1This Brilliant Dance

Disclaimer: The brilliant minds in Dashboard Confessional own This Brilliant Dance. The brilliant minds in Canadian broadcasting own Degrassi and its characters. My own emo-ness owns this fic.

I was fuming as I slammed my body against my bed post. What happened to make us so different? Ashley and Craig: the poster couple. Well, maybe not that, exactly. But we meshed so well. He was my other half, the completing factor in my life.

It was like, how you wait your entire life for that Prince Charming, and you find him, and then he fucks the school slut. Yes, that in fact was exactly what it was like.

"Ashley Kerwin," mom says as she storms into my room. I don't remember giving her permission, in fact there was no knocking even involved in that grand entrance. I swipe my face with my blanket quickly before turning over to stare at her. "You have been locked in your room for two straight weeks. When are you coming out?"

"Well, if I had locked myself in, you wouldn't be standing here right now, would you?" I retort. Why is she doing this? I just wanted to be alooooone. What do I have to do, make everyone a sign?

"Do not be a smart aleck. Listen," she says, quickly changing tones into her motherly, soft voice, "do you want to talk about anything?"

"No," I answer. "I would like it very much if you just left me alone."

"Christmas break ends tomorrow, you know. And you're going to have to go back to school."

Thanks for reminding me. "I know," I say, hoping that if I gave her the right answers, I might get one more day of peace.

"Well," she says after staring at me for a few more moments. "That's all. I'm making pizza for dinner. I'll call you when it's ready." I almost tell her not to bother, but she's on her way out now, and that would just elongate her little visit.

"So this is odd,
Painful realization that all has gone wrong.
And nobody cares at all.
And nobody cares at all."

I, Paige Michalchuk, feel the need to do something for the poor girl. After all, we had been friends once. And, really, if Spinner had done something that awfully, well, awful, to me, I hope that tons of people, Ashley included, would be constantly calling or stopping by with their sympathetic looks and suggestions on how to get the creep back. And, if I had been locked in my room for two weeks? Drastic measures are definitely in order.

"Paige!" Kate says, very excited indeed to see one of Ashley's friends. The poor girl really is in bad shape. I make my way up to her room, yes I still remember where it is, Kate, and in mere seconds find myself face to face with the recluse. I kick a way a few tissues that litter her ground on my way to her bed.

"Paige, what are you doing here?" she says, giving me one of her dramatic tones. I want to scream that everyone has problems, and that she shouldn't take this out on me, but I don't. I restrain myself.

"I'm having a bonfire tonight, hon. Haze, Terri, Spinner, Jimmy, Marco and my lovely brother, you know, the crew. I want you to come!" I say it in such a spirited manner, there is no way she could reject it.

"Not tonight. I have to, um…" she says, lamely looking for an excuse in her head. There is no way.

"Here's the deal, you bring his notes, his clothes, and his presents, everything he's ever made the mistake of leaving in your possession. And, of course, we burn it! All of it." This is the cure-all remedy for a bad break-up.

She sits silently, thinking it over. What was there to think about, really? "Oooooookay," she finally agrees.

"Good. Now let's find some good stuff to burn!"

"So you bury all your lover's clothes,
And burn the letters lover wrote.
But it doesn't make it any better.
Does it make it any better?"

How had Paige convinced me to do this? Sit here, with these people, and open my wounds up to them. Didn't I know better? Didn't I know that it was fun for them to throw salt into people's wounds? I have the distinct feeling like something bad was about to happen, like Manny would come and inform everyone of her undying love to Craig, and I would have to witness their parade of idiocy. Not happening. I tell Paige thanks, but that I need some time by myself. She reluctantly agrees. For some reason, my pain has been very entertaining for her and her friends. But now is the only time I might have by myself before the tragedy that will be my first day back to Degrassi after Christmas vacation.

