Maurine drove Paul crazy, it was as simple as that. When they had first met, he thought she was the one for him, and that they would be together forever. He'd had troubles all his life with his temper – especially during puberty, when he lost control of everything in his life: his parents' marriage, his body, even his emotions became tumultuous. He was familiar with solving problems with his fists – even non-existent ones. But then he'd met Maurine and they'd just clicked. Her personality seemed to smooth out his rough edges and he'd hoped she might make her a better person.

And she did, briefly, but it didn't take long before he noticed her snarky comments, her jealousy, her air of superiority. That was the first time he thought to himself, Who the hell does she think she is? And now, years later, those waves of color coursed through his eyes, turning his vision red again. He actually trembled with wanton desire to strike her, his fists practically danced to their own tune from the anticipation.

But his daughter was there in the house, and her presence immediately put the kibosh on any plans he had of putting his ex-wife's head through a wall (though somebody should surely do it. He would pay to watch – and bring popcorn). Paul would do anything for Anne, and everybody knew it. For the first time he legitimately wondered if she'd be better off with him. Damn the courts, damn the judges – all of 'em! They didn't know what kind of father he was. But his friends did, and the neighbors, and his co-workers too, probably. He cocked his head to the side in thought, and actually imagined clocking Maurine in the jaw, knocking her out, and taking Annie with him to live out their days in Montana or somewhere where Mo couldn't find them. He'd have to change his name, of course. He'd always liked “Dwayne” with a W, not a U.

Without thinking, he bunched his hands into hefty mallets at his sides and took a step toward Maurine. She may not have fully realized his intent, especially since Paul wasn't fully aware of what he was about to do either, but there was an air of menace surrounding him which she easily picked up on, and she took a step back, “Paul?”

There was a crisp RAP-RAP on the metal door frame behind Paul which made him jump and brought his consciousness back to attention. He turned to see a strange man on the other side of the flimsy screen, “Who the hell are you?”

Oh, sorry,” the man smiled. It seemed like a nice enough smile – he still had all his teeth anyway.

My name's Mike,” the guy said affably, “I live next door. I'm sorry if I interrupted anything. Is this a bad time? I can come back.”

No,” Maurine laughed it off as if she were at a country fair, “my ex was just leaving.”

Like hell I was.”

Paul,” she growled, “for once just pretend you're a normal person and behave in front of the nice man. Could you do that please?”


The End

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