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?


3. Chapter 3

Chapter 3

Silvie stares at me with the funniest look, half eaten apple in one hand, and her pointe shoe ribbons in the other as we get ready for the first class of the year.

"I'm sorry, what?" Vi asked me the same thing. I mean, if you add about 25 expletives. I cradle my head in my hands and groan in frustration. This entire conversation is so weird. Talking about boys with other girls hasn't ever been a big part of my day. Mostly since I've never had anything to do with one.

Vi pokes her head out of the bathroom behind Silvie, her half way pinned bun at the crown of her head. She's grinning ear to ear as she accusingly points at me, nodding her head in encouragement.

"Say it!" she urges. I crack a smile.

"It's not even a big deal. This guy Louis was sitting in front of me and he smiled at me and turned around and we were talking. Then his friend Haz started being a dick for unknown reasons--"

"Harry, dumbass," Violet laughs at me from the bathroom. Harry. Mr. Harvard only calls his students by their last names, so Styles is the seconds part of the equation. Harry Styles.

"Harry Styles," I muse to myself. I smile, unintentionally. It makes me feel dizzy to say the two words; the way they fall from my lips, the way they melt on my tongue like the most bittersweet chocolate. I love that name. It's perfect. Wait, what?

What the hell am I talking about? He was such an ass; the opposite of perfect.

Suddenly remembering I haven't said anything, I try to think of something to break the silence.

"His nick name is Haz?", I sputter out, laughing, "What the hell, since when did Haz become the nickname for Harry?"

"That's not the point!" Silvie yells irritably. She whips around suddenly, bending a bit to meet my gaze from on the floor.

"Then what happened?" She waits tentatively for the answer. Golden strands of her hair have risen from the water-slicked crown of her bunned hair. A small imperfection like this would usually drive her crazy, but this--whatever she seems to think it is--already has her preoccupied. I think this is the most frazzled I've seen her since she accidentally poked a hole through a pair of her tights last year.

I shrug. "Nothing. They left and I felt really really awkward. As usual."

Silvie is totally awestruck. She rises slowly, her pale arms slightly outstretched, like she thinks she might fall from the absurdity of it.

"I need to make sure I understand you," Silvie says as she paces across the ugly pattered carpet of the small dressing room. This place has been like a haven for me, Silvie, and Vi since year. Vi, even at 14 being the most inappropriate person I know, started a rumor that Shelby Pierson projectile vomitted in here, which drove most away. So then one day, of course lost out of my mind in the corridors, I stumbled into a dimly lit room with a red haired girl singing 'Wannabe' by the Spice Girls at the top of her lungs and the wispy blonde in my math class laughing uncontrollably at her. And I knew I was home.

"Harry Styles, I mean, like, the Harry Styles conversed with you, and Louis Tomlinson sexual implications at you--"

"Oh my freaking God, Silvie," I grumble at her, with my hands covering my face. Vi cackles like a hyena in the bathroom.

"This has to mean something," Silvie muses, still pacing around in her black leotard. Her childlike features look wrong contorted into this worried frown. I laugh slightly, despite myself. She's just such a total bunhead--in the funniest possible way. I prop myself up on the palms of my hands, the thick embroidery of the carpet scratching my skin.

"But I don't get it," I say to Silvie, "I mean, Louis wasn't that bad. And Harry's just some asshole." My mind goes back to him, Harry. He was dismissive and brooding when I spoke to him. Like he knew exactly what I was thinking about him from before I even opened my mouth."Why is he--why are they a big deal?"

Vi pushes the door open, walking out casually, "They're fit as hell, is the big deal." She plops down on the floor next to me. Silvie crouches over the head of a chair next to us, gripping it tightly.

"Are you freaking kidding me, Vi?!," Silvie whispers incredulously, her eyes frantic, "They're sex-obsessed delinquents!" Vi rolls her eyes dismissively and turns to me.

"Sex gods is the correct term."

Before Silvie can screech at Vi again, she continues.

"They're newbies, but the whole lot are a bunch of trouble," she begins dramatically. She loves to tell stories, because she knows she's so good at it, that you can't look at anyone else but her when she speaks, "I mean you saw, wearing all black, the tattoo's. They did a load of crazy shit at their school. A ton of rumors have been spreading around, but one thing is for sure. You know Brigs secondary school? The one Headmistress Williams is always pissing on in assembly?"

My eyes narrow.

"Yeaaah...," I answer dragging it out in confusion.

"Well thats the school they went to, and last year, they burned down the library." She wears a satisfied look on her face, her excitement barely being contained.

I'm sorry, what?

Panic floods through me. I was just in the midst of a bunch of arsonists, and no one thought to maybe, oh I don't know, clue me in on this little detail?

But maybe that just shows how afraid people are of them.

