Chapter no 41

The Housemaid

By seven o’clock, I have accomplished the task.

I obtained about twenty strands by running my fingers repeatedly through my hair. After that, I knew I was going to have to pluck the rest out by the root. About eighty times, I grabbed a strand of my hair, braced myself, and pulled. I tried doing a few strands at once, but that was agonizing. Thankfully, my hair is healthy, so most of the strands yanked free with the hair follicle intact. After I had Cecelia, I would have had to pluck myself bald before I got enough usable hair.

So when seven o’clock hits, I am sitting on the cot, clutching an envelope containing a hundred strands of my hair. I can’t wait to hand it over to him and get out of here. And serve him with divorce papers. That sick bastard.


I look down at my watch. Seven o’clock on the dot. He’s prompt—I’ll give him that.

I jump off the bed and press my head against the door. “I have it,” I say.

“Slide it under.”

I slide the envelope under the gap below the door. I imagine him on the other side. Ripping the envelope open, examining my hair follicles. I don’t care what he does at

this point, as long as he lets me out. I’ve done what he wanted me to do.

“Okay?” I say. My throat feels painfully parched. I finished the other two water bottles over the course of the day, saving the last one for the final hour. When I get out of here, I’m going to drink five glasses of water all in a row. And pee in an actual toilet.

“Give me a minute,” he says. “I’m checking.”

I grit my teeth, ignoring the angry growl in my stomach. I haven’t eaten in twenty-four hours now and I’m dizzy with hunger. It got to the point where the hair was starting to look tasty.

“Where is Cece?” I choke out.

“She’s in her playpen downstairs,” he says. We created a gated, safe area in the living room where she could play without worrying about her hurting herself. It was Andy’s idea. He’s so thoughtful.

No, he’s not thoughtful. That was all an illusion. An act. He’s a monster.

“Hmm,” Andy says.

“What?” I croak. “What is it?”

“See,” he says, “almost all of the strands are fine, but one of them doesn’t have a hair follicle on it.”

Bastard. “Fine. I’ll give you a new one.”

“I’m afraid not,” he sighs. “You’ll have to start all over again. I’ll check in on you tomorrow morning. Hopefully by then, you’ll have one hundred intact hairs for me. Otherwise, we’ll have to just keep trying.”

“No…” His footsteps disappear down the hall, and it hits me he’s really leaving me. With no food and no water. “Andy!” My voice is hoarse and not much better than a whisper. “Don’t do this! Please! Please don’t do this!”

But he’s gone.

I have the extra hundred strands ready by bedtime, on the off chance he returns, but he doesn’t. I even put in an extra ten strands. Somehow, they’re coming out easier now. I barely feel it anymore as the hair separates from my scalp.

All I can think about is water. Food and water, but mostly water. And of course, my Cecelia. I’m not sure I’ll ever see her again. I don’t know how long a person can go without water, but it can’t be very long. Andy swore he was going to let me out of here, but what if he was lying? What if he’s going to let me die here?

All because I missed a hairdresser appointment.

When I drift off at night, I dream of a pool of water. I lower my head to the pool and the water moves away from me. Each time I try to drink, the water escapes me. It’s like one of the tortures of hell.


Andy’s voice wakes me. I’m not sure if I fell asleep or passed out. But I’ve been waiting for him all night long, so I need to get up and give him what he wants. It’s the only way I’ll ever get out of here.

Get up, Nina!

As soon as I sit up in bed, my head spins violently. Everything goes black for a second. I clutch the edge of the thin mattress, waiting for my vision to clear. It takes a good minute.

“I’m afraid I can’t let you out unless I get those hairs,” Andy says from the other side of the door.

The sound of his horrible voice sparks a wave of adrenaline that boosts me to my feet. My fingers are trembling as I grab the envelope and stumble over to the door. I slide the envelope under the door, then collapse against the wall, sliding to the floor.

I wait while he counts. It seems to take an eternity. If he says I haven’t done it, I don’t know what I’ll do. I can’t last another twelve hours here. That will be the end. I’ll die in this room.

No, I have to keep going no matter what. For Cece. I can’t leave her to this monster.

“Okay,” he finally says. “Good job.”

And then the lock turns. And the door swings open.

Andy is dressed in his suit, already ready for work. I had imagined the moment I saw this man after being stuck in this room for two nights, I would jump up and scratch his eyes out. But instead, I remain on the floor, too weak to move. Andy crouches beside me, and that’s when I notice he’s holding a large glass of water and a bagel.

“Here,” he says. “I brought you this.”

I should throw the water in his face. I want to. But I don’t think I can get out of this room if I don’t eat and drink something. So I accept his gift, gulping down the cup of water and stuffing chunks of the bagel down my throat until it’s all gone.

“I’m sorry I had to do that,” he says, “but it’s the only way you’ll learn.”

“Go to hell,” I hiss at him.

I try to get to my feet, but I stumble again. Even after drinking that water, my head is still spinning. I can’t walk in a straight line. I doubt I can get down the stairs to the second floor.

So even though I hate myself for it, I let Andy help me. I let him lead me downstairs, and I have to lean on him heavily the whole way. When I get to the second floor, I can hear Cecelia singing downstairs. She’s okay. He didn’t hurt her. Thank God.

I’m not going to let him have another chance.

“You need to lie down,” Andy says sternly. “You’re not well.”

“No,” I croak. I want to be with Cecelia. My arms ache for her.

“You’re too sick right now,” he says. Like I’m getting over the flu rather than him trapping me in a room for two days. He’s talking to me like I’m the crazy one. “Come on.”

But whatever else, he’s right that I need to lie down. My legs are trembling with every step and my head won’t stop spinning. So I let him lead me to our king-size bed and he tucks me in under the covers. If there was any chance I might make it out of here, that chance is gone once I get in the bed. It feels like sleeping on a cloud after passing out on that cot for the last two nights.

My eyelids feel like lead—I can’t fight the urge to fall asleep. Andy sits beside me, at the edge of the bed, running his fingers through my hair. “You just haven’t been feeling well,” he says. “You need a day of sleep. Don’t worry about Cecelia. I’ll make sure she’s taken care of.”

His voice is so kind and gentle, I start to wonder if maybe I imagined the whole thing. After all, he’s been such a good husband. Would he really lock me up in a room and make me pull out my hair? That doesn’t sound like something he would do. Maybe I just have a fever and this is all a horrible hallucination?

No. It wasn’t a hallucination. It was real. I know it was. “I hate you,” I whisper.

Andy ignores my statement as he continues to stroke my hair until my eyes drift shut. “Just get some sleep,” he says gently. “That’s all you need.”

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