Chapter Five

The next day at lunch, Olivia slapped her tray down and slumped into a chair.

Brendan eyed her suspiciously. "Wait a minute," he said, looking from her to Ivy. "Did you two switch again?"

"No, Brendan." Ivy rolled her eyes.

"He's right." Sophia studied Olivia's face. "The real Olivia would never sulk like this."

Ivy blinked with frustration. "That is the real Olivia!" She waved her black-nailed hands in front of Sophia's face. "And I'm the real Ivy!"

"Likely story," said Brendan, unconvinced.

"Will you please tell them, Olivia?" Ivy begged. Something surged through Olivia's chest, like a crowd doing the wave. "AREN'T I ALLOWED TO HAVE A BAD DAY?" she shouted.

Everybody stared at her, speechless.

"Sorry," Olivia said softly, wrinkling her nose. "Ivy probably already told you that last night was a total failure."

"It's okay," Sophia said gently. "There's always chaining ourselves to Ivy's mailbox."

"It was a good plan," Olivia said stubbornly. "Even if Alice wasn't the right girl, there must be someone in Franklin Grove our father could fall in love with!" She angrily broke a celery stalk in half, and Brendan flinched.

"We could try speed dating. We could hold a singles party. You people have online dating services, don't you? There has to be something we can do!"

"Olivia," Ivy said, reaching across and touching her hand gently. "It's a dead end. Even if we had a vamp goddess, we don't have enough time to make a romance work. Besides, Dad would see it coming from a mile away."

Olivia nodded grudgingly. She knew her sister was right.

Brendan tapped the table with his fork. "As the only male member of Operation FANGED," he said, "I hereby pronounce Plan B - "

"Dead," they all said together.

"Time to come up with Plan C," Ivy said hopefully.

Aren't I usually the optimistic one? Olivia thought. "While we're coming up with plans," she said, her throat suddenly dry, "can we come up with one to get me out of tonight?"

"Why? What's happening tonight?" Ivy inquired. "My mom got me a surprise." Olivia winced.

Suddenly she realized that she had the worst headache ever. "She sprang it on me this morning. We have two tickets to see a show tonight."

Ivy looked confused. "I thought you love the theater."

"I do," said Olivia. "Just not shows with flying monkeys in them." Saying the words "flying monkeys" sent a horrible chill down her spine.

"Flying monkeys?" Ivy turned to Sophia and Brendan, but they both shrugged. "Olivia," she said finally, "did you take Bethany's VitaVamp again?"

Olivia shook her head and a heavy sigh racked her body. "I'm seeing Wicked."

"Isn't that like The Wizard of Oz?" asked Brendan.

"Yes, but from the witch's point of view," Sophia told him. "How deadly is that? That show sold out ages ago!"

"I'd kill to see Wicked," moaned Ivy.

"Well I'd kill not to," said Olivia weakly. "I saw The Wizard of Oz once, when I was eight years old, and I've had nightmares ever since."

"What kind of nightmares?" asked Sophia.

"That witch," croaked Olivia, "and her monkeys."

"You mean the winged things dressed as bellhops?" Brendan quipped.

Ivy hit him in the arm, as if to say, This is serious. "So if it gives you nightmares, why are you going, Olivia?" she asked.

"Because my mom's convinced it will help me," Olivia explained. "She blames herself for letting me watch the movie when I was little. She thinks that because this show's all about the nice side of the witch, it will end my suffering or whatever."

"Your mom is taking you to see a musical as therapy?" Brendan laughed.

"It's not funny!" Olivia snapped. "Once I see Wicked, I'm going to need therapy."

"Come on, Olivia," said Sophia. "You're not going to - "

"I'll FREAK!" Olivia cried hysterically. She pressed her sweaty palms onto the table. "That witch and her monkeys," she said again in hushed terror.

"Can't you talk to your mom?" asked Ivy.

Olivia closed her eyes. Her headache was getting worse by the millisecond. "That's the worst part. She's all pleased with herself for finally finding a way to help me 'heal the wounds of my childhood.' It would break her heart if I didn't go." She opened her eyes, and her head throbbed.

