Chapter 5

"All right," said Ivy, looking in the mirror one last time. "Swear to me that I don't have any more of that stuff on my face." She couldn't imagine any- thing more devastating than Brendan Daniels see- ing her and noticing that her ear was all brown.

"I swear," replied Olivia. "You look totally pale and ill again."

"Good," Ivy said gratefully. "Almost ready?"

Olivia wrinkled her nose. "I still have to fix my hair. Besides, maybe it's better if we leave sepa- rately. Won't people get suspicious if we're seen together too much?"

Ivy nodded. "You're right. I'll go first."

Olivia put down her lip gloss. "You know," she said, "you really did look terrific in that skirt."

"What I know," said Ivy, hugging her sister, "is that you look terrific in that skirt. See you in science."

Ivy pulled open the heavy door.

"Ciao," Olivia called after her.

With a shock, Ivy saw Brendan Daniels less than ten lockers away. He looked like he was wait- ing for someone.

He must have been there this whole time! Ivy real- ized, her heart jumping around in her chest like a bat caught in daylight. What if he heard what we were saying?

"Ivy," he called.

He's talking to me!

"Ivy," he repeated, coming closer.

Ivy forced herself to put one boot in front of the other. She ran a hand along the wall of lock- ers to steady herself. "Hi, Brendan," she said in a tiny voice.

"Listen," he began. He was the most beautiful boy she had ever seen. "Do you . . ." He stopped and looked at the floor.

She heard her voice say, "Uh-huh?"

He looked right at her. Ivy put both hands on her bag to keep them from shaking.

"Do you want to meet up at the mall? Like, after school?" he finally asked.

Ivy didn't respond. She thought she must have misheard him.

"Hey, listen, I . . . never mind," Brendan gab- bled. He shook his head. "I'll see you around." Suddenly he was walking away.

Speak! the voice in Ivy's head cried. Speak!

"Brendan!" Ivy croaked. He spun around. "Um, what time?" she asked.

His smile shone. "Does four work for you?"

"Sure," she answered, trying to sound relaxed. "I'll tell my dad I'll be home before sundown."

"Great," he said. He held up his hand, and then was gone.

Ivy collapsed against the lockers. Her hands were still shaking, and her heart pounded. People looked at her as they walked by on their way to class, but she didn't care.

Well, she thought breathlessly, that's one good thing about having a twin sister who's a social butterfly!

As if on cue, Olivia emerged from the bath- room. "Wow! You look like you just did a triple handspring and landed on your head," Olivia said. "What happened?"

"He asked me out," Ivy whispered. She couldn't believe she was saying it.

"What?" Olivia asked, drawing closer. "Talk louder."

"He asked me out!" Ivy said again hoarsely.

Olivia's face burst into a smile. "Go, Ivy!" she shouted really loudly.

"Shut up!" Ivy scolded, even though she couldn't help smiling, too.

"That's awesome!" Olivia said. "When's the big date?"

"Today. After school." Ivy panted. "The mall."

Olivia gave her a squeeze. "I have to scoot or I'm going to be late for art, but we are going to have so much to talk about in science!" She hur- ried off with a wink.

Ivy was going to be late for class, too. She worked up the strength to start walking, and, as she made her way slowly through the prebell crowd, she let herself imagine her coming date with Brendan.

They would walk around Spins, the record store, together; she knew he was into punk. He'd hold up a pair of black jeans at Dungeon Clothing. He'd sit across from her in the food court, drinking red lemonade through a straw.

As Ivy turned into the main hallway, she imag- ined the two of them walking side by side, talking on and on about . . .

What are we going to talk about? she thought with a jolt.

Her wave of excitement disappeared like predawn fog. How was she going to talk to Brendan Daniels for a whole afternoon when five minutes ago she could barely string two words together?

She imagined herself with Brendan at the mall again, but now she couldn't picture him smiling. They'd sit in silence. He'd have to order another red lemonade and drink it just to kill time. He would think she was an utter loser. She'd try to come up with something funny to say, probably some stupid joke about the school paper, but he wouldn't laugh. He'd just look away.

I can't go, Ivy thought.

The bell for the next class rang.

I'll tell him I'm sick, she decided.

Suddenly somebody came up from behind and linked arms with her. She nearly jumped out of her skin.

"And where were you at lunch today?" Sophia demanded, poking her in the side. "Giddyup! We're late for English."

Ivy didn't say anything. She let Sophia lead the way.

