I plop the box on the floor of the kitchen

But Leroy smacks his hand on the table. “Nobody’s getting in that mess! Y’all hear me?” And he stares his children down. I turn to the stove so he can’t see my face. Lord help me if he finds out what I’m doing with Miss Skeeter.

All THE NEXT WEEK, I hear Miss Celia on her bedroom phone, leaving messages at Miss Hilly’s house, Elizabeth Leefolt’s house, Miss Parker’s house, both Caldwell sisters, and ten other society ladies. Even Miss Skeeter’s house, which I don’t like one bit. I told Miss Skeeter myself: Don’t even think about calling her back. Don’t tangle up this web any more than it already is.

The irritating part is, after Miss Celia makes these stupid calls and hangs up the phone, she picks that receiver right back up. She listens for a dial tone in case the line doesn’t go free.

“Ain’t nothing wrong with that phone,” I say. She just keeps smiling at me like she’s been doing for a month now, like she’s got a pocketful of paper money.

“Why you in such a good mood?” I finally ask her. “Mister Johnny being sweet or something?” I’m loading up my next “When you gone tell” but she beats me to it.

“Oh, he’s being sweet alright,” she says. “And it’s not gonna be much longer until I tell him about you.”

“Good,” I say and I mean it. I am sick of this lying game. I imagine how she must smile at Mister Johnny when she hands him my pork chops, how that nice man has to act like he’s so proud of her when he knows it’s me doing the cooking. She’s making a fool of herself, a fool of her nice husband, and a liar out of me.

“Minny, would you mind fetching the mail for me?” she asks even though she’s sitting here all dressed and I’ve got butter on my hands and a wash in the machine and a motor blender going. She’s like a Philistine on a Sunday, the way she won’t take but so many steps a day. Except every day’s Sunday around here.

I clean off my hands and head out to the box, sweat half a gallon on the way. I mean, it’s only ninety-nine degrees outside. There’s a two-foot package sitting next to the mailbox, in the grass. I’ve seen her with these big brown boxes before, figure it’s some kind of beauty cream she’s ordering. But when I pick it up, it’s heavy. Makes a tinkling sound like I’m toting Co-Cola bottles.

I’ve never seen her jump up so fast. In fact, the only thing fast about Miss Celia is the way she dresses. “It’s just my . . .” She mumbles something. She heaves the box all the way to her bedroom and I hear the door slam.

I have nightmares for the next fifteen hours straight

Aibileen chuckles and looks out the window. I realize how thin this revelation must sound to her.

FOR FOUR DAYS STRAIGHT, I sit at my typewriter in my bedroom. Twenty of my typed pages, full of slashes and red-circled edits, become thirty-one on thick Strathmore white. I write a short biography of Sarah Ross, the name Aibileen chose, after her sixth-grade teacher who died years ago. I include her age, what her parents did for a living. I follow this with Aibileen’s own stories, just as she wrote them, simple, straightforward wine cellar hong kong.

On day three, Mother calls up the stairs to ask what in the world I’m doing up there all day and I holler down, Just typing up some notes from the Bible study. Just writing down all the things I love about Jesus. I hear her tell Daddy, in the kitchen after supper, “She’s up to something.” I carry my little white baptism Bible around the house, to make it more believable.

I read and re-read and then take the pages to Aibileen in the evenings and she does the same. She smiles and nods over the nice parts where everyone gets along fine but on the bad parts she takes off her black reading glasses and says, “I know I wrote it, but you really want to put that in about the—”

And I say, “Yes, I do.” But I am surprised myself by what’s in these stories, of separate colored refrigerators at the governor’s mansion, of white women throwing two-year-old fits over wrinkled napkins, white babies calling Aibileen “Mama.”

At three a.m., with only two white correction marks on what is now twenty-seven pages, I slide the manuscript into a yellow envelope. Yesterday, I made a long-distance phone call to Missus Stein’s office. Her secretary, Ruth, said she was in a meeting. She took down my message, that the interview is on its way. There was no call back from Missus Stein today HKUE DSE.

I hold the envelope to my heart and almost weep from exhaustion, doubt. I mail it at the Canton P. O. the next morning. I come home and lie down on my old iron bed, worrying over what will happen . . . if she likes it. What if Elizabeth or Hilly catches us at what we’re doing? What if Aibileen gets fired, sent to jail? I feel like I’m falling down a long spiral tunnel. God, would they beat her the way they beat the colored boy who used the white bathroom? What am I doing? Why am I putting her at such risk?
IT’s a QUARTER PAST ONE and Hilly and Elizabeth and I are sitting at Elizabeth’s dining room table waiting on Lou Anne to show up. I’ve had nothing to eat today except Mother’s sexual-correction tea and I feel nauseous, jumpy. My foot is wagging under the table. I’ve been like this for ten days, ever since I mailed Aibileen’s stories to Elaine Stein. I called once and Ruth said she passed it on to her four days ago, but still I’ve heard nothing Air Purifier.