I do not own any of the songs that I mentioned in this story. All songs go to their rightful owners.
Eighteen year old Grace Johnson was pacing back and forth behind the heavily curtained stage. Being at the academy felt so surreal. It was like all of her dreams were coming true, even if she wasn't ensured a spot yet. She could easily remember just two years ago when she practically begged her parents to allow her to tour the Academy. It took a lot of convincing, but when she finally got there it was all worth it. As she looked around she realized that the place hadn't changed since she last saw it. The heavy curtains were a royal purple, and the carpets were a rich red. The finely painted walls looked like they were made of gold, and the lights held significant designs that cost more money than Grace had in her bank account. She looked around at the dancers who were warming up and she knew that she should be doing the same. Sadly, her stomach wouldn't allow her to. Tiny butterflies had wormed their way in there, and they wouldn't come out until she knew what the results were.
CDA was the hardest academy to get accepted to in all of Oakland, California. She could imagine the judges eyeing her skeptically as she danced in front of them. The light would fall on her and she would swallow the large lump in her throat as she started to dance. She would do a series of leaps and turns and everything would go well until she slipped. The judges would look at her in shock. They'd send her away immediately and all of it would be caught on camera somehow. Before she could blink she'd become the talk of newspapers and magazines. She'd go back to Los Angeles and her dad would tell her what he so badly wanted to tell her before even coming, "You're a failure Grace. Now if you would have listened to me and got a real job out here like I told you to, you wouldn't have to worry about money right now. You have a lot of thanking me to do for letting you inside my house."
The familiar voice pulled her from her terrible day dream. She turned to see that it was her friend Lindsay. She'd known Lindsay for a whole two years now, and she had already become closer to her than some of the people that she had grown up with. She met her during her first tour of the academy at seventeen. She felt her throat tighten, and a wide smile fall onto her lips. She couldn't breathe for a second as she ran to hug her.
"Lindsay! Oh my gosh you're here!"
Lindsay laughed as she returned Grace's hug, "Breathe Grace...breathe."
Grace inhaled and then exhaled deeply as she let go of her, "Sorry, it's just been so long and right when I needed someone-"
Lindsay placed her hands on both of her shoulders as her light blue eyes poured into Grace's brown ones, "You're. Going. To. Be. Fine." She spoke slowly, as if to reassure Grace, but she could tell that Grace wasn't convinced.
"Just go out there and dance your heart out. You're an amazing dancer Grace."
"I just...I'm putting so much on the line here. If I don't get in my dad-"
"You just worry about doing your best. Remember the Big Man upstairs and you'll be fine. He's much more powerful than your dad," Lindsay winked and Grace found herself laughing at this.
Lindsay was right, but then again when wasn't she right? Grace thought. She could feel it in her every being that there was a chance for her today. She had prayed to God about this for many nights and she felt like she was going on the right path. God had already helped her so much in life. When she felt like she had nothing in this world, he showed her a path that led to a church where she started living a new life - a spiritual life. When she thought of this, her dad seemed so insignificant that she had to smile.
"I have to warm up Lindsay, but I'll talk to you later." She hugged her friend again and Lindsay walked off.
She barely had time to stretch before her number was called up. They would start off dancing in a group, and then the last five people left would be able to stay at the academy. If they did happen to get in, they would be performing in competitions regularly like any dance academy, but the ones that were specially chosen would be joining a competitive dance team, in which they would make a name for themselves before they got out of college. The problem was that the auditions were all improv - something that she had never really been comfortable with. She didn't know what dance genre they would throw at her, and she was nervous because of that. "Help me God...no matter what happens. Whether I go home tonight or not, just help me..." The stakes were high, and she had something to prove as she walked in a straight line with the rest of the group and tried to look as confident as the girls in front of her.
The spotlight was on all of the girls and the light was so blinding that Grace struggled to keep her eyes open. She looked around at the girls and she couldn't help but notice that she was out of place. Everyone was tall, with fair skin, and pretty blonde hair. They had to be at least 5'7, and Grace was only 5'4. Her skin was much darker than these girls. Her hair was a chocolate brown, with naturally light brown streaks, and her eyes matched the color of her hair. The size of these girls legs looked like tooth picks and she was sure that if she put it next to hers, she would look like she had thunder thighs. She drew in a deep breath and forced herself to stop analyzing them as the auditions began.
