My Sister the Vampire Book 4: Vampalicious! (Chapter Six)

Ten minutes before her social studies exam, first thing on Friday morning, Olivia was huddled in a stall in the science hallway bathroom, rushing to switch clothes with her sister. She frantically peeled Ivy's black leggings from her legs.

"You saw Brian Warchuck?" she said to the metal divider.

"He's still in love with you." Ivy's voice echoed from the next stall.

Olivia's heart raced. "How'd he look?" She'd been waiting her entire life to see her Prince Charming again!

"Like a pencil with pimples," Ivy's voice answered matter-of-factly.

"Noooo," said Olivia, grabbing the pink fuzzy sweater Ivy had just thrown over the divider. "He used to be so cute!"

"Well, he still is, if you like boys who plaster their hair to their foreheads with Vaseline," Ivy told her. Olivia heard her sister's stall door open and shut. "Anyway, you'd better hurry up.We're going to be late for our last midterm, and I still haven't told you about how our dad's not moving to Europe."

"What did you say?" Olivia gasped. She threw open her stall door to see her sister grinning at her with her arms crossed.

"We're not moving," Ivy said. "Our father's dream job has come up – and it's right here in Franklin Grove!"

Olivia listened intently as her sister told her all about overhearing the vamp curator's conversation about the job opening at the art museum. It sounded perfect!

"Do you really think he'd put himself up for it?" Olivia asked.

"He already has," Ivy said, raising one eyebrow. "I sent Mr. Grosvenor an e-mail from my web account using your parents' computer last night. I talked all about my qualifications: my longtime patronage of the museum, what an upstanding member of the community I am, all the design awards I've won. It was some of my best writing."

"I didn't know you'd got design awards," Olivia said, impressed.

"The e-mail wasn't from me," explained Ivy. "It was from Charles Vega. Since my e-mail address is just my last name, Mr. Grosvenor will never know the difference."

"You forged an e-mail?" asked Olivia.

"Desperate times call for desperate measures," Ivy stated. "Even jail would be better than Europe."

That's true, Olivia thought. "I'd bring you cupcakes," she said. "And we could talk on the phone through Plexiglas, like they do in the movies."

A few moments later, they were back to looking like themselves, and Olivia and her sister were speeding down the hall toward social studies.

"Can I ask you a favor?" Olivia asked, remembering the previous night with her father.

"Anything," Ivy said. "As long as I don't have to go to cheerleading practice."

Olivia lowered her voice as they made their way through the bustling crowds. "Can we switch again tonight?"

"Two nights in a row?" replied Ivy. "My skin will start turning pink!"

Olivia smiled. "Our dad's always so weird around me because I'm human. But when I pretend to be you, he's more relaxed. It's the only time I ever get to see what he's really like. He wants to decorate the Christmas tree tonight."

Ivy rolled her eyes. "That'll take hours."

"It would really mean a lot to me," Olivia said softly.

They stopped outside the door of the social studies classroom. "Sure," Ivy agreed. "It wouldn't be such a stake in the heart to spend some more time at your house. I'm starting to feel like your mom's my mom, too."

"Thanks, Ivy," Olivia said gratefully. "It might be my last chance to spend time with him."

"Not if I can help it!" Ivy said firmly.

Olivia smiled at her sister's determination and then followed her into the classroom to take their social studies exam.

At the end of the day, Ivy sat shivering on the school steps, waiting for Olivia's mom to pick her up. She wiggled her toes in Olivia's blue suede boots to keep them warm. Occasionally someone walked down the steps past her and said, "Have a good break, Olivia."

"Bye," Ivy replied sadly.

She had been so focused on studying for exams and trying to convince her dad not to move that the final day of school had crept up on her. It wasn't until she'd sat down on the steps that it had really hit her that these might be her final moments at Franklin Grove Middle School.

What if the job with the museum doesn't work out? she thought. She'd checked her e-mail in the library right before she came outside, and there was still no response from Mr. Grosvenor.

Ivy looked over her shoulder at the majestic silhouette of the school against the gray afternoon sky. She and her father had moved to Franklin Grove when she was still a baby. She'd never known anywhere else. No boarding school in Luxembourg could ever compete with this place, she thought.

Faces paraded through her mind. Olivia, pink and perky, in the hallway on the day they met; Brendan, drop-dead gorgeous against the lockers, asking her out for the first time; Sophia, bounding up with her camera to call another emergency bathroom meeting.

