Rachel left quickly as expected. Michelle wasn't sure how to approach her outburst. However, her friends made her feel a lot better with their jokes. She decided to try the same tactic. "Hey, Rachel," she called. She ran to catch up to her near the playground entrance.
Rachel turned and stared at Michelle. "I'm in a hurry. What do you want?"
She spoke remorsefully at first. "Well...I just wanted to say I'm sorry I screamed at you." Her emotions were again well under control. So, she kept from telling Rachel she deserved it Instead, she grinned. "I bet I sounded like your mom, huh?"
Rachel paused a moment. She seemed to debate how to react. Finally, she admitted it. With a slight grin, she told Michelle she was close. "My mom says ‘young lady' when she lectures me. But, otherwise, you sounded a lot like her."
Michelle chuckled. Soon, her giggles infected Rachel. This greatly excited Michelle. Children forgot their feuds so readily. Why couldn't adults do the same, Michelle wondered sometimes. "Even the finger in the chest," she asked Rachel.
"No, but she's taller," Rachel said. She pointed at Michelle. "And here's one I'm sure you've never heard. She uses this a lot. ‘I hope you grow up to have children just like you.'"
Michelle laughed hard. She'd never heard that saying. But, she could imagine someone wishing such children on Rachel. It would be great to see her get a taste of her own medicine.
"No, I haven't heard that one. But, if I had, I probably would have said it." She hoped Rachel understood she wasn't joking. Her giggles probably made it sound like she was, though.
She forced herself to sound serious. "Look, Rachel," she began. "I know you don't think it will happen. But, if you ever have a problem, I'll be there for you." She hoped Rachel knew she was talking about the Flamingoes. She didn't want to renew their argument by being more specific.
Instead, she referred to what she went through. "It might never happen. But, say, for instance, your mom or dad would get hurt or even die, come to me. I won't say ‘I told you so.' I'll just listen. And you can talk or cry or whatever you need to do."
Michelle hoped Rachel recognized how she cared. It was so hard to love one's neighbor when that neighbor didn't love back. She had thought Rachel could be a good friend when she first met her. She soon realized Rachel wasn't very friendly. There had been improvement, but nothing big. Still, she tried to be nice to her when she could. Could Rachel understand how sincere she was?
Rachel didn't exactly smile warmly. However, she grinned a little, and sounded somewhat thankful. "I won't need you. But, I'll remember that, anyway."
With a final, mumbled "be careful," Michelle watched Rachel walk away. Michelle shook her head and grumbled slightly. "Not even a ‘thank you?'"
Mrs. Yoshida came up behind her. "I'm proud of you, Michelle.."
Michelle smiled at her teacher. "Thanks, Mrs. Y." She looked back at Rachel. She and Lewis were walking down the street. Her sitter was probably waiting out of sight. The authorities would be watching for the car, after all. "I just wish she would at least thank me."
"She will someday. Maybe not until she needs you. But, she will if that time comes."
Cassie and Mandy ran up to Michelle. She took her backpack from Cassie and flung it over her shoulders.
As they walked toward the bus, a second grader came running up to the principal. The child had been walking to his home a couple blocks away. "Mr. Posey," he cried out. "I think I saw that brown car. Two blocks that way." He pointed. "A girl and a boy were getting in it."
Michelle spun around. "That would probably be Rachel Tilly and Lewis Wellington, Sir. Rachel told me the girl was her babysitter."
"Thanks, Michelle, that helps," the principal told her. A teacher ran with the boy to see if the car was still there.
Michelle shook her head as she sat in the bus with her friends. "I know I ask a lot..."
Mandy interrupted her. "Say no more. We'll come home with you again."
Cassie agreed. "We need to get to the bottom of this fast."
Michelle, Cassie, and Mandy soon got off the bus. They entered Michelle's home. "Good afternoon, pumpkin," Danny spoke, looking up from his dusting. He walked over to Michelle and her friends. "You know, it's a good thing we warned everyone about that girl."
"How come," Michelle wanted to know.
Danny explained that Stephanie had discovered something disturbing. "She called a few minutes ago. Apparently, Mr. Tilly didn't have any time to check references. That sitter isn't homeschooled. She goes to John Muir, like Stephanie suspected. But, she'd been suspended for the last few days."
"Suspended? Rachel said Sue was home schooled."
Danny continued. "I tried to call the Tillys, but nobody answered."
Michelle's heart sank. "Rachel said they were joining the Flamingoes this afternoon. Now, what are we going to do?"
"Thanks. Is Steph home," she inquired. She tried not to sound too worried.
"She said she, Allie, and Darcy were going over to Anthony's Pizza. They were doing an interview for their yearbook."
The girls thanked him and left. "Now what," Cassie wondered.
Michelle led them into her dad's study. "It's official, guys," she told her friends. "We need help with this problem."
Mandy scratched her head as Michelle pulled out a phone book. "What are you looking for?"
"The number for Anthony's Pizza," Michelle said casually. She found it, and picked up the receiver.
Cassie shot her a baffled look. "How is ordering a pizza going to help?"
Michelle's dad knocked on the door. He needed to get something from his desk. Cassie opened it for him as Michelle spoke. "Hello, I need to speak to a Stephanie Tanner. This is her sister, Michelle."
"Is there a problem," Danny asked. Cassie and Mandy shrugged.
"Look, tell her I know she's busy, but...it's a Flamingo problem." Michelle heard a very confused waiter relay this message to Stephanie.
Stephanie quickly grabbed the phone. She tried to hide her frustration. "Okay, Michelle. I know I said I'd be there for you any time. But, I sort of meant when I was home."
"Look, Steph, Rachel said she and Sue were gonna help Lewis join the Flamingoes. Sue and her brother picked Rachel and Lewis up. He was dropping them at Rachel's house. I want you to meet us over there," Michelle told her.
"Well...isn't Dad there," Stephanie asked. "Can't he go with you?"
Michelle knew her dad would insist on going. And, that was a very good idea. "He's not the problem. We need someone who knows the Flamingoes."
"But, Michelle, Rachel thinks I'm nuts." Stephanie sighed. "Okay, I guess I'll come. I promised. Plus, I can confront this girl myself." Michelle heard Stephanie asking Allie and Darcy to take over. Her sister also requested a ride. "I'll be there in about ten minutes."
Michelle hung up the phone. "I'm coming with you," Danny informed her.
"I figured." She smiled at her dad. "I kind of feel bad asking everyone for help, though."
Danny smiled. He sat in his desk chair and looked lovingly into her eyes. "It's great to be able to do things yourself. But, we need to know our limits, too. Asking for help is the most grown up thing you can do. Because everyone needs it sometimes. I needed it desparately after your mom died. And, if I had never admitted I needed help then, Uncle Jesse and Joey never would have moved in."
Michelle hadn't thought about that. She supposed it wasn't too bad to ask for help. She just hoped the problem wasn't as bad as it could be.
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