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Lonely Hearts Club; Open!
Topic Started: Apr 1 2013, 03:18 PM (2,605 Views)
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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.

Shit.
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"Rachael! Good morning. You're well, I trust?"

Opening the front door, Mirabella was greeted with the pleasant sight of her friend and fellow Writing Club member Rachael Langdon, adorned in a pretty leaf-print dress. Mirabella had always slightly envied Rachael's appearance. She looked so prim and proper, much like Mirabella aspired to be, but Rachael succeeded much more.

She noticed the other girl glancing at the rose planters that lined the path towards the small portico that housed their front door, and couldn't help but comment on it.

"You like the roses? My mother's idea. She isn't the most capable gardener, but she has nice ideas. I hope you don't mind the more...subdued decor inside. My mother says that as long as the outside makes the neighbours jealous, then she doesn't mind what the inside looks like."

She paused, and then realised how odd she must seem, chattering about rose bushes instead of inviting Rachael inside. Her eyes fluttered towards the bag in Rachael's hand, but she decided not to bring it up. She didn't want to seem self-absorbed now, did she?

"Oh my...how silly of me. Do come in, Rachael."

She led the way inside, stepping onto plush carpet. She waved towards the leatherette furniture that took up most of their living room.

"Take a seat if you'd like. There's some coffee and biscotti in the kitchen--my mother insisted on me having it ready--but there's chocolate and fruit and chips and some other things if you'd like."

She smiled at Rachael. This ought to be a good day.
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"You're welcome, Rachael, and...thank you. I'm sure my mother would be glad to hear it," said Mirabella as she poured herself a drink. Her father had prepared the coffee, and he preferred it bitter, so she made sure to add plenty of sweetener and cream to her mug. She noted how Rachael had done the same with her drink, and how cautious she was being as she sat on one of the couches.

Placing a pair of patterned coasters on the nearby table, Mirabella sat next to Rachael, adjusting her beret. It seemed so silly to be wearing it indoors; she vowed to fix her barrettes when she had a spare moment, and place her hat aside. Rachael looked so pensive, sitting there with mug in hand.

"Is everything okay, Rachael? You look a bit nervous. Please don't be. In fact...why don't we go to my room while we wait for some others to arrive. It's a little less...sterile. We could watch some television, or play a board game or listen to some music...hey, you do yoga, don't you? Do you think you could...show me some moves or whatever you call them? And-"

She noticed the package that Rachael had gently placed on the floor. Mirabella had always been a fan of presents. The anticipation of receiving a gift and methodically unwrapping it, no matter what the contents were, was always a joy to her.

"Um...I hate to seem odd, but...that...on the floor...is that for me?"
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Mirabella paused. She'd just misinterpreted a minor caution as something more complicated, hadn't she? Her father's perspicacity for such matters was well-known to her and her mother, and her subconscious must be causing her to try (and subsequently fail) to emulate him in that regard. Rachael was just being polite, that was all.

She was just being polite...not everybody has issues like you, Mirabella.

Mirabella knew that she must've made an error in her judgement when Rachael stammered slightly in her explanation of the package on the lettuce-green carpet. Rachael seemed about to confirm her comfortableness in the somewhat vacant living room when the doorbell rang. Mirabella had never cared for the doorbell; it was a garish thing; she thought its installation was superfluous when there was a perfectly good lion-shaped knocker engraved in bronze already there.

Wincing as the two-toned bell rang throughout the room, Mirabella began to prepare to welcome the newest arrival. Delicately traversing the plush carpet, she paused to place Rachael's gift onto the nearby table beside her half-empty mug of coffee, which still had a cloud of steam rising from within.

Opening the door, she was greeted with the sight of Megan Emerson standing on the doorstep, dressed in a black dress dotted with white spots, and carrying a gift bag in her hands. To be truthful, the girl's presence was a surprise to Mirabella. Sending an invitation out to Megan occurred almost as an afterthought. However, she had a good sense of humour and a good eye for literature, so she was glad for the new arrival.

"Oh, hello Megan. I'm glad you could make it. Rachael's here as well. There's some coffee and biscotti on a tray, with cream and sugar. Although...the pots half-empty, I think. Uh...do come in."
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Mirabella returned to her seat as Megan briefly vacated it to fetch herself a mug of coffee. With Megan having prepared herself a cup, it was likely that the pot would only sustain one more drink before she had to prepare a new batch. As Megan returned to the room, a mug in hand, Mirabella felt compelled to reflect on the greeting Megan had given as she entered the room.

"Oh, Megan, it's not actually my birthday today. It was on Wednesday. Mother always insists that we should devote an entire day to someone's birthday, and, well, with school and all, it usually falls on the weekend with me."

