As though on cue, Vinnia Valdeza walked into the room, joining the other three Songmakers officials. Casady watched as Vinnia sat down at the officials' table. Yet despite her prestigious position, Casady sensed a discomfort in the Head Singers' Trainer, a discomfort that told him that Vinnia wasn't really one of them.
Most amusing, however, were the Songmakers officials' reactions. Clearly irritated by Vinnia's tardiness, they shot disapproving looks at her. Yet Vinnia held her head high, those chilling blue eyes of hers clear and calculating.
Something told Casady that Vinnia Valdeza, Head Singers' Trainer, was not the person to get in a scrape with.
"What do you think she'll be like?" Morgance whispered to Casady and Rune.
"Hard to please," Rune whispered back.
"I wonder where the food is," Morgance declared loudly, which caused a ripple of nervous laughter to cross the room.
Vinnia stood up, her very presence demanding attention. Casady was struck by the trainer's regality and poise. Everything about her spelled influence and importance. Her first words, though, took Casady by surprise.
"If I were to tell you that I thought you were all weaklings and didn't deserve to be a Singer, what would you feel?"
The question caught everyone so off guard that nobody said anything for an instant. Finally, Morgance volunteered in a clear voice, "I'd be mad. Like, really mad."
Vinnia nodded, as though Morgance's declaration met her approval. "That's good," she said. "What else?"
"I'd feel inadequate," Casady said, unsure why he felt so prompted to answer Vinnia's question. His gut feeling told him that there was more to Vinnia's question than met the eye. "Like I wasn't good enough. So I'd also feel...I don't know...insecure, maybe." The words flowed from his lips before he'd even stopped to consider them.
"Excellent." Vinnia caught Casady's gaze and held it. "What else?"
Rune was the next to speak. "Honestly, I'd feel relieved."
"So you're nervous about being here? Maybe even afraid?"
Rune didn't even pause. "Yes," he said, without so much as a bat of the eye.
The slightest hint of a smile flickered across Vinnia's lips. "That's good," she said, slowly and deliberately. "That's really good." Glancing at the other table, she addressed Lisha, Brookie, Delancey, Oliver, and Malcus. "What would you all feel?"
Their table chuckled nervously and looked to one another to answer. After a rather awkward silence, Vinnia nodded. "Thank-you. That's all I needed to know. You may go get in line for your food."
Casady felt unnerved. As though something very important had just happened and he couldn't put his finger on what it was. As though fate had just been twisted. And as he stood in line to fill his plate, he looked back to see Vinnia studying him, Morgance, and Rune with eyes that drilled into their very souls.
If I were to tell you that I thought you were all weaklings and didn't deserve to be a Singer, what would you feel?
Yes, there had certainly been a definite weight to Vinnia's question.