That was the sound that prison food made.
Debbie scuffed her way down the line behind a woman with a roll of toilet paper for a pet and sighed at the looks of todays fare. It was only her third day in the big house, but she could already tell prison was gonna keep her skinny.
Splat. Something green. Splat. Something between gray and brown. Was it beans? Was it rice? She supposed if she couldn't tell it didn't really matter. A crusty corner piece of cornbread and a tepid plastic cup of tap water completed the sad ensemble of her dinner. She sat down and tried some of the green stuff with her dull prison spoon. It tasted like spinach that had died and gone to hell. She swallowed it regretfully, her face scrunching up at the taste. God, she missed Lou.
Cooking. She missed Lou's cooking.
She did not miss Lou. At least, that's what she was telling herself.
Lou was a chef, once upon a time. She had a very refined palate. She never ate fast food and she rarely ordered entrees whenever they went to one of 'Debbie's places' to eat. Debbie teased Lou for being stuck up about it, but she really wasn't - she would always eat what she was served, even when it was Debbie's famously horrible grilled cheese sandwiches. Lou teased her right back for having zero taste. She supposed she was right. She had tried the French fries at every dive bar within a ten mile radius of any place they had lived, and she had what Lou considered a shameful passion for diner food.
When she and Lou moved into their first tiny two bedroom apartment, she had been surprised to see that Lou had a passion for something so... domestic. Even when they were soup sandwich broke, Lou would come home with fresh ingredients she had stolen from grocery stores and farmers markets. Before long, she had Debbie stealing them too. As a joke, she began bringing home the strangest foods she could find, challenging Lou with a smirk to make something edible out of the radishes, dragonfruit, and pickled garlic she had brought home. Lou never failed to make something amazing.
As she pushed around the gray mush on her tray, she missed all the times she had woken up to the smell of breakfast cooking, she missed watching Lou with her roll of sharp knives dicing onions and chewing on a toothpick and swaying to whatever record she had on. She missed the mornings after she and Lou hit the clubs, when Lou would go home and crash and she would take the long way home, stopping by the farmers market to steal food. She missed coming home to Lou sitting bleary-eyed at their kitchen counter in her flannel robe, drinking black coffee. She would open her coat like she was selling knockoff watches, and Lou would smile and come see what wild ingredients she had found. Lou stole food because it was the only way, Debbie stole food because she wanted to. She kept up the tradition long after they were no longer hurting for money.
She remembered the rainy day before an especially important job, when she went out and bought all of Lou's favorite things, staking her last 50 bucks on the fact that the job would come through, and in some ways, that their partnership would come through. It was a gesture of good faith, she supposed.
She came through the door as usual to see Lou sitting by the window, eyes closed, nursing a beer this morning instead of a coffee. Lou didn't look up or even open her eyes when she heard her come in.
"Hey." She called.
"Hey." Lou called back, finally opening her eyes and turning to look at her.
"I got you something."
Lou's eyes flicked to the bag, then back to her. She breathed deeply through her nose.
"Herbs." She said, smiling. It was a statement, not a question.
"Impressive" Debbie said, smiling back and putting the bags on the counter.
Lou unloaded the bags, oohing and ahhing over the food Debbie had brought home. She pulled out an impressive loaf of French bread and smelled it. "Oh my god." She said.
Then suddenly, she was very close. "You, are amazing." She said, taking Debbie's face in her bread free hand and fixing her with her steely eyes and that look that she had seen melt men and women alike to doing Lou's bidding. Debbies stomach dropped, all of the sudden very sure that Lou was going to kiss her. Lou pressed a kiss to her forehead and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "Thanks for this." She said, and she backed away, turning to the counter to start cooking.
It wasn't very often that someone left a member of the Ocean family dazed and confused, but she was rooted to the spot, her heart beating a lot faster than strictly necessary. She had run clubs with Lou for a long time; she had seen Lou pick up girls on jobs and knew that Lou could be charming when she wanted to be. But charming wasn't the right word, she thought. Lous was... compelling. She had just never had it directed at her before. She shook her head.
