Squiggy was hungry. Mumma had been supposed to send a care package this month -- they were always the best, filled with homemade foods and the occasional new dress if zir mumma had fabric to spare. Squiggy lived off of those bits from home. Food at Tally was fine, but ze was so small, and the other students so big and intimidating, that most days ze only managed to grab a bite or two before sliding beneath the table and leaving.
No one seemed to notice if Squiggy was there or not anyway.
So Squiggy saved the foods Mumma sent in care packages and supplemented zir meals that way. Except this month there hadn’t been a care package--only a letter from dadda, spelled to talk since he could read any better than Squiggy could, saying mumma was having a rest right now, and that he was busy with Innocence and Freedom, and that he was sure Squiggy understood.
Squiggy didn’t understand. Resting was something that took a few minutes, so ze couldn’t understand why other minutes couldn’t be spared to make zir care package. Ze had been counting on the snacks to afford zir extra time in the library this evening while the other students were at dinner. Instead, ze went down to the food hall uncertainly, one hand hovering just outside zir mouth--not quite sucking zir thumb in fear, but not far off, either.
Once glance into the great hall was almost enough to send Squiggy running in the other direction, but ze put zir Big Brave Elf pants on, like zir dad would have told zir to, and went in. The furthest end of the Flinders table was mostly safe, almost, and Squiggy got a plate and put on a bit of meat and veg and a roll.
And then a rambunctious boy--twice Squiggy’s size--shouldered zir, and ze fell off the side of the bench ze was sitting on. Squiggy closed zir eyes, tight, and fought the urge to cry. Ze didn’t even want the other kids to think of zir as an equal--ze just wanted to be seen, at all, and acknowledged.
Squiggy had to get on tip-toes to grab the plate from the table, and then ze wandered the perimeter of the Great Hall, finally tucking into a corner of the room with the plate. If ze was invisible anyway, ze might as well have some privacy.