Michelle glared at her older sister. "If you hold my hand just once..." she whispered in a teasing threat.
Stephanie laughed. "Don't worry, Michelle. I was in fourth grade, too."
Mr. Tanner walked into the school. The schoolchildren failed to notice Danny, though. All eyes focused on Stephanie.
Jeff Farrington chuckled. He walked up to the girls. He held his thumbs to his ears. His fingers stuck out like antlers and spoke like Bullwinkle. "Hey, Michelle. Do you need someone to help you make friends?" He laughed, remembering their first day in Kindergarten. Michelle greeted her new classmates the same way that day. She'd thought being funny would get them to like her.
Michelle struggled for a response. Jeff was the class clown, but also a good friend. She knew Jeff wouldn't try to be mean. However, she didn't need any reminders of her sister being there.
"Never mind him, Michelle. He just wants your attention." She whispered, "Remember how he hung around you all the time trying to rehearse for that play? I think he likes you." Michelle blushed slightly. Jeff was the most popular kid in the class. "Just show me where Rachel is," Stephanie requested.
At that moment, Rachel hopped off the school bus wearing all pink. Stephanie had said the Flamingoes wore something pink every day. Michelle pointed Stephanie toward her.
Cassie and Mandy were right behind Rachel. Michelle spoke thankfully. "Am I glad to see you guys!"
Stephanie walked over to speak with Rachel. The three best friends ran to the swing set. Mandy glanced at Stephanie. She then looked to her left. "That's your dad's car, isn't it?"
Michelle confirmed it. She whispered to her friends. "He came from work to take me. He's going back to the station afterward. It's not as bad as it could have been, though."
"Except your older sister is on the playground with you," added Cassie.
"And your dad is who knows where." Michelle told Mandy he was telling the principal about the alcohol left on the school lawn.
Cassie recalled something that might relieve Michelle. "Hey, D.J. was one of my favorite babysitters. I didn't know you were related when we met. D.J. just told me one night that you were sisters. Maybe the kids won't realize Stephanie's your sister."
Michelle chuckled. Cassie wanted to look at the bright side. But, what her friend suggested was impossible. "Five-year-olds don't notice that stuff, Cassie. We didn't even know each other's last names for weeks."
Cassie agreed. Michelle had a point. She whispered again. "So they know it wasn't yours?"
"That's the good thing," Michelle told them. "Well...no dessert for a while since I took it. I guess that is kind of bad."
"Especially the way you like ice cream," Mandy said.
Stephanie walked up to them. "I got the sitter's name, but I don't think Rachel believed me."
Mandy wondered who the Flamingoes were. "Do they do a lot of mean stuff?"
Stephanie thought a moment. "They'll do anything to win. They act like they own the school and can do whatever they want. But, in a way, I'm surprised. I'd never heard about any Flamingoes drinking or using drugs. Though I wonder about a couple of them."
"Steph and I talked till well after my bedtime about the Flamingoes last night," Michelle reported. "They think they're really popular. They boast about being the coolest in the school."
"That's Rachel, all right," concluded Cassie.
"She thinks she's so good just because of how rich her dad is," Mandy complained.
Michelle related several incidents. "She mentioned them a few few times. I remembered she said they weren't very nice, but that's about it. She wishes she'd told me more, but she didn't want to scare me. I guess a little of Dad's protectiveness rubs off on her even when she doesn't know it. She said there's other things the Flamingoes have done, too. Don't tell anyone, but she could be right. I might have been scared," Michelle confided to her friends.
"The sitter's name is Sue Givens. My friends and I will ask about her. We'll try to confront her about it, if we see her," Stephanie promised. She noticed their dad motioning from the car. "Oops, I gotta go. Otherwise I'll be late for my first class. Love ya." She patted Michelle on the head, mussing her hair a little.
Michelle waved at her as she left. "You too." It hadn't turned out badly. She just hoped Rachel understood. She didn't want her causing any more problems.
Rachel walked over to them as kids got off Lewis' bus. "Your sister's crazy," Rachel said.
Michelle wanted to accuse Rachel right away. However, she knew she should give her the benefit of the doubt. "Rachel, do you know what that girl gave Lewis?"
"Whatever she gave him, she said it was a harmless joke. She just wanted me to find some poor kid and introduce her." Rachel sneered. "You get all worked up over nothing. You think you have to have your hand in everything."
Michelle shook her head. She didn't want to hear any more from Rachel. She got off the swings and walked toward Lewis. He seemed to be having fun talking with several classmates. "Hey, Lewis. I see you're making some friends," she spoke cheerfully.
Lewis nodded. "This is Mike. He likes jokes, too."
Michelle smiled. She was glad he had at least one friend there. The boy, Mike Lefferts, played on Jeff's baseball team. She'd met him a couple times.
"I was telling him about the mascots I've seen," Mike told her. "Rachel's one of the best," the third grader told Lewis. "She skated as a penguin for ‘Yuks on Ice' this year. She was hilarious."
Michelle rolled her eyes. It was just a coincidence that Mike had seen the performance in question. Still, she wanted to take Lewis' mind off Rachel, in case Rachel was heavily involved with that Flamingo.
"You know, Lewis, your Big Brother, Joey, wrote the script for that," Michelle told him.
Rachel spoke from behind her. "You should have heard the crowd. I was the star of the show," Rachel boasted.
Michelle groaned. Rachel loved to brag about that. And yet, she gave no credit to Michelle for giving her the part.
Michelle speedily changed the subject. "Lewis loves humor. He and Joey plan to write some funny stories." Lewis nodded.
Michelle turned toward him. "In fact, we could do that, too. Mandy, Cassie, and I are having a club meeting after school." She may have just planned it in her head a second ago. But, it was still planned.
"What club," Mike wanted to know.
"If I told you that, it wouldn't be a secret," Michelle remarked jovially.
Rachel scoffed. "You don't have a secret club."
Michelle shook her head. She shot Rachel a "duh" look. "If it's a secret club, of course you don't know about it."
Lewis shuffled his feet. "Maybe tomorrow. I'm goin' to Rachel's this afternoon. Sue's gonna let me become a Junior Flamingo."
Michelle forced herself to act casual. However, she was quite concerned. "Really?" He nodded. "Uh, that's not a good idea."
"How come," Lewis wondered.
"You shouldn't be a Flamingo because..." She hesitated. She couldn't think of a nice way to tell him. So, she turned to Rachel. "Rachel, the Flamingoes aren't in the business of being nice. Sue might make you do something that could really hurt you. You'd never be able to be the star you want to be."
"Says who? Sue has been really nice to me. She says the Flamingoes are all stars. Everyone at your own sister's school knows that. You and you false accusations. I've had enough of you," she declared. She stomped off toward the door as the first tardy bell rang. The warning bell told everyone to get to their classes. Michelle had no more time to talk to Lewis.
As she entered the school, she couldn't help but think there was more to this problem.
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