Disclaimer: I don't own Next to Normal...I wish! This is my first n2n fic but I just couldn't resist. I love the show so so much! :-)

Summary: It took 3 weeks before Di came back to the Goodman home. Natalie was expelled after the Spring formal dance and she can't talk about why. As Yale is becoming more and more like a dream that will just never happen, can she turn her life around at her new school?

Normality Sucks

Chapter One: Smoking Pot Plants

When Ms Riley knocked on my front door I was leaned halfway out the window trying desperately to put out the latest bong that my 'boyfriend' had made out of an empty cola bottle. I froze, of course. What else do you do when you're hanging out your window above your math teacher with illicit drugs in your hands?

"Knock knock," my new teacher called.

"Oh holy Heaven," I cursed, panicking. I stashed Henry's handy-work in a hanging pot plant and scampered down the stairs. My mother could NOT beat me to the door. My body was full of nervous energy and I started to feel sick. 'Calm down, Natalie,' I whispered to myself before flinging open the door.

"Hi," My voice was calm. Quiet, dull and empty. Somewhere between Elementary school and High school, I was no longer seen as shy, but instead, selective, rude and painfully cool. Funny, I still felt exactly the same as I had when I was 9. My fingers twitched inside the super-long sleeves of my hoodie. No one knew.

"Hey Natalie, I've come to talk to your parents. Are they home?"

"I guess," I said. There was no emotion in my voice, I made sure of it. Ms Riley paused, maybe a bit startled by my lack of social skills.

"Well hon, I just thought it was interesting that they didn't make it to parent-teacher night, especially since you've only just transfered. Since I just live across the street I thought I'd come and have a chat about how you're going anyway."

Since she just lived across the street, Ms Riley had to already know my mother was a basket case and my relationship with dad was based on who could scream the loudest. Oh, and that we shared our home with a hallucination who actually ran and ruled our entire house.

"Oh," I said. So deep and insightful.

From her bedroom, I could hear the sound of smashing glass and my mom swearing. Di Goodman was down. Which thankfully meant that she wasn't up - running around naked, lighting the place on fire, spending all our money online, or singing at the top of her lungs from the roof. But instead, she was in bed with pill bottles surrounding her like Stone Henge, reading obituaries in the paper and letting me know every day that she wished she anywhere but here. Well thanks mom, I love having you around too.

I stared Ms Riley in the eyes, daring her to suggest that maybe I should let her in. She was smart enough to stay silent. I slid out through the door and closed it behind me. My teacher and I on the front porch.

The truth is, I told my mom about parent-teacher night two weeks ago knowing she would forget. Most teachers don't even know I exist so I didn't think anyone would notice. Most of the time my own parents forget that I exist, so it was no big deal. Besides, mom went missing that night, so dad and I were up until 3.30am driving through the suburb searching for her.

Ms Riley was saying something like, "I can come back another time" and I was nodding my head.

"You're doing well at school, Natalie," Ms Riley added before she left. "Most kids on music scholarships don't have time for advanced mathematics."

I shrugged. "Most kids on music scholarships don't need to know how to count above four."

Ms Riley reached out to me and laughed. I was surprised because it sounded so honest. She touched my arm, "You'd come to me if you needed anything, wouldn't you?"

I couldn't stop my head from nodding, yes. She smiled at me and I almost returned it.

"Have a great weekend, Natalie Goodman."

Above me, the pot-scented plants swayed in the breeze.