Cutting It Away
Disclaimer: I do not own Law and Order: Criminal Intent obviously.
Summary: WA Time Challenge. Why does Megan Wheeler have short hair?
Author's Note: Written for the Writer's Anonymous Forum Time Challenge. I would like to say a massive thank you to Metisse for beta'ing this for me. Most of all I hope you all enjoy this little fic on why our favourite freckle faced detective has short hair.
Sunlight was filtering through the blinds, as a ten year old girl lay underneath a thick doona, hugging a small worn out teddy. As the sun warmed her pale freckled cheeks, she slowly opened her eyes, blinking furiously as her eyes adjusted to the light. She sat up in bed, rubbing the sleep from her eyes, yawning as she did. She stretched slightly, and got out of bed.
She grabbed an old jumper and pulled it over her head as she headed out of her room and walked silently down the hallway. There was no noise in the house, everything was silent and still. It was like this nearly every morning when Megan woke up. She always woke up this early, her body timed like clockwork.
She knew her father would be getting up soon, and then they'd have breakfast together. Her father was always happier in the morning. When he got home from work he would often be tired or stressed about something.
She went into the kitchen and paused when she heard a door creak open and her father yawning. She grinned and spun around, watching intently for her father to come into the kitchen.
He entered and supplied his usual morning greeting.
"Hey Megan," he said, "Sleep alright?"
"Yep Daddy," she replied happily. Her father smiled and lifted her up, placing her on the island bench. She crossed her legs and grabbed a banana from the fruit bowl. She passed it to her dad, who peeled it, and started to eat it looking at his daughter thoughtfully.
"So what do you want to eat my little pixie?" he asked.
"PB'n'J and chocolate milk!"
He chuckled, "Thought you might,"
She watched as her dad started to make her breakfast talking like the chef on TV, waving his arms around as he did. She laughed as he lavishly spread the peanut butter and jam on her toast. He passed the milk and a glass and she began to furiously stir in the cocoa and sugar turning the white milk into a light brown.
Her father lifted her off the bench and she took her breakfast to the kitchen table. As always she waited for her dad to prepare his cereal and coffee before eating.
"So what's happening at school today?" he asked taking a sip of coffee.
"We have Art," she said cheerfully, "We're making pinch pots outta clay, and it's Cassie's birthday so we're gonna have some cake," she took a big bite of toast, "What are you doing today Daddy?"
"Megan, no talking with your mouth full," he chided, wagging his finger.
She swallowed, "Sorry,"
"That's better," he smiled.
"But what are you doing at work? Can I come one day?"
He laughed, "Trust me, work isn't very exciting, it's actually very boring,"
"Then why do you go?" she asked curiously.
"So you can go to a good school,"
She didn't get it. How did a boring job equal a good school? Her friend Millie didn't go to her school and her dad had an exciting job – he was a cop – but she still went to a good school and Millie didn't have to wear a uniform either. She didn't see why her dad couldn't have a fun, exciting job instead of a boring job. Not that her dad's job sounded boring since he stood up for the little guy in court...how could that be boring?
She decided not to ask, knowing her father would say it was a grown-up thing. She couldn't wait until she was a grown-up, because then she would find out all those annoying grown-up things. She drank her milk in silence and her dad started to talk about baseball.
"So do you want to go?"
"Is Uncle Pete coming too?" she asked.
"Of course he is,"
"So we'll get pizza?"
"Pepperoni?" he guessed.
"Yep," she said nodding. They finished breakfast and Megan helped her dad with the dishes, drying them with a pink tea-towel. Suddenly the phone rang. Her father went to answer it while Megan started to put the dishes away.
Her dad was still talking when she finished and his face was pale. Megan instantly knew something wrong; it was like a stone had dropped in her stomach. Every natural instinct told her something wasn't right. She watched her dad for a moment before he said a hurried goodbye.
"What's wrong Daddy?" she asked curiously.
"Get ready for school," he said shortly taking off to the bathroom, Megan frowned. Her dad was never like that, not ever. Well actually sometimes in the evening but not in the morning. She pushed the feelings aside knowing her dad would've told her if something was wrong. It was probably just a silly grown-up thing.
She got dressed, buttoning her crisp white shirt and pulling up her navy skirt. She pulled on her jumper and buckled her school shoes. As she went into the living room to pack her bag, her dad bustled out of the bathroom heading to the door.
Realising he was leaving very soon, she quickly said, "Daddy?"
He turned and looked at his daughter.
"Can you plait my hair?" she asked, fingering a long strand of hair. He always plaited her hair in the morning. She hated it when he went away on business trips because her mom never seemed to get it right, but her dad did.
He looked at her oddly. It was a look Megan would one day come to associate with a suspect but right now she didn't think anything of it. He nodded and the two went into the bathroom. He began to plait her hair.
She tensed slightly as he pulled a little harder than usual. He rushed through it instead of taking his time. Her stomach fluttered nervously and she bit her lip, studying at her dad's expression in the mirror. Her dad looked like he was in another world, like when her mom watched that TV show with the doctor, except he didn't have a smile on his face like her mom.
He finished and pecked her lightly on the cheek, "I'll see you tonight Megan, okay? Be a good girl?"
She frowned. This wasn't his usual goodbye.
"Okay Daddy," she said softly.
He left her standing alone in the bathroom, contemplating what just happened. However, by the time she got to school it was completely driven from her mind. Her attention was turned to the pinch pot she was moulding, to celebrating her friend's birthday, and to Ms. Kelsey's long talk about space.
After school her mom picked her up as usual and as usual she watched some cartoons while practicing her spelling words. Her night continued as normal. She ate dinner, had her bath, and got ready for bed. The only thing that was missing was her dad.
He didn't come home.
A month passed and he still hadn't come back. Every morning she'd wake up and sit at the kitchen table, waiting for him to come in. He never did. When she came home from school she would try and do her homework but would move to her bedroom when she heard her mom and uncle arguing sometimes in person, sometimes over the phone.
She soon moved to a new house and a new school. She found herself dressed in jeans and an old jumper walking side by side her friend Millie. She stopped drinking chocolate milk and started having it plain. She stopped having peanut butter and jelly, and started eating cereal. She stopped seeing her uncle Pete.
She also stopped wearing her hair in plaits. Her mom never did it right, well they were plaits, but they didn't feel right. Every day when she left the house, she pulled them out and let her hair hang freely. Her hair started to annoy her since it would transfer paint to her clothes, or fall over her face so she couldn't see her school work.
So one day when she arrived home she headed straight to the kitchen and took a pair of scissors. She went into the bathroom and fingered her hair, trying to get rid of the knots. She glanced solemnly at the mirror and held the scissors up.
She then began to cut it all away.
Her long red hair fell to the floor.
She swallowed as she made it even shorter.
And with the final cut Megan Wheeler truly started to grow up.