Life As We Knew It
by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Lisa is pregnant.
Dad called around 11 oclock to let us know. Only Mom had already taken
Jonny to his baseball practice and of course Matt isnt home from college
yet, so I was alone to get the big news.
The baby is due in December, Dad crowed, like he was the first guy in
the history of the world with a younger second wife about to have a baby.
Isnt that great! Youre going to have a little brother or sister. Of
course its too soon to tell what its going to be, but as soon as we know,
well tell you. I wouldnt mind another daughter myself. The first one I had
turned out so wonderfully. Howd you like a baby sister?
I had no idea. When did you find out? I asked.
Yesterday afternoon, Dad said. I would have called you right away but,
well, we celebrated. You can understand that, cant you, honey? A little
private time for Lisa and me before letting the world know.
Of course, Daddy, I said. Has Lisa told her family?
First thing this morning, he replied. Her parents are thrilled. Their
first grandchild. Theyre coming for a couple of weeks in July, before you
and Jonny visit.
Are you going to call Matt and tell him? I asked. Or do you want me
Oh no, Ill call, Dad said. Hes busy studying for his finals. Hell
be glad for the interruption.
Its great news, Dad, I said, because I knew I was supposed to. Be
sure to tell Lisa how happy I am for her. And you, too. For both of you.
You tell her yourself, Dad said. Here she is.
Dad muffled the phone for a second so he could whisper something to Lisa
and then she took the phone. Miranda, she said. Isnt it exciting!
Very, I said. Its wonderful news. Im really happy for you and Dad.
I was thinking, she said. Well, I know its way too soon and I havent
even discussed this with your father yet, but would you like to be the
babys godmother? You dont have to answer right away, but do think about
it, all right?
Thats the problem I have with Lisa. Whenever I want to get mad at her,
or just irritated because she really can be immensely irritating, she goes
and does something nice. And then I can understand why Daddy married her.
Of course Ill think about it, I said. You and Daddy think about it
We dont have to give it any more thought, she said. You should see
the glow on your fathers face. I dont think he could be any happier.
I couldnt, Dad said, and I could tell from his laughter that hed
grabbed the phone away from Lisa. Miranda, please say yes. It would mean so
much to us for you to be the babys godmother.
So I said yes. I couldnt exactly say no.
After that we chatted for a while. I told Dad about my last swim meet and
how I was doing in school. Mom still hadnt come back by the time I finally
got off the phone, so I went online to see whats new with figure skating.
The hot topic at Brandon Erlichs fan site is how good his chances are to
win Olympic gold. Most people think not very, but a lot of us think he has a
real shot at medaling and ice is slippery and you never know.
I think Id like to take skating lessons again. Ive missed it the past
couple of years and besides, itll give me a chance to pick up news about
Brandon. He isnt being coached by Mrs. Daley anymore, but I bet she still
hears stuff. And maybe Brandons mother would show up at the rink.
When Mom got in, I had to tell her about Lisa. She just said that was
nice and that she knew the two of them wanted children. She and Dad have
worked really hard on making it a good divorce. Matt says if theyd worked
half as hard on their marriage, theyd still be married. I didnt tell her
about how Im going to be the godmother (assuming Lisa doesnt change her
mind, which shes more than capable of doing). I feel kind of bad that Im
going to be the godmother but no one said anything about Matt or Jonny being
godfathers. Of course Lisa and Matt dont get along very well, and maybe 13
is too young to be a godfather.
I hope Lisa changes her mind and I wont have to deal with it.
Not the greatest Mothers Day ever.
Id told Mom a while ago that Id make dinner and she decided to invite
Mrs. Nesbitt. I cant say I was surprised, but I figured if Mom was having
Mrs. Nesbitt over I could ask Megan and her mom, too. Only when Jonny found
out it was going to be me and Mom and Mrs. Nesbitt and Megan and Mrs. Wayne,
he said that was too many females in one room for him and he was going to
have dinner at Tims instead.
Mom always thinks its a good idea for Jonny to spend time with Tim and
his family because there are three boys and Tims father is around a lot.
She said if it was okay with Tims folks it was okay with her.
I called Megan and told her to bring her history notes with her and wed
study for the test together, and she agreed.
Which is why Im so mad at her. If she hadnt said yes, it would be one
thing. But she did and I made enough meatloaf for five and salad and then
right before I started setting the table, Megan called and said she had
decided to stay on at her church and do something with the youth group.
Shed gotten the dates mixed up. And her mother didnt feel like coming
without her, so it was going to be two less for Sunday dinner and she hoped
I didnt mind.
Well, I do mind. I mind because Id been looking forward to all of us
having dinner together and to studying with Megan. I also figured Mrs.
Nesbitt and Mrs. Wayne would be good people for Mom to talk to about Lisas
baby. Mom may not be best friends with Mrs. Wayne, but shes funny and she
would have gotten Mom laughing.
