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Evelyn

Noelle didn't sleep in our room that night. When I had gone to bed, I had half expected to be woken up by her returning, but instead I awoke to the sound of my phone's alarm and the morning sun streaming through the window.

Breathing in the scent of an unfamiliar washing powder that clung to the bedsheets, I noted the room seemed bigger in the daylight, though that might have also been owed to Noelle's absence. I dimly wondered where she might have spent the night, but decided I didn't want to know.

At least her disappearing act had allowed me to take my time unpacking most of my luggage last night without feeling like I was bothering her. With a stack of my favorite books on the bedside table and a picture of my parents next to it, the space already felt more like home.

Looking at it, I remembered with a start that I hadn't texted my parents last night. I quickly scrambled for my phone, opening it to three worried messages from my mom.

How was the train ride? :)

Did you get there okay? I saw online that it was raining! Did you pack your raincoat?

I'm going to bed now. Please text me back when you read this! Have a good first day and call if anything happens, all right? Love, Mom xx

Guilt reared its head inside my chest as I quickly typed: Sorry for not responding last night. The train ride was good, I met a boy who's also going to Seven Hills so I didn't have to walk there alone. Everyone's really nice so far. A lie, but one that I knew would calm her. Maybe I'll call you after class. Love you loads!!

Finally, I dragged myself out of bed, showered, did my hair and makeup, and then tackled my uniform. It lay neatly folded in my unzipped suitcase, a pristine white button-down shirt that peeked out from under a dark navy sweater and a blue tie with stripes in a lighter shade. Additionally, there was a black skirt and white socks that almost went up to my knees.

The tie turned out to be a particular problem since I'd never worn one before; the fact that my hands were shaking a little with nerves for what lay ahead of me didn't help. Once I had accomplished something that at least approximated a knot, I gave up trying to make it any better.

My first day.

The mantra I had been telling myself in bed every night over the past few weeks echoed through my head again: A new school, a new chance. Studying myself in the mirror, I tried to imagine how the other students might view me. With my blond hair in a neat braid, a splatter of freckles from the summer that my makeup couldn't quite conceal, and my eyes slightly widened in apprehension, I looked . . . innocent? Inconspicuous? Hopefully enough of the latter to not get ripped to shreds on my first day here, I thought, flashing back to my former school, and gave my reflection a shaky smile.

Slinging my bag over my shoulder, I stepped out into the corridor. The building had an entirely different atmosphere by day: sunlight poured through the high windows and the hallways were bustling with students, laughter and the scent of perfume and hair products filling the air while a steady stream of girls was rushing down the stairs to breakfast.

I was about to fall in step with my new classmates when I felt a hand on my arm.

"Evelyn!" Amelia said. "I was just about to come to your room to see if you needed any help."

I stepped aside to let a pair of girls pass. "I'm fine, but thank you. That's really sweet."

"What in heaven's name did you do with that tie?"

"I've never tied one." I shrugged sheepishly.

Amelia shook her head with a quiet tsk sound and stepped closer. Within seconds, she had undone the knot and rearranged it neatly, so my tie matched her own. "There," she said, taking a step back. "Try and do it like this tomorrow."

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