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After playing for a while, Michelle studied fractions. She sat in the living room. Her father was rambling about the subject. "It's funny how kids are. When they're little, they know what a half is. They're two and a half, or three and a half. You even knew you were four and three quarters. Or, maybe they don't. Maybe they just know they're really close to the next age. But, they don't understand what that means."

Michelle examined her math problem. She glanced at him. "How was all that supposed to help me learn what percent four fifths is?"

"Oh, sorry." He returned to the couch. He began to explain the conversion of fractions.

Joey entered the front door. "Guys, guess what. You know that program I signed up for," he inquired.

Michelle looked up. "You got a computer program? I hope it's a video game."

Joey and Danny laughed. "Actually, I mean the volunteer program. I'm going to be a Big Brother," Joey reported. He glanced at Michelle and grinned. She knew he was going to crack a joke. "And I bet you thought my mom was way too old to be having kids, huh?"
Michelle laughed. The professional comedian was a joy to have around. She'd heard of Big Brothers and Big Sisters, though. "Cassie has a cousin with a volunteer big brother, Uncle Joey." The children liked to call him Uncle Joey even though he wasn't really an uncle. "Plus, Mandy and her sisters were in Big Brothers and Big Sisters before their mom remarried."
Joey suddenly recalled. "That's right. Anyway, if you remember, I got a match."

"But you don't smoke," Danny teased him.

Joey ignored the one-liner. "He's coming tonight for dinner. His mom's bringing him here." He turned to Danny. "He's a little messy, so..." He trailed off, hinting that nothing should be made of it.

"What would I say," Danny asked defensively.

Michelle giggled. She held a hand to her mouth to stifle the laughs. Her dad was the King of Clean. Even if he tried not to, he might start talking about cleanliness out of habit.

"Look, just don't be too fussy," suggested Joey. "Lewis needs to feel accepted. We can work on other things later."

Michelle didn't think about it being the same boy. Instead, she remembered she wanted to talk to Stephanie. She and her friends had raced upstairs while Michelle was playing.

She jogged up the steps. Her room door was closed. When she opened it, the three teenagers were deep in thought. "Hey, guys."
Stephanie looked tiredly at Michelle. "Excuse me, we need this room right now."

"But it's my room, too," insisted Michelle. She disliked it when Stephanie kept it all to herself.

Stephanie glanced at her watch. "You can have it in about fifteen minutes. Got your camera, Darce?" Darcy Powell patted her backpack. She turned back to Michelle and explained. "We're planning something for the yearbook next year. Then, we're going over to Anthony's for pizza."

"Wait, I have to ask you something," Michelle told them.

"You got the contract, right, Allie?" Allie Taylor nodded.

Michelle was amazed at how Stephanie could concentrate on several things at once. Unfortunately, one of them wasn't her question. Stephanie walked over to her and gently pushed her out the door. "We have to get the right wording for their ad. Plus, if we really impress them, we might even get to interview the manager for next year's yearbook. You'll have to wait." She put a "do not disturb" sign on the knob, then closed the door.

Michelle stared longingly at the door. Finally, she lowered her head and left. "Oh, well, maybe later tonight."

The term continued to annoy her as she went downstairs. If only she could have talked to Lewis. Unfortunately, he left on a different bus. Michelle's bus departed rather quickly. She would almost have to miss her bus to see him.
"Dad," she called. She walked up to Danny as he was about to enter the kitchen. "I want to stay after school a few minutes for something. Could someone please pick me up tomorrow?" She thought of asking to walk home. However, even if Cassie and Mandy walked with her,her dad might still be worried. Besides, Michelle enjoyed riding better. It ws much more relaxing.
Danny turned toward her. "Do you need help with your schoolwork?"
"No, I..." How would she explain this? "I'm helping someone else with problems. Not with school, although it is a little." She felt she rambled like Stephanie. "I guess you could say I'm counseling someone." The idea sounded odd. But, she really did want to counsel Lewis.

She added something which she knew would convince her dad. "I've got such a wise father. I guess it just rubs off on me."

Danny chuckled. "You don't have to flatter me. I've always taught you girls to be helpful. I'm glad you're doing this. Don't be afraid to ask for help if it's too much, though."

Michelle agreed. She didn't see what could be so hard, though. She merely wanted to befriend Lewis.

Soon, she noticed Lewis entering the door. "Lewis, you're just in time for supper," Joey told him as he showed him to the kitchen. Her dad called the rest of the household to the table.

Michelle was excited. It was the same boy.

Lewis recognized her. He hadn't gotten her name earlier, though. "Hi. What's your name?"

"Michelle." She told Joey "Lewis goes to Fraser Street Elementary, too."

"I figured," Joey said. "He moved into the school district yesterday." He introduced Lewis Wellington to everyone.

Michelle strained to hear Joey talk to Danny. "They have real problems at his home. His mom really doesn't pay attention to him or their apartment. So, they move a lot."

"Do you like it at our school, Lewis," Michelle wanted to know.

"I like Rachel," Lewis told her.

A red flag went up in Michelle's mind. But, how would she explain the problem? Rachel had friends; toward the end of the school year she'd become a little friendlier, even to Michelle and her friends. Sidney Wainwright was her best friend. However, it wasn't like Rachel to befriend someone who was so poor.

"Look, Lewis..." She struggled with her words.

Joey spoke to the people at the table. "Right after supper, I'm taking Lewis downstairs to my place. I'm going to show him my puppets. I want to get him back by eight. But, it'll let us get a little more acquainted. He's got a great sense of humor. We're thinking of writing some skits together."

Michelle knew Lewis would enjoy that. Joey was very funny. She thought of him as another dad. But, in some ways he was just a big kid. "That's great, Uncle Joey. Listen, I wanted to talk to him, too. Cassie and Mandy and I wanted him to join our club." Of course, they still had no name, no purpose, and no meeting place. However, everyone had to start somewhere.

Michelle had no time to explain. "That's great," Joey began. "You can talk to him at school tomorrow. He and I need time to get to know each other. After all, I became a Big Brother to be a role model to kids like him."

Michelle slowly agreed. As they ate, she appreciated the funny and lively discussions. She knew Lewis would find something fun in one of the chats. Their dinners were always enjoyable.

Lewis seemed to fit in well. Joey involved him in everything. Michelle even began to forget about Rachel. Maybe there was no problem after all. Maybe Cassie and Mandy were right.

Still, something nagged at her. And she needed to figure out what it was.

Chapter 3

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