Chapter 12

After school on the day of the All Hallows' Ball, Ivy sat on the stairs underneath the basement window of her room, in her black kimono, waiting for Olivia. She'd hardly slept at all the night before. When she'd been practicing cheering with her sister every day, she had successfully avoided thinking about the ball. But ever since her final performance as a cheerleader, dread had swallowed her whole.

She kept trying to keep the facts straight in her mind. The All Hallows' Ball is tonight. It is at my house. Brendan Daniels is my date. I am head of dec- orations. Every single time, she would forget where she had begun and have to start over.

Finally she gave up. She just couldn't face real- ity; it was like trying to look at the sun. At least Olivia was sneaking over to do all the decorating.

Suddenly she heard a tap on the glass. Ivy pulled aside the curtain and opened the window.

"Hiya!" said Olivia, thrusting an enormous cardboard box into Ivy's hands.

"What's this?" Ivy asked.

"What do you think?" Olivia answered. "More decorations!"

Olivia climbed inside, dragged in another huge box, and pulled the window shut behind her. They dropped the boxes on the landing, and then Ivy led her sister down the stairs.

"You don't look so good," Olivia said.

"Thanks," Ivy replied sarcastically. "Maybe I'll call in sick."

"You wouldn't dare!" Olivia exclaimed.

"Why did I agree to this?" Ivy muttered. She tossed Olivia a can of Pale Beauty.

Olivia shook the can. "We should really start buying this stuff in bulk," she said thoughtfully.

"As if," Ivy answered glumly. While Olivia sprayed her arms, Ivy said, "My dad's raring to go. This is like the most A-positive thing that's ever happened to him." She tried to sound as resentful as possible.

Olivia pulled on a black tank top. "I know," she said obliviously. "I'm so excited."

Ivy sighed heavily. I wish I didn't have to go tonight, she thought.

Olivia looked up, almost like she could hear what Ivy was thinking. "Ivy, in a few hours you're going to a dance with the boy you've always wanted. Can't you see? It's your night to shine!"

"I don't want to shine," Ivy sulked.

"Too late," Olivia said. "You already do."

Ivy shook her head. "But I didn't do any of this."

"And I didn't go to cheerleading practice," Olivia countered. "We're a team, Ivy. We did this together. That doesn't make it less good." She grinned. "In fact, it makes it even better."

Ivy nodded and tried to smile.

"The only thing you have to do tonight," Olivia continued, "is have fun. I'll take care of the rest."

Ivy took a deep breath. She knew her sister was right. The All Hallows' Ball is tonight. It is at my house. Brendan Daniels is my date. I am head of dec- orations.

Ivy blinked. "Want to see my dress?" she asked tentatively.

Olivia smiled. "Obviously!"

Olivia stretched and stretched, but she couldn't quite reach the corner of the stone arch to tack up the last cobweb.

"Allow me," Ivy's father called from down below. He marched over to another ladder and slid it into place next to hers.

Olivia had been decorating the upstairs ball- room with Mr. Vega for the last few hours, but she still could not get over him. He looked like he'd walked right out of a classic black-and-white vam- pire film but the kind that's more love story than monster movie. He resembled a pale Antonio Banderas, and his voice was impossibly smooth.

He wore a tailored dark suit jacket over a flow- ing white shirt and black jeans. Olivia thought of her own father in his short-sleeved plaid polyester shirts and cringed.

"Thanks," she said as Mr. Vega pinched the corner of the web from her fingers.

He hung it gracefully. Then he spun around and leaned back against the top rung of his lad- der. "Shall we admire your work?"

Olivia looked over her shoulder and took in the enormous ballroom below. The classic movie posters on the stone walls were illuminated by tiny spotlights. Round black tables dotted the room, tombstones rising from them evocatively. Bats hung at all levels in the air. In each corner of the room, there was a huge coffin lined with dark purple satin that overflowed its sides luxuri- antly--a special last-minute touch of Mr. Vega's. Olivia had filled each one with party favors, like plastic fangs, temporary neckbite tattoos, and extra bats.

Olivia felt like cheering. Everything looked awesome!

"Now that is the sort of smile," Mr. Vega mused, "I have rarely seen on your face."

Olivia tried to stop grinning, but she couldn't.