"They burned it down?"

Vi nods vigorously, "To the ground. There was a total fucking frenzy when it happened." 

My jaw goes slack, as I think back through the day. That's why they were so cautious around me. Why Louis was surprised that I didn't know his name, and why Harry didn't believe that I didn't.

"And they set it on purpose? Did they confess?"

"You always have to take the mystery out of everything," Vi sighs and rolls her eyes, "It seems pretty obvious to me." A wicked grin spreads across her face.

"So," she begins, lying down, and propping up her head with her elbow,"What was Harry like?" Silvie's eye glances to us briefly, and I can tell she's listening (though she'd die before admitting it).

I roll my eyes, and look down to fiddle with the elastic of my pointe shoe.

"He seemed like a total douche bag," I mutter.

"Yeah but that's what makes him so fit! All of that pent up angst he's got going on? I mean, come on Av's, just imagine how all that sexual frustration would come out when he's grinding his hips into you?!"

She laughs triumphantly as my cheeks turn the color of strawberries. I bite down on my lip to fight off my smile. Silvie shakes her head in disgust, lip curled, "God you're vulgar."

"Love you too, Silvs," Vi beams.

Our heads all turn as we hear the familiar sound of pointe shoes hitting the wooden floor outside us. Our jaws go slack with awe at the realization.

"Oh my God," Vi trails off, breathlessly, standing up slowly. Silvie arises from the chair and crosses to me, offering a hand as I too get up.

"We actually made it. Final year," Silvie squeaks.

"This is it," I say, the three pairs of our eyes trained to the door. Our stances are apprehensive. But our hearts can't wait to burst through these doors, "after this--"

"It's real life," Vi finishes, "Everything we've worked for since we were small comes down to this year."

I laugh, "Think we're ready?"

Our eyes meet at the door. We smile the exact same smile as when we met for the very first time here in this musty room. A smile that may be forever kept behind this wooden door.

"Hope so," Vi sighs, as we pass the threshold together, bags on our shoulders. We walk down the long hallway together into Studio C, the final years' studio. The huge studio is filled with the girls I've grown up with. There's no one who's not stretching. Across the barre, sprawled on the floor, against the wall, but we talk to each other like we're just sitting beside each other on a sunny day out. Funny, how even when we're supposed to be normal, we can't help but improve ourselves.

We set our bags down by the side of the room, away from the mirror and the center of the hardwood floor, and stretch together on the barre.

"Ugh," Vi groans, "Does she even have the ability to not rub in everyone's face that she declined Vaganova?" She's grimacing at Tamara Paisley, resident ballet goddess. Perfect feet, the body of Sylvie Guillem, and 180 turnout since birth. She's cool, sophisticated, intriguingly aloof. The definition of poised. And so of course, we all can't help but secretly hate her.

"She's not even doing anything, she's just sitting on the floor," I say to her, "Oh my God, Vi stop giving her the death glare, Jesus!"

She reluctantly brings her eyes back to me, making a face. Tamara declined the Vaganova Ballet Academy, in Russia. It's the most famous ballet academy and produces some of Russia's most valued dancers. And of course Tamara being Tamara, she declined Vaganova's offer to continue studying here. Because she's just that freaking loyal.




Our head slowly turn to the doorway. Miss Obratzova stands tall, cane in hand, stockings and black heels pulling her look together. Her platinum hair is tied into a tight chignon, just about as tight as the purse of her red stained lips. She stands perfectly still, perfectly silent, reptilian like eyes gliding torturously slow across each one of us. It's like already at the very start of the year, she's telling us who will make it through. And who will not. Silvie stands attentively at the barre, even Vi standing a little bit straighter. I'm just trying my best not to look awkward.

She smiles knowingly as she walks to wards the front of the room. And in that moment, all of us were together. Even through all the backstage fighting, and the jealously, and glass in the pointe of shoes of the year to come, we were together. We'd worked for this our whole lives, and though finally we were being silently pitted against each other, we'd made it this far. As one.

Once she's reached the front of the room she turns, black dress rippling as she does.

"Good evening, ladies," she speaks in her thick Russian accent. She taps her cane twice on the wooden floor, signaling to Luchi, our piano player.

"Let the games begin, girls. Udachi. An adagio, if you please, Luchi."


Back at the dorms, I change out of my tights and uniform black leotard into an old Christmas sweater and my dad's huge flannel pajama pants. Vi's in her grease sweats again, a giant bag of Wotsits in her hand, looking like a slacker on the old forest green couch we snuck in from a yard sale. I snatch them from her possessive hand and shove a handful into my mouth. She makes an annoyed sound and I roll my eyes, handing them back as I plop down. Britain and Ireland's Next Top Model is playing on my labtop, which is set on the small coffee table in front of us, while Vi stuffs her face with the cheesy, orange puffs.

