Page 51 of Hot Mess

“I’m not sure. Theoretically, I suppose I could, but her hair is totally different to ours. I don’t think I’d have the patience to do it, to be honest.”

“I’m surprised Blaire has the patience for it,” I said. “She doesn’t like waiting longer than five minutes for a coffee, but I’ve seen her be in a salon for five hours before.”

Elle laughed and tied off Ari’s first braid. “It’s hard work. I actually had some requests after I did my video on how I did my own braids and I spent, I think, three weeks? Maybe? Hunting through the city to find a stylist who specialized in braided hairstyles who was willing to come on my channel and give hints. She has her own channel now where she uploads from the salon.”

“That’s pretty cool. I’d say you should share it with Blaire, but she wouldn’t have the patience to do it herself.”

“I actually love her videos. I find her methods so relaxing to watch. Kind of like those videos when people carve soap and stuff.” She started on the other side of Ari’s hair. “There’s something really mesmerizing about watching someone braid such thick and unruly hair. Her control is incredible.”

I understood that. It was pretty damn mesmerizing watching Elle braid my daughter’s hair, never mind watching someone do it over and over and over.

Or maybe it was just like that because it was Arielle and Elle.

“What’s her name?” Ari asked. “I wanna watch.”

“Her channel’s name is Black Girl Braids,” Elle responded. When she saw my raised eyebrows, she said, “Keep the name simple and obvious. That’s what she does. She’s a black girl who braids.”

I chuckled at that. I’d never given any consideration to naming any kind of channel, on the internet or otherwise, but that made perfectly simple sense. “What’s your channel called?”

“Life of Elle Evans,” Ari replied immediately. “Because it’s about her life. But not your real one, right? That’s what you said the other day. It’s only a little bit of your life.”

Elle’s smile was wide and so genuine it lit up her eyes. “Exactly that. It’s only a tiny bit of my life that you see.”

“And it’s all specially made for the videos.”

“Just like everyone else’s,” she agreed. “But Calla’s channel is a little bit more real life because a lot of them are filmed in her salon on actual clients. They’re sped up a lot, though.” She finished tying off the braid with a flourish. “Done!”

Ari ran her hands over them, her face lighting up as her fingertips reached the very ends of the braids. “Wow wow wow!” She jumped off the stool and ran to the downstairs toilet room, where another shriek of “Wow!” was heard from inside.

Elle muffled a laugh.

“I love it! Thank you!” She ran back in, right over to Elle, and slammed into her to hug her. Elle let out a grunting noise, but she accepted the hug and returned it just as enthusiastically.

“You’re welcome, Ari.”

“I’m gonna go watch that girl’s videos now!”

“It’s bedtime,” I reminded her. “Brush your teeth.”

“Aw, but, Dad!”

I glanced at Elle, who shrugged as if to say it wasn’t her problem. Which it technically wasn’t, but still. “Fine,” I said after a moment. “You can have an extra thirty minutes, but you’re cleaning the sinks tomorrow.”

Ari didn’t even bother weighing it up. She kissed my cheek with a squeal and ran upstairs.

“You’re a total soft touch,” Elle said, cleaning Ari’s hair off the comb and putting it in the bin. “No wonder she and I are practically best friends after your first impression of me.”

I laughed. “Man, I wish I could argue with that.”

“Think of it like this: she’s learning about other people and the way they do things. Their culture, I guess.”

“True. And if it means I don’t raise a racist arsehole, then it’s worth her staying up thirty minutes late.”

“Oh, please. Like she could ever be racist.”

“I don’t know. It was pretty touch and go when we watched Aladdin.”

Elle set down the comb on a gentle laugh. “Of course it was. It was her first encounter with an Arabian culture, I’d imagine. Being curious doesn’t make her a racist, it makes her… well, a kid. Kids aren’t inherently racist, just like kids don’t hold naturally occurring prejudices or anything like that. Kids are what they’re taught to be.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Is that your professional opinion, Dr. Evans?”

“I did tell you I had a degree in psychology. It’s not my fault I’m a genius.”

“A genius. Really.”

“Yep.” She lifted her lemonade and put the straw between her lips. “Graduated with a four-point-oh GPA, Summa Cum Laude.”

“You can braid hair, you’re a genius, you’re loved all over the world—is there anything you can’t do?”

“Yes, based on the last few days, I’m not that great at painting, I trip over doorframes, and I entertain a friendship with your conspiracy theorist great aunt.”