Fabulous Five 018 - Teen Taxi

THE
FABULOUS FIVE #18

TEEN TAXI

BETSY HAYNES

A BANTAM SKYLARK
BOOK®

NEW YORK • TORONTO •
LONDON • SYDNEY • AUCKLAND

RL 5, IL age 009-012

TEEN TAXI

A Bantam Skylark
Book
/ May 1990

Skylark Books is a
registered trademark of Bantam Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell
Publishing Group, Inc. Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and
elsewhere.

All rights
reserved.

Copyright
©
1990 by Betsy Haynes and James Haynes.

Cover art
copyright
© 1990 by Andrew Bacha.

No part of this
book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic
or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage
and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

For information
address: Bantam Books.

ISBN 0-553-15794-9

Published
simultaneously in the United States and Canada

Bantam Books are
published by Bantam Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group
,
Inc. Its trademark, consisting of the words "Bantam Books" and the
portrayal of a rooster, is Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and
in other countries. Marca Registrada. Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York,
New York 10103.

PRINTED IN THE UNITED
STATES OF AMERICA

OPM      0 9 8 7 6 5
4 3 2 1

CHAPTER 1

"Where's little Beth?" Beth Barry asked anxiously.
"I don't see her."

"Here she is," said Jana Morgan, reaching into the
large cardboard box at the bottom of the basement stairs and pulling out a
wiggly brown puppy, which she handed to Beth. "She was underneath Katie."

Katie Shannon grinned and held up another tiny dog whose
curly red hair was amazingly close to the color of hers as Jana picked up her
own brown and white namesake and snuggled it lovingly on her shoulder.

"Shhh!" cautioned Melanie Edwards. "Don't let
my mom hear you calling them by their names. That's a secret. Remember?"

Melanie scooped up Scott, Shane, and Garrett, three of the
four males in the litter of eight puppies Rainbow had given birth to shortly
after the Edwardses had rescued her from the animal shelter at Christmastime.
She headed up the basement stairs with the mother dog at her heels. The rest of
The Fabulous Five had come home with Melanie after school, as they did once or
twice a week, to help her take the puppies into the backyard for their
afternoon play and exercise time.

When the five friends had closed the back door behind
themselves and were sitting cross-legged in a circle in the grass with the
puppies scampering around them, Melanie went on.

"I really don't understand my parents at all. They say
I'll get extra attached to the puppies if I name them, which I did secretly
anyway. They also say that we're going to have to start finding homes for them
since they're getting so big." Melanie paused a moment and shrugged. "But
sometimes, from the way they act, I wonder if they're planning to keep all
eight puppies
plus
Rainbow."

Christie Winchell looked up from where the yellow puppy who
had her name was nibbling on her finger. "Why do you say that?"

"For one thing, the pups have been weaned for ages,"
Melanie explained, "but Mom and Dad don't ever do anything about giving
them away. And I'm pretty sure they sneak down to the basement and play with
them when Jeffy and I aren't looking. Not that I'm complaining," she added
with a laugh. "I want to keep them all."

"Well, you know how parents are," Beth assured
her. "Totally unpredictable."

"You can say that again," said Melanie, rolling
her eyes toward the sky.

"Personally, I think it's super that you named the four
girl puppies after your four best friends," said Katie. "And nobody
is surprised that you named three of the boys Scott, Shane, and Garrett, but
what did you finally decide to name the fourth boy?"

Melanie blushed, knowing her friends thought she was totally
boy crazy. And it was true that she had not had any trouble naming Scott,
Shane, and Garrett after the three boys she had major crushes on, but deciding
what to call the fourth one had not been so easy. There were tons of cute boys
at Wakeman Junior High, like Derek Travelstead and Tim Riggs, but nobody else
who she thought was really special.

"I know. You named him Brian, after Brian Olsen,"
teased Beth. "Hi, little Brian.
Sweet
little Brian," she
cooed, holding up a roly-poly white puppy so that its nose touched hers. His
little tail began wagging furiously, and his tiny pink tongue lapped at her
nose.

