Chapter 7

Ivy kicked off her boots, fell back on her bed, and grabbed one of her black cat pillows to her chest.

As her head swam, her heart went under.

What did he mean when he said he was scared to death? she wondered.

I can't believe I spilled my drink! But at least I didn't have to answer his question about whether I have a sister.

Was it an accident when his hand brushed against mine on the escalator?

He said we'd keep a running tally in air hockey. Does that mean he's going to ask me out again?

I never want to forget the look on his face when he said good-bye.

The phone rang, making Ivy jump. It rang again.

Maybe it's Brendan! She rolled over and picked it up. "Hello?"

"Greetings, Madam Head of Decorations," Sophia declared dramatically.

Ivy had completely forgotten about Olivia and the meeting. She sat up with a jolt. "Hi, Soph. What's up?"

"The deadliest All Hallows' Ball in history, that's what's up," Sophie replied delightedly.

The All Hallows' Ball? Ivy wondered.

"I'm supposed to be studying," Sophia bar- reled on, "but I just couldn't stop thinking of ideas. Like, what if you could have your picture taken with a cutout of that short old guy who was Grandpa on The Munsters?"

"The Munsters?" quavered Ivy.

"You know, that old TV show."

"Uh-huh," Ivy admitted. She was starting to feel seriously ill.

"Or I think it would be killer if we had coffins near the entrance, and you could get your picture taken getting out of one, right next to your date getting out of his coffin. Isn't that killer?" Sophia rattled on.

Ivy was dumbfounded. What did Olivia do?

"So?" Sophia asked expectantly. "What do you think?"

"Since when does it matter what I think?" Ivy asked, a little testily.

"Uh, since you came up with the theme, got elected head of decorations, and agreed to have the ball at your house," Sophia answered matter- of-factly.

WHAT? Ivy's head pounded. She lay back down on her bed.

"Speaking of which, did you talk to your dad yet?" Sophia asked.

"No, I did not speak to my dad yet!" Ivy answered incredulously.

After a long pause, Sophia said, "Ivy, are you feeling okay?"

"I . . . er, I'm sorry, Soph. I just . . . have a really grave headache. Can I call you back later?"

Ivy managed, and then she hung up, her hands trembling. I never should have let Olivia go to that meeting! she thought in a panic.

But then she thought of Brendan. If she hadn't gone through with the switch, she wouldn't have been able to go on the date. In fact, if it weren't for Olivia, she might never have spoken to Brendan at all.

Ivy let out a heavy sigh. She rummaged through her purse for her phone. She'd saved her sister's number on it when Olivia had borrowed it to call home.

"Abbott residence," Olivia answered perkily.

"It's me," Ivy said.

"Ivy! You're home!" Olivia squealed excitedly. "I tried you like fifteen minutes ago! How was it?"

"It was--" Ivy stopped. "It was perfect," she said at last. She heard Olivia gasp as if she'd just opened a wonderful present.

"I knew it," Olivia said softly.

Ivy was suddenly dying to tell her sister every- thing: where she and Brendan had gone, what he'd said, how he'd smelled, and how he had looked at her when they'd said good-bye. Instead she said, "Don't try to change the subject, Olivia. I specifically told you to sit in that meeting and not say anything."

"I know," Olivia said sheepishly. "I'm sorry."

"And not only did you not do that but you landed me the one job at which I'm guaranteed to be a disaster!"

"You won't be a disaster," Olivia protested.

"Oh, come on!" Ivy cried. "Ivy Vega, head of decorations? I don't like pressure, I don't like people, and I don't like decorating things."

"But you have great taste," her sister countered.

"Olivia, you don't understand.This is the most important event of the whole year for"--she just caught herself in time--"for our community."

"I'll help," offered Olivia.

"Thanks, but I think I've had enough of your help," Ivy said, rubbing her temples. "Besides," she added, "who says my dad will go for it?"

"Sophia," Olivia answered matter-of-factly. "You never told me your dad's an interior designer. Everybody seemed to think it was right up his alley."

Ivy groaned in frustration. It was true: her dad would be utterly delighted. He was always trying to get her to be more involved in the community. "With a name like Ivy," he was always saying, "you should be getting out and about more."

"I'm really sorry, Ivy. I completely understand why you're upset. I never should have signed you up for something like this. But Sophia says it's cool to be involved with the ball," Olivia said.

"It is," Ivy admitted. "But I can't do it, Olivia. I just can't."

"A few hours ago you said you couldn't go on a date with Brendan Daniels," argued Olivia, "and look how that turned out."

Ivy was speechless. She was still trying to come up with a suitable comeback when she heard her dad pick up the phone.

"Pardon me, Ivy," he said politely, "but it is time for dinner."

"I'll be up in a minute, Dad," Ivy answered softly. Her father hung up, and Ivy sighed. She felt so tired. For a moment she said nothing. "Meet me at Meat & Greet tomorrow at noon," she said finally to her sister, "and I'll let you know what my dad said."

"Great!" Olivia exclaimed on the other end of the phone. "So you'll ask him?"

"I'll see you tomorrow," Ivy finished.

