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?


2. Chapter 2

"Try not to get too drunk, Av's!"

Violet calls over her shoulder as she walks off to the Science building, me going in the opposite direction. It's only 6:10, and class starts at 6:15. I have time. The sun is finally out, though it's hard to really classify it that way though, since it's cold year round here. I sit down at the top of the short walk of stairs leading into my building.

I have Mr. Harvard for first period English. And according to Vi he is "one mad motherfucker". I stare down at my now crumpled up schedule, the ink starting to blur from the sweat on my hands. This year is not going to be easy. Ballet classes are going to be even more full on than ever--if that's even possible--and academic's will be just the same. Class hasn't even started yet and I'm already freaking out. I shake it off, and walk up a few stairs and into the English and Visual Art building. Reluctantly, I start to count the doors in the building until I find my room number: 156. I exhale deeply, and---


What the hell? I look up to see a metal shopping cart coming my way.

"Shit!" I curse, jumping away from the onslaught just in time. There are two guys on the cart, one in a denim jacket, with spiky-ish blonde hair and a boyish face. He smiles like a 4 year old as he dangles his legs out of the cart. The boy pushing is completely opposite. His skin tone is darker than the blonde one's, and dark lines of tattoos peak out from under his plaid button up. A cigarette hangs from his mouth. They slow down a few feet from me and the door. I'm completely dumbfounded.

"Sorry about that," the blonde one laughs as he awkwardly climbs out of the cart. By his accent, I can tell he's Irish. The other guy is still laughing as he pushes the cart behind a plastic looking plant. I hear heavy footsteps behind me, and turn to see a tall boy with coffee brown eyes running towards us.

"What the fuck, you guys!" he yells at the two boys in front of me, though out of breath, "Jesus, you could've ran her--"
He raises his widened eyes to me, heavy breathing stilled, his body frozen.


They stand guardedly by the cart, eyes silently trained fiercely on me. They don't say anything, but their eyes seem to be warning me. Of what, I'm not completely sure. I feel scared and uncomfortable under their scathing gazes. They look like--animals. Scared, and cautious, but at the same time almost feral. Like they're trying to predict what I'm going to do. And strike before I do it. The dark haired one steps forward slightly, hunched over.

"Just go, okay? Run to Headmistress if you like. We don't care.We've been through enough of this schools shit." My lips part from confusion.

"What the hell are you talking about?"

The taller one steps forward tentatively, looking just as confused as me, "Do you--wait, are you new? I don't remember seeing you first year."

I look them over slowly. Crossing my arms I respond, "I came second year. Why?"

Realization washes over their faces, and the tension lifts, the smile returning on the blonde ones face.

"Sorry it's just last--"

The black haired one nudges him with his elbow, and shakes his head. 
"Ah, its a bit of a long story. I'm Niall," the blonde laughs, uncomfortably "this is Zayn," he gesture's to the cart pusher, who looks up and smiles, takes a drag, and bows slightly.

"Um--yeah, hi," he utters. Niall rolls his eyes, "And that's Liam." He points to the taller one who offers a peace sign towards us. Niall looks back to me, "We' here. At least this year we are."

"Clearly," I choke out. They all laugh this time.

I ask, "And you chose to start 11th grade with a shopping cart ride because..."

"Well," Zayn starts, "It's a bit of a pre-Maths ritual between me and Niall here. We ride a trolley around campus and the first person we run over is automatically a friend of ours."
I can tell he's not finished.
And he's not, "But the first guy we saw screwed my mate Louis's girl, so you were second best." Niall punches him on the shoulder.
"C'mon, don't be an arse," Liam whispers surreptitiously.

"It's fine," I assure. But I'm not finished either, "I really try not to take insults from idiots seriously."

Niall cups his hands around his mouth next to Zayn, saying 'OHH' in a way-to-deep-for-his-face voice. Zayn's closes his eyes and chuckles quietly as Liam keels over laughing, "See?" Zayn says, "She can take it, American's are cool about that shit."

"Oh yeah, you are American huh?" Niall comments, cocking his head with that funny little half smile. Liam starts to laugh, "Yeah, what'd you call the trolley again? cart?"

