"Bass," said Rune triumphantly as he joined Casady in the waiting room. "They decided I'm a bass."
Casady laughed. "See? I told you not to worry."
"And now it's my turn to say it to you. I'm sure you'll be a tenor, Casady. They'd have to be daft to make you anything else. Nobody could ever mistake you for a bass."
Shrugging, Casady shook his head. "I've decided that if I am a bass and not a tenor, I'll have to resign myself to a life of woe."
"Bass isn't all that bad," Rune teased with a smile.
The sound of the door banging open caused Rune to lift his head. As soon as he saw Morgance enter, his heart skipped a beat. Blushing, he looked away. Well, he might as well admit it to himself: he found Morgance enchanting. Very enchanting. Which was unfortunate, since girls didn't seem to find Rune attractive.
There was a look of utter irritation on Morgance's face, however, and as she entered, she gave a loud sigh and plopped down on the chair beside Casady. Running her hands through her hair, she declared, "I will never sing for the Force, and nothing they say will change my mind!"
"What happened?" Casady asked.
Groaning, Morgance didn't say anything for a moment. Finally, she muttered, "I refused to sing."
Worried, Rune exchanged a glance with Casady before asking Morgance a question himself. "Won't that get you into trouble, Morgance?"
Standing, Morgance waved her arms wildly to emphasize her anger. "I don't care if it gets me into trouble or not! All the Force cares about is making sure they make themselves happy. Well, you know what? I refuse to stuff their fat bellies with my provisions!"
The statement was overdramatic, but Rune understood Morgance's point. The only thing that had made him sing was the threat that people he loved would get hurt. Granted, Rune didn't love anybody - not yet, since his brain had been wiped free of its memory - but the threat was ominous enough to make Rune tremble and bow to the Force's demands.
"Casady Conlin, please come in for your placements," a Songmaker official called out.
Letting out a heavy breath, Casady stood. "Well, here goes nothing," he said, and even though it was clear that he was trying to be as chipper as possible, there was a tremor in his voice.
"Have fun," Morgance muttered.
Rune moved one chair over so he was sitting next to Morgance. "Did they threaten you when you didn't sing?"
Morgance sighed. "What does it matter?"
Rune reached across and very tentatively patted Morgance's hand. The gesture itself was awkwardly executed, but it earned him a smile from the pretty lady. "It matters because I don't want you to get hurt." Sputtering, Rune realized how "mushy-gushy" he'd sounded. "I don't want anyone to get hurt. None of us deserve it."
"I'm going to my room."
"To face Lisha?"
Morgance sighed. "You know what? You're right. I don't feel like being in her company. You're much better than her, anyways."
Heart thrilled, though the complement hadn't been much, Rune smiled. "Well, thanks," he said after a long pause. He gave Morgance's hand another awkward pat. "There's an exercise room downstairs. Maybe when Casady gets finished with his placements, we can all go there and let loose a little. It's getting awfully boring, doing nothing at all. Maybe living here isn't as bad as we think it is."
"Oh, I think it is. But the exercise room does sound nice, even though I've never really exercised much in my life."
Rune's heart stopped, and he looked at Morgance.
"There I go again," Morgance whispered, face suddenly paling despite its dark pigment. "Talking as though I know something about who I used to be."
The silence was almost tangible, and Rune felt chilled. Because he remembered something, too. "I think I liked to work out before I came here," he said. "I don't know why; I just have this feeling that I did."
"I think we're different," Morgance said, her voice still low. "You and Casady and I. We seem to be different from everyone else."
"Not everyone else," came a voice from the doorway. "Really, if you want to stay safe, you need to learn to talk more quietly."