He leans back against the wall and crosses his arms and I see that old anger again, deep and red. He is wrapped in it.

He leans back against the wall and crosses his arms and I see that old anger again, deep and red. He is wrapped in it.

“Stuart. You don’t have to tell me now. But sometime, we’re going to have to talk about this.” I’m surprised by how confident I sound, when I certainly don’t feel it.

He looks me deep in the eyes, shrugs.“She slept with someone else. There.”

“Someone . . . you know?”

“No one knew him. He was one of those leeches, hanging around the school, cornering the teachers to do something about the integration laws. Well, she did something alright.”

“You mean . . . he was an activist? With the civil rights . . . ?”

“That’s it. Now you know.”

“Was he He leans back against the wall and crosses his arms and I see that old anger again, deep and red. He is wrapped in it. . . . colored?” I gulp at the thought of the consequences, because even to me, that would be horrific, disastrous.

“No, he wasn’t colored. He was scum. Some Yankee from New York, the kind you see on the T.V. with the long hair and the peace signs.”

I am searching my head for the right question to ask but I can’t think of anything.

“You know the really crazy part, Skeeter? I could’ve gotten over it. I could’ve forgiven her. She asked me to, told me how sorry she was. But I knew, if it ever got out who He leans back against the wall and crosses his arms and I see that old anger again, deep and red. He is wrapped in it. he was, that Senator Whitworth’s daughter-in-law got in bed with a Yankee goddamn activist, it would ruin him. Kill his career like that.” He snaps his fingers with a crack.

“But your father, at the table. He said he thought Ross Barnett was wrong.”

“You know that’s not the way it works. It doesn’t matter what he believes. It’s what Mississippi believes. He’s running for the U.S. Senate this fall and I’m unfortunate enough to know that.”

“So you broke up with her because of your father?”

“No He leans back against the wall and crosses his arms and I see that old anger again, deep and red. He is wrapped in it., I broke up with her because she cheated.” He looks down at his hands and I can see the shame eating away at him. “But I didn’t take her back because of . . . my father.”

“Stuart, are you . . . still in love with her?” I ask, and I try to smile as if it’s nothing, just a question, even though I feel all my blood rushing to my feet. I feel like I will faint asking this.

His body slumps some, against the gold-patterned wallpaper. His voice softens.

“You’d never do that. Lie that way. Not He leans back against the wall and crosses his arms and I see that old anger again, deep and red. He is wrapped in it. to me, not to anybody.”

He has no idea how many people I’m lying to. But it’s not the point. “Answer me, Stuart. Are you?”

He rubs his temples, stretching his hand across his eyes. Hiding his eyes is what I’m thinking.

“I think we ought to quit for a while,” he whispers.

I reach over to him out of reflex, but he backs away.“I need some time, Skeeter. Space, I guess. I need to go to work and drill oil and . . . get my head straight awhile.”

I feel my mouth slide open. Out on the porch, I He leans back against the wall and crosses his arms and I see that old anger again, deep and red. He is wrapped in it. hear the soft calls of our parents. It is time to leave.

I walk behind Stuart to the front of the house. The Whitworths stop in the spiraling foyer while we three Phelans head out the door. In a cottony coma I listen as everyone pledges to do it again, out at the Phelans next time. I tell them all goodbye, thank you, my own voice sounding strange to me. Stuart waves from the steps and smiles at me so our parents can’t tell that anything has changed.

Chapter 21

WE STAND in the relaxing room, Mother and He leans back against the wall and crosses his arms and I see that old anger again, deep and red. He is wrapped in it. Daddy and I, staring at the silver box in the window. It is the size of a truck engine, nosed in knobs, shiny with chrome, gleaming with modern-day hope.Fedders, it reads.

“Who are these Fedders anyway?” Mother asks. “Where are their people from?”

“Go on and turn the crank, Charlotte.”

“Oh I can’t. It’s too tacky.”

“Jesus, Mama, Doctor Neal said you need it. Now stand back.” My parents glare at me. They do not know Stuart broke up with me after the Whitworth supper. Or the relief I long for from this machine. That every He leans back against the wall and crosses his arms and I see that old anger again, deep and red. He is wrapped in it. minute I feel so hot, so goddamn singed and hurt, I think I might catch on fire.

I flip the knob to“1.” Overhead, the chandelier bulbs dim. The whir climbs slowly like it’s working its way up a hill. I watch a few tendrils of Mother’s hair lift gently into the air.

“Oh . . .my,” Mother says and closes her eyes. She’s been so tired lately and her ulcers are getting worse. Doctor Neal said keeping the house cool would at least make her more comfortable.

“It’s not even on full blast,” I say He leans back against the wall and crosses his arms and I see that old anger again, deep and red. He is wrapped in it. and I turn it up a notch, to “2.” The air blows a little harder, grows colder, and we all three smile, our sweat evaporating from our foreheads.

“Well, heck, let’s just go all the way,” Daddy says, and turns it up to “3,” which is the highest, coldest, most wonderful setting of all, and Mother giggles. We stand with our mouths open like we could eat it. The lights brighten again, the whir grows louder, our smiles lift higher, and then it all stops dead. Dark.

“What . . . happened?” Mama says.


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Документ He leans back against the wall and crosses his arms and I see that old anger again, deep and red. He is wrapped in it.