I stopped abruptly, focused on one child, and kneeled down to his level.
“Does your mother smoke?” I sniffed the child.
Moving quickly then, I stopped eye level to another child, voice saccharine sweet as I tilted my head to the side, "Do you have a kitten?" I squinted my eyes.
Oh, the precious child that smelled of smoke answered me with its tiny voice, quieter than a whisper, “I have a baby brother.”
“A baby!” I jumped back as I hollered in counterpoint to the child’s whisper, “How big is this baby brother? Show me. Show me with your hands. Good. Good. That’s a good size.”
The child blushed. Smiling, he looked around at the other children.
I leaned in until I could smell his sweet breath. “Where do you live? Hmmm? Let me walk you home.”
He must have smelled my breath. He might have seen that my scars are real. He turned and ran. I called after him.
"No? Oh, are we going now? Then I'll just follow you? Shall I follow you home? I'll find you. I can find you, you know. I know your teacher."
I doubled over in laughter as the remaining children slid into the shadows.
That night a baby came up missing.