In the prison cafeteria, Debbie scoffed.
Little did she know.
Little did she know back then that the feeling that Lou was about to kiss her was one that she would spend a disgraceful amount of time chasing. And she knew that for all the fallout between them recently, she couldn't help but miss her partner in crime.
all of the food is based off of actual things I've eaten on ships. its rough.
I wanted deb to be angrier maybe at lou, or trying harder not to miss her, but idk what exactly their beef was during their rough patch and they seemed pretty happy when she got out of jail so I guess shes just gonna be missing her gf. if anyone has any insight please for the love of god hmu.
Chapter 2: When She Couldn't Sleep
The lights went out in solitary at 10pm.
That and her meals were the only sense she had of time passing. Of course, the cell was never truly dark - the white lights gave way to red lights that were proof that something could be ominous and soft at the same time. Debbie laid on her sorry excuse for a bed, stretching her hands out behind her head. Then she curled over on her side. Then she laid on her stomach for awhile. She wasn't sure how long the lights had been out, but it had been awhile. She thought about the heist, she thought about Danny, she thought about seeing light that wasn't fluorescent. She didn't sleep much, but it was uncommon that she couldn't sleep when she was tired, and she sighed, thinking that all she wanted was to make a cup of tea and lie in a real bed.
She got up and paced her cell for a few minutes. Then she sat on the edge of the bed. Heist. Jail. Danny. Lou.
No, she wasn't going to think about Lou.
But even the effort of not thinking of her was forcing her to confront the sore spot in her chest that came with Lou's name. She had screwed up so many things in landing herself here, and she was scared that she had screwed up the one thing she could always count on.
She laid back down again. The lights buzzed above her and she wondered in spite of herself what Lou was up to, if she'd taken any more jobs, if she would ever forgive her for spite-dating a toolbag and ruining the fragile thing they had going. She hoped that Lou knew none of it was real - that Claude Becker was a mark, and that his cooking would never be as good as Lou's. She hoped Lou knew she was never going to stay with him, and that posting up as his girlfriend made her look at what (and who) she really wanted in a real relationship, and that without it all, she never would have seen Lou standing in front of her this whole time. She never would have let herself believe that Lou, of all people, had a goddamn soft spot in the shape of Debbie Ocean. More than anything, she wanted to climb into Lou's unmade bed with her, all blond hair and skin, contorted into some ungodly shape, and feel the warmth and presence of someone who she could sleep next to with her back turned and feel more safe than when she started.
Lou slept exactly how you would imagine her to. That was what Debbie thought the first time she walked past Lou's open bedroom door in their first real place. She had known Lou for a long time, had slept in the same place as her on occasion, but for some reason this always surprised her. She wasn't wearing much, and her arms and legs were spread everywhere, one hand in her blond hair, one grabbing at the pillow she had draped herself over, one leg tucked up and the other hanging off the side of the bed. She looked, as always, like rock and roll incarnate - gold jewelry on black silk sheets, with a Pulp Fiction poster on the ceiling above her bed and dark curtains on the windows for sleeping well into the morning. A tall lighted green room mirror was the only light in the room, and Debbie paused to take in the sight of her for a second, smiling. Even then, she thought it would be nice to thread herself around those tangled limbs and sheets, but she didn't follow that trail of thought too far.
In her cell, on her cot that was smaller even than a twin bed, Debbie groaned at the thought of those silk sheets. She didn't know why Lou's bed had to be so luxurious, but she was pretty sure she was in love with it. Soft and wide and inviting. In fact, her love affair with Lou's bed started long before Lou was there sleeping next to her.
Lou was gone for a month. Debbie was on her own in their house. Lou's door was open and one night, Debbie noticed that Uma Thurman was no longer on the ceiling. The poster had fallen down. She put down the laundry basket she had been carrying on her hip and ventured further in to investigate. She had been in Lou's room before, but it was different without her there. It felt a little bit like trespassing, but she knew that Lou knew she lived with a bona fide trespasser, so Debbie didn't feel bad about looking at the things Lou had out. Her record player, her clothes rack, her makeup, a few rocks and gems on top of the mirror, a picture of Lou and her mother when Lou was a little girl in Australia. Debbie had asked her about it before, but not really gotten anything useful out of her.
