Chapter Three

The next day at lunch with Olivia, Sophia, Camilla, and Brendan, Ivy was still in a pitchblack mood.

"My father is being impossible," she fumed. "He's determined to move. I'm not sure there's anything I can do that will change his mind."

"Have you tried biting him on the leg?" said Brendan. "My little sister, Bethany, did that once to my dad, and it really got his attention. I mean, he almost had to go to the hospital."

Ivy couldn't even smile. "My father doesn't like hospitals," she said glumly.

Across from her, Olivia moved a piece of limp broccoli around her plate with her fork. "Do you think he wants to go to Europe to get away from me?" she said quietly to her plate.

Ivy's heart cracked open like a coffin.

Sometimes she forgot that this was just as hard for Olivia as it was for her - maybe harder. "He wouldn't do that, Olivia," she said as reassuringly as she could. "It's the job. It's a really killer opportunity."

"Didn't he say that they made him an offer he couldn't refuse?" asked Sophia. Ivy nodded. "But we don't even know why he separated me and you in the first place," Olivia said, unconvinced.

"Maybe when I was a baby, I bit him in the leg."

Ivy smiled. "I don't think he would insist on moving away just because of you, Olivia. He was talking about this job before you even came to Franklin Grove."

Olivia looked at her gratefully. "You're right," she said. "Sorry, I'm just being completely neurotic."

"What we need to do is come up with something even a great job can't compete with," Camilla said.

Brendan nodded, his dark curls flopping in front of his eyes. He was so drop-dead handsome. "With the right reason, your father will decide to stay," he agreed.

At that moment, Ivy couldn't imagine being apart from Brendan. She felt herself filling with determination again. "Then we'll just have to come up with the right reason."

"Hey,Vega!" a voice called.

Ivy spun around and saw Garrick Stephens and his greaseball goons, Dylan Soyle and Kyle Glass, winding their way toward the table.

Instinctively, she rolled her eyes. The Beasts were the lamest vampires in the whole school.

"Word in the dirt is that you're skipping town!" Garrick said happily.

"What's it to you?" Ivy said coolly.

"Nothing," Garrick said, but then he turned and grinned as his friends. "Nothing at all," he repeated, wheeling back to face her, "except that with you gone the Beasts are going to rule the school!"

Kyle and Dylan laughed idiotically and waited for Garrick to give them high fives.

"As if," said Sophia under her breath. "You tombstones couldn't rule an empty cemetery plot."

Garrick pretended not to hear. "So, uh, before you go, why don't you do an article on us for the Scribe?"

Ivy stared at him, but he just kept leering at her. "You're not serious," she said at last. Garrick sighed. "Oh, come on," he whined.

"Once our new band gets famous, you can say that you knew me when... "

Rather than answering, Ivy fixed Garrick with her worst death squint. She imagined she was burning a black hole through the center of his forehead.

"Fine, but don't think we're going to send any VIP tickets your way," he grumbled finally, then lumbered off with the other Beasts in tow.

"Gross." Camilla giggled.

"I can't believe they've started a band!" said Olivia with a grin.

Sophia tapped the table with a spoon as if it were a gavel. "I hereby call our second emergency meeting to order!" she announced.

"Second?" said Brendan. "When was the first?"

I was worried you'd ask that, Ivy thought.

"Yesterday," she said, "but it was girls only. Now we're coed."

"Good," Brendan said. "Because I don't want to miss a moment with you over the next week."

Ivy's heart ached, and she took Brendan's cool hand in her own. "You were studying for your social studies midterm," she tried to explain. "Social studies!" exclaimed Sophia suddenly.

"That's how we'll keep Mr. Vega in Franklin Grove!"

"Homework and pop quizzes wouldn't tempt me to stay," Camilla said.

Sophia rolled her eyes. "I mean what we're learning in social studies.We just did a whole unit on the Civil Rights Movement, and we had to watch part of that movie Gandhi.There's only one way to successfully fight the blatant injustice of racism, British colonial rule, or being forced to move to Europe!"

"And that would be... ?" Brendan said cluelessly. "Passive resistance!" blurted Sophia. She looked around excitedly.

"I should've known that," Brendan slapped his head with his palm. "I am seriously going to fail this midterm."

"You mean like a sit-in?" Camilla asked.

Sophia nodded. "We'll chain ourselves to Mr. Vega's car and refuse to move until he changes his mind."

"That would certainly be dramatic," remarked Olivia.

"I bet we'd get in the local paper," Camilla said with a shrug.

Between her recent interview with Serena Star on national TV and all the newspaper and magazine articles about Ivy and Olivia being long-lost twins, Ivy had had enough media attention to last eternity. "I don't know," she said tentatively. "We'd miss all our exams."

