September 18. Laura trips and sprains her ankle. Since Matt and Jonny are at Mrs. Nesbitt’s house, Miranda has to go by herself to the hospital to find Peter. But the guards won’t let her in to see Peter, and they get pleasure out of Miranda’s tears and begging. She stands outside and begs people to bring Peter a message for her, but they ignore her and make her feel like a beggar. When Miranda gets too tired and weak to stand, she sits down on the frozen ground, which causes the guards to harass her about loitering. Finally Matt shows up looking for her—and the guard knows him and allows Matt inside to get Peter. Thankfully Peter has a car, because Miranda is too weak to bike home.
Miranda’s notions about how the world works are challenged when she can’t get help for her injured mother. Rather than offering protective advice, like the last hospital guards she encountered, these get sadistic pleasure from denying her request to see Peter and watching her strength fail as she stands in the cold for hours. Miranda feels helpless that all her effort is for nothing—it’s Matt’s connections that get results, not anything she’s done.
At their house, Peter diagnoses Laura with a bad sprain and wraps her ankle. Since she can’t climb stairs, they move her mattress to the sunroom. Peter gives everyone surgical masks to wear outside, since the air quality is causing lots of asthma. Laura invites him to stay for supper, but he has to go back to the hospital, where he’s working 18-hour days to make up for the lack of staff. He promises to come back and check on Laura’s ankle.
Peter often acts as a harbinger of bad news, so it’s a relief that Laura’s ankle isn’t more badly injured, and his restrictions sound manageable. Though, it wouldn’t be a visit from Peter if he didn’t have word of some kind of new trouble—in this case it’s the uptick in asthma and decrease in air quality.
Miranda and her brothers talk about how they’ll divide up the extra work while Laura is recuperating. Miranda realizes that she needs to step up her behavior, and no more whining or arguing—but she also feels really scared and helpless about how fragile they are and how tenuous their situation is. She slips away to record her feelings in her journal and cry—thinking of Hal and Lisa, the baby, and Grandma—how they might be hurt and she might never know. Then she dries her eyes and goes downstairs to pretend everything is fine.
Miranda’s growing maturity is demonstrated in the way she chooses to shoulder Laura’s chores without complaint. Her conscientious decision to not argue or let others know how scared and upset she feels are all signs that she recognizes how tasked her family is and her desire to not be a further burden.
September 19. Miranda keeps her mom company in the sunroom, and Laura thanks her for the way she went to get help and tells her how brave she’s been these past few months. They have a tender moment, and then Laura asks Miranda to cut off her hair because she hates that she can’t wash it often. Miranda hacks it off, and Laura offers to return the favor or braid Miranda’s hair in cornrows, but Miranda declines. They laugh together and Miranda remembers just how much she loves her mom.
This lighthearted scene is a nice contrast to the bleakness of the family’s typical life. The way Laura and Miranda tease each other is a clear indication of how close their relationship is, and even though they argue and have been tested by the events of the past several months, how much they love each other.
September 20. Miranda goes to visit Mrs. Nesbitt—who has repeatedly turned down offers to move in with the Evanses because she wants to die in her own home, something she expects will happens soon. Mrs. Nesbitt hasn’t heard from her son since the moon collision, which can’t be a good sign. Miranda vows to go back the next day and make sure Mrs. Nesbitt has company and to reassure Laura that she is okay.
Mrs. Nesbitt’s calm attitude about her own mortality is hard for Miranda to hear. Knowing that their time together is short, she vows to make the most of it, both because of her own affection for Mrs. Nesbitt, but also as a surrogate for her mother, who is unable to make the trip.
September 23. Peter stops by to check Laura’s ankle, which is slowly healing. Miranda tells Matt how much older Peter looks now, and Matt responds that all of his patients are dying and his ex-wife and daughters have both died. Miranda wonders how she’ll feel when people she loves die.
Much of this chapter has been about the physical changes in characters—Laura’s haircut, Mrs. Nesbitt’s slow decline, and now Peter’s dramatic aging. All of these leave Miranda worrying about what’s to come.
September 26-29. On a trip to the library, Miranda sees Michelle Schmidt—the girl that had supposedly been abducted. It makes Miranda wonder how many of the rumors they hear are true and leaves her feeling optimistic. She hasn’t stopped worrying—but feels like she’s gotten used to a state of worry and is enjoying time with her family despite all that’s going on. She’s settled into a routine of doing housework, hand-washing clothes, visiting Mrs. Nesbitt, and spending time in the sunroom with her family, playing poker and enjoying each other’s company. Laura even trusts Miranda to go into the pantry and choose dinners—and while their supplies are decreasing, Miranda feels confident they have enough to last.
The abduction of Michelle Schmidt had become a cautionary tale for Miranda, one more piece of evidence for why she should never go out alone. When she sees Michelle, then, it makes her stop and reconsider the constant state of fear that has become so normalized. The new tasks that have been added to her days because of Laura’s injuries have also helped Miranda’s outlook, as has the time they’re spending together.
Peter checks on Laura and says that her ankle is beginning to mend and she can be more mobile. Matt brings down a typewriter for her because she wants to record old family stories of a time before electricity. Miranda is amused by the thought that their current life harkens back to that time—and states that family is more important than electricity.
Laura begins work on her legacy—stories about her ancestors who built and lived in the house, much the way they’re living there now. Laura is finding hope in looking to the past instead of looking to the future, and writing for herself instead of a publisher.