She had sores all over her face.

They didn’t fill her whole face but gathered themselves into groups.

Each group had their territory.

One group was right above the left eyebrow.

The next one aligned itself along the right side of her face, between her cheek and the graceful curve of her nose.

The last group occupied the tip of her chin.

My first reaction when I saw her was repulsion, then pity, followed by something more profound.

Something warm, kind, in a kindred spirit kind of a way.

I couldn’t look into her eyes, lest I saw what I knew was there.

The pain and shame.

Pain caused by these uninvited inhabitants who took up space on her face.

The pain of the itch they caused her.

An itch she couldn’t relieve by scratching because the doctor forbade her to.

The pain of her parents and siblings bewildered, helpless looks.

They didn’t know what to do to ease her suffering.

The pain of rejection.

She saw people instinctively recoil and move away from her, giving her a suspicious and wary look.

They wondered if even the slightest contact with her would infect them.

Even children didn’t want to play with her.

Harsh looks and reprimands from their parents smothered their natural warmth and kindness.

She felt shame; she didn’t even know why she felt ashamed anymore.

Many things made her feel shame.

She felt ashamed of not being normal.

She felt ashamed of making everyone around her uneasy and guilty.

The guilt they felt for despising her because they found her repulsive.

The guilt that came from the relief they felt because it wasn’t them but her with a blemished face.

She felt ashamed of making them angry and hateful.

She reminded them of the frailty of their existence.

If this can happen to a nine-year-old girl, who apart from her face seemed to be in good health, then it can happen to them.

I finally dared to look into her eyes.

Our eyes locked.

She gracefully cocked her head and smiled at me.

The beauty of her smile was a sight to behold.