She picked up the poster off the floor and found some tacks to put it back up, stepping up on the bed in her sock feet and tacking it back in place. she stepped down and crawled onto the bed to make sure it was hanging straight. Then she was laying down. Then she had the blanket pulled up to keep the cold out, and breathed in deeply, smelling Lou in the sheets and the pillows. The bed swallowed her whole, and she dreamed about Lou. She woke up the next morning half expecting Lou to be beside her, and feeling like she had slept better than she had in years.
After that, every few nights she would sneak into Lou's bed, only ever after the sun was down and she had laid in her bed for awhile trying to sleep. She would inevitably drift off into dark, fluffy luxury and dream of Lou. Sometimes silly, sometimes serious, sometimes hot. Her favorite was her dream that they had been hired to move a truckload of beer across state lines, a la Smokey and the Bandit. She had visions of Lou in a black TransAm wearing a cowboy hat like Burt Reynolds and it was so spot on and ridiculous that she woke up laughing.
One night she dreamed that she felt Lou slide into bed next to her.
Debbie froze mid-stretch. She turned her head slowly and looked at Lou. Lou, who wasn't supposed to be back yet. Lou, who was sitting up in bed next to her, sipping a cup of coffee and reading the newspaper, mug almost hiding the smirk that was shining in her eyes.
"Ummmm..." Was all Debbie could say in return as she felt heat crawl up every inch of her face. "I just - there was - the poster, and then, it was so comfortable I just -" She fumbled. Lou's grin just kept getting wider and wider. Debbie threw the blankets off and sat up.
"No, by all means, stay. It's a comfortable bed." Lou said
"Yes. Yes it is. Your bed. Is very nice."
"I get that a lot." Lou said, flicking the newspaper and throwing her a wink.
Debbie slunk out of Lou's room, and that was all the two of them ever said about it until much later.
The night Debbie was sitting downstairs, thinking about her father, thinking about Danny, thinking about jail, and life, and everything that came with it. She sat at the kitchen table around midnight, pushing her teabag around with a spoon but not drinking any of it. She heard the whine of Lou's bike outside, and heard her open the door quietly and come into the kitchen. Lou walked up, taking her gloves off and breathing a little heavy, bringing with her the smell of fresh air and 2-stroke exhaust.
"Hey." She said, leaning up against the counter cooly, smiling until she got a look at Debbie's face. "What's wrong?" She asked. When she didn't answer, Lou crossed the distance between her and the table. "Hey." she tried again, looking intently at her friend, who wouldn't meet her eyes.
"My father died." Debbie stated quietly, looking at the floor. "Can't sleep."
Lou released a breath, eyes still flicking over her, looking for signs.
"You wanna talk about it?" She asked, and it was sweet. Lou was being sweet to her, and all at once there were tears. Tears for her father, who died in prison creating the name that she had to live up to. Lou scooped her up into her arms and she breathed in the smell of leather and Lou's perfume. They stayed like that for a minute, when Lou said "Let's go to bed." And they did. Debbie laid down and Lou got into bed and pulled her close like they had been downstairs, and there were still tears, but it was nice to have Lou. She always had Lou. Lou, who was reckless and cocky and hard to read, was holding her in her arms, and playing with her hair, and when she woke up the next morning they were still tangled together and she got to watch Lou wake up this time. She got to see the soft expression on her face when she looked at Debbie, before the façade went back up, and that was something she would hold onto forever.
That was what she thought about in prison when she couldn't sleep, and it's what she was sure she was going to get back, no matter the cost, when she got out.
