Her simmering temper boiled over at that point, and she whirled on him and stabbed him in his chest with her finger. She grit her teeth and growled, “Because we are NOT a proper family. Are we , Paul?”
Paul, though he had twice Maurine's mass, spread his arms defensively to his sides and took a step back. He looked over to Anne, ostensibly for support.
“DO NOT you bring in a ten year-old girl as your back-up, you prick! You're a weak little man to hide behind your own goddamn daughter.”
A look of worry crossed Annes' face as she stopped by the fridge and watched the exchange between her parents. Her mother never used language like that.
Except when Dad was around.
Which wasn't often.
Maurine continued jabbing at Paul and backing him toward the back door, the same door she had used to enter the kitchen just moments ago, “Because being part of a REAL family means responsibilities. It means showing up for your daughter's first day of school, her eighth birthday party, for anything! And responsibility means more than simply showing up.”
“All right, I'm sorry.”
Anne's look of worry deteriorated into a look of misery; her mouth puckered and her nostrils flared, and soon tears had escaped her eyelashes. Maurine seemed to pick up on this and said to her, from the side her clenched jaw, “Annie, go to your room.”
“But I didn't do anything!” Anne wailed.
Anne put her arms over her face and stomped off toward the rear of the house, to her room. Three seconds after she rounded the corner her door slammed hard enough to rattle the dishes in the cabinet. Later, upon reflection, Maurine would be crushed that she allowed her anger toward Paul to slip out in front of Anne and cause her pain, but the unexpected appearance of her ex-husband in her kitchen, eating her food, had caught her so off-guard that some of that stored animosity managed to find a weakness in her emotional containment wall and seep through. And once it started building momentum, nothing could stop it, so she pressed on. Her voice gained some extra timbre, too, as she addressed him again, “Of the one hundred and six mortgage payments put into this house, do you know how many you contributed to?”
“Mo, that's not fair...”
“Sixteen! Sixteen, Paul! Less than a quarter! Does that strike you as being responsible?”
“Goddamn it, Mo! Would you just calm down a little so I can say something here?”
Now the tears streamed down her cheeks as well; when the hell did she start crying? She struck at his crossed arms and yelled, “No I will not calm down! I have earned the right to yell at my useless, self-absorbed, asshole of an ex. I don't want you anywhere near my daughter, now GET OUT!”