Red Lollipop and The Sex Machine

by Grasshopper

Typing the final sentence of his ten page critique on The Catcher in the Rye, Finn shoved his shoulders back, trying to loosen his tight muscles. Rolling his neck, he sighed, clicked 'print' and waited for the pages. He had no interest in this or any other subject in school right now. He actually had no interest in anything..........except this one thing........one person........the one person he shouldn't be thinking about at all......ever.

Finnerty McEwen was an extremely bright seventeen year old who never broke rules, never argued with adults, never laughed out loud til tears ran down his face and never ever seemed to be happy for more than ten minutes at a stretch.

Now, don't get him wrong, Finn was sociable, had some good friends and parents who loved him dearly. He just had this thing.......he was a worrywart. He totally believed in Murphy's Law; anything that can go wrong, will go wrong and it will go wrong all over Finn.

All his life, he had missed opportunities, chances that would have made him laugh, made him dance, made him sing because he worried, fretted about the outcome. What if? What if?

Finn's best friends had tried everything and finally, they just let Finn be Finn. It was easier that way and, as his friend Jeff would always say, "He won't get his jock in a knot". When they were younger, they had teased him and made up little stuff to make him crazy, but now the things were bigger and it wasn't fun anymore to watch Finn squirm.

One late afternoon, sitting on the floor in the TV room, totally bored, Annie was flipping through the yearbook. Punching the page with her finger, she glanced at Finn, then blurted out, "I think Eli Corson is gay."

Finn choked on a Dorito.

"Huh?" Dougie snorted, "He's so not gay. He's got a girlfriend."

"Dang, Dougie, where you been? That means shit. Gay guys gotta have a girl to hide behind," Miguel exclaimed, punching Dougie in the arm. He turned to Annie, "What makes you think so, chica?"

Annie had been watching Finn out of the corner of her eye and didn't miss the choke or the way he jumped up and went to get more sodas. "Oh, I just kinda get this feeling when I talk to him, like he's drifting."

"Drifting? What does that mean?" Jeff asked, knowing he'd never understand how girls think, not in a million years.

Annie waited a few beats til Finn came back, and then said casually, "There's just a way a guy looks at a girl, like he's undressing her, that I don't get from Eli. He always looks like he's thinking about other stuff."

"Maybe he likes his girlfriend," Dougie said stupidly. The boys all bellowed and Annie rolled her eyes.

"I mentally strip Ms. Geraldson every day in Algebra," Jeff laughed. "I generally check out anything breathing."

"Me too," Miguel sighed.

"See, that's what I don't get from Eli," Annie said. "He gives off a diff kind of vibe. I'm telling you, that boy is gay."

They would have argued some more, but Annie was built. She was cute and funny and had a rack on her that made guys drool. So..........,if Eli Corson didn't drool, if he didn't ring her bells, then maybe..............................

"Well, so be it. That makes one gay guy at Larchmont High. I'm just glad it isn't me," Dougie grinned.

Annie pushed it, "What's so wrong with it, Dougie? Guys? If you think about it, all it does it take some of the cute guys out of the competition."

Miguel fidgeted with his sneaker laces, Jeff concentrated on water drops on his soda can and Dougie crossed his eyes and made an 'ugh' sound in his throat. Finn sat quietly on the sofa, one leg under him, hugging a throw pillow.

Annie wanted to just answer her own question. She wanted to help Finn. Watching the hurt in his eyes when his friends didn't answer made her ease back. She wanted to say that nothing was wrong with it, that it was cool and natural, but she didn't want to hurt Finn anymore than he was already hurting.

"What's wrong with being a fag?" Miguel sighed. "Well, it's just not cool. I know it'd make me nervous to have to sit by one in class or in the lunchroom."

"Why? You think a gay guy is gonna jump you just cause you're another guy? You think you're that irresistible?" Annie laughed, "Believe me, you're so not."

Jeff spoke up, "I guess they would be just like us, wanting to pretty much get in any girls'.............uh, guy's pants."

"But, do you do it or just think about it?" Annie asked. "How many girl's pants have you gotten in, Mr. Macho?"

Jeff blushed and muttered, "Well, there was Eugenia Carfer.....,"

"Hahaha, that was in seventh grade and she was lettin' everybody grab feels."

"Do you guess there really are gay guys at Larchmont and we don't know it?" Dougie asked, his eyes wide.

"I read that one out of every ten guys is gay," Annie threw into the conversation. "So, if there are 1,753 kids at Larchmont and half are guys, I'd say that we've got maybe oh......................." she smiled, "maybe.......," she tried to do the math.

"Eighty seven and three-fifths," Finn blurted out, then blushed and reached for the remote and frantically clicked channels.

"Whoaaaa!" Miguel said loudly. "Eighty seven gay guys. Whoaaaaaa !"

"I bet Eugene Minchker is the three-fifths," Jeff snorted.

"But, there aren't any," Dougie repeated.

"Douglas," Jeff said slowly, "You're being a dickbrain. If you were gay, and no one else was, or no one else said they were, would you just blab it out?"

"Ohhh," Dougie muttered, "Guess not."

"So, let's look in the yearbook and find all the gay guys," Miguel said, flipping the pages, "Definitely, George Larabye. He wears those expensive flowered shirts all the time, and look here, Kelly Draver. I mean, with a name like Kelly......," Miguel snorted.

"How about David Marsh? He doesn't like dodgeball," Jeff commented.

Annie grabbed the book and snapped it shut. "Listen to yourselves. You could all wear prettier shirts," she said, flicking at Jeff's faded t-shirt. "Kelly's parents named him that, idiots, and who, in their right mind, likes dodgeball?"

"Well, all we know then is that none of us are gay, right guys?" Miguel looked around at his friends, "Right?"

Annie watched Finn, so silent during this whole discussion. 'Say it, Finn,' she thought. 'Say it and get it out, so we can help.'

Finn had listened to everything his friends said. They were just like his parents, no horrible "Fags Burn in Hell!" comments, but he knew that they never expected, in a gazillion years for their son, their friend, to be the boy who wore pretty shirts, had a pretty name, hated dodgeball and wanted to jump every boy at Larchmont High.

His eyes caught Annie's. He knew she knew. He had wanted to tell her so many times, but the whole dynamic of the group would change. She would want to help. She would insist on telling the others. He would become the "Gay Boy" in the group. He knew what they all thought now. Finn didn't want anything to change. It was another What If?

"Right!" he said loudly, smiling at Jeff and Dougie and Miguel, his friends since grade school.


Finn was opening his locker the next morning when he heard Annie's voice. "Finnerty, you know Eli, don't you?" He froze, his head half in half out, his grip on the locker door cutting into his fingers. She wouldn't do this! She wouldn't.............................

