Toti always had such an active imagination. She would sit back and on occasion imagine herself in the thick of the jungle breaking bone with her Kung Fu, spinning random tree barks and branches, commando style, fighting assailants of illegal trafficking syndicates, rescuing women and children and winning international recognition for her work. She would occasionally sing freedom songs in her own honor.
Today she was up to something different she wasn’t fighting armed rebels, this time she was playing teacher. She hadn’t been playing outside since the accident happened. Toti had been disfigured from a really bad accident that collapsed her jaw and left her face unusual. The upper half was normal, but her lower jaw was completely contorted, her lips no longer existed, it looked like a mash up of teeth and flesh. She wore a surgical mask to try and distract the stares and mockery from the ignorant. She was only eight years old.
Toti’s mother watched her keenly from the grilled front door. She left the front door open but pulled back the grill so that she could have a good look of how Toti was faring on with the kids and ample time to run and rescue her if she was in any distress. Because of her jaw, Toti’s speech sounded very muffled and she drooled a lot. She had to wear a bib. Her friends in the neighbourhood were more receptive than Toti’s mother expected. They ran and hugged her and quickly dashed to play bladda then ‘teacher’.
The children were very aware of Toti’s injuries and weren’t willing to play any batting games, ,that Toti requested, for fear of causing her more harm. They played for about four hours and Toti’s mother called in all the children to have lunch with Toti. At the table they all watched in silence as Toti slowly pulled off her mask to take her liquid meal. The room’s silence was broken by Noni whose spoon landed on her plate when she missed her mouth while staring open mouthed at Toti.
Toti laughed, looked around the table and then said, “this is the price of saving other children from the bad people who steal us and sell us to be hurt.” The other children smiled, got up from their seats and went to Toti and hugged and kissed her.