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Dear ....................,

You are cordially invited to attend the belated eighteenth birthday celebrations of my daughter Mirabella on the date of Saturday, the 17th of September 2011. Said celebrations shall occur from 10am to 10pm, but late arrivals and early departures are always acceptable. Gifts and food will be eagerly welcomed, although I must insist that items containing alcohol or illegal drugs will not be tolerated. There is no set theme for this party, although all attendants should be dressed in formal attire.

Yours, Avis Isabella de Pensée Strong

Mirabella rolled her eyes as she read over the paper again. She wouldn't normally have let her mother write the invitations, but the whole thing had been so hastily organised that she had no other option but let Avis pepper her verbosity over the pages of artistically tea-stained paper.

Her mother and father had vacated the Strong residence temporarily to fetch last-minute groceries and decorations, leaving their daughter to welcome their guests as they made their way up the rose-lined gravel path.

Lying down upon the café-au-lait leatherette couch that sat at the centre of the living room, Mirabella pulled a green-and-yellow pill from a foil casing and methodically gulped it down with half a glass of tonic water. Mirabella wouldn't normally leave it this late for her medication, but she wanted to time it so that she didn't need to pop too many pills in view of her classmates. She knew at least some of them were fully aware of her anxiety issues, but she couldn't be sure who, and didn't want too many people to know.

Placing the remaining pills back into her purse, Mirabella returned to her bedroom to make sure that everything was in perfect order. It was always well-maintained, but today she wanted it to be in its best condition for any potential surveyors. She didn't usually have people over, and she wanted to give any first-time visitors a good impression.

She glanced towards the mirror that hung above her bookshelf and checked her hair and collar. A barrette had slipped out of place, but moving it back would mean the alteration of all five of its brethren. After a short period of thinking she decided to grab her favoured beret and place it over the askew hair clip.

Mirabella returned to the kitchen, where a tray of biscotti and coffee sat on the table, as a snack for the arriving guests. She hoped it would be enough, but that would mean the guests would total around three.

She'd sent the invitations out to several of her classmates. All of her fellow debate, swim, and writing members had received one, as well as the more amiable members of the school's student body, but how many would attend this gathering was unknown to her.

The family clock ticking in the background, Mirabella returned to her seat, humming tunelessly. Before she could get too relaxed, however, a sharp knocking emanated from outside, signaling her first guest.

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