"Yo, Earth to Finn, crawl out of your locker, beanbrain."

Well, Finn could crawl on in and die, or turn around and not look at him, just look everywhere but at him.

All the nights of looking at his picture in the yearbook, touching the page and smiling at the gentle look in Eli Corson's eyes and wishing he could just know him a little. Nothing big, just maybe talk a little, came flooding into his head. There was no way he could look at him right now.

"I gotta get to class," he mumbled, as he slammed the door shut and turned to run down the hall, stopped by the one voice that could stop him.

"Hi, Finn, I've been wanting to meet you, to tell you how cool your science project was in the Science Fair."

Fin couldn't just run away now. He turned back and caught Annie's eyes, pleading with her to make this stop. For once, she ignored him.

"Eli was telling me that he needs help in Chemistry and I told him that the person he needs," her voice dropped and she paused, "To talk to is Finnerty McEwen, chem. wizard."

"I really could use some help if you have any free time, Finn," Eli said, his voice as soft as Finn had imagined it.

Finn was trapped. How could he not help? How could he say No without looking like a creep? Without ever once looking into Eli's eyes, he answered, "I can help you, yes," his eyes staring at the poster over Eli's shoulder of a "Just Say No" drug kid. That's what he should do....Just Say No.........What if Eli finds out? What if he hates me? What if?

"Great, I really appreciate it," Eli said, a smile in his voice. He stood waiting for Finn to tell him when.

"Finn," Annie shoved him.

"Huh, oh.......," he stammered, "Um, tonight, I could help you tonight."

"Great, want to meet at the library?"

"Fine. Good. Yes," Finn mumbled, "Eight o'clock, yes?" he waited until Eli said, "Great," again and then wheeled around to head for Calculus.

Annie caught up with him halfway there, grabbing his arm, 'Finn, stop."

Finn felt tears, hot and burning. "Annie, why did you do that? How could you do that?" He ducked his head, before anyone could see his face. "Leave me alone, okay? I trusted you. I have to get to class."

Annie watched him go, scared she had done the wrong thing, but knowing he needed a kick start. She had maneuvered it, now it was up to Finn, to both of them. She just knew she was right. She could feel it.


Finn ate dinner, took a shower, washed his shaggy brown hair, pulled on the new teal t-shirt that his mom swore matched his eyes and threw on some cologne. He stood in front of the hallway mirror, counting the freckles tossed across his nose and trying to see what Eli Corson would see.

"Looking good, Son," his dad smiled, as he walked down the hall, Got a date?"

OMG!! Did he look like he had a date? Finn jerked his eyes toward the mirror and saw his flushed cheeks, bright eyes, new shirt, pressed jeans and shiny hair. Shit!! He looked like a guy going on a date!

Running back into the bedroom, he looked for the clothes he had on at school. Rumpled, a mustard stain down the front, the faded Battlestar Galactica t-shirt had a rip under the arm. He couldn't wear that! It would look like he didn't care. But, he couldn't go like this. It looked like he cared too much. Damn!

Falling backwards on the bed, he prayed for a sudden attack of malaria. Nothing happened. He heard the grandfather clock in the living room bong 7:30. He had to go.

Clomping down the stairs, he fell over Clancy, his big black German Shepard stretched out at the bottom step. Clancy jumped on him, and they rolled, boy and dog, clasped in mortal combat around the floor. Clancy slobbered down his face and onto his shirt. Finn's hair flew in every direction and one of his shoelaces got stuck on Clancy's sharp front tooth.

Untangling himself, Finn pulled on his backpack and called out, 'Be back, Mom. Library." They were used to that; Finn lived in the library.

Picking dog hair off him, Finn grabbed his bike and pedaled down Whitaker, crossed at the light and stuck his front wheel in the bike rack at 7:57. He walked up the front steps and into the silence of the Larchmont Public Library.

"Hello, Finnerty," Mrs. Cable said softly, "I have that new book you were asking about....the new Stephen Donaldson."

"Hold it for me, Mrs. C," he smiled. "I'll get it on my way out."

Mrs. Cable watched Finn as he looked around the tables. She always enjoyed him coming to the library, such a lovely boy, such nice manners. Kids today just didn't read. TV and videos, that's all they cared about. Finn McEwen was a reader. Such a good boy.

Finn didn't see Eli. He looked at his watch. 8:00. He'd give him ten minutes and then he'd...............................

"Hi Finn."

Finn jumped.

"Sorry, I was getting a drink of water. I've got my stuff over here at the far table, so we can talk."

The bright florescent lights of the main room were good for reading, but not so good for hiding. Finn took one look at Eli and wished to Heaven he'd never come. How do you keep someone from seeing what's in your eyes in bright florescent light? Damn, Eli looked so good, his blonde hair falling over his violet eyes. There was no way Finn could look at him right now.

Eli sat down at the rectangular library study table and Finn sat across from him. "Um, Finn, I don't think we can study this way," he said, smiling.

Finn sighed and moved to the chair next to him. "Now we can whisper," Eli said softly.

'I'm dying now', Finn groaned. He could have lived forever without hearing Eli Corson whisper the word 'whisper'. It was doing stuff to his head, not to mention his lower regions. He could so not sit here and 'whisper' to this boy.

"What you need help with?" Finn sat abruptly.

Eli rubbed his nose with his knuckles and said shyly, "Pretty much anything you can think of. I'm not too good with chemical reactions."

'Oh yeah you are,' Finn sighed to himself. "My chemicals are reacting just fine, thank you very much.'

They studied the basic vocabulary and last night's assignment. They were in different classes, but Mr. Pratt pretty much assigned the same homework for everyone.

Finn watched the way Eli held his pen in his left hand, his wrist hooked over. He watched the soft brown hairs on Eli's wrist curl out from under his watch band. He could practically feel the pulse beat in that wrist. He thought if he listened hard enough, he'd be able to actually hear that pulse beating.

"You have a dog?" Eli asked.

"Huh? Uh, yeah," Finn answered.

"Thought so," Eli laughed, and proceeded to pick long black hairs off Finn's shirt. His fingers just touched Finn's shirt, but it sent tinges up and down his body.

"I, uh, Clancy and I kinda wrestled a little."

Eli's face clouded over. "I always wanted a dog. My mom has allergies."

"Oh, sorry," Finn frowned. "I guess you could um....you could come play with Clancy if you want."

Eli's smile beamed.

'Oh God! What did I just do,' Finn hit himself over the head mentally. 'I just invited him to my dog.'

"I'd like that," Eli grinned. "Maybe after school one day?"

