My Sister the Vampire Book 2: Fangtastic! (Chapter 7)

Ivy had bats in her stomach as she strolled through the mall food court. She wasn't just nervous about her visit to the adoption agency, she was also excited about swapping identities with her sister. Switching was almost like being invisible. Especially this week, when she felt like a bug under a microscope. She couldn't wait to shed her skin.

She confirmed with a sidelong glance that Toby was still behind her as she headed into the ladies' room. At least he can't follow me in here, she thought. Well, he could, but then he'd get arrested.

There was no one in the ladies' room except an old woman bent close to the mirror, straining to put on pale lipstick with a shaky hand. Where's Olivia? thought Ivy.

The lady noticed Ivy and gingerly turned around, clutching her purse to her chest. "You're one of those death children I heard about on The Morning Star!" She gasped.

Ivy put her hands on her hips. "So?"

The lady wagged a bony finger. "The Star of truth will shine!"

A stall door swung open and out marched Olivia. She walked right up to the old woman. "Then you should be worried about all those stolen ketchup packets from the food court you have in that pocketbook," she said, folding her arms disapprovingly.

The lady hurried out of the bathroom without another peep.

"Have a good day!" Ivy called after her with un-Gothlike enthusiasm.

Five minutes later, Olivia and Ivy had changed into each other's clothes, and Ivy was putting the finishing touches on Olivia's black eyeliner. The spray-on whitener really made an enormous difference to Olivia's appearance.

"All right," Ivy said, taking a step back to admire her work. "You are now officially one of America's Most Wanted."

Olivia laughed. "And you should really con- sider wearing pink sparkles more often," she responded.

They gave each other a huge hug.

"I hope you find what we're looking for," Olivia said.

"Me, too," whispered Ivy. Then, with a playful wink, Olivia trudged out of the bathroom in Ivy's heavy black boots.

Ivy pulled her hair back into a ponytail and started putting on Olivia's shimmery pink lip- stick. It's pretty killer having a twin. Although, she thought, reviewing her reflection in the mirror, I always swore I'd never be caught dead in sparkles!

Olivia looked through an on-sale rack of drab skirts in the back of Midnight Clothing. She never thought she'd ever feel this way, but she was sick of shopping. She'd led Toby around the mall three times already. Her feet, clad in Ivy's heavy black boots, were almost as sore as they were when she won the Cheer-a-thon in sixth grade.

Right now, Olivia could see Toby lurking behind a pile of distressed black jeans. She glanced longingly toward the dressing rooms, wondering if she could hide out there for a while.

Toby would probably just camp out in the next changing room, she thought. She hoped Ivy was succeeding at the adoption agency, because this was starting to feel as bad as not being able to stick a roundoff.

Suddenly, Olivia had an idea about how to liven things up. It's time to find out just how far Toby is will- ing to go, she thought mischievously. She turned on her heel and walked abruptly out of Midnight Clothing. After a moment, she heard a crash, and Olivia glanced over her shoulder to see that Toby had toppled a display of black sunglasses.

"Sorry!" he yelped to a store clerk as he hur- ried after Olivia.

Olivia walked briskly down the mall's main hallway. The hand-lettered sign in the window of Trudy's Beauty Palace couldn't have been more perfect: WAXED LATELY?

I bet he won't follow me in here! Olivia thought as she walked to the personal care section near the back of the store. She peered out from behind a pyramid of jars of flesh-firming cream.

Toby was frozen outside in front of the WAXED LATELY? sign with a completely bewildered look on his face. He was hopping nervously from foot to foot.

He looks like he has to pee! Olivia thought with glee.

Toby craned his neck to see into the store, but Olivia ducked out of sight. Finally, she saw Toby take a pained breath and come inside.

Wow, thought Olivia. He really is determined to get the inside scoop.

A saleswoman in a white smock approached him immediately. "Can I help you?" Olivia heard her ask.

Toby looked like a deer caught in the head- lights.

"Did your mother send you in for something?" the saleswoman persisted.

"No," Toby finally managed. "I'm just looking."

Yes, but just how far will you look, Mr. Dedicated Reporter? Olivia wondered, darting out of the store. In the next half hour, Olivia went into a bridal shop, a nail salon, and a bikini store. Toby gamely followed her into every one, no matter how much it clearly made him squirm. She was almost ready to admit defeat when she passed Panzer's Department Store.

Panzer's ladies underwear section was near the front of the store. Olivia grabbed the craziest thing she could find off the rack and carried it over to a floor-length mirror. In the mirror, she could see Toby pacing nervously near the front of the store, clearly trying to get up the courage to follow her.

Olivia held the garment up in front of her. It was a fake leopard-skin bra that was so pointy it looked like it was made of party hats. From the distant reflection in the mirror, she could see Toby turn fire engine red. He threw his hands up in the air, walked out of the store, and sank down on the edge of the hallway fountain, his head in his hands.

