Chapter no 5

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

In 1964, a woman named Kitty Genovese was murdered.

Kitty was a twenty-eight-year-old bartender. She was raped and stabbed at approximately three in the morning about a hundred feet from her Queens apartment. She screamed for help, but while several neighbors heard her cry, nobody came to her aid. Her attacker, Winston Moseley, left her briefly and returned ten minutes later, at which point he stabbed her several more times and stole fifty dollars from her. She died from her knife wounds.

“Kitty Genovese was attacked, raped, and murdered in front of thirty-eight witnesses,” Professor Kindred announces to the lecture hall. “Thirty-eight people saw her attack, and not one person came to her aid or called the police.”

Our professor, a man in his sixties with hair that always seems to be sticking up, looks at each and every one of us, accusation in his eyes like we were the thirty-eight people who left that woman to die. “This,” he says, “is the bystander effect. It’s a social psychology phenomenon in which individuals are less likely to offer help to a victim when there are other people present.”

The students in the room are scribbling in their notes or typing on their laptops. I just stare at the professor.

“Think about it,” Professor Kindred says. “Over three dozen people allowed a woman to be raped and murdered, and they just watched and did nothing. This perfectly demonstrates diffusion of responsibility in a group.” I squirm in my seat, imagining what I would do in that situation—if I looked out my window and saw a man attacking a woman. I wouldn’t sit

back and do nothing, that’s for damn sure. I would jump right out the window if I had to.

No. I wouldn’t do that. I have learned to control myself better than that. But I would call 911. I would go outside and bring a knife with me. I wouldn’t do anything with it, but it might be enough to scare off an attacker.

I still feel shaken thinking about that poor girl who was killed over half a century ago when I emerge from the lecture hall. When I get out onto the street, I almost walk right past Brock. He has to chase after me and grab my arm.

Of course. We made dinner plans.

“Hey.” He grins at me with the whitest teeth I have ever seen. I’ve never asked him if he gets them professionally whitened, but he must. Teeth can’t naturally be that white—it’s inhuman. “We’re celebrating tonight, right? Your new job.”

“Right.” I manage a smile. “Sorry.” “Are you okay?”

“I’m just… I’m shaken from the lecture I just had. We were learning about this woman in the ’60s who was raped in front of thirty-eight bystanders, who did nothing. How could something like that happen?”

“Kitty Genovese, right?” Brock snaps his fingers. “I remember it from my own college psychology class.”

“Right. And it’s awful.”

“It’s bullshit though.” He slides his hand into mine. His palm feels warm. “The story was sensationalized by the New York Times. There were way fewer witnesses than the Times reported. And based on where the apartments were, most of them couldn’t see what was really happening and thought it was just a lovers’ quarrel. And a bunch of them did call the police. I think she was being cradled by one of her neighbors when the ambulance came.”

“Oh.” I feel slightly inadequate, the way I often do when Brock knows more about something than I do. Which happens a lot, actually. As far as I can tell, the guy knows just about everything. It’s one of the many things that makes him so perfect.

“It’s not as sensational a story though, is it?” Brock lets go of my hand and throws an arm around my shoulders. I catch a glimpse of our reflection in a store window, and I can’t help but think we look good together as a couple. We look like the kind of couple that would invite five hundred

guests to our wedding and then get a house with a white picket fence out in the suburbs and then proceed to fill it with children. “Either way, you shouldn’t feel bad about something that happened decades ago. You’re just… You’re just a little too nice, you know?”

I’ve always had this itch to help people who are in trouble. Unfortunately, it gets me into trouble sometimes. If only I were as nice as Brock thinks I am—he has no idea. “Sorry, I can’t help it.”

“I guess that’s why you want to become a social worker.” He winks at me. “Unless I can talk you into a more lucrative career.”

My last boyfriend was the one who convinced me to follow the career path to social work—so I could help people in need while staying within the confines of the law. You need to help everyone, Millie. It is what I love about you. He really understood me. Unfortunately, he’s not around anymore.

“Anyway.” Brock squeezes my shoulders. “Let’s not think about women who were murdered in the ’60s. Tell me about your new job.”