"Uh, yeah, sure," Finn stammered. Like, no way was that ever happening. He changed the subject. "Mary Alice is your girlfriend?"

Eli's eyes forgot to shine for a minute, then he bounced back. "Well, Mary Alice and I like the same stuff and we are really good friends. So, yeah, I guess she is my girl....friend."

Finn thought he heard a long pause between girl and friend. What did that mean? He shook his head. He was just trying to hear what he wanted to. Eli was straight and beautiful and had a girlfriend and there was nothing to do about it.

Finn remembered the fist time he'd seen Eli Corson. He'd been working on his homework while Annie poked at him to turn around and finish hearing the really bad joke she was telling. They were in Botany class and Mrs. Jameson was explaining about chlorophyll and Finn was trying to keep from going to sleep.

The class was set up with high work tables for two students each and he shared a table with Jeff while Annie sat behind them with Carrie Ann Flores. Jeff spent the entire 45 minutes peeking under the tables, watching the girls cross and uncross their legs. God, he was gross!

There was a flurry at the door and Mrs. Jameson said in her 'happy' voice, "People, we have a new student. His name is," she glanced at the transfer paper, "Eli Corson and he comes to us from Wichita."

Finn looked up from his notebook and the pen fell out of his hand. He watched Eli walk nervously over to the seat beside Delores Ingles and climb onto the high stool.

That had been sophomore year. Now, here it was getting to the end of junior year and he still had just tried not to stare, tried not to even look in Eli's direction. He would have made it, except for Annie. There was just nothing to do about it. What if Mrs. Jameson had sat Eli by him that first day? There was no wondering..........it hadn't happened. Here he sat, beside Eli now, Eli of the pretty eyes, wonderful whispery voice and girlfriend.

They walked out to the bike rack, unlocked Finn's bike and started walking. Eli had walked over and it was on the way home. Finn wasn't about to admit that he knew exactly where Eli lived. So, he pushed his bike and they walked, Finn trying desperately to think of something, anything to say.

"I'm glad Annie introduced us," Eli said quietly.

"Yeah, me too," Finn answered, his mind racing between hating this and never wanting it to stop.

"I'd kinda like to hang out with you sometime," Eli said quietly, looking out into the street.

"Yeah, cool," Finn replied, knowing it would never happen. What if Eli found out? What would he do?

They reached the end of Eli's front walk and stood, neither quite knowing how to end the time.

"Finn?"

"Uhuh?" He could tell Eli wanted to say something, but his mind was shutting down and he just wanted to be gone before he grabbed him and did the unthinkable. He had totally avoided looking at Eli's mouth all night. He wasn't gonna start looking now.

"Nothing," Eli sighed. "Thanks for the help. I appreciate it a lot. I'd sure like to meet Clancy some day."

"Sure," Finn mumbled as he climbed on his bike and rode home, not looking back.


Finn avoided his locker for a week. He avoided Annie for a week. That was much harder than his locker because he usually spent almost 24/7 with her. He totally avoided Eli. That had hurt just too much. He was so used to denying himself that kind of pleasure. It was better all around if he just didn't even try.

He picked up his books from the corner shelf in the school library where he'd been leaving them, when a hand grabbed his arm. "Oh, no you don't, Finn McEwen. Don't you even think about running away from me," Annie's angry face shoved into his. "I want to know what's going on."

"Let it go, Annie. I can't talk about it here."

"You can and you will, Finnerty. I'm not used to being avoided by my best friend. What's up?" She already knew, but needed to hear Finn's side of the story. Eli had been almost as uncommunicative when she asked how the library had gone.

"Finn helped me a lot," he said, 'But I don't guess we're friends."

"Why not?" she asked, wanting to whack Finn on the head.

Eli looked at her sadly and said, "I said a few things about being friends, but he didn't pick up on any of them. He just didn't like me, I guess. I haven't seen him, except in class, since the other night."

'Damn it, Finn,' she thought.

So, here she was, tracking him down like a dog in the woods, and here he was, like a deer caught in the headlights. "Finn, why didn't you try to be friends with Eli?"

Finn started to lie, then decided what was the use. Sighing, he set the books down and leaned against the wall. "You know why, Annie."

'Now we get to it', she thought. "Yeah, I know, but Finn..........what if Eli....."

Finn interrupted, "Don't go there, Annie. He's not. He has a girlfriend. He's just a nice guy who needed some help. I helped him. End of story."

"Do you wish he was.......gay, Finn?" she asked, touching his arm gently.

"Oh, Annie, wishes don't help. Nothing helps." Finn picked up his books and walked away from her, his head low.

'That's what you think, Finn my boy,' she whispered to herself. 'Wishing may not help, but Annie sure can."


The next week had been lonely. Annie seemed to have taken him seriously about leaving him alone and he guessed he should be glad, but truth to tell, he missed her way much. He saw her several times down the hall or in the cafeteria with Eli. She looked pretty tight with him. He didn't see Mary Alice hanging on him. Oh God, surely Eli and Annie weren't....................that would be just too much.

He usually enjoyed his computer. It took him places he hadn't been, showed him things he wanted to do someday. He never was much for chatting and only had four people on his AOL buddy list; Annie, Jeff, Miguel and Dougie. He had always gotten a kick out of their user names. Annie was "LoveBunny", Jeff was "HotRocks", Miguel was "Chihuahua" and Dougie was "Dougie". All the names seemed to fit. They had all hated his name, but it was the way he felt.

He was surprised to hear the door creak open on AOL. He never talked much to anyone except Annie, and he was sure she wasn't gonna signal him tonight. He pulled up the screen and saw an unfamiliar name:

"Red Lollipop"................who the heck?

Red Lollipop: hello
bigzero says: annie?
Red Lollipop says: no
bigzero says: do I know you?
Red Lollipop says: yes
bigzero says: how did you get my name?
Red Lollipop says: a friend
bigzero says: tell me who you are
Red Lollipop says: just someone who'd like to do to you what I'm doing to this lollipop right now

Finn stared at the screen, frozen. What the hell? He reached for his mouse to click the "block" button.

Red Lollipop says: don't block me, Finn

His eyes widened. Whoever this is really does know it's him

Red Lollipop says: Finn? Talk to me
Red Lollipop says: Finn?
Red Lollipop says: Finn?

Finn blocked the stranger. Finn never took chances. If it could go wrong, it would go wrong, all over Finn. He never crawled out to the end of the limb cause it would break off. Since he never crawled out, he never fell. He never got hurt. Yeah, right!

Finn stared at his computer like it had grown horns. He couldn't move. He felt a trickle of sweat run down his back and sweat break out on his face.

