3

I carried the orange bottle back up to Rei's garden. "Hey, guys-look!" I called, waving the bottle. No one looked up. Sasuke and Zero were struggling to lift one big snowball and set it on the other one to form the snowman's body. Rei was shouting encouragement. Tora was wiping snow off her glasses with one of her gloves. "Hey, Kyo-what's that?" Tora finally asked, putting her glasses back on. The others turned and saw the bottle in my hand. I read the label to them: "INSTA-TAN. Rub on a dark suntan in minutes." "Cool!" Sasuke declared. "Let's try it." "Where did you find it?" Rei demanded. Her cheeks were bright red from the cold. There were white flecks of snow in her hair. I pointed to the bin. "Your neighbours threw it out. The bottle is full," I announced. "Let's try it!" Sasuke repeated, grinning his crooked grin. "Yeah. Let's all go into school on Monday with dark suntans!" Tora urged. "Can you see the look on Miss Abe's face? We'll tell her we all went to Florida!" "No! The Bahamas!" Rei declared. "We'll tell Yasu Ito that The Geeks went to the Bahamas to practise!" Everyone laughed. "Do you think the stuff works?" Zero asked, adjusting his cap and staring at the bottle. "It has to," Rei said. "They couldn't sell it if it didn't work." She grabbed the bottle from my hand. "It's nearly full. We can all get great tans. Come on. Let's do it. It'll be so cool!"

We all followed Rei back into the house, our boots crunching over the snow, our breath steaming up above our heads. I pulled off my coat and tossed it on to the pile with the others. As i made my way into the living room, I began to have a second thought. What if the stuff dosen't work? I asked myself. What if it turns us bright yellow or green instead of tan? I'd be so totally embarrassed if I had to show up at school with bright green skin. I couldn't do it. I just couldn't. Even if it took months, I'd hide in my house-in my closet-till the stuff wore off.

The others didn't seem to be worried. We jammed into the downstairs bathroom. Rei still had the bottle of INSTA-TAN. She twisted off the cap and poured a big glob of it into her hand. It was a creamy white liquid. "Mmmmm. Smells nice," Rei reported, raising her hand to her face. "Very sweet-smelling."

She began rubbing it on her neck, then her cheeks, then her forehead. Tilting the bottle, she poured another big puddle into her palm. Then she rubbed the liquid over the backs of both hands. Sasuke took the INSTA-TAN bottle next. He splashed a big glob of it into his hand. Then he started rubbing it all over his face. "Feels cool and creamy," Tora reported when her turn came. Zero went next. He practically emptied the bottle as he rubbed the stuff on his face and neck. Finally it was my turn. I took the bottle and started to tilt it into my palm. But something made me stop. I hesitated. I could see that the others were all watching me, waiting for me to splash the liquid all over my skin, too. But, instead, I turned the bottle over and read the tiny print on the label. And what i read made me gasp out loud.


OOOOOOOOO! cliffhanger, ay? :)