Chapter no 39

The Housemaid

Step Two: Naively Marry Sadistic, Evil Man

Andy and I have been married for three months, and sometimes I have to pinch myself.

Our courtship was quick. Before I met Andy, all the men I dated just wanted to play games. But Andy wasn’t about games. From the night of our magical first date, he made his intentions clear to me. He was looking for a serious relationship. He had been engaged before, a year earlier, to a woman named Kathleen, but it hadn’t worked out. He was ready to get married. He was willing to take on both me and Cecelia.

And from my perspective, he was everything I was looking for. I wanted a secure home for me and my daughter. I wanted a man with a steady job, who would be a father figure for my little girl. I wanted a man who was kind and responsible and… well, yes, attractive. Andy checked off every single box.

In the days leading up to our wedding, I kept looking for flaws. Nobody could possibly be as perfect as Andy Winchester. He had to have a secret gambling problem or maybe a whole other family stashed away in Utah. I even contemplated calling Kathleen, the former fiancée. He’d shown me photographs of her—she had blond hair like me

and a sweet face—but I didn’t know her last name and I couldn’t locate her on social media. But at least she wasn’t talking trash about him all over the internet. I took that as a good sign.

The only thing about Andy that isn’t ideal is… well, his mother. Evelyn Winchester is around a little bit more than I would like. And I wouldn’t call her the warmest person in the world. Despite Andy’s assurance that she “loves babies” and is “thrilled” to watch Cece, she always seems a bit put out when we ask her to babysit. And the evening invariably concludes with a set of criticisms of my parenting, thinly veiled as “suggestions.”

But I am marrying Andy, not his mother. No one likes their mother-in-law, right? I can deal with Evelyn, especially since she doesn’t have that much interest in me in general outside my apparent lack of parenting skills. If that’s the only thing wrong with Andy, I’m in good shape.

So I married him.

And even three months later, I haven’t quite come down from my cloud yet. I can’t believe that I have the financial stability to stay home with my little girl. I do want to go back to graduate school eventually, but right now I want to soak up every minute of my family. Cece and Andy. How could one woman get so lucky?

And in return, I try to be a perfect wife. In my little free time, I work out at the gym to make sure I’m in perfect shape. I bought a wardrobe of absolutely impractical white clothing because he adores me in white. I’ve studied recipes online and I’m trying to cook for him as much as I can. I want to be worthy of this incredible life he’s given me.

Tonight I kiss Cecelia on her baby-smooth cheek, taking a few extra seconds to stare down at her and take in the sound of her deep breathing and the scent of baby powder. I tuck a strand of her soft blond hair between one of her

nearly translucent ears. She is so beautiful. I love her so much, sometimes I feel like I could just eat her up.

When I come out of her bedroom, Andy is waiting for me outside. He is smiling at me, his dark hair without even a strand out of place, every bit as gorgeous as that first day I met him. I still don’t understand why he picked me. He could have had any woman in the world. Why me?

But maybe I shouldn’t question it. I should just be happy. “Hey,” he says. He tucks a strand of my own blond hair

behind my ear. “I can see your roots starting to show a bit.” “Oh.” I touch my hairline self-consciously. Andy loves

blond hair, so I started going to the salon after we got engaged to lighten my hair to more of a golden shade. “Gosh, I guess I’ve been so busy with Cece, it just slipped my mind.”

I can’t quite read the expression on his face. He’s still smiling, but there’s something off about it. It doesn’t bother him that much that I missed a hair appointment, does it?

“Listen,” he says. “I need your help with something first.”

I lift an eyebrow, glad he doesn’t seem too upset about my hair. “Sure. What is it?”

He raises his eyes in the direction of the ceiling. “There are some papers from work that I stashed in the upstairs storage area. I was wondering if you could help me try to find them. I’ve got to get this contract done tonight. And then after, we can…” He grins at me. “You know.”

He doesn’t have to tell me twice.

I’ve been living in this house for about four months now, and I’ve never been up to the storage area in the attic. I climbed the stairs up there once, while Cece was taking a nap, but the door was locked, so I turned back. Andy says it’s just a bunch of papers. Nothing too exciting.

And the truth is, I don’t love going up there. I don’t have any crazy phobias about attics, but the staircase leading up there is kind of creepy. It’s dark, and the stairs creak with

every step. As I follow Andy up the staircase, I stay close to him.

When we get to the top of the stairs, Andy leads me down the small hallway to the locked door at the end. He gets out his set of keys and fits one of the small ones into the lock. Then he throws the door open and tugs on a cord to turn on the light.

I blink as my eyes adjust to the light and I take in my surroundings. This is not a storage closet like I thought it would be. It’s more like a tiny room, with a cot pushed up into one corner. There’s even a little dresser and a mini-fridge. There’s a single tiny window at the far end of the room.

“Oh.” I scratch my chin. “This is a room. I thought it would just be junk and storage stuff.”

“Well, I store everything in the closet over there,” he explains, pointing to the closet near the bed.

