The week before her piano recital, Natalie writes a private letter that will never be delivered to her mother. Her eyes aren't the only ones who see it, though. Pre-Catch Me I'm Falling.
A/n: Remember how I mentioned in A Little Light that it was my fourth attempt at writing a N2N fanfic? Well, this was attempt number three. After getting my laptop back after 3 months (I love you Melchior Mercutio!), I found this half-written and didn't think it was that bad after all (somewhat clichéd, but not awful.) Perhaps a little bit out of character, but I still liked it nonetheless. Therefore, I tweaked the life out of it and shaped it into a new direction.
SPECIAL NOTE: As for where this would be placed? Um… yeah. This was originally the first incarnation of Natalie's 'What Doesn't Kill Me…' installment. But when I revisited it, I planned it to be more than just the letter. You'll see why by the end, I hope. It also differs from what happens in the show; I know, I know. Usually I'm all gung-ho for this, but I worked really hard, and I hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't think I own Next to Normal… :checks website: Nope! I don't.
Sitting amongst wads of crumpled paper, Natalie kept rewriting and writing in her notebook. Even though she never really used it, she kept a cheap 80 cent notebook under her bed, just in case she'd ever need it. Her red-rimmed eyes had trouble adjusting to the darkness, for she was writing this in the early hours of the morning. A dimming book light was her only light source.
You're never going to see this letter, since I'm never going to send this to you. Actually, I plan on putting this through the 7th layer of paper hell (i.e. the shredder) after signing my name. Instead of a long, lengthy explanation of why it's killing me on more than one level to write this, I'll mention the pretty not-so-obvious reason on why this is so hard: Henry sent me an email with the article from a self-help website, and it suggested I do this. As you can tell, I'm running pretty damn low on options, so I followed the Oprah-ripoff and wrote this. (C'mon Henry, are you happy now?)
Our family is fucked up, Mom. You're fucked up, I'm fucked up, and Dad is just as screwed as we are. Together we make up one big fucked up family in the middle of suburbia. Don't think that I can't see it; I've figured it out a while ago. But that night… everything peaked, Mom. It just blew up all around us, surprised us all. If you don't mind, I really don't think I can handle cake anymore. I'm sure that won't exactly matter for you, though, because on my 16th birthday you had THE COSTCO incident. Due to THE COSTCO incident, I was pretty much alone the entire night, my makeshift cake being one of those microwavable things with a candle stuck in it.
The good news is that Henry wouldn't mind if we didn't hang out around here anymore. Actually, that's a lie; I'm kinda hoping for that, but he probably will continue to hang around. Don't worry Mom-I don't know why, either. And I call you crazy.
Remember how you made Dad take me to the Rugrats Movie when I was 5? It was the one when Tommy (the unofficial alpha of the baby clan) gets a baby brother. If you remember (because, honestly, I don't know how your brain works, seeing as you made a birthday cake for my dead brother), you promised to take me. Then I mentioned something about how this movie was crucial to the series because Tommy was going to be a big brother. All of a sudden, you had dining rooms to clean and carpets to vacuum and Dad became my chaperone. I wished you had taken me; Dad always falls asleep in the movie theater. A couple of years ago, you actually told me of when you both went to a midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show when the two of you were going out and he fell asleep before the first song. So anyway, I just sat there in the theater, (I snuck to the seat in the front to escape Dad's snoring), and felt myself relating to Dill (the baby.) Everyone was fussing over me and giving me free crap because of how well I did in the Kumon program, my piano teacher thought that I had that "it" factor, and the my teacher was always gushing over my progress. Meanwhile, I was just kinda there; I didn't know what was going on. You and Dad were both proud for a while, but it always felt like in the puzzle of life, I had a wavy edge and your piece had a gaping hole.
Mom, last year I figured out you didn't hold me in the hospital when I was born. It's amazing what you figure out as you listen to gossiping Great-Aunts at family reunions. I found that out as I directed Great-Aunt Clara from the closet to the bathroom (your side of the family is pretty freaking strange, you know?) As she grabbed onto my arm and hobbled on her artificial knee, she dropped the bomb. Once she found her way to the bathroom, I snuck upstairs and threw my hairbrush at your mirror. I know it was wrong to blame Cousin Jill, but I didn't know what to do.
One of the side-effects of growing up unstable, I guess.
Mom, the fact that you're seeing my brother again is scaring me. It's really fucking scaring me; you're imagining him, and I don't know what he's doing to you. What if he tells you to do something really stupid, Mom? He's slowly killing you and wrenching a crowbar into our family. Wait a minute…
Did he tell you to throw out your medications?
I bet he did… oh my God.