The path I take leads me around the darkened school. It seems so eerie to be at Degrassi when no one else is, like there are spirits of people, flings, heartbreaks, crushes, and fights penetrating every inch of the building. I stop in front of a special side door that Craig and I had always used. We first found it the day of the dance right after his dad died, when he needed someone and I was there. Maybe that's as far as his attraction went: a gratitude that I had been with him the entire time. This doorway, in fact, had been the site of our first kiss. It had been sweet and romantic, how everything about Craig Manning is sweet and romantic when he wants it to be, but now it just seemed like cheese. I feel the incredible urge to just throw something at the doorway now. I pick up a rather large rock, and hurl it at the spot where he had been standing, so many months ago. I'm glad it made a dent. I want him to know how badly the rock he threw at my heart crushed me.

I walk away slowly. That had felt good. This whole night had been therapeutic, after all.

"And the plaster dented from your fist,
In the hall where you had your first kiss,
Reminds you that the memories will fade."

We only have three classes together, I tell myself over and over. Luckily, he didn't feel the intense urge to apologize to me or grope Manny; both things that would make me break. I saw him in the hall once, right before home room, and I ducked into the nearest room. I looked around, noticing Toby immediately, and running over to tell him something I was sure he already knew about. He gave me the oddest stare, so I made casual chit chat with JT, being careful to avoid Manny's glare as well. This had become rather fun, actually, it gave me something to keep my mind off of Craig, as weird as it sounds.

I soon found that the classes I had with Craig were much more interesting than the ones that we didn't share. I smiled bigger, laughed heartier, and even engaged in conversation with Paige and Hazel, all to make him jealous, of course. I'm not becoming a recluse; I'm becoming a social butterfly. You didn't break me.

English was by far the best. Ms. Kwan took us to the auditorium to do another Shakespearian play, of course Romeo and Juliet, and I was the Juliet to Jimmy's Romeo. Craig had been assigned Mercutio. Rather fitting. We only did a few scenes; it was supposed to get us geared up for a semester all about Shakespeare. We did the marriage scene, since it was Ms. Kwan's favorite, and she told us that the kiss would not be necessary, but to just let our body language do the talking. Spinner, playing a horrible Friar Lawrence, told us that we were married. It was such a romantic moment, that I stared right at Craig for a whole second, and then grabbed Jimmy and kissed him. The entire auditorium gasped, and there was much applause after our kiss ended. That Ashley Kerwin, she's one spontaneous character.

"So this is strange,
A sidestepping has come to be a brilliant dance.
Where nobody leads at all,
Where nobody leads at all."

I'm not entirely sure what just happened. One second, there was this intensely romantic moment, and Ashley Kerwin looked right at me, yes me, but then she kissed Jimmy Brooks. Was that supposed to make me jealous? It worked. I know I screwed up, but do I deserve this?

I walk outside after school, and Manny comes running up to me. I glance over at Ashley, to make sure she's seeing this. It takes a lot of self control not to start hardcore making out with Manny while staring at Ash, that's how mad she made me. But I just walk away, knowing it wasn't the right place or time to talk about my feelings for Manny.

I trail Ashley home, which she doesn't realize. I follow closely behind her and Toby. I keep trying to think of a good excuse for this, but I don't have one. Craig Manning, you need to grow yourself some balls. You need to apologize, no excuses, no bull shit, and really, no stalking. They walk into their house, and I'm there two minutes later rapping on the door. Toby answers it, and laughs in my face. I guess I deserve that. I don't try to win her step-brother over; I just push him aside and make my way to her room.

Her mouth gapes in horror, which should be my first sign I'm not wanted. I look around the room, which became the antithesis of its formal self in two weeks. There is no sign that I had even existed. No pictures, no notes, no presents, she had even, if I'm not mistaken, taken down her Ramones poster. I want to fall on my knees and beg for forgiveness, but I just stand here, looking like an idiot. "Not now," is all she said. I get my clue and turn and walk out of her house.

"And the picture frames are facing down,
And the ringing from this empty sound,
Is deafening and keeping you from sleep."

Where does he come across doing that? My room, my space, my hideout. He had invaded it! I let myself cry again, sob heavily, throwing myself against my bed over and over. It becomes hard to breathe, and my thoughts begin to drift away. Nothing makes sense in this time period, but it feels good to not be thinking. I forget why I was crying, but don't want the feeling to go away. I faintly hear the door open and close; Toby left. I begin screaming and pounding my fists into my knees.

