Chapter 34 Summary
It is bridge day at Miss Leefolt’s, and everything is ready. Aibileen hears the doorbell. Unprepared to face Miss Hilly after what she said to Miss Skeeter last night, Aibileen goes to her bathroom and sits. She is distressed about what will happen to Mae Mobley if she has to leave; she will grow up in a world where black is a dirty color and her mother is cold and unkind to her. Tomorrow Aibileen will tell her Baby Girl good-bye, just in case.
Aibileen gets home late and stops in to see Minny. The house is quiet, and they talk about a few good things happening because of the book. Aibileen is impatient, but Minny is calm because she thinks “maybe things is happening just how they should.” She is calm, but she is afraid that Leroy might kill or that Miss Hilly will set her house on fire. Aibileen sees Minny jump at the sound of a car door slamming and knows she is hiding her fear. Finally Aibileen understands that Minnie included the pie story to protect them, not herself.
On Saturday, Aibileen has done all the cleaning, washing, and ironing, and now she wanders the house. As she walks by the children’s rooms, she hears Mae Mobley and Ross (Li’l Man) playing. Baby Girl tells Ross he has to sit at the “Woolworf” counter and has to keep sitting no matter what she does to him. Finally Ross gets bored and Mae Mobley starts a new game, “Back-a-the-Bus,” and Ross will be Rosa Parks. Mr. Leefolt has been standing in the doorway. He asks his daughter where she learned these games. She looks up and stares directly at Aibileen; then she tells him it was Miss Taylor. Mister Leefolt goes straight to his wife and tells her to change their daughter’s teacher first thing Monday morning. Inside, Aibileen is cheering.
Monday morning Aibileen returns the silver Miss Leefolt borrowed from Miss Hilly. Ernestine meets her on the porch and tells her about another maid and white employer who have had a row over the book. If Miss Hilly were not telling everyone so adamantly that this book is not set in Jackson, the woman could fire the maid; as it is, the maid will have her job for life. Other stories may not end as well.
That night Miss Skeeter visits Aibileen before leaving for New York tomorrow. The two friends hug, and Miss Skeeter tells her that stores across the country have requested more copies of the book. Another five thousand will be printed—and each woman will receive another hundred dollars. When Miss Skeeter quit her job at the Jackson Journal, she recommended Aibileen for the job. Mr. Gordon had to think about it, but he has agreed as long as she does not tell anyone. Aibileen will be earning another ten dollars a week and working for a white newspaper.
Miss Skeeter will go to Chicago and visit Constantine’s grave before going to New York. She is excited but nervous because she has never flown before. Aibileen remembers their first awkward meeting; now they are like family. Miss Skeeter is still concerned about leaving Aibileen to face whatever is to come. The older woman goes and gets a package and gives it to Miss Skeeter now instead of mailing it to her later. It is the signed book the Reverend gave her. Every signature and note in that book, contends Aibileen, means it was worth it to someone, and Constantine would be proud of her. When she smiles now, Miss Skeeter looks young. Aibileen tells her to go to New York and “find her life.”
As she is lying in bed, Aibileen cries tears of joy for her friend and wishes she could have a fresh start, too, but she knows she is not young and her life is nearly finished. She thinks about Minny, who risked herself to save others and wishes there were a way she could protect her friend. It seems Miss Hilly is battling for her life to convince the world it was not she who ate the pie. For the first time, Aibileen thinks Miss Hilly might lose this battle.
Aibileen wakes early and the phone rings soon after. Minny is wailing, saying Leroy got fired last night. Mister...
(The entire section is 1,504 words.)