Chapter Seven

"That was delicious, Mom," Ivy said, as she helped Mrs. Abbott clear the table after dinner. Ivy didn't usually eat tofu steaks, but Olivia's mom had made them with a red wine reduction sauce that tasted surprisingly like blood.

"Thanks, honey," Mrs. Abbott said appreciatively. Just then, the doorbell rang. Mrs. Abbott slipped off her apron and went to answer it.

Maybe that's Olivia, thought Ivy nervously.

What if Dad caught her trying to pass herself off as me?

She heard Mrs. Abbott open the front door, followed by a chorus of high-pitched noises - it sounded like a flock of giant birds from an old horror movie.

Ivy crept down the hall and poked her head around the corner.Two little human girls wearing tutus and tiaras were chasing each other around Mrs. Abbott's legs, screaming their heads off. In the open door stood a woman who must have been their mother.

Ivy whipped her head back before anyone saw her. She swallowed hard. Baby bunnies! she thought.

"We really appreciate you and Olivia watching the girls," the woman at the door was saying. "Of course. Go have a great time with Jeff," Ivy overheard Mrs. Abbott reply.

The kids are staying!? Ivy realized. She would rather have been buried alive. Nothing could be more dangerous and strange than a tiny human, let alone two of them!

"Olivia!" Audrey called. "Casey and Stacey are here!"

Ivy took a deep breath and forced herself to put one bobby sock-clad foot in front of the other. She made her way down the hall and stood frozen in the living room doorway. In front of the fireplace, Olivia's father was wound up in a jump rope, one little girl pulling on each end.

"Not so tight," he said, "or I'll have to use my li ching on you." He tried to laugh, but he was clearly helpless.

"Here's Olivia," Audrey said when she saw Ivy.

The girls dropped the jump rope handles and started leaping up and down.Their shrieking took on a new intensity. "OLIIIIIVIAAAAAA! OLIIIIIVIAAAAAA!"

Audrey must have noticed the horrified expression on Ivy's face, because she said, "We promised Carol, remember? We're taking care of the girls while she and Jeff go to dinner for their anniversary."

I'm going to kill my sister, thought Ivy.

Casey and Stacey raced up to Ivy. She had no idea which was which, but one was wearing a yellow leotard and tutu, and the other was wearing a pink one. She forced herself not to recoil as they tugged at her hands.

"TEACH US A CHEER! A CHEER! A CHEER!" they shrieked.

"I -??I don't know any cheers," Ivy stammered. Olivia's mother and father both stared at her. "Just kidding." Ivy smiled weakly.

"Well then," said Audrey. "I'll just leave you to work your magic." She winked at Ivy and walked out of the room.

Don't leave me! Ivy wanted to yell. She had zero experience with human kids.This wasn't going to be like hanging out with Brendan's little sister.

Playing Vampire Hunter was not an option. What am I supposed to do with a pair of hyper baby bunnies for a whole evening? she thought frantically.

She didn't know ballet, and she wasn't about to have a conversation about ponies.


FOR?" the girl in the yellow tutu screamed. Human children are like animals, Ivy thought. They can smell fear. She couldn't let on that she had no idea what to do.

"Look, Olivia," the girl in the pink tutu said. "We got dressed up for you."

"You did?" said Ivy, and both little girls beamed up at her angelically. The one in the pink tutu was missing two front teeth. All at once, Ivy realized that these little bunnies were expecting her to be nothing more than the perky, peppy, fun Olivia they knew. All I have to do is give them what they want, she thought.

Ivy clasped her hands together. "Well. Those are the prettiest, sparkliest, most princessy outfits ever!" she said, giving her best Olivia ponytail flip. "I totally love them!"

"I told you she'd be impressed," the girl in the yellow tutu said, beaming at her sister.

Olivia was sitting at the table in Ivy's kitchen as her father checked the oven.

"What's for dinner?" she asked, her leg bouncing nervously under the table.

"It is a surprise," he answered mysteriously. This afternoon, Olivia and Ivy had agreed that she'd make up some excuse at dinner time so she wouldn't have to eat anything that would make her puke. "Just say 'I'm not feeling well' or 'I'm trying a new diet,'" Ivy had said.

But now the evening had been going so well that Olivia didn't want to spoil it. Her father had set the table for them really nicely. "Can you give me a hint?" she asked anxiously.

Her father came over and lit a candle in the center of the table. "In honor of our move," he said proudly, "I have made a European dish that is renowned for its taste, texture, and iron content."

Olivia's stomach churned. That means something bloody, I know it, she thought. She gulped her glass of water. "I don't think I'm hungry," she said after a moment.

Her father's face fell, and Olivia felt superguilty. "Won't you even try a bite?" her dad pleaded. "It's quite a delicacy. In fact, it's part of a traditional human breakfast."

It can't be too gross then, Olivia thought. Okay, I'll try it.

Her father slipped on a gray oven mitt and crossed the kitchen to pull something out of the oven. She could tell he was slicing something. He returned and set a plate before her. It had two thick patties on it that looked like dirt.

Olivia poked one with a fork. "What is it?"

"Black pudding," her father said proudly. "It's very popular in England."

That doesn't sound so bad, Olivia thought.

"What's in it?"

"It's congealed blood sausage, cut into slices," her father said matter-of-factly.

"Humans eat that?" Olivia blurted.

"All the time," her dad replied, sitting down across from her with his own plate. He cut a huge piece and popped it in his mouth. He shut his eyes blissfully, savoring the taste. "Mmmmm."

He gestured toward Olivia's plate encouragingly, but she couldn't move. She was too busy concentrating on not breathing through her nose.