Wait! This had to be Annie. Had to be! She didn't have a special phone line for her computer. He ran to the phone and dialed her number. It rang three times and then her mom picked up. Finn hung it up quietly. If she was on-line, then the phone wouldn't work.

Finn sat down hard on the floor by the phone. He tried to think. Jeff wouldn't do that, or Miguel or Dougie. At the thought of Dougie talking about the lollipop, Finn almost laughed. Who was this? And she...he....knew who Finn was. Finn tried to just forget about it, but he was always so cautious. He worried way into the night. This was so NOT funny.


The next morning, he glanced over at his computer before he left for school. It was over. Whoever it was, he had blocked them. Deciding not to worry about it anymore than he always worried about everything, he hooked his backpack over his shoulder, kissed his mom, grabbed his usual Hot Pocket and worried about it all the way to school.

Deciding not to hide anymore, he walked toward his locker and saw Annie talking to Eli. Eli looked over at him and sort of smiled, but Annie swatted him on the arm and he lost his smile. Finn wanted to go tell them about the weird person from last night, but now he felt awkward like somehow, they were friends and he wasn't anymore. Annie turning to Eli was a surprise and Finn didn't like surprises.

But, as he turned the corner, he saw his locker and he got a got one right between the eyes . Taped to the door was a red lollipop in the shape of a heart. He felt like the whole school was watching as he reached out and ripped it down. That was something he had always prayed would never happen. Finn never wanted people looking at him. He shoved the lollipop in his notebook, took out the books he'd need with shaky hands and looked around warily.

He dreaded 3rd period Psych class. It was his only class with Eli. They didn't sit anywhere close, but it was still the same room and Finn had to stop himself from starting the entire 45 minutes. It was no different today, except that Eli was laughing at something Annie was saying and his face was beautiful, eyes twinkling and happiness glowing. Finn had never felt so left out. He walked down the row past them to head for the back seat. As he edged by Harry Mason's legs, he felt his notebook slip and saw the red lollipop fall out to land near Eli's foot. Oh God!

Eli reached down and picked up the candy. Looking up at Finn, he asked, "For me?" Annie laughed and snatched the candy out of his hand.

"No, I, it.............'" Finn stammered. He just kept walking until he found the first empty desk and fell in. He could feel Jeff's eyes drilling holes in his back. He could not look at him when he finally sat down. He had enough problems right now.......Annie was mad at him.....Eli hated him......he was being cyberstalked by a lollipop, and oh yeah, .......he was gay. The day couldn't get any worse.

But, of course, Murphy's Law, when he thought it couldn't....it did. Mr. Heckleman cleared his throat and started in, "Class, we'll be starting our midyear projects. I'm going to assign partners. Each student will be responsible for interviewing his partner and finding as many little known facts as he or she can. The interviews will be typed and presented to the class. They are due in two weeks."

As Finn listened to the names being called out, he already knew. It was fate, Murphy's Law, whatever you wanted to call it. He just knew. He could feel it in the pit of his stomach.

"Finnerty McEwen ~ Eli Corson."

Finn closed his eyes and sighed. When he opened them, he glanced at Eli and found a pair of violet eyes staring back at him. He smiled hesitantly and watched the emotions flicker across Eli's face before he smiled back.


Finn walked into his bedroom that night after dinner as if the boogeyman was gonna jump out from behind the door. He had made up his mind that he simply wouldn't answer if it happened again. He was in control. He wouldn't even turn on his computer tonight. That was the answer. "You can't talk to me if I don't turn you on," he growled at the screen staring at him from across the room.

By 10:00, Finn was losing his mind. He'd listened to music which was a huge mistake because he suddenly realized that all his CDs were somehow sad whiney songs about sad miserable people. He hadn't seen that before. He stared at the monitor. It stared back.

Finn was not gonna let this get the better of him. Finally, he got up from his bed where he'd been lying, just staring at a spider on the ceiling. Walking over to the computer, he sat down carefully in his chair and pushed the 'start' button. He watched his desktop load and his guilty pleasure come on the screen. He had taken the yearbook picture of Eli, scanned it, cropped it and made 24 little pictures by tiling it on his screen. Twenty-four little smiling Eli faces smiling out at him. It was so dopey; he was so dopey.

Then, he did the unthinkable for Finnerty McEwen. He let loose just a little on that steel control and he unblocked "Red Lollipop". He had to know who this was. He had to make it stop.

Sitting very still, he heard the door creak open just as he had known it would. Should he say something first? Should he pop his screen up? Finn never did anything rash, but he had to tell this crazy person to stop with the lollipops. Yes! That's exactly why he needed to turn it on. He had to get his life back under control and he'd start with the lollipops.

Red Lollipop says: hey Finn
bigzero says: who R U?
Red Lollipop says: an admirer
bigzero says: of what?
Red Lollipop says: don't be dense Finn......you of course

Finn sat back. Whoa! Who the hell is this? Some girl from school?

Red Lollipop says: Finn?
bigzero says: yeah
Red Lollipop says: did you get my lolly?
bigzero says: yes....stop doing that
Red Lollipop says: why Finn?
bigzero says: I don't want you to
Red Lollipop says: what DO you want Finn?

Finn jerked his fingers off the keys, balling them into tight fists. What DID he want? He wanted.....he wanted.......sigh, he wanted Eli.

bigzero says: who are you?
Red Lollipop says: doesn't matter really, it's you that matters. Who are you, Finn?
bigzero says: I'm just me...just Finn
Red Lollipop says: not JUST Finn......you're special
bigzero says: why? I'm nobody
Red Lollipop says: Finn you're sweet and kind and incredibly sexy. Want me to tell you how much?

Finn saw his hands, frozen above the keys. He needed to turn the computer off. He didn't even know who he was talking to.

bigzero says: yes

He was crazy. All he wanted was Eli and here he was talking to some crazy freak person, asking them to tell him he was sexy. God save him!

bigzero says: please....
Red Lollipop says: about time Finn
bigzero says: are you a girl?
Red Lollipop says: does it matter?
bigzero says: yes kinda
Red Lollipop says; why Finn?

Finn had never told anyone, not even his best friends. Annie knew just because she watched him too much. Here he was getting ready to tell his deepest most secret secret to a total stranger, a maybe psycho stranger who would blab it to the whole school tomorrow.

bigzero says: cause I need to hear it from a boy
Red Lollipop say: ahhhhhhhhhh
bigzero says: do you understand?
Red Lollipop says: yes Finn
bigzero says: so can you? Tell me what you see, I mean?
Red Lollipop says: I see someone I want to be with...to touch.....taste.... rub myself against....................

