Nil leans forward, hands resting on her knees. Her toe traces abstract pictures in the dust. She sits in a molded plastic chair in front of a simple two-story house with a corrugated tin roof. She has been in this position so long, she could have traced a scene from the Ramakian. The air presses heavily against her cheek.
When Nil arrived with her mother, Pahnvadee, other girls around Nil's age were gathered outside, but they floated like seeds at the edges of her awareness. Now they have dispersed by prearranged signal from the house mother, Maylao. Nil straightens in her chair as Maylao examines her. As always, Nil wears an impossibly clean, white cotton blouse, short-sleeved with rounded collar, and a brown skirt.
Maylao leans close and finds that Nil smells like soap and ginger. And something else. She smells like a child. To Maylao, this is the best, and saddest, smell of all.