Chapter Two

After third period, Olivia was redoing her Natural Sky eye shadow in her locker mirror when out of the corner of her eye she spotted Sophia hurrying down the hall.

"Code word," Sophia said meaningfully, her chunky digital camera swinging around her neck.

"You mean code black?" Olivia asked, referring to Sophia and Ivy's secret lingo for an emergency meeting in the science hall bathroom.

"No." Sophia shook her head. "Code word."

Olivia tucked her eye shadow back into her purse. "But I don't know the code word," she said quizzically.

"Not code word," Sophia said, rolling her black-lined eyes. "Code word. Code word."

Olivia stared at her. "You Goths can be really cryptic sometimes, you know that?"

"Code word," replied Sophia, lowering her voice to a whisper, "means we're meeting in the library."

"I thought we were meeting in the cafeteria," Olivia said, slamming her locker shut. "We were," Sophia said as Olivia followed her down the hall, "but Ivy changed the plan."

"Does Camilla know?"

"Ivy's bringing her," Sophia explained. "They just had gym together."

"But why? What's Ivy up to?" Olivia wondered. "Beats me," said Sophia. "I'm just the messenger bat."

The entrance to the library was at the end of a wide hallway near the principal's office, and Ivy and Camilla were waiting by the door. Ivy stepped forward and handed Olivia a carrot.With the other hand, she gave Sophia a piece of beef jerky.

"What's this?" Olivia asked.

"Lunch," said Ivy matter-of-factly.

"We have work to do," Camilla declared.

Olivia looked at the carrot and took a begrudging bite. Just because vampires call humans "bunnies" doesn't mean we live on carrots, she thought. As Olivia and Sophia snacked, Ivy explained her plan. "There's nothing my father likes more than a well-researched report. He's always giving these killer presentations to his clients about what he wants to design for them. So I thought, why not prepare our own report to convince him not to move?"

"What would it be about?" Olivia asked with her mouth full.

"How much better Franklin Grove is than Europe," Ivy answered.

Sophia swallowed her last bite of beef jerky and shook her head. "You think Franklin Grove is better than Europe?" she queried incredulously. "Europe has the Eiffel Tower."

"Which people can fall off," Ivy countered. "It has the fashion shows in Milan," pointed out Olivia.

"Which create an unhealthy self-image for girls everywhere," argued Ivy. Camilla nodded vigorously. Sophia clearly wasn't convinced. "So what, exactly, does Franklin Grove have that Europe doesn't?"

"That's easy," Ivy said, her dark eyes sparkling. "Us." With that, she spun on her boot heels and pulled open the library doors.

Olivia couldn't help smiling.Well, she thought, charging into the library after her sister, it's worth a shot.

Ivy marched up to the librarian's desk and found a woman wearing dark lipstick and stylishly chunky black and green glasses, hunched over an enormous book about the Middle Ages.

"Is Mr. Collins here?" Ivy asked.

The woman looked up from her book. "Mr. Collins moved to Nashville to play country music. I'm Miss Everling, the new librarian." She stood, held out her hand, and pumped Ivy's enthusiastically. Everyone introduced themselves. "Killer sweater," the librarian said to Sophia, whose top was embroidered with the branches of a bare, crow-filled tree.

You're the new librarian? Ivy thought, impressed. "Hopefully you can help us, Mrs. Everling," said Olivia.

The librarian put her hands on her hips. "It's Miss. Anyway, shoot."

"We're doing a presentation on Europe," Camilla piped up.

"Europe, huh?" Miss Everling said, grabbing a pencil off her desk like it was a sword. "Follow me."

As she walked, Ivy noted Miss Everling's black-and-white striped leggings and her gray corduroy skirt. I wonder if she's a vamp, she thought.

"Welcome to Europe!" announced Miss Everling, arriving at an aisle near the back of the library. She ran a wine-red fingernail along the spines of some glossy paperbacks. "Want to dance the night away in Barcelona? Ski the Alps? Drop out of school and live large for twenty-five dollars a night?"

The girls all stared at her.

"Jok-ing," Miss Everling sang. "I'm a school librarian, remember? But we do have a very impressive selection of travel guides," she concluded. "Do you have any books on what's bad about Europe?" Sophia asked.

