Ivy, I pray that it's you reading this. And if you are, well, I suppose you're the new me...
When shy Ivy's troublemaking twin Scarlet vanishes from Rookwood boarding school, Ivy is invited to "take her place." But when Ivy arrives, she discovers the school's true intention; she has to pretend to be Scarlet. She must think like Scarlet, act like Scarlet, become Scarlet. What on earth happened to the real Scarlet, and why is the school trying to keep it a secret?
Luckily for Ivy, Scarlet isn't about to disappear without a fight. She's left pieces of her journal carefully hidden all over the school for Ivy to find. Ivy's going to figure out what happened to Scarlet. She's got to.
But the staff of Rookwood is always watching, and they'll do anything to keep their secrets buried...
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Scarlet and Ivy
The Lost Twin
By Sophie Cleverly
Sourcebooks, Inc.Copyright © 2015 Sophie Cleverly
All rights reserved.
This is the story of how I became my sister.
I got the letter on the first of September. I remember that because it was the day after our thirteenth birthday. My thirteenth birthday. The first one I wouldn't share with my twin sister, Scarlet.
I woke up and made my way down the winding stairs of my aunt Phoebe's house, breathing in the smell of bacon cooking as I went. The early morning sun was already warming the air. It could have been a good day.
As I emerged from the shadow of the stairs and into the sunlit hallway, I noticed it: an envelope lying on the stone floor.
For a moment I thought it could be a belated birthday card, but as I picked it up, it felt more like a letter. The only birthday card I'd gotten that year was from my aunt, and looking at the single lonely name written at the top had hurt more than I could say.
Scarlet had always liked to send me secret messages, but she sealed her letters so haphazardly that you could probably have opened hers just by breathing on them. This one was closed tightly and sealed with wax. I turned it over and saw that it was addressed to my aunt. I ought to open it, I thought. Aunt Phoebe didn't object to me reading her mail. In fact, it was usually necessary because she just let it pile up in the hallway if I didn't.
I went into the kitchen and sat down on one of the rickety chairs. I took a closer look at the seal on the envelope: it was black, with a raised imprint of a bird on top of an oak tree. The words "Rookwood School" were stamped underneath in dark-colored ink.
Rookwood School. Scarlet's school. Why were they writing to Aunt Phoebe?
I slid a butter knife from the drawer along the envelope.
Mrs. Phoebe Gregory
Dear Mrs. Gregory,
As you are the guardian of Ivy Gray, I am writing to inform you that — in light of recent unfortunate circumstances — a place has become available at our school and your niece will take it. Her parents have fully paid the fees, and she is due to start as soon as possible. A teacher will be sent to collect her, and the details will be explained upon her arrival.
Edgar Bartholomew (Headmaster)
I threw the letter down as if it had singed my fingers. Could they really be referring to my poor sister's death as "unfortunate circumstances"?
I sat and stared at it, questions racing through my head. For some reason, Rookwood School wanted me — the twin who wasn't good enough. Surely there were hundreds of other girls they could give the place to. Why me?
It was then that I noticed that the smell of bacon cooking had turned into the smell of bacon burning. I jumped up and ran to the iron stove, waving the smoke away from my face. It was too late; the bacon was already cremated.
Aunt Phoebe must have wandered off somewhere in the middle of cooking. This was a common occurrence. I glanced out the kitchen window and spotted her sitting on the bench in the garden, her hands folded neatly in her lap and a faraway expression on her face. Aunt Phoebe's husband had died in the Great War, leaving behind only a study full of books and a small pension for my aunt. She hadn't been quite the same since.
I grabbed the letter and went out into the back garden. My aunt didn't look around, even though my footsteps crunching on the gravel betrayed my presence. She was watching the goldfish in the pond. Little ripples curled as they bobbed to the surface and then darted away, their golden scales glinting in the sun.
"Oh, Ivy," she replied, blinking up at me and then returning her gaze to the water. "I didn't see you there, dear."
"You got a letter from —" I started, but my aunt interrupted, seemingly unaware that I had spoken.
"Scarlet loved the fish, didn't she? I remember when you were little, she used to kneel by the pond and make faces at her reflection. She always said that it was like another twin, only even more wet than you."
I gave a weak smile. Typical Scarlet. She made fun of everyone, and me the most, but I never thought anything of it. Or tried not to anyway.
Scarlet and I were mirror twins. Before we were born, our mother thought she was only having one baby, but then I arrived — a slightly smaller and weaker version of my sister but a perfect mirror image. Our birthmarks were the same but on opposite sides. I was left-handed while Scarlet was right-handed. Aunt Phoebe's husband, Dr. Gregory, had once told me that our hearts might be reversed too. I was like Scarlet's reflection come to life.
I sat beside Aunt Phoebe on the bench. It wasn't surprising that my aunt's thoughts were of Scarlet. She had always been everyone's favorite — bold and brash and outgoing. I was just Ivy. Shy, clingy Ivy. I could have been Scarlet's reflection, but I might as well have been her shadow.
"Oh goodness, I am sorry," Aunt Phoebe said. "I was just reminded of her."
