It is the first day of December, and Minny can only think of what will happen on Christmas Eve: Miss Celia will tell her husband she has a maid. Although she is not sure what will happen after he is told, she knows she has more dignity than to die standing on a white woman’s toilet. The man she saw was not Johnny Foote (it was just the meter man), but Miss Celia was still so shaken afterward that she could not even measure salt into a teaspoon.
On Monday, Minny cannot stop thinking about poor Robert, the boy who was beaten and blinded for using a white bathroom. As she prepares to go to the store, Minny and Miss Celia make the grocery list. After three months of cooking lessons, the young white woman can still do little more than shell butter beans. Miss Celia asks if they can make a chocolate pie this week, but Minny tells her she does not know how (for she has vowed never to make one again after the Terrible Awful with Miss Hilly). Mister Foote loves Minny’s food, and she is tired of not getting any credit for it. Her cooking and her children are the two things about which she is most proud.
Miss Celia makes calls from her bed, offering to help with social functions, but Minny knows her help will never be needed. As soon as she saw the photograph of Johnny Foote, she knew her employer would never be asked to help with or invited to attend any such functions. Johnny Foote is Miss Hilly’s former boyfriend. He cast her off for Miss Celia and Miss Hilly never got over it.
Wednesday night Minny goes to church early to meet Aibileen; the older woman asked to meet her there so they could talk privately. Aibileen tells her about Miss Skeeter’s book and wanting to put on paper what it is like for them to serve white people. Minny sarcastically says to tell her they all live their dreams by working for others all day. The truth is that they are too afraid to ask for anything more than they are given and often have to move on when the children they raise stop being color-blind and turn out like their mothers. Telling the truth would get them both in trouble, but they do feel enticed to talk to Miss Skeeter. Minny decides she cannot be that foolish.
Miss Celia spends some time outside by the pool during a week-long heat wave in December. Minny once thought her mistress was sick in her body, but now she wonders if she is somehow sick in her head. Every day Minny hears her sneak upstairs for seven or eight minutes and then sneak back down. Now it is only thirteen days before Miss Celia has to tell her husband about Minny—a reminder she does not appreciate. Suddenly Miss Celia is ghostly white and sweating through her makeup. She drinks her tonic straight from the bottle. Whatever the woman has, Minny hopes it is not contagious.
The next day is the day to change sheets, Minny’s least favorite job. Miss Celia usually moves from her bed to the couch on these days, but today her door is still shut at eleven o’clock in the morning. When Minny finally checks in on her, she finds Miss Celia curled up on the bed, still in her nightgown and without makeup. She asks Minny to get her a glass of water. Minny comes back to find her in the bathroom. Minny begins picking up the...
(This entire section contains 1188 words.)
sheets to change them, but Miss Celia tells her to bring her the phone and her phone book and to go home. Minny does not want to leave, but her employer insists. She is upset because, though she has been yelled at before, Miss Celia has never raised her voice at her.
Minny wakes up to an ice storm that has made the roads impossible to drive on, so she calls Miss Celia to tell her she will not be able to come today. A man answers the phone and Minny hangs up without speaking. In eleven days, there will be no more secrecy. The ice thaws in a day, and when Minny goes back to work she finds Miss Celia sitting at the kitchen table. Minny does not say much to her, but Miss Celia is quick to approach her and apologize with tears in her eyes. She explains that she was sick and begins sobbing. When Minny forgives her, the younger woman grabs her around the neck and hugs her tightly until Minny pats her and “peels her off,” understanding that everyone gets a little “snippy” when they do not feel well.
A week later, Miss Celia is pale and will not eat anything Minny brings her; instead, she spends her time decorating a Christmas tree. Later she goes outside and does some gardening; this is more effort than Minny has ever seen her exert. Minny reminds her when there are six days left before she has to tell Mister Johnny about her, and Miss Celia suggests perhaps she can put off telling him. She relents when she looks at Minny’s determined face.
Now there are only ninety-six hours before Minny is free. She may or may not have a job after Christmas, but at least she will be free. Aibileen calls her and asked her again to talk to Miss Skeeter, but Minny tells her she is a fool for trusting a white woman. Miss Celia is not at home, so Minny begins her work. After preparing the ham, she begins to dust. She works her way to the bedroom and begins tidying the room. Suddenly Mister Johnny is standing in the doorway with an axe, and Minny is frightened. Once he asks who she is and she tells him, he assures Minny she has nothing to fear from him. He knew someone else was helping with the cooking, and he is quite happy with the results.
As Minny fixes him lunch (thankful that someone finally and so obviously appreciates her cooking), he asks what his wife does all day if Minny does all the cooking and cleaning. He wonders if she is seeing another man. Minny assures him there is no one else, and Mister Foote is relieved. He says he simply wants her to be here with him; it is she who wants to do things for him and wants to hide the fact that she has hired a maid to help her do that. Both of them are puzzled. Mister Johnny asks Minny not to tell his wife that he knows about her, and he gives Minny his phone number in case she ever has to call him. He also plans to call his friend Will Holbrook and see if he can ask his wife (Hilly) to include Miss Celia in some of her social activities. Although Minny feels relieved at his reaction to her presence, she still feels a sense of dread.