I fill him in on the details of the impressive Garrick penthouse. When I tell him about the view, the location, and the second floor, he lets out a low whistle.

“That apartment must’ve cost a fortune,” he says, as we step into the street, narrowly avoiding being sideswiped by a bike. As far as I can tell, bikers in the city have absolutely no regard for traffic lights or pedestrians. “I bet they paid like twenty million. At least.”

“Wow. You think?”

“Definitely. They better be paying you well.”

“They are.” When Douglas discussed the hourly rate, I almost felt dollar signs popping up in my eyeballs.

“What did you say the guy who hired you was called?” “Douglas Garrick.”

“Hey, he’s the CEO of Coinstock.” Brock snaps his fingers. “I met him once when he hired my firm to help with a patent. Genuinely nice guy.”

“Yeah. He seemed nice.”

He did seem nice. But I can’t stop thinking about that closed door on the second floor. The wife who couldn’t even come out to meet me. As excited as I am about this job, something about that makes me uneasy.

“And you know what else?” Brock pulls me into a crosswalk—the light is flashing, about to turn red, and we make it across just in time. “The

building is only like five blocks away from where I live.”

Hint, hint.

I knew about the proximity of the penthouse to Brock’s apartment, of course. I squirm, feeling just as uncomfortable as I did in the classroom. Brock has become a dog with a bone. He wants me to move in with him, and he won’t seem to let it go. I just can’t seem to shake the feeling that if he really knew me, he wouldn’t want that. I love being with Brock, and I don’t want to ruin it.

“Brock…” I say.

“Okay, okay.” He rolls his eyes. “Look, I don’t mean to pressure you. If you’re not ready to move in, that’s fine. But for the record, I think we make a good team. And you spend half your nights at my place anyway, right?”

“Uh-huh,” I say in the most noncommittal way possible.

“Also…” He flashes those pearly whites at me. “My parents would like to meet you.”

Okay, now I’m going to throw up. Even though he’s been bugging me to move in with him, it still didn’t occur to me that he would have told his parents about me. But of course he did. He probably calls them once a week, on Sunday at 8pm, and fills them in on all the pertinent details of his perfect life.

“Oh,” I say weakly.

“And I’d like to meet your parents as well,” he adds.

This might be a great time to tell him I’m estranged from my parents.

But the words don’t come.

This is so hard. That last guy I dated knew everything about me from the start, so I never had to reveal my complicated past—there was never a terrifying moment where I laid everything out on the table. And like I said, Brock is so… perfect. The only things about him that aren’t perfect are little insignificant details, like once he left the toilet seat up at my apartment. And even that is something he’s only done once.

The problem with Brock is that he’s ready to settle down. And even though I’m the same age, I’m not there yet. He doesn’t want to wait either. He’s got a great job at the top law firm, and he makes more than enough to support a family. Even though his last cardiology visit gave him a clean bill of health, he worries that he’s not going to live out the expected lifespan for a Caucasian man in this country. He wants to get married and have kids while he can still enjoy it.

Meanwhile, I feel like I’m still in the process of growing up. I’m still in school, after all. I’m not ready to get married. I just… I can’t.

“It’s okay.” He stops walking for a moment to look at me—a man walking behind us almost collides with us, and he curses as he goes on his way. “I don’t want to rush you. But you need to know, I’m crazy about you, Millie.”

“I’m crazy about you, too,” I say.

He takes both my hands in his as he stares into my eyes. “Actually, I kind of love you.”

My heart speeds up a bit. He’s told me before that he’s crazy about me, but he’s never told me he loved me before. Even with a “kind of” modifier.

I open my mouth, not entirely sure what I’m going to say. But before any words can come out, I get that prickling sensation in the back of my neck.

Why do I feel like somebody’s watching me? Am I losing my mind? “Well,” I finally say, “that’s kind of sweet.”

I’m not ready to say it back. I can’t take that next step in our relationship when there’s so much about me that Brock still doesn’t know. Thankfully, he doesn’t push the issue.

“Come on,” he says. “Let’s go get some sushi.”

At some point, I probably also need to tell him that I don’t like sushi.

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