Chapter no 29

The Housemaid

Nina comes home from dropping Cecelia off at camp at around two in the afternoon. She’s carrying four large shopping bags from an impromptu spree during the drive home, which she dumps unceremoniously on the living room floor.

“I found the cutest little shop,” she tells me. “I just

couldn’t help myself!”

“Great,” I say with forced enthusiasm.

Nina’s cheeks are flushed, there are sweat stains under her armpits, and her blond hair is frizzy. She still hasn’t taken care of her roots, and the mascara on her right eye is caked in the corner. When I look her over, I genuinely can’t figure out what Andrew sees in her.

“Take those bags upstairs for me, would you, Millie?” She plops down on the leather sofa and takes out her phone. “Thanks so much.”

I pick up one of the bags and, holy crap, it’s heavy. What kind of shop did she go to? A dumbbell store? This is going to end up being two trips—I don’t have big guns like Enzo. “Kind of heavy,” I comment.

“Really?” She laughs. “I didn’t think so. Maybe it’s time to start going to the gym, Millie. You’re getting a little soft.”

My cheeks burn. I’m getting soft? Nina doesn’t look like she has an ounce of muscle on her. She never works out, as far as I can tell. I’ve never seen her even wear sneakers.

As I slowly and painfully make my way to the stairs with two of the shopping bags, Nina calls out to me again, “Oh, by the way, Millie?”

I clench my teeth. “Yes?”

Nina rotates on the couch to look up at me. “I called the house line last night. How come nobody answered?”

I freeze. My arms tremble under the weight of the shopping bags. “What?”

“I dialed the house phone number last night,” she says slower this time. “At around eleven o’clock. Answering the house phone is one of your responsibilities. But you and Andrew both didn’t pick up.”

“Um.” I put down the shopping bags for a moment and rub my chin, like I’m thinking about it. “I may have already been asleep by then and the phone isn’t loud enough in my room to wake me up. Maybe Andrew went out?”

She arches an eyebrow. “Andrew went out at eleven o’clock on a Sunday night? With whom?”

I lift my shoulders. “I have no idea. Did you try his cell?” I know she didn’t. I was with Andrew at eleven o’clock.

We were in bed together.

“I didn’t,” she says, but doesn’t offer any further explanation.

I clear my throat. “Well, as I said, I was in my room at that point. I have no idea what he was doing.”

“Hmm.” Her pale blue eyes darken as she stares at me across the living room. “Maybe you’re right. I’ll have to ask him.”

I nod, relieved she isn’t questioning me further. She doesn’t know what happened. She doesn’t know we drove into the city together, saw the show she was meant to see with him, and then spent the night together at The Plaza. God only knows what she would do to me if she knew.

But she doesn’t know.

I grab the shopping bags and heave them the rest of the way up the steps. I deposit them in the master bedroom, then rub my arms, which seem to have gone numb during the journey. My eyes are drawn to the master bathroom, which I cleaned this morning—although since Nina was out of town, it was unusually clean already. I slip inside the room. The bathroom is nearly as large as my room upstairs, with a full-size porcelain bathtub. The tub is higher than most tubs, the rim at the level of my knees.

I frown down at the bathtub, imagining what must’ve happened all those years ago. Little Cecelia, taking a bath in the tub, as it slowly fills up with water. Then Nina grabs her daughter, forcing her under the water, watching her gasp for air…

I close my eyes and turn away from the tub. I can’t think about this. But I can never forget how emotionally fragile Nina is. She can never know what happened between me and Andrew last night. It would destroy her. And then she would destroy me.

So I reach into my pocket and pull out my phone. I punch in a message to Andrew’s cell number:

Just a warning: Nina called the house last night.

He’ll know what to do. He always does.

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