"We can do it after midterms," Sophia adjusted. "As long as we start before the actual day of the move, it'll still work."

"What would we eat?" Brendan wondered.

"We'll bring food," Sophia countered.

"But what if we run out of food?" Olivia asked. "Then we'll be on a hunger strike," Sophia replied matter-of-factly, stabbing the air with a fork. "That's what Gandhi did."

"It's pretty cold out lately," Olivia said, scrunching up her nose.

Sophia seemed to sense the tide turning against her. "This can work, you guys!" She waved her fork around. "History is on our side!"

Ivy knew how Sophia could be when she got attached to an idea. She'd cling to it like a bat on its perch - nothing would bring her back down to earth. "How about this?" Ivy said. "Passive resistance can be our last resort. If in a week's time we still haven't been able to convince my dad, we'll start the revolution. Agreed?"

"Agreed," everyone said, Sophia loudest of all.

"I have an idea," Camilla piped up. "Have any of you ever seen that old movie about the identical twins who switch places?"

Olivia shook her head. "Ivy and I don't have to see that movie!"

"It's our life," Ivy agreed with a grin. The sisters had switched places a few times since they'd met. Sophia even had photos of Ivy in Olivia's outfit at a cheerleading practice, which made Ivy want to be buried alive.

"Yeah, but there's this one part I keep thinking about," Camilla went on. "In order not to get separated again, these sisters have to get their parents back together. They have to make them fall in love again."

Olivia's face brightened, but Ivy frowned.

"That won't work," she said. "Our mother's not around anymore."

"Wait a second," Olivia interrupted. "Maybe Camilla's onto something.We might not have our mom, but there are tons of eligible women in Franklin Grove we could set your dad up with."

Sophia shut one eye and pursed her lips.Then she opened her eye and shook her head. "Nope, I can't see it," she said. "I've known Mr. Vega for my whole life, and I've never seen him go on a single date."

"He's shy!" Ivy said, surprised by her own defensiveness. "He could have a girlfriend if he wanted to."

"What about Georgia Huntingdon?" Olivia suggested. "That lady from... that magazine."

Ivy could tell her sister was being discreet for Camilla's benefit - Georgia was the flamboyant editor of Vamp.

"I don't think that would work," Brendan said skeptically.

Ivy nodded. Every vamp in America knew Georgia Huntingdon had a very on-again/offagain relationship with a TV soap star.

"We need someone perfect," Ivy said. "He's our dad, after all." In fact, Ivy had always thought that the right woman might help her dad relax a little bit.

"So, are we agreed," said Sophia, "that the only thing that might be more killer than a killer job is a killer romance?"

"Agreed," everyone chimed, and Brendan started playing footsies with Ivy under the table. If she were a bunny, she would have blushed.

Instead, the bell rang for the end of lunch. "The second emergency meeting is now adjourned," Sophia declared as everyone gathered up their trays. "Let's go find Mr. Vega his Miss Right!"

For the rest of the day, Ivy tried to think of women who might be a good match for her dad.

She kept a running list on the back page of her notebook, where she usually wrote ideas for the school paper.

Valencia Deborg from the Vampire Roundtable?

Too cold.

The lady at the adoption agency? Too loud.

Marie the florist who specialized in dead flowers? Too weird.

The list went on and on, but Ivy couldn't come up with anyone she thought her father would be interested in.

After school, Olivia had to meet with her algebra study group to prepare for midterms. Ivy went over to Brendan's. The door swung open the moment she touched the doorbell.

"Don't let him see you!" Brendan's little sister, Bethany, whispered in a panic and pulled her inside. Bethany was wearing enormous aviator sunglasses. She ran to the window, pulled aside the curtain, and peeked out at the street.

"Who?" said Ivy.

"The vampire hunter!" Bethany replied.

Ivy took off her jacket and hung it by the door. "Seriously?" Ivy asked.

"FREEZE, VAMPIRE SCUM!" a voice commanded.

Ivy's stomach lurched, and she turned to look. Standing in the door that led to the kitchen was Brendan, wearing a long trench coat and a yellow hard hat. In his hand, he held an eggbeater. He laughed maniacally.

"EEEEEEEEEEKKKKKK!" Bethany shrieked and started running in circles around the living room. Brendan took straight-legged zombie steps into the room.

From the kitchen, Mrs. Daniels called, "Please use your inside screaming voice, Bethany," but it didn't seem to have any effect.

Ivy couldn't help smiling as Brendan clomped right up to her.

"Aren't you afraid of the vampire hunter?" he asked with bulging eyes.

Ivy shook her head. "Nope," she said.

"Why not?" the vampire hunter demanded.

"'Cause I think he likes me," Ivy replied coyly. I am going to miss you so much, she thought. Brendan touched her arm tenderly.

