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The invitations were ready.
Twin towers of stiff, cream-colored envelopes stood sentry on the heavy antique desk in the sitting room next to Cassandra Rockham's powder-blue bedroom. The guest list, a single sheet of lined yellow paper, lay beside the ivory towers. A vivid red checkmark stabbed each name.
Cass leaned back lazily in the brown leather chair and stretched her legs, in buttery-soft suede jeans, lifting them until her booted feet rested on the shiny surface of the desk. Her thick, glossy black hair curved around her ears, brushing against her soft, pale cheeks. Her dark lashes flickered as she regarded the finished list with satisfaction.
One of her father's secretaries would seal, stamp, and mail the messages. In a day or two, selected mailboxes throughout the town of Greenhaven would announce Cass Rockham's annual Fall Party.
The best party.
The most important.
The lucky invited guests would be smiling, relieved to learn that they were still "in."
The unlucky ones ... Cass shrugged carelessly. Who knew what the unlucky ones did when their mailboxes yielded only a handful of bills and a circular or two from discount stores?
It wasn't her fault some people just didn't belong at her parties.
Cass narrowed her chestnut-colored eyes in amusement as she pictured disappointed faces peering into mailboxes.
That's what people got for thinking she would add them to her list. Didn't she always invite the same people?
She grinned wickedly. Well ... almost always.
It was weird, though, how there were always a few losers at school who would pass her in the hall after the invitations had been delivered and give her that dumb, nervous little look of hope, as if they thought she might not have known their address and intended to hand-deliver their "invite." They would actually slow their steps to give her the time to give it to them.
Sometimes, when she was in exactly the right kind of mood, she slowed her steps, too, relishing the way that tiny budding hope in their eyes sprang into full bloom.
Then Cass would smile broadly and hurry away, feeling completely guiltless. She couldn't help it if people were gullible sometimes.
Now that the invitations were ready to spread their joy throughout Greenhaven, her party plans were all set.
The band, the best in five counties, had been signed for months. The caterer specialized in teen parties and knew better than to show up with trays of quiche or pâté or watercress sandwiches. The household staff had been busy for weeks, polishing and vacuuming every inch of the three-story white mansion. The heated pool sparkled, the acres of fall flowers and velvety lawns were immaculate, and the new Swedish sauna, a cedar hideaway in the woods near the stables, was finally fully operational.
The black strapless stretch dress, which her father had teasingly told Cass looked like a large belt, hung in its plastic bag in one of her closets. Her parents were packing for their thirty-day excursion to the south of France. They weren't the kind of parents who believed in chaperoning teen get-togethers. They were cool. They'd be gone before the party.
Everything was set. Everything was falling into place, as it always did for her parties.
Cass reached out a smooth white hand and tapped one of the creamy towers with a scarlet fingernail. A sly smile played at matching scarlet lips.
But this party would be a little bit different from the others. Besides dancing and eating and swimming, playing video games and maybe using the new sauna, there would be something new and interesting this year to entertain her guests.
Smiling to herself, Cass stood up, adjusted the rolled-up sleeves of her peach silk blouse, and with one last satisfied glance at the twin towers on her desk, left the room.
As the heavy wooden door slammed shut behind her, the towers teetered for a moment, then toppled over. The crisp ivory envelopes tumbled forward, landing one at a time on the smooth, slippery surface of the desk. A few skated to the edge and over it, floating without a sound to the thick vanilla carpet below.
One card fell a couple of inches beyond the others, settling itself against the chair's leg.
The name and address on it were clearly visible.
In elegant script written with gold ink, the following guest was about to be invited to Cassandra Rockham's Fall Party:
Miss Sarah E. Drew
278 Valley Cove Drive
Greenhaven, New York
On a hot autumn afternoon two days later, Sarah Drew stood on the tiny front porch of her family's squat yellow house surrounded by a neat but unhealthy-looking lawn. She stared, open-mouthed in shock, at the crisp ivory card lying unfolded in the palm of her hand. She was a thin, pretty girl, in khaki shorts and a white T-shirt, with hair the color of beach sand pulled into a thick French braid on her neck. Sarah frowned as she scanned the fine gold engraving for the third time.
