Seated around a banquet table, all the Force officials laughed and supped together, their plates, wine goblets, and mouths always bursting at the seams. Disgusted by the entire lot of them, Vinnia kept mostly to herself, only speaking when spoken to.
The decorations, atmosphere, and people present reminded Vinnia of a night nine years ago. Shuddering, she absently ran her finger along the tines of her fork, thinking.
Perhaps it wasn't good to think so deeply.
Aretta had cleared her throat and was now standing on her chair - oh, the immaturity of that woman! - motioning for everyone to look at her. "Alright, ladies and gentlemen! A toast! A toast to the wellbeing of the Force!"
Vinnia, who sought to be rebellious in the most inconspicuous of ways, had decided beforehand not to drink any wine. It was a resolve that any other officials (besides Trace, of course) would not be able to make sense of - which was exactly what Vinnia wanted. Smirking ever-so-slightly, she refused to raise her wine goblet in a toast. Instead, she sat back and watched everyone clamor to clink their goblets against the goblet of the ever-worshiped Aretta.
Yet amusement was not the only feeling Vinnia felt about those around her. In her "honest heart of hearts," as Trace put it, she felt pity, and even grief, for many of the sweetest-tempered officials who blindly followed whatever the Force said, since it was the only thing that mattered in their lives, anyways. Deciding to put aside her pride, Vinnia raised her goblet, muttered "cheers," and took a mincing sip. Blecch, she inwardly thought. Some type of dark wine. She'd never had a taste for it.
Aretta, who had noticed Vinnia's self-sacrificial deed, smiled a bit too brightly. Wanting to be sick from the sugary-sweetness of Aretta's ridiculous smile, Vinnia only raised her eyebrows and tightened her lips.
No, Vinnia hadn't forgotten what Aretta had done ten years prior...
Disturbed by her thoughts, Vinnia sat up a little more straightly and gave an honest effort to take interest in the prattle of the Songmakers. But for all her trying, it was no use. Nothing they said was of any value; it was all gossip and rumors and myths.
Still, Vinnia could not blame them entirely. Hadn't she been in their shoes once, forcing herself to be content with the worthless happenings of the Force? Hadn't she once supped at this table, not as a Songmaker, but as a Victory Nominee? Granted, she hadn't won, but she'd still been a Nominee. That was much farther than nearly all other Singers got.
Unable to stomach anymore of the environment, Vinnia stood and walked over to the table where Trace sat. As he was only an assistant, he was considered to be at a "lesser" standing than Vinnia and thereby did not deserve to be at her table.
No, Vinnia sat with the other Nominees and Victors. What a terrible place to sit. For even though most would consider it an honor, Vinnia knew the truth: it a curse to be one of them.
"Are you alright?" Trace asked, looking up. A sympathetic, knowing smile graced his lips.
"I swear, one more moment of this, and I'll become absolutely demented."
"In their eyes, you already are."
The words had come from behind Vinnia, and she recognized the voice all too well.
"I think it's time you stopped trying to get in my good graces," Vinnia growled, unable to mask the irritation in her voice. "Why do you keep vying for my attention?"
"Oh, honey, don't put on airs," Aretta snapped. "Don't forget that I'm a Victor - and you, only a Nominee."
Stiffening ever so slightly, Vinnia jutted her chin high in the air. "I'll put on as many airs as I'd like, Aretta, if it means I consider myself at the same value as you."
"Don't forget that you were only a replacement," Aretta garbled, her speech impedimented by both anger and wine. "Don't forget who you are, Vinnia! A mere replacement - both times around!"
Yes, there is definitely going to be a showdown tonight...