September 6. Miranda wakes up on a 23-degree day and lazes around in bed all morning, pretending to study history. The heat isn’t working and they haven’t built a fire, so she has to wear multiple layers to stay warm. She’s bored, cold, and hungry, and since her mom is taking a nap, Miranda decides on a whim to go examine the pantry—something Laura has asked them not to do. Instead, Laura leaves food out for them on the counter. Miranda assumes Laura doesn’t want them to be anxious about their supplies, but actually, upon seeing the boxes and cans in the pantry, Miranda is reassured. This feeling quickly morphs to anger when she decides that they have plenty of supplies and have been depriving themselves for no reason.
Miranda knows she shouldn’t be going into the pantry—that’s why she waits until Laura is asleep. Her feelings about the pantry are similar to the Greek myth of Pandora with her box—only Miranda fears that if she opens the pantry door, she’ll forever lose hope. When, instead, she finds the shelves aren’t bare, her anger is a reaction to every skipped meal and dire warning she’s received.
In the pantry, Miranda spots the bag of chocolate chips she’d impulsively thrown in her cart during the shopping spree the day after the moon collision. She emotionally rips the bag open and begins to pour them in her mouth—eating so fast she can’t even taste them. Laura catches her, and they have a big argument during which Miranda spills the chips. Laura makes her pick them up and eat every single one in the bag, even when Miranda begs to stop or says she feels sick. When Miranda is done, Laura tells her that the chocolate is the equivalent of three days’ worth of food, so she can’t join the family at a meal again until Thursday. Laura also says that she’d been saving the chips for Matt’s upcoming birthday. After Laura’s lecture, Miranda slinks off to her room feeling sick to her stomach and sick with guilt.
Miranda’s anger manifests in her decision to eat the chocolate chips. She feels like they’re hers, since she is the one who put them in the cart, but it’s also obvious she knows her actions are wrong, because she panics when Laura catches her. Laura’s punishment—making Miranda eat every chocolate chip, despite the fact that she feels ill, is designed to make Miranda see the depth of her selfishness. Laura makes the punishment more emotional by waiting until the chips are gone to reveal that she’d been saving them for Matt’s birthday.
September 7-14. Miranda continues to focus on food. First Jonny asks her why she’s not allowed to eat, and she lies and tells him she ate a can of string beans. Then, once her punishment is over, she recounts each meal—including the one to celebrate Matt’s birthday. While there aren’t chocolate chip cookies, Mrs. Nesbitt made oatmeal raisin. Miranda eats one so Laura won’t be mad at her, but feels guilty doing so and thinks Megan is right to call her a sinner.
With few other distractions for her thoughts, Miranda fixates on food. Her feelings about foods are distorted by her guilt about the chocolate chips, so that even once she has Laura’s permission to rejoin them at meals, Miranda feels reluctant to eat and doesn’t enjoy the cookies Mrs. Nesbitt makes for Matt’s birthday.
September 16. They receive two letters from Hal. Currently Hal and Lisa are living in a primitive refugee camp on the border of Kansas, because the state has restrictions about letting people in—especially if they’re pregnant, and Lisa is showing. Matt translates some of the nuance of the letter for Jonny and Miranda—Hal is looking for the right person to bribe to let them pass through Kansas on their way to Colorado. The letters aren’t written in Hal’s typically optimistic style, and this haunts Miranda, who fears that if they don’t hear from him again, they’ll never know if they’re safe.
Traditional familial roles are inverted—Miranda wants to still be the child and have her father worry about her, versus the other way around. She’s used to her dad being optimistic, and the lack of that cheer in the letter upsets her. Yet again, Matt is being forced into a paternal role and filling the gaps of Hal’s absence by comforting Miranda and Jonny.
September 17. Miranda returns from collecting kindling to find Laura crying in the kitchen because she’s thinking of the man with the pregnant wife, who she helped to shop back on May 19. Miranda realizes that sometimes it’s easier to cry over strangers than the people you know and love.
Laura’s displaced emotions and sadness about the man from the grocery store highlight one of the hardest parts of their new reality—the fact that they’ll never have information or closure about so many things.