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ISBN-13: 9780688163624
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/28/1998
Edition description: 1ST BEECH
Pages: 128
Product dimensions: 5.36(w) x 7.68(h) x 0.39(d)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

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Chapter One

Playing Dead

Here's one of the best compliments I ever got. It came from Carly Rustin, who is three years old. She told it to me one evening when I was baby-sitting.

"I love your hair," she said, stroking it as we sat side by side and I read a bedtime story to her. "It's just like my Honey's." Honey is her dog — a golden retriever.

"I've got hair like a dog, a face like a frog, and a brain that's the size of a pea," I told my mother.

"Allison Marx, stop that at once," she scolded when she heard me. Mom only calls me Allison when she is annoyed. Usually, she calls me Sunny. "Your hair is beautiful. And don't you dare belittle yourself."

"Be little? I couldn't be little if I wanted. I'm taller than just about every girl I know," I complained.

"Oh, Sunny." She gave me a hug. "You're beautiful, and you're my favorite daughter! The very best one I have," she insisted.

Of course, I am also her only daughter, so she's not saying much. It's nice to have her champion my hair, which is my one good point. Still, I noticed she didn't mention my face and my eyeglasses. She didn't remind me that I can hardly carry a tune, follow directions, or keep up with my class in algebra. I'm not like my brother, Stephen, at all.

"Hold still," Stephen said to me one day last winter. "Remember, you're supposed to pretend to be dying."

"I'm trying," I answered, choking back a giggle. My five-foot-eight-inch body was lying facedown on the floor in our living room. The carpeting tickled my nose, and I thought I would sneeze at any moment. Playing dead is not as easy as youwould think.

"Wake up. Wake up," Stephen shouted in my ear as he turned me over and shook my shoulders roughly. My glasses slipped down my nose.

Then I really couldn't help it. I started laughing as I sat up and adjusted my glasses. I am awake, silly," I pointed out. "Why are you shouting for me to wake up? You told me to act like I had fainted or died or something morbid like that. You've got to make up your mind."

Stephen grinned at me. "That's the first step in CPR," he said apologetically. "If I don't practice this stuff I just learned, I won't remember how to do it. Mr. DeAngeli, the instructor, said it was important that we review all the steps at home so that they become second nature."

"How did you practice in the class?" I asked him.

" We had dummies made out of plastic. And they didn't laugh," he said, giving me a poke in the ribs.

"If I was made out of plastic, I wouldn't laugh, either," I reminded him.

Stephen is seventeen, three years older than me. just about every kid I know hates their brothers or sisters, or, at the very least, only tolerates them. It's not like that with Stephen and me. We're good friends and always have been, He almost never nags or teases me. He's even trained his girlfriends to be nice to me. So if Stephen asks me to lie down and pretend I'm dying, of course I'll do it for him.

"Let's start over," I suggested, rubbing my nose. "I'll try to be more serious this time."

"Thanks, Sunny," said Stephen. "Maybe someday I'll save someone's life. This could be very important."

I rested my head back on the floor and through half-closed eyes I looked up at Stephen. His hair is blond, but a darker shade than mine. We both have blue eyes, which we inherited from our mom. Lucky Stephen has twenty-twenty vision, while I have to wear glasses, like Dad. And Stephen has a pair of dimples. If I suck in my breath and try to smile, I can create a half dimple. But the expression on my face is so weird that I've only tried it in the mirror when no one was looking.

This time when Stephen shouted in my ear, "Wake up. Wake up," I didn't laugh or even move. "Call nine-one-one," Stephen yelled to some invisible person over his shoulder. He pressed his fingers on my throat. "I'm taking your pulse," he explained to me.

Then he began tipping my head back, and he pressed down on my middle. Peeking through my half-closed eyes, I marveled at his concentration. For the moment, Stephen seemed to have forgotten that I was his kid sister. I had become a victim who was in need of rescue.

"This is the point where I would give you mouth-to-mouth resuscitation if you weren't breathing," Stephen explained.

The thought of receiving the "kiss of life" from Stephen made me start giggling all over again. I sat up. "Suppose I had just eaten a whole onion?" I asked him. "Would you still have to do it, even if I had bad breath?"

"Don't be silly. You don't think about bad breath when someone's dying," said Stephen.

"What about garlic?" I asked. "I read that some people eat whole cloves of garlic the way you and I eat potato chips. Their breath must really be gross."

"You've got halitosis on the brain," said Stephen.

Then I thought of something more serious. "Don't you have to worry that you might endanger yourself, doing that to someone you don't know?" I asked, shuddering at the thought. "You know, with AIDS and everything, it's probably not a good thing to do."

Stephen stood up for a moment and dug into his pocket. He is six foot three, so I had to really crane my head back to see his face. He removed his key ring from his pocket.

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