Lyrical: Chapter 29


Pen

“River, Pen, thank you. I appreciate you working together on such short notice,” Madame Tuillard says, giving us a false smile that doesn’t meet her eyes.

She looks royally pissed off. I don’t blame her. Separately, River and I are great dancers, but together? Not so fucking much. It’s blatantly clear we don’t fit. He’s a beautiful dancer, and I’m so much better at ballet than I ever was, but there’s no chemistry between us.

She knows it, and so do the rest of us.

Xeno would too if he actually fucking bothered to turn up to the rehearsal. Fuck knows where he is, but Madame Tuillard hasn’t even questioned the fact he’s not here. So either she already knows why he’s missing or doesn’t care. Across the other side of the studio, York and Zayn are talking in quiet whispers, glancing over at me every now and then. Hopefully they’re discussing how to persuade Dax to take me back as his dance partner because seriously, this is fucking ridiculous. Dax doesn’t fit with Tiffany any more than I do with River.

Regardless of that very obvious fact, Dax is apparently riveted by Tiffany as she prattles on about something to him and Sophie. He avoided eye contact with me the whole evening. Even when I was dancing with River, he kept his gaze fixed firmly on the dancefloor. He certainly hasn’t had the balls to look me in the eyes at any point so far this evening. I never took him for a coward. Maybe I really don’t know him at all.

“We got this, Pen,” River says, wrapping a friendly arm around my shoulder as we take a seat on the bench. He’s been so enthusiastic, and has worked hard every time we’ve gotten together to practice, but he’s got to know that this isn’t working. Then again, he never wanted to dance with Tiffany, so I guess dancing with me is a welcome relief. I don’t fucking blame him. No one in their right mind wants to dance with that bitch. I glance over at Dax, and he grins at Tiffany when she places her hand on his bicep. Pressing my eyes shut, I draw in a deep breath. Keep your head, Pen.

Clancy plonks herself down between me and River, giving me a nudge. “Hey, you’re doing great. That was wicked,” she says, lying through her teeth. I roll my head to the side and meet her gaze. “It was—” she protests under her breath when I raise my brows at her.

“We just need to rehearse some more,” River says from behind Clancy. He looks so hopeful that all I can do is smile.

“Sure, I can do that.”

“Dax and Tiffany. You’re up next,” Madame Tuillard says, looking at Dax and cocking a brow.

“Fuck,” I mutter under my breath. I’d rather rip my own eyes out with a rusty spoon than watch them dance together. Clancy grabs my hand, giving it a supportive squeeze.

“Duncan, given you felt so strongly about allowing these two to dance together I think it’s only right that you actually pay attention when they do.” Madame Tuillard folds her arms across her chest, and glares at D-Neath. He looks up from his mobile phone, distracted. Fucking arsehole couldn’t give two shits about the end of year performance. If he did, he would’ve said no to Dax’s request. By the look on Madame Tuillard’s face, she’s beginning to understand that too.

“Of course,” he grins, giving her his best, most dazzling smile. Then his phone rings, and his smile drops when he looks at the caller ID.

“Duncan—” she warns.

“I apologise,” he replies insincerely, “I need to take this call; it’s business.” He gets up and strides from the room, leaving her bristling with anger.

“She needs to throw his arse to the curb,” Clancy says under her breath. “The guy’s a dicknugget.”

“I couldn’t agree more.”

“I wonder who’s on the phone…” she muses, her Clancy-radar going off. I swear, my best friend should’ve been a cop or something because she sure has a knack at sniffing out trouble.

“I’ve no idea, and I really don’t give a shit,” I lie. Truth is, I’m wondering that too. “Do you think Tuillard would mind if I took a quick five-minute toilet break? I really don’t want to have to sit through watching Dax and Tiffany dance together.” I mean, it’s not a complete lie, I don’t want to have to watch those two dance together, but I need a reason to leave the studio so I can go spy on D-Neath.

“Right now, I think she feels so guilty about allowing D-Neath to override her decision that she’ll let you do just about anything,” Clancy says.

Dax and Tiffany walk into the centre of the studio, and Tiffany flashes me a grin. I stand abruptly, refusing to look at either of them. “Madame Tuillard, would you mind if I—”

“Go,” she waves me away before I’ve even had a chance to finish my sentence.

“Thank you, I won’t be long. I just need to use the toilet.”

I don’t look at York or Zayn as I make a quick exit, though I’m fully aware of them watching me. Jogging down the empty hallway, I pass the ladies toilet, following the sound of D-Neath’s voice. I find him standing at the far end of the hallway, far enough away to not be overheard by anyone. He’s looking out of the window onto the street below. Tucking myself at the end of a row of lockers nearby, I listen.