"So, daughter," he said, "you have said nothing of your date."

"You mean Brendan?" Olivia asked nervously as she climbed down the ladder.

"Ah, Brendan. I wondered when you would reveal his identity," Mr Vega remarked.

Oops, thought Olivia.

"Tell me.What is he like?" Mr.Vega continued.

Olivia didn't know how to answer.

"In a world that is so open to you," he mused, "you need not always keep the contents of your heart closed."

"He's really cu--" Olivia stopped herself. "Handsome," she finished.

"I am sure."

"And . . . romantic," Olivia added.

"Oh?" Mr. Vega's dark eyes sparkled.

Olivia remembered something her sister had said. "The way he asked me to the ball was really . . . sweet."

Ivy's father smiled. "I am glad for you, Ivy."

Olivia suddenly felt weird talking about Brendan this way. He wasn't her boyfriend, after all. She glanced at the enormous clock above the ballroom entrance. "I should go get ready," she said.

Mr. Vega nodded. "Yes, of course."

Outside the ballroom, Olivia descended the enormous staircase to the first floor. She was walking past the front doors on her way to the basement when she was stopped in her tracks by the momentary booming of a pipe organ. She was about to continue on her way when the organ music rang out again, the same brief ornate musi- cal phrase as before.

"Ivy?" Mr. Vega called down the stairs. "Can you answer the door please?"

Olivia hesitated, took a deep breath, and opened the front door.

Before her stood the Beasts, grinning like idiots. Olivia silently noted that their ill-fitting tuxes didn't make them look any less greasy.

"Hey, Vega," one said.

"What are you guys doing here?" said Olivia. "The ball doesn't start for another hour."

"We, uh, brought a guest," one of them replied. They pushed forward a boy Olivia hadn't noticed at first: Toby Decker.

Olivia knew him from math. He was wearing a gray suit with a blue polka-dot bow tie, and his blond hair was combed back from his forehead.

"Hi, Ivy. Thanks so much for having me," he said with formal politeness. Then he gestured to the Beasts. "These guys said you had more than enough punch, and it's going to be quite a party."

Olivia narrowed her eyes and turned to the Beast closest to her. "Can I speak to you for a moment?"

The boy shrugged, and Olivia led him down the hall. When they were just out of earshot, she spun around. "What are you doing?" she demanded.

"We brought our decoration--our human!" the boy said, bouncing up and down on his toes excitedly. "You know, like an hors d'oeuvre," he continued with a guffaw. "That means snack."

Olivia knew by now that there was only one way to handle Beastly behavior. She marched back to the front door, the boy scurrying after her, and went right up to Toby Decker.

"I'm sorry, Toby, but I'm afraid these boys misled you. Nobody can come tonight without an invitation. We're already over capacity."

"But--" Toby and a few of the Beasts began.

"No buts," Olivia said decisively. She glared over Toby's shoulder at the Beasts. "It's a safety issue."

Then she turned back to Toby. "Sorry," she said as nicely as she could. "These guys should have known better. Maybe next time, okay?"

Toby nodded like he understood. Then he raised his eyebrows and said hopefully, "I should tell you I'm a really good dancer. I took classes for my older sister's sweet sixteen." He looked at Olivia expectantly.

"That's nice," said Olivia. "The boys will escort you back home now." And then she added, speaking very slowly and looking each of the Beasts right in the eye, "And I'll see you at school on Monday,Toby."

Nobody moved. Olivia bore down on the Beasts with Ivy's death squint.

"Let's go," one of them sulked at last. They all turned and shuffled off down the hill, Toby trail- ing behind.

Olivia shut the door and smiled to herself. Like Ivy said, they weren't as scary as they smelled!

Ivy anxiously studied her reflection in the mirror that hung on an open door of her wardrobe. She straightened her dark, wine-colored, velvet strap- less dress and turned around to inspect the thin satin ribbons crisscrossing her bare back. Her dark hair fell around her face in ringlets, and pearl earrings hung from her earlobes.

She was just applying her Midnight Merlot lip- stick when she heard someone coming down the stairs.

"Hello?" she heard her sister whisper. "Ivy?"

Ivy pushed the wardrobe closed. Olivia stared.

