The little girl didn’t say a word as she slowly followed her mother down the hallway. When I spoke to her, she stared up at me with wide, brown eyes. She is Sudanese, so I’m unsure of whether she’s just painfully shy or doesn’t understand me. She blinks twice in rapid succession, then sits down in a chair next to her mother.
Her mother is in pain and hunched over, rocking back and forth. Her daughter gets up from her chair and stands in front of her and places a small hand on her knee. The woman lifts her head for a moment and offers a pained smile to the girl, who gives her mother the same look she gave me a few minutes ago.
I ask the woman my questions, trying to get a bit of history from her. As I do, the little girl focuses her attention to me. She is standing next to me now, and while I’m entering information on my laptop, the girl places her chin on my forearm. She’s looking intently at the screen, as if to browse over what I’m typing to make sure it’s correct. I smile and try to speak to her again, and she lifts her eyes in my direction again, still quiet.
As I’m finishing my typing, I feel a small pinch on my arm. The little girl’s fingers are pulling at my arm hair, twisting them around in her tiny fingers. She’s focused on the blonde hairs, studying them as if she’s never seen anything like it before. I let out a yelp. She got me good with the last twirl. Her mother speaks to her in their language and she stops, and rests her head on my arm again, this time gently rubbing the area she hurt. I poke her nose with my other hand and I’m finally rewarded a smile.