"What's with you?" her friend said. "You look like you've seen a ghost. What, did Brendan Daniels ask you for a pen or something?" she teased.

"I don't feel well," Ivy replied weakly. "I think I'm sick."

Sophia stopped in her tracks. "No way, Ivy." She shook her head. "You are not going to bail on me! You promised me ages ago that you would come to today's meeting."

Ivy realized that she had completely forgotten about the meeting. She couldn't go to the mall with Brendan; she'd agreed weeks ago to go to a meeting after school with her best friend. Sophia would put a stake through Ivy if she backed out now.

"I know you, Ivy," Sophia declared. "You never get sick!"

"That's not true," Ivy replied halfheartedly. "I got sick in fourth grade."

Sophia smirked. "You got a marble stuck in your ear."

"Okay, okay," Ivy said. She took a deep breath. "I'm going. Four o'clock, right?"

Sophia nodded, and Ivy felt the blood drain from her heart. It's better this way, she told herself. I'll put a note in his locker after school, telling him I can't go.

She let her hair fall in front of her face and fol- lowed her friend into their fourth-period class.

"Okay, class!" Mr. Strain shouted, holding a ridiculous red hunting cap on his head. "Spread out! I want to see a full report on this soccer field's flora! Remember, conifers are extra credit!"

Olivia clutched her sweatshirt around her and looked down at the leaf-covered grass. "I'm all in favor of science class outside," she said just loud enough so that Ivy would hear. "But this is really dumb."

She turned to see her sister's reaction, but . . . Ivy was gone. Olivia spun around and spotted her sister's black figure trudging off into the distance. "Wait up!" Olivia shouted.

She caught up with Ivy near the edge of the field. "Hey!" she said. "What are--"

Ivy held up a red leaf. "Do you think this is an oak or an ash?" she asked tentatively.

"An oak," Olivia told her, slightly confused. "I didn't know where you went."

Ivy threw the leaf away and bent down to pick up another and then another. She mumbled, "I didn't want anyone to disturb my leaf sampling."

"Okaaay," said Olivia doubtfully.

Ivy kept working silently, picking up leaves, looking at them, jotting notes down, throwing them back. She looked really sad.

Olivia sighed. She touched her sister's shoul- der. "You're really nervous about your date with Brendan, huh?"

Ivy moved away.

"It's okay, Ivy," Olivia continued, full of sym- pathy. "This summer, there was this guy I had the biggest crush on and he--"

"I'm not going," Ivy said to the grass.

"What?" Olivia said.

"I can't." Ivy shook her head. "I forgot I had this meeting I have to go to. I promised Sophia ages ago."

"The guy you're `utterly in love with' asked you out, and you're not going?" Olivia cried.

Ivy wouldn't look at her. "That's right," she said. "And it's for the best anyway. If I go, I know I'd just do something seriously grave, like throw up on him on the escalator or something. And then I'd regret it for the rest of eternity."

"What are you talking about?" Olivia demanded.

"I know I would, Olivia," Ivy barreled on. She was scattering leaves this way and that. "And he'll hate me--worse, he'll think I'm seriously bizarre. And--and I'll have ruined everything."

"Oh, my gosh," Olivia said with a shake of her head. "If this were the movies, I'd have to slap your face to make you snap out of it." She was so dumbfounded she couldn't think of any- thing else to say. Finally she just sat down on the ground, eyes closed, thinking hard. She could hear her sister scribbling and picking up leaves.

It was a windy day, and Olivia shivered. She wished she was still wearing Ivy's long skirt. That's it! she thought, springing to her feet and rushing to her sister's side.

"I really wish you'd stop disturbing my sam- ple," Ivy said, stomping around.

Olivia grabbed her sister by the shoulders. "Ivy, we have to switch again," she said sternly.

"You're right," Ivy replied with a frown. "You'd be much better on a date."

"No, you'll go on the date," Olivia said, grin- ning. "I'll go to the meeting!"

"Oh!" Ivy said, sounding shocked. Then she shook her head. "I think it's one of those meetings where a cheerleader might stick out, though."

Ivy was clearly confused, so Olivia had no choice but to speak extra slowly. "There will be two Ivy's, you dork," she explained. "Impostor Ivy--that's me--will go to the meeting with Sophia. Real Ivy--that's you--will go to the mall with Brendan."

Ivy silently studied the leaf in her hands for a long moment. Finally, she looked up. "I know you're trying to help, Olivia." She sighed. "But it won't work. This meeting will be all Goths. And even if you could get by everyone else, you'll never make it past Sophia."

