Melba goes home and excitedly tells Grandma India how she tried “some of the things Gandhi talks about,” such as keeping calm in one’s own mind no matter what is going on outside. Conrad yells from the hallway that someone is on the phone for Melba. She hopes it is Vince so that she can tell him about her victory, but it is Link. Melba is furious with Link because she saw him laughing with the segregationists and talking about plans to attack her. He explains that they were planning on doing “something big” to her in the cafeteria. He was there among them to try to help her. He goes on to explain that his father takes him to meetings where segregationists devise methods to get the Little Rock Nine kicked out of school.
Coupled with Melba’s newly found strategies of nonviolence is a focus on understanding whom she can and cannot trust. Though she and Vince now have little in common, she still knows that he is a friend with whom she can share her difficulties and her victories. She does not know how to position Link, by contrast, who seems to be on the side of her tormenters. Even his family is involved in helping to get Melba and the others kicked out of Central. He seems to embody the white supremacy against which she is fighting.
Grandma India and Mother Lois still wonder about Link’s motives. Melba’s grandmother suggests that he could be trying to lure her into a trap for the Klan. Melba decides that she will trust Link because no one else could help to protect her inside of Central. He warns her not to go to her locker in the afternoon and she listens to him. Later, she finds that someone broke into her locker and “shredded the contents.” Link also tells her that, in the beginning of April, the segregationists plan “to speed up their efforts” so that the remaining students in the Little Rock Nine cannot complete a full school year. Mother Lois and Grandma India still disapprove of Melba’s relationship with Link, but they accept that he is helping her in a way that they cannot.
Link’s position as a “double-agent” allows him to help Melba without compromising his social position in the community or at school. Melba allows him to help her because he is undoubtedly privy to information that no one else will share with her. With Danny no longer present, she cannot rely on a physical presence to protect her from violence; instead, she requires intelligence so that she can remain a step ahead of her attackers.
Soon, Melba and Link become secret friends. He still feels loyal to his family and friends who are segregationists but he feels “guilt and responsibility” about what is happening to the remaining eight students. Meanwhile, Melba notices stronger efforts by teachers to discipline student harassers.
Melba’s appeal to Link and the teachers’ increased efforts signal incremental change. Link’s ambivalence reflects the complexity of racism. His racist friends and family may not be completely bad people, but they support an evil cause.
Easter arrives. Melba is excited to dress up for the holiday, though Grandma India resists Melba’s urge to wear stockings. Grandma India and Mother Lois also encourage her to give up more for Lent, but Melba thinks that she is sacrificing enough by going to Central. Grandma still insists that she continue to do the “hard work” of repenting for her sins and Mother Lois tells her to answer her fan mail, which comes from all over the world. Some letters come with marriage proposals. Melba wants to keep the letters with the proposals, but Grandma India says that would be a personal sin.
Grandma India’s resistance to Melba’s growing maturity surfaces both when Melba chooses to attend Central and when she tries to dress in a way that shows her developing womanhood. Mother Lois and Grandma India’s focuses on religious instruction is both motivating in some instances and constricting in others. Melba would like some room for fun or personal indulgence, but her mother and grandmother allow her few opportunities.
Link calls one day, furious because many senior class activities have been cancelled. The activities are cancelled out of fear of possible trouble due to integration. He fumes over how unfair it is, given all of his hard work. He suggests that Melba do an interview, saying that the students were “not such bad people.” She insists on not lying and says that things are getting worse, not better. He ignores her and talks about how Central’s reputation has suffered and that the students feel that they are treated like criminals. Melba encourages him to have faith in God, but Link does not believe in God and mentions that his Nana Healey, a black woman, tends to say the same thing. Melba says that she wants to go to Central so that she does not have to be someone’s nanny. Their conversation brings back Melba’s suspicions about Link.
Link helps Melba and sympathizes with her, but he is unwilling to share in her discomfort. He is angry over losing the privilege of participating in his senior activities, but he overlooks the fact that Melba would be excluded altogether from such events and cannot enjoy them at her former school, either. It is an instance in which his entitlement clouds his ability to identify with an experience that is not his own. He does not see the evil of the acts that Melba’s tormenters, whom he knows as his friends and neighbors, are committing. Unable to respond adequately to his pain, just as he cannot respond to hers, she suggests that he trust in God setting things right.
Link next warns her to watch out for students who try to hand her election pamphlets to publicize upcoming school elections. Melba notices how much more sophisticated Central’s student elections are compared to those at Horace Mann. Link says that when the black students pause to accept a pamphlet, someone will douse them with ink, grab their books, or worse. On Monday, the segregationists perform the forms of harassment that Link mentioned.
Melba notices how the white students at Central have more abundant resources than those at Horace Mann, even for extracurricular activities. The students use their autonomy in conducting school elections to exclude black people from the process of elections, just as black people were excluded from actual political elections at the state and national levels.
Link and Melba’s conversations become more relaxed and he starts to tell her about his family. His father is a wealthy and well-known businessperson who contributes money to the Citizens’ Council to help with his business. Link’s father does not approve of race-mixing, but he is also not in favor of “beating up anybody’s children.”
Link’s father would be regarded as a “moderate” white supremacist. In some ways, he is more dangerous than the violent ones due to his financial influence, which he can wield to deprive black people of jobs.
Melba reads an article in the Arkansas Gazette saying that Judge Harry Lemley of Hope, Arkansas will hear the Little Rock School Board’s petition for “a postponement of integration for public schools.” The article mentions that Judge Lemley is a native of Upperville, Virginia who “loved the South as though it were a religion.”
Judge Lemley is an example of a steward of the law who will interpret it according to his personal biases, which are racist and segregationist. Melba interprets his love of the South as inseparable from those values.
During church dinner at Easter, Melba and Vince sit together, but it becomes clear to her that they have little in common. In her diary, Melba writes about her fears regarding Judge Lemley’s decision. She writes that she salutes the flag every morning while white segregationists call her names. She thinks that if she salutes the flag every morning, “like a good American,” the problems of integration will be worked out.
Vince and Melba have little in common now because she is overwhelmed by bigger questions about citizenship and what it means to be American. She is also famous. Her faith in her country’s ability to improve, as well as her optimism, strengthen her and help her continue the work of getting the nation to live up to its ideals.