It started off as a normal day.
‘Morning loser,’ Dominik said thickly as I walked into college. I’ve been here for almost a year now so I’m used to the plebeian treatment, on top of which, everything sounds funnier when said in a German accent.
Dominik Schulz is probably my best friend at IIP, though of course he could never replace my best friend from home – who I’ll get to see again in a few weeks when we break for summer. I’m unreasonably excited about this.
IIP – or Irish International Prep – is the name of the school I go to here in Ireland. There are kids from all over the world here, a convenient drop-off for the spawn of various dignitaries, businesspeople, and even occasionally celebrities. Nobody knows how I managed to get in here except me, and I’m sure as hell not about to confide it to anyone.
‘Morning,’ I said to Dom now, dropping tiredly into the seat beside him. We had a computer lab today which meant six hours cooped up in the IT room, but for now we were sitting in the courtyard, enjoying the late May sunshine and dreading the day we’d have to spend with our most disliked professor.
‘Did you do that government project for Lewis?’ Anastazja leaned across Dom to ask, blinking her big eyes at me. ‘It’s due tomorrow, right?’
I rolled my eyes right back at her. ‘Sure. I’ll email it to you tonight.’ The daughter of Polish rock royalty, Anastazja Pawlak never bothered with her homework until the last minute, casually telling herself she didn’t need to, until panic about consequences set in and it was up to one of us to help her.
‘I handed mine in this morning,’ Adrian Williams said smugly, appearing in the chair on my other side. Smarmy British git.
‘Bully for you,’ I muttered, at the same time as Dominik loudly proclaimed, ‘Well fuck you then!’ except it sounded like, “Vell fock yhu, zen!”
Adrian’s smirk never slipped, and I bit my tongue to stop a retort slipping out. The son of one of Britain’s highest ranking cabinet minister after the Prime Minister, he had an extremely elevated opinion of himself and thought he was the most important person in IIP. If he knew who I actually was (and I’m aware of how it sounds to say that, by the way, but it’s true) he might crawl back in box occasionally.
Of course, as I was thinking this, I didn’t realise how close everyone was to actually finding out. If I’d been smarter, faster, more tuned in, I could probably have prevented a lot of what went down over the next few months, but as it was I was too invested in this pointless conversation to pay any attention to the prickling at the back of my neck, the fact that my senses all sharpened considerably, that goose pimples erupted all over my skin. I ignored all of this until it was too late.
The only thing that finally made me look up and take notice was the unmistakable sound of hooves thundering on asphalt. There wasn’t a horse-riding program at IIP, and even if some spoiled prima-donna had insisted on bringing her beloved pony to school with her, it wouldn’t have been the veritable herd that careered into the courtyard now.
All of a sudden the courtyard went silent; aside from the noise of the horses huffing and clip-clopping at the ground as they came to rest you could have heard a pin drop. I could feel Dom looking bemusedly at the spectacle over the tops of his sunglasses beside me, but for my own part I knew I’d gone completely pale. I recognised that livery.