I have to write a letter to my imaginary French penfriend. I've got to answer all the questions (that demonstrate how interested she is in me) that she has sent via my French textbook.

The first question she has asked me is 'As tu des freres ou des soeurs?' I could lie and say yes; but then I would have to describe them, give them names and features. I want to invent brothers and sisters for myself and have them rattling around in my head. I should have grown out of imaginary friends by now -- and that includes imaginary brothers and sisters to tell my imaginary French penfriend about!

So I write; "Non, je suis une fille unique". And I think about what I've written, that I'm an only child. I have suggested that I'm a one-and-only child. I have described myself as "unique".

However, this special status exists only in my imagination. I am, in fact, an only child who is a stereotypical lonely child. The only place I feel I belong is in the classic mould of a child who, lacking experience of interaction with siblings (and opportunities to socialise with my peers due to over-protective parents), is deficient in the means to make friends and, furthermore, resents her suffocating family life.

I'd fit quite well into a sociology textbook. I'm obviously easy to define. Unfortunately, it's a lot harder to destroy that image. I've been cast as a misfit.

The only way I've ever been able to escape from myself is in my imagination. Real life, however, always managed to catch up with me. When I was six years old, for example, and I was on a walk with my Mum and Dad, I tried to escape by imagining that I was the leader of my big group of friends. I went running off, away from my parents, in order to lead all my friends on a great, big adventure. My parents told me to be careful. They called me back. They shouted at me not to be so silly. I didn't take a blind bit of notice: I was the leader, the daring, confident, capable leader. I fell flat on my face in the mud.

It actually took quite a few more hard knocks to hammer it into me that my imagination would take me nowhere.

My French teacher will receive the stark black and white truth. I translate my life into the broken black thread of my foreign language skills.

If only I could exist simply between the lines of my exercise book. I could create an identity for myself that real life couldn't Tippex out. Unfortunately, my French teacher, part-time, shares coffee-mornings with my mother.

At this point my Dad enters my room and tells me how exciting it is that his computer is going to be linked up to the Internet. I tell him to "Get a life!"

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