Chapter 11

Ivy stuck the final move of another cheer, yelled, "Fight!" and thrust her arms in the air. She could hear Charlotte panting desperately beside her.

The look on Charlotte's pink face when Ms. Barnett put Ivy front and center in the forma- tion--right in the captain's spot--had been truly unforgettable. It was enough to plaster a 150-watt smile on Ivy's face for the rest of practice. She turned it up.

"Good, girls!" shouted Ms. Barnett.

Ivy had been sinking her teeth into every cheer. Olivia would be so proud.

A few cheerleaders' boyfriends clapped from the stands. Ivy thought, I wish Brendan were here, too. Then she remembered, with a pang of regret, that he'd never even know.

"A Little Birdie!" called Ms. Barnett, and the cheerleaders launched into another cheer.

Ivy was raising herself from a split when out of the corner of her eye she saw the gym doors open. In walked Olivia . . . with Sophia.

Questions raced through Ivy's mind. Did Sophia figure it out? Does anybody else know? Are we going to have to leave town? What about Brendan? Is Sophia mad?

Ivy suddenly realized she should be spinning around. She was rushing to catch up to the other girls when Charlotte Brown crashed into her, hard.

"What are you doing?" Charlotte shrieked as the cheer ground to a halt. "You're supposed to be over there! What is your problem?"

"Charlotte!" yelled Ms. Barnett.

The Energizer Bunny shut her trap.

"If you're going to be on this squad, I expect to see some teamwork!" Ms. Barnett scolded. "You girls will talk to your fellow cheerleaders with respect!"

"Yes, Ms. Barnett," Charlotte said, staring at the floor.

"And next time, Charlotte"--Ms. Barnett tapped her clipboard--"you'll try to be more aware of the other girls."

Charlotte looked like her eyes were going to pop out of her head. "But it was her fault!" she protested, pointing at Ivy.

"I am not interested in playing the blame game," Ms. Barnett said coolly. Then she raised her eyebrows and scanned the rest of the squad. "I hope you've all learned something today, and not just about handclaps and tumbling. See you at practice next Friday." She gave a double clap. Dismissed.

Charlotte stalked off with a grim look, leaving Ivy to beeline it to the back of the gym.

Sophia looked angry. "I cannot believe . . ." She stamped her foot.

Ivy's heart sank into her stomach.

". . . that all I got to see was half a cheer!" Sophia concluded, a grin spreading across her face. "At least I got some pictures," she sang.

Ivy shook her head. "You did not."

"Oh, yes, I did," her friend replied.

Ivy herded Sophia and Olivia out of the gym and down the hall to the bathroom.

"What happened?" Ivy said the moment they were safely inside.

"I'm sorry, Ivy!" Olivia blurted.

Sophia stepped forward and said, "Olivia's not the one who should be sorry."

Olivia looked from Sophia to Ivy and back again, then disappeared into a stall to change.

Sophia's teasing smirk was gone. "You're the one who should be sorry," she told Ivy. She shook her head, and her bottom lip started to quiver. "Why didn't you tell me about Olivia?"

"I didn't know how," Ivy whispered.

"I'm your best friend," said Sophia, her eyes fill- ing with tears. "Did you think I'd be jealous?"

"No," Ivy said, her voice catching in her throat. "I was just waiting for the right time. And then"--her voice trembled--"once I'd told Olivia everything, I didn't think I'd ever be able to tell anyone about her. Even you."

Sophia rolled her eyes. "You're not the only vamp in history to break the First Law, Ivy."

"But I bet I'm the only one in Franklin Grove," Ivy said sorrowfully.

Sophia sighed and wiped her cheek. She shook her head. "No, you're not." With a deep breath, she continued, "I told that bunny boy I thought I was in love with two summers ago."

"Billy Coddins?"

Sophia nodded. "He didn't believe me. I think he thought I was crazy. I got dumped the next day." She grinned tearily.

Ivy was stunned. "You never told me that!"

Sophia grabbed a paper towel and blew her nose. "I guess you and I both had secrets."

Ivy hugged Sophia tightly. "Best friend," she whispered in her ear.

"Best friend," Sophia whispered back.

"Sorry, you two," Olivia's voice interrupted timidly. "But I'm freezing in here!" Her hand was sticking out from under the stall door with Ivy's clothes.

Ivy and Sophia both burst into laughter.

After Ivy and Olivia were back to their usual selves, Sophia said, "Well, seeing Ivy smile and bounce like a bunny was pretty much the high-light of middle school for me--even better than sixth grade. Thanks for making it all possible, Olivia."