“That’s only a couple of months away. I’m not ready to accept the shipment yet. I need to fix up my end first, ensure it’s watertight.” he says, annoyance clear in his voice. Whoever’s on the other end must be pissed off at his response because he tones down the attitude a little after that. “I just need a little more time to smooth everything out my end. There are a lot of things that need to be put in place to ensure this runs efficiently, that’s all. I’ve got this. Trust me, you did the right thing coming to me.” There’s a few seconds of D-Neath listening to someone clearly giving him shit, then he clicks off the call. “Fuck!” he snaps, slamming his fist against the wall.

“Everything alright, Duncan?”

“Motherfuck!” I hiss under my breath, too busy listening in on D-Neath’s conversation that I almost jump out of my skin when Xeno steps out of a door on the other side of the corridor. He glances my way, but doesn’t let on to D-Neath that I’m hiding here.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

“Yeah, I’m good. Just some business that needs sorting. What’s up with you though, man? We ain’t had a chance to catch up lately. Is everything cool?”

“Aside from one of the female students having a bit of an unhealthy obsession with me, I’m good.” Xeno side-eyes me again, and I see something close to amusement flash across his face.

“Is that so?” D-Neath laughs.

“Yep, tiny little thing. She pops up every now and then like some creepy fucking stalker.”

D-Neath laughs, and I scowl. I’m not his damn stalker, the big-headed, egotistical bastard.

“She hot?”

“She’s not really my type. Though I’ve heard on the grapevine she’s pretty free with her lovin’, if you know what I mean.”

My jaw grits and I swear to fuck the grinding of my teeth is loud enough to give me away.

“You know the students here are all perfectly legal… Maybe you should try out the goods before you pass her up.” D-Neath laughs and Xeno smiles.

“Nah, I’m not into second-hand goods.”

Second-hand goods?! The fucking prick. I clench my fist, glaring daggers at Xeno. His lip quivers with amusement. If I didn’t have to keep myself hidden, I’d be slapping the smile off his stupid fucking face.

“Fair enough. Well, I’d better get back to rehearsals, otherwise my woman will chop my bollocks off. I’m already in her bad books.”

“Yeah? Maybe I can help with that. That thing we discussed the other day, you got a minute to go over the details?”

D-Neath pauses for a moment. “You know what, now might be the perfect time. Might give the Missus time to calm the fuck down.”

“That bad?”

D-Neath scoffs, and it makes my blood boil at the dismissive sound. “She’s pissed that I gave Dax the go ahead to change dance partners. I don’t see what the big fucking deal is anyway. Pretty sure the leggy ballet dancer is a way better match than that short, snappy bitch.”

Short, snappy bitch? What an arsehole.

“Pen,” Xeno grunts.

“What?”

“Her name’s Pen.” He’s glaring at D-Neath now, and his reaction throws me because just a minute ago he was talking smack about me too. I stare at him, trying to figure out what’s going on in his head, but he keeps his gaze fixed firmly on D-Neath.

“Yeah, that’s the one. She caught your eye or something?” D-Neath asks, chuckling.

He steps towards Xeno, and my heart nearly fucking bursts out of my chest as I press my back up against the locker. If D-Neath realises I’ve been standing here listening to his conversation, I’m in big fucking trouble.

“Come on, let’s talk shop. You know me, haven’t got time for that shit.” Xeno grins, dropping the angry glare and wrapping his arm around D-Neath’s shoulder. He steers him into the room he just stepped out of. I breathe out a sigh of relief, and as the door closes Xeno’s green eyes meet mine.

“Go,” he mouths, flicking his gaze along the corridor.

I nod my head, not needing to be told twice. It’s only when I reach the studio that I realise, despite his bullshit digs, Xeno just covered for me when he could just as easily have thrown me under the bus. The question is why?


“So, Pen, you’re gonna need to spill. I’m so done waiting to hear all the juicy details,” Clancy side-eyes me during lunch at the local park the following day. I’m eating a cheese and tomato sandwich brought from home whilst she’s digging into a Greek Salad courtesy of the local deli. “Those boys were about to burst a blood vessel yesterday. Who was that dude you were with?”

I place my half-eaten sandwich on my lap and gulp back a mouthful of water. “That was Beast.”

“Beast? As in Beauty and the Beast?”

“As in, I’m going to fuck you up in a cage, Beast. He’s a fighter at Tales, an underground fight club owned by a woman named Grim who happens to be Beast’s girlfriend.”

“Okaaay, and why in the fuck were you with him? Are you sleeping with him? Fuck, you are, aren’t you? I was totally right.”

“I’m not fucking him, Clancy,” I say, rolling my eyes. “Girl, seriously, that is not a man I would want to fuck, let alone fuck with. Not to mention his girlfriend, Grim, is not someone you’d want to cross.”

“Grim?” She wrinkles her nose at the name.

“Yep.”

“Right, well shit. Then why were you in the car with him and why were York and Zayn so fucking pissed about it?”

“I’ve got a new job at Grim’s club. I’m no longer working at Rocks.”