"Can someone help me?" she squeaked.

Ivy's lips curled into a smile. "I can."

Olivia's vision cleared slightly. "How?"

"We'll switch!" Ivy announced.

All at once, Olivia's headache lifted.

"You can be me at my house, packing boxes for the move," Ivy explained, "and I'll be you and go see Wicked."

"You would do that?" Olivia gasped.

"Yes," Ivy said, sighing as if a great burden had been placed upon her, "I would be willing to see a sold-out musical I've always wanted to see if it would help my beloved twin sister avoid emotional distress."

Brendan and Sophia groaned.

"Having an identical twin rocks!" Olivia exclaimed. Suddenly she realized she was thirsty and starving. She chugged the glass of water on her tray and put the celery stalk she was holding in her mouth.

"No kidding," Sophia teased. "Too bad you can't hire your switching services out to those of us who are less fortunate."

"That would be a killer job," Ivy admitted.

Killer job. The words stuck in Olivia's head.

Suddenly, a lightbulb went on. "That's it!" she swallowed her celery. "That's Plan C! That's what will convince your dad to stay in Franklin Grove!"

"A twin he could switch with?" guessed Brendan.

"No," Olivia said, "a job even better than the one he's leaving for."

Ivy's eyes widened. "You are a genius," she cried.

"Yeah, but I try not to brag." Olivia giggled. Ivy was already on her feet, stacking her plates on her tray and gathering her books. Olivia and their friends rushed to do the same.

At that moment, Camilla appeared with her lunch in a brown paper bag. "You're not all leaving, are you?" she asked.

"Yeah," said Ivy, "but so are you, Camilla." She spun Camilla around and pointed her toward the doorway.

"But where are we going?" Camilla asked.

"To look for a job!" replied Olivia, taking her friend's arm.

They walked into the library two minutes later. "Well, if it isn't the Anti-European Bloc," said Miss Everling, coming out from behind her desk.

"Did your friend decide to stay in Franklin Grove?"

"Not yet," replied Ivy.

"Aw." Miss Everling kicked the ground with one of her tight leather knee-length boots. "I was sure that presentation would work."

"We still haven't given up, though," Sophia added resolutely.

"That's the spirit," Miss Everling said. "How can I help?"

"Do you have the local want ads?" asked Brendan.

"We've got all the county and state papers," Miss Everling said with a smile. "To the periodicals!" she commanded.

A minute later, Miss Everling had left the five of them gathered around the latest edition of the Franklin Grove Gazette, splayed open on a table.

Camilla was bent over the paper, calling out jobs.

"Construction consultant... insurance salesman... vacuum mechanic - "

"I bet that job sucks," Brendan joked.

"... cat groomer... window washer... house cleaner... bond broker - "

"Aren't there any design jobs?" Ivy interrupted. Camilla scanned the column. "Here's one," she said. "Denture designer. What do you think that is?"

Brendan coughed. "Hey, this reminds me of a joke.What's black and white and red all over?"

"A vampire having a midnight snack?" Camilla guessed innocently.

Olivia's heart skipped a beat, and she could swear that the three vamps around the table turned a shade whiter.

"I was going to say a newspaper," Brendan mumbled weakly.

After a few more minutes, Olivia had to agree with her friends that there were no openings that seemed right for Mr.Vega.

"So much for Plan C," said Ivy with a sigh as the bell for the end of lunch rang.

"Fortunately," Olivia said, "there are still twenty-three letters left in the alphabet."

After school, Ivy leaned close to the science hall bathroom mirror and carefully applied Olivia's shimmery eye shadow. At the next sink, her sister scrunched up her face and sprayed herself with a can of Pale Beauty whitener.

Ivy shifted from one sneaker-clad foot to the other and wriggled herself around in Olivia's stone-washed jeans. They were going to have to spend the whole night as each other, because by the time Wicked was over, it would be too late to get away and switch back.

"You know this is going to be our trickiest switch yet," said Olivia as she reached for Ivy's thick eyeliner. "We have to fool our parents for hours."

I don't know if I can be perky for that long, Ivy thought. "What if we get caught?" she said.