Chapter 3: When She Saw Motorcycles on TV
so I changed this chapter due to writer block and this being more interesting. I was out of town for a week, so you get a two for one sale on chapters I wrote when I was gone :)
Prison was boring. It was a Sunday morning and Debbie was sitting in the common area enjoying the relaxed daily routine. She was leaned back in her chair, feet on the table, munching on a bag of popcorn and thinking and casually watching a couple other inmates fight about to watch on TV. One girl promised the other her cookies at dinner and got free reign. Some show about aliens.
She took out her pen and paper. She had most of the heist planned out, the maneuvers written down by codename on a piece of prison stationary. It just needed a little foolproofing; a few finishing touches. She twirled her pen in her hand and crunched another handful of popcorn. It wasn't long before the other girls started fighting again and left, leaving the TV on behind them. A loud masculine voice announcing some show about cars barely registered as her head was filled with thoughts of lies and cons and dresses and diamonds.
Other girls wandered in and out over the next half hour, but they left her well enough alone. She had been in long enough that people knew who she was and what she was about, and since she was the only purveyor of decent cigarettes and hot cheetos, they pretty much left her to her own devices unless they needed something.
She was daydreaming not so much about the heist anymore, but about the dress she might wear, when the familiar sound of a motorcycle revving brought her attention to the TV. She looked up and saw a bike that looked almost like Lou's. Lou's was cooler, she thought with a smile, but they looked and sounded like they could be similar models.
Her smile faded, replaced by a sudden and strong wave of loneliness. She wanted Lou to be here beside her- or rather, she wanted to be home with her feet on Lou's lap, while Lou got drunk on red wine and ate her popcorn and told her and the TV all the things they should do to the bike. Lou watched car shows like some people watch sports, and Debbie thought it was the greatest thing in the world.
She missed riding on Lou's motorcycle. She had never been one for fast cars or motorcycles herself, but she appreciated the speed and the adrenaline rush and felt why Lou loved it so much. She loved it too, but mostly by proxy. Bikes had always been a part of who Lou was, all the way back to the night they met.
Lou stood out in a crowd and Debbie spotted her right away. She had the keen eyes of a con, and before she knew it, Lou spotted her right back. They had been eyeing each other all night, but it wasn't until one of the guys she conned got wise that Debbie dared to approach her. Leaving the club in a hurry, looking desperately for a way out, she saw Lou's tall blond figure putting on her jacket by her bike. Debbie raced over, heels clicking on the sidewalk, until Lou noticed her.
"Get me out of here?" She had asked, desperately.
"20% of the take and I'm all yours." Lou said, looking her up and down and already handing her a helmet. Debbie smiled; a con knows a con. 20% for a getaway driver was more than reasonable.
"Deal." She said quickly, taking her heels off and putting them in the bag Lou had just pulled her helmet out of. She wondered vaguely if this lady always had a spare helmet for picking up people in need of a quick getaway.
"You just make yourself right at home, don't you?" Lou asked, amused.
"Yes. Shut up. Go, Go!" She said, seeing that the man had just exited the club and was looking around ferociously for her. She hopped on behind Lou and grabbed her tight, as she kicked the bike to life and raced away. They got coffee and discussed the evening, and by the end of it Debbie had brought her in as her partner on a 2 man job that she had just never been able to find the right person for. The rest was history.
There had been many bike rides since then. She missed the cocky way Lou would walk around in her motorcycle boots and throw her a helmet when Debbie asked if she was going somewhere, not even bothering to ask if she wanted to come. She already knew the answer was yes. She missed having an excuse to wrap her arms around Lou. She missed unzipping Lou's jacket halfway at a red light so she could tuck her perpetually cold arms in and warm her fingers in the spaces between Lou's ribs. She loved feeling the deep breath she took just before the light turned green, she loved the way Lou stomped into gear and took off, loved feeling her reign in her speed and aggression for Debbie's sake, riding with just a helmet for protection. She loved feeling Lou lean into the turns, loved the crisp signals she gave with black gloved hands, loved the way she returned the casual wave that oncoming bikers threw at her. Most of all, she loved that despite being covered head to toe in black, she could always tell when Lou was smiling.
