At first, Albert seemed completely immune to Claudine's charms. I was hugely relieved by this, because he was mine. Albert and I had been friends as long as either of us could remember, and we didn't need this newcomer stirring things up and spoiling everything.
Then, one evening on the way back to our rooms from bedtime prayers, Claudine said: 'I've asked Albert to meet me tonight, down by the Willow Pool.'
'Have you?' I tried to sound as though I didn't care.
She gave a little smile. She really was pretty, was Claudine, with those huge dark eyes. That was part of the problem. I didn't really think Albert would be able to resist her charm.
'He promised he'd be there.'
'That's very nice for you both.'
'Oh, I don't know. I think it might be rather dull. just the two of us. Would you like to come along?'
I thought she was teasing me until I saw the expression on her face.
'I don't know,' I said. 'It's dangerous, sneaking out at night. Henriette never sleeps, as far as I can tell. What if she hears us and reports us to Josette?'
Claudine tossed her head and gave a little sniff. 'What's the worst they can do? Honestly, Marie, you're such a scaredy-cat. Those ridiculous sisters can't hurt you, you know.'
I'd never really questioned the sisters' authority. Not sure what sort of child that makes me, but I hadn't. I'd never felt the need to, not until tonight.
Suddenly it felt very important to keep an eye on what went on between Claudine and Albert. 'OK,' I said. 'I'll come.'
Claudine's face broke into a big smile. 'Wonderful,' she said. 'Let's make some plans.'