Melba gets up very early on Saturdays to claim time for herself listening to records, reading magazines, and writing in her diary. Mother Lois, on the other hand, is so consumed by news of integration that she reads stories such as that of FBI chief, J. Edgar Hoover getting angry with Governor Faubus for saying that the FBI secretly held the teenage girls for hours of questioning. Melba says that they should only talk about good things—nothing related to Central. Mother Lois and Grandma India agree.
So much of Melba’s time is devoted to the work of integrating Central that she has to schedule time that would normally be widely available to a teenager. She only wants to “talk about good things” to remind her of the positive aspects of life and to help her feel that she has not lost all sense of normalcy.
Mother Lois announces that Vince called to ask if Melba could go with him to church on Sunday, then out for a bite to eat. Mother Lois agreed, on the condition that Vince and Melba have dinner with the family. When Sunday arrives, Melba cannot control her excitement. She tries to fix her hair like a movie star but settles on her normal ponytail. When Vince arrives, Melba heads for the door, but her mother stops her to marvel at her daughter’s “first real date.” Vince presents her with roses and, during the service when the minister at his mother’s church mentions her name, he looks proud to be with her. Dinner goes well until Grandma India mentions that the Mothers’ League is asking that the 101st be cut or removed from the school altogether.
Melba enjoys a milestone in any teenager’s life—her first date. She frets over how she looks and wants to impress Vince. It is a rare moment in the memoir when Melba has a common teenage experience and is able to exhibit all of the feelings that another person her age would have in response to going out with their crush. Still, the experience is not altogether typical in that Melba becomes the focus of the sermon at church, and Grandma India spoils the mood with news that Melba will be less protected at school.
On Sunday night, Melba is unable to sleep. She is still excited from her date and worried that Danny and the other soldiers will be gone. On Monday morning, he is present, but on Tuesday morning, the Arkansas National Guard resumes duties. This causes the segregationists to resume their taunts and threats while the members of the guard slouch against the wall and watch. Melba wants to run away but then remembers Danny’s message to her: “Warriors survive.” She endures getting pelted with bottle-cap openers and even having a flaming wad of toilet paper dropped on her in a bathroom stall. She escapes by tossing books up at her captors, hitting them in the head.
Members of the Arkansas National Guard seem sympathetic to the segregationists, and Melba knows that she cannot rely on them for protection. Their lackadaisical attitude toward the violence around them is a stark contrast to the alert responsiveness of the 101st Division. Melba withstands painful physical abuse and bravely escapes when a group of girls attempts to burn her. She becomes the embodiment of Danny’s dictum about survival.
Some white students reach out with kindness. However, the absence of the 101st causes the segregationists to increase their harassment “a hundredfold.” They plan a belligerent protest. Danny resumes his security duties and, on Thursday morning, follows Melba down a hall when a boy flashes “a shiny black object” in Melba’s face that causes a sharp, intense pain. Danny pulls her away by her ponytail and splashes cold water in her eyes. It was an acid attack. Melba demands to go home right away, despite needing a doctor.
There is a cognitive dissonance between the kindness that Melba experiences in one moment and the mortal threat that she experiences shortly thereafter. She is uncertain of whom she can trust, aside from Danny, who saves Melba from a boy’s attempt to blind her. This is the second threat against her life in the past couple of days.
An optometrist examines Melba and covers her eyes with a soothing substance and patches. He also says that she will need to wear glasses for “all close work.” Melba thinks that wearing glasses will make her unattractive to boys. In the evening, she is too tired to answer reporters’ questions thoroughly, but says a quiet prayer before bed, thanking God for Danny’s protection.
Melba is thankful for not having lost her eyesight but reveals that, despite the seriousness of the danger she faced, she remains concerned with trivial and superficial things just like any teenager—like the idea that girls who wear glasses as unattractive.