Chapter Eight

Early Saturday morning, Ivy quietly slid open the basement window at the back of her house, climbed inside, and crept down the stairs to her room.

Olivia was curled up on top of her bed, wearing Ivy's pajamas with the gravestones on them and hugging a black cat pillow.

Only four days until Dad and I move, Ivy thought sadly as she looked down on her sleeping sister. And then who knows when I'll see Olivia again?

She decided to let her sister sleep for a few more minutes. She slipped into the chair in front of her desk and powered up the new laptop computer her dad had gotten her for boarding school.

Ivy waited anxiously for her new e-mails to appear on the screen. Her heart sank when they finally did; there was still no response from the art museum. She let out a colossal sigh.

"Still nothing?" her sister's voice came from behind her.

Ivy wheeled her chair around to find Olivia sitting up in bed. "We're running out of time," Ivy told her.

Olivia nodded sadly and tightened her clutch on the black cat pillow.

"I know my father wouldn't turn down this job," Ivy said, "but we can't afford to sit around anymore waiting for them to offer it to him."

"Maybe we should take Sophia's advice," said Olivia, rubbing the sleep from her eyes, "except instead of chaining ourselves to your dad's car, we should chain ourselves to the front doors of the museum."

That gave Ivy an idea. She spun her chair back around and went to the museum's Web site.

"They open at 10 A.M. on Saturdays," she told her sister.

"I wasn't being serious," Olivia told her. "But I am," Ivy said. "We have to go down there and get them to offer Dad the job.Today."

"In that case" - Olivia stretched her arms - "we'd better call for backup."

That afternoon, huddled in their own warm clothes on the sidewalk in front of the sleek, slanted marble facade of the Franklin Grove Art Museum, Ivy and her sister waited for Brendan to arrive. Ivy had called Sophia and Camilla to see if they could come, too, but they each had plans. Ivy made a mental note to find time to get the whole group together in the next couple of days - it might be her last chance. She felt like a vampire in one of those old movies: there were only a few precious minutes until sunrise, and after that she'd turn to dust.

Brendan appeared down the block, wearing his heavy black parka, and just the sight of him made Ivy feel a little better. She waved and he picked up his pace. He came up and wrapped his arms around her, dipped her like they were ballroom dancing, and kissed her on the neck.

"Save it for the graveyard," Olivia deadpanned beside them, and they both laughed. Then the three of them made their way across the slate courtyard and into the museum.

Ivy hadn't been there since her sixth-grade field trip, and she'd forgotten what an amazing place it was. The interior of the building was like the inside of a huge cone. An enormous ramp dotted with sculptures spiraled its way up the wall. Ivy stood with Brendan and Olivia in the center of the gray marble floor on the ground level, and they could see people admiring art, snaking all the way up to the skylight and observation deck in the center of the ceiling far above, like the hole in the top of a parking pylon. Olivia went over to look at a glowing map of the building. "The curator's office is on level four," she said, and they started to make their way up the ramp.

Ivy couldn't help slowing down to look at some of the art.There was a life-size sculpture of a skydiver made entirely of wire and a tree that looked utterly real, except it had tiny peepholes carved in its trunk. When Ivy looked through one, she saw a completely realistic 3-D highway running vertically, like a vein in the tree, with dozens of cars racing upward. Olivia was next to her, looking in another hole. "Cool," Olivia said. "It's an art class drawing a model." Every peephole showed something different.

On level two, they passed an enormous papiermache zebralike creature with rainbow stripes, huge bloodshot eyes, and the legs of a centipede. Olivia wrinkled her nose. "This one's weird."

"It's hideous," Ivy agreed.

Brendan bent over the little plaque alongside the sculpture. "'Zebraguts,'" he read. "'Sculpture by Alice Bantam.'"

Ivy's mouth dropped open. "It's one of Alice's!"

"Can you imagine if your dad had fallen for her and you had to live with something like this?" Olivia giggled.

"No," Ivy answered. "Thank darkness that plan failed!"

Following the signs to the curator's office on the fourth level, they proceeded down a narrow hallway that shot off from the main ramp. At the end of it was a frosted door with Mr. Grosvenor's name on it in gilded letters. Ivy knocked, and a moment later Mr. Grosvenor himself pulled open the door. He was dressed in gray slacks and a white button-down shirt. "Can I help you?"

Ivy tried to speak, but she was so nervous nothing came out of her mouth.

"We're here about the curator job for the new exhibit," Olivia explained, stepping forward. "Oh," Mr. Grosvenor said, looking the three of them up and down. "I'm sure you're all very talented. But I'm afraid we're looking for someone with a bit more experience."

"It's not for us," said Brendan, glancing at Ivy encouragingly.

"I'm Ivy Vega," Ivy croaked at last.

Mr. Grosvenor's face lit up. "Charles's daughter!"

He extended his hand. "Of course, I should have recognized you. I just read your father's e-mail!" Ivy's heartbeat quickened. "And this must be the twin sister I've read about in the papers," Mr. Grosvenor went on.

Olivia shook the curator's hand as Brendan introduced himself, too.

