Olivia Abbott smiled to herself; the lilac crocuses in the flower beds along the sidewalk were the exact same shade as her mini dress. Franklin Grove was finally shaking off the snow from winter and spring was in the air.
Her twin sister, Ivy Vega, in her stompy black boots, seemed more interested in balancing along the line of black tar that ran between the slabs of concrete than in looking at the flowers.
‘Where’s he taking us?’ Olivia whispered to Ivy.
Mr Vega, their biological dad, was striding a few paces ahead of his daughters like he was being stalked by a vampire hunter. He had asked for another bio-family afternoon together but hadn’t told them why.
‘Somewhere dark and quiet, I hope,’ Ivy whispered back, shading her black-lined eyes with her pale hand. ‘All this sunshine is giving me a headache.’
‘Don’t be such a hermit, Ivy,’ Olivia teased. Despite being complete opposites, Olivia totally loved her goth twin.
‘Come on, girls,’ said Mr Vega, his black blazer flapping as he beckoned them. ‘Our table at Mister Smoothie is booked for noon.’
Ivy stumbled, sending her long brown hair flying. ‘What?’
Olivia was surprised, too. ‘But last time …’ Last time, Mr Vega had accidentally ordered one of the smoothies that came with a sing-along from the whole restaurant, which hadn’t bothered Olivia. But it was just about any self-respecting vampire’s worst nightmare and Mr Vega had been mortified.
‘Oh, that was only a bit of fun,’ Mr Vega said, clearing his throat and looking away.
‘Zombie alert!’ Ivy called, pretending to be scared. ‘Zombies have taken over the town!’
‘Don’t be silly, Ivy,’ Mr Vega said.
‘You must be a zombie,’ she retorted. ‘My father would never willingly go back to the bunniest place in town – no offence, Olivia.’
Olivia didn’t take any. All the vampires in Franklin Grove, like Ivy and Mr Vega, called non-vampires, like her, ‘bunnies’.
‘Don’t be silly,’ Mr Vega muttered. ‘It wasn’t that bad.’
What could possibly convince him to go back to Mr Smoothie? Olivia thought. It might not be zombies, but something was going on. There was something both sisters had been wondering about for a few weeks. At the beginning of the year, Mr Vega had told them that he was going to Dallas on a business trip, but Ivy had seen the tag on his suitcase for LAX – Los Angeles airport. Olivia had no idea why he would keep a secret like that.
‘You!’ commanded a voice.
Olivia looked over to see a woman in a deep purple skirt suit with brown high-heeled boots holding a phone to her ear and pointing straight at her.
It was Amy Teller, movie agent to the most famous male movie star, Jackson Caulfield, who also happened to be Olivia’s boyfriend. She marched over, stopping Mr Vega in his tracks.
‘No, I didn’t mean you. I’ve already told you!’ she shouted into her phone. ‘Jackson Caulfield does not do animal costumes.’ She clicked the phone shut and pointed at Olivia again. ‘You can help me.’
Olivia gulped. ‘Uh, sure. What do you need?’
‘I need a decent coffee shop,’ Amy snapped.
‘I think the Meat and Greet serves coffee,’ Olivia replied. She was more of a fruit juice kind of girl.
A chirping came from Amy’s bag. She pulled out a different phone, checked the screen and then dropped the phone back in her bag, obviously deciding that whoever was calling wasn’t worth talking to. ‘But do they do a soy latte?’ she demanded.
Ivy snorted. ‘Doubt it.’
The Meat and Greet was secretly a vampire establishment catering to carnivores. Olivia could get a decent salad there but the word ‘soy’ was nowhere on their menu.
Something started vibrating in Amy’s bag and she pulled out a third phone. ‘I have to take this.’ She turned her back on them and started to pace. ‘George, darling!’ she cooed.
‘We need to get going,’ Mr Vega told Olivia. ‘I, ah, I don’t want to lose our favourite booth!’
The perkiness that Mr Vega was putting on made Olivia even more suspicious. He was more of a moody violin than a chipper trumpet, so something was definitely going on.
‘OK.’ Olivia motioned for Amy to follow them down the sidewalk.
Soon the neon Mister Smoothie sign flashing ‘Fruitastic!’ came into view and as they crossed the parking lot, Mr Vega seemed to be staring at everyone. Amy was trilling in a high-pitched giggle to whoever George was and Ivy was still muttering about zombies.
Today is turning out to be a strange day, Olivia thought.
‘Ciao, darling,’ Amy said and rounded on Olivia. ‘It’s your fault I’m stuck in this tiny one-horse town. The least you could do is help me find a decent cup of coffee.’
Amy was right. Jackson and his family had wanted to get out of Hollywood, and Jackson had convinced them that Franklin Grove was the place to go, because of the good school and quiet lifestyle.
The thought made Olivia want to skip the rest of the way.
‘Madam,’ Mr Vega put in. ‘There are many delightful things hidden in our little town.’
‘If you can’t find a delight,’ Amy replied, ‘how can it be delightful?’
‘Why don’t you try a smoothie?’ Mr Vega said.
Olivia was astounded. Mr Vega had become a Mister Smoothie spokesperson!
‘Never mind,’ Amy said. ‘Just tell me where Jackson is.’
Olivia shrugged. ‘I think he’s with Brendan.’