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‘I knew you’d be cold,’ Mum called after me. ‘You should’ve worn the new coat we got you.’
The New Coat! It was shiny, red, and so puffy that my arms stuck out at right angles. ‘It makes me look like a teapot!’ I yelled, my breath coming out in clouds.
Dad groaned. ‘It’s a walk in the countryside, Lily, not a fashion parade.’
‘I’m not cold, OK?’ I marched faster to get away from them, feet crunching on the frosted grass. I was, in fact, frozen to the bone, but there was no way I’d admit it.
I climbed over a gate and glanced at a faded information board. The mounds and hollows in this field are all that remains of the medieval village of Clopton: My eyes skipped over the words; Black Death in the fourteenth century . . . population fell . . . abandoned . . .
I looked down the slope. Bumpy tussocks of grass, dead thistles, twisted bare trees huddling in clumps; it was hard to believe that once - over a thousand years ago – this was a busy village with streets and houses, a church, a tavern, a marketplace . . . I shivered, and not just from the cold this time.
I took a step. My foot caught in a bramble and suddenly I was pitching headfirst down the hill, snatching at grasses, tumbling, gathering speed, plunging into the shadow of a huge lightning-blasted tree, where the frost lingered, thick and white.
When I sat up and opened my eyes I was still freezing.
But everything else had changed.
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