Dancing for the Lord The Academy - By Emily Goodman

Chapter One

Danielle Wilkerson sat on her front porch, swinging her foot slowly back and forth as she stared out at the dawn slowly creeping over the horizon. There was nothing left for her to do. She had packed all of her things the night before; she had been up and dressed for nearly an hour, and even finished packing all of those little last-minute things that were so easy to forget.

Her toothbrush. Her pillows, comforting simply because they both smelled and felt like home. The book that had been sitting on her nightstand as she prepared for bed the night before, just in case she had trouble sleeping.

As it had turned out, she hadn’t had the least bit of trouble sleeping the night before. The problem had been staying that way. Finally, at about four in the morning, Danni had given up and headed downstairs. She knew her mother would want to fix her a last breakfast, so she hadn’t eaten; but she had gotten herself ready, and then come outside, where she could be alone with her thoughts.

I’m not sure I’m ready, Lord, she prayed silently. I know this is what you want from me, but I’m not sure I’m ready to leave my home behind.

There was no answer in the stillness, not even from that still, small voice that Danni had learned to listen to when she was only a child. That lack of a response would have bothered her, except that Danni already knew the answer to that question. She had known since she had sent in her application all those months ago that this was the direction God was leading her—that was why she had chosen it. And she would do it, and she would be happy, and she would know the greatest joy of all in knowing that she followed the will of her Lord…but today, as she stood on the brink of this new life, she permitted herself just a little bit of uncertainty.

A lot of it was because of Michael, really, though Danni was struggling not to admit it to herself. Michael had been her dancing partner since they were in middle school—right about the time she had gotten her first pair of pointe shoes. She’d worked with other partners over the years, but none of them had ever gotten her the way Michael did—and more importantly even than that, he was her best friend.

She was going to miss him fiercely while she was gone.

Originally, they had planned to go away together. When she’d filled out the application for the elite Androv’s Ballet Academy, she had begged and pleaded until Michael filled one out, too—and he had, had even gone to the auditions with her in spite of his own qualms.

She’d been sure that she had been the one who screwed things up for them, wobbling en pointe when she came down after a jump. Michael had caught her, steadying her without making it look anything less than planned, and they had gone on with the piece; but she’d been shaken up enough by that simple slip that she had been sure they wouldn’t be accepted.

Michael had gotten his acceptance letter within a matter of weeks. He had waited, sure that Danni’s would come immediately after it—but of course, no such thing had happened. In the end, Michael had delayed for her, waiting to the last minute and beyond to fill out his scholarship paperwork. In the end, when hers hadn’t come, he had decided that he would stay at home with her instead of going on to the Academy.

Then, halfway through the semester, her own acceptance letter had come. She was to start at the Academy in early November.

At first, Danni had almost refused. She had known that if she went, she would be going alone; and she hadn’t known how she was going to manage without Michael at her side. How could she possibly dance if he wasn’t going to be there to hold her hand—to stand in the gap for her, and help her out when she made the inevitable mistakes, and to convince her that she was more than capable of handling whatever was thrown at her in spite of the fact that neither of them knew whether or not she was actually capable of doing this?

Except that she hadn’t had a choice. Michael could reapply for the following year, and would probably be accepted again. If she didn’t take this chance now, while it was being held out to