What I Am

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This is the second Degrassi fanfiction I've started, maybe the first one I'll finish. In the spirit of Degrassi, the title is from an 80s song by Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians. The chapters will as well be titled in accordance with the 80s song rule.

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Synopsis: After so much rejection from males and one true experience, a Degrassi girl begins to wonder if perhaps her distant feelings mean more than she ever expected…

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A/N: I don't believe anyone has done a fanfiction of this nature with this character before, but I haven't read the entire Degrassi section, either. In my story, at the end of Should I Stay, or Should I Go? Manny and Craig did more than make out with each other. I'm not sure if I was the only one that noticed that possibility, but even if it's not true, who cares? This is fanfiction. Emma and Manny are sort of friends in this fanfiction, not so much as before. The show seems to give off that they care for each other, but their changes are making it nearly impossible to be the friends they once were.

And for the oblivious…

Disclaimer: I do not own Degrassi or any of the content wherein the show delves. I do not claim to, nor would I really know what to do with if I did. Check out Canada if you want to find the people who own the rights to it, though I don't know their names and I'm only assuming the Canada bit.

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Chapter One: Total Eclipse of the Heart

Manny looked at herself in the mirror and frowned. She should have felt ecstatic, but all she felt was emptiness. A void that she thought Craig created and only Craig could fill still remained open. She wondered if she'd ever feel happiness again, if even her Craig failed. It wasn't just what happened yesterday; she had been feeling this way all weekend. Ever since that night.

She knew that she shouldn't feel this way, that her joy should be overwhelming. But it just…wasn't…and nothing was going to make her feel better.

Manny had followed Craig after a fight with Ash at Paige's surprise party. She was giddy, thinking this is my chance. They ended up at Craig's place, where he started to play his song to Ashley for her. She stopped him and they started to kiss. Craig groped her tentatively, wondering if she would protest. When she didn't, things began to heat up more and more until Manny, finally, awoke in his arms.

He panicked later on, told Manny he thought Joey might come down and see them together in quite a compromising position. Manny understood; she had to get home, anyway. So she left Craig's basement gingerly and walked home, hoping there wouldn't be any trouble. Degrassi was a nice place to live, but there was no checkpoint for insane drifters. They could come into town at any time.

Fortunately, she was safe. She thought at the time that maybe it was the nervous fear preventing her from her girlish giddiness, but even when she was safe at home, all Manny could do was stare at her ceiling in the darkness and think, that was it?

The next Monday, Manny had been making the same mistake all girls seemed to make, which was assuming Craig was now her beau. She had called him a few times over the weekend, trying to appear as interested as before. She thought she should be, so she was trying to make herself. She put on a happy face and told the great lie of how much fun she had, without specifics.

And then, she saw Craig. Beautiful Craig, with deep brown eyes and the cutest curly brown hair. Or, at least that's how she used to feel.

But Ashley got there first and reconciled with Craig. They exchanged I love yous while Manny watched. She didn't know how to respond, so she just gave a look of mild emptiness, a dash of shock, and disappointed sadness.

More and more, Manny wasn't sure how to respond to things. Everything felt so empty to her that she had to think, how would someone normal take it?

Emma noticed, and Manny knew she noticed. They had been very close once, and Emma could still read what Manny felt, even though sometimes she was a mystery. But she said nothing, did nothing. Manny saw the question in her eyes when she wasn't giving it enough thought to look like she was truly happy, but so far she managed to get away when she thought Emma was going to ask.

It wasn't the fact that Craig had made rejection a sequel for her; it was the fact that she just wasn't there anymore. She had liked Craig at one point, or so she believed. But she had liked a lot of people that it didn't work out with. At one point or another, she seemed to like absolutely every boy at Degrassi—even Toby!

But nothing helped to quell this feeling deep inside her. A feeling that she was all wrong. She turned out wrong. There was a mistake in her that needed to be fixed—and fast, before anyone else discovered her little secret.

Manny looked at herself in the mirror and thought about all the emotional maneuvering she would have to do today. All the little games she had to play. Everything she had to act out, everything she had to pretend to feel. All she felt was tired. Mental exhaustion from playing this particular game too long.

She felt it way back when she and Craig had their first—and only—date. Back when she foolishly decorated his locker. Back when she behaved like an absolute idiot because something was wrong inside of her, not realizing that she was making a mess of things.

She had tried too hard to be pleasing. On her date with Craig, she was practically hysterical with all this nervousness that Craig would figure out the girl he was with wasn't even there.

And then, of course, the locker incident. Manny knew, somewhere, that it was a stupid idea, but she couldn't help herself. She had to have Craig. Even if it was unfair to him, to fall for someone so completely unavailable. She had to have him before someone else dug their talons into him. He was her best bet, the only guy in a while that actually made a tiny spark inside of her. Even if it was preconceived by her own distress at what was happening to her, she wanted it. She wanted to feel.

But it was moot. Craig found her immature, and probably psychotic after the way she acted. She tried to cling to him in the hopes that in time she would feel that fire she so deserved. But she went too far, too fast, and she lost him. Ashley, of course, snagged him up.

Manny tried to resent her, but couldn't bring herself to. Craig was a nice guy all in all, and he seemed happy enough with Ashley Kerwin.

Oh, who would want to be Manny Manning, anyway? she thought.

She half-smiled. It was a good enough line. She might need it later, for Emma or Paige or whomever else brought up their failed relationship.

"Oh, who'd want to be Manny Manning, anyway?" she whispered to herself. Manny sighed and looked for her backpack.