Off Balance

Her whole life, Los Angeles born Ava Talbot has known what she wanted to do: ballet. Now, at sixteen, Ava is in her final year at the prestigious Moira Kaplan Academy of the Arts in London (which not only teaches dance, but also acting, music, and visual arts) before she will take part in the final showcase of the school, where some of the most important ballet companies in the world will be watching, including Ava's goal company, The Royal Ballet. But things start to get complicated when a mysterious music major, Harry, saunters into her life. He's contemptuous, arrogant, and a total player. She would never go for a guy like that. So why, for the first time, does Ava feel so off balance?

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1. Chapter 1

Chapter 1

It's the dream again. The same one I had last night, and 2 nights before that. It goes like this:

I'm standing in the wings of the stage, and the lights have yet to come on. People flip through their playbooks, while the the orchestra members pick theirs strings, and press their keys individually, biding their time. I place my hands on my hips, above my tutu, absentmindedly grinding my pointe shoes in the resin box by the stage. I close my eyes. Inhale. God, it's cold back here. Exhale. And I know it's only going to be colder onstage. Just...calm down. I can get through this. Maybe. Possibly. It seems like the dull roar of the audience keeps getting louder and louder. And the sound makes the tight feeling in my chest even tighter. But then...it stops. The whispering of the audience. The off kilter playing of instruments in the orchestra pit. Time stops like water in the glass, and I can here the start of the music. I can't. I can't because I feel like I'm going to explode. I could die right here, and this would all be over. Just be still for the rest of my life. But something in me says no, and it feels like I just in took a gust of hot, moist air. My right foot starts to move forward, on my highest demi-pointe, underneath the blooming lights, and onto the stage...

"OH FUCK ME, WHERE ARE MY BLOODY LEG WARMERS?!"

"Mmmfghh," I reply to my roommate, Violet.

"Ava, for once in your life can you stop thinking of yourself and help me?"

I pull my pillow over my head tightly. "Just leave me here to die," I groan.

She continues, "I mean really, I understand that we all need a good nights sleeping and everything, but I have issues too, you know? For fucks sake, I can't just walk into class...," she rambles, as I muster the strength the turn over from my frontal position on the bed. I groan overdramaticly, as I cross my arms over my face. My eyes are still closed, mulling over the bits of the dream. My favorite dream. There was something different about it this time though. Usually I'm about to dance the prelude to Swan Lake (one of my personal favorites), where Odile is taken by Rothbart, and turned into a swan. But this time I was Kitri, from the ballet Don Quixote, the rebellious inn keeper's daughter, sneaking out to see Basilio, the boy she loves. Hmm, I think, It's probably nothing. Just some weird brain wave interference, or some crap. I flunked Biology, so I wouldn't know anyway. I sigh, and rub the sleep out of my eyes, as I start to come out of my comatose. I can't live in my dream world forever. And especially since I'm nowhere near dancing any of those roles. Those are for principals.

And I'm still just another aspiring soloist with her leotard strap twisted, and a ripped down her tights.

I mean, I'm still only 16. I'd be lucky to get into the corps at a company next year. At this age, in this world, when I'm so close to something I've worked for my entire life, there's no time for dreaming. Only so little time to reach the dream. Which does entail me and Vi waking up at 6:00 AM for our normal school classes, and then technique, character, partnering, pointe, pilates (sometimes a few more) usually until 7:45 pm (or later), 6 days a week (excluding Sunday). I guess you could say, by now, that I'm not exactly a morning person.

"---and I mean, can you believe Miss Slavenska with her little snippy inputs on how 'Ohh in my day when I trained at the Vaganova'. If the old bag were that good don't you think the Mariinsky or the Bolshoi or some high-end company would have accepted her, and not the Moira Kaplan Arts Academy all the way in London---and not even to dance there, to teach there! Ugh, and her ridiculous Russian accent...Ava? Are you even listening to me?!"

I finally open my eyes, and see Violet in her power stance---second position---, at the foot of my bed, with her hands placed indignantly on her hips, wearing her fathers gigantic Kipling beer T-shirt, and a pair of grease stained charcoal grey sweat pants. Her rich, ginger hair is messily tied in a knot at the top of her head, tendrils coming loose in all places, contrasting with her hazel-green eyes and pale British skin. Most people in the same position would look crazy, with clothes that don't fit them, and their hair sticking out all over the place. But on Vi...it looks fitting, like a model. She looks urban and cool. But effortlessly so. And she's the same in ballet. She doesn't even look like she's trying on the hardest steps. A natural. She's one of my best friends here at the Academy, but I can't help being jealous of her for that.

