Paola wanted to disappear into the floor after her outburst. How was it that she was almost more embarrassed about being embarrassed than she was about having to put down a lot of personal background for her very first in-class assignment?
But the other girl was smiling at her kindly and reassuringly and maybe, maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. Paola took a deep breath and managed an actual smile. Maggie went on to volunteer that she was a second year, in Cetus, and that she liked animals. And she did seem, true to what she said, really nice. She hadn’t said anything directly about how embarrassed and anxious Paola was, only asking if she felt better.
“A little,” Paola admitted, coiling a strand of hair around one finger. She copied the other girl’s introduction. “I’m Paola, I’m in Draco, and I’m a first year.” She added after another awkward moment, “But you probably guessed that?”
She had never had this much trouble talking to the adults at the embassy, so why was she having so much trouble now? Some of it had to be embarrassment, but how much was the sense of dislocation she had from being seven time zones and an ocean away from everything familiar? And from the shock of not seeing Grandfather at the front of the classroom? Paola took another deep breath. What else had Maggie volunteered about herself? “I like books and stars,” Paola offered. “I don’t know how much I like animals, I wasn’t allowed to have any at the embassy.”
“What is your favorite animal?” Paola asked after another moment, during which she remembered that she did know how to make conversation. “Do you have any pets? Oh, and do you know anything about alicorns? I have a feather from one’s wing in my wand.”