"Think of it this way," Olivia said, blinking dramatically at herself with her freshly blackened eyes. "If you get grounded for a month, you can't leave the house to go to Europe."

"There are some things you'll need to know if you're going to convince my dad you're me," said Ivy. In the mirror, she practised smiling so her teeth showed.

"Like what?" said Olivia.

"Things that might be hard for you to, um, digest," said Ivy. She watched her sister's reflection for a reaction, but Olivia didn't notice her choice of words.

"Trust me, nothing could be worse than flying monkeys," said Olivia. She flattened her lips to apply Ivy's deep plum lipstick.

"Good," said Ivy. She turned and flashed her sister her best Olivia-like smile. "Then you'll be happy to know Marshmallow Platelets is your favorite cereal."

"Oh, gross!" Olivia cried.

An hour later, Ivy did her best to skip up to the front door of the Abbotts' split-level home. Even after Olivia's in-depth briefing on life in her house, she couldn't keep from being a little nervous. Stick a bat in a bunny hole, she thought, and sooner or later it's going to flap its wings. Still, she'd just have to do her best. It would all be worth it to see Wicked and help her sister.

Ivy swung her ponytail around, moistened her pink lips, smiled as brightly as she could, and rang the doorbell. Soon enough, the door swung open to reveal Olivia's mom, Audrey Abbott, wearing a dark blue skirt and pearls.

"Hi, Mom!" said Ivy.

"Hi, Olivia," said Mrs. Abbott. She craned her neck to look past Ivy into the street. "Everything okay?"

"For sure," Ivy chirped. "Why?"

"Don't you have your house key?" Mrs. Abbott asked.

I rang the doorbell of what's supposed to be my own house, Ivy thought, horrified. There go my bat wings: flap, flap!

Ivy smacked her forehead with the palm of her hand. "I must have forgotten it," she said. "Sorry, Mom."

"It's okay, honey," Mrs. Abbott said. "You'd better go upstairs and change, though.We're leaving for the show in half an hour."

Luckily, Ivy made it to the theater and into her seat without saying anything else that might give??her away. The first act of Wicked was killer.When the lights rose for intermission, Ivy couldn't take her eyes off the stage. The performances, the music, the story - everything was seriously spectacular. The name of the wicked witch echoed in her head.

"Elphaba... Elphaba... Elphaba! Olivia!"

Mrs. Abbott was shaking her arm. "Olivia, are you okay, honey?"

"This show sucks," Ivy whispered in awe. Mrs. Abbott's face fell. "You hate it?"

All at once Ivy remembered that she was supposed to be her sister. Flap, flap!

"I mean," she scrambled, "it sucks in a good way. It's slang. I totally love the show!"

"You do?" Mrs. Abbott looked surprised.

Not too enthusiastic, you dingbat! Ivy thought to herself. This is supposed to be Olivia's therapy! "What I'm trying to say" - she looked at Olivia's mom sincerely - "is that it's really helping."

"Oh, sweetie." Mrs. Abbott threw her arms around her and hugged her close. "I'm so happy to hear that." She pulled back slightly and patted Ivy's cheek. "Let's go get you a soda."

Ivy followed Olivia's mother up the aisle and out to the lobby. It's awfully nice having a mom, she thought to herself.

As they stood in line for the concession stand, everyone was buzzing excitedly about how great the show was. Ivy was trying to eavesdrop on the conversation the people in front of her were having about the costumes when she overheard someone say, "We've finally secured the funds for the largest art exhibit in the history of the museum!"

Ivy recognized Walter Grosvenor, the curator of the Franklin Grove Art Museum, standing at the bar. She'd know him anywhere, because he had that classic vamp hairstyle with gray hair on the sides and slick, pitch-black hair on top. He picked up his drink and pressed through the crowd, followed by an enormous man in a fancy dark suit and an enormous floppy red bow tie.

"Oh?" the heavy man said. "What will the exhibit be?"

"A permanent installation dedicated to the history of Franklin Grove," Mr. Grosvenor said as he walked by Ivy. "All we need is a long-standing member of the community to design it and serve as its permanent curator." He rested his drink on the ledge of a pillar.