"If you can fool Charlotte, I can fool Sophia," said Olivia confidently.

"She's my oldest friend," countered Ivy.

"Don't underestimate me," Olivia pleaded. "Just because I'm a cheerleader that doesn't mean I don't know all about Goths. I'm like the number one vampire novel fan in middle school today. I've read every Count Vira book four times. I promise, I'll fit right in."

Ivy laughed uncomfortably.

"All right, class," Mr. Strain's voice wafted across the field. "Time's almost up!"

"Say you'll do it," Olivia said intently.

"I want to, Olivia. But . . ."

Olivia took her hands. "Ivy, I swear to you as your twin sister that if you don't go on this date, you will never forgive yourself. The boy you like likes you. He likes you. The only thing that will definitely ruin that is if you blow him off."

"But what will we talk about?" Ivy asked des- perately. "Somehow I don't think asking about the `latest' is going to work in this situation."

"I'll help you," Olivia said firmly. She was not going to take no for an answer. "You'll be fine, just like you were at lunch."

Ivy was silent.

"Girls!" Mr. Strain called.

"Say you'll do it," Olivia whispered. "Please. "

Ivy blinked. "Okay," she said, a smile creeping onto her face as she squeezed Olivia's hand. "But I get to wear my black velvet sneakers."

Olivia used Ivy's cell phone to call her mother as soon as the final bell rang, and told her that she was going to Ivy's house after school. This was technically true, because twenty minutes later, Olivia stood with Ivy at the base of a willow tree�lined driveway that led up a small hill. At the top was a house that looked like something out of Gone with the Wind. It had windows that were about fifteen feet tall and a columned front porch that spanned the front of the house.

Ivy started up the drive.

"This is your house?" said Olivia. She thought of the two-story brick house her family had just moved into on the other side of Franklin Grove. Olivia really liked their new house--her bedroom was at least twice the size of her old one--but this place was a total mansion.

"Yeah," Ivy said. "Why?"

"It's nice," said Olivia, shaking gravel out of one of her flip-flops.

They hustled up the hill and climbed the sweeping front steps. A huge lantern of dark red glass hung above the porch, flickering even though it was day. Ivy paused before turning the burnished brass knob on the ornately carved oak front door. "Stay here for a sec." She disappeared inside.

From where she stood beside a pile of firewood taller than she was, Olivia could see almost all Franklin Grove below her. It looked beautiful with houses poking up among the trees. She spot- ted the roof of the school in the distance.

Ivy reappeared. "Come on," she said, pulling Olivia inside. "My dad's not home."

Olivia's eyes slowly adjusted to the dim light. The entryway was huge, with walls covered in interlocking patterns of stone and dark mahogany. She could just make out an extrava- gant staircase snaking up to the second floor; a window above it was shrouded by thick dark vel- vet curtains.

Apparently, Ivy's not the only black sheep in her family, Olivia thought. This place is Goth heaven!

Olivia followed her sister past a suit of armor and down a twisting flight of stone steps. A series of electric candelabra lit the way. They came to a landing and turned a corner.

Suddenly Olivia found herself at the top of a staircase. To her left was a window covered with a heavy velvet curtain, which Olivia realized must be set just above ground level. As she followed Ivy down the stairs, the wall to her right fell away to offer a clear view of the spacious basement room below.

In the center of the stone floor was a huge, round, cream-colored rug. Tall mahogany shelves crammed with papers and books took up the far wall. In one corner was a huge desk with a com- puter and toppling stacks of CDs; in another was a big black bed strewn with funky pillows. Black shoes littered the floor everywhere, looking like fallen bats. "This is the coolest room I have ever seen!" Olivia admitted as she reached the bottom.

"Thank you," said Ivy, sounding pleased.

Olivia turned around and noticed some words written in big black calligraphy on the stones that ran down the side of the stairway: "The matter is that I never get any rest, and my nights devour my days."

"That is so weird," she murmured. "That's from the Guy de Maupassant story I read in the library today. I even told Brendan to read it!"

"The Horla? " Ivy responded. "It sucks, doesn't it?"

"That's exactly what I told him." Olivia grinned.Then she noticed the largest wardrobe she had ever seen, made of ornately carved mahogany. It had five doors, one of which hung open. Necklaces and purses glimmered in the dim light.

Olivia charged over, flinging open the doors.