Miss Everling stared at her. "Nothing's bad about Europe. I traveled there for a whole year after college." Her eyes rolled toward the ceiling, and she sighed dreamily. "So much culture and history - "

"History?" Ivy interrupted with a meaningful glance at her friends.

Olivia followed her train of thought exactly. "Yeah, didn't Europe have the Black Plague?"

"And both those world wars," Camilla pointed out with a grimace.

Miss Everling frowned. "Time out," she said, peering at the girls over the top of her glasses. "What's this project about again?"

Ivy fiddled with one of the books on a shelf. "We're trying to convince our... friend... not to move to Europe," she said carefully.

Olivia nodded enthusiastically. "We have to make this person see that Franklin Grove is totally better."

"Oh, now I understand," Miss Everling said softly. "My best friend moved to California when I was thirteen. It's so hard saying good-bye."

Seriously, thought Ivy sadly.

Miss Everling tapped her pencil against her dark lips thoughtfully. She gestured to the camera hanging around Sophia's neck. "Do you have pictures of your friends on that thing?"

"Of course," Sophia replied.

Miss Everling adjusted her glasses. "Don't worry, ladies," she said. "I'm going to help you make a pitch your friend won't be able to resist. Something exciting. Something emotional.

Something that truly sucks!" She winced at her impulsive use of vampire slang. "I mean, something really great."

Miss Everling is the deadliest librarian ever, Ivy thought, exchanging excited looks with her friends.

"So," Miss Everling said, "when is this important project due, so to speak?"

"Today," Ivy replied.

Miss Everling started to protest, but Sophia said, "Our friend's supposed to move in ten days."

"We don't have any time to lose!" Olivia pleaded.

"Okay, okay," Miss Everling said. "Then we'll need to split up. Who wants to research Franklin Grove?"

"I'll do it," Olivia volunteered. "I just moved here a few months ago, so I could stand to learn a thing or two."

"Good," said Miss Everling. "The local history section is by the copying machine in the corner. Camilla, how would you like to do Europe?"

"Roger, Queen Informasys!" Camilla said, saluting. Ivy had no idea what that meant -??Camilla was always making obscure references to sci-fi books she was obsessed with.

"A Coal Knightley fan, huh?" Miss Everling grinned. "Isn't he the greatest? Anyway, Captain Omega, your mission is to find unappealing pictures of Europe. It won't be easy. Start with these travel guides, and then check out the European history section, just like you and Ivy were thinking."

"You two." Miss Everling pointed her pencil at Ivy and Sophia. "Follow me to the computers.

I'm going to show you how to make a digital slideshow that's guaranteed to make your friend laugh and cry. But, more than anything, it's going to make her stay!"

At 4:30 P.M., Olivia stood behind her sister on the front porch of Ivy's enormous house atop Undertaker Hill. They'd stayed after school with Camilla and Sophia, rushing to finish their presentation, and it looked totally awesome. But as Ivy reached for the doorknob, Olivia was suddenly filled with dread. "Wait," she blurted.

Ivy stopped. Olivia turned and looked down on Franklin Grove; amid the fog and the bare December trees, she could just make out the roof of the school in the distance.

"Do you really think this could work?" she wondered nervously.

"Why? Don't you think the presentation's killer?" Ivy asked quickly.

"I do. I really do," admitted Olivia. "But when my own dad decided to come to Franklin Grove for a new job, I begged him not to move. There was nothing that would change his mind."

"Except my dad loves Franklin Grove," Ivy said. "He always has. And while Europe's a killer continent, I don't want to spend the rest of eternity in some boarding school in Luxembourg." "Okay, but that doesn't mean he loves... "

Olivia's voice trailed off before she said the word "me." She'd barely seen Mr. Vega since finding out he was her father. The initiation with the Vampire Round Table meant that she'd been officially accepted into the vampire community, but even afterward he'd remained completely awkward around her. He doesn't even like being near me, she thought.

"Maybe you should do the presentation without me," Olivia said aloud.

"You have to come," Ivy said. "You're the best public speaker."

"I know, but he's never really seemed to... like me very much." Olivia bit her lip doubtfully. "If I'm his daughter," she said, her eyes starting to mist over, "then why doesn't he love me? Is it because I'm human?"