Megan is spending so much time at her church. She goes to services every
Sunday and she never used to and she does stuff with the youth group at
least twice a week and sometimes more and for all her talking about how
shes found God, I think all shes found is Reverend Marshall. She talks
about him like hes a movie star. I even told her that once and she said
thats how I talk about Brandon, like it was the same thing, which it isnt
at all. Lots of people think Brandon is the best skater in the U.S. right
now and besides it isnt like I talk about him all the time and act like
hes my salvation.
Dinner was okay except I overcooked the meatloaf so it was a little dry.
But Mrs. Nesbitts never been shy with the ketchup bottle. After a while I
left her and Mom alone and I guess they talked about Lisa and the baby.
I wish it was summer already. I cant wait to get my drivers license.
I also wish I was through studying for my history exam. BORING!
But Id better get back to it. Bad grades, no license. The Rules
According to Mom.
Got a 92 on the history test. I should have done better.
Mom took Horton to the vet. Hes fine. I worry a little bit about him now
that hes ten. How long do cats live?
Sammi told me shes going to the prom with Bob Patterson. I know I
shouldnt be jealous but I am, not because I like Bob (actually I think hes
kind of creepy), but because nobody asked me. Sometimes I think no one ever
will. Ill spend the rest of my life sitting in front of my computer,
posting messages about Brandon Erlich and his future in figure skating.
I told Megan about Sammi and how she always gets dates and she said,
Well, the reason is theres always a man in Samantha, and after I got over
being shocked I laughed. But then Megan spoiled it by becoming that new
preachy Megan and she went on about how sex before marriage is a sin and how
you shouldnt date just to go out with guys but because you were serious
about making a lifetime commitment.
Im 16 years old. Let me get my learners permit first. Then Ill worry
about lifetime commitments.
I went to bed in a bad mood and today everything just went worse.
At lunch today, Megan told Sammi she was going to go to hell if she
didnt repent soon and Sammi got real mad (I dont blame her) and yelled at
Megan that she was a very spiritual person and didnt need any lessons from
Megan about what God wanted because she knew God wanted her to be happy and
if God hadnt wanted people to have sex Hed have made everybody amoebas.
I thought that was pretty funny, but Megan didnt and the two of them
really went at it.
I cant remember the last time the three of us had lunch together and
enjoyed ourselves. When Becky was still healthy the four of us did
everything together, and then after Becky got sick, we grew even closer.
Megan or Sammi or I visited Becky at home or at the hospital almost every
day, and called or e-mailed the others to say how Becky was doing. I dont
think I could have made it through Beckys funeral without them. But ever
since then Sammi and Megan both changed. Sammi started dating all kinds of
guys and Megan got involved with her church. Theyve both changed so much
over the past year and I seem to be staying who I always was.
Here I am going into my junior year of high school and these are supposed
to be the best years of my life and Im just stuck.
But the real reason why Im in a bad mood is because I got into a big
fight with Mom.
It started after supper. Jonny had gone into his room to finish his
homework and Mom and I were loading the dishwasher, and Mom told me she and
Dr. Elliott were going out for dinner tomorrow night.
There was this quick moment when I was jealous of Mom because even she
has a social life, but it passed pretty fast. I like Dr. Elliott and Mom
hasnt been involved with anybody in a while. Besides, its always smart to
ask favors of Mom when shes in a good mood. So I did.
Mom, can I take skating lessons?
Just for the summer? she asked.
And next year, too, I said. If I feel like continuing.
After your ankle healed, you said you didnt want to skate again, Mom
The doctor said I shouldnt even try jumping for three months, I said.
And by then there wasnt any point competing. So I stopped. But now Id
like to skate just for fun. I thought you like it that I do sports.
I do like it, Mom said, but the way she slammed the dishwasher closed
let me know she didnt like it nearly as much as I thought she did. But you
have swimming and you were planning on trying out for the volleyball team in
the fall. You cant handle three sports. Twos probably a stretch,
especially if you want to work on the school paper.
So Ill skate instead of volleyball, I said. Mom, I know my
limitations. But I loved skating. I dont understand why you dont want me
If I thought the only reason was because you loved it, then wed talk
about it, Mom said. But skating lessons are very expensive and I cant
help thinking you only want them so you can gossip about Brandon Erlich on
the message boards.
Mom, Brandon doesnt even skate here anymore! I cried. He trains in
But his parents still live here, Mom said. And youd want to be
coached by Mrs. Daley.
I dont know if shed even take me on, I said. Its about the money,
isnt it? Theres money to send Jonny to baseball camp this summer, but not
enough money for me to have skating lessons.