My dad would bite his own neck to design an exhibit at the Franklin Grove Art Museum! Ivy thought. She tried to hear more, but Audrey was talking.

"I'll never forget the night you saw The Wizard of Oz on TV," Mrs. Abbott said. "You loved it at first."

Ivy nodded her head automatically, inching closer to Mr. Grosvenor. He was saying something about "someone with a passion for the arts and a deep appreciation for the diversity of Franklin Grove."

"But then that woman with the crooked nose came on and said 'I'll get you, my pretty!'"

Audrey said. They crept forward in line, and Mr. Grosvenor fell out of range. Ivy tapped her toe nervously, desperate to hear more. Finally it was their turn, and the moment the bartender handed Ivy her drink, she said, "Let's go stand over there," gesturing toward the post where Mr. Grosvenor was standing with his friend. Audrey followed her gaze. "Brian Warchuck!"

She gasped. "Why didn't you say you saw him! My, he's grown."

"Huh?" said Ivy. Then she saw that, standing directly on the opposite side of the pillar from Mr. Grosvenor was a lanky, pimply teenaged boy in a skinny tie.

Olivia's mom grabbed her hand and plunged through the crowd. "Brian!" she called. "You remember my daughter, Olivia, Olivia Abbott?"

Brian Warchuck turned a brighter shade of red than Ivy thought possible, even for a human. "Olivia Abbott?" he squeaked.

"Hi," Ivy said tentatively. She angled her head toward the pillar. From what she could tell, Mr. Grosvenor was now talking about German Expressionism.

"Olivia still talks about you!" Mrs. Abbott said. "I do?" Ivy responded.

"You do?" Brian gawked. A bead of sweat emerged in the middle of his forehead.

"One never forgets her first love," Mrs. Abbott said wistfully, "even if it happened in kindergarten."

No way! Ivy thought. Brian Warchuck stared at her with a dreamy, toothy grin. His hair was plastered to his head, and he had exactly three reddish whiskers protruding from his chin.

"So what brings you to Franklin Grove, Brian?" Mrs. Abbott asked. "We've only lived here since September."

"W-we moved to Creemore a few years ago," Brian stammered, unable to take his eyes off Ivy. "It's only two towns over." His Adam's apple bobbed nervously. "I still have your blue blankie, Olivia. Do you still have my fuzzy bear?"

"I don't think so." Ivy shook her head.

"You threw Fuzzy out?" Brian's lip trembled. "But you said you would never abandon Fuzzy!"

Flap, flap! Ivy thought, and her mouth went bone dry.What if Brian was onto her? She looked at Olivia's mom's desperately.

"Of course you have that teddy bear, honey," Mrs. Abbott said. "It's on the shelf in your room."

Ivy almost collapsed with relief. "Oh, that bear," she croaked gratefully. "Of course."

The lights in the lobby flashed on and off, signaling everyone to return to their seats for the second act.

"Oh, well. Time to go back in. Bye!" Ivy said desperately.

"I can take a bus to see you sometime," Brian offered.

"You should probably call first," Ivy said quickly before tugging Mrs. Abbott toward the doors to the auditorium. I have got to talk to Olivia about her taste in boys, she thought.

"We're in the white pages under 'Abbott'!"

Olivia's mom called over her shoulder.

As they took their seats, Ivy's mind returned to Mr. Grosvenor, the opening at the art museum, and her friends' plan to keep her dad in Franklin Grove.

He's the perfect candidate for that museum job, she thought, but he'd never put himself up for consideration. "You should have given Brian your e-mail address," Audrey whispered in her ear as the actors took the stage.

That's it! thought Ivy. I'll send the museum curator an e-mail on behalf of my dad!

"Good thinking," Ivy whispered back. "Thanks, Mom!"

Olivia carefully folded a pair of black cargo shorts and put them atop the other clothes in a cardboard box. She grabbed the tape gun off Ivy's bed and sealed the box shut. Then she took a black marker and wrote on the side: IVY'S SUMMER CLOTHES.