"You get away from Ivy!" screamed Bethany. She charged and kicked Brendan hard in the leg. "Ouch!" Brendan cried.

Bethany leaped on his back. "You big mean vampire hunter ugly man!" she shouted.

Brendan winked at Ivy and gave a monstrous roar. He and his sister collapsed to the living room floor in a wrestling heap. Bethany was jumping up and down on his back, alternately giggling and shrieking, as he grunted and tried to claw at Ivy's foot. Ivy kicked his hand away playfully. "You show him, Bethany!" she called.

Suddenly Mr. Daniels burst through the front door. "Eureka!" he cried, his Einstein-like mane of gray hair pointing in all directions. "Let's celebrate! I've had a major breakthrough!"

Brendan and Bethany both sat up.

Mrs. Daniels came rushing in from the kitchen in an apron. "Marc! Please calm down," she admonished."We have a guest." She cast a meaningful glance toward Ivy, who was standing by the couch.

Mr. Daniels focused his eyes on Ivy. "Ivy! It's Ivy!" He bounded over and hugged her enthusiastically. "Um, hi, Mr. Daniels," Ivy said awkwardly, her arms pinned to her sides. "How are you?"

"How are you is the question!" he said, releasing her. "How are you a vampire," he elaborated, waving his hands excitedly in the 45

air, "while your twin sister is a human?" He puffed up his chest. "Well, today, Ivy, I found the answer!"

Olivia made her way through the Meat & Greet Diner. She could see her sister already seated at their usual booth in the back. Ivy had called her on her cell in the middle of study group and said she had to see her right away. She wouldn't take no for an answer.

When Olivia reached the table, her sister leaped up and hugged her quickly. "My dad's going to be here to pick me up in, like, fifteen minutes," said Ivy, "so we don't have much time." They slid into the booth opposite each other.

"Let me guess," Olivia said. "You found the perfect Mrs.Vega?"

"Better," said Ivy. "I found the perfect explanation for us - or, rather, Mr. Daniels did. He figured out how it's possible for you to be a human and me to be a you-know-what."

Olivia's heart leaped up into her throat. "Really?!" she squealed. "What'd he say?"

"Ever since we went to the V-Gen lab," Ivy explained, "Mr. Daniels has been running all these tests on the samples he took from us."

"The strands of our hair and stuff?" Olivia asked, remembering all the weird machines to which she'd been strapped.

"Exactly," confirmed Ivy. "Anyway, remember how he said they wouldn't have any results for months?"

Olivia nodded.

"Well, he had a huge breakthrough much sooner than he expected!"

"Which is?" Olivia cried.

"Not very easy to explain," Ivy admitted with a grimace. "You know how Brendan's dad talks."

"Ivy!" Olivia pleaded.

"Okay," Ivy said. "I'll do my best." She scanned the table and grabbed the salt and pepper shakers from next to the napkin dispenser.

"Pretend this salt is your DNA," she said, shaking some onto the table. Then she made a little mound of pepper adjacent to the mound of salt.

"And this is mine."

"Oh, my goodness!" came a bubbly voice. "I know you! You're the twins!"

Olivia looked up to see a pale waitress in a butcher's apron smiling down on them. She was tall and thin, with her long black hair pulled back in a ponytail. "I'm Alice Bantam."

Ivy was looking embarrassed, so Olivia smiled and said, "Nice to meet you."

"Oh, I don't want to bother you," Alice blurted. "I just came to see if you wanted to order anything." She smiled hopefully down at Olivia.

"Oh, yes, please," Olivia replied. "How about a Sweet Strawberry Smoothie?"

"And I'll have a Bloody Raspberry Shake," Ivy put in.

"Be back in a flap," Alice winked.

Ivy leaned forward to Olivia. "I think she's new," she whispered. "Anyway," she picked up where she'd left off, "salt and pepper can't mix."

"You've clearly never made soup," said Olivia.

Ivy rolled her eyes. "It's a metaphor, Olivia.

Human and vamp DNA are incompatible.That's why the two species can't usually breed." "Right," Olivia said sheepishly.

"Mr. Daniels said that, in V-Gen's tests, I didn't show any traces of human DNA, and you didn't show any traces of vamp DNA. He couldn't understand how that could be possible, until he remembered what makes us so special." "Our incredible coolness?" Olivia joked.

Ivy smiled and shook her head. "The fact that we're identical twins," she said. "Which means we both started in the same embryo."

Olivia shrugged. "So?"

"So Mr. Daniels thinks that somehow the cells in the embryo became polarized. All the vamp cells went to one end," Ivy said, using the back of her knife to push the salt away from the pepper, "and all the human cells went to the other."

