Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1013
Not one word is spoken about the shooting or its aftermath in the Leefolt home. There has been no word from Miss Hilly, and Aibileen is still sick with worry. The day after the funeral, Miss Fredericks (Miss Leefolt’s mother) stops at the Leefolts’ and simply walks into the...
(The entire section contains 1013 words.)
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Not one word is spoken about the shooting or its aftermath in the Leefolt home. There has been no word from Miss Hilly, and Aibileen is still sick with worry. The day after the funeral, Miss Fredericks (Miss Leefolt’s mother) stops at the Leefolts’ and simply walks into the house. Aibileen is ironing, and Miss Leefolt gives her a look that tells her to stop what she is doing, pick up the scattered toys, and wipe the jelly off Mae Mobley’s face. Miss Fredericks drives an expensive car and does a lot of shopping, so she probably has a lot more money than the Leefolts do. Now she demands that her daughter take her to the fanciest restaurant in town, and Aibileen knows the older woman will expect her daughter to pay.
After her suggestion that Aibileen make them a nice lunch is rejected, Miss Leefolt goes to get her purse. Miss Fredericks asks Mae Mobley if she likes the dress she sent her, and then she scolds the girl for not saying “yes, ma’am.” Aibileen can see the child is thinking now there is another woman in the house who does not like her. As the women leave, mother is telling daughter that she has to make sure her hired help is teaching her granddaughter good manners.
After they leave, Aibileen feeds Mae Mobley, but the girl is not hungry. She is coming down with a summer cold, and Aibileen gives her a soothing tonic for her throat. As she prepares to read her a story before her nap, the black woman always tells the almost-three-year-old that she is kind and smart and important; however, she knows soon those words will not be enough. Aibileen is not interested in reading the same stories again, so they just rock for a bit until the sadness Aibileen is feeling surfaces and she begins to tell a story about a little white girl and a little black girl who were different colors but shared all the same parts and became friends. It is not much of a story, but Mae Mobley asks her to tell it again. She tells it four times before the child falls asleep, and Aibileen quietly promises to tell her a better story next time.
Aibileen has not seen Miss Hilly in five days, and neither has Miss Skeeter. They both know this is a bad sign. Miss Hilly calls to invite Miss Leefolt and Mae Mobley to the country club to go swimming—the country club that does not allow blacks or Jews. It is too expensive, so the Leefolts do not belong. Miss Skeeter calls, and Aibileen lies for her employer, saying she is gone. Aibileen does not understand why Miss Leefolt does not invite Miss Skeeter to join them since she is a member of the club.
After Aibileen packs everything they will need for the afternoon, the three of them get into the car and drive to the country club. It is a blisteringly hot day, but the pool area is refreshing. Aibileen has been here before and shows Miss Leefolt where to go. She settles her employer into the lounge chair next to Miss Hilly and takes a seat about five feet behind them—a perfect perch from which to listen to their conversation. Aibileen soon learns that Yule May has a day off, which is why Miss Hilly invited Miss Leefolt; she knew Aibileen would come along and take care of all three children.
Miss Hilly talks about her upcoming vacation at the beach, and the two women make no mention of Miss Skeeter or a satchel. Soon Aibileen sees Miss Skeeter on the other side of the fence at the tennis courts; Miss Skeeter sees her two friends sitting by the pool and has a pensive look on her face. She walks into the pool area and stands in front of them, and they still do not see her. Miss Skeeter says hello to both women but only Miss Leefolt stammers a response. Tensions are high, and finally Miss Hilly tersely explains she has been too busy to return her phone calls. Finally Miss Skeeter asks if she has somehow offended her.
To her credit, Miss Hilly tries to avoid this discussion in a public place, but Miss Skeeter is tenacious. Miss Hilly admits she read the pamphlet of Jim Crow laws she took from her satchel, and she explains she and her husband cannot afford to have “integrational friends in their closet” when he one day gets elected to national office. Miss Skeeter rolls her eyes and reminds her that William is only running for the local senate—and may not even win. Aibileen wonders why Miss Skeeter is pushing the other woman. Miss Hilly is furious now and asks if Miss Skeeter really wants to allow colored people to swim in their pools and touch everything at their grocery store.
Everything in Miss Skeeter wants to say yes, but she sees the plea in Aibileen’s eyes and tries to laugh off the booklet by saying she just found it at the library and took it home to read—nothing more. Miss Hilly is hesitant to change her mind, but Miss Skeeter moves boldly forward and flatters her, telling Miss Hilly that if she were up to anything devious, Miss Hilly would have it “figured out in half a second.” She follows by saying she is worried that Miss Hilly is working too hard. At that, Miss Hilly slumps and whispers so Miss Leefolt cannot hear. Miss Hilly says she is scared this campaign will fail and all the money they have spent will be wasted. William, she confides, is never home any longer. Miss Skeeter comforts her, and the two women seem to have made some peace.
In the middle of the crowd of sunning, laughing people, a white woman in a tennis uniform and a black woman in a white uniform are thinking the same thing: perhaps it is foolish of them, but they feel relieved.