Curtain Call

But the music was loud and hit her right between the ears, somewhere empty and waiting to be filled. When she put up her arms she could feel her muscles stretch in all the right ways, but wrong, somehow, because this time, she wasn't dancing for herself.

She started out slow.

She knew her body, and she knew what it could do. She could make it turn and toss and shiver and shake, but it was different this time, and she knew it, so she stepped lightly, testing her weight on the feet she has broken to her own means. She didn't look at her family. She didn't look at Derek.

When the music began, it washed over her, filling the empty space with something thick, and ready to be molded as she saw fit. Now, she closed her eyes and breathed it in deep, let it fill that space her soul held, and thought of all the things she would like to say. She wasn't going to run anymore.

The tempo picked up, Casey breathed out, and for the first time in her life—she was dancing. Recklessly and brutally, every movement snapped forth with a terrible beauty, her limbs tangled in some savage grace, until it wasn't that she was dancing anymore, because it went beyond the steps she performed, and stretched to the very limits of human expression; until she was filled to the very fingertips with her own potential.

She'd always been a little scared of her own ability—of reaching the very endpoint, but now…Now it wasn't about admitting she could go no further. Now, it was about showing what she could do, who she was, throwing all her cards on the table, face up, and falling into her own skin. She was just Casey, now, just Casey.

She wasn't prefect, but it wasn't like he was either. Maybe they didn't quite—fit, snap into place like all the other boys she'd had, all made to her mold, but maybe that was okay. Maybe it didn't have to be ideal to be what she needed. Something was starting here, and she wasn't sure she was ready for it, but she wasn't going to stop.

With a final lurch, she snapped to a halt, and the music was gone. She held her pose for a moment, letting the magic seep away, and then dared to face the audience.

Silence. Complete, and perfect silence.

Moving slow, still half drugged on her reverie, she looked up and found Derek, leaning forward on his seat. He blinked, abruptly realizing that she was looking back at him, and something pleased flickered across his face before he grinned at her ironically, raised his hands, and began to clap.

The applause hit her like a shockwave; it came so loud and so clear. Never, ever had she gotten such applause. Breath catching in her throat, Casey blinked into the harsh lights, trying to pick out faces from the dark mass. Emily was grinning at her, Sam and Ralph both clapping furiously, Noel waving with a brilliant smile—even Max was clapping, shaking his head ruefully.

Something indescribably welled up in her chest, like it was inflating on solid joy, and it was all she could do to bow and beam at them all—all of her classmates. All important pieces of her life.

When she found Derek again, her smile grew and she waved at him, laughing when he rolled his eyes, and then feeling her stomach lurch when he pointed to the door, then stood, edging his way towards it.

Bowing again, she slid off stage, letting the principle take the podium back to the center and address the graduates.

She stuck her feet into her sister's borrowed shoes and ran through the halls, never looking back.

It was time to live a little dangerously.