The library was closed.
In all of her school life, Hattie had never spent lunchtime anywhere else other than the library. It wasn't particularly big, but here, she could let her mind run wild as she pored over a book- a different one each day (unless she found a book that she just couldn't put down)- and relax, enjoying the peace. The school was an ocean of noise, with crashing waves of screaming, hooting and howling, and Hattie was a helpless swimmer, floating at the surface, not moving anywhere, but not really trying to. The library, however, seemed to be soundproof, though the strict rules plastered on the wall in every free space, did help. Hattie had her favorite space in there, pushed up against the wall, in a ragged old armchair that someone had more than likely donated to the school. It smelled like an old woman’s perfume and cat hair, but it reminded her of her Gran’s house, so she didn't mind.
When her Gran got moved to a care home for the elderly, Hattie took care of her cat. Originally, the cat did have a name, but Hattie’s Gran kept forgetting it, so Hattie took the responsibility of re-naming him. The ginger tabby cat now goes by the name of Tucker. Every time Hattie sat (cross-legged with a large hardback book spread across her knees) on the armchair, she had wafts of Tucker’s fur, mixed with a dose of her Gran. She hadn't spoke of her Grandmother since her funeral, last March. She remembered it clearly- the black hearse carrying her Gran's coffin, the bunches of flowers sprinkled across her grave, the way her Mother remained silent and pale, yearning internally for her Mother- Hattie shuddered at the memory and dragged herself out of her thoughts.
"You can't close the library!" She protested, as the librarian started to shut the door in her face. There was a shocking pink piece of paper taped to the door, but Hattie had chosen to ignore it and burst through the library anyway. "There's nowhere else to go!" The librarian peered through her glasses at Hattie.
"I think you'll find I can. Besides, I'm sure there are plenty of other places for you to go. Why don't you go to the cafeteria? There are plenty of seats." And with that, she shut the door with a slam, and Hattie heard the noise of keys in the lock. Great- so she'd have to find somewhere else today. She hated breaking traditions. With the weight of her satchel burning into her shoulder, she slumped away, her head sagging with disappointment. The cafeteria was out of bounds to people like Hattie. Of course, she could go there if she really wanted to, but why would she? And where was Eva when you needed her?
Eva was Hattie's closest (and only) friend in this dump. Although they didn't spend lunchtimes together, they always sat together in classes, barely speaking, but always there. Honestly, Hattie just thought it was more of a convenience rather than a friendship. None of Eva's other friends were in her lessons, and Hattie didn't have anybody else, so they used each other for occasional companionship within the classrooms. It suited Hattie just fine. But where was Eva now?
The school was a maze of corridors, all full with over-energetic students dancing about, sitting practically in the middle of the floor, lunchboxes out, grazing on sandwiches, music playing from their phones and their coats spread underneath them like a picnic blanket. Hattie had to carefully hop her way over a group of first-years sprawled across the History corridor exchanging Pokémon cards and frantically tapping buttons on their games consoles. The Maths corridor was strictly third-year territory. Hattie took a left turn instead of a right at the end of the History corridor and headed up a flight of stairs in order to avoid the Maths department completely. Eva was sitting at the top of the stairs, surrounded by her other-class-friends.
"Hattie!" She smiled, looking up from her sketchpad. Hattie smiled weakly. "What are you doing here? Did the library burn to the ground?" A blonde girl next to Eva giggled, then caught Hattie's eye-contact and stopped.
"No, it just closed."
"You're welcome to sit with us you know." That was Eva. She unwrapped a chicken sandwich and bit into it, still looking at Hattie. It made her feel uncomfortable, so she sat down as far away from anyone as possible and pulled a book out of her bag. And that is how she spent lunchtime for the next week.