Mom turned 15 shades of red and then we really went at it. Mom yelled at
me about money and responsibilities and I yelled at her about favorites and
not loving me like she loves Matt and Jonny (which I know isnt true, but
Mom wasnt right about me not understanding about money and
responsibilities) and we got so loud Jonny left his bedroom to see what was
Mom came into my room about an hour later and we both apologized. Mom
said shed think about the skating lessons. She said she thought volleyball
would be better on my college applications since I could join a college
squad if I was good enough.
She didnt say Id never be good enough at swimming for a college squad,
which was actually kind of nice of her. Im never going to be good enough
for anything the way things are going.
And I dont much like either of my two best friends these days.
All that and a math test tomorrow I cant even pretend I studied enough
I wish I was in college already. I dont see how I can make it through
the next two weeks, let alone two more years of high school.
Friday the 13th. Well, things werent that bad.
The math test wasnt as hard as I thought it would be.
Mom said if I wanted, I could take skating lessons in July. August Ill
be spending with Dad, anyway. Then if I want to continue, well talk about
Megan had lunch with her church friends (I dont like any of them) and
Sammi had lunch with this weeks boyfriend, so I ended up eating with some
of the swim team, which was a lot more fun than listening to Megan and Sammi
yell about God. Dan, wholl be captain next year, told me I had a really
good crawl stroke and that if I worked at it, he could see me anchoring
relays as soon as next season.
And I like Peter (he told Jonny and me to call him that; said Dr. Elliott
was his name at the office). Some of the guys Moms dated have tried too
hard with us, but Peter seemed pretty casual. Not with Mom, though. He
actually stammered when he was talking with her and he stumbled and nearly
fell. But he laughed at himself and said he wasnt nearly that careless when
he was operating on someone.
He asked if any of us had heard about the asteroid and the moon. Mom
remembered something about it, because it was big news when the astronomers
first announced it was going to happen. Some asteroid is going to hit the
moon, and Peter heard on the radio driving over that its going to be
visible in the night sky next week. I asked Mom if we could dig out Matts
telescope and she said we should ask him, but she was sure itd be okay.
Jonny and I didnt even argue over the computer after Mom left. There was
something I wanted to watch on TV from 8 to 9 and there was something he
wanted to watch from 9 to 10, so that worked out really well. The fan board
is still fighting over whether Brandonll need two quads to win the Olympics
or whether he could win with just one.
It would be so amazing if Brandon won a gold. I bet wed have a parade
Its 11 already and Mom still isnt home. I guess she and Peter are out
admiring the moon.
Spent the weekend working on my English paper.
Dad called this morning.
Matt says we can use the telescope. Hell be home in a couple of weeks.
He swears hell teach me how to drive.
Jonny was named middle school player of the week.
All of a sudden this moon thing is the biggest thing ever. Either that or
my teachers are as bored with schoolwork as we are.
I could understand it if I were taking astronomy. But French? Madame
OBrien made us talk about la lune the entire class. Shes making us write
a composition about it due Friday, because Wednesday night were all going
to be outside watching the asteroid hit the moon.
Sammi says every time they make a big fuss like that, for an eclipse or a
meteor shower, it rains.
It isnt just Madame OBrien whos hot for this asteroid. In English
today we talked about the origin of the word lunar. Eddie made a joke about
mooning, and Mr. Clifford was so excited about word origins, he didnt even
get mad. He talked about slang instead and metaphors that have to do with
astronomy and he gave us a new assignment, too. We can write on any topic
that has to do with the moon. Due Friday, of course.
I guess Ms. Hammish thinks this moon thing is historical, because in
history thats what we talked about. How people throughout history have
looked at the moon and comets and eclipses. Actually, that was kind of
interesting. I never really thought about how when I look at the moon its
the same moon Shakespeare and Marie Antoinette and George Washington and
Cleopatra looked at. Not to mention all those zillions of people Ive never
heard of. All those Homo sapiens and Neanderthals looked at the very same
moon as me. It waxed and waned in their sky, too.
Of course Ms. Hammish wasnt satisfied with inspiring us like that. She
gave us an assignment, too. We can write either an essay about astronomy in
the past and how it affected someone in history (like if they saw a comet
and it scared them or prophesized something) or an article about whats
going to happen Wednesday night.
Either way its due on Friday.
I dont understand teachers. Youd think theyd talk to each other and at
least one of them would realize how unfair it is to give us all assignments
due on Friday. I wouldnt mind if I could figure out how to double up on
them, write my history essay and translate it into French (which I could
maybe do if my French was good enough, which it isnt). But I dont see how
to do two for the price of one, so I think Ill have to write three separate
papers (and one in French) and hand them all in on Friday.
Ill really be sick of the moon by then.
This moon thing is supposed to happen around 9:30 Wednesday night, and
Mom was interested enough that we watched the news tonight. They said
asteroids hit the moon pretty often, which is how the moon gets its craters,
but this one is going to be the biggest asteroid ever to hit it and on a
clear night you should be able to see the impact when it happens, maybe even
with the naked eye but certainly with binoculars. They made it sound pretty
dramatic, but I still dont think its worth three homework assignments.
