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“What under the canopy is wrong with you today?” Cornelia demanded, leaning across from her desk to me.

“Nothing,” I replied, a bit more sharply than I intended. I’d been lost in thought and planning, and hadn’t properly caught half the things she’d said to me all day. I couldn’t really blame her for being annoyed. School things had faded into something less than important, but I realised that it wouldn’t do to let people know that, so I took a breath. “Sorry. Didn’t sleep very well.”

“I noticed,” Cornelia responded dryly, but relented. “You know,” she said, with a wicked glint in her eye, “if you’re suffering from insomnia, you should probably go and see Matey. She’ll sort you out.”

I shook my head vigorously, and she laughed. She was thinking, no doubt, of Matron’s noxious potions. Those I could take – but right now I could do without being imprisoned in San under the nose of a woman who never slept, according to what the girls had told me.

We straightened in our seats and stopped talking as the Maths mistress entered the room, her arms full of papers, which she put down on the desk and sorted. She picked some of them back up and began to distribute them. Our last Prep exercises. Perfect, just what I needed, another rant about my lack of mathematical skills – but instead, as she approached me and handed back my work, she smiled.

“Good work, Rose. You’ve improved.”

As I looked, shocked, at a paper that contained ticks instead of scrawls, Corney winked at me from her place.

The rest of the day seemed slow. Lessons, a short walk since the rain had – briefly – stopped, meals, prep, dancing in Hall. Bed. I would have gone then, but it occurred to me that one needed some kind of light in order to fight effectively, and I needed any advantage I could get. So I waited, timing it between too early for light and too late to get out before anyone woke up, and made ready to sneak out.



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