The bike was a part of their everyday life and she missed those slow, in-between days when Lou would wear jeans and a T-shirt and there would be a string of strong and colorful expletives coming from wherever they had set up shop, from rented space under fake names, to Lou's weirdly hip garage.
It made her sad, sitting in prison, wondering if Lou was working on her bike, if there was anyone there to remind her to eat or to make begrudging runs to the parts store to pick up packages on the promise of steak dinner. She wanted those in-between days back; she wanted Lou. It was no longer just a casual missing of a friend, but a deep-seated loneliness for someone who understood her, someone who would share with her, someone who would throw her a helmet and know she would come along. Someone who never slowed down to even kiss the speed limit but never felt dangerous. Someone she could wrap her arms around without saying a word. She missed Lou. Missed her so hard it ached.
She got up and hit the power button on the TV so hard it shook, then she got back to her plans. She was going to get her life back. She was going to get Lou back.
Chapter 4: When She Got Her First Shipment of Contraband
mmkay so this is a little out of order I guess, I'm just posting them in the order I write em. I don't know, man, I just work here.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
At 8pm, the laundry room was dark and hot. The kind of humid, oppressive hot that came from steam dryers and pressing machines. Debbie stood in the shadows by the window, waiting. The door was pushed open and she saw the dark form of Tracy, the night guard, carrying a big box. She set it down on one of the steel tables heavily and brushed off her hands, looking around in the dark.
"Special delivery, Ocean." She called, and Debbie walked out into the sliver of light coming from the hallway and leaned on the table with her hands, smiling.
"You're the best, Trace, that's why I love you." Tracy rolled her eyes, but she smiled back.
"Uh huh. Just gimme my cut so I can get out of here."
Debbie handed her a perfectly respectable wad of bills and watched Tracy leave.
People would say she had an eye for a mark, but really, she just had an eye for people who were up for anything. The kind of people she didn't HAVE to con, because they were already halfway up for her shenanigans - they just needed a little push in the right direction.
Tracy wasn't hard up for cash, she wasn't feeding a drug habit or desperate, she would never be suspected of helping her smuggle low level contraband. The truth of it was, she had worked at the prison for the better part of 10 years- she was bored. Debbie had simply let her live a little, and only after swearing on everything that was holy that she wouldn't bring in anything dangerous.
Debbie took a pen out of her breast pocket and split the tape on the box. Candy, lipstick, luxurious toilet paper. "Oh, thank you Reuben." She breathed. Under the T-shirts, she hit real pay dirt- 6 cartons of cigarettes lining the bottom of the box. Camels, regular and menthol, Marlboros, golds, blacks, and at the end, reds. Long ones. 'Goddamn cowboy cigarettes' Reuben called them. She looked at them for a minute. She hadn't asked for those. Well, she had asked for cigarettes, but not specifically THOSE. She took a pack out of the carton and tucked it into her pocket before she thought too much about it and set to distributing her haul through the laundry. Tomorrow she would pick up an envelope of crumpled bills from the laundry lady. It was a simple racket, it didn't make much money on the outside, but for prison standards it was profitable. She would pass it on to another girl when she left.
After she checked her list to make sure everything got where it needed to go, she looked out at the dark stacks of sheets and left. She felt the lump in her pocket and looked around for anyone who might see her. It was late, most of the girls were showering, but she still had a couple hours left till lights out. She cautiously made her way to the stairs to the roof, where she had convinced a different guard to leave her the key on top of the door frame. That privilege had taken her nearly 6 months to work out, but she loved the quiet moments she got to spend on the gravelly roof of the prison.
She slid down the wall and sat on the ground. She pulled the pack of smokes out of her pocket and looked at them almost suspiciously. She took the foil off and set one between her lips, lighting it when she was sure no one would see her from the ground. She breathed in and it made her cough. She didn't usually smoke, but desperate times and all...
It tasted like Lou.
