Marlowe has been growing her hair out for the past year. It's an unusual change - she hadn't kept it this long since high school, and she slowly beings to remember why. Ponytails and buns require less bobby pins, but tying it up is a hassle and brushing it in the morning takes longer than she remembers.
A quick Google search tells her that hair typically grows a half inch a month, 6 inches every year - she thinks hers is longer than that.
Juliet is ecstatic when Marlowe finally comes to her for help with it - unlike Marlowe, her hair is thick as well as long, so she has numerous solutions and grievances tucked under her arm that she's been waiting to share with someone for years. She recommends shampoo and conditioner, emails Marlowe her favorite links on long-haired hairstyles, and even spends a stakeout one night showing her partner how to braid it tightly and quickly.
Marlowe, who preferred to either keep her new hair pinned up in a bun or pulled into a ponytail, finds herself braiding it over her shoulder this day.
She ties it with a simple hair tie, pins back her now too-long fringe with a bobby pin, and brushes back a few stray hairs to settle behind her ear. Part of her is frustrated with the hair, as she'd spent the entirety of her adult life up until this point with shoulder length (or shorter) hair, but she has good reason for this new length.
The guard that meets her in the reception area has been the same for the past few months, and by now the routine is set in stone: she trades in her firearm and phone but keeps her badge around her neck, and he stores it all in a locked room before leading her back to the visiting area. The hallway in between is cold, gray, and silent every time.
"Detective," the guard rumbles, his voice metallic and scratchy as if from disuse. She looks away from the gate, still shut, and tilts her head. This is the first time they've spoken, outside of her asking him whether or not she should take out her earrings before going through the metal detector. She sees that his nameplate bears the name "Lopez."
"Officer," she replies, wary.
"I...the guards are scared of you. Or at least most of them are." He scratches the back of his neck, his other hand near the button that buzzed in the request for the gate to open. "But the rest really admire you, y'know? And they...a lot of us like him, too."
Marlowe isn't sure how to receive this, so she asks, "How so?"
Lopez turns a shade of pink. "Well, you're head detective. We're used to the criminals around here cursing you a lot, y'know? But Lassiter...he's nice. Respectful is the word my supervisor uses. He talks to us when we can, but doesn't lash out or nothing. He's a good inmate."
"I'm...glad to hear that, Officer Lopez. He's not much of a troublemaker, huh?"
"No, ma'am. Just wanted to let you know we appreciate you and him, and we're all sorta rooting for you."
Before Marlowe can reply, he quickly hits the button and speaks into the mic. "Open the gate; head detective's here." There's a slight pause before the short alarm sounds, and the double-barred gate before them slides open. Unusually, Lopez allows Marlowe to enter first, which has never happened before today.
Marlowe is wearing her badge on a chain around her neck today; the guard within the visiting center nods as she walks in. Lopez takes his post up several feet behind her as she nears the closest stall - a guard on the other side is leading an inmate to the same one.
They sit in front of each other and grin over the grated barrier that separates them as the guard handcuffs him to a link on the table. She drinks in his appearance hungrily, taking in all the details as quickly as possible. Most notably, he's shaved - he'd been sporting a beard for the past few weeks, but today his face is clean-shaven, the whiskers barely noticeable. His hair has been cut, as well, to resemble what it'd looked like before he'd been put away, though without product it's fluffier and messy.
"Good afternoon, Marlowe," he greets pleasantly, and when he smiles, she feels her stomach turn over.
"It's good to see you, Carlton," she returns, unable to keep a straight face. "You look nice."
"So do you. Been a while since I've seen you in jeans; I've sorta gotten used to the work outfits. Is that a new shirt?"
"No, I just never wear it. I have no social life, so I have no reason to. Do you like it?"
"I like seeing you in anything."
"How about nothing?"
"How is it in there this week? Sleeping enough?"
"Sleeping better than I'm eating. You get tired of gruel and goulash every now and then. I think about you a lot. I'm pretty lonely during the week."