Mom watched the local news, too, which she almost never does because she
says its too depressing, and theyre predicting a really nice night. Clear
skies and temperatures in the low 60s. They said in New York people are
organizing parties for Central Park and on apartment rooftops. I asked Mom
if we could have a party, and she said no, but people on our road will
probably be out watching and itll be like having a block party.
I dont know how interesting its really going to be, but compared to
everything else in my life, at least its something different.
I got an 82 on my math test. There were at least four questions I should
have gotten right but made careless mistakes on.
I know for a fact that Sammis mother hasnt looked at a test result of
hers in years, and Megans mom has always worried about who Megan hangs out
with, but I dont think she cares all that much about her grades. I had to
get stuck with the mother who works at home and has plenty of time to check
things out and hover and demand to see tests.
We didnt have a big fight over it (I did pass, after all), but Mom gave
me one of her famous You Shouldnt Be So Careless lectures, which I get at
least once a week and sometimes more than that if the mood strikes her.
Mom said since Im prone to carelessness, etc., it might be a good idea
if I got a head start on all my moon papers, especially since they didnt
have to be about whatever is going to happen tomorrow.
She suggested writing about the 1969 moon landing, so I Googled it, and I
found out lots of people didnt really care that there were men walking on
the moon. They all watched Star Trek (the original, old
lousy-special-effects Beam Me Up Scotty Star Trek) and they were used to
seeing Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock hopping around the universe so real people
walking on the real moon wasnt as exciting.
I think thats funny. Men were walking on the moon for the very first
time in history and people preferred watching Dr. McCoy say, Hes dead,
Jim, for the thousandth time.
I wasnt exactly sure how to turn that into a paper, so Mom and I talked
about it, about how fiction can have more power than reality and how in 1969
there was a lot of cynicism because of Vietnam and the sixties and all that
and there were people who didnt think men were really on the moon and
thought it was a hoax.
I think Ill do my French paper on what happens tomorrow night, because
my French isnt good enough for stuff like hoaxes and cynicism. For English
Im focusing on how fiction can be more exciting than reality and for
history Ill focus on how people in the 60s were cynical about what the
government told them.
I told Mom that Sammi said it was sure to rain tomorrow night because it
always rains when something important is supposed to happen in the sky and
she laughed and said she had never known a more pessimistic 15-year-old.
Ill be at Dads when Sammi turns 16. I have a feeling if she has a
party, itll be all boys, so it probably wont matter.
Around 10, something kind of odd happened. I was working on my paper and
Mom was arguing with Jonny about going to bed, when the phone rang. We never
get calls that late, so we all jumped. I got to the phone first and it was
Are you okay? I asked him. Matt never calls that late and he pretty
much never calls on a weekday night.
Im fine, he said. I just wanted to hear your voices.
I told Mom it was Matt. Jonny took the kitchen phone and she used the one
in her bedroom. We told him what was going on (I complained about my three
moon papers), and he told us about what he has left to do at school. Then he
and Mom talked about the arrangements for him to get home.
This was all perfectly normal stuff, but it didnt feel right. Jonny hung
up first and then Mom, and I managed to get Matt to stay on a minute longer.
Are you sure everythings okay? I asked him.
He paused for a moment. I have a funny feeling, he said. I guess its
this moon business.
Matts always been the one to explain things to me. Mom had her writing
and Jonny, and Dad was at work (for as long as he was here), so Matt was the
one I turned to. I dont think hes psychic and maybe its just because hes
three years older than me, but whenever Ive had a question hes seemed to
know the answer.
You dont think anything is going to go wrong? I asked him. Its not
like the meteor is going to hit us. Its just the moon.
I know, he said. But things might get a little crazy tomorrow night.
Phone lines might get tied up, people calling each other. Sometimes people
panic even if theres no reason.
You really think people are going to panic? I asked. Around here, it
just seems like an excuse for teachers to give us even more work.
Matt laughed. Teachers never need an excuse for that, he said. Anyway,
I figured Id find you all home tonight and itd be a good chance for me to
I miss you, I said. Im glad youre coming home.
Me too, he said. He paused for a moment. Are you still keeping that
journal of yours?
Yeah, I said.
Good, he said. Be sure to write about tomorrow. Youll probably enjoy
reading all the details twenty years from now.
You just want me to keep a record of all your clever sayings, I
replied. For your many biographers.
Well, that, too, he said. See you in a few days.
When we hung up, I couldnt figure out if I felt better because hed
called or worse. If Matts worried, then Im worried.
But maybe all Matt is worried about is getting through his papers and
Excerpted from Life As We Knew It
by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Copyright © 2006 by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Excerpted by
permission of Harcourt Trade Publishers. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.