Sameena has a light silk pashmina that drapes around her neck and shoulders on special occasions. Its deep red hue plays with the dark intensity of her skin, and makes her 10-year-old smile all the more illuminating.

Sameena has a smile on her face and scars on her back. They form discolored ridges on her otherwise unbroken, youthful skin. Her muscles are agile, but the declarations of abuse, some not two months old, refuse to be silent.

Sameena speaks English as well as any native-tongued child. Four years of harsh commands and reprimands in the language gave her the bittersweet gift of fluency.

Sameena’s eyes are losing their fear. Instead of scrubbing floors, she is learning to read; her already-wise mind is growing sharper. She wants to be a doctor one day, but today she asked only for biscuits, like the other children get.

Sameena has a mother and father. They sold her as a domestic worker when she was six years old. Sameena has two brothers and two sisters, but she doesn’t know where they are. She knows that they are working, like she was.

Sameena prays to the gods that her mother will take her back. To Durga, the divine mother, she prays quietly. She puts her hands in the smoke and brushes it on her face.

When I see Sameena, I break. When I see Sameena, I am made whole.


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