Maya shields herself against the confusion of St. Louis by reading fairy-tales and telling herself that she does not intend on staying there anyway. Vivian works in a gambling parlor at night. Maya pities Mr. Freeman because he spends his days at home waiting for Vivian to return. Maya begins sleeping at night with Vivian and Mr. Freeman because she suffers from nightmares. One morning after Vivian has left the bed and the house, Mr. Freeman sexually molests Maya. He does not rape her but rather masturbates on the bed while holding her close to him. Afterward, he threatens to kill Bailey if Maya ever tells anyone, but Maya, who does not understand what has happened and who actually enjoyed being held by someone, cannot understand what caused such a threat. For weeks, Mr. Freeman ignores her, and then molests her again. Again, he ignores her for weeks. Maya feels rejected and hurt, but she loses herself in other things, such as books. She wishes she were a boy because the heroes in all her favorite books and stories are male. Bailey welcomes the move to St. Louis and he makes friends, with whom he plays baseball. Maya, however, does not make any friends during this time. She and Bailey begin to grow apart, so she spends her Saturdays in the library reading fantastic adventures.
In late spring, after Vivian stays out all night one time, Mr. Freeman sends Maya to buy milk. When she returns from the errand, Mr. Freeman rapes her. He threatens to kill her if she screams, and he threatens to kill Bailey if she tells anyone. Afterward, Mr. Freeman sends her to the library, but Maya returns home because of the intense physical pain she feels between her legs. She hides her underwear under her mattress and goes to bed. Vivian thinks she might be coming down with the measles. Later that night, Maya hears Vivian argue with Mr. Freeman. In the morning, Vivian tells Maya that Mr. Freeman has moved out. When Bailey tries to change the linens, the bloodied panties Maya has hidden under the mattress fall out.
Vivian takes Maya to the hospital. Bailey privately urges Maya to name the rapist, assuring her that he would not allow the culprit to kill him. Maya reveals Mr. Freeman’s name, the authorities promptly arrest him. Maya thinks of herself as a grown woman, remembering that her nurses told her that she has already experienced the worst that life has to offer.
Maya feels caught in a trap when the attorney asks her whether there were any sexual incidents with Mr. Freeman prior to the rape. She fears rejection from her family if she admits to the previous incidents, but she does not want to lie either. Ultimately, she lies to the court and Mr. Freeman receives a sentence of one year and one day in prison. Surprisingly, he is temporarily released after the hearing, and a white policeman visits later that night to tell Grandmother Baxter that Mr. Freeman has been beaten to death. Maya hears them quickly drop the subject and briefly discuss casual matters before the policeman leaves.
The family never speaks of the incident, and Maya convinces herself that Mr. Freeman was killed because she lied in order to condemn him. Thinking that she has sold herself to the Devil, Maya resolves to protect others by not speaking to anyone except Bailey. At first the family accepts her silence as fallout from the rape, but after some time, they feel offended and become angry and violent with her.
Maya and Bailey return to Stamps, though Maya is not sure whether Momma has sent for them or whether her St. Louis family simple became unable to handle her silence. Bailey misses Vivian, but Maya finds herself relieved to return to the barren world of Stamps. Bailey exaggerates the wonders of the big city to the curious residents, developing his sarcastic tone, but no one notices his insults. He remains kind only to Maya. She understands Bailey’s frustration, and he understands her silence.