In five days, she was supposed to leave almost all the people who meant the most to her: her best friend, her sister, her boyfriend. She felt like her grave was about to be dug up, taking her away from the place where she wanted to spend eternity.

Suddenly Ivy felt her eyes welling up. Don't wallow, she commanded herself. If you start crying, your spray-on tan will run. Besides, you still have five days. All is not lost!

Olivia's mom's car appeared at the curb. Ivy quickly composed herself, grabbed Olivia's bag, and bounced down the steps.

When she got in the car, Ivy could tell Mrs. Abbott was still over the moon about the miraculous effect Wicked had had on her daughter.

Music from the show was coming from the car's CD player. "I know how much you loved it," Audrey said, "so I ran out and bought you the soundtrack!"

Her enthusiasm was infectious, and pretty soon Ivy was singing along with Olivia's mom at the top of her lungs. Sophia and Brendan would die if they saw me belting out show tunes! she thought.

When they got home, Olivia's mom headed for the kitchen. "Your father and I are just doing some decoupage," she said. "I'll call you when dinner's ready."

"What's decoupage?" Ivy risked.

"You know," Audrey said. "It's when you make a collage on a vase or something, and then you paint it over with glue. I know it's your least favorite craft." Audrey started to walk away, and Ivy's heart sank.

"Can I do one?" she asked tentatively.

Audrey smiled. "Of course! I just didn't think you'd be interested."

Ivy shrugged, and before she knew it she was engrossed in decorating her own vase, using cutouts from a garden magazine. She'd succeeded in ringing the base with bright green grass, above which danced a circle of ladybugs. Now she was working on a band of tiny golden buttercups.

"That's lovely, honey!" Audrey encouraged.

"Thanks," said Ivy, carefully pasting on another flower. "I'm going to give it to Ol – I mean Ivy for Christmas." she corrected herself hurriedly. "She'll totally love it," she added, swinging her ponytail enthusiastically.

Mr. Abbott looked up from his ceremonial wooden sword stand, which he was decorating with cutouts of Bruce Lee doing different kung fu moves. "What a great idea," he said. "She can take it with her to Europe."

Ivy felt the wind go out of her, and Olivia's mother and father shared a concerned look.

"We know how hard Ivy's going must be for you, Olivia," Audrey said gently.

Ivy stared silently at the yellow flower on her finger for a long moment. "It's the hardest thing I've ever had to face," she admitted quietly.Then, with a deep breath, she carefully affixed the flower to Olivia's vase.

On an upper rung of the ladder, Olivia balanced on the steel toes of Ivy's boots. She had to stretch to attach the final blood-red rose to the loose web of silver wires that she and her father had arranged around the Christmas tree, according to his design. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see him down below, placing the last candles amid the branches.

They'd been decorating for nearly two hours, and Olivia had to admit that the finished tree was going to be even more breathtaking than she'd expected. Apart from the sparkling web of wires, the only other decorations were pale candles and red roses everywhere. It was the perfect mix of intricate design and simple ornamentation.

The only bad part was that she and her dad had barely spoken the whole time, apart from when he told her that they'd add the silver Christmas Bites last of all. She didn't even know what Christmas Bites were.

Olivia kept trying to think of something to talk about. She couldn't talk about why Mr.Vega was moving to Europe or the fact that he was her father. Even complimenting the tree too enthusiastically seemed like a mistake, since she was supposed to be acting like her tight-lipped Goth sister, who was still sort of mad at her dad. Anyway, Mr. Vega seemed totally lost in his own thoughts.

"I think we are ready to hang the Christmas Bites," her father announced suddenly, and disappeared into the kitchen to get them.

Descending the ladder, Olivia tried to imagine what Christmas Bites were. Glow-in-the-dark fangs? Chunks of red meat? Her father reemerged with a small stack of notebook-sized boxes.

Candies made of human flesh? She held her breath as he opened a box to reveal a bunch of foilwrapped chocolates, each one shaped like a small bowling pin.

They're almost like Hershey's kisses, Olivia thought, relaxing.

Her father handed some Bites to her, and he took some himself. As Olivia started to hang them among the sweet-smelling roses, she noticed that each one was decorated like a different profession. There was a tiny-headed baker with a poofy white hat. And a tiny doctor with a stethoscope hanging down onto his round belly.