"Do I look okay?" Ivy asked in a worried voice.

"You--you look . . ." Olivia stammered, "unbe- lievable!" She walked over, still staring.

"Really?" Ivy asked, glancing nervously in the mirror again.

"Really!" Olivia cried, circling her. "Brendan is going to be floored!"

"I hope so," Ivy said.

"I know so," Olivia said firmly.

Ivy couldn't help smiling. She pulled on a pair of long black evening gloves and looked at herself one last time in the mirror. I look drop-dead, she decided.

"I'd better put my own clothes back on and scoot.You've got a ball to go to," Olivia said, grin- ning.

"Not so fast," said Ivy, barefooting it over to her bed, which was piled high with clothes, papers, and pillows. She rummaged through the mess, throwing clothes aside, until she emerged with a black box tied with a pink ribbon that she handed proudly to her sister.

"What's this?" Olivia asked, shaking the box.

"A thank-you gift," Ivy answered.

Olivia untied the ribbon. "For what?" she asked.

"For the last three weeks," Ivy told her. "For Brendan. For tonight. For being my sister." She shrugged. "For everything. Just open it."

Ivy watched Olivia's face as she reached into the box and took out a black baby tee. On it, the word "bunny" was printed in bubbly fuchsia let- ters, followed by a tiny sparkly bunny. Olivia gasped in delight. "I love it!" she exclaimed.

The doorbell rang. Ivy's heart leaped as she glanced at the clock by her bed. She guessed it must be Brendan, arriving early for pictures.

Olivia read her mind. "Where are your shoes?" she asked.

"Shoes?" Ivy grinned. "As if !" She hurried to lace up her best pair of high-heeled boots.

Olivia was tucked behind the suit of armor in the hall. Before she went home, she wanted to see Brendan's face when he arrived and saw Ivy in her ball dress. Ivy had said it was okay for her to watch for a few minutes, as long as she stayed out of sight. If Olivia looked through the gap between the breastplate and the arm piece, she could just see the front door.

She watched as Ivy opened the door and Brendan entered. He was wearing a black floor- length cape over his tuxedo and a textured white shirt with a white bow tie. His black curls shone.

"Ivy, you look beautiful!" Olivia heard Brendan say.

"Thank you," Ivy answered demurely.

From under his cape, he produced a flower: a single red rose, so dark it was almost black. Ivy took it and smiled as she looked at Brendan.

They looked at each other dreamily, and the moment was so romantic that Olivia thought they might kiss, but just then, Mr. Vega appeared.

"You must be Brendan," he said, descending the grand staircase. He looked impeccable in a black velvet tuxedo.

The doorbell rang again, and in rushed Sophia, wearing a beautiful black-and-white dress that looked like something from an Audrey Hepburn movie. She was also lugging a huge camera bag and a tripod. "Sorry I'm late." She panted. She stopped in her tracks and looked Brendan and Ivy up and down. "Wow, you two look killer!"

Olivia watched as Sophia took pictures of the perfect couple. In every single shot, Ivy did the one thing that Olivia liked to think she'd been responsible for teaching her to do. She smiled-- and not a close-lipped Goth smile but a bright cheerleader beam!

When Ivy and Brendan, Mr. Vega and Sophia had left the hallway, Olivia slipped away down the staircase, back to Ivy's basement window. She needed to go home and get some rest. After all, cheerleading tryouts were in less than twenty-four hours, and Olivia needed to be ready for any- thing--especially if she was going to go head to head with Charlotte Brown.

Ivy and Brendan sat with the rest of the planning committee at the table in the center of the ball- room. Melissa raised a glass of cherry punch and shouted over the din, "To Ivy, who seriously sur- prised us!"

"You're not kidding!" cried Sophia, flashing Ivy a knowing smile from where she stood. She lifted her camera and snapped a picture.

Ivy almost felt herself blush as she shyly clinked her glass against everyone else's. "I had a lot of help," she said.

"Miss Vega," a voice boomed. It was old Mr. Coleman, one of the chaperones, extending his hand. "This is the best All Hallows' Ball I have ever attended, and I have been at all two hundred two of them." He planted a cool kiss on the back of Ivy's hand. "You look smashing," he said.