Finn sat in his chair, trying to control his emotions. "Turn it off", he commanded himself. "All you have to do is turn it off."

bigzero says: why me?
Red Lollipop says: have you ever looked in the mirror, Finn?
bigzero says: yeah...nothing special there
Red Lollipop says: you're so wrong Finn
bigzero says: I wish
Red Lollipop says: Is there someone special you like?
bigzero says: oh yes
Red Lollipop says: would that Eli Corson?

Finn felt his heart begin to pound in his chest. How did this person know? Was he that obvious?

bigzero says: you know? How?
Red Lollipop says: I watch.....I've seen how you look at him
bigzero says: He doesn't even think about me at all
Red Lollipop says: How do you know?
bigzero: I just know
Red Lollipop says: so you know what other people are thinking...are you psychic?
bigzero says: no...don't be dumb
Red Lollipop says: I don't think I'm being the dumb one Finn. Do you have dreams about him?
bigzero says: yes..NO..I don't want to talk about him with you
Red Lollipop says: sorry....we'll talk about you. What are you wearing Finn?
bigzero says: what????
Red Lollipop says: you heard me....I have on red boxers and a white tank

Finn looked down at his underwear. No way was he gonna say he was kinda nat wearing much.

bigzero says: Uh.....I have on gray sweat pants and a big gray sweatshirt
Red Lollipop says: you must be kinda hot then, Finn. Take off your sweats

Finn knew he should stop. He didn't have Eli. He'd never have Eli, but, he felt like he was betraying him just by talking to the lollipop.

bigzero says: I can't
Red Lollipop says: do you want to?

Finn clicked the computer off.

He spent a restless night, worrying, jerking off thinking of Eli sucking on a red lollipop. Oh Lord ! Whoever Red Lollipop was, he or she was making Finn crazy. The more he tried to not think about Eli, the worse he got.


The next day, grumpy and sleepy, Finn swore he would not ever turn that computer on again. School was torture. Eli seemed to be everywhere Finn was. Every time he looked at him, all Finn could see was red lollipops and Eli's violet eyes. Part of him wished he could have that night at the library to do over again, but the other part, the worrywart part, asked what he would have done different.

He found a red lollipop in his PE locker. How the hell? Mrs. Cable, the librarian handed him an envelope with his name in it. Opening it, he found a red lollipop. He kept seeing those words......'take off your sweats'.

All he could think of was Eli. How he would think Finn was some kind of perv for talking to a stranger, and, the more he tried to not want to talk to the nameless person, the more wanted to. God, he was a sick freak.

He couldn't just go up to Eli and ask him to play with his dog, or tell him he did want to be friends after all. Finn sure couldn't tell Eli that he wanted to touch him. The more he thought about it, the more confused he got.

He'd always heard about talking to strangers on a train or a plane; how people told their life stories to strangers because they'd never see them again. Red Lollipop was his stranger on the train. Finn knew, in his rational mind, that that was ridiculous because this person was right here at Larchmont High, but he was about to explode and Annie had cut herself off. He wasn't about to ask Jeff or Miguel or Dougie for advice. Finn was all alone in this..............except for Red Lollipop.

He sat in Psych class watching Annie flirt with Eli. He heard snatches of their conversation:

"Can you come by tonight, Eli? My computer has been down for three days."


"Sure."

So.....Eli goes to Annie's house. Her computer doesn't work. Finn had hoped that this would all turn out to be a big joke on him, that Annie was Red Lollipop and that she and Eli were just friends. Finn's imagination went into overdrive.

He rode his bike home fast. He had a color coded graph to work out for Calculus and he needed...............save me..........he needed to be done by 10:00. He held onto the red lollipop that he had found taped to his bike seat.


Annie was sitting out in the back yard, swinging gently in her little brother's swing. She looked up and smiled when Eli walked into the back yard.

"Hey, Annie."

"Hi, Eli. How's it all going?"

He hesitated, sighed and flopped down in the grass. "I don't know. I'm trying my best to make him crazy, like you said, but he still isn't talking to me."

"I know," Annie frowned. "I hate doing this. Finn's been my best friend forever, but I couldn't think of any other way to get through his thick skull.

He is so scared and all the words in the world won't help. When he gets like that, he totally shuts down. I had to go for the drastic."

"I'm just glad you talked to me," he said quietly. "I was going slowly insane here."

"Well, no one should have to leave their school because they're gay, Eli."

Eli had unloaded on Annie when he saw that he truly had a friend. His parents had been wonderful about leaving the school in Wichita after he had been beaten up by a bunch of no-necks. His dad took the new job offer and Eli had just quietly blended in to the kids at Larchmont.

"It's weird, Annie, but I can say stuff on-line that I can't in person," he said, hugging his knees to his chest. "I just wish I could really say them to Finn."

Annie shook her head. "Give him time. I know my boy. He's about ready to explode about now."

"You know I'd never hurt him, Annie. I just want him to see me."

"Oh, he sees you all right, Eli. He just has to see himself."


Finn finished his graph, stood up and stretched, cracking the joints in his neck. He should turn off the computer now. He was finished with his homework. He stared at the number he'd written on the pad by his keyboard: Eli - 593-2840. He wanted to just call. He wanted to know if he had messed up so badly that it couldn't be fixed. He couldn't call. He'd look like a fool.

He heard the AOL door open. He heard the bing signal. He just stood, staring at the screen. Finally, he pulled up the box and saw:

Red Lollipop says: Hey there Finn

Sighing, Finn threw himself in the chair and typed:

bigzero says: hey
Red Lollipop says: what cha doin?
bigzero says: homework
Red Lollipop says: wanna talk awhile?
bigzero says: I guess
Red Lollipop says: you down Finn? You feel down
bigzero says: yeah......kinda.......I have this problem
Red Lollipop says: tell me....maybe I can help
bigzero says: I don't know who you are...and you know who I am. Its not fair
Red Lollipop says: life's not fair Finn.....tell me
bigzero says: I really like someone ... so much
Red Lollipop says: Eli Corson?
bigzero says: yes
Red Lollipop says: so what's the problem? Tell him
bigzero says: I can't
Red Lollipop says: why not Finn?
bigzero says: I'm...........he's not...........you know
Red Lollipop says: not if you don't tell me
bigzero says: please ....I've never told anyone this....
Red Lollipop says: I won't repeat a word

Finn knew how stupid this was. This could be Sheila Graves, the biggest mouth in the south. He could be outted tomorrow. But, slowly, he was getting to where he didn't give a flying fuck anymore. Maybe Eli wasn't gonna ever be interested, but maybe he just needed to be Finn...for once in his life.