"Poor dog!" cried Jana, falling backward into the
grass and bursting out laughing. "Not Brian Olsen. Give me a break!"

"Seriously, though, I saw Brian Olsen looking at you in
the cafeteria today, Mel," said Christie.

"Drooling, you mean," said Katie dryly.

"Oh, guys," Melanie groaned. "What am I going
to do about him? I mean, you
know
how he is."

Her friends nodded sympathetically, and she had a pretty
good idea what they were thinking. Brian Olsen was the last boy on earth she
could ever have a crush on. He was the biggest boy in school and a total
show-off. He was so proud of his muscles that he used to sneak up on
unsuspecting girls and lift them over his head. The school principal, Mr. Bell,
had put a stop to that, but he hadn't been able to do anything about Brian's
obnoxious personality. And now, as horrible as it was, Brian had a crush on
Melanie.

"I don't know," said Jana, shaking her head. "I
hate to say this, but I'm glad it's you he likes and not me. That boy doesn't
know when to take no for an answer. "

"You've got my sympathy, too," said Beth, and the
others nodded.

"So what did you name the fourth boy?" asked
Christie. "We all know it wasn't Brian."

Melanie grinned sheepishly. "You're going to laugh when
I tell you," she said. "I named him Jason after Jason Rider, the
actor who plays Chad in the soap opera
Interns and Lovers.
Ever since I
bought Jason's life-size poster at the celebrity auction and hung it in my room
where I can see it every day, I've decided that he's the most handsome guy
alive."

"You're
kidding!
" Katie groaned, just as
Melanie had known she would.

"I don't believe it either," said Beth. "Do
you mean to say you think he's more handsome than Scott?"

"More handsome than Shane?" demanded Christie.

"Or Garrett?" chimed in Beth.

Melanie could tell her friends were all trying hard not to
lose it and break into giggling fits. "Just be glad I didn't name him
after any of your boyfriends," she said slyly. "I mean, I could have
called him Randy or . . . hmm, let's see, Keith or—"

"Melanie! You and the girls come here. I've got
something wonderful to show you!"

Mrs. Edwards had just come out the back door and was
motioning excitedly. Exchanging shrugs with her friends, Melanie scrambled to
her feet and looked to see that the gate was closed so that the puppies couldn't
get out of the backyard. "Come on, guys," she said. "Let's go
see what the big surprise is all about."

She led her friends into the kitchen where her father was
absolutely beaming. Next to Mr. Edwards stood her little brother, Jeffy, his
eyes dancing, and he held both hands over his mouth as if trying to keep words
from escaping. "I won't tell her!" he burst through open fingers an
instant later. "I promise not to tell!"

Melanie's heart leapt. "Come on.
Somebody
tell
me," she insisted. "What's going on?"

"Go ahead, Mom," her father said. "You tell
her. You're the one who's making it all happen."

"Okay," said Mrs. Edwards. She took a deep breath
and Melanie could see that her mother was tingling with excitement. "You
know how long we've needed a new car. Our old station wagon spends more time in
the repair shop than in our garage."

Her mother paused again, and Melanie bounced on her toes in
anticipation. "Do you mean, we got a new car? Is that what you're trying
to say?"

"It's a van! It's a van!" shouted Jeffy. "A
BI-I-G-G one!"

Melanie raced to the window and peered out to the driveway where
a gigantic blue and silver custom van stood glinting in the late-afternoon
sunlight. It
was
big and probably the most beautiful van she had ever
seen. Her friends ran to join her, gaping.

"It's gorgeous!" she shrieked. "And it will
hold a ton of kids. Dad, did you get a raise?"

Mr. Edwards shook his head. "This is all your mother's
doing. Tell them about it, dear."

