Lydia took the rat tail end of the comb and slid it over her daughter’s scalp. The hair’s thickness reminded Lydia of the blue wildrye that Rochelle had braided in the woods behind the domestic violence shelter where they currently lived. “Public art,” Rochelle had said about the closed lotus formation that emerged in the grass. “Somebody will stumble across this and be amazed.” Like the tall blades of grass that Rochelle had separated that day, the strands of Lydia’s daughter’s hair appeared finer and vulnerable when manipulated from their upright position.

“Pass me the grease,” Lydia said.

Her daughter raised a jar of oily yellow paste. Lydia scooped a hunk of it with her finger and smeared that onto the back of her left hand. Then she rubbed her right index finger into the grease. With her finger she spread the slick oil along the parts; first, she oiled the part that went from the girl’s forehead to her crown, then she oiled the part that went from ear to ear.

“How long this gon’ take?” her daughter asked.

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