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Michelle swung on the swings with Cassie and Mandy before school. They watched Rachel and Lewis. "This is strange."

Cassie looked at Michelle. "But you told us Joey's Lewis' Big Brother."

"Yeah, that should make you feel good," Mandy told her. "Joey seems like he'd be a great help to anyone."

Michelle nodded. "True. But, what does Rachel see in Lewis? She's really rich with her dad's national bakery chain. She doesn't always talk to us politely. And, we're not real poor like he is," came Michelle's summary.

"Well, that's why I think that sitter helped," Mandy remarked. "Rachel has improved since we met her. Seeing someone do good deeds really makes you want to copy."
Cassie agreed. "I don't know how I'd learn without my parents. But, they always let me help them. We like to do things for elderly neighbors. And, I take old toys to the Salvation Army, too."

Mandy asked Michelle if she'd spoken with Stephanie or D.J.. Michelle shook her head. She wished she'd had a chance. However, except for the one time, both had been studying like crazy. Neither had had any time for her.

She related something further. "I arranged to be picked up today. You guys can come, too, if that's okay." It was. "You just have to say you're helping me counsel someone. Lewis takes a different bus. So, I want to talk to him before he gets on it."

"Good thinking," Cassie told her as the warning bell rang.

The day passed uneventfully. However, when it ended, Michelle noticed something odd. Rachel left almost too quickly.

Michelle rubbed her chin as her friends walked up to her. "Didn't she say something about not taking the bus," Mandy wondered.

Michelle nodded. "Yeah, her sitter's older brother was getting her. He's about D.J.'s age."
"Maybe the school was on his way somewhere," Cassie suggested.

Michelle nodded slowly. She grabbed her backpack. "Come on. Let's go find Lewis. He's my main concern."

Michelle, Cassie, and Mandy walked to their old classroom. They learned Lewis had left. Most of the class left quickly. So, the girls thought little of it. Michelle felt better. Perhaps he'd made a new friend from that class.

Michelle motioned for her friends to follow her. They walked out to the playground. Michelle spotted her Aunt Becky's car. Becky was reading a book, so she didn't notice Michelle. "That's right, Dad's making dinner tonight," she remarked. "Aunt Becky's probably doing this before running some errands."

She glanced around, trying to find Lewis. Michelle spied a gaudy pink bow in someone's hair. "Look," she commanded, pointed at it.

Mandy's angle let her see better. A teenage girl wore it. She was behind a large tree on the playground. The bow was way too big for her head. "Just like your lawn ornaments, Cassie."

Michelle chuckled. "Yeah. That looks really tacky. I wonder what..." Suddenly, the teen left. Lewis also walked out from behind the tree.

The girls eyed the teen. She walked over to a medium sized brown car and got into it. An older boy was at the wheel.

Rachel was spotted walking toward the car. "I guess that's Rachel's sitter," spoke Cassie.
Michelle agreed. "The boy might not be in college. But, why is the girl out of school so early?" "Guys, go talk to Rachel about that teenager. Think of an excuse."

"We want to make sure that's not a stranger," offered Mandy.

"That's good, use it. I want to see Lewis."

They separated. Michelle was thankful to have friends she could rely on to help her. She walked up to Lewis. The boy smiled, quickly recognizing her. "Hi, Lewis, it's Michelle. Remember me?" He did. "Who was that teenager?"

Lewis shrugged. "Rachel called her a Flamingo. She said I can be in her club. They've got a part for elementary school students."

"What a coincidence," remarked Michelle. "It was busy last night, I don't know if you remember. But, I've got a club, too, with Cassie and Mandy. We'd like you to join."
Lewis looked puzzled. He brushed some dirty hair out of his eyes. "Can I be in two clubs at once? What do I have to do?"

"Do? Why would he have to do anything to be in a club?" "You just join, I guess. Why, what did that girl say you had to do?" "And why do I feel nervous about that question?"

"She said I gotta take something home as a dare. She said I could try it." Lewis pulled out a clear, unmarked bottle. It was half empty. Michelle's heart skipped a beat. "What do you think it is?"

Michelle quickly pulled him behind the same tree. She asked him for it. She took a whiff. "Pee-yoooo!" She waved her hand in front of her nose. She thought she knew what it was
Her backpack slid off her back. She made sure nobody else could see them. She closed the bottle and slid it into her own backpack. "Listen. Don't take anything from that girl ever again. She's very dangerous. Did she say who she was?" She hadn't. "And, she said she was a Flamingo?"

Lewis shuffled his feet. He looked very disappointed. Michelle supposed she understood. How was he supposed to know who his friends were? They had probably told him their club was great. "Yeah," he said.

Michelle bit her lip. She noticed Cassie and Mandy walking toward them. "Look, just trust us."

Lewis saw children piling into his bus. He looked quite confused. However, answers would have to wait. "Well, gotta go. You want that?"

Michelle felt very tense. She wished she had more time to talk with Lewis. She needed to explain many things. And, there was a lot more she didn't know that she wished she could explain. "Look, Lewis, you never saw Rachel or me. Just join our club. We won't make you do...uh..." How would she describe it? Dangerous? "Well, we'll see you tomorrow."

"Yeah." He ran off.

Michelle shook her head. Suddenly, things had become much more complex - and scary.

Chapter 4

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