A reporter defeated, Olivia thought. She did a little dance. "I win!" she sang lightly. "I win, I win, I win!" Then she noticed a saleslady staring at her like she had eighteen heads. "Sorry," Olivia whispered, putting the bra back on the rack and hotfooting it out of the store.

Olivia looked at Ivy's chunky black watch. I think I've kept Toby occupied for long enough, she thought, satisfied that she'd done a good job. It was time to head for Ivy's house.

After making her way through the food court and back across the main hall, Olivia could see the main doors out of the mall up ahead.

"Ivy!" someone called. "Ivy!" the voice yelled again. That must mean me! Olivia realized with a jolt and spun around.

In the distance, someone waved. A boy in black. Suddenly, Olivia's stomach filled with nervous butterflies as she recognized Ivy's boyfriend, Brendan Daniels.

"Hey," Brendan called, his pale face breaking into a wide smile as he strolled up.

"Brendan," Olivia said, glancing around ner- vously. Yep, Toby was still on her trail, lurking a few feet away. "What are you doing here?"

"Just hanging out," Brendan said. He threw an arm around her affectionately.

Fooling Toby is one thing, but I can't fool Ivy's boyfriend! Olivia thought. Brendan felt her stiffen and pulled his arm away. "Ivy, what's wrong?"

Olivia blinked, her mind racing. There couldn't be anything worse than Brendan realizing I'm not Ivy right now, she thought. It could be the end of Ivy's relationship and, with Toby Decker watching, maybe the outing of her twin-ness to the whole world!

"Ivy?" Brendan pressed, looking a little wor- ried now.

"Nothing," Olivia said at last. "I'm just . . . I told my dad I'd be home by 4:30 P.M., and I'm already seriously late." She gave her best Ivy eye roll.

"Perfect." Brendan grinned. "I'll walk you home. I need to get that English book I lent you so I can write my essay tonight."

Olivia didn't move.

Brendan gallantly held up his arm for Ivy to take hold. "Shall we?"

"Shall we what?" Olivia gulped.

Brendan frowned. "Shall we go to your house and get the book?" he asked, looking puzzled.

Olivia let her hair fall in front of her face like Ivy sometimes did. "Killer idea," she croaked, taking his arm. This was so not part of the plan! she thought.

Ivy stood in front of the adoption agency, trying to get up the nerve to go inside. She didn't envy Olivia, who was at the mall being followed around by Toby, but she was still really nervous about her own mission.

The store's sign said MILK DUDS. It looked like a cutesy human baby furniture store, but there was a tiny upside down "V" in the corner of the window, so Ivy knew she was in the right place– places that served vampires often used a mark like that to identify themselves to their customers. If the agency was like most vampire businesses, it would be hidden at the back of the store.

In the storefront window, the reflection of Olivia's seriously embarrassing top floated beside an empty baby bassinet. Ivy felt her heart flapping in her chest. This is where I might find out about my parents, she thought. What if I don't like what I find?

Then she thought of how eager Olivia had been for her to come here. "I hope you find what we're looking for," her sister's voice whispered in her head.

Ivy took a deep breath, walked in, and headed straight for the back of the store, where she found a door in the crib section labeled STAFF ONLY. Beside the door was a small metal plate that had a black button beneath a round speaker. Ivy pressed the button; somewhere, a buzzer sounded faintly. A moment later, the speaker clicked to life.

Ivy put her mouth close to it. "Marmalade," she said carefully. At least it's better than the last password, she thought. I hate butterscotch.

"Approach the mirror," a nasal voice crackled.

Ivy looked around and noticed that hanging on the wall nearby was a cartoonish ceramic monkey that had a round mirror where its face should be. She walked over, and the mirror slid down to reveal the pale, sharp face of a man with bifocals. It was quite a head for a goofy monkey's body, and Ivy cracked a smile against her will.

The man scowled back. "Can I help you?" he asked in a nasal monotone.

Ivy leaned forward and whispered, "I'm here for the adoption agency appointment."

The man peered over his glasses and took in Ivy's sparkly top. "Did Serena Star send you?" he said suspiciously.

"No!" said Ivy. "I'm– This is just my disguise. I wouldn't be caught dead in clothes like this nor- mally."

"Name?" he asked.

"Ivy Vega."

The man pulled away from the mirror and looked down, presumably at the appointment book. He peered back up at Ivy, eyeing her top dubiously. "Prove it."

Ivy dug into Olivia's book bag, pulled out her student ID card, and handed it over.

The man barely looked at the card before pass- ing it back. "Looks fake."

"It's not!" Ivy cried, but the monkey man just stared at her impassively. Ivy rolled her eyes. "What do you want me to do, bite someone?"

"Very funny," the man said without a hint of a smile.