"Well, you know how long we've talked about going
camping in the summer and even making ski trips in the winter. But you also
know that our old station wagon was not dependable anymore, not to mention
being too small for those kinds of trips. Your dad and I have looked at vans
lots of times, thinking that they would be ideal, but they are so expensive
that we knew we couldn't buy one. Then I got the idea of using it to start a
new business," she said. Her eyes were glowing with pride. "The money
I make will more than make the payments, and we'll be able to do all the things
we've always wanted to do."

Melanie looked curiously at her mother. She had a funny
feeling in the pit of her stomach. "What kind of business?" she
asked.

"A teen taxi service," her mother said proudly. "I'm
going to drive kids back and forth to Wakeman Junior High."

Melanie heard someone groan and knew it must be herself. "You're
what
?
"

"That's right, sweetheart. I've got it all worked out
on paper. There are plenty of kids whose parents work and can't drive them to
school but who also live too close to school to be on a bus route. They need
transportation, and I'm going to provide it with the new van. I'm even having a
sign made for the side of the van. It's going to say EDWARDS'S TEEN TAXI. Isn't
it exciting?"

Melanie exchanged horrified looks with her friends.
But
Mom!
she tried to say, but even though she formed the words with her lips,
no sound came out. She felt as if she were shrinking, and her whole life passed
in front of her eyes in a blinding flash. A taxi driver for kids at Wacko
Junior High? Her own mother? She would be so embarrassed that she'd die!

CHAPTER 2

"I can't believe your mom is really serious about
running a taxi service for kids at Wacko," said Beth when Melanie met her
friends at their regular spot by the school fence the next morning.

Melanie nodded. "Oh, brother. Is she ever serious. She
says that the school district changed the bus routes this year to cut expenses,
and now they include only kids who live more than two miles from school instead
of one mile, the way it used to be. She says now lots of kids whose parents
work are stranded with no way to get to and from school."

"That's true," said Katie. "Or else they have
to come really early, before the school is open, so they can catch a ride with
their parents. Shawnie Pendergast's mother drops her off on the way to her job.
She says she gets here at the crack of dawn and hangs around by the front door
until the custodian comes and lets her in."

"I'll have to admit that it's a good idea," said
Melanie. "But why does
my
mother have to be the one to do it? I
mean, how will it look having our beautiful new van pull up to school with a
sign on the side saying EDWARDS'S TEEN TAXI? And kids
paying
her for a
ride home? I'll get laughed right out of school."

"Maybe not," said Christie, but Melanie could tell
by the tone of her voice that she wasn't convinced.

"I can hear the jokes now," Melanie went on. "I
mean, why couldn't she just get a regular job? And it isn't as if she has
nothing to do at home, either. Jeffy only goes half-days to kindergarten. And
then there's Rainbow and the puppies. They need to be let in and out during the
day."

"I think you've just answered your own question,"
said Jana. "She can't get a regular job because she's needed at home."

Melanie squirmed, knowing Jana was right, and glanced off
toward the school building, hoping she would see something interesting to take
her mind off her new problem. Naturally the first place she looked was in the
direction of a group of boys near the gum tree. They were eighth-graders, and
her heart leapt when she saw Garrett Boldt's head above the others. Garrett was
one of the tallest boys in school, as well as one of the cutest, and Melanie
had been trying for a long time to figure out how to get a date with him. While
she was watching, he nodded and said something to the others and then walked
off alone, concentrating on juggling his books, his camera, and a camera bag as
he went.

Melanie waved a quick good-bye to her friends and hurried
after him. "Hi, Garrett," she called. "It looks as if you could
use some help."

"Hi," he said with a big grin. "You're right.
I always manage to have about three times more stuff than I can handle. On top
of that, the strap on my backpack is broken so I have to carry all these things
separately. Would you hold this a minute while I get organized?"

Garrett handed her the camera bag, and Melanie giggled as
her knees buckled under the surprising weight. "What do you have in here?"
she teased. "A bowling ball?"

"Naw. Just lenses and stuff. If you think that's bad,
you should be with me when I'm shooting pictures for
The Wigwam.
Sometimes I have my tripod, or if it's an indoor shot, I might even have some
portable lights. What I could really use is an assistant to help me carry all
that junk."