Olivia grinned. "You're welcome." She laughed.

Sophia turned to Ivy. "How about we give our honorary Goth here a proper tour of Franklin Grove?"

"Killer idea," Ivy agreed.

As the three of them strolled through the center of town, Ivy ticked off all the stores that were vampire friendly for her sister. "Gool's Autobody, Shredders Convenience, Red Mark Cleaners--"

"Don't forget the Juice Bar," Sophia inter- rupted.

"They really mean it when they say `blood' oranges," Ivy acknowledged. "Tranzil Pharmacy . . ." she continued.

"Wait," said Olivia. "That can't be one. It's where my mom goes."

"It's not all black-and-white, Olivia," Sophia told her. "Lots of stores serve bunny customers up front, and then have a vampire place in the back. Our community is fully integrated--it has been for more than a hundred years. We're your doctors, your lawyers . . ."

"Your movie stars," Ivy put in.

"Who?" Olivia cried. "Which movie stars?"

Sophia turned abruptly. "We could tell you, but then we'd have to bite you," she said with a mischievous grin.

Olivia skipped over a crack in the sidewalk. "So what can vampires do that other people can't?" she asked.

"Ah, let us count the ways," Ivy said dramati- cally. "Superhuman strength."

"Superior agility," Sophia said in a high British accent.

"A keen sense of hearing," Ivy added.

Sophia flourished her arms. "Classical beauty." Ivy and her friend both batted their eyelids.

Then Ivy gestured across the main square. "See that guy sitting on the steps of the post office?"

"Uh-huh." Olivia nodded.

"He's been sitting there for nearly one hun- dred fifty years."

"You're not serious!" cried Olivia.

"You're right, she's not, but he is really old." Sophia chuckled.

Ivy was surprised by how much fun it was to initiate her sister into the vampire world. She'd never had a chance to explain all these things before.

"So," Olivia asked, "what's the deal with the aging thing? Do you live forever or not?"

Sophia looked at Ivy. "You answer. You're younger."

"Only by four months," Ivy protested. She turned to Olivia. "Remember how those scratches on my arm healed last week? That's the key. We call it RSH, rapid self-healing."

Olivia nodded.

Ivy went on. "We grow at the same rate as humans until we reach adulthood--"

"College." Sophia winked.

"--and then we start aging very slowly."

"My dad's two hundred twelve years old," Sophia said, swinging jauntily around a lamppost.

Olivia looked impressed. "Can you die?" she asked.

"RSH obliterates most injuries," Ivy explained.

"But if the healing process is thwarted--say, because someone leaves you out in the sun for hours, chained to a rock, without any sunscreen, or somebody cuts off your head and moves it to a different town from your body--"

"Ew!" said Sophia.

"That's pretty fatal," Ivy concluded.

"Cool!" Olivia said.

"Depends which town your head's in," Sophia joked.

"So how do I become one?" Olivia asked.

Ivy couldn't tell if her sister was serious, and she paused for a moment before answering. "It's not easy," she said at last, a tinge of genuine dis- appointment fluttering inside her. Ever since she'd met Olivia, she'd been trying not to think about the fact that one day, her sister would no longer be with her.

"You have to be born one," Sophia explained. "That's what makes you two a complete mystery."

"But what if a human gets bitten?" Olivia asked.

"Doesn't happen," Ivy said, "at least, not any- more."

"Very last century," Sophia chimed in.

"But if it did?" Olivia pressed.

"They'd probably die," Ivy admitted. "But if not," she went on, "they'd become one of us."

The FoodMart sign appeared in the distance, and Olivia smiled to herself. She was on her way to meet Sophia in the parking lot for the last ball planning meeting, and, over her shoulder, a black faux-leather duffel bag was filled near to bursting with supercool decorations to show the committee.

Olivia couldn't get over how quickly the past week had whizzed by. Between meeting Ivy in the afternoons to practice cheering, trying to stay on top of her schoolwork, and her work for the planning committee, Olivia hadn't had a moment's rest.

She'd told her parents that she was head of decorations for a school dance, which was at least partly true. Her mom got excited about buying a dress until Olivia hastily explained that it was exclusively for older students, and she wouldn't be attending.

Every evening, Olivia's mother, who'd been prom queen in high school, spent hours online with Olivia, finding and ordering ball decora- tions being sure to stick to the ball's budget. Then, when Olivia finally got to bed, she couldn't fall asleep right away because she was busy thinking about the whole new world of vam- pires she had discovered. Count Vira totally paled in comparison.