I blush. "Why does everyone in this country give me that same little smile when they find that I'm American?" I fume, "Ugh, yes I am." Zayn's smiling wider now.

"I really have to get to class now, so if you---"

"Wait wait wait," Liam says frantically, grabbing a paper from his jeans pocket, a schedule.

"We all have Maths together this morning. Can you tell me where this room is?" He leans in while pointing to the paper: Room 214. Zayn and Niall groan. I smile. I know exactly where that is. But that doesn't mean I'm going to tell them.

"Yeah, so it's two stories up, you'll take a left and you'll get into this huge hallway, there's like 3 doors, take the middle one and you're good to go," I say with a mischievous smile. The room is in an entirely different building. I'm not an asshole, but we don't get new people too often. It's fun to yank peoples chains sometimes.

"Sweet. Thank you so much, you saved our lives. Alright, let's go. See you around!," Liam says, grinning. They start up the stairs a few meters away. I turn to the door of my classroom, preparing to go.

"Hey!" I turn to see them just at the top of the stairs, "What's your name, again?" Niall calls down.

I smile a little. No one ever asks me my name. "Ava," I call out simply.

Niall beams, "See you, Ava!" Zayn gives another small wave, and they walk on.

I finally turn to the door, slowly. I guess class can't be too bad. And besides, with everything that's going to be happening this year, classes are going to whiz by. It'll be over before I know it. I turn the handle, and walk in.

"So you'll need to get this signed by a superior by---Oh finally, for chrissake Miss Talbot, already late on the first day?," Mr. Harvard scolds dully from under his thick, brown glasses, standing at the front of the room before a vast and cloudy chalkboard as he passes a bout of papers down each row. He appears to be wearing a pair of plaid pajama pants, with a dress shirt and black suit jacket on top, a neat bow tie at his neck.

His voice pulls me out of my confused state, "Really Ava, I thought dance majors were meant to be punctual," he lectures me, bushy black eyebrows raising as he pops the 'p'.

"Sorry, Mr. Harvard," I say as I close the door behind me. He sighs and shakes his head, and continues issuing instructions to the class. I scan the room for a seat to take, finding one behind a hazel eyed boy in a red and white striped t-shirt, with brown hair, and remarkably sharp features. I've never seen him before, I muse. I walk over briskly and take a seat, setting my bag down beside me on the floor.

"Now," he begins, parading himself at the front of the room, with the air of a orchestra conductor adressing his followers ,"I know that about 99.9% of the crap for brains people here couldn't, in your own words, give less of a shit about this class. But frankly, I don't care," Mr. Harvard lazily explains. He strolls over to his desk, to hunch over it, snatching a bottle wrapped in a paper bag. He takes a swig, and and his face contorts and he struggles to keep whatever it is down. He shakes his head. Hits his face, a bit. He suceeds, accenting his victory with a quiet, "Ahhh". 

He's about to yell even louder when the door suddenly opens. A tall curly haired guy in a white t-shirt and dark jeans appears in the doorway. His muscular arms are littered in black tattoos. The entire rooms seems to gasp collectively as he enters, whispers erupting around the room.

"Oh. My. God. He's back, too," I hear the girl next to me whisper dramatically to another. The class animates with movement, people turning and leaning to whisper to each other. His eyes drag lazily over the class, pink lip between his teeth. He knows it's him who's doing this, he just...doesn't care. 

"Idiots," the boy in front of me mutters angrily.

"Settle down, settle down!" Mr. Harvard bellows, waving his hand around like a madman. "I have a massive fucking migraine and you're pre-pubescant voices are just making it worse. Take a seat, Styles. A dance and music major late in one sitting, how multicultural of you both. In fact you'll take the seat diagonal of her, over by Tomlinson."

He nods, still not seeming to notice the sea of hungry eyes following his every move. He makes his way over to the boy in front of me, and slouches into the seat next to him, and they start talking quietly.

"As I was saying, I'm the authority in this godforsaken room, and you will listen to me and do what I say. Or I can fail you. Okay?"