"An assistant?" Melanie tried to control the
excitement in her voice, and she could feel her pulse revving up to racing
speed. "Gosh, that sounds like fun. I've always been interested in
photography."

"Really?" There was an approving tone in Garrett's
voice as he gave her a sideways glance. "Do you know anything about
35-millimeter cameras?"

"Not much yet," Melanie lied. Actually she knew
absolutely nothing, but this was too great an opportunity to let slip by. "But
I'll bet if I watched you, I could learn a lot."

"Hey, maybe you
could
be my assistant,"
said Garrett, nodding as if he thought the idea were perfect. "I know Mr.
Neal wouldn't mind. Of course you'd have to join the yearbook staff, but that
would be easy." Then his face clouded. "I don't know though. I mean,
it might look awfully macho, me jumping around taking pictures and you loaded
down with all my gear. You'd have to follow me around and set up my equipment
and stuff like that. It would blow your friend Katie Shannon's mind."

Melanie gulped hard. "Don't worry about Katie,"
she insisted. "After all, you'd be teaching me all about photography,
wouldn't you? There's nothing macho about being a teacher."

Garrett thought a moment. Then he nodded, as if the more he
considered the idea of being her teacher, the more he liked it. "Yeah, I
guess you're right. Why don't you tell Mr. Neal that you want to be on the
staff and assist me with pictures, and I'll let you know the next time I have
something to shoot."

"Great! I'll talk to Mr. Neal today." Melanie knew
she was letting too much excitement creep into her voice, but she couldn't help
it. This could be her big opportunity to make an impression on Garrett and
maybe even get a date with him.

"Okay. It's a deal, assistant," he said, giving
her a snappy salute.

Melanie giggled as she returned his salute and handed back
his camera bag. Just then the first bell rang and they said good-bye and
hurried in separate directions toward their lockers.

Assistant.
She loved the way the word sounded when
Garrett said it. She could hardly wait until she got the chance to start her
new duties as the assistant photographer for
The Wigwam.
So what if she
had to carry a ton of stuff, or gear, as Garrett called it? It would be worth
it.

Melanie hung up her jacket, grabbed her books out of her
locker, and headed down the hall toward her first class of the day. She had
spent so much time talking to Garrett that she had missed seeing any of the
other members of The Fabulous Five at their lockers and she was thinking about
how she would break the news about her new job to them as she walked along.

Katie was the feminist of the group. She would probably go
into her usual routine about how Melanie was boy crazy, Melanie thought, but
that was okay. As long as she didn't make a big deal about equal rights for
women and how Garrett should carry his own gear. Katie was an absolute broken
record about things like that.

Christie might think she was overdoing it in the boyfriend
department, too, since she had decided months ago that she wasn't ready to do
much dating. Christie was awfully serious about her grades.

Beth, on the other hand, was always thinking about acting
and publicity. She loved having her picture taken so she would probably be
thrilled to have a best friend who was the assistant photographer for the
yearbook.

Jana would be happy, too. She was seventh-grade coeditor of
The
Wigwam
along with Funny Hawthorne, and she was always talking about how
much fun it was to work on the yearbook.

Melanie was deep in thought when she turned the corner by
the principal's office and almost slammed into
her mother!

"Mom!" she shouted, screeching to a halt less than
a foot from her equally surprised mother. "What are you doing here?"

"Melanie, honey." Her mother gasped. "Hi. I
didn't expect to run into you." Then she smiled and added, "No pun
intended."

"Right," said Melanie. "But what are you
doing here?"

Mrs. Edwards brightened. "I'm going to see Mr. Bell to
talk to him about my new taxi service. I hope he'll help me get the word out to
families who need the service so that I can get this new business going right
away."

Melanie felt herself caving inward like a balloon with a
slow leak. Not the taxi service again! she thought. Why couldn't her mother
just forget it? And going to Mr. Bell, of all people. If any students overheard
them talking, it would be all over Wacko by lunch period.

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