this has been a long time coming and we just haven’t been talking about that pink elephant in the room, but here.”
From her hiding spot, Karen heard papers rustling.
“Seriously? Is this what I think this is?” her mother asked.
“If you think it’s a divorce claim, then yes. We haven’t seen eye-to-eye in many years.”
“So we should just throw everything away?”
Karen couldn’t listen to their arguing anymore. She climbed the stairs, closed the door to her room, and snuck out of her bedroom window. She didn’t know where else to go or what to do, so she headed toward the woods. More and more often, her and Dorothy’s fortress had become a place of solitude and healing.
It was no secret that Karen had Asperger’s disorder. It was difficult for her to make eye contact with people, and she became fixated on different things. Fortunately for her, her parents never paid enough attention to ask what the subject du jour was, and she was able to explore her fantasies as she desired.
As she bolted to her safe house in the woods, Karen imagined that she was a heroine in one of the books she was reading. She pretended her village exiled her and she was running to a faraway place where there was no harm. Along the way, she picked up jackets she had stashed in the woods, imagining they were cloaks that would camouflage her. When she finally reached the tree house, she pretended she had to fight dragons to save the village who exiled her, and she stayed in the tree house, and her fantasy world, for several days.