"I understand," I said.
But I didn't. I didn't understand why Scarlet had died. I didn't understand how someone so full to the brim with life could be gone. I didn't understand why God, if he was up there, would give me a twin only to take her away again.
Or that somehow the world was still carrying on.
"You got a letter," I repeated, waving it at her.
Aunt Phoebe looked up. "Oh? What does it say?"
"They want me to go to Rookwood. To take Scarlet's place."
Her eyes widened considerably. "My goodness!" She paused. "That's quite an honor. It's a prestigious school, isn't it?"
Rookwood School. Barely a few months ago, just before the summer had begun, Scarlet had died there. A sudden fever, they said, flu or pneumonia — something that couldn't have been predicted or prevented. My stepmother casually told me these explanations as I sobbed, as if they meant nothing, when half my world had just been torn away.
I never wanted to go to that place. Not now, not ever.
I looked up at my aunt, her gentle face framed by graying hazel curls. "And your father has already agreed to it?"
I sighed. It was just like him to agree to such a thing without telling me. "According to the letter. It says the fees have been paid in full."
"Well, then it's decided, my dear," said Aunt Phoebe.
I didn't reply.
"I'll leave you to think about it," she said brightly, patting me on the leg. Then she wandered off down the garden path, past the privy and the vegetable patch, and began pulling weeds. She started to sing quietly to herself, already a world away.
I felt helpless, like I was being slowly dragged toward Rookwood — a place only seen in my imagination but nonetheless filling me with terror.
Maybe it will somehow be a good thing, I tried to tell myself. A new start, new friends. Any friends. After all, Scarlet had always said that she wished I could join her there. I would be closer to her there somehow, wouldn't I?
Without warning, I started to cry and hastily wiped the tears from my cheeks. Who was I kidding? The last place on earth I wanted to go was the place where Scarlet had ... Just thinking about it made my head pound.
I threw the stupid letter into the grass.
Aunt Phoebe looked up, clutching a handful of straggly dandelions. I put my head in my hands and heard her walking back toward me down the gravel path.
"Oh, Scarlet," said Aunt Phoebe, looking over me with blank eyes. "I'm sure you'll be all right going to this school. I'll miss you terribly, of course, but you will be fine on your own, won't you?"
She didn't even notice her mistake.
I didn't think I would ever be fine on my own.CHAPTER 2
It was a bright day that followed, one of those where it feels so hot and hazy that you can't believe the summer is coming to an end. I was lying flat on my back on the stone edge of the pond, reading a tattered copy of Jane Eyre and trying my best to forget about my impending Rookwood fate.
Sometimes I would look into the water just to see my green-tinged reflection staring back at me. It was almost enough to pretend Scarlet was right there with me.
"Ivy!" My aunt's voice rang out from the back door.
I sat up so quickly I almost dropped the book in the pond.
"Ivy!" she called again despite the fact that I was looking straight at her. She was wringing the ends of her apron in her pale hands.
"Yes?" I answered.
"You've got a ... visitor. It's a teacher from the school."
So soon? I wasn't ready for this. But then, maybe I would never be. I cautiously walked back to the cottage, curling my toes over the hard stones.
"Who is it?" I whispered to Aunt Phoebe.
"A lady," she replied before gently pushing me into the kitchen.
The lady was tall and skinny, yet she wore a long dress that looked several sizes too large. It was black and covered with pockets. Her face was sharp and pointed, and her brown hair was pulled into a tight bun that made it look like she had a row of clothespins on the back of her head, pinching her skin tighter. It was not a particularly pleasant face to look at, especially given that she was fixing me with the expression of someone who has just chewed a rotten wasp.
"Ivy Gray?" she said.
"Yes?" I replied, stunned.
"Yes, Miss. I trust that you have received our letter?"
"Yes, Miss." I nodded carefully and watched as she stalked around the kitchen table. She ran a finger along the surface, then scrutinized it in a most un-ladylike manner. "Good. Then you will accompany me to the school."
I blinked. "Right now?"
The woman lowered her eyebrows and folded her bony arms. "Yes, right now. It is the beginning of the term. Therefore, you are supposed to be in school."
I turned around and saw my aunt standing there, wide-eyed.
"Aunt Phoebe?" I said, giving her a pleading look.
"Excuse us a moment," she said to the teacher, gently pulling me back into the hallway. "Oh, my dear," she said quietly. "She does seem strict, but it is a very good school, and they're bound to be rather, um ... "
"But, Aunt Phoebe ..." I whispered, "I-I thought there'd be more time." Truth be told, I was a bit worried about my aunt being all alone too. "What about you?" I asked.
My aunt smiled vacantly. "I'll get along just fine."
I peered back through the door at the horrible sharp woman, tapping her foot and glaring at me with squinty eyes.
"I haven't got all day," she said haughtily. "Go and get your things." She gestured upstairs, the contents of her pockets jangling as she moved.
Scarlet would have stamped on that tapping foot. But me — well, I did as I was told.
I climbed the stairs with a shudder. Everything about that ghastly woman in the kitchen made me nervous.