"Welcome," said Mr. Grosvenor. "Please, come in."

Mr. Grosvenor offered Ivy, Olivia, and Brendan white molded plastic chairs opposite his desk, which was completely bare except for a pad of paper and a bust of an old man's head made entirely of paper clips.

"So, what brings you to see me?" Mr. Grosvenor asked, perching casually on the edge of the desk.

All day, Ivy had been mentally rehearsing a speech about how her father was the perfect person to set up the exhibition. "Mr. Grosvenor," she began, "I believe my father is ideally suited to the opening you are trying to fill. He is - "

"I agree completely," Mr. Grosvenor interrupted.

"Completely?" Ivy repeated in shock.

"I can't think of a stronger candidate," Mr. Grosvenor said with a smile. "I'll be calling your father as soon as I have approval from the board."

"When will that be?" asked Olivia quickly.

"Sometime in January," Mr. Grosvenor replied, "or possibly February."

Ivy's stomach dipped suddenly, like she was falling from a great height. "Can't you do it sooner?" she pleaded.

"I wouldn't want to bother anyone before the new year," Mr. Grosvenor said with a shrug.

I should have known it wouldn't be so easy, Ivy thought.

Brendan nudged Ivy's boot with his own. He locked eyes with her, and she could tell he wanted her to tell the truth. Ivy looked toward Olivia, who also gave her a tiny nod.

"Is something wrong?" Mr. Grosvenor inquired.

"Very," Ivy admitted. Words started pouring out of her mouth. "My dad didn't send you that e-mail, Mr. Grosvenor. I did. We're moving to Europe in four days. But I know that if my dad got this job in Franklin Grove, he'd stay. He's always wanted to work for the museum.You can't wait until the new year. By then, he'll be gone." Ivy looked down at her lap. "And so will I."

"I see," Mr. Grosvenor said, sounding disappointed. With one hand, he stroked the streak of white hair on one side of his head.

"I should never have forged the e-mail," Ivy said, ashamed of herself. "I know it was wrong. I'm sorry."

Mr. Grosvenor slowly went around to his chair and picked up the phone.

He's calling the police! Ivy thought in a panic.

"Will you please remind me of your father's number?" Mr. Grosvenor said instead. Ivy and Olivia both gasped. "After all," the curator said with a smile, "we can't have Charles Vega leaving Franklin Grove without even knowing about this job."

As Mr. Grosvenor dialed, Ivy reached out on either side of her. Olivia grasped one hand, and Brendan took the other. This is our last chance, she thought.

"Hello, Charles? Walter Grosvenor here. I'm sorry to call you on a Saturday, but there is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity here at the museum that I think you ought to seriously consider."

Olivia, Brendan, and Ivy sat on the edge of their seats as Mr. Grosvenor described the position. Then he paused, listening to what Ivy's dad was saying on the other end.

"Of course, of course," Mr. Grosvenor said and nodded at his three listeners encouragingly. Ivy squeezed the hands in hers excitedly.

But then Mr. Grosvenor's face changed. "Uhhuh," he said. He looked down at his desk and jotted something on his pad of paper. "Uh-huh."

Brendan let go of Ivy's hand and put it on her shoulder. "I understand," said Mr. Grosvenor quietly. "Of course. Thank you."

Mr. Grosvenor gently hung up the phone. He shook his head. "I'm sorry," he said. "Charles seemed genuinely interested, but he has firmly committed to this job in Europe. He said he wouldn't feel right changing his mind at this point."

Ivy felt her whole body go limp. Olivia released Ivy's hand and covered her face.

"It appears we were too late after all," Mr. Grosvenor said, his voice full of disappointment. All Ivy could think was, It's over.

"Thanks for your time, Mr. Grosvenor," Brendan said after a moment. Then he led Ivy and her sister back out to the hallway and slowly down the long ramp. They spiraled down and down, farther and farther, and Ivy knew there was nothing she could to do to keep from hitting bottom.

As Olivia stood with her friends in the enormous stone courtyard in front of the museum, the frozen wind whipped her face. Her eyes began to water, but she couldn't tell whether it was from the cold or from the knowledge that she'd soon be losing both her sister and their father.

"He's not leaving because of the job," she said softly. "He's leaving because of me."

Olivia expected Ivy to try to convince her that what she'd just said wasn't true. But when she looked into Ivy's eyes, she knew her sister had reached the same conclusion.

"He's determined to separate us," Ivy admitted, "just like he did when we were a year old."

Olivia's cell phone rang. She stood there, feeling hopeless for a long moment before answering it. "Hello?"

"Hi, Olivia. It's Camilla. How'd it go at the museum?"

"Our dad got the job," Olivia replied flatly. There was a squeal on the other end of the phone. "And he turned it down," she finished. Across from her, Ivy and Brendan shared a hug.

"Oh, no," Camilla said softly. "I'm so sorry."

"Yeah." Olivia shrugged. "Me, too."

"You sound like you could use some cheering up," Camilla noted. "Why don't we go bowling? I have a coupon for two free games. Ivy and Brendan can come, too."

Olivia put her finger over the phone's mouthpiece. "Camilla wants us all to go bowling," she told them.