Ivy's eyes softened and she shook her head. "Our mom was a human like you," she said gently. "She was the love of his life."

"So what happened?"

"I don't know, Olivia," Ivy admitted. "Something that made him a separationist, more wary of mixing with humans. He changed. But that means he can change again."

Olivia sighed deeply. "It's just... I'd give anything to know what it's like to have him as a member of my family, you know?"

"You will," Ivy assured her. "But first we have to convince him not to move away."

Olivia nodded and took a deep breath, determined not to let her sister down. "You're totally right," she said.

Ivy grinned encouragingly, gave Olivia a quick hug, and opened the door.

They found Mr.Vega hunched over his desk in his study. Ivy crept in while Olivia stayed back near the doorway. Even from across the room, she could see that he was sketching something with a piece of charcoal.

"Hey, Dad," Ivy announced.

"Oh, hello, Ivy," Mr. Vega said, bolting to his feet. "I didn't hear you come in." He shuffled his drawing under some other sketches.

"Hi... " Olivia said, momentarily unsure how to address the man before her, "Mr.Vega."

"Hello, Olivia," Mr.Vega responded stiffly, not having noticed her standing in the door until that moment. He quickly averted his eyes, and Olivia's heart sank.

"What are you working on?" Ivy said.

"Nothing," he said. "Just some design ideas." "My dad designed this whole house himself," Ivy told Olivia proudly.

Olivia already knew, but she guessed Ivy was just trying to remind her dad of that fact. She tried to say something enthusiastic, but she was tongue-tied. "Cool," she croaked at last.

"Each wall, each floorboard, each light switch, each shelf," Mr. Vega said nostalgically. "I am going to - " He stopped himself abruptly.

"Miss being here?" Ivy finished his sentence, her dark lips curling into a grin.

"Yes," Mr. Vega said. "Yes, of course. But a house is not a good enough reason to stay," he added quickly.

"There are lots of other reasons," Ivy said. "Right, Olivia?"

Olivia felt the familiar sensation of stepping in front of a crowd. She was still wearing her cheerleading outfit, after all. Her nervousness magically dissolved and she felt her voice bubble into her throat. "That's right, Ivy!" she agreed. She reached into her backpack, pulled out the CD with their presentation on it, and held it out with a stellar smile. Time to cheer our hearts out! she thought.

"Please, Ivy," her father pleaded as Ivy shooed him from his chair and slid the CD into his computer. "I am really very busy."

"Too busy for the most important presentation of your entire life?" Ivy retorted. Her fingers were shaking as she grabbed the mouse, but she was determined not to let either her dad or her sister know how nervous she was. "You can go sit over there."

"This won't take long, Mr. Vega," chirped Olivia. "You won't regret it. Promise!"

No matter what, Ivy thought gratefully, Olivia always rises to the occasion.

Defeated, Ivy's father collapsed into the reading chair across from the desk. Once she had the presentation cued up, Ivy spun the monitor all the way around so her father could see, and then she and Olivia went around to the front of the desk and arranged themselves on either side of the screen.

"Ready?" Ivy whispered.

"Ready." Olivia smiled, squeezing her hand. Ivy reached behind them and clicked the mouse to begin, and the first plaintive guitar notes of "Paint It Black" by the Rolling Stones sounded from the computer's speakers. Between Ivy and Olivia, a tiny speck appeared in the middle of the blank screen.

"I love this song," Mr.Vega remarked approvingly. Ivy couldn't help rolling her eyes. "I know," she said out of the corner of her mouth as the white speck grew larger and larger, like a meteor approaching from outer space.

"Shhh!" scolded Olivia as the title slammed to the front of the screen, accompanied by a sudden barrage of drums.


Ivy's dad let out a small laugh. "I thought you were only saying that," he said.

Olivia stepped forward professionally. As Mick Jagger sang, "I see a red door and I want to paint it black," the screen dissolved into an old blackand- white etching of some modest huts that Olivia had found in a library book. "The year is 1666," she began. "A small band of Transylvanian exiles settles on a very special piece of land.They decide to name it Franklin Grove."

Ivy was seriously impressed that her sister had memorized her lines. Ivy had tried, but she'd ended up having to write notes on her palm.