"Go on." He nodded.

Olivia's fork and knife shook in her hands. She forced herself to cut a piece the size of her pinky fingernail. She adjusted her glass of water so the moment she took a bite she could chug.

"Don't let it get cold," her father directed.

Olivia felt like the whole Franklin Grove cheerleading squad was doing handsprings in her stomach. You have no choice, she told herself. You have to eat it! She shut her eyes as tight as she could and raised the trembling fork to her mouth.

Ivy tilted the living room lamp so that it shone on Casey and Stacey like a spotlight. Olivia's mom and the girls' own mother, who'd arrived to pick them up, watched from the couch. Instead of teaching the girls a dance or a cheer, Ivy had helped them write a little play, and now was their big performance.

"And so Princess Casey and Ballerina Stacey were trapped by the evil wizard," Ivy narrated.

She swung the lamp toward Olivia's father, who was sitting in the corner in an easy chair, rubbing his hands together. "The infamous Accountant- O!" she announced. Mr. Abbott laughed menacingly. "Eeeeeeeeeeekkkkk!" shrieked the girls.

"Isn't Steve frightening?" Audrey whispered happily to her friend, who nodded.

"They waited for their princes to rescue them," Ivy continued.

"My prince will rescue us," said Casey, ruffling her yellow tutu nervously with her fingers. "He has twenty-three racing cars, plus he's a veterinarian."

Stacey stepped forward. "My prince will save us," she enunciated, "because he's really rich and he has a mustache."

The moms giggled.

"They waited and waited," said Ivy. "Accountant O's dungeon was really gross." She reached into a plastic bag full of props. "There were worms." She reached out a hand and showered the girls with cut-up pieces of string.

"Eeeewwwwww!" they screeched.

"And there was a monster chained to the wall in the corner," Ivy added. She gave a huge roar, and the girls ran around screaming. Ivy reached into her prop bag and pulled out a spray bottle. She sprayed the girls with mist. "It sneezed on them."

"Yuck!" the girls yelled, shielding their eyes. "But still their princes did not come," Ivy intoned. Casey and Stacey pouted dramatically.

From the shadows, Mr. Abbott laughed evilly again.

"Princess Casey and Ballerina Stacey grew impatient," Ivy said.

Stacey reached into an imaginary pocket in her pink tutu and pulled out an imaginary cell phone.

"Where are you?" she said. "You were supposed to be here hours ago!" She listened like a real actress, and then hung up. "I don't know what his problem is," she huffed.

Casey crossed her arms. "Boys!" she exclaimed. "They're so unreliable."

"Finally," narrated Ivy, "Princess Casey and Ballerina Stacey decided not to wait around any longer."

"Let's get out of here," Casey said to Stacey.

"They snuck up on the evil wizard Accountant- O," Ivy went on, following the girls with the lamp as they tiptoed up to Mr. Abbott, who was punching things into an imaginary calculator and muttering numbers triumphantly.

Casey tapped him on the shoulder.

"What the - ?" Mr. Abbott spun around in mock surprise and leaped to his feet.

Stacey balanced on one foot and raised her hands over her head, howling like a kung fu master about to execute a killer move.

Mr. Abbott's eyes widened. While he was distracted, Casey ran up and stamped on his foot.

"Ouch!" he cried. Ivy winced. They hadn't rehearsed that part.

Stacey karate chopped him in the back.

"Ooh!" Mr. Abbott said.

"You meanie!" Casey said and kicked him in the shin.

Doubled over, Mr. Abbott craned his neck and shot Ivy a desperate look. "Happily ever after!" he whispered. "Happily ever - "

Both girls leaped on his back, and the three of them collapsed to the living room carpet with a crash.

"Uh, then Princess Casey and Ballerina Stacey ran away," Ivy said quickly.

The girls sprang off Mr. Abbott and dashed out of the room.

"And they lived happily ever after as best friends forever!" Ivy concluded.

The moms leaped up from the couch, cheering wildly. Casey and Stacey skipped back into the living room and curtsied daintily to their audience. "Bravo! Bravo!" Audrey called. "You take a bow, too, Steve!"

"I can't," Steve groaned from the floor. "My back," he said apologetically.

Ivy helped him to his feet and settled him into the easy chair. Then the girls came over, took her hands, and dragged her back in front of the couch. Ivy bowed with a flourish, her ponytail whipping forward.

I'm getting almost as good at being Olivia as Olivia! Ivy thought proudly. I wonder how she's doing being me right now.

I will never switch with Ivy during mealtime again, Olivia thought. Her fork was still poised before her lips, with the same tiny chunk of black pudding on it. She kept trying to psyche herself up into putting the stuff into her mouth. Mr.Vega's going to get suspicious, she thought desperately. I'll have to do it now. Suddenly the phone rang in the next room.

"I'll get it," her father said, dropping his napkin and rising from the table. She waited for him to leave the room before leaping from her chair.

Then she rushed to the garbage can and scraped her two black pudding hockey pucks into it with her fork, burying them under some crumpled paper towels. She'd just gotten back to her chair when Mr.Vega reentered the room.

"Who was it?" she asked, trying to sound nonchalant.

"A telemarketer." Her father grimaced as he took his seat. "He refused to take no for an answer. I kept telling him we do not use coffin wax." He noticed Olivia's bare plate. "You've already finished?"

"It was delicious." Olivia gulped.

"I knew you'd like it," her father said.

"I'll get you another helping."

"No!" Olivia blurted. "I mean, no, thank you."

She patted her belly like she was full. "But thank you for going to all the trouble of making it for me." She smiled and her father smiled back.

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