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New Fic: Winter of 1964

Winter of 1964
Fandom: Dirty Dancing
Rated: PG
Category: Gen. Angst. Penny POV.
Word Count: 752.
Summary: A few months after Kellerman’s, Penny is left to pick up the pieces.
Disclaimer: I’d happily take Johnny Castle as my own, but alas, he belongs to the writer and the actor forever. Keep your chin up, Eleanor, and keep dancing, Patrick, wherever you are.
Note: In a deleted scene from the movie, Penny says goodbye to Johnny before Baby does in the scene by the car. That’s all the extra you need to know for this one. Also, blame Alasdair. I do.

-----

I heard him as I walked away.

His “I’ll never be sorry” came through loud and clear.

I’d smiled at the time, thinking what a sweet thing that was to say; thinking about my own situation and how differently things might have turned out if Robbie had said something like that to me.

But he didn’t, and there we were, with Johnny saying good bye to Baby and losing his job to boot.

Sure, he’d come back for one last dance, and things seemed great after that, but then the summer ended, and with it, whatever magic had somehow managed to find its way into our lives faded away.

Kellerman’s closed for the year, Baby went off to Mount whatever, and Johnny and I headed to New York, working as extras on plays and teaching dance lessons on the side to make ends meet.

We were still riding high from the summer and its insanity when we decided to finally do that. Johnny told his dad to get lost and we took off to the city, like we’d always dreamed, with nothing we couldn’t fit in the trunk of Johnny’s car.

Now, we’re splitting an apartment and barely getting by, and for the first time since I’ve known him, I don’t know what to do with Johnny Castle.

On the surface, things are okay. He still dances fine. The steps are all clinically perfect. With a little luck and if only we knew the right people, we might actually make it here. But that little extra that might ensure that just isn’t there. That twinkle in his eye that let me know when he was about to go off the page; that smirk that told me to look out for an impromptu dip or an added spin. That silent communication we’ve had on the dance floor since we were kids is missing. Dancing with him now is just that: dancing. It’s not the celebration I’m used to when I’m with him.

It’s like I’m partnered with one of the more talented guests at Kellerman’s. We get the job done, but it’s nothing special. And just like those guests, he drinks too much. He also sleeps more than he should, and I have to wake him most mornings to get to lessons on time.

And never mind the bruises on his hands. I know the first set came from that first afternoon, before we left Kellerman’s but after he’d watched the Houseman sedan drive away for far too long. He’d hit the doorframe so hard he scared me. But the newer ones – the ones that keep showing up – Billy says he’s brawling again. He hasn’t done that in years.

So now, things have changed.

I still think of his words, but now they’re not all that sweet. Now, they no longer make me smile, and frankly I wonder if they’re even still true for him, because I know they’re all sorts of complicated for me.

On one hand, I could never regret what happened.

After all, without Baby Houseman, there’s no way I’d be in New York. Sure, Johnny and I are living the life of every struggling artist, and it’s pretty awful most of the time, but at least we’re trying. We’re dirt poor and every month is another adventure in keeping a roof over our heads, but we’re still dancing.

And without little Frances and everything that came with her, we would never have tried this.

I know that.

Baby changed both our lives, and as ridiculous as it sounds, I’m so glad she carried a watermelon that night.

Without her, I’d be nursing an infant at my sister’s and Johnny would be hanging drywall.

That’s not nothing.

Still, if he’d never met Baby Houseman, Johnny would be the carefree guy I’ve loved like a brother for ages. He’d smile and laugh and dance like the world was ending, instead of like a guy who has to to earn his keep. Sure, he’d probably sleep around instead of sleeping in, and we’d have to deal with that, but most days it seems like anything would be better than this.

So on the other hand, there are days when I wish to God neither one of us had ever met that girl, and I can’t exactly celebrate when I think of Baby.

All I can do is check the mail and sigh when there isn’t any, then stare at the phone, willing it to ring.

It doesn’t, again, and life goes on.

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