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"Are you done yet?" Olivia Abbott asked her mother. Olivia had finally convinced her father to take a break from his regular Tuesday tai chiathon by shaking a pom-pom in his face, but her mom wouldn't stop embroidering the living room curtains.
"Not quite yet," her mom murmured.
"What's taking so long?" Olivia prodded.
"It's a daisy," her mom muttered, squinting with concentration, "with twenty petals."
Olivia looked at her pink glitter watch to find that less than two minutes had passed since she'd last checked. She felt like she was in a time warp - time had never moved so slowly in her entire life, and yet tomorrow was approaching at a terrifying rate. In fourteen hours and seven minutes, the Franklin Grove Scribe, her school paper, was going to reveal something Olivia had been keeping secret for weeks: on her first day at Franklin Grove Middle School, she had discovered a twin sister she'd never known she had. It wasn't exactly the sort of thing Olivia wanted her adoptive mom and dad to find out from the school paper.
She could not put off telling them for another minute, no matter how badly they were going to freak out.
"Mom," she said slowly, "I have to talk to you."
"Only three more petals," her mom said.
Exasperated, Olivia put her hands on her mother's shoulders and gave a gentle shake.
"Attention, Mom!" she announced, like she was calling out a cheer. "This Is Your Daughter, Olivia, Speaking. I Need To Tell You And Dad Something Really, Really Important RIGHT NOW!"
"Oh, sweetheart!" her mother gasped, jumping to her feet in concern. "I'm so sorry! You have something you need to talk about?"
Olivia's eyes rolled toward the ceiling. Parents could be so slow sometimes.
"Don't worry." Her mom took her hand. "You can tell us anything."
"Maybe you two should sit down," Olivia suggested.
Her parents exchanged nervous glances and perched on the edge of the couch. Olivia took a deep breath, and her stomach filled with butterflies.
The words came spilling out as she exhaled.
"On my first day at school I met Ivy and found out that she's my sister."
Olivia's mom nodded like she understood, and Olivia felt a rush of relief. Olivia had mentioned Ivy lots of times before, even though she'd never actually allowed her parents to meet her, fearing that they'd spot the resemblance right away.
"Yes, darling, and I'm very glad you're making such good friends at your new school." Her mom smiled supportively.
"Me, too." Her father gulped, looking lost.
They don't get it, Olivia thought. This is going to be even harder than I expected.
"I don't mean Ivy and I are like sisters," she clarified. "We are sisters. She was born on the same day as me in Owl Creek.We were both given up for adoption when we were a year old.We're identical twins."
Olivia could almost see a flashing DOES NOT COMPUTE message suspended over her parents' heads. She decided to try another tack. Squeezing in between her mom and dad on the couch, she held out her left hand so that they could see the dark emerald ring on her middle finger.
"You know how this ring is something I got from my biological parents?" Olivia asked, looking from her mom to her dad.They both nodded.
"Well, Ivy Vega has one exactly like it."
There was a long silence, and then her father began, "But how can this girl Ivy have - "
"Oh my goodness!" Mrs. Abbott interrupted.
"You have an identical twin sister!" she exclaimed like she'd figured it out all on her own.
"Thank you." Olivia sighed, collapsing back into the couch. If it was this hard just to get her parents to understand that she had a twin, she couldn't imagine how hard it would be to explain her other huge secret: Ivy was a bona fide vampire.
Luckily, Olivia wasn't going to have to explain that one, because she wasn't allowed to tell another soul that particular secret for as long as she lived.
"'I see,' said the blind man," her father intoned, sagely stroking his chin. He was always saying stuff like that, trying to sound like a kung fu master instead of an accountant.
"The adoption agency never told us you had a sister," her mom said. She said the word "sister" like she was saying "million dollars."
"Ivy was left at a different adoption agency," Olivia explained.
"But why would your biological parents separate you?" her mom asked. "Does Ivy know who your parents are?"
Olivia smiled. Her mom was asking all the questions she and Ivy had been trying to answer without success for weeks.