I walk over to the closet and peer inside. There’s nothing inside except a blue bucket. There are no papers at all, much less enough for searching through them to be a two-person job. I don’t quite understand what he would like me to do.

Then I hear a door slam shut.

I lift my head and turn around. Suddenly, I’m all alone in this tiny room. Andy has left the room and shut the door behind him.

“Andy?” I call out.

I cross the room in two strides and reach for the doorknob. But it doesn’t turn. I try harder, throwing my weight into it, but still no luck. The doorknob doesn’t budge even an inch.

It’s locked.

“Andy?” I call out again. No answer. “Andy!” What the hell is going on here?

Maybe he went downstairs to get something and the door blew shut. But that doesn’t explain why there aren’t

any papers in this room when he said that’s what we were coming up here to get.

I pound on the door with my fist. “Andy!” Still no answer.

I press my ear against the door. I hear footsteps, but they’re not coming closer. They’re getting further away, disappearing down the stairwell.

He must not hear me. That’s the only explanation. I pat my pockets, but my phone is in the bedroom. There’s no way to call him.

Damn it.

My eyes fall on the window. There’s one tiny little window in the corner of the room. I walk over and look outside, realizing that the window looks out on to the backyard. So there’s no way to get anybody’s attention outside. I’m stuck here until Andy returns.

I’m not exactly claustrophobic, but this room is very small with a low ceiling that slants over the bed. And the idea that I’m locked in here is starting to freak me out. Yes, Andy will come back shortly, but I don’t like this enclosed space. My breathing quickens and my fingertips start to tingle.

I’ve got to get that window open.

I push against the bottom of the window, but the window doesn’t budge. Not even a millimeter. For a moment, I think maybe it swings out, but it doesn’t. What the hell is wrong with the stupid window? I take a deep breath, trying to calm myself down. I look closer at the window and…

It’s painted shut.

When Andy comes back up here, I am going to give it to him. I consider myself pretty even-tempered, but I do not like being locked in this room. We’ve got to do something about this lock on the door, to make sure it doesn’t lock automatically again. I mean, what if both of us had been in here? We would’ve really been stuck.

I go back to pounding on the door. “Andy!” I scream at the top of my lungs. “Andy!”

After fifteen minutes, my voice is hoarse from screaming. Why hasn’t he come back? Even if he can’t hear me, he must’ve realized I’m still in the attic. What could I possibly be doing up here by myself? I don’t even know what papers he wants.

I mean, was he walking down the stairs, tripped, then fell the rest of the way down the stairs, and is now lying unconscious in a pool of blood at the bottom? Because that’s the only thing that makes sense to me.

Thirty minutes later, I’m about to go out of my mind. My throat aches and my fists are red from pounding on the door. I want to burst into tears. Where is Andy? What is going on here?

Just when I feel like I’m about to lose my mind, I hear a voice from the other side of the door. “Nina?”

“Andy!” I cry. “Thank God! I got locked in here! Didn’t you hear me screaming?”

There’s a long silence on the other side of the door. “Yes.

I did.”

I don’t even know what to say to that. If he heard me, why didn’t he let me out? But I can’t deal with that right now. I just want to get out of this room. “Can you please open the door?”

Another long silence. “No. Not yet.”


“I don’t understand,” I sputter. “Why can’t you let me out? Did you lose the key?”


“So let me out!” “I said not yet.”

I flinch at the sharpness of the last two words. I don’t understand. What’s going on here? Why won’t he let me out of the attic?

I stare at the door between us. I try the doorknob one more time, hoping maybe it’s some kind of joke. It’s still locked. “Andy, you need to let me out of here.”

“Don’t tell me what to do in my own house.” His voice has an odd intonation that I barely recognize as him. “You have to learn your lesson before you can be let out.”

A cold, sick feeling runs down my spine. While Andy and I were engaged, he seemed so perfect. He was sweet, romantic, handsome, wealthy, and good to Cecelia. I had been searching for his one fatal flaw.

I have found it.

“Andy,” I say. “Please let me out of here. I don’t know what you’re upset about, but we can work it out. Just unlock the door and we’ll talk.”

“I don’t think so.” His voice is calm and even—the exact opposite of how I’m feeling right now. “The only way to learn is to see the consequences of your actions.”

I suck in a breath. “Andy, you let me out of this fucking room right now.”

I kick the door hard, although my bare feet don’t make too much of an impact. Mostly, it just hurts my toes. I wait to hear the door unlocking, but there’s nothing.

“I swear to God, Andy,” I growl. “Let me out of this room. Let. Me. Out.”

“You’re upset,” he acknowledges. “I’ll come back when you’ve calmed down.”

And then his footsteps grow more distant—he’s walking away.

“Andy!” I scream. “Don’t you dare walk away! Come back! Come back and let me the fuck out of here! Andy, if you don’t let me out of here, I’m leaving you! Let me out!” I pound with both fists. “I’m calm! Let me out!”

But the footsteps grow fainter until they finally disappear.

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