Chapter no 21

The Housemaid

By dinner time tonight, the cardboard box Enzo brought into the house is still sitting on the dining table. In the interest of setting the table, I try to move it, but it is very heavy—Enzo made it seem lighter than it was by the way he effortlessly carried it into the room. I’m scared if I try to move it, I’ll accidentally drop it. Odds are good there’s some priceless Ming vase inside, or something equally fragile and expensive.

I study the return address on the box again. Evelyn Winchester—I wonder who that is. The handwriting is big and loopy. I give it a tentative shove and something rattles inside.

“Early Christmas present?”

I look up from the package—Andrew is home. He must have come in from the garage entrance, and he’s smiling crookedly at me, his tie loose around his neck. I’m glad he seems to be in better spirits than yesterday. I really thought he was going to lose it after that doctor’s appointment. And then that terrible argument last night, where I was half-convinced Nina had murdered him. Of course, now that I know why she was institutionalized, it doesn’t seem nearly as far-fetched.

“It’s June,” I remind him.

He clucks his tongue. “It’s never too early for Christmas.” He rounds the side of the table to examine the return address on the package. He is only a few inches away from me, and I can smell his aftershave. It smells… nice. Expensive.

Stop it, Millie. Stop smelling your boss.

“It’s from my mother,” he notes.

I grin up at him. “Your mother still sends you care packages?”

He laughs. “She used to, actually. Especially in the past, when Nina was… sick.”

Sick. That’s a nice euphemism for what Nina did. I just can’t wrap my head around it.

“It’s probably something for Cece,” he remarks. “My mother loves to spoil her. She always says since Cece only has one grandmother, it’s her duty to spoil her.”

“What about Nina’s parents?”

He pauses, his hands on the box. “Nina’s parents are gone. Since she was young. I never met them.”

Nina tried to kill herself. Tried to kill her own daughter. And now it turns out she’s also left a couple of dead parents in her wake. I just hope the maid isn’t next.

No. I need to stop thinking this way. It’s more likely Nina’s parents died of cancer or heart disease. Whatever was wrong with Nina, they obviously felt she was ready to rejoin society. I should give her the benefit of the doubt.

“Anyway”—Andrew straightens up—“let me get this open.”

He dashes into the kitchen and returns a minute later with a box cutter. He slices open the top and pulls up the flaps. I’m pretty curious at this point. I’ve been staring at this box all day, wondering what’s inside. I’m sure whatever it is, it’s something insanely expensive. I raise my eyebrows as Andrew stares into the box, the color draining from his face.

“Andrew?” I frown. “Are you okay?”

He doesn’t answer. Instead, he sinks into one of the chairs and presses his fingertips into his temples. I hurry over to comfort him, but I can’t help but stop to take a look inside the box.

And then I understand why he looks so upset.

The box is filled with baby stuff. Little white baby blankets, rattles, dolls. There’s a little pile of tiny white onesies.

Nina had been blabbing to anyone who would listen that they were expecting a baby soon. Surely, she mentioned it to Andrew’s mother, who decided to send supplies. Unfortunately, she jumped the gun.

Andrew has a glazed look in his eyes. “Are you okay?” I ask again.

He blinks like he forgot I was in the room with him. He manages a watery smile. “I’m okay. Really. I just… I didn’t need to see that.”

I slide into the chair next to his. “Maybe that doctor was wrong?”

Although part of me wonders why he would even want to have a child with Nina. Especially after what she almost did to Cecelia. How could he trust her with a baby after she did something like that?

He rubs his face. “It’s fine. Nina is older than me and then she had some… issues when we first married and I didn’t feel comfortable trying to have a baby then. So we waited and now…”

I look at him in surprise. “Nina is older than you?”

“A little.” He shrugs. “You don’t think about age when you’re in love. And I loved her.” It doesn’t escape me that he used the past tense to refer to his feelings for his wife. He notices it too because his face turns red. “I mean, I love her. I love Nina. And whatever happens, we’ve got each other.”

He says the words with conviction, but then when he looks over at the box again, a really sad expression comes

over his face. No matter what he says, he’s not happy about the fact that he and Nina won’t have another child together. It’s weighing on him.

“I… I’ll put the box in the basement,” he mumbles. “Maybe somebody in the neighborhood will have a baby and we can give it to them. Or else we’ll just… We can donate it. I’m sure it will go to good use.”

I am seized by the irrepressible urge to wrap my arms around him. In spite of his financial success, I feel sorry for Andrew. He’s a really good guy and he deserves to be happy. And I’m beginning to wonder if Nina—with all her issues and wild mood swings—is capable of making him happy. Or if he’s just stuck with her out of obligation.

“If you ever want to talk about it,” I say softly, “I’m here.”

His eyes meet mine. “Thanks, Millie.”

I put my hand on his—a gesture meant to comfort him. He turns his hand and gives my hand a squeeze. At the touch of his palm against mine, a sensation shoots through me like a lightning bolt. It’s something I’ve never felt before. I look up at Andrew’s brown eyes, and I can tell he feels it, too. For a moment, the two of us just stare at each other, drawn together by some invisible, indescribable connection. Then his face turns red.

“I better go.” He tugs his hand away from mine. “I should… I mean, I’ve got to…”


He jumps up from the table and darts out of the dining room. But just before he disappears up the stairs, he gives me one last long lingering look.

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