"That same year," Ivy said, glancing down at her hand, "across the ocean... "

The screen transitioned to a similar woodcut, but this one was of a much bigger city, all its buildings covered with inky flames that licked the air. "The Great Fire of London wipes out the homes of seventy thousand innocent people!"

On the soundtrack, there were shouts and screams. Ivy noticed her father wincing, which she took as an encouraging sign.

"And that," said Olivia, in an uncharacteristically low voice, "is merely where the differences begin."

"Here's what happens at the highest point in Europe," said Ivy, as the screen showed an avalanche threatening to engulf a group of downhill skiers.

"Here's what happens at the highest point in Franklin Grove," said Olivia, as the screen displayed a stunning picture Sophia had taken of the Vega house at dusk, the wide, crimson sky behind it.

"Here's what happens when people cheer in Franklin Grove," Ivy went on. The screen changed to a picture of Olivia standing atop a pyramid of Franklin Grove Devils cheerleaders, her fist held triumphantly over her head. Ivy could swear she could see a glimmer of pride in her father's eyes. It's working! she thought hopefully. "And here's what happens when people cheer in Europe," said Olivia. On screen, a crowd at a soccer match had descended into a chaotic riot.

Now came Ivy's favorite part of the whole presentation. "Here are the sorts of things that happen if we stay in Franklin Grove," shedeclared. The screen started moving from image to image, without any accompaniment other than the rocking chords of the Rolling Stones: Ivy in her wine-colored strapless ball gown, standing with her tuxedoed father's arms around her before the All Hallows' Ball; the black-and-white Vamp magazine picture of Ivy and Olivia, without any makeup, looking at each other in the guest bathroom mirror; her father, clapping for Olivia after she passed the three trials and was initiated by the Vampire Round Table; Ivy, Sophia, Olivia, and Brendan with their arms around one another at Brendan's family crypt; Ivy's father, thoughtful in a chair in the corner of the living room while Ivy and Olivia chatted excitedly before him. The pictures went on and on.

Ivy watched her father's face. She could tell he was moved, his eyes flickering as he leaned forward intently in his chair.

At last, Olivia stepped forward once again.

"And here, Mr. Vega," she said, "are the sorts of things that might happen if you go to Europe."

Suddenly the soundtrack sped up crazily and its volume rose until it was an unrecognizable, screeching mess. A quick succession of images flashed on the screen: a mustachioed man running from a charging bull, two dinky European cars crashing into each other, a World War II plane dropping bombs, a wrecked apartment building in France, a soccer player with an agonized look of defeat on his face, a painting of Mount Vesuvius erupting.

The rush of images ended abruptly, along with the unbearable noise. The simple, lone guitar melody from the beginning of the song rang out plaintively, and a single phrase appeared on the black screen: Franklin Grove or Europe?

Ivy and Olivia triumphantly read the final screen that came next: "'FRANKLIN GROVE!'"

Ivy's father clapped enthusiastically. His face was flushed, and he had a smile that Ivy realized she hadn't seen in weeks. "Terrific job," he said. "What a wonderful presentation! You should share it with the Franklin Grove Chamber of Commerce."

I knew he'd like it, Ivy thought. I knew it would work! "So we're not moving?" she blurted.

Her father's smile abruptly fell from his face, like a dark cloud suddenly drifting across a full moon. He dropped back into his chair and studied his hands. Olivia looked at Ivy anxiously.

"Can't you see how much we have here, Dad?" Ivy pleaded.

"Don't go," Olivia said in a small voice.

"I have to," Mr.Vega whispered. He raised his eyes to them sadly."We have to go, Ivy. I know it's difficult for you to accept... but you must try."

Ivy looked at him in disbelief. Why are you being so stubborn? she thought. She tried to think of something she could say, anything that might get through to him and make him realize they couldn't go to Europe.

Her father forced his mouth into a strained smile that seemed utterly fake compared to the one from a few moments ago. "You should try to think of all the good things about Europe," he said hopefully.

Ivy shook her head. She turned to Olivia. "I thought he'd listen to reason. Or emotion. Or us," she said softly. "But I guess I was wrong."

Without another word, Ivy led her sister out of the study. She knew Olivia was struggling not to burst into tears, too.

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