Lou was a casual smoker (and a stress smoker, but only Debbie knew that). It went with her whole... thing. Her look, her vibe, whatever. Leather and bikes and rock n roll and long cowboy cigarettes. Crumpled cartons in jacket pockets, on her nightstand, in her glove box. She inhaled again and looked up at the stars.
She should be happy tonight. This first shipment was a success. A small victory, but a victory nonetheless, celebrated by sneaking out to the roof. Instead of feeling content and happy and warm like she did out on the balcony with Lou, she was cold and the cigarette tasted empty; like it was missing something. Which it was. Reuben knew. It was missing the taste of Lou's lips behind it.
It was the last job they did together, the last time they left a party together, the last time anyone saw them together before prison. A job for Rusty, with Reuben's money. The party after it, actually.
She and Lou were just standing there, talking, when a drunk Rusty came up to Lou, who had known him even before any of the Ocean's did, and threw an arm around her shoulder and leaned on her heavily. "Oh my God, Louise, just kiss her already." He said into her ear. She elbowed him in the gut for using her whole name and pushed him back into a sanding position. "What, you don't think I will?" She asked, a little drunk herself and always down for a dare. Rusty grinned. "No, I don't think she'd let you." he said, and she and Lou shared a knowing smirk that said 'no way Rusty's calling us out like this.' Lou set down her drink and handed her cigarette to Rusty, drawing that attention of Reuben and a few others. She sauntered over, stone cool and cocky from the table she was leaning on until she had her hands on Debbie's hips. Debbie had that feeling again, that same rise in blood pressure that told her Lou was about to kiss her, but just before she did, she stopped and flashed her a look. A question. 'Is this ok?' Debbie answered by closing the distance between them herself, arms, coming up around Lou's shoulders. The onlookers whistled and hollered, but all she knew was Lou. She tasted like her cigarette, smoky and spicy, and she was a good kisser, Debbie thought as they broke apart.
The smoulder had returned, but there was affection there, too. A shared understanding that it may not have been anything more than a kiss, but that neither of them would have risen to the occasion had it been anyone else.
It all passed in a second and then they turned together, side by side, to face Rusty and the others with matching looks of pure superiority.
"I'll be damned." He said, taking a long drag of Lou's cigarette before she snatched it back from him.
"Don't make a bet you can't win, Rusty. Didn't you teach me that?" She said, patting his arm as she followed Lou past him. Lou laughed.
On the roof of the prison, a tear slid down her face. The first one she'd shed since she'd been there. She wanted to go back to that night and memorize it. She wanted the taste of Lou's lips instead of the ghost of her brand of smokes. She wanted to share a message in a look with someone she loved.
Did she love Lou?
She knew it was true the moment she thought it. Knew it had been true for a long time. She might even be ready to do something about it. At the very least, she needed her partner back.
Her next order had a sealed envelope with a stamp, and where the address should be, a single word. Lou.
Reuben would know what to do.
little bitta angst for a Thursday afternoon. to squishy? not squishy enough? ooc? lemme know what you guys think! your comments are giving me life!!
Chapter 5: When She Saw a Blond Haircut Through the Crowd
sorry for taking so long to update, working all the time puts me in a weird mood. We're getting there, my dudes.
Read, comment, tell me what you wanna see for the last chapter, and for Lou's pov, coming soon to a site near you.
2 months and 2 shipments later, and still no reply from Lou. She had been sure Reuben would pass along her note, but she had also been sure Lou would write her back. Now she wasn't sure of anything.
She moved to the very side of the long prison sinks while she brushed her teeth so the other girls could get ready for visiting day. The smell of AquaNet hung thick and strong in the air, and she had already been approached a bunch of times by girls pleading for some of her non-prison cosmetics. If they had money, they got them. The girls put on lipstick and slightly mismatched shades of foundation and did their hair and put on their best set of garish orange jumpsuits. For a lot of people, this one day a month was all that got them through their sentences. For Debbie, it just meant some peace and quiet, and nobody looking for her. A chance to sneak off to the roof or to rifle through the kitchen. Nobody was coming to visit her.