"Welcome to CDA's annual dance try outs. These try outs are strictly freestyle. We want to see what you guys can bring to the table. We will play a variety of songs and we will constantly change the songs without warning. You will have to improvise, as well as be quick on your feet. Be sure to use your whole body, and make sure that you are noticed. If you can't keep up you will immediately exit the stage, pack your belongings, and leave. A buzzard will go off and we will call out your number if we choose for you to leave. Is everyone clear on the instructions?" Mrs. Williams looked at everyone critically and they nodded.
Mrs. Williams was the founder of CDA. She was a rather strict and harsh instructor, and she had a very skeptical eye. She had her favorites, but it was hard to put yourself into that category. When it came to Mrs. Williams she wanted the traditional dancer. She wanted the girl with the long legs and the beautiful height, and the solemn face. Grace had none of those aspects, and that only made her even more nervous.
Next to her was her husband George Williams, who was the co-founder of the academy. He seemed nice in comparison to his wife, and many people wondered how they got together. Perhaps it was Mrs. Williams beauty. Even with her age she still had these gorgeous blue eyes and good amount of hair.
"Usually I would be the one making most of the calls but...I have a special guest that has decided to step up to the plate and help determine who will make it this year." Her thin lips that were coated with an ugly color of lipstick curved upward into a smile. She forced the person next to her to stand up and he rolled his eyes, "This is my son, Aaron Williams. He is a very well known dancer and has been in various movies, and he has won quite a large amount of competitions. He will pick five people out of the first group who will continue their stay here."
"Yup, what she said," he stated in a careless tone. He looked across the stage at the group of girls. They all looked typical. CDA had a habit of going with the whole 'commercial look'. Aaron couldn't stand it. Even the guys looked traditional. Strong, with perfectly done hair and a serious face. "Gees, can't there be one dancer out here that's different?" As his eyes continued to scan the room he caught a glimpse of a girl who didn't look at all like the other dancers. His first thought was that she was a little short to be dancing. It was a known fact that short dancers had to work twice as hard. He knew from that moment on that she would be the one to watch for.
Grace vaguely noticed Mrs. William's son. She heard the two bickering about something but it was hard to tell exactly what because their voices were low. In all honesty she really didn't care. The thumping of her heart was too loud for her to hear what they were saying. She got an overall idea of what the man, Aaron looked like. His skin was pale like the dancers around her, and his hair was a spiky blonde.
"Alright well...Begin and good luck to you all," he stated formally.
The time read ten minutes. That was all the time that the dancers had to impress the judges and secure their position at CDA. The first song they played was Breath of Heaven by Amy Grant. Grace picked up the tune right away. She blocked out anything else that was on her mind, as well as the dancers around her. She was in her own little world now, which was the main reason that she liked dancing. She could just get lost in it and not think about anything else.
She couldn't tell if her leaps were high enough, or if her split was good enough. Her pirouettes could have been good or bad and she wouldn't have noticed. She was lost in the moment.
Aaron was watching her like a hawk. She seemed to be in her own world. She was the first one that he had seen that made real facial expressions, and not ones that just told you, "Oh this is a sad song", or "Oh this is how you should feel". No, these were real feelings that were pouring out from her heart. As a dance instructor he did notice her flaws. Her grande jete could have been better. She played it safe with her pirouettes, and if he could only get her to train with him her split could be so much better. It wasn't necessarily that the things were bad, but they were average. She didn't go above and beyond, expect for maybe in her face. Aaron didn't comment on it. No, he couldn't say anything yet, he had to watch her, to see if she was worth it.
The buzzard went off, and Grace was pulled out of her little world. Everyone grew still and Grace felt her breathing hitch. "Well it's been a nice ride." She could tell that Aaron Williams was about to call out the numbers. She looked at her own. It read: 777.
Aaron stood up then, looking over the group skeptically, "...778! Thank you for your time, please exit the stage."
Grace let out a large breath. "That was a close one."
The dancers all clapped for the skinny girl with the platinum blonde hair. She didn't even attempt to hold in her sobs until she exited the stage. She just ran off, crying, with her arms covering her face. Aaron acted like he didn't care and for some reason that angered and scared Grace all at the same time.