"She doesn't know," Olivia answered, "and neither does her dad," she added. "He's her only parent."
"Wow," her mom said after a moment. "I mean, wow-wee!" Olivia giggled. "How'd you two find each other after all these years?"
"I bumped into her in the hallway when I was looking for the principal's office," Olivia replied.
She realized that her dad was just sitting there.
"Say something, Dad. Aren't you surprised?"
He shook his head. "I always knew my little girl had a double aura." Olivia had no idea what that meant, but he seemed oddly proud.
Suddenly he threw his arms around her and gave her a huge hug.
Olivia's mom clapped her hands excitedly and leaped into the hugging fray. "There's another person out there as wonderful as our daughter!"
she declared happily.
"Everybody calm down!" Olivia laughed, trying to push her parents off.
"Well, I can't wait to meet her," her mom said.
She stood up and straightened her blouse. "Can she come over tonight for dinner?"
Olivia glanced at her watch skeptically.
"Dinner's in, like, an hour."
Her mother nodded. "Invite her father, too. I have to meet the man who raised my daughter's sister! Do you think they like zucchini?"
Olivia shrugged. "Ivy's allergic to garlic, but I don't know about zucchini."
"Well, find out! Go call her! Shoo!" Her mom waved Olivia up the stairs as she made for the kitchen. "Come on, Steve.You can chop the vegetables with your samurai knife."
Ivy finally located the ringing phone buried in a pile of clothes beside her coffin. She reached in and snatched it up on the tenth ring.
"Hello?" she said, slightly out of breath.
"I told them!" her sister's voice declared.
Ivy shoved some books aside and sat down.
"How'd they take it?" She and Olivia had only revealed their twinship to Toby Decker, a reporter for the school paper, on Friday, but when he'd told them that he'd succeeded in writing up the story in time to squeeze it into the upcoming Wednesday issue, the girls knew they finally had to tell their parents. At school today, Olivia had seemed almost as nervous about telling her parents as Ivy was about telling her dad.
"They are so excited about you, Ivy," said Olivia. "It was even better than when I told them I got four A's last year! What'd your dad say?"
Ivy hesitated. "Nothing."
"'Nothing' like he couldn't deal, 'nothing' like he always knew," Olivia queried, "or 'nothing' like literally nothing?"
"'Nothing' like I haven't told him yet," Ivy admitted.
"I-vyyy!" Olivia pleaded.
"Hey," Ivy said, "you left it to the last possible minute, too, remember? I was about to go upstairs and tell him when you called." Which was true. She'd been about to go upstairs for the last three hours.
"Okay, okay," Olivia said. "Do you like zucchini?"
"I guess," Ivy answered. "Why?"
"Because my mom wants you and your dad to come to our house for dinner tonight."
"I don't know if that's such a killer idea," Ivy said doubtfully. "My father barely ever eats human food . . . and I worry that meeting your parents so soon might spook him."
"I'll make my dad promise not to be weird," Olivia offered.
It's my dad I'm worried about, Ivy thought.
"Would it be okay if I came by myself?" she asked. "I could use an excuse to get out of the house after I break the news."
"Sure." Olivia paused. "You're not sounding very optimistic," she pointed out, "even for a Goth."
Ivy grabbed a pillow and lay her head on it.
"My adoption is my dad's least favorite topic, Olivia," she said. "Every time I bring it up, he changes the subject. And he's really old-fashioned when it comes to mixing with humans."
"You think he won't like me?" Olivia asked.
"No, he will. I know he will," Ivy replied, uncertain whether she was trying to convince Olivia or herself. "My dad has a really good heart.
He'll make an exception for my blood sister. It just might take him a little while to get used to you."
"Well, he'd better," Olivia declared, "because we're stuck together."
"Like bubble gum and black licorice." Ivy grinned. No matter what her dad was going to say, she felt lucky to have found Olivia. She took a deep breath and sat up. "Okay, I'm going to go tell him right now."