It had to be a mistake. Cass Rockham held a big, semiformal party every October. That gave "Her Royal Richness" time enough to cross off her invitation list any old friends who might have picked up bad habits over the summer. It also gave her time to cultivate any new and "suitable" arrivals at Greenhaven High School.
The only new arrival this year, as far as Sarah knew, was Shane Magruder. And Shane wasn't rich enough, popular enough, or important enough to make Cass's guest list.
But then, Sarah told herself, neither am I. So what is this invitation doing in my mailbox?
Balancing the packet of mail in one hand, Sarah opened the front door with the other. All those parties Cass had held at the mansion up on the hill, and never once had Sarah Elizabeth Drew been invited. Never once had she expected to be. Never once had she wanted to be on that guest list. As far as Sarah was concerned, Cass Rockham and her entire "hill crowd" were completely unnecessary to the planet. Who needed them?
Not Sarah Drew.
So what was this invitation with the fancy gold printing doing in her hand?
The telephone in the kitchen shrilled. Probably her mother, calling from work to give instructions for dinner.
Dropping her backpack and the handful of bills and circulars on the worn tweed sofa, Sarah hurried into the small white kitchen.
She had barely said hello when Eleanor Whittier's voice began shrieking in her ear.
"Sarah! Sarah, is that you? Sarah, you'll never believe this, not in a zillion years! I've been invited to Cass's party! Can you believe it? Sarah, did you hear me?" All this spilled out of Eleanor without a single breath.
Sarah, her sandy brows furrowing, pictured Ellie in her pale yellow bedroom. Ellie's tall, broad body had to be quivering with excitement. It didn't take much to excite Ellie. Her blue eyes in her round, cheerful face were probably as shiny as the ocean on a sunny day, her cheeks pink as a sunset. She was probably clutching the invitation with an iron grip, afraid that it might suddenly leap out of her hand and scamper for the door.
Ellie didn't receive that many invitations. Only Sarah, Donald, Maggie, and now Shane had gotten to know the kind-hearted person behind the plain, honest face. How many times had Ellie gone out of her way to drive one of them home in lousy weather, loaned them notes from a class they'd missed, comforted a broken (or at least dented) heart? Too many times to count.
Ellie was a good friend to have. But her name didn't show up on that many guest lists. No wonder she was excited.
Ellie's voice gushed on, a waterfall of happiness. "I can't believe it! I mean, Cass smiled at me in the hall the other day, but I never thought—"
"Ellie, calm down," Sarah interrupted. "I got an invitation, too, which I, personally, think is extremely weird. There's something funny going on here, if you ask me."
The voice in Sarah's ear became even more excited. "You got one, too? That's great! That's fantastic! Oh, jeez, Sarah, what am I going to wear? I don't have anything pretty. What are you wearing?"
Sarah's straight, sparsely freckled nose wrinkled in distaste. "Me? Are you kidding? You know how I feel about that crowd. I said I was invited, Ellie. I never said I was going."
Sarah heard nothing but a shocked silence at the other end of the telephone line.
Envisioning the horrified expression on Ellie's face, Sarah laughed. "Look," she said, sinking into a wooden chair at the round kitchen table, "it's probably a mistake. One of Mr. Rockham's secretaries must have goofed and invited the whole junior class by mistake. Cass will probably have her fired. Maybe killed."
"A mistake? Oh, no!"
"In the second place," Sarah said into the disappointed silence, "I have something important planned for that night." She glanced down at the invitation, still in her hand. "A week from Saturday, I'm cleaning Rover's bird cage."
"That's not funny!" Ellie scolded. Her voice held both disappointment and irritation.
Sarah felt as if she'd kicked a puppy. When was the last time Eleanor Whittier had had any reason to be this excited? It was her sister, Ruth, a thin, pretty senior who led the active social life Ellie yearned for.
"I'm sorry, Ellie," Sarah apologized. "But I have to be honest about this. If this is a mistake, it'll just hurt you more to get all freaked out about it and then be crushed."