She smiled, glancing towards the two neatly placed presents. Both were similar in size; books, or something similar, no doubt. Given that her strongest connection with the pair was through literature-related activities, it seemed a natural gift choice.

Still, you could never be too sure.

"Uh...anyhow, yay! Presents! Uh...should we open them now, or wait until someone else shows up or...ah, I knew I should have thought this out more before today. I mean...not that I didn't plan anything..."

She blinked, rubbing the side of her neck. Today must be an off-day for her loquacious sensibilities.

"So...yeah. What do you want to do?"
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"Hmm. I think I will. Wait until more people arrive, I mean."

Mirabella glanced towards the presents again. They looked so tempting...

"Ah...but, anyway...about what we're going to do. Well, I..."

Breathe.

"Well, I'm eighteen now, and I've...I've realised that the whole world will be open to me soon. Well, to all of us, really. This time next year...we won't be in school, we won't have French lessons or writing club meetings or tutorials or hurriedly copied homework as the teacher bares down upon us...this part of our lives is almost over, and I...we're not children anymore. So I thought that as we enter the initial stages of adulthood we should revisit our childhood activites. Y'know, hide and go seek, pin the tail on the donkey...it sounds odd, I know, but...we're never really going to have a chance to do those things again, are we?"

Well. That turned out to be a longer spiel than she had anticipated when she'd started it.

Breathless Bella. What father used to call me. Until mother interjected with "Mirabella the Multiloquent."

"And...the formal attire. My mother's insistence. She's quite the stickler for this sort of thing. I wouldn't have minded if you'd turned up in a t-shirt and slacks, really."

...

"So, anyone for mouse trap?"
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Neither Megan nor Rachael seemed too concerned with Mirabella's sudden rambling, although Rachael did look a little surprised by the rather saddening subject matter. She was glad that the pair of them were both receptive to the idea of playing mouse trap, and smiled at the notion of the three of them circled around the worn-board, struggling to assemble the titular device.

"Oh, the rules...well, everybody has a coloured mouse that acts as a counter of sorts, and you have to..."

She hadn't played the game in such a while...she knew that everything would come flooding back to her as soon as she retrieved the box from the storage cupboard in the hallway, but at the moment the rules were still somewhat hazy.

"Uh...and you have to try and capture your opponent's mice in this whole complicated trap thing. There's diving boards and a little silver marble...although I think we lost ours ages ago. I'll...I'll just go get it. D'you want to play it in the living room or in my bedroom? Or...I suppose we could do it at the dining table, if we move the bowls and plates and such to the side..."

Mirabella trailed off. She was speaking a lot, but she didn't seem to be saying much. She knew that her pills would often take a while to take full effect, but it was only now that she realised the full extent of her delayed reaction to them. Mirabella supposed that being stressed already probably didn't help.
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"A little competive"? Mirabella could believe that. Megan seemed to have a little bit of competitive streak behind her blue eyes. The marble though...

"Oh, I think daddy replaced it with another one. He has a small collection of them in his bedside drawers. I don't know why I brought it up, really...I guess just in case you thought it odd. I'll uh...I'll just go get it."

Mirabella left the living room just as Rachael moved to sit in a more comfortable position. Likely something she learned in yoga class or something she thought as she crossed over the threshold into the hallway. Pushing open the perpetually stubborn door to the storage room, she surveyed the less than organised sight before her. The box of Mouse Trap sat atop a set of set of empty boxes, and she was careful not to nudge anything as she removed the curiously light box from where it had sat for...God knows how long.

She took a quick detour to the bathroom in an attempt to hurriedly fix her barrettes and beret. Removing the hairclips, she looked at the haggard mess her fringe had become, and elected to replace it with a hairband she'd left there a few days prior. It didn't look the best, but she didn't want to be away so long as to cause suspicion or confusion on the parts of her guests. Rachael and Megan were good people, a rarity nowadays.

Breathing heavily, she paused, giving the pill a little longer to take effect. Deciding she'd delayed long enough, she returned to the living room, board game in hand.

"So...who wants to go first?"
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"Oh, sure, I'll go first, if that's what you want."

Mirabella carefully lowered herself to the floor to sit with the other girls. A bizarre thought flashed through her mind; all trussed up in fancy dresses, sitting in a circle, it seemed almost like they were a trio of witches, preparing some demonic concoction.

She removed the lid, a film of dust descending from it as she did so.

"Oh dear. I..."

The game was in disarray; unbagged pieces of deformed equipment, the playing board calloused and scratched. Now she remembered why she hadn't played the game in such a while...

"I...uh...I'm soso sorry...I didn't...I'm sorry."

She blinked, looking at the two girls beside her.

"It's...a little bit...I..."

Think Mirabella, think!

"I'm sure we can fix the game, but just in case...movie? We've got quite a few. I...need to get a glass of water."