"A little horny, too."
"How's the grass on the other side?"
"Not as green as you'd think. Lots of murders these days, but summer's over. They'll subdue soon. You might get some new neighbors, soon."
"Oh, good. Just what I wanted."
"Consider it an anniversary present."
"Are we really only going to bring that up after discussing inmates?" Carlton sighs, his exasperation exaggerated. She grins at him. "I got all dolled up for you to tell me I'm going to bunk with murderers soon. Happy fucking anniversary."
"Ooh, you're sarcastic today."
"Like I said, today's special. And I don't want to hear it, you're sarcastic every day."
"That's true." She sighs, reaching across the table and brushing his fingertips with hers; the guards don't react, although she hears Lopez shift on his feet. "It's been a year, Carlton. We're almost there."
He meets her eyes without blinking; up close, his eyes are so bright they're distracting. In the dull lighting, they look hollow. "12 months down, four to go. It hasn't been easy, huh?"
"No," she agrees, and looks down. One of her hands moves up to touch the pendant resting in the dip of her collarbone - this was a nervous habit she'd picked up over the past few months since she'd started wearing it. "I miss you."
"Yeah. I've got a lot of time to think in here, but all I can do is...well, dwell on you." When she looks up, she finds his expression is hard to place. His eyes linger on her necklace. "I forget what it feels like to kiss you. We only did it that once."
"It was some pretty good kissing," she tells him, "but that's all I remember. I'm not much better off."
They fall silent. Marlowe is painfully aware that their time is ticking, and she doesn't want their anniversary visit to end on a dull note. She's just thinking of something to relieve the tension when he speaks up again. "How are we going to...work?"
She blinks at him a few times. "What do you mean?"
Setting his jaw, he leans back, his face suddenly closed to her. "I mean, I don't know if I'll still be able to work, and I definitely won't be able to work immediately. Then there's parole restrictions, and I'll be living off your salary, and we'll have to work out living conditions and where in the state I can even go, and-"
"The thing about things like that," she interrupts, voice quiet but stern, "is that they tend to fall into place on their own. We've got time, Carlton."
"We've had a lot of time," he admits. "So much damn time."
"And we're still here, right? I haven't left you yet, and you haven't given up on me. We just need to...stick it out. We did one year; who's to say we can't last another? And even more than that?"
Carlton doesn't have a response to that, but his silences often say more than his words. Marlowe can tell he's thinking, but she's not in the mood to argue. Instead of instigating something, she watches him - there's something comforting about watching him breathe.
"Your hair is longer," he notes, after a heavily pregnant pause. "It's normally pulled back. You used to keep it short."
Her hands instinctively go to the braid, twirling the end of it in her fingers. "It's how I keep time, like you and your recurring beards. It takes a year to grow six inches."
"Only six inches? Looks longer."
"Probably is. Still, it's my only physical reminder. And it's getting to be a pain in the ass, so there's that."
"Tell me about it," he prompts. "I don't want to think about this place. Let me forget about it."
And she gladly obliges, wishing Juliet were here to tell him everything about her long-term struggles with longer hair.
The guards wait patiently for Marlowe to finish an anecdote before Lopez taps her on the shoulder and tells her her hour was up a few minutes ago. She stammers out her apologies, and finds Carlton is smiling at her when she turns back around.
"Happy six inches," he tells her, his voice warm and rich with laughter. "It'll be another two inches by the time I get to run my hands through it."
"Look forward to it," is how she bids her farewell, before the guard uncuffs him and herds him back through the gate on the other side.
She's in an unusually good mood as she shoves her sidearm back in its pancake holster. She turns on her phone to find she's missed quite a few calls and texts from Juliet, but finds herself in no hurry to answer her.In the car, Marlowe undoes her braid and spends a few moments running her hands through her hair, untangling knots with care. She'd only have to keep it this long a little longer - in four months' time, she'd take the time to cut it all off herself.