big zero says: I'm gay

Finn held his breath, waiting for this stranger to scream Fag! At him

Red Lollipop says: cool, now what's the problem with Eli?
bigzero says: you don't care?
red Lollipop says: why should I care about something like that...now if you said you ate baby ducks for breakfast or liked to eat your toenails after you clip them........
bigzero says: ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww
Red Lollipop says: see? No biggie
bigzero says: hmm, guess not...thanks
Red Lollipop says: My pleasure...now, Eli
bigzero says: I can't think when I'm around him. I want so much for him to like me, whether he's gay or not. I want him for a friend if nothing else
Red Lollipop says: so tell him
bigzero says: I can't...I did a really dumb thing....I got so scared I made him think I didn't like him at all
Red Lollipop says: dumb move Finn
bigzero says: you're telling me and now I don't know what to do...I wish I could take the other night back
Red Lollipop says: why can't you? Take it all back
bigzero says: I can't
Red Lollipop says: you're being a dope Finn....Do you ever talk to Eli on-line?
bigzero says: no .... I would have but now I can't
Red Lollipop says: Finn Finn Finn...yes you can....look how easy it is to talk to me....if I get his AOL name, you can invite him and you can talk
bigzero says: about what?
Red Lollipop says: homework,,,,what movie to see....stuff...anything
bigzero says: I guess maybe
Red Lollipop says: you could talk naughty
bigzero says: No No Not to Eli ....No
Red Lollipop says: why not Finn?
bigzero says: I could never...........he's sweet and nice and shy. I'd be too embarrassed
Red Lollipop says: R U sure Finn? You could tell him how you feel when you see him in the hall...what you'd like to do if you two were alone....
bigzero says: No!!
Red Lollipop says: have you wanted to tell him? Don't tell me you don't think about it?
bigzero says: I think about it 24/7

Red Lollipop says: Do you think he's ever thought about it?
bigzero says: No............I don't know
Red Lollipop says: So actually you have no idea how he feels or what he thinks, right?
bigzero says: I guess
Red Lollipop says: this is such bullcrap, Finn
bigzero says: I know but you just don't understand
Red Lollipop says: but I do Finn more than you know
bigzero says: I am so confused and frustrated
Red Lollipop says: thought anymore about my question Finn?
bigzero says: what question? Oh, you mean.....................
Red Lollipop says; yes Finn Do you want to? I'm willing to play if you are
bigzero says: No.....you're not Eli
Red Lollipop says: Oh, you mean you'd fool around if I was Eli?
bigzero says: yes..............no.......i mean..........i don't know
Red Lollipop says: what if he wanted to? Would you?
bigzero says: oh God yes
Red Lollipop says: maybe I need to have a talk with Mr. Eli Corson for my friend Finn
bigzero says: WHAT??? NO!! please NOOOOOOOOOOO
Red Lollipop says: okay okay kidding Finn your secret is safe with me
bigzero says: how do I know that? How can I trust you?
Red Lollipop says: Trust me Finn...if I can't help you with this problem, no one can
bigzero says: what do you mean?
Red Lollipop says: I watch you in Psych class....watch you watching him. I think you kinda love him, don't you Finn?
bigzero says: ***sigh***
Red Lollipop says: I always was a sucker for romance
bigzero says: you're in my Psych class?
Red Lollipop says: yes

Finn thought quickly, trying to place all the students in the class. There were 13 girls and 12 boys sitting all around him, including Annie, Jeff and Eli. Oh God, which one was he talking to?

bigzero says: can I know who you are? Will you tell me?
Red Lollipop says: okay...tomorrow I'll be the one sucking on the red lollipop
bigzero says: and how can you help me with Eli?
Red Lollipop says: Do you want to talk to Eli? Do you want to know how he really feels about you? What he'd like from you?
bigzero says: oh yes
Red Lollipop says: okay.....get a new user name
bigzero says: what? Get a what? Oh............on here.........to what?
Red Lollipop says: Finn, anything except bigzero.....that's so pathetic
bigzero says: Lord, you mean something like HotRocket or Stud Muffin?
Red Lollipop says: >>>grin<<< Finn made a funny hahahaha You come up with one Finn...we'll see what he has to say to a stranger that signals him

Finn sat still, wondering how he'd ever gotten himself into this horrible mess. Eli would never like him if he did anything this stupid...would he? BUT... a tiny voice inside him said, "Do it Finn" He was always the serious one, the worrywart, the one with all the discipline. Maybe it was time he did something different for once. But.........what if he says he hates me...or, what if, thinking I'm somebody else, he talks dirty. Oh My God! This could be a total disaster.

Bigzero says: I can't make you stop, can I?
Red Lollipop says: nope....you're gonna find out what Eli really thinks about you, Finn. So, what's your new name?

Finn thought. And he thought. Not used to coming up with gross user names, he was at a loss.

Red Lollipop says: well Finn?
bigzero says: I can't think of anything
Red Lollipop says: Finn Finn Finn ... must I do everything? Okay..... Hmmmm, Love Muscle?
bigzero says: NOOO
Red Lollipop says: 69ways?
bigzero says: stop it !!!
Red Lollipop says: Sex machine .... Just take this one Finn . its not gonna get any better
bigzero says: okay okay....I'll be gackkkkkkkkkkkk Sex Machine
Red Lollipop says: good choice Finn See you tomorrow

*****Creak ... Slam!! *****

Finn sat with his face in his hands. This had escalated into a major mess. Maybe he should just tell Eli tomorrow. Oh yeah he could just see it now:

"Umm, Eli. Excuse me, but somebody on the internet wants me to take off my sweats and now I'm called Sex Machine. Will you be my boyfriend? " Yeah that would so work....not!

He sat there sighing, slowly adding a new name to his AOL list: Sex Machine.


Eli shut down his laptop and rubbed his knuckles across the bridge of his nose. This was so wrong. He had found out what he wanted to know...that Finn liked him, but he was no closer to him than before. Maybe he should tell him the truth tomorrow:

"Umm, Finn. Excuse me, but I'm Red Lollipop and I like you and it's just my crazy way of getting you to like me back." Yeah, that would work.........not!


The next day, Finn made it all the way to 3rd period without a trace of a red lollipop anywhere, a lollipop or Eli for that matter. He hoped maybe lollipop had given up. Hurrying in the door a few seconds after the bell, he headed for his seat. His heart nearly fell out of his chest when he saw Eli sitting there with a lollipop stick in his mouth.

"Eli, it's you? You're Red ..........................," he started.