"You don't know it's a mistake!" The words held a plea, begging Sarah to be wrong. "Cass could have invited us."
"Oh, sure," Sarah snapped, annoyed by Ellie's naked need to attend Cass's stupid party, "and there's going to be a flood in the Mojave Desert tomorrow at noon." Weren't they all okay without the friendship of Cass Rockham? Didn't she and Ellie, Maggie, Donald, and Shane have fun on their own? So they weren't a part of the hill crowd. So what? They had fun, didn't they?
"I'm going to call Donald," Ellie said stubbornly, "and see if he got an invitation, too."
Sarah's front doorbell rang. "You do that. Somebody's at the door. I'll call you back. 'Bye."
Shaking her head as she replaced the telephone, Sarah got up and hurried through the dim, cool house. She passed her violin, lying in its case on the dining room table. Her guilty conscience imagined the instrument crying out to her, "Hey, Sarah, what's the big idea? It's almost three-thirty!"
Every weekday for the past eight years, Sarah had practiced violin from three-fifteen until six-fifteen except on the days when she had orchestra practice after school. She knew that even if her mother hadn't insisted on the three-hour workout, she'd have done it, anyway. It relaxed her, calmed her down, taking her out of the real world, which wasn't always such a terrific place to be, and moving her into a world of peace and beauty. She would be lost without music, totally lost.
And it's not as if you have such a crowded social schedule that you have trouble finding time to practice, she told herself as she yanked open the front door.
Maggie Delaney and Shane Magruder stood in front of Sarah on the tiny front porch. They were a study in contrasts: Maggie tall and willowy, with copper-colored, short curly hair and freckled skin, dressed carelessly in blue sweatpants and a white sleeveless T-shirt; Shane tiny and fine-boned, her white-blonde hair hanging thick and straight to her shoulders, curved bangs reaching almost to her pale blue eyes. She was neatly dressed in a navy-blue cotton skirt and a matching short-sleeved flowered blouse.
Maggie was in soiled, scuffed sneakers; Shane in navy-blue flats. Sarah's best friends looked as mismatched as pizza and chocolate cake. But Maggie had taken shy, quiet Shane under her wing immediately after Shane's arrival in town last June and their personalities had quickly meshed.
Maggie's enthusiasm for "the new girl" had made it easier for the others to accept Shane into their little group. Sarah wasn't sorry. Shane was quiet and it was hard to know what she was thinking, but she didn't have a mean bone in her body and she loved music.
Sarah knew instantly why they were on her front porch. Maggie's thickly lashed brown eyes were gleaming with excitement. In one hand, which she thrust triumphantly toward Sarah, lay another of the cream-colored rectangles.
Sarah groaned. She checked Shane's hands. The left one held an identical card, gingerly, with only the fingertips, as if Shane were afraid it would bite her. Sarah couldn't tell if the thought of attending Cass's party frightened Shane, or if she was simply confused about receiving an invitation.
"So ... you got one, too," Sarah said flatly, opening the door wider to let them in. "This is really too weird. Any idea what's going on?"
Maggie pushed past her into the house, yanking Shane in along with her. "We've been invited, that's what's going on. Finally! It's about time Cass Rockham noticed us! She must have realized that no party would be complete without our stimulating presence." She plopped down on the sofa in the living room. The late-afternoon sun streaming in through the window painted her copper hair with golden highlights. "I mean, we may not be big deals on campus, Sarah, but we're not exactly nerds either." She grinned. "I, for instance, am a drum majorette with the marching band. That is not something to be taken lightly."
Sarah grinned back. "Dumb majorette, did you say?"
Maggie threw a pillow at her.
The phone rang again.
"I'll bet that's Donald," Maggie said cheerfully, following Sarah into the kitchen. "He probably just got around to checking his mail. Bet you a dollar he got an invite, too. Probably because he made Varsity basketball this year. Cass has a thing for athletes. Maybe that's why we all got invited. Because we know Donald."