He takes a swig. Okay.

Like Vi said, 'mad motherfucker'.

"Oh, bollocks," Mr. Harvard groans loudly as the sun starts to peek through the blinds of the room. His hangover is obnoxious.

He stumbles back to his seat, scratching as the salt and pepper scruff on his face, "Only because its the first day, I'll give you this class period to screw around and talk, but you can't leave. Just please, have some respect and leave me in peace," he states. A chorus of 'Yes!'s can be heard all around the room from the students, and a cacophony of gossip, and conversation soon ensues. He sits down in his black swivel chair, propping his pink flip flop clad feet up on the desk, one hand behind his head, the other lifting the paper bag up to his mouth. How is he still drinking whatever is in there? How is he even awake, for that matter?

The boy in front of me turns around in his seat to hand me a paper, the syllabus, looking annoyed. I give a slight smile. Surprisingly, he returns it.


I give Mr. Harvard a look.

The boy laughs, and looks back at Mr. Harvard who is now repeatedly falling asleep, head lolling back, only to wake up again.

"Yeah, he's a bit of a trip." I smile in response.

"I'm Louis, by the way," he tells me. Wait...where have I heard that name before?

I lean forward, "Your name's Louis?", I inquire. He nods his head slowly, confused by my interest.

"I think I might've met some guys before who said they knew you." I smile to myself, recalling the incident.

"Oh God," he laughs, "Which ones?"

"Niall, Zayn, and Liam?"

"Ah, the worst of the bunch. Well, I trust they were on their best behavior."

I scoff, "I mean, they almost ran me over with a shopping cart, but other than that they were pretty cool."

Louis bursts out in a fit of laughter at this, and I laugh along with him,"You're all new?"

The warm and friendly vibe I got from him earlier suddenly dissipates as his light eyes darken, shadowing from the frown on his face. He looks around, challenging the huddled and whispering onlookers who can't seem to keep their eyes away from our corner.

"You don't know who we are. Do you." It's more of a statement than a question.

"Does it have to do with why everyone is staring?" I ask quietly, nervous under the eyes of 33 people who have never given me a second glance. The smile returns, and I relax.

"Only slightly," he jokes. He waves his arm like he's pushing the thought aside.

"It's a story for another time." I decide not to push it, for now at least. The look he gave me was the same his friends wore when they first saw me. Primal. Like a cornered animal. No where to go, but ready to strike. That is, if you were to get to close. 

"To answer your question, yeah all new music majors, and of course best mates," he utters breezily, "Including Haz over here." He throws his pencil at the curly haired boy I saw earlier. He's leaning back in his chair, eyes closed and his large hands behind his head, until the pencil hits him and his head comes up sharply. I can finally see his eyes up close: a smooth green, with small flecks of hazel in them. He's beautiful.

I mean they're beautiful. His eyes are beautiful, is what I meant. They're nice. 

He brings his pink tongue between his teeth in concentration as he throws it back at him, the two laughing at each other.

"Fuck off," he teases Louis, his voice deep and velvety. He turns around to look at me, and my blood turns cold. His stare is intense, green eyes darkening significantly. Look away. Look away. Look away.

"Aren't you supposed to cower in fear right about now?" he asks darkly not taking his eyes from mine. What?

"I--why--," I stutter, frozen in my seat. His eyes still challenge me.

"You wanna finish that sentence, ?," he snickers, a single eyebrow raised.

"I--I don't know you."

And he gives me the most cruel look I've ever been given. A look that says, 'You must think I'm really stupid to try pulling that one'. Scoffing, he turns to the board, inked arms crossed tightly.

"Bullshit," he spits.


Papers are shoved into binders, as people shove out of their metal seats trying to get out the door as quick as possible. Mr. Harvard groans like a tortured troll at the shrill chime of the dismissal bell, but no one pays any attention. I stand, people streaming out of the room all around me, and look back to the door to Louis and that boy, but they're lost in the crowd. Mr. Harvard's snores are muffled from under his desk chair as I slide my bag across my shoulders, and leave. 

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