Everything is broken, I have no idea what time it was. The clock blinks menacingly at me, telling me to fix it. No! I can't do anything. All I have is the strength to sob against every wall in my room. I writhe on the ground a little, and then finally crawl up and plop down onto my bed. My chest heaves against the mattress, and I begin to calm down. I sit there for a long time, not noticing anything but myself and this bed, but I don't fall asleep. I can't, really. It's not an option. I will die if I fell asleep now. Craig would make his way back into my life, and Toby and my parents would be able to send me somewhere so they wouldn't have to deal with me. Every nightmare I ever had would culminate into my reality if I let myself sleep now. I pry my eyes open with my fingers, and lay there for a while, deadly silent. Even if they want to find me, they will never be able to get me while I'm awake.

"And breathing is a foreign task,
And thinking's just too much to ask.
And you're measuring your minutes,
By a clock that's blinking eights."

She sent me away. That's when it hit me. I will never, ever be in Ashley Kerwin's home again, unless I become the stalker that I'm threatening to turn into. I miss her house. I miss the constant odor of teenagers and fresh food. I miss Ashley.

Has it taken me this long to realize what I missed out on? I thought it would be okay, because now I have Manny, and I can settle for Manny. And my internal battle was fought and won, and I just wanted to apologize. That's the only reason I went over there.

Seeing her, seeing her broken but not ready to admit it to me, of course, that's what set me off. I got that feeling in my muscles, you know, the one you get when your girlfriend is hurt, and every part of your body aches to hold her. It's almost a primal instinct, one man had been feeling since the beginning of time, probably.

I have to settle for Manny, at this point. It's not like Ashley can even look at me anymore, let alone talk to me or let me back into her life. I need someone, I imagine. It will never be the same. I never came to grips with this during our relationship, I mean, really and truly believe it, but I was in love. How insane. The only girl I've ever loved, save my mom or Angela, can't look at me. It's what I get for not realizing it sooner.

"Well, this is incredible,
Starving, insatiable,
Yes, this is love for the first time."

Toby comes running into my room, interrupting a very important discovery I'm making about the millions of ways you can procrastinate. I'm lying on my floor, flipping through a music magazine and nonchalantly putting more band stickers on my skateboard. "What is it?" I ask.

"Ashley's fucked up," is all he says as he collapses onto my bed. Well, I could've told him that.

"'Kay," I say and go back to the magazine. "Want me to go have a talk with her?" It's our new thing, our little chats. Seems we have more in common than either of us would ever admit, and that girl really needs someone to talk to right now. I should take upon myself the role of concerned male friend, who at the end of the day really wants to snog the female friend.

"Yup," he says. He pulls out a book he brought. "I'll be here when you come back."

I laugh at him and leave my house. This is a new one: going to her house for the sole purpose of being with her. I drop my skateboard onto the sidewalk outside of my house and ride the short distance to her's. I run up to stairs, knocking but not waiting, and walk into her room. She smiles, which I suspect is a new thing for her to be doing to visitors. "Hey dweeb," she says. I laugh a little and sit down on the edge of her bed. It doesn't take very long for her to open up about everything.

The thing about us, JT Yorke and Ashley Kerwin, is that we were not bull shitters. She tells me right out that Manny is a slut and if I even so much as touch her that I will get some sort of disease. I tell her straight out that she needs to stop thinking about Craig, that he had never loved her, and that one day she would find some asshole somewhere in the world that would screw her up even worse than this.

The other thing about us is that we could have never been friends under any other circumstances. While she dated Craig, I thought she was ignorant to be so unfalteringly in love with someone like that. And before this, she probably would've never opened up to her brother's odd little friend. I guess all things are for the best.

"Well, you'd like to think that you were invincible,
Yeah, weren't we all once before we felt lost for the first time?"

JT makes me smile in a way I haven't smiled in forever. Who knew my brother's odd little friend could turn out to be one of my best? After our heartwarming, no holds barred conversation, I lean over and kiss him. Of course, it is just another one of those irrational things I've been doing since the Craig fiasco. However, this one feels better. It feels right. JT Yorke? Who would've guessed?

Then I kicked him out.

"Well this is the last time,
This is the last time.
This is the last time."