Chapter no 21

The Housemaid's Secret (The Housemaid, Book 2)

In 2007, an acclaimed violinist named Josh Bell, who had recently sold out a concert with average ticket prices of a hundred dollars each, posed as a street musician. He stood in a subway station in Washington, DC wearing jeans and a baseball cap, where he played the exact same music as at his concert, on a handcrafted violin worth more than three and a half million dollars.

“Hardly anyone even stopped to listen,” Dr. Kindred explains to the lecture hall filled with students. “In fact, when children would occasionally stop, their parents would grab them and usher them on their way. This man played a sold-out concert in Boston, and on that day, only about fifty people stopped long enough to put a dollar in his violin case. So how do you explain this?”

After a hesitation, a girl in the front row raises her hand. That one is always eager to answer questions. “I think part of it was that beauty is less easily perceived when it’s in an unassuming setting.”

I take the subway every day from the Bronx into the city, and I often see people playing their instruments as I wait for the subway to arrive. The station right by my apartment building reeks of urine, for reasons I prefer not to think about, but if there’s somebody playing music while I’m waiting, it’s not so bad.

I would have stopped and listened to Josh Bell. I might have even put a dollar in his violin case, even though I need every dollar I have.

“Okay,” Dr. Kindred says. “Any other possible factors at play?”

I hesitate for a moment before raising my hand. I don’t usually participate in class because I’m about ten years older than the oldest person

in the room (aside from the professor). But nobody else seems to be answering.

“Nobody wanted to help him,” I say.

Dr. Kindred nods and strokes the stubble on his chin. “What do you mean by that?”

“Well,” I say, “he had a violin case out with money in it. People assumed he was looking for help in the form of money. And because they didn’t want to help him, they ignored him. They felt that stopping would have meant they had to help.”

“Ah.” He nods. “So that doesn’t say much good about the human race, if nobody was willing to enjoy beautiful music because it meant they might have to help a person in need.”

The professor is still looking at me, so I feel like I have to say something. “At least fifty people stopped. That’s something.”

“Very true,” he says. “That is something.”

I would have helped though. I always help. I can never, ever walk away, even when I should.

After the lecture ends, just as I’m getting out of the building, I spy a familiar face coming down the street. I am a little surprised to note that it’s Amber Degraw, the woman who fired me after her baby daughter wouldn’t stop calling me mama. I’m not as much surprised to see her as I am to see her pushing a stroller containing little Olive, who is playing with some sort of rattle that is pushed about as far into her mouth as she can get it. Her fingers are sticky with drool.

When I was working for Amber, she never seemed interested in taking Olive out for a walk. So this is a good thing for both of them.

I consider ducking around the corner to avoid an awkward encounter, but then Amber spots me and raises a hand in an enthusiastic greeting. Apparently, she’s just plum forgotten about the way she fired me.

“Millie!” she calls out. “My goodness, how lovely to see you!”

Really? Because that isn’t what she said last time we saw each other. “Hi, Amber,” I say, already resigned to making polite conversation.

She skids to a halt beside me, releasing the handle of the stroller long enough to smooth out her shiny strawberry blond hair. Today, Amber is all about leather. She’s wearing a pair of leather pants, stuffed into knee-high leather boots, and a creamy brown leather trench coat.

“How are you doing?” She cocks her head to the side like I am a random friend who has come into a bit of bad luck, rather than a person who she fired. “Everything okay?”

“Sure,” I say through my teeth. “Just great.” “Where are you working now?”

I’m reluctant to tell her anything about my present position. She’s already fired me herself for the stupidest reason—I put nothing past this woman. “I’m between jobs.”

“I saw you on the street the other day,” she says. “You were going into that old building on 86th Street. Douglas Garrick lives there, doesn’t he?”

I freeze, surprised that she’s privy to that information. Then again, in rich people circles, everyone seems to know everyone. “Yes, I’m working for the Garricks now.”

“Oh, is that what you were doing there?”

The smile curled across Amber’s lips makes me uneasy. What is she implying exactly? “Yes…”

She winks at me. “I’m sure you’re making the most of it.”

I don’t appreciate her tone, but I remind myself that I don’t have to stand here and chat with Amber—one of the benefits of no longer being in her employment. But I do have to say hello to little Olive, whose chin is shiny with drool. I haven’t seen her in a while, and a baby can change quickly at that age. She probably barely recognizes me.

“Hi there, Olive!” I chirp.

Olive extracts the rattle from her throat and raises her humongous blue eyes to stare up at me. “Mama!” she shrieks with delight.

The color drains out of Amber’s face. “No! She’s not your mama! I


“Mama!” Olive stretches out her pudgy arms to reach for me. “Mama!” When I don’t scoop Olive into my arms, the little girl starts sobbing.

Amber shoots me a dirty look. “Look how you’ve upset her!”

With that remark, Amber does an about-face and sprints down the street to get away from me, while Olive continues to wail, “Mama!” Despite everything, that encounter put a smile on my face. Turns out she remembered me after all.

While I’m watching Amber disappear into the distance, my phone starts ringing—instantly, my good mood evaporates. This is likely one of two

people. It’s either Douglas, telling me I’m fired for harassing his wife, or it’s Brock, which would be even worse.

Things have been decidedly chilly between me and my boyfriend since I abruptly told him I didn’t want to live with him. I repeatedly explained about needing my own space and feeling safer now that Xavier has been locked up for the foreseeable future, but he still doesn’t get it. I have a bad feeling that we have to move forward in our relationship very, very soon, or else it’s going to end.

Except when I look at my phone, it’s not Douglas or Brock. It’s a number I don’t recognize.

“Hello?” I say.

“Is this Wilhelmina Calloway?”

I pause, wondering if the voice on the other line is going to tell me that my car warranty is about to expire, or else let loose with a string of some foreign language. “Yes…”

“Hi! This is Lisa from Jobmatch!”

My shoulders relax. Jobmatch was the service that I used to place my ad for the housekeeper jobs. “Hi, Lisa.”

“Ms. Calloway,” Lisa says in her chipper voice, “we didn’t get any response to our emails, so this is the second call regarding your credit card.”

“My credit card?”

“Yes,” Lisa says. “Your American Express was declined.”

I shake my head at my own stupidity. “I’m so sorry. I canceled that card.

I meant to use my MasterCard. But I don’t need the ad anymore.”

“Well,” Lisa says, “I just want to make sure you understand that the ad never went live because we never received payment.”

I stop walking right in the middle of First Avenue. “Wait,” I say. “My ad for the housekeeper position never went live?”

“I’m afraid not, since we never received payment. As I said, we’ve been trying to contact you…”

But I’m not listening. I don’t know how it’s possible that my ad for the housekeeper position never appeared online. “Are you sure?” I blurt out. “You’re saying my ad was never online at all? Even for a day?”

“Not even for a day,” Lisa confirms.

I think back to when I was looking for jobs a couple of months earlier. Most of the interviews took place with potential employers who I had

contacted through their own ads. In fact, there was only one person who contacted me unsolicited.

Douglas Garrick.

You'll Also Like