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.