She scurried off the kitchen, slipping slightly on the patterned linoleum. Plucking a frosted glass from the cutlery cupboard, she slowly filled it from the faucet. It was a poor excuse, she thought as the water began to overflow from the brim, but I needed to find a way to recover my composure. And finally...the pill was working. It was such a silly thing to think; whether a pill was working or not.

It was always working. I just...didn't let it. Grah, Mirabella! Stop...thinking. It's your party. It's a mess already; just try and fix the shambles.

Smiling, she returned to the living room, having just fetched a packet of ready-made popcorn from the back of the pantry.

"I'm...sorry. I must've looked awful crazy. So. Do you think it's salvageable?"
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"Really? Completely unsalvageable? Oh well...good thing we'll never be in a situation like those poor mice, right?"

Just then, a knocking emanated from outside, following by the shrill intone of the doorbell. As she moved to welcome another guest she turned back towards Megan and Rachael.

"Movie it is then. We've got lots of different genres...my parents claim to be connoisseurs of cinema, so we've got all of the classics, but there're a bunch of modern movies and just really bad ones as well. They bought Sharktopus the other day, I believe..."

She trailed off as she opened the door to find Venice Pennington-Johannes on her doorstep, a black box in hand. Venice was one of the nicest girls in school, and one of the more sociable in Mirabella's circle of friends, so Mirabella was glad to have her arrive. She also had an unusual name as well. However, while Venice was named for one of the most beautiful cities on the planet, Mirabella's name sounded like a venereal disease.

"Ah, hello Venice! It's good to see you; I'm glad you could make it. There's some coffee in the kitchen, but it might be lukewarm by now. There's some soda pop and fruit juice as well, just in case. We were going to play Mouse Trap, but...the less said about that, the better. So, we were thinking of a film instead. Do you have any preferences? Please make yourself at home."

She smiled, leading the petite girl inside.
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"Jaws, huh? I think we have that in the collection...and, Venice...do sit down if you'd like. There's plenty of room. I think."

After adjusting Venice's present so that it sat orderly with its brethren, Mirabella knelt to open the mahogany cabinet that housed the family's sizable DVD collection. Alphabetically organised, it took her only a few seconds to locate the boxed set that contained the entire Jaws tetralogy. As she pried it out from between It Started in Naples and Jimmy Neutron, slightly relieving the over-stuffed cabinet, she turned back towards Megan, who was inquiring as to what they should do with the shambles that was their copy of Mouse Trap.

"Hmm. I guess if we wrap it in a few plastic bags and place it by the wastepaper basket in the kitchen we can dispose of it properly later."

Mirabella glanced over at Rachael, who was still calculatedly sipping from the coffee mug, and back to the set of DVDs in her hand. She knew that Rachael wasn't likely a fan of violence, which she knew the films contained much of, and decided to take up Rachael's advice on going through the collection.

"Actually, I mean, we have nigh on two hundred DVDs here. I'm sure there's something better that we might all be able to all agree on. I mean, Rachael, what movies do you favour? And Venice and Megan...anything other than Jaws? I mean, I'm not adverse to it if we come to a consensus on it, but I think that looking at all available options might be best. Also..."

She glanced over towards the three packages sitting in a neat pile on the coffee table. The tempation was growing...

"Before we start the movie...what do you say to opening a present or two? Couldn't hurt, I mean..."
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"Hmm..."

To be truthful, even Mirabella hadn't fully perused all of the DVDs her family had amassed over the years, loyally keeping to a tried and tested few. She rarely watched any of the plethora of obscure foreign films her mother ordered online that made up the majority of the collection, and decided that today should be no different. She didn't think the others would take too kindly to a black-and-white French film with acting that frequently fluctuated between wooden and melodramatic. Having eliminated those from the realms of possibility (along with any live-action film made prior to 1980) she was left with two dozen Disney films, a trio of nature documentaries, and a few corny monster flicks her father treasured.

Glancing through the pile at her feet she decided on the two that had most frequented the family DVD player when she was in charge of it: Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Finding Nemo.

"These two are some of my favourites...well, when I was younger, anyway. I...I mean, there's plenty of time. Let's watch both of them, huh? Snow White first?"

Rachael, Megan, and Venice were in agreement with her opening a present as well, so she shuffled towards the trio of gifts that sat beside a box of coasters, and gently picked up the nearest: the bowed box that Venice had brought with her. Unlacing it, her mind raced with possibilities as to what its contents (that rustled as she did so) could be. It couldn't be a book...some jewellery, maybe? Or...maybe she got me a headband like the one she sometimes wears...I'm sure she won't disappoint, whatever-

And then the bow fell away, and Bella saw what was inside.

"It's lovely, Venice. Thank you."

