Chapter no 47

The Housemaid

I have been in the attic for about twenty hours.

Andy marched me up here right after Cecelia went to bed last night. I’ve learned not to argue. If I do, it’s another stay at Clearview. Or maybe when I try to pick Cece up at the school the next day, she won’t be there and I won’t see her for a whole week, while she’s “out of town.” He doesn’t want to hurt Cecelia, but he absolutely will. After all, if the police didn’t arrive exactly when they did, she could’ve drowned in that bathtub all those years ago. I brought it up with him once, and he just smiled at me. That would’ve taught you a lesson, wouldn’t it?

Andy wants another child. Another little person who I will love and want to protect, who he will use to control me for years to come. I can’t let that happen. So I drove to a clinic in the city, gave a fake name, and paid in cash for them to insert an IUD. I’ve practiced my perplexed expression when the pregnancy tests come back negative.

This time my transgression was spraying too much air freshener in our bedroom. It was exactly the same amount I always spray, and if I hadn’t used it at all, he would have locked me in there with something malodorous, like a rotting fish. I know how his mind works now.

Anyway, somehow last night the air freshener was too much and it irritated his eyes. My punishment? I had to

pepper-spray myself.

Oh yes.

He left the bottle of pepper spray in the dresser drawer.

Point it at your eyes and pull the trigger.

Also, keep your eyes open. Or it won’t count.

So I’ve done it. I sprayed myself with pepper spray just to get out of this goddamn room. Have you ever been pepper-sprayed? I don’t recommend it. It stings terribly, and right away, my eyes started to tear up like crazy. My face felt like it was burning. And then my nose started to run. A minute later, I felt it dripping into my mouth where it stung and tasted terrible. For several minutes, I sat on the bed, just struggling to breathe. I could barely open my eyes for nearly an hour.

It was definitely worse than a little air freshener.

But now it’s several hours later. I can open my eyes again. I still feel like I have a sunburn on my face and my eyes feel puffy, but I don’t feel like I’m going to die anymore. I’m sure Andy will want to wait until I look more like my usual self before he lets me out of here.

Which means it could be one more night. But hopefully not.

The window isn’t boarded up, like he keeps it sometimes, so at least I have some natural light in the room. It’s the only thing keeping me from going completely crazy. I walk over to the window and peer out into the backyard, wishing I were out there instead of in here.

That’s when I realize the backyard isn’t empty.

Enzo is working out there. I start to back away, but he happens to look up at the window at the exact moment I’m standing there. He stares at me, and even from the third floor of the house, I can make out the darkening look on his face. He yanks off his gardening gloves and stalks out of the yard.

Oh no. This isn’t good.

I don’t know what Enzo is going to do. Will he call the police? I’m not sure if that would be a good thing or not. Andy has always managed to flip these things around on me. He’s always one step ahead. About a year ago, I started stashing some money in one of my boots in my closet, saving up in hopes of escaping him. Then one day, all the money disappeared, and the day after, he forced me up to the attic.

About a minute later, a fist pounds on the attic door. I step back, cowering against the wall. “Nina!” It’s Enzo’s voice. “Nina! I know you are in there!”

I clear my throat. “I’m fine!”

The doorknob jiggles. “If you are fine, open the door and show me you are fine.”

It hits me at that moment that Enzo is speaking pretty good English. I had been under the impression that he understood some English and spoke far less, but his English seems excellent right now. His Italian accent isn’t even that thick.

“I… I’m busy,” I say in an abnormally high voice. “But I’m fine! Just getting some work done.”

“You told me your husband tortures you and locks you in the attic.”

I suck in a breath. I only said that to him because I thought he didn’t understand. But now it’s clear he understood everything I said. I have to do damage control. I can’t do anything to anger Andy. “How did you get into the house anyway?”

Enzo lets out an exasperated sound. “You leave a key under the potted plant by the front door. Now, where is the key to this room? Tell me.”

“Enzo…” “Tell me.”

I do know where the key to the attic door is. It doesn’t do me a lot of good when I’m in here, but I could direct him to it. If I wanted to. “I know you’re trying to help, but this

isn’t helping. Please—just stay out of it. He’ll let me out later today.”

There’s a long silence on the other side of the door. I hope he’s thinking about whether it’s worth it to get involved in a client’s personal life. And I don’t know what his immigration status is, but I know he wasn’t born here. I’m sure Andy and his family have enough money and power to get him deported if they want.

“Step back,” Enzo finally says. “I will break down the door.”