Just as we reach for another handful, an accusing voice sounds.

"What are you doing?!" Silvie questions from behind us. Vi shakes her head knowingly as she grins to herself, and I slowly turn to her like a child caught stealing cookies. Her blonde eyebrows are knitted together angrily, arms crossed against her bony chest.

Vi keeps her eyes glued to the TV, and holds the bag out to Silvie.

"Want some?" she asks, glancing at me mischieviously.

"Do I want some? Do I WANT SOME?!"

Vi bites her lip, trying not to laugh.

"Do you--Ava stop eating them!"

I groan and slump back into the couch dramatically, letting the bag go.

"Oh come on! It's a bag of cheesy puffs not acid hits," I almost yell at her.

"It might as well be! Do you know how much rubbish is in those things?"

From the look on her face, you'd think she was seeing someone drinking a gallon of curdled milk.

"Can you please just sit down and watch with us? This is the easiest it's gonna be all year, guys, so let's just enjoy it and be gross. We can eat salad tomorrow," I plead, looking up at Silvie from behind the couch. She rolls her eyes, but pads around and plops down with us, me in the middle. As soon as I'm settled back in, I hear her scribbling on a paper. I look over to see her simultaneously writing something down in a notebook and reading a copy of 'Romeo and Juliet'. Homework.

Which I should probably get started on. Ugh. Guess that scratches out starting this year off easy. I sigh, pushing off the couch and travel heavily to where I dropped my bag down by the bed. I crouch down to unzip it an--

"What the fuck?"

The words slip out of my mouth without thought. This is not my bag.

Vi perks up like a little dog, "What?" she calls.

"I think I accidentally switched bags with somebody," I reply, brow furrowed as I sift through the bag, looking for a name or a phone. It's been roughed up obviously, dirty and dotted with tiny rips in the black canvas.

"What's in it? Maybe you'll recognize the stuff inside," Silvie offers hopefully

"Key ring," I call back as I pull things out, "crappy folder, and--"

I catch my breath. A black jean jacket.

The same one he was wearing when he walked in the room. Harry.

Oh hell no.


I startle, clutching the jacket behind my back on the floor. Vi stands over me, brow furrowed and arms crossed. She knows something's up.


"It's nothing," I squeak. If either of them found out it would be a disaster. Silvie would probably douse it in holy water and try to stuff a bible inside, and Vi would likely write her number all over it.

She sighs and makes like she turning around before hurling herself at me.

We wrestle with each other like children in the mud.

"What the fuck are you doing?" I yell at her through gritted teeth. I struggle to grab onto the bag to get it out of her reach, but she's too quick.

"Aha!" She pops off the floor holding the bag as she runs to the couch, clutching the jacket just under it. I can tell when she slows her pace and her eyes widen and her jaw unhinges that I am doomed.

Sylvie gasps. I groan. Vi screams.

"No fucking way, you have his bag?! Why didn't you tell me right away?"

"Um, because of this!," I shout at her, "I know you way too well, Vi, you're gonna do something stupid."

"Ava, please," she lectures me, sarcastically, "You're looking at this totally wrong. Allow me to take advantage of the gift the Gods have bestowed upon us."

"Are you kidding me?! They're arsonists, Violet. They burn crap!"

"Oh come on, guys this stuff is gold!," Vi persuades, resembling a fox as she prowls around me and Sylvie, "This is how we get a leg up on the new kids!"

"Maybe she's right," Silvie pipes up quietly beside me.

"You're agreeing with her?!" I almost scream at her, filled with disbelief.

"Well, I dunno, I mean--they could have dangerous weapons in their bags. We'll probably be doing the school a favor," she rationalizes, apologetically, too me. Vi bounds like an excited little puppy to Silvie.

"See, Ava? Even the smart one agree with me."

I pinch the bridge of my nose. Why do I feel like a babysitter?

"Don't you want to know a little bit about them? Let's just look inside, just a tiny little peek, please?" She clasps her hands together. She's going to look through it anyway... No, no, no, I can't get sucked in.

"No, Vi, it's wrong. And way too risky," I say, shaking my head at her, and she huffs in anger. I outstretch my hand to her.

"Hand it over," I demand as authoritatively as I can in plaid pajama pants. But she stands her ground.

"Vi?" I trail off, raising my eyebrows in impatience.

"Ava?," she retorts innocently. Her knuckles tighten around the items in her hands, and that childlike grin spread across her face.

"Vi, don't you dare--"

My eyes widen to the size of golf balls when she sprints in a rush of red hair out the white door.


I know it literally takes me an ice age to update but idk this is getting more reads... do you guys want longer chapters with longer updates, or shorter chapters with faster updates..?

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