She collapsed on the bed. Ouch! She reached underneath herself and pulled out one of Ivy's huge black purses, brimming with cosmetics and school supplies. At least if Ivy has to move, she thought sadly, she'll have a few boxes that are neatly packed.

Olivia had been half relieved, half disappointed when she got to Ivy's house and found a note from Mr. Vega saying he'd be home late. On the one hand, she didn't have to worry about keeping up her Ivy act. But on the other, she'd been quite excited about spending some time with her father. She wanted to show him what he'd be missing if he moved - how nice and smart and cool she was - even if he did think she was actually Ivy.

At that moment, Olivia heard a noise from upstairs. "Ivy!" Mr. Vega's voice called. "I need your help!"

Olivia sprang to her feet and bounded to the mirror on the inside of one of Ivy's wardrobe doors. She shook her body to get her perk out and brushed her hair down in front of her face with her hands.

"Coming," she called. All of a sudden, she felt totally nervous. What if he sees through the switch? she thought.

She speed trudged upstairs to the foyer, bracing herself for the moment Mr.Vega first saw her dressed as Ivy. But when she got there, her father's back was to her, his heels dug into the stone floor. In the dim light, he was trying to pull what looked like an enormous gray furry beast through the front door by its tiny head.

"Help... me," he groaned.

"What is that thing?" Olivia squealed, immediately kicking herself because her sister would never be so excitable.

"The Christmas tree," her dad said with a gasp. "It's stuck!"

Sure enough, Olivia could see that her father wasn't grabbing monster fur at all - he was holding the branches of an enormous tree. Strangely, the leaves were silvery gray instead of green.

Her father grunted with effort. Olivia ran up to where the tree met the doorway, but there wasn't any place for her to grab on. She bent down and saw that there was a small space between the tree and the doorjamb.

"Hurry!" her father called hoarsely.

Olivia scooted underneath on all fours and emerged outside, where the chill of the air immediately pricked her skin. She hurried to the bottom of the tree and pushed on its cut trunk.

Nothing budged. She tried again. Nothing.

"P-O-W," she cheered quietly to herself as she leaned into the tree with all her might, "E and R! That's how you get the pow-er!"

All at once, the tree slipped through the door like a giant pipe cleaner. Inside, there was a terrible crash. Olivia rushed in.

Her father was splayed on the floor, the tip of the tree in his lap. He was laughing. Olivia couldn't remember if she'd ever heard him laugh like that before.

"Now that is the way to bring in the Christmas spirit!" he said giddily.

"Are you okay?" Olivia asked.

"Now I am," he said. "Thank you, Ivy. You always were strong and clever."

"Thanks," said Olivia softly. It felt good to hear him compliment her, even if he didn't know it was her.

"I had wanted to surprise you," Mr. Vega admitted. He reached into the back pocket of his pants and handed Olivia a folded piece of paper. She unfolded it with trembling fingers.

It was the charcoal drawing he'd been working on a few days ago, when Olivia and her sister had interrupted him in his study. She could see now that it was a design for the most amazing Christmas tree ever.

"It's a silver ash," her father told her. "I ordered it specially."

In the drawing, the Christmas tree looked almost as enormous as it was in real life, reaching from floor to ceiling of the foyer.The whole thing was so elaborately decorated that it looked covered in a delicate spiderweb of sparkling ornaments.

On its top was the silhouette of a bat.

"It's beautiful," Olivia whispered.

"I wanted to do something special for you" - her father smiled gently - "to celebrate our last Christmas in this house."

"Thanks... Dad. I love it," Olivia said genuinely. Then he reached over and gave her a big hug, and Olivia's heart almost burst.

"Can we decorate it tonight?" she asked after a second.

He shook his head. "Not tonight, darling. It's too late.We'll do it tomorrow."

"Sure," Olivia said softly, trying to keep the disappointment out of her voice.

A little while later, Olivia lay in the dark on top of her sister's coffin, replaying in her mind the moment when her father had hugged her. She smiled to herself. Maybe Ivy will agree to switch again tomorrow, she thought as she drifted off to sleep. Maybe my father and I can decorate the tree together.

Copyright © novelfull All Rights Reserved.