Unlike me, from Los Angeles, Violet is actually from the city where the Academy we both go to is situated: London, at The Moira Kaplan Academy of the Arts. She's actually from Bristol, but we're both dance majors at the Academy. I've wanted to go here since I was 6, so sophmore year, when I revealed I'd secretly sent in my audition tape for the Academy, my parents finally allowed me to go across the globe and take classes. And all too quickly, I'll be leaving. For dance majors, 16 is the year we graduate, for ballet classes, at least. At 17, you take up an apprenticeship with a company for a year or so, and eventually get accepted into the corps de ballet (like, the backround singers of ballet). It's one of the best arts school in the world. About half the students come from other areas, the teaching credentials are stellar, and most of the dance students go on to take part in major companies around the world. Yeah. Most of them. Those are always the key words in this place.

Vi's still staring at me. I groan again, and push myself from the warm covers of my bed onto the cold wood floors, to the dresser, which we both messily stuffed full of our clothes 2 days ago when we decided to request to room together at orientation. The cold air seeps under my clothes, making goose pumps pop up all over my arms and legs.

"You look homeless," I mutter at her, jokingly, as I sift through the clothes. She scoffs, and throws my long dark brown hair over my face.

"Well, now you look like a crack addict," she laughs, and flips me off as she enters the bathroom, and the shower water turns on, "AND I STILL CAN'T FIND MY LEG WARMERS!" she yells from inside the bathroom. That's kind of my way of saying "No Violet, I wasn't listening because you're clinically insane, but I still love you the most". And usually she accepts it. I take a breath through my nose. This room smells like subtle lavender. It works with the vintage feel of the place. The Academy has probably been around since the 1830's, though the dorm establishments and classrooms, though they have been renovated, are like standing fossils. The ivy print wallpaper, oak wood floors, and white lacey curtains keeps true to the place's origins. Our small room serves as both a living room, and bedroom, with a bath room slightly to the right of it. It's not much (and I mean really not much) but...it's kind of nice. Cozy, at least.

I pull my favorite oversized maroon sweater over my head, my trusty blue jeans, and white canvas keds. I take a step back and look myself over in the mirror to the left of the dresser. Like always I'm dissapointed. I'm plain. I really am. Nothing like Vi, who looks like some kind of mysterious forest nymph. I exhale frustratedly, and flop back down on the bed, staring blankly at the peeling paint on the ceiling. My eyes are just brown. My hair is just brown. Just this, just that. Nothing special. But I keep thinking one morning I'll wake up and look in the mirror and be sort of pleased. Be able to smile at what I see. And it never really happens. Vi, walks out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel, her hands skillfully tying her newly blow dried hair into a high ponytail.

"Not this again," she laughs as she squats down to open her dresser drawer. I sit up on my elbows.

"What?"

Vi sits on my bed, her ponytail falling into her face as she pulls on a pair of opaque black tights underneath a green spaghetti strapped skater dress. I will never understand the body heat of British people. She shakes her head like a dissappointed parent,"You always do this. You look yourself over in the mirror, get pissed off, and then throw yourself on the bed. Hate to break it to you, but we're all Betty Bunheads, Av's, we look exactly the same."

"Then why do I feel like this only when I see myself?" I murmur under my breath.

"I mean, to be honest, your arse is flatter than the Sahara desert, but--" I roll over to grab one of my pointe shoes out of my black dance bag and raise it like I'm about to hurl it at her.

"KIDDING!! Kidding, kidding kidding, just kidding," she yells, covering herself with her dress on the floor. I smirk and put the shoe back, only to return to the bed, lying on my side. I twirl of piece hair around my finger. This is ridiculous. I don't care about any of this. I never have. This is so stupid.

"Oh, for fucks sake Ava you look fine. Now can we please get to school?!" I give up. "Screw it," I stand up to tie my hair into a loose bun. I don't have the time for this.

"Finally, Jesus, can we go now?!", Vi shrieks angrily as she leans against the door frame, tapping her foot, as I grab my navy book bag off the floor, moving towards the door.

"Um...Vi?"

"No Ava, I don't think it's a good idea to stuff your bra with you're toe pads."

Choosing to ignore her comment, I clear my throat obnoxiously, and tap on the side of her bag, where something fuzzy pokes out from the side. Vi looks down, uninterested, and sees what I'm talking about.

"Oh," she says quietly, snatches her leg warmers from the bag, and throws them unkemptly into the room. She looks back to me, crosses her arms and tilts her head, authoritatively, "I would've found them eventually you know."

"Yeah, yeah.", I reply, locking the door behind us.

-

Hey anybody who is reading this! So, first Chapter is a little boring but bear with me, y'all. A certain music major will make an appearance in the next chapter so...

Also, to any ballet qworls reading this, I know that some of the details about the academy aren't totally politically correct (ballet-wise). I just had to tweak some things to make the story work better.

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