“No, you can’t!” Tears jump to my eyes. “Look, you don’t understand. If I don’t do what he says, he’ll hurt Cecelia. And he’ll have me locked up—he’s done it before.”

“No. This is just excuses.”

“No, they’re not!” A single tear rolls down my cheek. “You don’t understand the kind of money he has. You don’t understand what he could do to you. Do you want to get deported?”

Enzo is quiet again. “This is wrong. He is hurting you.” “I’m fine. I swear to you.”

It’s mostly true. My face still feels like it’s burning, and my eyes still sting, but Enzo doesn’t need to know that. In another day, I’ll be completely fine. Like it never happened. And then I can go back to my normal, miserable life.

“You want me to leave,” he acknowledges.

I don’t want him to leave. I want nothing more for him to break the door down, but I know how Andy will twist it around. God knows what he’ll accuse the two of us of doing. I never thought he could get me locked up in a mental institution multiple times just for trying to tell the truth. I don’t want that to become Enzo’s life too. Except Andy had reason to want me to get out—he would have no problem with locking Enzo up indefinitely.

“Yes,” I say. “Please go.”

He lets out a long sigh. “I will go. But if I do not see you tomorrow morning, I will come up here and break the door

down. And I will call the police.”

“That’s fair.” I’m down to my last tiny bottle of water, so if Andy hasn’t let me out by the morning, I’ll be in bad shape.

I wait to hear his footsteps walking away. But I don’t hear them. He is still standing on the other side of the door. “You do not deserve to be treated this way,” he finally says.

Then his footsteps disappear down the hallway as the tears run down my cheeks.

Andy lets me out of the room that night. When I finally get to a mirror, I’m shocked at how swollen my eyes look from the pepper spray, and my face is bright red like I was scalded. But by the next morning, I look almost back to normal. My cheeks are pink, like I got a little too much sun the day before.

Enzo is working in the front yard when Andy pulls out of the garage, with Cece strapped into the backseat. He’s dropping her off at school while I rest today. He’s usually very nice to me for several days after he lets me out of the attic. I’m sure tonight he’ll come home with flowers and maybe some jewelry for me. As if that could make up for any of it.

I watch from the window as Andy drives through the gate, pulling out onto the road. After the car disappears, I notice Enzo staring at me. He isn’t usually in our yard two days in a row. He’s here for a reason that has nothing to do with the state of our flower beds.

I come out through the front door to where Enzo is standing with his clippers. It occurs to me how sharp the clippers are. If he drove them through Andy’s chest, that would be the end. Of course, he wouldn’t need to do that. He could probably kill Andy with his bare hands.

“See?” I offer a forced smile. “I told you I’m fine.”

He doesn’t return my smile. “Really,” I say.

His eyes are so dark, it’s impossible to make out his pupils. “Tell me the truth.”

“You don’t want to hear the truth.” “Tell me.”

In the last five years, every single person I have told about the things Andy has done to me—the police, the doctors, my best friend—has called me crazy. Delusional. I have been locked up for talking about what he has done to me. But here is a man who wants to hear the truth. He will believe me.

So as we stand on my front lawn on this beautiful sunny day, I tell Enzo everything. I tell him about the room in the attic. I tell him some of the ways Andy has tormented me. I tell him about finding Cecelia unconscious in the bathtub. It was years ago but I remember her face under the water like it was yesterday. I tell him everything as his face grows darker and darker.

Before I even finish, Enzo lets loose with a string of Italian. I don’t know the language, but I know curse words when I hear them. His fingers squeeze on the clippers until they turn white. “I kill him,” he hisses. “Tonight, I will kill him.”

All the blood drains out of my face. It felt so good to tell him everything that happened to me, but it was a mistake. He is beyond furious. “Enzo…”

“He is a monster!” he bursts out. “You do not want me to kill him?”

Yes, I want Andy dead. But I don’t want to deal with any of the consequences. Especially the letter that will go to the police in the event of his death. I want him dead, but not enough to spend my life in prison.

“You can’t do it.” I shake my head firmly. “You’ll go to jail. We’ll both go to jail. Is that what you want?”

Enzo mumbles more Italian under his breath. “Fine.

Then you leave him.” “I can’t.”

“You can. I will help you.”

“What can you do?” It’s not entirely a rhetorical question. Maybe Enzo is secretly rich. Maybe he’s got some mob connections I don’t know about. “Can you get me a plane ticket? A new passport? A new identity?”

“No, but…” He rubs his chin. “I will find a way. I know some people. I will help.”

I want so badly to believe him.

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