"I don't feel like having fun," Ivy said.

"Me, neither," Olivia agreed.

"Will you twins come on?" Brendan protested.

"Are you going to spend what might be your last few days together in Franklin Grove sulking and sighing? Or are you going to make the most of them?"

"I'm a professional sulker," Ivy replied, smiling weakly.

"And I have a very dramatic sigh," Olivia said, and sighed dramatically.

But Brendan wouldn't take no for an answer.

"You love bowling, Ivy. It's the only sport with an all-black ball. And you dig the shoes." His dark eyes shone as he looked at Ivy entreatingly.

"Okay," Ivy conceded begrudgingly.

Why not? Olivia thought. She lifted the phone back to her ear. "Camilla? Prepare the gutters for our arrival."

Brendan opened the door to the bowling alley, and the sounds of rolling balls and crashing pins poured out. Ivy's eyes adjusted to the indoor light, and across the alley she spotted Sophia standing beside Camilla, grinning hopefully and clutching her camera. In fact, the two of them were surrounded by people from school.

"SURPRISE!" the crowd cried, and a banner unfurled from the ceiling: WE'LL MISS YOU, IVY! The hairs on Ivy's neck stood on end. "You didn't!" she cried across the bowling alley. Sophia's camera flash fired and the whole crowd broke out laughing and clapping.

"And to think we didn't even want to come!" Olivia whispered in awe beside her.

Sophia and Camilla ran up. "Sophia told me how much you love bowling," Camilla explained as she gave Ivy a hug, "and my uncle owns the alley."

"Camilla was like the funeral director of this whole thing," Sophia admitted.

"I can't believe you two didn't tell me about this," Olivia said, hugging Camilla. "I could have helped!"

"We wanted to plan it all on our own," Camilla answered proudly. "Besides, you and Ivy have had other stuff going on, like Plans A through C."

Camilla and Sophia led Ivy, Olivia, and Brendan to the far side of the bowling alley, which Ivy could now see was cordoned off with a black velvet rope. Everyone was there: Toby Decker and the rest of the staff of the Franklin Grove Scribe, her math study group, and the members of the planning committee for the All Hallows' Ball.

Miss Everling from the library came up and squeezed Ivy's shoulder. "So 'your friend' is moving, huh?" she said. "Well, there's no reason she can't come back to visit." She stuck a gray pin on Ivy's long-sleeved black shirt. It read Parlez-vous Anglais?

A few minutes later, Ivy was chatting with Melissa, who'd been head of the All Hallows' Ball planning committee, when two loud cracks pierced the air. She turned to see Camilla standing in the middle of a bowling lane, holding a bowling pin in each hand. Sophia was beside her, holding something behind her back. Camilla cracked the pins together a third time, and the crowd quieted.

"Will our guest of honor please join us in lane nine," Sophia called.

Ivy pressed through all her friends. Brendan squeezed her hand briefly as she passed. She was about to cross the line into lane nine when Sophia shook her head. "No, no, no," she said playfully.

"No improper footwear in the lanes, please," Camilla added.

Rolling her eyes, Ivy bent down, unlaced her boots, and shuffled onto the lane in her black socks.

"Anyone who knows Ivy," Camilla said, raising her voice, "knows about her distinctive sense of style.What would look ridiculous on the rest of us looks cool on her."

"And there is one accessory," continued Sophia, "that she has always wanted."

Camilla and Sophia both eyed Ivy's feet meaningfully. "Bowling shoes!" they declared as one.

Sophia produced a box from behind her back.

Ivy grabbed the box and tore off the lid. Inside was a pair of black-and-white bowling shoes with smooth rust-colored bottoms. These are killer! Ivy thought, immediately dropping them to the lane and slipping them on her feet. They were a perfect fit.

"Everyone chipped in," Sophia told her.

Ivy looked out at the crowd of people smiling at her. "Thank you all so - " But she couldn't continue.Tears began flowing down her cheeks.

Ivy looked up and glimpsed Garrick Stephens and the Beasts making their way through the crowd, but Garrick froze when he saw her bawling. "We just wanted to say good-bye!" he protested. "If we'd known it would make you feel so grim, we never would have crashed the party."

Everybody laughed, including Ivy. I bet there's no one like Garrick Stephens in Europe, she thought.

"I'm even going to miss you Beasts," Ivy said, smiling through her tears. Olivia crept onto the lane and handed her a tissue. Ivy wiped her eyes, and the tissue came away black with eye makeup.

"I'm so lucky," Ivy said as loudly as she could, "to have friends like all of you. I really, really don't want to move. But at least I'll be able to go, knowing that there are people here who love me."

Sophia gave her a huge hug, and Camilla, Brendan, and Olivia piled on.

"You'll always have friends in Franklin Grove," Sophia said in her ear.

"You mean you guys aren't going to chain yourselves to my dad's car?" Ivy teased. "We might." Sophia smiled tearily.

Finally the five of them separated and faced the crowd, their arms around one another.

"I'll never forget any of you," Ivy promised. She wiped her eyes one more time and raised her arms in the air. "Now, let's bowl!"

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