There were racks upon racks of sweaters, skirts, tops, and dresses in every imaginable shade of black, purple, sapphire, and claret, with occa- sional flashes of emerald and gray. There was one section filled with more black shoes and boots.

"I knew we had something in common," Olivia said excitedly as she took inventory.

She immediately pulled out a long-sleeved, lightweight, V-necked top in a rich wine red with slashed sleeves. "Can I try this on?" she asked.

Ivy stood looking in the mirror, examining the outfit her sister had helped her choose for her first date with Brendan. She hadn't worn this sweater in ages, but she had to admit that Olivia was right--she looked drop-dead in it. Olivia had also picked out a formfitting, long black skirt that Ivy hadn't even known she owned.

"What do you think of this?" Olivia said behind her, referring to her latest creation. She was wearing a black baby tee that said KILL ME SOFTLY in gray Gothic letters and a black chiffon- and-velvet-striped skirt. It must have been the sixth outfit she'd tried.

"Now that," said Ivy, "looks like me."

Olivia inspected herself in the mirror. "Let's accessorize," she decided.

She went down to the end of the wardrobe and came back with an armful of jangly, strappy things. She carefully handed Ivy some silver ban- gles and a pair of big silver hoop earrings, saying, "I can't believe you wear clip-ons," to which Ivy just shrugged. For herself, she'd chosen a black velvet choker.

Ivy sprayed some Pale Beauty on Olivia's face, and then they crowded side by side in the mirror to finish their makeup. They both chose the same dark maroon lipstick.

Ivy glanced at her chunky watch and shot her sister a pained look. "You have to meet Sophia at school in fifteen minutes, and I still don't know what I'm supposed to talk to Brendan about."

"Okay," Olivia said, hurrying to finish applying her eyeliner. "Want to know the secret to an awe- some first date?"

Ivy nodded impatiently.

"Ask questions. Get him to talk about himself: his family, his friends, what he likes."

Ivy thought, That's it? and looked at Olivia skeptically.

"It's all about getting to know each other," explained Olivia. "And, if he's really boyfriend material, he'll ask you some questions, too."

Ivy got nervous. "What will I do if that hap- pens?"

"Talk. Tell the truth. Tell him about what you like and what drives you crazy.The only thing you might want to leave out is your brand-new, cheer- leading twin sister. That might freak him out."

"No kidding," Ivy said, rolling her eyes. "That should be the number one rule of romance: no secret twin sister revelations until at least the third date."

Olivia giggled and stuffed her clothes into Ivy's fuzzy black backpack. "And remember," she said, slinging on the bag, "even if you're not the perky fashion victim, you could try smiling once or twice."

Ivy heard a door slam upstairs. "My dad's home." She winced. "And I don't think now's really the right time to introduce you to him. No offense."

"I'm not going to tell my parents about you either," said Olivia, "at least not before we figure a few things out for ourselves."

Ivy nodded. "We'd better sneak out the win- dow," she said. She led Olivia up the staircase and threw aside the curtain.

"This is so secret agent." Olivia giggled as Ivy pushed her out into the backyard.

A minute later, they'd reached the bottom of the driveway. "So what's this meeting I'm going to?" Olivia asked.

"I'm not completely sure," admitted Ivy. "Sophia is constantly signing me up for clubs and stuff. I think she didn't want to tell me, because she knew I wouldn't like it."

They took the shortcut through the woods behind a neighbor's house.

"Whatever you do," Ivy instructed as they marched down the leaf-covered path, "don't look happy to be there. No perkiness, no enthusiasm, no `Hi, guys!' You do any of that, and they'll eat you alive."

"Got it. Where's the meeting going to be?"

"I'm not sure. I know it's not at school though.

It will probably just be a bunch of "--Ivy hesi- tated--"Goths debating something."

Suddenly Ivy started to have second thoughts. What if somebody says something that makes Olivia suspicious? She stopped at a fork in the path. "Anyway," she said nervously, "don't pay too much attention to anything anyone says. At all."

Olivia looked at her in confusion.

"You know, b-because," Ivy stammered, "Goths can have really strange . . . uh . . . senses of humor."

"Okay," Olivia said, and shrugged.

"I'm going this way to the mall." Ivy gestured down one path. "Keep going straight, and you'll end up back on the field behind school. You're meeting Sophia by the front doors."

They hugged. "You're going to be irresistible!" said Olivia.

"Don't do anything I wouldn't do," Ivy answered. "Seriously." Then she hurried off down the path to the mall, determined not to throw up at any point during her first date with Brendan Daniels--even on the escalator.

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