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History Lessons

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It was high summer and almost the whole school was outside, enjoying the sunshine. The only ones who had stayed indoors were the emos, who didn't want to risk getting a tan, and the teachers, who preferred to stay near the drinks cabinet. Annabelle was lying in the shade of a tree, blissfully doing nothing, while Polly sat leaning against its trunk and tapping away at her laptop. Their peaceful silence was shattered by a scream and they both looked around for the source – a girl, covered in mud and a suspiciously blue substance, now stalking back towards the school and shouting things like “last straw”, “horrible creatures” and “going home”.

“Eighteen hours,” said Polly, returning to her typing. “Less than I predicted.”

“I'm surprised she lasted this long, actually.” Annabelle pulled up a handful of grass and then scattered it aimlessly. “I heard her parents only sent her to this school because she got caught smoking behind the bike sheds.”

Polly frowned a little. “Is that all? Hmm. Perhaps they were pleased to know that we don't have any bike sheds.”

“Well, yes, but only since last Tuesday, and the twins said it was definitely an accident.”

“That sort of thing seems to happen to those two quite often. I think that's why they were thrown out of their previous school – something to do with a science experiment to produce a reduction reaction causing a significant reduction in the amount of science lab.”

Annabelle laughed. Then she turned to look at Polly and said, “So how did you end up here? If you don't mind me asking, that is.” She bit her lip.

“No, not at all. I got caught hacking into the school computers to change grades,” said Polly.

Annabelle rolled onto her side and propped her head up with one arm. “Surely you didn't need to change your grades?”

“Not my grades, Annabelle.” Polly smiled and waved a hand. “Other people's. I was running a service – your grades changed for a fee.”

“That was pretty enterprising of you. How old were you then?”

“Eleven.”

“You've been here since you were eleven?” Annabelle gazed across the lawn to where Tara and Tania were leading their cohorts in a dance around a bonfire. “I can't imagine you as a First Year.”

Polly stopped typing and smiled at Annabelle. “My crowning moment was performing the calculations that let us accurately fire giant water-balloons out of the trebuchet we'd built for History.” She looked into the distance. “Although my glory was short-lived as the trebuchet was blown up the following week.”

“Well, you're a dark horse, aren't you?” said Annabelle, laughing. “I would never have suspected that.”

“You think I can plan a heist but I can't cause a ruckus, is that it?” teased Polly. “Chaos is more fun than you might imagine.”

They lapsed into silence for a few minutes, and then Annabelle said, with a calculating look in her eyes, “How hard is it to build a trebuchet?”

Polly smiled and said, “I was hoping you would say that.”