Jerry slammed his fist into the wall, startling his ex-wife. His face was pinched, cheeks and forehead red, nostrils flaring.

“She’s my daughter, too,” he said. Jerry noticed neither the spider web cracks in the drywall, nor the small smears of blood his fist left on the wall.

Lisa took a step back. He’d never hit her, not once in eight years, but then she’d never seen him this angry before. She stared, trying to think of what to say to calm him.

Jerry turned to her, arm falling to his side, fist opening with the slow certainty of a glacier, though it still vibrated with anger. Right now, the man was a mountain, immovable and implacable.

“You can’t take her from me,” he said, breathing harder, like a marathon runner nearing the finish line.

“I can, and I will,” Lisa said. It was only two weeks until closing for the house in Seattle, a little more than three until their daughter was supposed to start school, and Lisa was determined to be set up before that. A new life, a new city, a new beginning for her and her daughter. As she said the words though, she realized they’d been the wrong ones. Jerry took a step toward her, towering over her small frame. She didn’t back down though. This small woman, brave in the face of an oncoming avalanche.

“We’re leaving tomorrow. You keep sending the checks to the lawyer and maybe I’ll let her come down at Christmas.”

“No,” said Jerry. “I’m not lettin’ her go. You can go whore it up, but she ain’t leavin’ me.”

The stinging of her palm was the only thing that told Lisa she’d slapped him. She’d hit him before. The last time she’d done it, he’d looked like a puppy, large round eyes begging to know what it had done wrong. That was one of the things she’d hated most about him. He never acted like a man, never stood up for himself. He’d taken all the insults, all the humiliation she could shovel on him and just let it go. He wasn’t a real man. A real man stood up for himself. This time though, this time, his eyes were wrong.

Jerry, rubbed at his cheek, the skin already showing the outline of her hand. His own came up to strike back at the woman, arm shaking with a mix of rage and restraint. This was the mother of his daughter, the woman he’d promised to love, honor and cherish. He still did, even after what she’d done to him, even after she cheated on him. She was his first and he didn’t want to hurt her. Swallowing his rage, he forced his arm to start lowering.

It was her smirk that did it. Lisa just stood there, watching the rage drain from him. She knew she’d won, knew he’d do nothing to her, and smiled at him. It was the same smile she’d used when she’d said she was done. The same smile she’d used in court when the judge awarded her custody. The same smile she used every time she took their daughter at the end of her visit, and it was the same smile she’d just used to tell him that he wasn’t going to be seeing his daughter again.

Jerry’s hand flashed out, making a dull thud as it hit, knocking her to the ground.

“You hit me,” she said as though the very concept was alien. “You bastard.”

“I…. I….”

“I’ll kill you,” Lisa launched herself off the floor, fingers reaching for Jerry’s face like the claws of a pouncing lioness.

The smack of flesh on flesh countered her scream as she was knocked down again.

“You ain’t takin’ her,” he said again. This time it was his boot slamming into her. “You…. Ain’t…. Takin’…. Her.” Each pause punctuated by size thirteens slamming into her. Jerry stopped, panting, and looked down at the woman. There wasn’t any sound coming from her, no moaning, no crying. She didn’t react when he pushed her with his foot.

“You ain’t takin’ her” he whispered. Turning, he walked out the front door, leaving her on the floor, her skin already starting to go slack, leaving a lopsided smirk on her face.