Suddenly Olivia got it. "And then the embryo split into two babies!" She gasped.

"One vamp and one human," Ivy pronounced triumphantly. "Mr. Daniels said the odds are like a billion to one!"

Olivia's heart did a triple handspring.We're not a mistake, she thought. "We're a miracle!"

Just then, Alice returned with their drinks.

Olivia and Ivy waited until she was gone before clinking glasses. "To us!" they toasted.

"You should have seen Mr. Daniels," Ivy went on as Olivia slurped her smoothie. "He was so excited. When I thanked him for figuring all this out, he said he was the one who should be grateful. He wants to write his next book about us!"

"First Serena Star, then the Franklin Grove papers and Vamp magazine, and now a book," marveled Olivia. "We should get an agent!"

"As if." Ivy smiled and rolled her eyes. Olivia knew Ivy had always hated the spotlight, but, no matter what her sister said, Olivia suspected that she was starting to enjoy the attention just a little bit.

Suddenly, Ivy's face tightened. "There's my dad," she said. She hunched over and sucked back the rest of her Bloody Shake in one gulp. Olivia stared into the pink froth of her smoothie. "Hello," Mr.Vega announced.

"Hi," Olivia and Ivy said together.

"Are you ready to go, Ivy?" Mr. Vega asked, without acknowledging Olivia.

All at once, the joyous rush Olivia had felt at Ivy's news melted away. She felt like she'd been doing a magnificent aerial cheerleading move, only to discover at the last moment that there was no one there to catch her.What did it matter how she came to be in this world if her own father wouldn't acknowledge her?

She wanted to ask her father why he didn't seem to care about her, but the diner wasn't the right place for that. Instead, she just raised her hand into the air and waved limply to Alice. "May we please have the check?"

Olivia, Ivy, and Mr. Vega said nothing as they waited for the bill.

After a minute, Alice brought it over and slapped it on the table. "Here you go!" she said. "Thanks so much. Really, you girls were a pleasure to serve.You have an energy, you know?"

Alice turned to trot away, but Mr.Vega cleared his throat. "Pardon me," he called.

Alice spun around. "Yeah?"

"Do I know you?" he said. "I feel certain that I have seen you before."

Olivia couldn't believe her ears. That almost sounds like a pickup line! she thought.

Alice screwed up her lips and rolled her eyes around, like she was trying to see the inside of her head. "Nope," she said after a second, "I don't think -??WAIT A MINUTE! Have you been to any parties at the art museum?"

Mr. Vega's face bloomed into a smile - a real one, not one of those close-lipped pretend smiles Olivia was used to. "Of course.We met at the last exhibition opening," he said. "You're the artist who does those sculptures."

"I am indeed!" said Alice. Out of the corner of her mouth, to the girls, she added, "I've never been recognized before."

Olivia and Ivy stared at Alice and their father, totally speechless.

"I've always had a passion for our little museum," he said. "I remember one of your pieces well - the eight-legged clown."

"It was a mime, actually," Alice corrected with a smile.

Olivia kicked Ivy under the table. She's the one! "Olivia and I have to go the bathroom," Ivy blurted.

Olivia hurriedly reached into her bag and found a five dollar bill. "Thank you so much, Alice," she said, slapping the bill on the table. "Keep the change."

"Thanks," said Alice.

"Dad, I'll see you in the car," Ivy called over her shoulder as she and Olivia rushed to the ladies' room.

The moment they were inside, Olivia peered under the stalls.They were empty. "Do you think she's, you know," Olivia said, "one of you?"

"This is one of our establishments, and she's wearing black nail polish," Ivy replied. "So yes!"

"It's perfect," declared Olivia. "She's an artist - "

"And he's artsy," finished Ivy, sounding awed. "I know!" squealed Olivia. "And it sounds like he even likes her art!"

"Let's invite her over for dinner," Ivy said quickly.

"Can we do that?" Olivia asked, but her sister was already back out the door. They crept along the bathroom hallway and peeked around the corner to see if Mr. Vega was still in the restaurant. "He's gone," Ivy whispered, and together they made a beeline to where Alice was standing by the cash register.

"Hi, Alice," they both said.

"Hi, again," said Alice.

"I'm Ivy, and this is Olivia," Ivy said. "That guy you were talking to - he's my father."

"Really?" Alice said with a glimmer in her eye. "He looks so young!"

"He's a widower," Olivia noted.

"Want to come over to our house tomorrow night?" Ivy offered. "You could... talk about... "

"Art?" Olivia suggested.

"Are you girls tugging my wings?" Alice said with a worried look as she twirled her dark ponytail.

Uh-oh, thought Olivia. We're coming on too strong.

Alice's mouth burst into a smile. "Because I'd love to!"

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