Head aching, Ivy hung up and stood to go to dinner. She walked to the bottom of the stairs like a zombie. Then, suddenly, she imagined Brendan standing on the landing above her, wearing a dashing tuxedo and lounging against the banis- ters as he waited for her. He looked gorgeous, his dark curls framing his high cheekbones and strong jaw as he glanced around, clearly admiring the decorations. His gaze finally came to rest on Ivy, an adoring look in his eyes.

Ivy shook the thought from her mind, but she couldn't shake the smile that had crept onto her face. She skipped up the stairs to talk to her dad.

"This place does quite a business," Olivia's father said as Olivia climbed out of the car in front of the Meat & Greet Diner.

Apparently, the Meat & Greet was even more popular for weekend brunch than it was for burgers after school. The line was out the door. Olivia waved good-bye to her dad and squeezed inside to see if her sister had already arrived.

Sure enough, Ivy was sitting at her usual table tucked in the back.

Olivia bounded over. "Hey!" she cried.

Ivy responded with a serious-sounding, "Hello, Olivia."

Right away, Olivia's heart sank. She sat down, ready to learn that they wouldn't be having the All Hallows' Ball at Ivy's house after all. "Your dad said no, didn't he?" she said with a sigh.

Ivy shook her head. "He said yes."

"Yes?" Olivia cried.

"Yes," Ivy confirmed, her face breaking into a smile.

"That's awesome!" Olivia declared.

"And everything's going to be fine," Ivy added lightly.

Wait a minute, Olivia thought. This doesn't sound like Ivy. She looked at her sister skeptically. "I thought you thought this was a terrible idea."

"I do." Ivy nodded. "But I've figured out how to fix it."

"You're going to burn me at the stake?" Olivia joked.

Ivy grinned. "Close," she said. "Hereafter, you will pretend to be me for all ball planning meet- ings and decorating activities."

Olivia blinked. "You mean you want to switch again?"

Ivy nodded.

Suddenly the waitress appeared. Ivy ordered a burger, and Olivia asked for a Greek salad with extra tomatoes.

After the waitress was gone, Olivia said, "What happened to `you'll never make it past my friends'?"

"I'm willing to take that risk," said Ivy. "Apparently, my friends don't know me very well anyway. Head of decorations?" She rolled her eyes.

Olivia thought for a moment. She had to admit, being Ivy at yesterday's meeting had been great fun.

Ivy said, "There are only two more meetings, right?"

"Uh-huh, plus the actual decorating before the ball." This could work, she thought.

"Then that's the plan," Ivy said decisively. She flashed that fake mean squint of hers. "You better make me look good."

"For sure," Olivia said distractedly. She was already thinking about how she needed to get started on ideas for the next meeting on Friday.

Friday! she thought with a jolt. "I can't do it!" she blurted. "The meetings are on Fridays, and I have cheerleading practice on Fridays!"

"I know," said Ivy, nodding calmly.

"Please, Ivy. I mean, I know I messed up, but if I don't show at the practices I'll never make the squad!"

"I know," Ivy repeated.

"I really, really, really, really, really want to be a Devils cheerleader," Olivia said. "You--"

"Olivia," Ivy interrupted, "I'm going to go to your cheerleading practices for you."

Olivia was shocked. "You're kidding," she said at last.

"I'm dead serious," Ivy replied, and she looked it.

That's a terrible idea! thought Olivia. She shook her head briskly. "Talking to a jock at lunch and fooling Charlotte is easy compared to cheering, Ivy. Girls train all year for tryouts. I mean, cheer- ing is totally hard."

"Who made the squad in sixth grade?" Ivy demanded.

The waitress set their food down on the table. "Besides," Ivy went on, "it's not as if it would be for the actual tryout. You'll still get to make the squad all on your own."

Olivia hesitated.

Ivy leaned forward, her burger in one hand. "Olivia, you got me into this mess," she said in a low voice. "Now you have to get me out of it."

"But--" Olivia began.

"The only butt," interrupted Ivy, "is going to be yours, in the seat, at those meetings." She took a big bite of her burger.

"But I thought you hated cheerleading," Olivia persisted.

"I do," admitted Ivy with her mouth full. "But I hate party planning more."

Olivia thought about it while she started eating her salad. It was her fault that Ivy was on the planning committee, and she owed it to her sister to make things right. "I'll do it," she said at last, "but only if you'll practice with me every day after school. We're going to train together."

"Absolutely," said Ivy without hesitating.

"I mean it," Olivia said seriously. "You've got to be squad material if you're going to pretend to be me."

"You bet," Ivy agreed.

While Ivy clearly wasn't fazed, Olivia felt like someone was shaking a pom-pom in the pit of her stomach. There was just so much that could go wrong. "Is this what you felt like yesterday after we talked on the phone?" she asked in a small voice.

"Worse," Ivy answered.

Olivia took a deep breath. Here we go, she thought. Then she looked up, all business. "Okay," she said. "That means we only have four days next week to get you into shape. I'm starting you on a strict program for the rest of the week- end. Give me a pen."

"You're giving me homework?" Ivy asked incredulously, pulling a pen out of her bag and handing it over.

"Sort of," Olivia answered, starting to scribble a list on a napkin. "You have four cheerleading movies to rent and watch before Monday."

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