She was right about it being Donald on the phone. Donald Neeson had been invited to Cass's party. He seemed very anxious to find out if Maggie, too, had been invited.
That puzzled Sarah. Donald already had a girlfriend, someone named Dolly. He'd met her during the summer. They were both counselors at a summer camp not far from town. Because she lived in a distant town, none of them had met her yet, but Donald had talked about her a lot. So why was he so eager to find out if Maggie was going to Cass's party?
"Yeah, Maggie's been invited," Sarah told him. "And I think she's probably going. She's jumping out of her skin over here. You'd think she'd been invited to the White House."
"Cass's house is white," Maggie whispered devilishly in Sarah's ear.
"Ellie's probably going, too," Sarah added, ignoring Maggie, "if these invitations aren't a mistake, which they probably are. And Shane will go if Maggie goes. Me, I wouldn't be caught dead at one of Cass's parties. I don't know why we got these invitations, but I've got better things to do with my time than hang around with that crowd. I can't believe you guys are all so hyper about this. We never went before, and we didn't miss it, did we? Did we?"
"Well, no," Donald admitted. "But if Maggie's going ..."
This is a new wrinkle, Sarah thought, frowning. Except for Shane, they'd all been friends for ages and Donald had never seemed romantically interested in Maggie. He'd dated lots of girls, but never Maggie.
And what about the absent Dolly? It certainly didn't sound like he was planning to take an out-of-town guest to the party. How would Dolly take the idea of Donald going to a big bash without her?
She'd better be awfully understanding.
"Come on over," Sarah told him with a sigh, deciding that this party business probably wasn't going to just disappear as she wanted it to. Maggie was hovering near her elbow, Shane was waiting on the couch, and Ellie was waiting to hear from Sarah again. Might as well get it settled right now, one way or the other.
She'd have trouble concentrating on her music, anyway, until they'd decided what to do about the invitations.
"Stop and pick up Ellie on your way," she told Donald before hanging up. "We'll talk about the party here."
As she put the telephone back in its cradle, Sarah told herself with firm resolve that no one was going to talk her into attending one of Cass Rockham's idiotic parties.
Excerpted from The Invitation by Diane Hoh. Copyright © 1991 Diane Hoh. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted November 27, 2012
The Invitation is an entertaining book that took me back to my high school years, when teen slasher movies were the craze. The plot was a little predictable - a group of friends, a psycho out for revenge and a few strange occurences that keep you guessing who exactly is behind everything that is happening. But there were one or two twists thrown in which really and truly surprised me.
So basically the story is about five very ordinary teens who receive invites to the party of the year. Their excitement at having been invited out-weighs their suspicions, and they go to the party. But once they arrive, it is quite clear that something is not right. Or at least only to the MC, Sarah. The house has a creepy, dim atmosphere and their hostess is a little too happy to see them all, even though she cannot remember their names. Yeah, something is definitely up!
A quick game of muscial chairs singles out each of the five friends and they find themselves becoming the entertainment. Only, this supposedly innocent turn of events soon becomes a deadly game of cat and mouse.
The idea of a "human hunt" was quite interesting, and a fresh idea. It was only once the hunt began that I really got into the book. I love mysteries, and I try to keep track of everyone's movements, hoping to figure out who the culprit is before they are actually revealed, and everytime I thought I knew who it was something would prove me wrong. When the "bad guy" was finally revealed, I felt a little disappointed. The story behind why the person was out for revenge could have been a little more scandalous, and it don't think it warranted the deadly situtations that the characters were thrown into. I mean would someone really go so far off the deep end and try kill people, if faced with the same situation? I just had a very hard time believing it!
This book also has a touch of romance, which I felt could have been left out. It just didn't have a place in the story, and it was almost as if it was added as a filler.
Posted December 19, 2000
I didn't like this book because it isn't all that I expected it to be. On the cover of the book it locked scary but, it wasn't scary at all. I mean, nothing really scary happens in the book, the people get kidnapped and stuff but nothing that had you off the edge of your seat. Maybe you will like it because your not looking for an edge of your seat book!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 25, 2010
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