Ivy let her eyes wander around the ballroom. Olivia really had done a killer job. People were marveling at the old film posters on the walls, and some were going from table to table having their friends take pictures of them with different celebrity tombstones. Everybody looked suave and mysterious, just like in the old vampire movies.

Suddenly, the room grew quieter. Ivy saw one of the Beasts standing in the center of the dance floor, a pale hand raised over his head to silence the crowd. In his other hand he held a black microphone.

Oh, no, thought Ivy. What are they up to now?

"Good eeeve-ning," the boy said, doing the lamest old-time vampire-accent imitation Ivy had ever heard. "I vant to invite you all onto zee dance floor for zee first dance."

Ivy couldn't help but laugh. The Beast was the DJ!

Brendan stood up. "Come on," he said, taking Ivy's hand. "It's the first dance."

Ivy shook her head. "We don't dance, remem- ber?"

Brendan's eyes sparkled, and he leaned closer to her. "That's why they call it the first dance, Ivy," he said.

As Brendan led her onto the dance floor, his cape flowing around him, Ivy felt everyone's eyes on her. She saw people looking her up and down admiringly, and, at the edge of the dance floor, she even spotted her dad, beaming.

Brendan stopped right in the middle of the dance floor. Ivy put her head on his shoulder, and the song began. She closed her eyes. I better not be dreaming, she thought breathlessly.

Ivy woke up the next morning and pushed open her coffin. She hadn't dreamed any of it. She and Brendan had danced all through the ball. And afterward, they'd stayed up until one o'clock in the morning talking on the front porch.

She couldn't wait to call Olivia and tell her all about it. After all, none of this would have happened without her. Wait a minute, Ivy thought, glancing at the clock. Olivia's got cheer- leading tryouts this morning!

Ivy suddenly had a killer idea. She leaped out of bed and threw open one of her wardrobe doors. She would surprise her sister by support- ing her from the bleachers during tryouts!

A half hour later, Ivy was marching through the front hall of Franklin Grove Middle School wearing the pinkest, most supportive outfit she could muster: a gray Devils sweatshirt and a Devils baseball cap pulled down over her hair.

She floated past her own reflection in the front hall display case. She almost looked like a cheer- leader, with her school spirit costume.

As if on cue, a high-pitched voice called, "Olivia!"

Ivy looked up to see Charlotte Brown charging down the hallway, decked out in her cheerleading uniform.

"I've been looking for you everywhere, Olivia!" Charlotte complained.

Ivy almost corrected her, but then she thought better of it and pulled her cap farther down over her eyes.

"Ms. Barnett told me to tell you that tryouts have been moved to the football field," Charlotte yelled. "The chess team is using the gym or some- thing!"

"Really?" said Ivy perkily.

"You'd better get out there!" Charlotte said haughtily. "Ms. Barnett won't like it if you're late!" and, with that, she hurried away down the hall.

Oh, my goodness. I have to find Olivia right away, thought Ivy, or she'll miss tryouts!

She whipped out her phone and dialed Olivia's cell, but there was no answer. She glanced at the clock on the wall: 11:21. That meant Ivy had only nine minutes to find her sister.

Ivy ran to check the girls' locker room. The only people she found inside were Katie and Allison, decked out in full-on cheer gear.

"Hi, Olivia!" they said in unison.

Ivy spun around without answering. She ran back to the other side of school, and checked Olivia's locker--nothing. She ran on to the science hall bathroom--also nothing. The situation was starting to seem grave. Ivy tried Olivia's cell phone again.When that didn't work, she tried her sister at home.

"Hello?" said Olivia's dad.

"Hi, Mr. Abbott, it's Ivy, Olivia's friend from school," Ivy explained.

"Well, good morning, Ivy. What can I do for you?"

"Is Olivia there?" Ivy panted.

" 'Fraid not," he answered. "The cheerleading tryouts are right about now."

"Right," Ivy said sheepishly. "Thanks." She ended the call and slumped against the bathroom counter.

Her sister was nowhere to be found. Ivy glanced at the screen on her cell phone: 11:25. Only five minutes left to go.

This can't be happening, Ivy thought with a shake of her head. Not after all Olivia and I have done.