Ivy sighed with exasperation.Then she reached up and gently took out one of her contact lenses to reveal her natural bright-violet eye color. "Okay?" she demanded.

The man nodded grudgingly and Ivy heard a buzz come from the door. She rushed to put her contact lens back in and open the door before he changed his mind.

Inside, Ivy was surprised to find a medium- sized room packed with every conceivable item a vampire baby could want. There were utterly cute tiny black coffins lined up against one wall and paper mobiles with bats and moons hanging from the ceiling. Ivy's heart nearly melted when she saw a little black onesie that said GOT BLOOD? on it.

"Can I help you?" asked a voice behind her.

Ivy turned to see a friendly-looking woman whose pale face was punctuated by a shock of bright red lipstick. She was sitting at a desk with a sign that said GIFT REGISTRY and looking at Ivy expectantly.

Ivy walked over to her. "I'm looking for the adoption agency," she said.

"With a shirt like that," the woman replied, "I don't think any vamp in their right mind's gonna adopt you, honey!"

Ivy must have looked upset, because the woman added, "Oh, I was just teasing. You must be Ivy Vega!"

Ivy nodded gratefully. At least she wasn't going to have to convince another person that she belonged here, in spite of her bunny outfit. "But isn't this the gift registry?" she asked.

"Gift registry, adoption agency, it's all the same computer system," the woman told her, knocking proudly on the flickering computer screen beside her. "We just need clearance from the central office in Transylvania." She handed over a clip- board. "Now you fill out these forms, Ivy Vega, and we'll see if we can't take care of you."

Ivy took a seat on a huge black rocking chair in the corner and started filling out the forms. Name. Date of birth. Adoptive parent. Birth mother. Ivy stopped and looked up. "What if I don't know the answer to something?" she asked.

"Just do the best you can, honey," the woman said kindly.

A few minutes later, Ivy handed back the forms. The woman flipped through them quickly. "Let me guess. You're looking for your mom and dad."

Ivy nodded hopefully.

"All righty!" the woman said cheerfully, and Ivy had the un-Ivylike urge to hug her. It must be the sparkles, she thought. They've gone to my head!

The lady picked up the phone and held it between one shoulder and her cheek, while she typed on her keyboard. "Yessiree!" she chirped into the phone after a moment. "Oh, that's good news, Vlad, good news!" She put her hand over the handset and told Ivy, "I'm twenty-sixth in line to talk to an adoption supervisor in Transyl- vania!"

An hour and a half later, Ivy was still waiting. She'd overheard the woman behind the desk get approvals from no fewer than six different people in Transylvania, including one who had told her how to make a perfect hemoglobin souffl�.

Vampire bureaucracy is the worst! Ivy thought, slumped in the enormous rocking chair.

"Thanks again, Raj!" the woman said cheerily into the phone and finally hung up. "Ivy Vega," she said, "I've got the necessary password and your answer's on its way!"

Ivy looked at her skeptically, but the woman said, "I'm serious, honey. I have that little down- load progress thingie on my screen right now!"

Ivy leaped up, her heart suddenly racing. This is it! she thought. I'm finally going to find out who they were! Questions filled her mind as she paced the room: Are they still alive? Did they love each other? Were they outcasts because of their love? Why did they give us up?

The computer beeped loudly, and Ivy hurried over. "What does it say?" she asked breathlessly.

The woman tapped a few keys, then some more, and then a strange look of confusion spread over her face. "You sure your name's Ivy Vega?" she asked.

"Of course!" said Ivy.

"Well, honey, I'm sorry, but you're not in the system," the woman said apologetically.

"What?" Ivy exclaimed.

"It says right here: `No record of an Ivy Vega.'"

"That can't be right," Ivy said, shaking her head emphatically. "There must be some record of my dad adopting me. Did you look under Charles Vega?"

The woman typed in the name, and her com- puter beeped again. "No, honey, no available records of a Charles Vega adopting a baby in the last four hundred years."

"No records or no available records?" Ivy demanded. The woman stared at her blankly, and Ivy threw her arms in the air. "I mean, vamps are so secretive, who knows what they're hiding over there in Transylvania?"

The woman sighed. "I know this must be like waking up in the wrong box for you, honey," she said, "but there's nothing I can do." She jotted something on a scrap of paper and handed it to Ivy. "Here's the general e-mail for central inquiries. You're welcome to contact them your- self, and I'm sure you'll hear back within four to six months. But, trust me, honey," the woman said with a shrug, "you're just not in the system."

Ivy was tempted to argue, but she knew it was useless. "Thanks," she said quietly, taking the e-mail address and heading out the door. As she passed through the bunny baby store, she couldn't help thinking her father was right after all. "Look to the future," he always said, "not back to the past."

Especially because when I do look back, she thought, trudging into the street, I can't seem to see a thing!