Surprisingly enough, nobody followed Rune down the hallways. He supposed it was part of the "Force Freedom" that the monotonous speakers had been droning on and on about. And anyways, he was probably being watched by zillions of little cameras that had been implanted all over the hallways...
Within moments, Rune had caught up to Vinnia. "Vinnia," he said, then started over. "Miss Valdeza..."
Vinnia was clearly not in the mood to speak, for although she slowed her pace so that Rune could walk beside her, she kept her mouth clamped shut.
"What's going on?"
Vinnia halted so abruptly that Rune was a few steps ahead of her before he realized he was the only one walking.
"I'm sorry," Vinnia said, but her voice was so slow and strained that Rune knew she was barely keeping herself under control. "I shouldn't have ignored you like that." Running a pale hand through her hair, Vinnia began to curse, then stopped herself midway. "I'm sorry," she apologized again.
"What's happened?" Rune asked. He shook his head. "Will it interfere with...you know...our Singing?"
A dark look crossed Vinnia's eyes. "Is that really why you want to know?"
Sighing, Rune knew Vinnia could see through his lies. "You're right. I'm not as self-centered as that sounded. What I really want to know is if you're alright, and if it was caused by something Morgance, Casady, or I did."
"No to which question?"
Biting her lip, Vinnia leaned heavily against the wall, though her face remained composed. "No on both accounts," she said, averting her eyes.
"What's wrong then?" Rune took a step closer. "I understand if you need your space, but if there's anything one of us can do for you..."
"Do you know what I'm tired of?" Vinnia asked. It was the first time she had shared anything from her heart, so Rune listened closely. "I'm tired of walking around with a mask of complete composure. I used to be so expressive with my feelings and opinions. Now, it's like everything I do is controlled by the Force."
As the words came forth from Vinnia's mouth, Rune realized something that he'd never considered before. Vinnia Valdeza is just as human as the rest of us...if not more so.
The thought chilled Rune, and he didn't know what to say. Finally, he asked softly, "How so?"
Vinnia gave a bleak laugh. "I'm sorry. You don't have to listen to all this. Aren't you supposed to be somewhere?"
"Switching the subject will do nothing, Vinnia."
"I shouldn't have said anything," Vinnia said, more to herself than to anyone else. Then, she turned to Rune. "I just did a royally stupid thing," she confessed.
Rune didn't know whether to laugh or sympathize.
"I wouldn't be surprised if I was kicked out of the Force. Not only did I show a former weakness, but the words I said before I left the room were rebellious." Vinnia cast a look at Rune. "I'm not supposed to be rebellious," she said, and Rune had a feeling there was a deeper meaning to what she was saying.
"I don't think anyone is," Rune said warily, unable to deny a sense of suspicion that came over him.
"Nobody is - you're right about that," Vinnia agreed. "But me, of all people. I might have just endangered you and your friends, Rune. For that, I sincerely and profusely apologize."
Rune waved a hand in the air. "I'm sure you did nothing worse than Morgance did by refusing to sing," he reasoned.
Vinnia didn't laugh.
"And in any case, you're experienced here. People know you have a reputation for excellent Singing." Rune didn't know how he knew that. He just did.
"Yes, well, now I've established for myself a reputation of something besides just a good voice," Vinnia muttered, but she didn't explain her words.
Wanting to ask what Vinnia meant, but not daring to do so, Rune waited patiently. Perhaps Vinnia would clarify herself.
But Vinnia didn't clarify herself. Instead, she held her head a little higher and cast a brave smile in Rune's direction. "Thank-you for caring," she said in a tone that Rune couldn't decipher. "I really must get going, though, before I say something I regret."
And Vinnia left Rune alone in the hallway.