It was a simple fact, and she made what she could of it. The only people she would even care to see were Danny, Rusty, and Lou, and they were all impossibilities. Danny was dead, Rusty was not trying to get on her list of known associates, and Lou, well, Lou probably didn't want to see her, and even if she did, Debbie wouldn't let her come. No reason to create suspicion. At least Rusty sent her a goddamn postcard every now and again, Debbie thought a little bitterly. Even Tess, who Debbie hadn't seen in years but had always really liked, had sent her a note saying how sorry she was for Danny's death. Something in it felt a little stilted, like she was trying to figure out how she should feel, writing it while she and Danny sunbathed on the beach in Tahiti. Just another hint that her brother may not be as dead as he wanted to appear. Then again, maybe Tess was just grieving and trying to write to someone she hadn't seen in years. She wasn't sure of anything anymore.
And that had always been her trademark, hadn't it? She and Danny, all of the Oceans, really, were always so sure of themselves. So confident, so put together, so clever. Right up until they went to prison. The charm, the confidence, that all meant next to nothing here. Here, she was nobody. It was strange at first, but she had leaned into it. Embraced the anonymity, allowed it to become a free pass to do whatever she wanted.
She left the overcrowded bathroom and went back to the common area, sitting down on her bed and looking for something to read, flipping idly through a magazine. Just like always on visiting day, she was restless. She didn't know where her bunkmate was, usually the two of them could at least sit back together and make fun of the crazed way the other girls got ready for their most important day of the month, but she wasn't there. Debbie flipped through the magazine some more when she came around the corner, hair carefully braided and looking a little bashful.
"Hey, Ocean." She said, propping her elbows over the wall.
"Hey, Jan." Debbie said back, looking up and smiling. Jan was the most tolerable of all her bunkmates. In fact, Debbie considered her a friend. A friend of circumstance, to be sure, but a friend nonetheless.
"Um, I was wondering," She started, cheeks tinting pink like there was something she didn't want to ask. "I'm just, I'm seeing my sister for the first time in a long time, and I know you and I aren't like, super close or anything, but, um, I was just wondering if maybe you would come with me?"
Debbie was taken aback. Jan had been in for a long time, she was strong, even mean, when the occasion called for it, and this was the first time Debbie had even looked closely enough to see that she was also young. Young and afraid by the looks of it, and some of the inherent and weirdly contradictory kindness that prison had beaten out of Debbie came rushing back.
The thoughts on her face must have taken a second too long, because Jan was already trying to backpedal.
"I mean, I know you probably don't want to, it's cool, we're practically strangers, I just, was thinking since you and I make fun of the others, maybe you would want someone to hang out with but-"
"Jan." Debbie cut her off, smiling.
"I'll go with you, it's no problem."
Jan looked genuinely surprised. Then relieved.
"Yeah, sure. If you do any of that crazy shit, I'm gonna make fun of you too. Wouldn't wanna miss it." She said, trying to lighten up the moment.
"Thanks." Jan said, smiling, and it was clear that she felt a lot better about the whole situation as she walked with Debbie toward the room with the phones.
She couldn't actually go in with her, but she stood behind the glass and watched her and the others talk to their loved ones. The room was absolutely packed. She wondered why for a moment until it dawned on her - Easter. It was Easter Sunday. Jan looked like she was doing ok, she and her sister were having a tearful and smiling conversation, and Debbie was happy for her, even if it was kind of an empty happiness. She looked around at the room, looking at husbands, wives, kids of criminals. Remembered being on the other side of the glass talking to Danny. Remembered putting her hand up on the glass next to his, trying to feel the warmth through the thick plastic. Remembered how she could be so, so close to him, but how everything was tainted with the knowledge that it would never be close enough. There was no getting through to the other side. Well- at least not without getting arrested herself. It was impossibly worse on this side.