She didn't have time to think about it though. The music came back on. It suddenly switched to another song. May Angels Lead You In by Jimmy Eat World began to play, and once again she was lost in the music. This was actually one of her favorites songs. Her movements were the same, but her face was different. For some reason, this song had always hit home for her. She went in for a pirouette and she felt her heart stop when she fell out of it.
Aaron watched her as she danced. She was doing amazingly well this time, she was nailing almost everything, until her slip up on the pirouette. He watched, almost amused yet angered at the same time. It wasn't so much the fact that she had fallen out of her pirouette that got to him, but it was the fact that she completely changed her face. For a split second (and a split second was all one needed to kiss this opportunity goodbye), you could see the look of panic on her face. "Come on...you've got to do better at covering up your mistakes."
He still refused to call her out on it. He wanted to see more of it. Watching her dance was entertaining, and that was something that many of the other dancers lacked. The music stopped again and she managed to gain her composure back.
"...656, thank you so much for your time." Aaron nodded at the man politely, but before the man could take off, Mrs. Williams stood up.
Grace watched as the two whispered to each other once again. This time Grace could make out some of the things that they were saying.
"Did you notice how...fell out of her pirouette? That is a baby mistake, for weak dancers. We can't afford to have that if..."
Grace felt her heart sink. She knew that they were talking about her. She tried to keep a straight face, but she wondered if everyone could see through her mask right now. In the audience she noticed Lindsay sitting there, giving her two thumbs up. Her thumbs up didn't matter, it was over now. She knew she was going home. She turned her attention back to the Williams family. They were still talking.
"...Are you going to let me do this or not?"
"Hey this has to be agreed upon by everyone. Aaron I don't want-"
"I say she stays," his voice was deadly calm, but it acquired all of the seriousness in the world.
Mrs. Williams sighed, "...Thank you 656." He nodded and he left, heartbroken.
Grace couldn't help but feel guilty. "That should have been me Lord. I should have been the one to go."
But before she could think about it anymore, the music came back on.
More and more dancers were leaving and now there were only three girls and three boys. The next song that played was one that she was not familiar with. Misconception by Lecrae began to play and the that's when the music picked up. It was clearly hip hop, and Grace wasn't exactly the best hip hop dancer in the world.
Aaron watched her again, and this time he almost felt like laughing...Hip-hop definitely wasn't her thing. She was making minor mistakes and then his thought process suddenly turned serious. He knew that if he didn't call her name at this point, his parents would put him on blast. Besides, it was only fair. As a judge he knew that he couldn't be biased, but he wanted her to stay. She was a fresh new face that CDA needed. And that's when he was struck with an idea.
The music stopped again, and he stood up, "777."
Grace almost didn't realize that it was her number, until some girl nudged her and she stepped forward. She knew it was coming, but that didn't stop her eyes from getting watery, and her heart beat from increasing. She almost didn't want to look at him. There was a painful look on her face, and she couldn't take it away even if she tried.
Of course she was still sad, of course she was still awaiting her terrible fate, but now she was confused. Why would he call up another dancer? She thought.
Even Mr. and Mrs. Williams were looking at him as if he was crazy.
Mrs. Williams stood up and faked a smile, "What are you doing?" she spoke through her teeth.
He ignored her statement as he turned his attention to Grace and the other competitor.
"It's clear that hip hop is not your guys' strong suite...With that said I want to have a challenge right now to determine who will be the last person in the group of five to stay here. Who wants it the most?" He eyed the two of them but they didn't say anything, "Well I guess we will just have to see. When I say to start, I want you guys to do as many grand pirouettes as you can. Whoever falls out of there's first, leaves. Easy enough?"
The two dancers nodded slowly.
"Wait!" Mrs. Williams exclaimed, "Pardon my manners but this is absolutely absurd!"
The audience gasped and everyone began to whisper among the crowd.
"332 transitioned fair enough into jazz. In fact-"
"Fair enough is not good enough for CDA. Isn't that what you always say?" He looked at her with challenging eyes.
"777 has already made a mistake. You don't get second chances at CDA," she pushed.
Grace felt her face heat up at the mention of her number. She wanted to run off the stage already. This was completely embarrassing.
"In that case I guess everyone should go home then, because I saw a mistake in all of them, every single one."
The two of them stared at each other angrily and Mr. Williams cleared his throat, "You guys we must remember where we're at."