She pulled off her hat, and spun around to face the mirror. In her locker there was a can of spray- on tan, which Olivia had accidentally left in Ivy's bag after their first switch. Ivy thought she could put her hair in a ponytail and make it to the field before it was too late.

But what if somebody notices that there are two Olivia's running around school? Ivy wondered.

It's a risk I have to take, she decided.

She ran to her locker, grabbed the spray-on tan, and dashed back to the bathroom. Then she quickly applied the spray, and was tying her hair into a ponytail when she realized that she didn't have pom-poms. Ms. Barnett will freak! Ivy thought.

She threw open the door to one of the stalls and saw two rolls of toilet paper sitting on the back of the toilet. They're not the best poms in the world, thought Ivy, and I probably won't get away with this, but it's the best I can do.

A roll of toilet paper in either hand, Ivy charged onto the sports field, but the only people there were two jocks tossing a football back and forth. There were no cheerleaders in sight.

Ivy looked around, confused. "Excuse me," she said. "Do you know if cheerleading tryouts are supposed to be here right now?"

"In the gym," one of the boys grunted, looking bemusedly at Ivy and her toilet roll poms.

And all at once, Ivy understood what had hap- pened. Charlotte had lied, hoping that Olivia would show up in the wrong place and miss try- outs. The fiend! Ivy thought.

She hastily tossed a roll of toilet paper to each of the boys and ran back toward the gym, think- ing what a stroke of luck it had been that she hadn't reached Olivia on her cell. As she ran, she chanted to herself through clenched teeth. "When you're up, you're up . . . when you're down, you're down . . . when you're messing with my sister . . . you're upside down!"

Ivy stood outside the gym door and peeked in through the window. Sure enough, there was Olivia, cheering her heart out at the center of the formation. Charlotte Brown cheered beside her, the peeved look in her eyes belying the fake smile on her face.

Olivia pushed through the door of the Meat & Greet Diner and rushed to the back of the restau- rant, where she spotted everyone waiting for her in Ivy's booth. Sitting across from Camilla and Sophia, Brendan had his arm draped around Ivy's shoulder.

Olivia couldn't contain herself a moment longer. "I made the squad!" she shouted before she'd even reached their table. Everyone in the diner spun around to look.

Oops, thought Olivia. Her friends burst out laughing.

"I made the squad!" she said again in an exag- gerated whisper.

"Congratulations!" Ivy cheered. Camilla and Sophia clapped.

"Ivy said you were deadly at tryouts," Brendan told her.

Sophia held up crossed fingers. "Can we call you captain?"

"Not this year," Olivia admitted. "Charlotte's captain. But that's only fair, since she's been on the squad the longest."

"And she's so great at telling people what to do," Ivy added.

"Exactly." Olivia grinned. "Anyway, it just means I'll be able to spend more time with my friends!" Olivia looked around the table at Camilla, Sophia, Ivy, and Brendan. She felt really happy.

The waitress appeared. "Tofu burger with salad?" she asked.

"You bet," Olivia replied, smiling. Then she announced to the table, "I'll be right back. I'm going to go change." After all, she was still wearing her cheerleader uniform, and she was dying to get Ivy alone. She winked at her sister meaningfully.

The moment Ivy followed her through the bathroom door, Olivia said, "How did it go last night!?"

They debriefed as Olivia took off her cheer- leader outfit and put on her new favorite baby tee. When Ivy told her about the first dance with Brendan, it nearly took Olivia's breath away.

"This is the best weekend of my life," Ivy fin- ished.

"I feel the same way!" Olivia agreed.

"I think our biological parents would be seri- ously proud of us," Ivy said.

I just wish we knew them, Olivia thought with a pang.

"Let's make a pact," Ivy suggested.

"A vampire pact?" asked Olivia.

"No." Ivy rolled her eyes. "A pact between us. A sisterhood pact."

Olivia understood. Cheerleading, dating, the ball--it had all been fun, but there was something more important.

Ivy took her necklace off and pressed her emerald ring against the one on Olivia's finger. "We pledge to be there for each other," she said.

"Day or night," Olivia put in solemnly.

"In darkness and light," Ivy went on. "We pledge to stick--"

"Together," Olivia finished for her. And then she reached out to hug her twin sister. And as Ivy hugged her back, she knew that they both had tears in their eyes.

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