When Natalie looked at herself after school one day, she was so surprised with the reflection she saw.
A girl with a little colour in her face.
A girl who took the time to wear a little makeup. To do her hair.
A girl with a smile.
A girl who was happy.
She hadn't stopped to think about how different the last few months had been. Since her mom left, her life had completely changed. It had changed for the better.
She hated to say it, but it was true.
Majority of her worries, besides ones education based, had slowly disappeared.
She could bring her boyfriend home without worrying about the state of her mother. Was she in a crazy mood? Was she in an angry mood? Was she in a quiet mood where she didn't speak to anyone? Was she in that rare mood where she actually acted- dare she say it- normal?
She didn't have to spend every waking moment of her life worry about her mom, on top of everything else.
She felt bad even admitting to herself how much better off her and her dad were now, but that's why her mom left anyways. So they could all get better.
She hoped her mom was better too.
And, maybe, one day, she would be okay enough to come home. She would like that. But for now, their current situation worked. It was the right thing to do.
She was coming home with a smile on her face for the first time in her life.
She was getting sleep.
She was falling in love. She was falling in love with a boy who was falling in love with her. Who didn't care that she had a mom that was crazy, had an imaginary dead brother, and didn't have much of anything in common with 98% of the female population at their school.
And that was a little part of why she was falling in love with him.
After looking at her face in the mirror one more time (however ridiculous that sounds), with that big cheesy grin that she used to fake on a regular basis, she went into the kitchen to get herself an after school snack.
While she was eating a croissant and browsing through the television guide to find something decent to watch, she felt her cell phone buzz in her phone, having received a text from Henry.
Fringe marathon tonight? You have to watch it, Nat. It's weird, but it's so awesome. You'll love it, I swear.
She smiled while she answered, replying with 'and if I don't?'. She loved having Henry as a boyfriend because he was her best friend as well. She didn't really have friends, so it was amazing to have someone she could joke around with, share interests, hang out, and laugh with, but also someone to cuddle and kiss. They weren't one of those annoying couples who were attached at the hip, who made out at their lockers between classes and spent every minute apart texting, but they cared for each other and enjoyed the other's company.
We'll find something else to do. We could also study, since exams are coming up. I just wanna be with you, babe. We've barely seen each other this week.
They marathon TV shows almost every weekend. Natalie has never watched a series on a regular basis, but Henry watches tons, so he has introduced her to some amazing shows she's never even heard of before. Last week, they finished Arrested Development, and Henry told her about Fringe over the week.
Surprisingly, her dad doesn't mind the two of them being up in her in bedroom all weekend alone.
Probably because he knows she isn't, to be blunt, a skank.
Fringe is probably a really bad show, and you'll know I hate it and we'll have nothing to do so we'll make out all night.
I promise, it's a great show. One of my favourites. If you don't like it, I'll go home. Or we can make out for a bit and then I'll go home.
You suck. Come over.
Turns out, Fringe is actually really good. She really, really, loves it, and after a few hours of watching it, her dad knocks on her door and she realizes the growl in her stomach.
Her dad opens the door and smiles at the both of them.
"Hey, Henry. Hi, sweetie."
"Hi, Mr. Goodman. How are you?"
"Not bad, but I had a long day. I' m really tired, so I just picked up a pizza. Do you guys want to eat up here?"
"No, dad, we're going to come down and eat with you." She immediately paused the DVD, grabbed Henry's hand, and stood up.
Although she spent a lot of her time with Henry, she tried to spend as much time as soon she could with her father as well. They've gotten much closer since she left.
He was taking this harder than she was. His wife, the person he's spent every day with for the last 19 years, was gone. The woman he loved, the woman he worked hard to save every day, had left with a simple goodbye. He was affected much more than she was.
Although they're happy in their living condition, you don't get over that. That is something that stays with you.
He takes his medicine, he sees the therapist once a month, and he tries so, so hard.
They talk about her sometimes.
Talk about how they think she's doing.
How they hope she's doing well.
It doesn't happen often, though.