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Chapter no 7

The Housemaid

When I get downstairs in the morning, Nina is systematically destroying the kitchen.

She has pulled every pot and pan from the cabinet below the counter. She’s ripped half the dishes from above the sink and several of them are lying broken on the kitchen floor. And now she is going through the refrigerator, haphazardly tossing food onto the floor. I watch in amazement as she takes an entire container of milk out of the refrigerator and hurls it onto the floor. Milk immediately started gushing out, forming a white river around the pots and pans and broken dishes.

“Nina?” I say tentatively.

Nina freezes, her hands curled around a bagel. She whips her head around to look at me. “Where is it?”

“Where… where is what?”

“My notes!” She lets out an anguished cry. “I left all my notes for the PTA meeting tonight on the kitchen counter! And now they’re gone! What did you do with them?”

First of all, why would she think her notes were in the refrigerator? Second, I am certain I didn’t throw out her notes. I mean, I’m ninety-nine percent certain. Is there some tiny chance that there was a little crumpled-up piece of paper on the counter that I assumed was garbage and threw away? Yes. I can’t rule out the possibility. But I was

pretty careful about not throwing away anything that wasn’t garbage. To be fair, almost everything was garbage.

“I didn’t do anything with them,” I say.

Nina plants her fists on her hips. “So you’re saying my notes just walked away?”

“No, I’m not saying that.” I take a careful step toward her and my sneaker crunches on a broken plate. I make a note to myself to never come into the kitchen barefoot. “But maybe you left them somewhere else?”

“I did not!” she snaps at me. “I left them right here.” She slams her palm on the kitchen counter loud enough that I jump. “Right on this counter. And now—gone! Vanished!”

All the commotion has gotten the attention of Andrew Winchester. He wanders into the kitchen, wearing a dark suit that makes him look even more handsome than he looked yesterday, if that was possible. He is clearly in the process of tying his tie, but his fingers freeze mid-knot when he sees the mess on the floor.

“Nina?”

Nina turns to look at her husband, her eyes brimming with tears. “Millie threw out my notes for the meeting tonight!”

I open my mouth to protest, but it’s pointless. Nina is certain I threw out her notes, and it’s entirely possible I did. I mean, if they were so important, why would she just leave them lying on the kitchen counter? The way the kitchen looked yesterday, it could have been condemned.

“That’s terrible.” Andrew opens his arms and she flies into them. “But don’t you have some of your notes saved on the computer?”

Nina sniffles into his expensive suit. She’s probably getting snot all over it, but Andrew doesn’t seem to mind. “Some of them. But I’ll have to redo a lot of it.”

And then she turns to look at me accusingly.

I’m done trying to assert my innocence. If she is sure that I threw out her notes, the best thing to do is just apologize. “I’m so sorry, Nina,” I say. “If there’s anything I can do…”

Nina’s eyes lower onto the disaster on the kitchen floor. “You can clean up this disgusting mess you left in my kitchen while I fix this problem.”

With those words, she stomps out of the kitchen. Her footsteps disappear up the stairs as I contemplate how I’m going to clean up all these broken dishes, now intermingled with spilled milk and about twenty grapes rolling around the floor. I stepped on one of them, and it’s all over the bottom of my sneaker.

Andrew lingers behind in the kitchen, shaking his head. Now that Nina has left, I feel like I should say something. “Listen,” I say, “I wasn’t the one who—”

“I know,” he says before I can get out my protest of innocence. “Nina is… high strung. But she has a good heart.”

“Yeah…”

He pulls off his dark jacket and starts rolling up the sleeves of his crisp white dress shirt. “Let me help you get this cleaned up.”

“You don’t have to do that.”

“It’ll be faster if we work together.”

He goes into the closet by the kitchen and pulls out the mop—I’m shocked he knew exactly where it was. Actually, he knows his way around the closet of cleaning supplies very well. And now I get it. Nina has done things like this before. He’s gotten used to cleaning up her messes.

But still, I work here now. This isn’t his job.

“I’ll clean it up.” I put my hand on the mop he’s holding and tug it away from him. “You’re all dressed up, and this is what I’m here for.”

For a moment, he holds onto the mop. Then he allows me to take it from him. “Okay, thanks, Millie. I appreciate

your hard work.”

At least somebody does.

As I get to work cleaning the kitchen, I think back to the photograph on the mantle of Andrew and Nina when they were first together, before they were married, before they had Cecelia. They look so young and happy together. It’s obvious Andrew is still crazy about Nina, but something has changed. I can sense it. Nina isn’t the person she used to be.

But it doesn’t matter. It’s none of my business.

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