Chapter Eleven

"I'm dreaming of a black Christmas," Olivia sang to herself as she painted her nails frosted pink. It was Christmas Eve, and her sister was rummaging around in the bottom of her closet, checking to see whether Olivia had any shoes that might match the outfit she was planning on wearing for tomorrow's Christmas dinner.

Their dad's party - and all the emotions that had gone along with it - was just last night. But it seemed like ages ago.

"Did you see the look on my dad's face when your parents invited us for Christmas dinner?" Ivy said.

"Totally." Olivia nodded. She blew on her toes. "He was, like, all mushy."

Charles and Ivy had brought Olivia home after the party, and Olivia had been completely impressed with the way he had come clean about everything to her parents - except the vampire stuff, of course. He was just like, "I'm Olivia's biological father, but you're still her parents, and I'm sorry I wasn't honest the moment Ivy and Olivia found each other." It was really brave of him. Olivia's mom and dad were amazing, too -??they took the news so graciously. And the best part?

"I still can't believe we're not moving," said Ivy, examining the heels on a pair of dark pumps. "It's like I just woke up from a bad dream."

"That's funny," said Olivia. "Because I feel like I fell asleep and am having the best dream ever!"

When Ivy and their dad left, she and her parents had had a little celebratory freak-out in the living room about the fact that Ivy was staying. They had jumped up and down and hugged. It was cute.

"Now this is what I've been looking for," Ivy announced. She held up a pair of fire-engine red heels.

"Those are definitely not black," Olivia noted. "I thought I'd add a little color." Ivy grinned. Olivia chuckled. "So what do you want to do today?"

"I don't know." Ivy shrugged. "Now that I don't have to finish packing, we can do whatever we want."

"I feel like we've been so busy trying to keep you from having to move," Olivia said, "that I barely noticed it was the holidays. I love Christmas."

The smiling image of Santa Claus on a Christmas card pinned to the bulletin board by the door caught Olivia's eye, and suddenly she had an idea. She was so excited that she waved at the air with her still-wet fingertips spread wide. "I know! We can go see the HB!"

Ivy groaned. "Olivia, we're too old."

"You're just saying that because you grew up with it. But I've never been to meet the Holiday Bat. Don't you think that's sad?"

"No," Ivy said. "What's sad is going to see the HB when you're thirteen!"

"Come on," Olivia pleaded. "It's the perfect thing to do on Christmas Eve. Please, Ivy."

"Okay, but you can bet I'm not going to suffer through this alone," Ivy qualified, whipping out her cell phone.

Olivia's mom gave them a ride, and Brendan and Sophia were waiting for them outside Kruller's Department Store. They pretty much tackled Ivy as soon as she and Olivia got out of the car.

"You're not moving?" Sophia cried, grabbing Ivy's arms.

"I'm not moving!" Ivy beamed.

"You're staying," Brendan whispered, pulling her close and breathing into her hair.

"She's staying!" Olivia repeated, adding a little whoop for good measure.

They stood outside taking turns hugging each other until Brendan pulled open the door for everyone.

"I haven't seen the HB in three blue moons," said Sophia.

"How long's that?" asked Olivia.

"Since we were six," Ivy answered.

"Olivia, if you're going to be hanging with the black cats," Sophia teased, swinging her camera expertly by its strap, "you have to learn the lingo."

"Oh, yeah? Put a stake in it," Olivia said with mock Goth chilliness.

"Oooooh! Snap!" said Brendan. Her vampire friends laughed, impressed by Olivia's comeback. Arm in arm, the four of them made their way through the bustling holiday crowds and down the main aisle of the department store. Eventually they came to an elevator near the back. "Here we are," said Brendan.

Olivia couldn't believe it. Kruller's is a vampire establishment? she thought. I just bought a gorgeous hot pink miniskirt here last month!

The elevator door opened with a ding, and the four of them squeezed inside with a bunch of other shoppers. Sophia hit the button for five, the top floor. On their way up, a few people got off on each floor. Finally, the door opened on five, and the few remaining passengers walked out. Olivia started to follow, but Ivy grabbed her arm and gave her a meaningful look. The doors closed.

Ivy reached over and shifted the IN CASE OF EMERGENCY sign beside the door, revealing an alphanumeric keypad. She punched in a series of numbers, and a small metal panel automatically slid open to show a single round elevator button with an upside down V on it. Ivy pushed it, and the button glowed green.

"Going down," Sophia announced.

Olivia watched the LED display over the door that showed what floor they were on. It fell from five to one in a matter of seconds, and then it read B for basement. Then the B disappeared, and the lights went out in the elevator, plunging Olivia and her friends into complete darkness.

Brendan wailed spookily like a ghost. Olivia could feel the car continuing to plunge downward. How much lower can we go? she wondered.

What if we crash into the bottom?

"Guys?" she said tentatively.

Suddenly the car jolted to a stop, and Olivia almost fell down. Ding. The red LED over the door showed an upside down V, and the door slid open.

Olivia could not believe her eyes. There was a whole other department store down here, and it was packed with Goths doing their last-minute holiday shopping!

"Welcome to Crueller's," Brendan said in tour guide mode, "the third-largest vamp shopping destination in North America."

"I knew you guys had your own parts of stores, but this is... " Olivia searched for the right word, her head spinning with all the vampires and amazing vampire stuff around her. "It's vampalicious!"

"Vampalicious!" Ivy repeated, rolling the word with her tongue. Her mouth curled into a devilish grin.

