And like that, something snapped inside him. For the first time in his life, possibly the second, Paul decided to stand up for himself. His back straightened and his teeth set hard against his jaw. His finger pointed straight at his feet, symbolic maybe for his stance against those who would continue to belittle him and bring him down. His voice was not symbolic of anything, however. It was a throaty, masculine roar through pursed lips, “HEY!”
Maurine stopped dead in her tracks. All the momentum of her building emotion left the room like so much vapor. She instantly backed up a step when she saw the steel which had suddenly solidified her ex's eyes and for the first time realized that she was alone with the man against whom she had gotten a restraining order, “Paul --”
But now it was he who was on the move; a strong, aggressive step and he was pressed right up against her, felt the softness of her breasts against his chest, smelled the coffee still warm on her lips, felt the heat of his anger welling in his throat as he pressed ever forward, with her backpedaling in quick retreat. They crossed the kitchen floor together until Maurine backed into the refrigerator and could retreat no more and Paul's unshaven chin was rough on her forehead. His jaw was a vice and his teeth seemed fused together as he growled, “Don't you DARE talk to me like that again, Mo! We ain't married and you are not the boss anymore. You walk around this town like you are God Almighty, with your nose way up in the air like your shit don't stink, talking down to everybody cuz you're so much better that the rest of us.”
“No. Paul I --”
His temper was a hair trigger by that point, and this perceived interruption forced his right hand into action. Like a piston, his fist fired up from his side and exploded into the refrigerator door just to the left of Maurine's ear. She jumped and cried out upon the calamity of impact and heard the catsup bottle fall from the inside of the door and topple on to the shelf below. Now her fear had escalated into terror and she shook from it, tears escaped her tightly closed eye lids and snot streamed from her nose with each ragged breath she took.
Paul leaned in very close to her, towering. His breathing kicked up a notch and a fine sheen of new sweat glistened on his forehead. His Adam's apple bobbed uselessly for a minute before he spoke again, this time slowly and under much more control, yet still through clenched teeth, “You do not get to talk down to me anymore, Maurine. I refuse to let you treat me like an idiot.”
Maurine didn't know what the hell he was talking about. She had tried very hard over the years not to talk about him at all, and if she did she kept her side of the dialog non-derogatory. But he was an idiot, there was no refuting that; a full-fledged moron.
But a moron with anger issues. And a big fist.
A moron currently five inches away as he dangled over the precipice of destruction. She didn't know what the hell he was talking about, but the fear she felt was real. When he lost his temper it consumed him completely, often to the point where he remembered nothing afterwards. He could beat her and not even remember doing it.
So she acted.