My bedroom was through a little doorway off the landing, built for someone a great deal smaller than me. It had a low-beamed ceiling and a window with warped panes of glass. When I had first come to stay at Aunt Phoebe's house, it had seemed so lonely — obvious that there was no room for a twin. But it had grown to feel like home, and I was sad to leave it.
I reached under the bed to find my blue travel bag. I filled it with my few possessions: a comb, toiletries, metal hair-curling clips, stationery and ink, some books, the half string of tiny pearls I inherited from our mother, Emmeline. She had died shortly after giving birth to Scarlet and me, so we never knew her. Maybe if she had been here to look after us, Scarlet would still be alive now.
I threw in my underwear and my best clothes — all of which bore the strong scent of lavender from Aunt Phoebe's drawer liners — even though I knew that I would be required to wear a uniform at Rookwood School. I took out my ballet outfits, the cream leotard and skirt — and the black set too. I wrapped the soft pink shoes in tissue paper before packing them. They were almost new, and I prayed they would last a few months at least.
It had taken no time at all to pack the contents of my life. Now the little room looked bare and sad. As I laced up my leather shoes, I stared at the floorboards, trying to convince myself I was doing the right thing.
You'll be fine. There's nothing to be afraid of. It's only a school.
I shut my eyes and took a deep, shaky breath. And then I traipsed back downstairs with my bag.
"Are you ready to go?" Aunt Phoebe asked. "I'm sure Mrs. ... Miss, I'm sorry, what did you say your name was?"
"Miss Fox," snapped the woman.
"I-I'm sure Miss Fox will look after you," Aunt Phoebe said without raising her gaze to meet my eyes. Then my aunt placed a hand on my shoulder reassuringly.
"I'll see you soon, Ivy, my dear," she said, planting a kiss on my forehead.
"I hope so," I said, managing a smile. "I'll write."
Miss Fox's foot began tapping even faster. "We haven't got time for niceties. The driver is waiting."
I winced and clutched hold of my bag tighter and then I followed Miss Fox out to the road, where the bright sunshine hit my eyes.
"Good-bye, darling," said my aunt.
"Good-bye," I mouthed back. And before I knew it, I was being bundled into the back of an expensive-looking motorcar.
The smell of leather seats and the smoke from the driver's cigar hit my nose instantly.
"Sit up," snapped Miss Fox as she climbed into the front.
"I'm sorry, Miss?"
She turned and looked at me as if I were a sick sheep. "Sit up straight when you're in my vehicle. And kindly avoid touching my seats."
I folded my hands in my lap and began to ask, "How long will it take to —"
"Quiet!" she interrupted. "All this senseless chatter is giving me a headache."
The engine chugged into life as I leaned back in my seat and tried to take some deep breaths, but the fumes made me cough. Miss Fox tutted loudly.
All I could see of the driver was a flat tweed cap and the gray hair on the back of his neck. He said nothing — simply nodded and pulled away.
I peered out the back window and saw Aunt Phoebe standing on the doorstep. She gave me a sad wave. I watched her shrink as we drove, fading into the sunlight that streamed through the trees.
I turned around and saw my eyes reflected in the driver's mirror. They were brimming with tears.CHAPTER 3
The car wove its way through the twisting country road. Miss Fox sat bolt upright in the front seat of the motorcar, barely blinking as its wheels bumped through ruts in the road. I fidgeted in the backseat, thinking it strange that she had chosen to sit up front with the driver.
On a few occasions, she turned around to give me a look, and I tried to avoid her eye. Eventually, she turned her angry gaze on the passing countryside instead, allowing me back into my own world.
The trouble was that my world was filled with Scarlet. Everything we passed in the familiar landscape reminded me of her. The way she used to hop over wooden stiles, while I dangled my legs over warily. The way she used to pick the green leaves off the bushes and crush them into tiny pieces. The way she used to smile at the blue sky, pointing out the shapes in the clouds that only she could see.
The worst was when we passed by two girls, perhaps sisters, playing together in a passing garden. I felt the memory flow through me, and as hard as I tried, it wouldn't stop coming. The day Scarlet left for school ...
We were standing there on the lawn, each with our matching suitcases. Scarlet in her uniform; me in a plain pink dress.
Father wanted to send us away. "Time to get an education," he said. "Time to become proper young ladies," he said. But Scarlet had a place, and I didn't. So they were sending her to Rookwood School and me to stay with Aunt Phoebe. Father waved good-bye to us with a glass of whiskey in his hand. Our stepmother, wearing an apron and a grimace, dismissed us without even a second glance as she fussed over her sons, our stepbrothers.
Maybe Aunt Phoebe was a better alternative to our parents, but she was strange and scatterbrained. You could never tell what she was thinking.
There on the lawn with the suitcases, I knew what Scarlet was thinking. She wished that we were both going to school so she wouldn't have to go alone. I knew she was thinking that because I was thinking it too. I started to cry — big, gulping, childish sobs.
Excerpted from Scarlet and Ivy by Sophie Cleverly. Copyright © 2015 Sophie Cleverly. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
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