"Mr. McEwen! Can we start class now that you have graced us with your presence?" Mr. Heckleman interrupted. Finn turned his head to look at the teacher and saw, to his horror, that Mr. Heckleman had a red lollipop stuck in his mouth.

Looking frantically around, Finn saw that everyone in class, Annie, Jeff, Eli, everyone, had a red sucker stuck in their mouths. As he looked from face to face, he knew that one of these people was driving him crazy. It was a lollipop nightmare.

"What's wrong, Finn?" Annie whispered

"The........lollipops.......the lollipops.....why does everyone have a lollipop?" he choked out.

"They were lying on our desks when we came in, See? You have one," Annie pointed to the offending candy lying in front of him. "What's wrong?"

Finn just shook his head realizing he wasn't any closer to the truth than he had been last night. Finnerty McEwen.....Sex Machine.....My God!


10:00 Finn stared at the screen. He wasn't sure about this. Not at all was he sure he could go through with this at all. This was a new feeling for him not to be in control....this slightly dangerous, kinda sexy new Finn. He didn't know if he could actually go through with this. Talking to Eli as if he was somebody else. It was wrong. It was bad. It was....................exciting. He was turned on and as much as he was feeling guilty, he was bouncing too. He was gonna do it. How hard could it be? Red Lollipop did it every night to him.

The door banged open and the screen came up.

Red Lollipop says: Hi Finn
big zero says: hey .... I cannot believe what you did in class
Red Lollipop says: Hahaha fooled you huh Finn? Gonna do it?
bigzero says: yeah
Red Lollipop says: You are soooooooo bad, Finn
bigzero says: I know. Maybe I shouldn't
Red Lollipop says: do it go I'll talk 2 u latr good luck

Finn shut down the box, took a deep breath, switched over to his Sex machine ID and added Eli's username that he'd found in the student directory. He half hoped Eli wouldn't have his machine on. He pulled up his choices and clicked on "send a message". Okay, this was it...................

Sex Machine says: Hello Lineman
no response
Sex Machine says: Lineman - talk to me
no response
Sex Machine says: take a chance - talk to me

Finn began to relax. Eli was either not on-line or he was too scared to answer. He started to close down, when suddenly:

Lineman says: Do I know you?
Sex Machine says: no...I got your name from a friend
Lineman says: who?
Sex machine says: secret
Lineman says: c'mon tell me please....Mary Alice? Annie? David? Who?

Finn frowned, who the heck is David?

Sex Machine says: no
Lineman says: I only have one other person on my buddy list, Finn, but he's never talked to me on here. I know you're not him
Sex Machine says: why not?
Lineman says: he's too controlled to give my name out
Sex Machine says: a nice guy, huh?
Lineman says: no, not really...he's a big dumb dope!

Finn's mouth dropped open. A dope? He just called me a dope.

Lineman says: R U a guy?
Sex Machine says: um...yeah
Lineman says: thought so......what do you look like? Are you tall and handsome with ripply muscles...is your name true?

"Shit, he's flirting," Finn groaned.

Sex Machine says: Uh, yeah, that's me......a regular sex machine

Eli choked and spit coke all over his keyboard. "Poor Finn," he sighed. "Here goes."

Lineman says: so, SM, wanna talk dirty?

Finn slammed the dialogue box shut. Eli Corson! wanted to talk dirty to a total stranger. God, Finn was so pissed. This was just enough. He was gonna just go over there and tell Eli how he felt and to hell with the consequences. There was no way he could live with himself if he didn't do it right now.

Pedaling his bike till his legs yelled at him, he threw the bike down in Eli's front yard and started toward the door. Just as he reached to ring the doorbell, he heard a voice through the living room window:

"Oh God, Annie, he called himself Sex Machine.....He couldn't even get the words out. When I said wanna talk dirty, I think he fainted. No........I won't do it anymore. Yeah, I know it's awful, but I had to do something. I really want him to like me.......I don't know what else to do. Yeah, call you later. Night"

Finn backed away from the porch, the shock making him crazy. What a low down rotten mean squirrelly trick. Eli and Annie....all the time it had been the two people who he cared about the most. He was a dope, was he? He fainted, did he? Boy, were they gonna be sorry. Boy, was Eli gonna...................

Wait.......................Eli was Red Lollipop. Finn braked his bike and started walking it, thinking. Eli was Red Lollipop ! He knew he should stay really pissed, but the words Eli had said to Annie came back to him:

"It was awful"
"I had to do something"
"I really want him to like me"
"I don't know what else to do"

Eli liked him!!!!!! Finn tried not to smile, but a grin just tore across his face and soon, he was laughing out loud. Look at all the trouble Eli had gone through to find out how I felt. I was such a dumb jerk. A dope !! He smiled all the way home, planning a sweet little revenge.


The next day at school, Finn oh so innocently, sucked on a red lollipop every time he was around Eli. He made sure he licked it slowly, curling his tongue around the shiny wet candy. He could feel Eli staring at him. He didn't look his way, but instead seemed not to have a care in the world. He could feel Eli questioning him, and he almost gave in, but he really wanted to play this out. Eli had started it. He was gonna finish it, but good. Eli Corson! Red Lollipop !!

10:00, he typed:

bigzero says: RL you there?
Red Lollipop says: hey Finn How'd it go?
bigzero says: not great I froze
Red lollipop says: why Finn?
bigzero says: I thought about it all day. Sucked on a red lollipop. I think I can only talk dirty with you
no response
bigzero says: RL? Where'd you go?
bigzero says: thought that's what you wanted?
Red Loliipop says: what about Eli?
bigzero says: he thinks I'm a dope....didn't exactly make me feel sexy

Finn grinned at the long pause.

Bigzero says: what's wrong?
Red Lollipop says: nothing...I'm here
bigzero says: what do you have on?
Red Lollipop says: um......red boxers and a white tank you?
bigzero says: sweats like before
Red Lollipop says: um, right
bigzero says: R U alone?
Red Lollipop says: um........uhuh
bigzero says: take off your boxers

Long pause - Finn could picture Eli's face

Bigzero says: did you?
Red Lollipop says: gotta go phone call

>SLAM<

Finn sat still. So, he chickened out. Finn couldn't wait to see Eli at school tomorrow.


As soon as Finn walked in Psych class, he knew something was up. Annie was glaring at him and Eli was staring at the floor. When Mr. Heckleman reminded them of their project, now due in a few days, Eli had to speak to Finn.

"Wanna come over to my house and work on the interviews?" Eli asked shyly.

"Can't. I'm busy. I'll IM you my answers, k?" Finn answered. "I'll be on-line tonight if you need my help....................with Psych." He looked at Eli and almost told him the truth. Eli's eyes looked wet.

