Rune watched as Vinnia clasped her hands tightly around her mug of coffee. She looked as though she wasn't experiencing any inclination to speak, which caused a bit of anxiety in Rune. What if they were never to find out what exactly had gone on in that gathering?
Trace took a seat beside Vinnia and wrapped an arm encouragingly around the Singers' Trainer. The room was silent as Vinnia contemplated her words.
Finally, Miss Valdeza raised her head and met Casady's eyes. "Can I trust you to keep this under control?"
Offended that Vinnia hadn't directed the question at him, Rune looked over to see Casady's reaction. Ah, well - it did make sense. Casady was the most level-headed of the three.
"You have my word, Vinnia."
Vinnia tapped her fingernails on the side of the mug, a habit which didn't seem to fit her put-together appearance. "I'll spare you all the backstory," she began, "but suffice it to say that my past hasn't exactly been rose-colored. I've been through things that sometimes even I can't imagine. I found ways to cope, ways that the Force frowns upon."
Trace reached across the table and laid his hand on Vinnia's, his eyes filled with concern. Rune glanced at Morgance and Casady to see how they were taking in the situation. Both looked transfixed by Vinnia's words.
"I...I won't tell you everything, but at tonight's gathering, the Force found out about the secrets I've been trying to hide. I then left the room with a rather rebellious statement. I hope to Heaven that I haven't put you all in trouble."
"What exactly did you say?"
Vinnia shook her head. "I don't want to give any of you ideas," she said, but her voice was unsure. "Just trust me when I say that you should all lie low for a little while. It's in everyone's best interest."
"By 'lying low,' do you mean I ought to Sing?" Morgance asked, her well-shaped eyebrows rising. "Because nothing you say can convince me!"
Removing her hand from Trace's grasp, Vinnia leaned forward and looked Morgance in the eyes. "That's exactly what I mean," she said. "Morgance, you've got to Sing. I don't know what good you think you're doing by refusing to Sing, but it's selfish. It's entirely selfish and will only result in problems for the rest of us. I suggest you get off your high horse and start thinking of someone other than yourself for a change."
Morgance stood. "Oh, so I suppose you unspecified ways of coping were selfless?"
"Don't judge me when you don't know the situation, Morgance."
Rune stood and tried to get Morgance to sit back down, but Morgance wouldn't have it. "Don't you judge me!" Morgance's voice rang out. "You have no idea what it's like to be forced to sing, do you? All your life, you've exulted in Singing! You have no idea what it's like to have people use your voice for their own vile purposes!"
Rune wondered if Vinnia ever lost her temper, because she simply watched Morgance rant and rave. When Morgance's tantrum was finished, Vinnia nodded back to Morgance's chair. "Sit down, Estella," Vinnia commanded quietly, referring to Morgance by her last name.
"If you had any idea how many false accusations you've thrown at me, you'd be shocked. I have every right to put you in the Force's jails, just for not Singing. You have no idea how many favors I'm doing, just for you. I have the power to put you in your place, but I'm not. I'm not, because I see potential in you. Not just potential to Sing, but to go further than that." Vinnia met the eyes of everyone in the room, including Trace. "Are you with me?"