Mrs. Williams gave up and took a seat. Aaron turned back to the two dancers, "Anyway, you guys may start now."
Grace felt something kick inside of her. Of course she was nervous, but there was also this fire. As she started her grand pirouettes, she thought back to all of the conversations with her dad, and that only made her hold onto to each pirouette longer.
"I can't wait until you fail in life! You'll be the first one crawling back to me you know!" He screamed in her face and all she could do was bite her lip and hold in her tears.
"Just one more year...one more damn year and you'll be out of my house!"
"Stop acting like a dumb ass and get your head out of the clouds. Dancing is not a practical career. Don't be an idiot Grace."
She needed this. She needed to get away from her father. And more importantly she needed to finally stand up for herself and search inside of herself. This was something that she loved, this was something that she needed. She was so consumed in her thoughts that someone had to clear their throat to catch her attention. She landed her last pirouette and then she looked over and notice that the man had already stopped. There was a defeated look on his face, and water in his eyes and she had to look away because she felt bad.
The man left and Aaron smiled, "Congratulations 777, you can now join the final five." His eyes were hard but he couldn't wipe that smile off of his face if he tried. The dancers politely clapped for Grace and she just couldn't believe it. Tears of joy ran down her eyes as everyone exited the stage. She was in such a shock that she couldn't even scream for joy. She was much too excited as she walked over to Lindsay.
Near the judges table, Mrs. Williams and Aaron were talking.
"Aaron I swear...if she screws up then-"
"Mom relax. She's going to be great ok? I can feel it. And the others are going to be fine too. Your stupid reputation won't be ruined," he rolled his eyes but he was honestly hurt at how selfish his mom could be when it came to her reputation at the school. This was still a CHRISTIAN school. God was supposed to be far above dancing, but his mother Mary had a dangerous addiction to dancing. It was her drug.
The first thing Grace did was run to Lindsay and hug her. Lindsay returned the hug just as eagerly and congratulated her.
"I...I can't believe this. After all these years. After everything that he told me. How I wouldn't make it-"
"He was wrong." Lindsay smiled and hugged her again.
Today was the best day of her life. She grabbed her cross from her bag and wrapped it around her. She closed her eyes for a minute as she touched it, and Lindsay knew that she shouldn't say anything to interrupt her time with God. "Thank you Lord...thank you so much this is just...I don't deserve this. I love you Lord! It's like all of my dreams are coming true. This is it. This is just what I needed."
She opened her eyes and smiled at her best friend.
"You killed it out there," she laughed and Grace thanked her.
"So do you want to go and get something to..."
Her question was interrupted when a hard body fell into Grace and she fell to the ground. She used her hands to pull herself up and was about to say something when she saw who it was.
Aaron. Aaron Williams. One of the best dancers in Oakland. The guy that gave her a second chance.
"I-I'm sorry I-"
He chuckled, "I bumped into you, but I accept your apology."
"Thank you so much for today...I-I don't know how I can repay you for what you-"
"You did it all on your own. I saw something out there that I haven't seen for a while at this place. You were different from the other girls and guys out there today. As for repaying me well," he seemed to lean in closer towards her, and his scent alone fogged her memory, "I expect you to work really hard if you're going to be on that competition team."
For a minute she couldn't talk, but her eyes widened in excitement. The competition team? She was being accepted into the competition team! This was a dream come true! His blue eyes imprisoned her for a moment and she forgot what she was going to say. Lindsay came to her aid, nudging her slightly, "I think what she meant to say was-"
"I won't let this academy down," she stated quickly.
He smirked, "And more importantly I trust that you won't let me down?"
She nodded quickly and he chuckled as he took off to watch the next group.
Once he left Lindsay began giggling, "Impossible."
Grace raised an eyebrow at her, "What?"
"You barely get here and you snag the hottest dancer at the academy."
More heat rose to her cheeks and she hit Lindsay playfully, "Lindsay!"
"What it's true!"
"Well I'm not here for boys...I'm here to dance, to see where God's going to take me with this."
"I think he just took you to the hottest dancer in Oakland."
Grace giggled, "Oh hush you!"
A/N: So I hope you guys enjoyed the first chapter. This thought just came to me randomly and I had to write it down before I forgot. Tell me what you think of the characters and everything so far.