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Michelle was in a quandary. She certainly didn't want her dad interfering. First, it was her problem. Second, she worried about Lewis. What if he kept Lewis from coming over? Lewis needed a friend like Joey.

If she denied everything right away, though, it might sound suspicious. Of course, Stephanie had agreed to talk to Dad with her. Michelle could tell Stephanie about it. But, what if Stephanie told him everything.

Danny studied her closely. He continued. "I thought I smelled something strange. I peeked in to make sure things were okay. You don't look like you've been drinking. I don't have much to add to what your sister said. Except to insist that you promise me something. Promise me you have never taken and you will never take a drink of an alcoholic beverage."

Did he suspect her now? How much had he heard? She hoped she could get him out quickly. Suddenly, she would much rather tell Stephanie everything. At least then, she might not have as many problems.

She looked him in the eye. "Dad, I have never had a drink. I am never going to. But I had to protect..."

She paused. She was extremely mad at herself. "I can't believe I almost gave that away."
Danny sat beside Michelle. He asked what he'd smelled.

Michelle felt Stephanie's gaze. She knew what it meant. Did she want to tell their dad, or should Stephanie?

All Stephanie could say was that a bottle was in Michelle's backpack. That sounded very bad. So, Michelle told a little about the teen. "Some girl with a big pink bow was on the playground. She put this bottle there. I picked it up so nobody else would get it. I was gonna throw it away when I got home, then I forgot."

Danny asked why she hadn't told a teacher. Michelle knew that's what she should have done. However, that could have meant problems for Rachel. It was Rachel's sitter, after all.

Danny turned her face toward his and looked her in the eye. "Michelle, that girl had to give it to someone. If it wasn't you, who was it?"

When Michelle wouldn't answer, her dad's voice became gentler. "Honey, do you know how your mother died?"

Michelle didn't like to think about it. She nodded slowly and mumbled. "Mom was killed by a drunk driver."

"That's right. If Cassie or Mandy or anyone else has a problem, you need to tell us now, so they can get help," Danny emphasized.

Michelle couldn't believe how much everyone talked. Why didn't they just let things go peacefully?

Stephanie added to the conversation. "Michelle, they would never do this. But, suppose Allie or Darcy were drinking or using drugs. I would let them confess it themselves. If they wouldn't, I'd be the first to tell their parents, teachers, whoever I needed to tell. I would also be right by their side making sure they got help. Because I'd be doing it as a friend." She smiled. "I'd rather have them mad for a moment than ruined forever. I wouldn't be a friend if I let a life be ruined while I did nothing."

Michelle understood what Stephanie meant. She would want to help her friends, too. However, she thought that this was a slightly different situation.

It didn't matter to her dad. He continued to discuss the drunk driver. "He might have started when very young. I'm coming home right after the show. That way, I can take you to school. I'm going to make sure that girl isn't there again. Then, I'm going right into the principal's office. I intend to make sure the school stops this problem before it spreads."
Michelle spoke hesitantly. "Uh...thanks, Dad." Her voice held little enthusiasm.

She glanced down, then up again. She spoke lowly. "I'd like to tell Stephanie about this. It's..." How could she explain? She wasn't sure. So, she made a guess. "It's a teenage problem."

"I'm only nine. Is that really going to work? Maybe. It is really complex, just like some of Stephanie's problems.

Stephanie spoke up for Michelle. She was trying very hard to help her. It was just difficult for Michelle to recognize this. Her sister had lectured more than their dad.
"Dad," Stephanie spoke sincerely, "I'll tell you what's going on. I'll let you know if there's a real emergency. And, I can come, too. You can write a note so I can get to home room late. I'll get a description of this girl. If I find something out, I can tell people at my school."

Michelle frowned. Did Stephanie plan on asking lots of questions? Would she do this on the playground? That might not be much better than having her dad snooping around. She felt like such a baby. Older people were doing everything for her.

Than again, it wasn't the worst thing. At least they believed Michelle. They knew she hadn't been drinking. Stephanie could be tactful, too. Indeed, she often tried too hard to coach Michelle in tact. If anyone could avoid embarrassing Michelle, it was Stephanie.
Danny allowed her to tell Stephanie. He would ensure the principal and teachers found things out tomorrow. He hugged Michelle. "I'm proud of you for saying ‘no.'" He took the bottle to throw it away. He also took her backpack to clean the wet spots.

When the sisters were alone, they sat on Michelle's bed. They leaned against the wall. Michelle began her story with Lewis being teased. She related all that had happened since.

She'd been reluctant to tell anyone anything. However, now she felt incredible relief. She was surprised how good it felt to reveal it. A huge burden had been lifted. She started to be glad she didn't have to do everything alone. Plus, she could learn about the Flamingoes.

"So, Lewis took it. I knew I couldn't let him take it home. I tried to think of the best way to protect him. So, I brought it home." She blushed slightly. She admitted it was a dumb idea. "I should have just told Mrs. Yoshida. I guess I worried about Rachel. I don't know why, though. I wouldn't think she would be involved." But, what if she was? She hadn't thought of that before, but now?

Stephanie nodded slowly as she listened. "Definitely a teenage type problem. Your secret club idea is a good one. Have you told Uncle Joey? He should be able to help with Lewis."

"I'd like to be the one to help Lewis. He needs a friend at our school. There's another thing," came the slightly frustrated tone. "I'm worried about him and Rachel."
Stephanie agreed hastily. "I understand. You're right to be concerned about Rachel. She's pretty arrogant. She needs to be informed. Otherwise, she's the kind of girl who might join the Flamingoes later. And, she might cause more problems for Lewis because of the Flamingoes now. I'll warn her about them."

Michelle groaned. She merely wanted Rachel to stop befriending Lewis. She wanted someone to help him who genuinely cared. Stephanie was going to make a mountain out of a molehill.

One bright spot existed, though. She enjoyed pondering it. Rachel might receive one of her dad's or Stephanie's rambling lectures.

Then again, she'd still feel embarrassed. Everyone would say she was fighting unfairly, because she used older people to fight her battles.

"You ought to start some kind of awareness campaign in your club. Maybe you can use it as class president, too," Stephanie continued. "I'll help. We see lots of films at our school about the dangers of drinking and things. Plus, I have my Health class notes from last year."

Michelle shook her head. "Sorry. I've got to do something myself."

Stephanie suddenly looked sad. Michelle hoped she hadn't disappointed her. She gave her sister a hug. She was very grateful to have her. Stephanie just tried too hard sometimes. "Thanks for listening. If I can't handle this, you'll be the first person I ask."

"That's fine," came Stephanie as they embraced. "I'm proud of you for saying ‘no,' too."
Michelle was very proud of herself for that. She just hoped drinking wasn't the big problem her dad and sister feared it was at their school.

Chapter 8

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