A few moments later, Ivy stood peeking in through the open door of her father's study. In the center of the bookshelf-lined room, her dad was hunched over a sprawling gray cardboard model atop a high table. From the door, Ivy could see postage stamp?Csized color Xeroxes of paintings on the interior walls and elaborate floor lamps the size of chess pieces. She knew her dad was redecorating a wealthy New York family's crypt - Vamp magazine was already talking about doing a piece on it.
Ivy watched silently as her father adjusted a tiny gray altar in one of the rooms. Next to it, he lay a scrap of dark purple fabric as a carpet, then thought better of it and tried a burgundy one instead.
Ivy loved watching her father work. It was like watching him play with an ever-changing Goth dollhouse. She could just imagine a black-clad, high-society vampire lounging on that altar.
"Hello, Ivy," her father said suddenly without looking up.
"Hi," Ivy said in a small voice. She'd thought he hadn't known she was there.
"Is something on your mind?" he asked, picking up a tiny black coffin between thumb and forefinger.
"No." Ivy gulped. "I just thought I'd say hello.
You know how I like to watch you work.That burgundy carpet's killer."
Her father glanced up at her suspiciously.
"Okay, I'd better get back to my homework and stuff," Ivy said, her heart racing. "Just wanted you to know I have an identical twin sister named Olivia who's in my science class. Bye." She bolted away.
"Ivy?" her father called after her.
She stopped in her tracks and took three slow steps backward so she could see her father again through the doorway. He was standing upright, the miniature coffin held up like a little exclamation point next to the O of his open mouth.
"What did you just say?" he asked.
"I have a twin," Ivy whispered.
"That can't be." Her father shook his head.
"Sure it can," Ivy said, trying to smile. "Her name's Olivia. She moved here at the beginning of the school year."
"And how," her father asked, "do you know this girl is your twin?"
"Because we look exactly alike," Ivy answered.
"Many people look alike," her father countered.
Ivy peered down at the emerald ring hanging from a chain around her neck. "But not many people who look like me also have a ring like mine," she pointed out.
Her father breathed in sharply through his nose. "This is . . . quite a surprise," he said slowly.
Ivy winced. "There's more," she said.
He turned a shade paler, which is no easy feat for a vampire.
Ivy steeled herself. "She's a human."
Her father gasped, and the miniature coffin slipped from his hand. He grabbed at it frantically, but it bounced off his fingers. Reaching for it, the back of his hand accidentally struck the model, and one wing's cardboard walls collapsed, crushing a pair of gargoyle easy chairs.
He stared down at the model in disbelief.
"Sorry," squeaked Ivy.
"It is not your fault," her father said absently, going to sit behind his desk. He put his head in his hands. "Does she know of your true nature?" he asked, looking up after a moment.
Of all the questions Ivy expected from her dad, this was the one she'd been dreading most. She nodded, and her father closed his eyes in disappointment.
I am going to be grounded for eternity, thought Ivy. "She would have found out sooner or later," Ivy blurted. "And Olivia won't tell anyone. She knows how serious it - "
Her father held up his hand to stop the stream of words coming from her mouth. "I understand," he said simply. He looked at her sternly, but Ivy didn't think he looked angry. He took a deep breath. "How do you feel about this sister you have found?"
"I love her," Ivy said matter-of-factly. "I couldn't imagine my life without her. I feel like meeting her was meant to be." Ivy stood there, waiting for her dad to respond, but he just stared into space.
Finally she said, "Is it okay if I go to Olivia's house for dinner tonight?"
"Have you finished your homework?" her father asked expressionlessly.
"Mostly," Ivy answered.
"Then you may go," he allowed, forcing a small smile. He stood and came to give her a quick hug before looking down at his model. "It seems I have my work cut out for me here," he said, but his mind seemed to be elsewhere.
Ivy nearly skipped back down to her room in the basement. Considering I was half expecting him to burst into flames, she thought, I think he took that pretty well!