Chapter no 56 – NINA

The Housemaid

When I greet Cecelia at her camp, it’s the happiest I’ve seen her look in a while. She’s with some new friends she’s made, her round face shining. She’s got a sunburn on her shoulders and cheeks, and there’s a scrape on her elbow with a Band-Aid half hanging off. Instead of one of those horrible frilly dresses Andy always insists on, she’s wearing a comfy pair of shorts and a T-shirt. I’ll be happy if she never wears a dress again.

“Hi, Mom!” She bounces over to me, her ponytail swinging behind her. Suzanne said that when her youngest started calling her “Mom” instead of “Mommy,” it was a dagger in her heart. But I was happy Cece was growing up, because it meant that soon she’d be old enough that he wouldn’t have any power over her. Over us. “You’re early!”


The top of her head comes up to my shoulder now. Did she grow during the time she was here? She wraps her skinny arms around me, resting her head against my shoulder. “Where are we going now?”

I smile. When Cece was packing her things for camp, I told her to pack a bunch of extra clothes because I wasn’t sure if we would be coming straight home. That maybe we would be going somewhere else after this. So I’ve still got some of her bags in the trunk of my car.

I wasn’t sure if it would happen. I didn’t know that it would all go according to plan. Every time I think about it, my eyes fill with tears. We’re free.

“Where would you like to go?” I ask. She tilts up her head. “Disneyland!”

We could go to California. I would love to put three thousand miles between me and Andrew Winchester. Just in case he somehow gets it in his head that we should be together again.

Just in case Millie doesn’t do what I’m hoping she’s going to do.

“Let’s do it!” I say.

Cece’s face lights up, and she starts jumping up and down. She still has that childlike happiness. The ability to live in the moment. He hasn’t completely stolen it from her. Not yet, anyway.

Then she stops jumping as her face gets serious. “What about Dad?”

“He’s not coming.”

The relief on her face mirrors my own. He never laid a finger on her as far as I know, and I watched carefully. If I had seen even the tiniest suspicious bruise on my child, I would have told Enzo to go ahead and kill him. But I never saw anything. Still, she knew some of her own transgressions resulted in me being punished. She’s a smart girl.

Of course, the fact that she always had to be so perfect around her father meant that she rebounded when he wasn’t around. She doesn’t really trust any adults except me, and she can sometimes be difficult. She’s been called a brat before. But it’s not her fault. My daughter has a good heart.

Cece runs into her cabin to grab her bags. I start to follow her, but then my phone buzzes in my purse. I rifle through the messy contents of my bag until I find my phone. It’s Enzo.

I debate if I should answer. Enzo helped save my life, and I can’t argue he didn’t give me an unforgettable night. But I’m ready to leave that part of my life behind. I don’t know what he’s calling about, and I’m not sure I want to know.

Then again, I owe him at least to pick up the phone.

“Hello?” I lower my voice a few notches. “What’s going on?”

Enzo’s tone is low and serious. “We need to talk, Nina.”

In my lifetime, those four words have never led to anything good.

“What is it?” I say.

“You need to come back here. You need to help Millie.” I snort. “Out of the question.”

“Out of the question?” I’ve heard Enzo angry before, but never directed at me. This is a first. “Nina, she is in trouble. You put her in that situation.”

“Right, because she slept with my husband. Am I supposed to feel sorry for her?”

“You pushed her into it!”

“She didn’t have to take the bait. Nobody twisted her arm. Anyway, she’ll be fine. Andy never did anything to me for months. Not until after we got married.” I sniff. “I’ll write her a letter after the divorce, okay? I’ll warn her about him. Before she marries him.”

He’s quiet for a few beats on the other line. “Millie hasn’t left the house in three days.”

My eyes dart up to Cecelia’s cabin. She’s still inside packing and probably gabbing with her new friends. I look around at the other parents arriving for pick-up. I scurry off to the side, lowering my voice further. “What do you mean?”

“I was worried about her. So I put a red mark on the tire of her car. It’s been three days and the mark is still in the exact same spot. She hasn’t gone anywhere in three days.”

I let out a huff. “Look, Enzo. That could mean anything.

Maybe the two of them went on a trip together.” “No. I’ve seen his car move.”

I roll my eyes. “So maybe they’re carpooling. Maybe she just doesn’t feel like driving anywhere.”

“The light is on in the attic.”

“The…” I clear my throat, taking another step away from the other parents. “How do you know that?”

“I went in the backyard.” “After Andy fired you?”

“I had to check, okay? There is somebody up there.”

I squeeze the phone so tightly my fingers start to tingle. “So what? The attic was her bedroom. Is it really such a big deal that she’s up there?”

“I don’t know. You tell me.”

A dizzy sensation comes over me. When I planned this whole thing out, back when I wanted Millie to be my replacement and then later when I wanted her to kill that bastard, I never really thought it out. I left her the pepper spray and I gave her the key to the room, and I thought she would be fine. But now I realize I may have made a huge mistake. I think of her trapped in the room in the attic, having to endure whatever torture Andy has come up with. The thought of it makes me sick.

“What about you?” I say. “Can’t you go in and check on her?”

“I rang the bell. No answer.”

“What about the key under the flowerpot?” “It wasn’t there.”

“What about—”

“Nina,” Enzo growls, “are you saying you want me to break into that house? Do you know what would happen to me if I got caught? You have a key. You have every right to go in there. I’ll go with you, but I can’t go alone.”


“This is all just excuses!” he bursts out. “I can’t believe you would let her suffer the way you suffered.”

I take one last look up at Cecelia’s cabin. She’s just coming out now, lugging her bags behind her.

“Fine,” I say. “I’ll come back. But only on one condition.”

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