One Hundred Strokes

Illustrated by Josee Masse

“Arianna?” It was my grandmother’s voice outside the door. I wiped at the tears in my eyes and took a shallow breath.

“Come in,” I said quietly. I heard the door open, but didn’t look away from the mirror in front of me.

I watched as my grandmother appeared behind me, her gaze meeting mine in the glass. Her eyes looked tired, but kind, and the concern in them made me crumple. I couldn’t handle her kindness right now.

“Oh, my darling,” she said, moving to stand behind my chair. She reached for the brush I held tightly in my hand. “Allow me.”

Slowly, softly, my grandmother pulled the brush through my damp hair, her gentle motions untangling its knots. I closed my eyes and focused on the feeling of the brush, letting the rhythm calm my heart. Steadily, my shoulders relaxed and I let go of a breath that it felt like I’d been holding in all day.

We were quiet while she brushed my hair, the steady brush the only sound in the room. I counted a hundred brush strokes before my grandmother set down the brush and began to braid my drying hair.

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