They made their way into the cosmetics department, passing a counter featuring "23 Different Shades of Pale." Olivia looked on with interest as an aesthetician applied black lipstick to a pale-faced customer in a nurse's uniform. An elegant vamp stepped toward them with a spray bottle. "Would you like to try some Decomposure?" the woman offered.

"No, thanks." Olivia gawked.

They crossed into Ladies' Fashion. On a table checkered with folded T-shirts, Olivia spotted one with an icon of an upside-down bunny rabbit that had Xs instead of eyes. She grabbed it and pressed it to her chest.

"I so have to have this," she said. "Are you kidding?" Sophia said, snatching the T-shirt away from her. "That's a Paul Frankenstein. It costs a fortune!"

People kept whispering and staring at them as they passed. Olivia assumed it was because of her sherpa jacket and Moon Boots. After all, it's not every day that a cheerleader bounces through a vamp department store. But then, as they were entering the toy department, a little black-haired girl in red glasses came up to them, with her mother standing not far behind.

"Are you Olivia and Ivy?" the little girl asked shyly.

Olivia and her sister both nodded. "We sure are," Olivia admitted.

"Can I have your autograph for my friend?" the girl asked, holding out a piece of paper and a pen. Right, we're almost famous, Olivia remembered.

She took the pen and smiled. "What's your friend's name?"

"Clarissa," the girl said shyly. "She's a human. She doesn't know about vampires. But we both have pictures of you up in our rooms."

"And what's your name?"

"Erica," said the girl.

Dear Clarissa, Olivia wrote in script. You and Erica are vampalicious. That word looked good on paper, too. Love, Olivia.

Olivia passed the piece of paper to Ivy, who added P.S.That means you suck.

"Just tell her it's Goth slang," Olivia told Erica, who grabbed the paper and ran to show her mother.

Olivia and her friends walked on. "There's the HB," Brendan announced suddenly. Olivia looked around, but she didn't see anything that looked like a Holiday Bat.

Then she looked up.The vaulted ceiling was so high it disappeared into darkness, and up there, in the air, was a huge bat flying in circles, its wings flapping energetically. There were three children on its back, squealing happily.

Olivia quickened her step, and soon she found a sign that said, TO THE HOLIDAY BAT HIDEAWAY. A line of people snaked past it, and she realized that there were already dozens of children and their parents waiting for their turn on the HB.

"Come on!" Olivia said, dragging her sister down the aisle to get in line.

"This is taking an eternity," Ivy groaned. They'd already been waiting for twenty minutes, and they still weren't close to the front of the line.

Olivia didn't even seem to hear her, though.

She was staring up at the HB with her mouth hanging open and her eyes glazed over. The people in front of them took a few steps forward. Ivy, Sophia, and Brendan did the same, but Olivia didn't move, leaving a gap in the line.

"Take three steps forward, Batgirl," Sophia said. Olivia obediently shuffled up without lowering her eyes.

An unsmiling guy wearing goggles and fuzzy black wings on his back walked by for the millionth time. "Please turn off all cell phones so as not to interfere with the HB's holiday-time radar," he said loudly. "Please tie all shoelaces and remove all scarves." Ivy rolled her eyes toward Brendan and saw him mouthing the guy's words. "Please do not bring food or blood on the HB." She cracked up.

"What's the story behind it?" Olivia said reverently. "Like, does it live at the North Pole?"

"Nope," said Sophia. "It lives everywhere there's darkness. In the days leading up to Christmas, little vampires everywhere whisper what they want out the window.The Holiday Bat, being a bat, has extraordinary hearing."

"You don't have to make a list?" Olivia asked. "You just whisper what you want for Christmas?"

"Exactly," Sophia confirmed. "Only humans would come up with something as boring as writing a list for the holidays. Everything's a chore with you people."

"That's such a stereotype!" Olivia protested. "Said the cheerleader to the vampire."

Brendan laughed.

Ivy burst out laughing, too, at that. She gave Brendan a peck on the cheek for being utterly charming.

Finally they arrived at the front of the line. Two more humorless people in goggles ushered them up to the HB, which had just landed.

"Who would like to sit in the front?" one of them asked.

Olivia's hand shot into the air. "I would! I would!" she cried excitedly. Brendan and Sophia climbed on behind her.

"There's room for one more," announced one of the HB helpers.

"Let's go, Ivy," Olivia called.

"I'm okay," Ivy answered. "I'd rather keep my feet on the ground."

"Come on," Olivia and Brendan and Sophia all chided. "You have to!"

"No thanks," Ivy repeated.

"Ivy! Ivy! Ivy!" her friends started chanting.

And suddenly the people behind Ivy began to join in.

Ivy threw her arms in the air. "All right! I'm going!" Some of the people in line actually cheered.

Ivy squeezed on to the bat's back, right behind Olivia. Brendan slid his arms comfortably aroun d her waist. Sophia sat in the back.

With a lurch, the bat lifted into the air. Ivy shrieked and grabbed her sister's shoulders to steady herself. They began to climb higher and higher.

Brendan's arms tightened warmly around her, and soon they were swooping through the air, high above the crowd. Ivy closed her eyes and felt the wind blowing through her hair. Olivia's whoops of laughter filled her ears, and Ivy was overcome with joy. I'm riding the HB, she thought, with my best friend,my boyfriend, and my sister. Now that's vampalicious!

Squeezing Olivia's shoulders, she bent her head downward. "I wish," Ivy whispered inaudibly to the bat beneath her, "that I will always be surrounded by the people I love." She knew the HB heard her wish. After all, it had extraordinary hearing, as all bats do.

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