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Over the days that followed, I settled into school life and got used to doing things in a group – getting up and going to bed at set times, scrambling for the bathroom, taking meals with everyone else. I learned some French and some German, and found that school kept me so occupied that I had little time to think about other things.

“Have you been to school before?” Cornelia asked me one morning at Fruhstuck. “Or did you have a governess?”

“Neither, my mother taught me at home,” I replied.

“That must have been lonely,” said Cornelia.

“Not really, I had a big family,” I said. I carried on eating, and then realised that she’d fallen silent and was staring at me. Reviewing the conversation, I caught the past tense that I’d used, and cursed inwardly; now Corney thought there’d been a tragedy and looked stricken.

Stick to the truth as far as possible, it saves you having to remember your story – my mentor had said. Usually it worked... I tried to change the subject and hoped Corney would just accept that I didn’t want to talk about whatever she thought had happened. And it wasn’t that it hadn’t happened – it was just a couple of centuries ago, and of totally natural causes.

“Could you do the maths prep last night?” I asked. “I’m sure I got every single one wrong.”

She made a face, and just as I’d hoped, started complaining about maths instead. And as it turned out, I’d been sticking to the truth there as well, as my prep came back with plenty of crimson decorations. I felt like saying well, I haven’t needed to know how to work this stuff out in the last 200 years so to hell with you... But of course, I didn’t.



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