Sophia was waiting in front of the FoodMart doors. Olivia linked arms with her, and together they went inside. As they made their way down aisle nine, Olivia asked if she could be the one to say "pumpernickel" today.

"No way," said Sophia with a serious look. "If an outsider says the password, they burst into flames!"

Olivia gasped.

"Just kidding," Sophia said, laughing. "Go for it."

At the meeting, everybody loved the decora- tions, especially the bats, which were totally life- like and only cost thirty cents apiece.

"Where did you get these?" Vera asked in a dumbstruck voice, turning one over in her pale hand. "It's so real."

"At a website that supplies museums and zoos," Olivia answered. "Liquidation sale."

At one point, the Beasts tried to butt in with another of their grisly ideas, but Olivia stopped them cold with one of Ivy's death squints. They didn't say another word.

When she finished showing what she'd brought, the committee burst into applause. Olivia didn't even know that Goths could sponta- neously clap with enthusiasm. She was thrilled.

"Great work, Ivy," Melissa said. "I can't wait for next Friday night."

Sophia nudged Olivia's leg approvingly under the table.

After the meeting ended, Olivia and Sophia made a quick exit. Olivia ducked behind the FoodMart and changed into her normal clothes, while Sophia stood guard; Olivia only had fifteen minutes to get to the mall for a shopping date with Camilla.

She stuffed Ivy's outfit in the duffel with all the decorations and handed it to Sophia, who said, "You're getting pretty good at this."

"Aren't I?" said Olivia.

A half hour later, Olivia was standing in the bookstore with Camilla when her cell phone rang.

"Hey, Ivy!" Olivia said brightly, answering the phone and stepping into the crowded mall corri- dor to talk. "What's up? How was practice?"

"Terrible!" Ivy's voice crackled.

Olivia stiffened. "What happened?"

"It didn't go anything like last week!" Ivy sounded totally distraught. "I was running late," she said, "and by the time I finished making myself pink, I couldn't find your pom-poms. I looked everywhere, Olivia. Finally, I just had to go to practice without them."

"Oh, no," Olivia winced. A cheerleader never loses her poms! she thought.

"I might as well have bitten someone. Ms. Barnett gave me this eternal lecture about com- mitment and responsibility," Ivy went on.

Olivia shuddered.

"And then it just got worse from there," Ivy said miserably. "I was so flustered I forgot the words to one of the cheers."

Olivia closed her eyes.

"I'm sorry, Olivia." Her sister sounded on the verge of tears. "Ms. Barnett seemed utterly disap- pointed. It would have been a complete loss if it weren't for Camilla."

"Camilla?" Olivia's eyes snapped open and she spun around to look through the bookstore win- dow. There were her friend's golden curls in the sci-fi section. "I'm at the mall with her right now!" she whispered.

"Oh, I wondered what she meant when she said she'd see me at five," Ivy responded.

"What was she doing at practice?" Olivia asked.

"Maybe she came to watch you," Ivy replied. "Anyway, she'd seen some poms lying in the hall- way and ran to get them for me--I mean, you."

"Well, I'd better go and thank her!" Olivia said.

Right at that moment, Camilla smiled and waved at her. Olivia waved back sheepishly.

"At least that puts an end to my cheerleading career. I'm never doing that again," Ivy remarked gloomily.

"You sure?" Olivia teased, turning away from the window. "It's not too late for you to try out. You could have your very own poms!"

"No, thank you," Ivy said, sounding horrified.

"I just hope everything goes okay on Saturday." Olivia sighed.

"You're going to make the squad, Olivia," Ivy responded confidently. "I know it. Even with me biting at practice. My bet's on you for captain."

"I don't know about that," Olivia said. "But I'll give it my best--" Olivia broke off because she could not believe her eyes; Charlotte Brown was coming her way in a hideous pink tube top, Allison and Katie in tow!

"Hold on," Olivia murmured into her phone.

Charlotte wheeled up with Katie and Allison on either side. "Too bad about Olivia's poms today," she taunted, as if Olivia weren't standing right in front of her. "Katie, Allison, what is the second most important thing to remember in cheerleading?"

"Never touch another cheerleader's poms!" Katie and Allison chorused.

Charlotte put her hand to her mouth in mock horror. "Oops!" She shrugged. "I guess some rules are made to be broken." The three girls tit- tered idiotically and were gone.

Olivia narrowed her eyes as she gazed after them. "Ivy," she said into her phone, "I think I know who took my poms."

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