While she was lost in thought, she saw a flash of blond that pulled her completely and violently from whatever she had been thinking about. Lou. The shaggy, shoulder length haircut on a tall, skinny woman left no room for doubt in her mind that was very suddenly reeling. Her stomach dropped and her hands went clammy. Lou is here. She thought and was pressing up to the glass before she could stop herself. She imagined looking into Lou's eyes, sleepless but shining, hearing her voice, low and coarse and laughing, seeing her smile again at something stupid like her prison haircut. Sitting down across from her and finally existing in the same place. Together. Together. Someone who would see her even after all the shit she had put her through. She could finally tell her how sorry she was, how absolutely stupid she had been, how much she missed her. Not out loud, of course, but she could make her understand.
Then the woman turned around. Her bangs were purple and her eyes were brown and she lacked Lou's high, distinct cheekbones.
Not Lou. Her whole body and heart just sort of went oh, and she sighed. Oh. Yeah, no, of course Lou wasn't here to see her. She hadn't even responded to the letter she wrote. She wasn't coming. Not now, not ever. It was fine.
The disappointment passed quickly. She decided she was glad all over again that nobody was coming to see her. Especially Lou. And there was some truth to it. Holding her hand to Lou's through the glass would be too much. She would absolutely not be able to cope. Seeing her, in all her striking glory, so close, would be too much to handle without being able to touch her. That's what she wanted, more than anything, was to touch her. To exist in the same space again like they always did. Shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand, Lou was a grounding rod for all of the static electricity swirling in her head. She was warm and strong and there. Lou was there. She had always been there. Beside her, in front of her, a partner and a challenge all in one, all parsed in a language of absolute zero personal space. She couldn't even put a finger on where it started. Just somewhere along the way the line between what was hers and what was Lou's had been erased. They existed as separately and together as two sides of the same coin; distinct but connected. It was comfortable. It was safe. It was valuable, knowing that the soft side of Lou was for her alone, that anyone else sneaking into her bed would be shot, anyone else daring to pick up her legs from the couch and sit under them would be excommunicated, anyone else but her seeing the shaking, chain smoking mess that Lou was when she woke up from a nightmare would never live to tell about it. It had never even crossed her mind just how much she must mean to Lou for her to be allowed to see all that.
She finally understood the scale of the trust that she had broken and it devastated her. She went to sleep that night trying not to think of it, trying not to cry, no longer waiting for Lou to write her back.
But she did.
The next month, sitting on top of the package was an unmarked envelope. Debbie tore it open, sitting down right there in the laundry to read it by moonlight. Her heart swelled just looking at the rough piece of notebook paper with Lou's tiny chaotic capital letters.
Got a new place on the East Side, paying kids under the table to split vodka and watch Judge Judy. Things are alright. Boring, of course, but fine.
Looks like prison is giving you a little perspective, huh? About goddamn time, you stubborn piece of shit.
But you've been a stubborn piece of shit since the day I met you. You're a brilliant, conniving, stubborn piece of shit who has seen me through a lot.
If you think one douchebag getting the better of you is gonna change that, then you seriously need to check your pride, Ocean.
We do have some things to talk about. You suck, and you absolutely fucked me over and I'm still really damn mad at you, but if I had a dollar for every time I was mad at you, I wouldn 't have to be your partner, now would I?
Be good, get out soon, write me again.
Debbie buried her head in her sleeve, wiping away tears that were flowing freely. This time, though, they felt ok. She felt more ok than she had in a very long time. She smiled and red the letter again, then once more for good measure before putting it carefully into her pocket.
She had hurt Lou. She knew it, even if Lou was to proud to admit it, but Lou was writing to her, calling her stubborn and brilliant as if nothing had changed, making it clear that just because Debbie had been selfish, and greedy, and petty, Lou was still willing to put up with her. She knew there was more to discuss, ore feelings that may or may not ever be spoken aloud, things that would have to be worked out between them, but Lou was willing. She was going to argue and fight with Lou again, and the thought of it made her so, so, happy. There was a chance, now. A chance that she could get back her partner in crime. A chance that she had never even lost her to begin with.