She smiled ruefully at the contents. She knew that most people gave money if they didn't know what to give someone, but she'd never received a purely monetary gift in such an unusual fashion. Still, a tiny part of her couldn't help but be slightly upset. Oh. Money. That's not a particularly swell present. No, wait, what am I thinking? I'm so ungrateful. It's the thought that counts. Blaugh. Silly Bella.

Tearing her eyes away from the pile of coinage and towards the wall-mounted television and DVD player, she decided to take charge of this lackluster party - which is my fault; who has a twelve hour party without any concrete plans? - and get things moving.

"The movies, then...you're all in agreement, right?"
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"Oh, I'm so glad you agree. Righto. Snow White it is..."

Mirabella inserted the DVD into the player and skipped to the main menu, but as she did so she heard a sharp smack from where Venice was sitting. She saw a DVD case beside the girl, who was nursing her forehead, and realised what had happened. She mashed her fingers against the control panel, starting the dramatic overture of the film, and rushed to Venice's aid.

"Aaaagh, Venice!"

She glanced over at the DVD case. It was a stylised copy of The Birds, the case made into the shape of a raven. The sharp beak had been dulled through the years of ownership the DVD had endured, but it was still somewhat dangerous. Mirabella gently picked it up and placed it with the ruined copy of Mouse Trap.

"Oh, Venice...I'll...do you want anything? And your present...if I didn't sound very grateful before, it was because I was surprised, okay? It's really lovely, really."

She stood up and moved towards the bag of popcorn she'd brought in with her, placing it on the coffee table.

"Does anybody else want anything? Something to eat or drink?"
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The melodic tones of the opening theme were interrupted by a sharp knocking on the front door. Oh, someone else. This ought to be helpful! Oh, but we've run out of coffee! Oh dear... She was sure there was some cola in the fridge, though. I could bring that out if worse comes to worse.

"Just a minute!" She called, moving to welcome the next guest. She opened the door to find Rosemary, a fellow swim girl and writer. Oh good. Venice won't feel quite as alienated. I should've thought of that before. Rosemary was a sweet and kind girl, and Bella was glad of her company.

"Hi Rosemary! I'm glad you could come. You're just in time, really - we've just started to watch Snow White - the Disney version. Rachael, Megan, and Venice are here as well, and there's some popcorn if you'd like some. You look really lovely. Come, make yourself at home."

Her speech ran quick-paced from her mouth, and by the end she was panting for breath. Maybe with an extra guest she might feel more at ease. It was then that she noticed the car on the driveway. Rosemary's mother, no doubt. I remember seeing her talking to mum at swim meets. She seems quite nice. Oh, what do I do? Do I invite Mrs Michaels in? Oh, I hadn't prepared for this. Calm, Bella. Calm.
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The movie was just as Bella had remembered, the songs and music bringing back fond memories of her childhood, bundled between her parents with a mug of hot chocolate and a plate of biscuits. She couldn’t help but hum along when One Song started; the Prince was so romantic, even if he was one of the flattest characters ever. Bella wasn’t jealous of Snow White, exactly, but she had to admit that it’d be nice to have someone try and woo her like that.

And just like that, the movie was over, the sound of the credits mixed with Venice brushing her glossy hair - another thing Bella felt a little bit of envy over; Venice’s hair was so lustrous and pretty, whereas her own, although nice, took a bit too much effort for her liking - and Rosemary’s stomach rumbling. The rumble reminded her of the need to actual feed her guests food; they’d been here for awhile, and though the coffee and biscuits had been nice, they were far from filling.

Thankfully, Venice interjected with the suggestion of cutting the cake, which was a pretty good idea. It’d do no good if they feasted on crisps and soda all day and ended up too full to eat the centrepiece of the birthday food. Bella still felt a little guilty over letting her minor disappointment with Venice’s gift show on her face. Venice was such a sweet girl and a really good friend, and Bella didn’t want her to feel unwelcome in her home.

“That’s a great idea, Venice!” She beamed, standing up from the sofa and smoothing out the hem of her carnelian sundress. It was one of her birthday presents, given to her a few days ago by her Aunt Melanie. She’d been eager to try it out, and she suspected that was one of the reasons why her mother had requested formal attire - she would’ve stuck out like a sore thumb if she was all gussied up and everybody was in more causal clothes.

“There’s some sparkling grape juice in the fridge,” she continued, moving into the kitchen. “I’ll go fetch the bottle, so we can have a toast and stuff before cutting it!”

She hurried to the refrigerator to retrieve the bottle, placing it upon the tabletop before returning to her friends. “I hope this hasn’t been too much of a bore,” she said, kneeling to pull five wine wine glasses from beneath the liquor cabinet. “If there’s anything special you wanna do, then don’t be scared to speak up!”

“Voila!” She said, standing up once more. “Now, cake-time!”
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