'I'll end this tonight', Finn promised himself.

10:00

Finn stared at his screen.
Eli stared at his screen.

'I'm so sorry I ever started this,' Eli sighed.
'I'm sorry I ever did this,' Finn sighed.

Finn reached out and clicked on the little yellow AOL guy. The door creaked open.

Bigzero says: hey
Red Lollipop says: hey Finn
bigzero says: I can't talk to you anymore
Red Lollipop says: why not?
bigzero says: I just want to talk to Eli like this. I'm gonna find out tonight if he likes me or not
Red Lollipop says: REALLY???
bigzero says: yeah
Red Lollipop says: you mean talk dirty?
bigzero says: talk at all - he's not talking to me at all
Red Lollipop says: why not?
bigzero says: he tried to be friends or maybe more but I was too scared
Red Lollipop says: Do you want to be friends or more?
bigzero says: oh yeah...............MORE!!!!
Red Lollipop says: good for you Finn Tell me what you feel
bigzero says: I just feel so much....I can't think when I'm around him. I always want to show him...show him...............how much I....
Red Lollipop says: show him what?
bigzero says: I want to be with him
Red Lollipop says: you need to tell him Finn
bigzero says: I know
Red Lollipop says: I wish you luck Finn - I bet you he cares just as much as you do - bye

Finn heard the door slam shut. Now to talk to Eli.

bigzero says: Hey Eli. It's me Finn
Lineman says: Hey Finn
bigzero says: wanna work on the questions?
Lineman says: not really......wanna talk about anything else?
bigzero says: nah........see you tomorrow
Lineman says: okay..........later

Finn wished he'd never asked his parents for this damn machine. One last thing to do. But, before he could find him, the message box pulled up:

Lineman says: hey
Sex Machine says: Hey Eli
Lineman says: I don't want to be rude but I don't want to talk to you
Sex Machine says: why not?
Lineman says: I did something wrong and I have to fix it
Sex machine says: so we can't talk?
Lineman says: no - I'm not what you think
Sex machine says: I guess not - I'm glad - see ya

The screen went blank.


The next day, they avoided each other. Finn even skipped Psych. He'd never done that. Eli felt terrible. He had started it. He knew what he was doing the whole time. Poor Finn! He never knew what hit him. He was gonna be so angry when he found out. He'd probably never speak to him again. Eli was miserable.

Eli never saw Finn all day. Last period was finally over. This had to have been the longest day in Eli's entire life. He'd had a really long talk with himself today and he was gonna go to Finn's house and confess...........Confess and apologize over and over. Finn had to forgive him. The worst part was that Eli knew Finn cared and how much this was hurting him. It was mindboggling that they knew so much about each other, but had never talked about it face to face, never touched, never even smiled the way they both wanted to.

Walking over to his locker to shove his books in one last time, Eli rolled the combination and started to open the door. It was hard to open and he gave it a jerk. When he did, he found red lollipops piled inside the metal cubby. There must have been 100 heart shaped red lollipops tangled in the locker. Resting his head against the locker door, Eli took a deep breath, knowing what he'd find when he turned around.

Feeling the lollipops falling on his sneakers, Eli turned, his eyes searching for Finn. Leaning against the far wall, one eyebrow quirked and a funny look on his face, Finn just jammed his hands in his pockets and waited for Eli to speak.

Eli began to walk toward him, for once not looking right or left, not caring who was watching. Halfway there, Finn pulled a red lollipop out of his pocket, a half grin lighting up his face as he bit his bottom lip.

"Hey, Lollipop,"

Eli gulped. "Hey, Finn."

"I think we have a lot to talk about."

"Yeah."


10:00

Finn says: hey
Eli says: you okay?
Finn says: fine you?
Eli says: yeah I'm good
Finn says: Eli?
Eli says: yeah?
Finn says: Did you mean everything you said?
Eli says: YEAH !!
Finn says: Eli?
Eli says: yeah?
Finn says: what do you have on?
Eli says: my sweats...really
Finn says: Mmmmm
Eli says: what?
Finn says: nothing...just thinking
Eli says: about what?
Finn says: you
Eli says: Finn
Finn says: did you just whisper my name?
Eli says: yes
>>>long pause<<<
Eli says: Finn?
Eli says: Finn?
Eli says: Finn? What's wrong?

He heard a tap on his bedroom window and Finn's face peeking through the glass, his bike, tires still spinning, lying in the grass. Grinning, he walked over and slid the window up.

"Well Hey Finn," he laughed.

Finn blushed, "I just thought I'd IM myself over here cause I want to hear that whisper in person."

********And with that, Finn and Eli clicked off your screens*******

EPILOGUE

Annie and Jeff, Miguel and Dougie all knew about Finn and Eli. Finn had told them all one evening while they sat around with pizza and sodas.

"Guys, I have something to tell you. A few weeks ago, it would have terrified me to say it, but now, I really just really want you to know cause I'm so happy." He reached over and took hold of Eli's hand. "Eli's my boyfriend and I hope you guys can be happy about that with me."

Annie hugged them both, smiling and remembering how much it took to get them where they were. "I think it's great."

Jeff was cool with it. "Whatever you want, dudes. You're still my buds."

Miguel cocked his head to one side. "That means more chicas for me, right?"

Then he laughed and Finn felt more of his fears fall away.

Dougie frowned, "You are two of the eighty seven and three-fifths gay guys at school, right? Man..................We've got 85 left to go. I figure that 3/5 thing's gotta be a joke."

Laughing, they all settled down to watch videos. Still good friends cause really....what difference did it make?


The day of the interview reports dawned clear and bright. So many of the students had learned small quirky things about each other and wanted to share them with the class.

Annie told everyone about Sherrie's freckles on her back that formed the shape of North America.

Jeff shared Jerry's summer camp experience where he kept a live black snake in his locker the entire time and fed it live bugs.

Rob laughed as he told them that all the expensive flowered shirts that George wore were from his grandmother in Hawaii. He wore them so he wouldn't hurt her feelings.

Eli looked at Finn. They smiled. The night before, they'd told Finn's parents and the bottom hadn't fallen out of the world. Eli's mom and dad were wonderful. Just parents who loved their kids no matter what.

Eli told about Finn's trip to the Grand Canyon and how he fell off the mule on the ride down. Finn told about the time Eli hid from his mom in the mall and she called the police and it was a comedy of errors.

They could have stood up in front of the class and said that what they had found out about themselves was that they were both gay, but, like Eli said, that wasn't very interesting. It was like saying that they had both worn braces or had both learned to swim.........cause really, what difference did it make?

Oh, Finn did say that Eli had a very strong craving for red lollipops.

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