For all the tough-guy momentum Paul had worked up a moment ago, it quickly washed away like sidewalk chalk in a rainstorm when the situation turned sideways. The inclusion of the new mystery man caught Paul off guard, and his mind stumbled with no way to adjust. Instead he clenched his mouth and bit his lower lip. His mood, already piss-poor, deteriorated in a heartbeat until flames could have shot out of his eye sockets and lava poured from his mouth. With nothing more to do there, he whirled on the crappy linoleum and stomped out the kitchen, through the rickety back door, and down the steps, passing within inches of the affable Mike but never giving him an ounce of recognition. After that, he made his way to his dilapidated old Tundra in the driveway and slammed the driver's side door before surging back into the street with a squeal of tires. Then he cranked the wheel and hit the gas and really laid down some rubber as he tore up the street.
Back inside the kitchen, Maurine was able to regain control of the tears which threatened to spill but was unable to steady her shaking hands, “Oh Mike, I have never been so happy to see you!”
Mike suddenly looked uncomfortable, “I'm sorry... did I interrupt something here? I'm really sorry, Maurine. I shouldn't have just popped over unannounced. Truly a dick move on my part.”
Maurine pulled an old Jack Daniel's bottle from the back of an overhead cupboard, along with two snifter glasses, into which she half-filled each with whiskey. She stood at the countertop for a moment, trying to keep her body from convulsing with fear, when finally she spoke loudly over her shoulder and held one snifter aloft for Mike to see, “Actually Mike, you kind of did interrupt something. You see, my ex-husband was just about to beat my ass, so why don't you come in here and share some Jack with me? Cuz I friggin' owe you one, pal.”
The screen door opened and Mike was across the floor in three strides, “Maurine, are you serious? He was going to hit you?”
She nodded somberly and handed him the glass, “Yeah. Yeah, I think he was.”
She took a hard hit of the alcohol and remembered too late that she despised whiskey, and hacked a bit as it burned its way down her throat. Then she was further embarrassed by nearly choking to death as Mike slapped her back.
“You're shivering,” he commented.
“No, no, no. Come here,” he led her through the house, to the living room, where he sat her on the couch and wrapped a blanket around her, “Are you hurt? Should we call the cops?”
Suddenly, her pitiful face was full of fire and she snapped her head up with surprising vigor, “No!”
Mike was about to question that, but he noticed Maurine's eyes fade to the hallway between the living room and the kitchen, “What is it? Did you hear something?”
Maurine shook her head and whispered, “My daughter's here – in her room. I don't wanna make a big scene and scare the shit out of her.”
Mike nodded. He understood what some parents did for the sake of their children, “Okay. But I still want to call the cops to make sure he doesn't come back.”