The one thing he hated more than anything was the sound of breaking glass. The way it cracked on the ground, the marble amplifying the sound, the shards exploding all over the place. That was the first clue, the shattering. The soft whipping sound from her clothing and the recoil of her arm, kind of like a quick sucking noise. She used to do it all the time, until they were out of dishes.
She would break every plate in the cupboard in between throwing glass vases at his head. It got to a point where even the glass in the windows had to be tempered, shattering within itself and falling out when all the glass things were gone and she switched to a baseball bat. He had tried his best, tried to hide it from Nell. She would sit in her room and he would come in with big headphones covered in sparkles and plug her into some kids movie on his laptop.
He would lock her in there during those times, a lock he made sure only he had the key for, a key he wore around his neck. At first they went to therapy, couples therapy, where she acted all sweet and nice. She made sure to show up in a new dress and high heels, periodically bending over so the shrink could see the lingerie she was wearing underneath the dress. She always stayed an hour longer to “discuss her own issues”, often coming home with her dress slightly askew. When he filed for divorce that guy was the expert witness, he never had a chance.
If you wanted to know hopelessness, utter despair, you should have seen the moment the gavel came down. The way that he looked at his little girl as the judge said the words “sole custody”, he could have died right there. He obsessively watched her, keeping a fair distance from Nell as her mother dropped her off at school, making sure there were no new bruises.
Olivia never let him speak to his daughter, and eventually when he called he found his number was blocked. One day while she was out fucking the therapist or something he snuck in, climbing through the window and leaving a cell phone next to Nell’s teddy bear with a note: “call Daddy”. She was only six, but he hoped she would get the message. He waited outside the house for her to come home, parked in an old white van he watched her getting off the school bus alone. He just needed the damn woman to snap once, and maybe he could save her. Nell climbed the stairs to her room, her light up sneakers reflecting off of the mirror in the hallway, giddy to find the phone. She promptly pressing the pre-programmed speed dial. He could cry he had missed her voice so much.
“Hi Nelly” he said.
“Mommy said you hurt her a lot when you lived here, is that true Daddy?”
“No it’s not. It’s not true….How are you Nell, is everything okay there? I’m so sorry about everything, I’m going to fix this.”
“Mommy said if I tell you the bad things, bad things will happen.”
She came into the room then, and he could hear her scream. He could hear the sound of the glass breaking, shattering against the wall, shattering against the floor. He had developed a few allies at the police station, dads who had their kids taken away from them in a society biased toward mothers. He called this one guy Jim, told him to come without the sirens, he needed he proof. The screams were louder now, so much louder than any six year old could muster in anything other than excruciating pain.
His heart began to quicken but he held his tongue, he had to get there quietly. She was pacing the kitchen, he could see her through the window. Nell in her old high chair, hands strapped down to the sides, blood pooling by her feet, shrieking. Jim busted in there then, shooting off the back door handle and running inside, he could hear her yelling “Daddy Daddy”.
He ran right to her, removing the restraints from the high chair and looked down at her feet. The blood was slowly dripping from her pink light up sneakers, the lights still flicking on and off even though no steps were being taken. He tried to take them off but she just cried louder. Louder and louder. Olivia was in handcuffs then, writhing on the ground and screaming at him. He went up to her, kneeling down in front of her face.
“What’s in the shoes Olivia”.
He hit her then, hard. As hard as he had ever hit anyone in his life.
“WHATS IN THE SHOES OLIVIA.”
“Glass”, she said bluntly. Before turning he head to nurse the blow to her jaw.