Mom, I'm worried; I don't know what the hell is going on with you now. There's always a lingering 'what-if' and you're not leaving my mind.
You know what I like best about music? It's direct, it's clean cut; it is or it isn't.
You know what I hate the most about music? It always asks more of you. There's always something that can be improved on, and there's so many ways you can go wrong. A slip of the finger can disrupt a piece just as a slip of the lip can disrupt the peace. You never fully reach the top of the journey.
Why can't this just fucking stop? Why can't I just have one day where I don't go to school wondering what you're going to do next? Why can't I have one day where Dad isn't in denial? Why did Gabe have to die? Why do I want to go over to Dr. Madden's office, scream every profanity I know at him, and throw something at his desk? Why can't I do anything but smile, shrug and say "No, I'm fine" whenever Henry asks me what's wrong? I want to tell him everything but I feel like if I do…
I'll end up like you.
And I NEVER want to put anyone through this.
Are you even coming to my recital? After all, I worked for months on it and this is your daughter after all; your only child. I still want you here, so please come?
P.S. Even though I was probably kinda harsh in that letter, Mom, I still lov-.
"God Dammit," Natalie swore as the book light died. The only other source of light would be the blinking 3:35 from her alarm clock; not quite enough light. It was pointless now to finish the letter, so left the notebook on what she thought was her nightstand. However, she was too tired to notice the disturbing thwap of the notebook hitting the pile of books near her backpack. Morning came too early (or too late, if you were on the clock's side), and she shoved the pile of books into her backpack, her only thought being on the uselessness of matching socks.
She didn't notice that she had packed the notebook, still open to the letter.
"Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit!" Natalie mumbled, holding her broken backpack under her arm, the backpack's contents in the crook of her other arm. Her time for the practice room was severely cut by her backpack's suicide; there wasn't any time to waste. Grabbing the music folder on the top of her pile of stuff, she dumped the rest of her arms' contents by the door of the practice room and went inside. Her warm-up scales were even more allegro than usual, and she kept glancing at the clock; it told her she had ten minutes less than usual. In despair, her head hit the keyboard in a jumbled, haunting chord.
Perhaps it was something in the air that day, or maybe even fate, but Henry found himself late, too. There was a makeup Spanish quiz he forgot about, and even though it was extremely facíl, it did waste fifteen minutes. He brushed away the pile of notebooks that occupied his normal spot by the hinges of the door and sat down. Just as he was settling into his spot, he noticed that one of the notebooks was open, and something was written on it.
Fifteen minutes never passed by so quickly. When Henry heard the shuffling of papers, he shut the notebook and rearranged the pile so it never looked like it was ever moved.
"Hey Nat, you sounded great," Henry smiled as Natalie walked out.
"Thanks," she shrugged, picking up her demented backpack without making eye contact. "Damn thing broke on me."
"Let me see that," Henry said as he examined the gaping hole at the bottom of the bag. "Um, how good are you at sewing?"
"I'm just going to chuck it, I guess," Natalie sighed as she tossed the bag into a nearby garbage can.
"Are you going to be ok?"
"Yeah, of course. I mean, it's not unbearable; I can get by."
"I wasn't talking about your books. Well, I was, but, Nat, can you be honest here? Is there anything wrong?"
"No, I'm fine," Natalie made eye contact, smiled, and shrugged. Before Henry could say anything else, her cell phone went off. "My Dad's here. See you tomorrow?"
"Yeah… Bye Natalie." Henry had stepped closer to see if he'd be able to give her a hug or some other sign of affection, but Natalie spun on her heels and looked at the ground as she ran out the door. He knew stopping her wouldn't help.
"I feel like I'm going to shit butterflies," Natalie whispered backstage, waiting for stupid Maria Wilkinson to finish Ode to Joy. There was only so much joy to be had when the song seemed everlasting.
"You're thinking too much. You've got this down," Henry whispered in her ear, standing behind her with his hands on her shoulders.
"Do you think she's there?" she asked.
"I'm sure she wants to be there," Henry said, remembering the letter. Natalie still didn't know that he read it and would probably trust him even less than she did already.
"She better be," Natalie fidgeted her fingers, closing her eyes and breathing deeply as Maria finished the last note.
"Good luck," Henry quickly kissed her.
"Thanks," Natalie whispered, continuing to fidget with her fingers as she walked to the piano. When she sat down, she noticed her father sitting on the aisle seat. The seat next to him was only occupied by his jacket. Tears began pricking her eyes as she took a deep breath; the rage still burned.
"Oh my God," Henry witnessed a tear slide down Natalie's cheek. Unless you paid attention to her face instead of the piano, you wouldn't have noticed it.
"God dammit! She's not there."
At this point, Natalie didn't know if she was referring to her mother, or herself.