The fundraising gala leading up to auditions was one of the most sought-after events on the Coronet City calendar. The guest list was a who’s who of the most dazzling personalities in the system, and many from outside of it. The dancers and their families walked among the guests, introducing themselves and thanking the guests for their generous donations.
“I look forward to giving you a wonderful show. Thank you,” Jeana said, hugging an elderly gentleman and his wife. He smelled like rosemary and good cigars. His wife gave her a light kiss on the cheek.
Her mother scanned the crowd as the couple walked away. “Well then, that’s almost everyone.”
Jeana sipped her champagne. “I’ve been ticking them off in my head. There are three left, and they’re all occupied with other people right now.”
“There’s plenty of time. We should just enjoy ourselves and make our way over to them.”
Jeana tasted an hors d’oeurve of beef wrapped in bacon. Just the right amount of crunch. Simple, perfect. She hoped she’d meet the chef after the serving courses were over. She bit down on the toothpick when she saw Miss Tallus making nice with one of the leading bankers in Coronet. Jeana let out a hotter breath than went in. “I do see someone I’d like to talk to.”
Her mother snorted. “That’s funny. Do you want me to come along?”
“Hmm… nah. You can just watch if you want to.”
Jeana kept her champagne, to keep the pretense of being civil. She walked up from behind the banker, so that Miss Tallus could see her coming. Miss Tallus flinched just enough for Jeana to notice, since she was looking for it. She gave Jeana a look that said not to join them. Jeana smiled and came over.
“And this is one of our principals,” Miss Tallus said warmly. “Mr. and Mrs. Verona, meet Jeana Lysset.”
“A pleasure, but we already know each other. How’s your son’s fencing coming, Mr. Verona?”
“Very well. He placed second in the district competition last year, thanks to you.”
“That’s great. Tell him I said hello.”
“I will.” He and his wife bowed properly, since Jeana was highborn. “My lady,” he said.
“Good sir,” Jeana replied, and returned the gesture. The Veronas excused themselves.
“You need to learn something about courtesy,” Miss Tallus said.
“Pleasantries… we bowed… I can’t think of anything I missed,” Jeana said.
“You weren’t welcome.” Miss Tallus kept smiling as people walked by. Jeana sensed her feelings. She was furious.
“We’re old friends. I hadn’t had a chance to see them until now. It isn’t my fault I came up on them from the blind side.”
“That’s very funny. I trust that, now that you’ve said hello to your friends, you’ll move along?”
“Not at all! We’ve never had a chance to talk. I always wanted to talk to you about dancing. Politics. War. Sports. Smoothie recipes.”
Miss Tallus smiled a hard, angry smile. “Enough, Jeana.”
Jeana stepped closer, and smiled, too. “Sorry to take away your schmoozing time. I’m sure everyone here wants to know how great you are, and when you’ll shake the dust of Corellia of your feet and go back to dancing among the stars. It’s not like there are people counting on you to help shape them into dancers.”
Miss Tallus stepped closer. With their smiles, they looked like friends sharing a joke. “It’s not like they have the Force to help them dance.”
“I can dance circles around anyone at the school and you know it.”
“Not without the Force.”
“Not without the Force. You know that it helps you.”
“No.” Of course it helped her. Jeana wouldn’t concede the point.
Miss Tallus lifted her chin. “Adri Corrino, and girls like her, don’t have that advantage. You and your lightsaber. To you this is a hobby. To girls like Adri, it’s their lives.”
“I love it as much as they do.”
“I don’t care how much you love it. Every dancer who ever lived loves it. I hate your privilege. You’re not a dancer; you’re a Sith. I won’t let you just walk away with the lead.”
“The final round’s a panel of judges. I deserve that spot, and I’ll get it,” Jeana said.
Another group of donors came to say hello. Jeana and Miss Tallus stood side by side and pretended to be best friends. It was the hardest part of the night for both of them. Ten agonizing minutes later, Jeana raised her glass, bowed, and took her leave.
I like how this scene turned out. We finally learn why Miss Tallus (and I’m not too hot on that name, either) despises Jeana. We also get to see them somewhere other than a room with hardwood floors where people are training. The part that bugs me is that the story is getting bigger. I need to keep it focused. Hmm.