Minny waits nervously for Miss Celia to come home. That morning she squeezed herself into her tightest pink sweater, said she was going to Miss Leefolt’s before she lost her nerve, and drove off with her skirt hanging out of the door. Shortly after that, Aibileen called to tell her everything she heard. Minny is sure it will “take those crackling hens” just a few minutes to figure out her deception. Now all she can do is wait for Miss Celia to return.
Minny wants to know several things: Will Aibileen get fired for helping her get this job? Did Miss Hilly tell Miss Celia her lies about Minny being a thief? Did Miss Hilly tell her about the Terrible Awful Thing Minny did to get back at Miss Hilly for telling lies about her? She is sorry about that incident now, but since Miss Hilly put her own maid in jail, she wonders what will happen to her for this. Miss Celia does not arrive home until ten minutes after four. When she sees Minny is still there, she shoos her off quickly before Mister Johnny gets home. It is a twisted charade, but Minny has no choice except to go home and worry all night.
The next morning, Aibileen calls Minny to tell her that Miss Hilly and Miss Leefolt decided Minny made up the recommendation so Miss Celia would give Minny the job. Minny is relieved that Aibileen’s part in this is still a secret, though she is being called a liar and a thief. Now she just has to keep Miss Celia from talking to Miss Hilly.
As soon as she arrives at work, Minny sees Miss Celia about to go shopping for a new dress for the Benefit. Minny works out in the back yard for a bit and hears a crackling in the bushes, though she sees no one. When the phone rings, Minny wants to ignore it as she is supposed to do in case it is Mister Johnny, but today she answers it. It is Miss Hilly. Minny lowers her voice and lies, saying her name is Doreena and she is Miss Celia’s maid. When Miss Hilly asks about Minny, she says Minny quit. She also says Miss Celia has left for the coast and will be gone a long time. Miss Hilly leaves her number and tells her to have Miss Celia call when she returns. After she hangs up, Minny’s heart is beating wildly.
Minny knows she could always tell Miss Celia about the lies, but there is the Terrible Awful, and she has no excuse for that. Miss Celia returns four hours later with five big boxes. Minny helps carry them to the bedroom and waits outside the room to listen for Miss Celia to call the society women as usual. She does pick up the phone, but she hangs it up again. As always, Miss Celia wants to be sure the phone is working in case one of them ever calls her.
Three days later, Minny tries to hide her face from Miss Celia, but she sees the bleeding cut above her eyebrow. Usually her bruises are not visible. Miss Celia is concerned and insists on calling the doctor; finally Minny has to tell her that no white doctor is going to work on a colored person. Minny just wants to be left alone in her humiliation. Leroy beats her up often when he has been drinking. This time, though, he was sober. At first she thought it was because he found out about her working with...
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Miss Skeeter, but he beat her for his “pure pleasure.” Minny says she hit her head on the bathtub but Miss Celia does not appear to believe her. She tells Minny she saw things like this back in Sugar Ditch, and she wants to call the police.
Their conversation is disrupted when Miss Celia sees a man out the window. It is a scrawny white man; his back is to them, but Minny can tell he is touching himself. He turns around and stares at Minny as if he knows she deserves to be hit and wants to beat her as well. He makes a threatening gesture and Minny runs through the house locking doors. He approaches the house, tries the doorknob, and throws a rock through the window. Minny knows what she must do. She grabs a broom and a knife from Mister Johnny’s hunting display and runs after the man, telling Miss Celia to lock the door behind her.
He makes lewd remarks from a virtually toothless mouth and calls her a “fat nigger” as he begins running. Minny follows and they have several confrontations before Minny finally whacks him with the broom. She realizes she has dropped the knife somewhere, so this is her only weapon. When she looks away, the man punches her hard on the side of her face that has the cut. Minny’s ear is ringing, but she hears Miss Celia tell the man to stop or she will kill him. She is standing, firmly planted, with a sharp fire poker in her hand. There is a standoff, and the man begins to taunt her—until Miss Celia cracks him on one side of his face and then, as he wobbles, on the other side. She thwacks him across the back of the knees and across his shoulders before Minny stops her from killing the man.
Miss Celia wants to know if the man hurt Minny. She answers that he did not hurt her as bad as Miss Celia hurt him. Miraculously, the man staggers to his feet and hobbles away. Minny does not have the words to thank this white woman; this is like nothing she has ever experienced. Minny tells Miss Celia that she looked awfully sure of herself with that poker in her hand. Miss Celia says if she knew her ten years ago she would know she is a fighter. Minny can see the “white-trash girl” she once was, taking nothing from anyone. Miss Celia fixes them both coffee and calls the police. Minny thinks she might stay at her sister’s tonight, but she knows she will go home as always.
Minny drives right past Aibileen on her way home, and Aibileen stops at her house to scold her—until she sees her friend’s face. Aibileen takes Minny to her house, where she explains the events of the day. They talk about lines—and crossing them. Aibileen used to believe in lines, and people like Miss Hilly want everyone to believe they still exist, but she now knows that there are no lines. Talking back to a husband is not crossing a line and it does not justify punishment. There are no lines between black and white either; someone just made them up a long time ago. And the lines between the help and the boss do not exist; they are just positions. Minny agrees but is skeptical. As she leaves for home, Minny takes the bandage off her eye; she wants Leroy to see what he did. If there is any screaming tonight, it will come from him.
Miss Celia is frantically preparing for the Benefit. She has chosen hot pink nail polish and a slinky, sequined pink dress. Minny thinks she will look like the white version of a “juke joint hussy” but will not understand why everyone will be mocking her. Minny suggests that she should call Miss Skeeter instead of those other ladies, but Miss Celia is adamant that Miss Skeeter is hated by the women of the League and a total embarrassment. Minny asks if she has ever met her, but Miss Celia says if the other ladies do not like her, she must be....It slowly dawns on her that she and Miss Skeeter have much in common. When Miss Celia asks why the women hate her, Minny tries to soften the truth. Miss Celia misunderstands and thinks they only dislike her because they think she stole Mister Johnny from Miss Hilly—and she is thrilled to believe they like her but not her actions. Minny is too tired to try explaining again.
On the day of the party, Minny cleans the house a little better than usual in case she is not invited to come back Monday. Before she leaves, Minny checks in on Miss Celia. She is dressed in pink sparkles from head to toe; “everything about her oozes sex, sex, and more sex.” She is nervous and has had nothing but wine to eat or drink today. She plans to talk to Miss Hilly tonight, to tell her that Mister Johnny only began going with her after he broke up with Miss Hilly. Minny just sighs. She wants to tell her to stay home, but she does not. Miss Hilly is in control, and it is already too late for both of them.