And one bearded guy with a shovel, who Olivia guessed was a gravedigger.

These are hilarious! Olivia chuckled to herself.

"You always found the tradition of Christmas Bites amusing," her father's voice suddenly intoned, almost to himself. "When you were very small, you used to have tea parties with them.You were very particular. The teacher had to sit next to the construction worker and so on. And then, just when your tiny guests were getting comfortable, came your favorite part of all."

His face bloomed into a smile. "You would bite off all their heads." He nodded nostalgically to himself. "How you would laugh when their blood spurted."

Olivia looked at the Bites in her hand. These have blood in them!? she thought queasily.

After a moment's pause, Mr.Vega focused his eyes on Olivia's, and his smile dissolved. "This last while, as we have been decorating," he said in a pained voice, "I have been trying to figure out how to say I am sorry to you, Ivy."

"For what?" Olivia quivered.

"For taking you away from here. From this house, from your friends, from… " His voice trailed off, and he shook his head. "I do not want to leave here either. This town, it gave me a home when I had none. This community gave me a life when I thought mine was over. I do not think there is another place like Franklin Grove in the world."

"Then why are you going?" Olivia asked.

Something dark and hard flashed across her father's eyes. "I could not live with myself if I did not know in the darkest crypts of my soul that leaving is the best thing for us," he said firmly. "Sometimes, change is for the best."

This might be the only chance I ever have to try to talk him out of it, thought Olivia. "I've already been through quite a lot of change lately," she tried. "I just found a twin sister I never knew I had. Besides, I've got great friends here, I'm on the school paper and… and… I just started dating this really cool guy… "

"I know, sweetheart," Mr.Vega said.

"Anyway, I bet there are lots of great new job opportunities for you right here in Franklin Grove," Olivia went on.

Her father nodded distractedly, but to Olivia's disappointment, he didn't respond. After a moment, he lifted his chin toward her and cleared his throat. "Tell me about Olivia. How is she doing in school?"

Olivia was caught completely off guard. She'd never thought her father was at all interested in her. "Um," she began. "I think she does well. I think she might get straight As on her report card – as long as everything went okay with her algebra exam."

Her father smiled. "Good," he said. "That's good. And does she have many friends?"

"Well, you know," Olivia said, picking up steam, "she only just moved to Franklin Grove in September, so she's still getting to know people."

She thought of Camilla. "She's really close to Camilla Edmunson, this girl who's really smart and into sci-fi books."

Her father nodded approvingly.

"And she hangs out a lot with Sophia and Brendan," she added. "But I'm, like, totally her best friend." Olivia stopped herself. She was getting confused talking about herself this way. Plus I just sounded like a cheerleader instead of a Goth, she thought, scanning her father's face to see if he'd noticed.

"And Olivia's a really good cheerleader," she couldn't resist adding.

"She is a remarkable young person," Mr.Vega said tenderly. "I am sincerely glad we got to meet and know her."

Olivia felt like her father's compliment had raised her into the air, so that she stood for a moment, perfectly balanced and triumphant in his palm. He accepts me, she thought. He cares about me and who I am. If he leaves, at least I know that.

"I know how painful" – his voice became hoarse, like he was going to cry – "it will be for you to leave her," he said. He touched his eyes briefly.When he spoke again, his voice was steady.

"But moving to Europe is something that I have to do. I hope that one day you can forgive me."

He reached into his pocket and held out what looked like a candy cane. "A peace offering," he said hopefully.

With a small, grateful smile, Olivia accepted his offering. Funnily enough, candy canes were her favorite. He reached his arm around her and gave her a hug. She closed her eyes and buried her face in his shoulder for a moment, trying to savor the feeling.

Then she began peeling the wrapper off the candy cane.

"Bloody canes have always been your favorite," her father said.

Olivia's fingers froze. "On second thought, I'll save it for later," she gulped, slipping the candy into the pocket of Ivy's black jeans. "Because it's such a special treat."

After they'd hung the Christmas Bites, Olivia and her father squeezed in next to each other on the top rung of the ladder. In his hands, he held a dark gray box. He opened it, and took out a sleek black velvet bat the size of an eagle.

"Our Holiday Bat," he announced.

The bat's wings unfurled. Olivia took one wing in her hand, while her father held the other. And, together, they reached out and placed it at the top of the tree.