“At her fight club? What are you, a ring girl?”

“Nope. I’m going to be dancing at the club. Grim has hired me to dance with her other… dancers.” I refuse to call them strippers, not because I dislike the term but because in my eyes they are dancers.

“In a fight club?” Clancy looks confused. I mean, if the shoe were on the other foot I would be too.

“Yep. She’s trying to broaden out into a different kind of entertainment. Balance the fighting with dancing.”

“Well, shit. How did you get that gig? More to the point, why the fuck haven’t you told me about this before now? You’re such a secret squirrel.” She grins, nudging me with her shoulder to show me there are no hard feelings.

“Zayn, he put in a good word,” I lie.

“Then why was he so pissed about you being in the car with Beast?”

“A misunderstanding, mainly, but also because Dax is fighting Beast at Tales. On my first night on the job, actually. Dax and Beast don’t get on… At all.” I pull a face.

“Shut the front door!” Clancy chokes on her salad. “Dax is going head-to-head with that beast of a man in an underground fight club! Will it be filled with criminals?”

“Yeah, lots of them.”

“Well, shit. I’m gonna need front row tickets. Bitch, I can’t believe you didn’t tell me about this sooner! This is gold!” she laughs gleefully. “Give me a badass gangster any fucking day.”

“Clancy, they’re dangerous people.”

“I know. Such a fucking turn-on.”

“I knew I shouldn’t have told you a damn thing,” I say, shaking my head.

“Fuck that. Now, what have I got to do to get tickets?”

“It’s invite only, Clancy.”

“So, invite me!” She grins widely.

“I work there. I don’t have that kind of sway.”

“Figure it out because I’m coming, preferably on some badass gangster’s cock!”

“Oh, sweet Jesus.”

Clancy bursts out laughing, and I can’t help but smile. Despite that, there isn’t a chance in hell I’m getting her tickets to attend. I do not need another person I care about mixed up in that world.

No. Fucking. Way.

“So, your birthday. I never got a chance to tell you what I had planned…” I begin, grinning in earnest now, but my grin fades when she winces, pulling a face.

“About that…”

“What?”

“I know you said you had something cool planned, and I really, really appreciate it, but I was kind of hoping we could check out this new club in the West End…”

“A new club in the West End…?” I repeat.

“Yeah. It sounds really fucking cool. My dad knows the owner. He can get me, you, and River in for free, all expenses paid as my birthday treat. You only get to leave the teenage years behind once, right? I figured we all deserved this.”

“Sure, of course.” I shrug off the stupid feeling of unworthiness and plaster a smile on my face. Clancy grimaces and slings her arm around my shoulder.

“Oh God, I’m so sorry, Pen. I’m such a bitch for even suggesting we do something else. Let’s do what you had planned.”

She looks so disappointed that I shake off my feelings of inadequacy and put them to the side. To be honest, what I had planned was shit anyway. A homemade curry, a few bottles of wine and turning one of the studios at the Academy into a private club for three wasn’t exactly what she had in mind.

“Fuck, seriously. My plan was shit in comparison. I can’t believe I even thought it was a good idea.”

“You sure?”

“Yep,” I nod my head. “I’m absolutely positive. A night out all expenses paid sounds fucking perfect actually. I could use the chance to let my hair down.”

She grins, squeezing me tightly in a hug before smacking a kiss on my cheek. “What would I do without you, eh?”

“Probably end up in some dodgy swing club in a sleazy part of town, no doubt.” I wink, teasing her. She cocks her head then sucks on her fork provocatively.

“Yeah, you’re damn right, and I’d fucking enjoy it too.”

“You’re intolerable, do you know that?” I giggle. “Such a saucy, little minx.”

“Pot, kettle, black,” she retorts winking, and my cheeks flush. “By the way, don’t think I’ve forgotten about your little smoochy-smoochy session with York, girl.”

“There’s me thinking it’d slipped your mind,” I joke.

“See, what I really want to know is if he can make you come without touching you? Are the rumours true, Pen Scott?” she asks, putting on a serious interviewing voice and holding her fork up as a pretend microphone.

“A lady never tells.”

“Because we all know that’s a skill that no man has had, ever. Though those vibrations are something else, I’ll give him that.”

I burst out laughing, shoving her on the arm. “He really does tap that floor hard, doesn’t he?”

“More like tap that ass.”

We burst into a fit of giggles, and it feels really good to just hang out with Clancy and laugh like this. It’s been a while since I’ve felt relaxed enough to do that.

“So, what did you have planned for my birthday?” she asks a few minutes later as we head back to the Academy. I tell her about my shitty plan and we both end up laughing hysterically. “Oh God, Pen. I love you, girl, I really, really do. We’ll do the curry night another time, yeah?”

“Yeah,” I reply, linking arms with her.

As we walk up the steps of the Academy, I hold onto this moment of happiness knowing that these days they’re few and far between.

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