Disclaimer: All characters are the intellectual property of the author. This is a work of fiction, any resemblance to real people or places is purely coincidental. Sexual acts between consenting teens and adults, both heterosexual and homosexual, are depicted.

Chapter 1

The alarm was blaring at me. I looked blearily at the clock in the dark, its red letters flashing 4:30 am. I groaned and turned it off. I briefly considered blowing off tryouts today, but then brushed the idea aside. I was determined that high school was going to be different, and the first step in making that happen was to get on the cross country and soccer teams.

In grade school I'd been the butt of every joke. I was the shortest kid in the class, played piano and viola, read more books in a week than most of my classmates read in a year, and I was into running and soccer instead of the all-important sport of football. All were cardinal sins in my former classmates' eyes, and grounds for getting beaten up by the football jocks. The more they taunted and bullied, the more I retreated into books, music and running. They were my escape.

But I was determined that high school was going to be a different story entirely. I had shot up more than six inches in the last year, so I was at long last not the shortest kid in sight.

Try-outs for the cross-country team were this morning and soccer was this afternoon. I was hell-bent on making both teams. After running ten miles a day all summer, my times were pretty good. Even my father seemed happy with them. Running was the one and only thing he and I had in common. He had actually gone to college on a track scholarship before the draft had taken him out of college and to Vietnam. Considering that nothing I had ever done had seemed to meet with his approval before now, I was feeling pretty confident.

I slid out of bed, shivering as the cold air hit my body. It was a balmy August morning outside, but my mother kept the house in the 50's all year. She didn't cope well with heat. It made her tired. I dashed into the kitchen and dumped a roast and fixings into the crock-pot to cook during the day. The only way I'd been able to get my mother to agree to me trying out for the teams was if I agreed to keep up with the house work, no matter what my practice schedule was. My mother wasn't thrilled with the idea of me being out of the house any more than absolutely necessary.

I took a quick shower, threw on running clothes and grabbed the gym bag I'd set out the night before. My mother was blocking the front door with her wheelchair when I entered the living room. The look on her face made it clear just how little she liked the idea of me joining the team.

You're not leaving this house until dinner is started young man,” she snarled.

It's already in the crock pot cooking, mom. I should be back before it's done, but if I'm not all you have to do is scoop it out.” I was trying not to sound annoyed. If she heard even a hint of defiance in my voice, I'd never make it out the door. “Mom, I've really got to get going or I'll miss the bus. Dad will be mad if I don't make it to try-outs.”

I was fervently hoping that her fear of my father's reaction if she was the reason I didn't make the team would overwhelm her own desire to screw this up for me. It seemed to be working. She moved away from the door - and deliberately ran over my foot.

Come right home after those damn try-outs. I'll be calling the coach to make sure you come home on time,” she said without looking at me.

I ran out the door and jogged the mile to the city bus stop. My foot was killing me, but I was determined to ignore it. The bus pulled up just as I arrived and I hopped on. I found a seat in the back and settled back to read for the forty-five minute ride into the city. I changed buses downtown and rode the short distance from the city center to St. Mary's Catholic High School.

I tried to calm my nerves as I walked around the main school building. It had been built nearly a hundred years ago and looked more like a mental hospital than a high school. The building was tall and grey with narrow windows. It wouldn't have looked out of place to see bars on them. The place seemed alive in the way some old buildings do – as if they are watching you. Okay, so maybe I was feeling a bit paranoid.

I was coming to high school from a minuscule little Catholic grade school in the middle of nowhere. There had been fewer than 200 kids in grades K-8. St. Mary's, the nearest Catholic high school, may as well have been on another planet. There were as many people in my freshman class as there had been in my entire school, and it was squarely in the middle of the “big city”. Though not a huge school, it was massive compared to what I was used to. I was hoping that in that mass of new people I'd be able to find some friends. I knew I didn't want anything to do with the people I'd known before.

I found the group of people who were there to try out for cross-country on the grassy field between the main building and the gym. I signed up, and started to stretch. The head coach called everyone over to describe the try-outs. Coach Spitzer, it turned out, was also one of the science teachers. I concluded quickly that the coach was a total nut, but in a nice way. He was what you'd get if you crossed Yosemite Sam from the old Bugs Bunny cartoons with Grover from Sesame Street. If the thought makes your head hurt, you have the right idea. I liked him immediately. He outlined an eight mile circuit for us to run and explained that we'd each be timed. Our times that day would determine if we made the team and if we were going to be junior varsity or varsity. He said that the list would go up right after lunch.

We started our run at seven am sharp. I found myself in the front pack of guys. We were running pretty fast, but I wasn't struggling. I stayed with them the entire run and managed to finish in the top ten. I was pretty sure I'd done well enough to make the team, but was still nervous. I did some stretches to cool down and watched the rest of the runners finish up. There were at least fifty people here for the try-outs, and I was surprised that the number was that high. I'd heard that cross-country and track were a pretty big deal here, but it seemed hard to believe after the scorn they had garnered at my last school.

I found a quiet shady corner to eat my lunch and read while I waited for the locker room to clear out, then ducked in to get a quick shower and change into my soccer clothes. The lists were up by the time I emerged from the locker room, one each for JV and varsity. There were small groups of people huddled around the each. Some were looking elated and some crushed. My stomach clenched as I walked over to look at the JV list. I wanted this so much. I read the list. I wasn't on it. It felt like someone had hit me in the gut. I just stood there reading it over and over again, hoping my name would magically appear on it. I didn't even notice Coach Spitzer standing next to me.

So what size should we order your uniform in?” His voice startled me, and I jumped half out of my skin.

Um, sir, I'm not on the list,” I said.

Not the JV list. You're over there,” he said pointing at the varsity list. “Wait a minute, you didn't check that one did you.”

I shook my head and he just burst out laughing. “I was trying to figure out why you looked like someone just ate your puppy.” he said between cackles. I was still having a hard time reconciling the Grover voice with the 6'7” tall skinny guy who had Yosemite Sam's face, let alone grasp the fact that I had made the varsity team. He took another look at my face and laughed even harder. “Oh, I'm gonna have fun with you. See you at practice tomorrow, kiddo. Be there at eight am sharp!”

Coach Spitzer walked away cackling like a mad man. I blinked after him then finally shook myself out of it and went to look at the varsity list. Part of me was convinced that he must have been joking. He wasn't. Sam Passerello was there, halfway down the page on the left. I'm not sure how long I stood there staring dumbly at the page, but when I finally returned to reality I realized that I'd better get my butt to the soccer field if I wanted to make those try-outs.

I honestly can't remember anything from soccer try-outs; I was so stunned by making the varsity cross-country team that I just sort of floated through. Apparently I did a reasonable job, though, because at the end of try-outs when the coaches announced the freshman team I was on it.

Practices started that week. Cross-country every morning and soccer every afternoon. There wasn't much time to talk to anyone during practice, but everyone seemed nice. I figured we'd end up getting to know each other when we bussed to and from games and meets. A month later when school started I was feeling pretty good about the prospects for high school.

* * * * * * * *

The first day of school I made a quick dash to my locker just as the first bell rang and, after wrangling the lock for a bit, finally got it open and grabbed the books I'd stashed there during orientation. I raced upstairs to my home room on the fourth floor. When I got there, I sat at an empty desk and scanned the room looking for a familiar face - no one I knew was there. I breathed a sigh of relief and looked around again. Apparently, I was the only guy in this part of the alphabet. But hey, at least some of the girls were hot. The typical first day of school announcements and roll call went quickly. The teacher looked as if he'd just walked out of a football ad, but he seemed nice. Fifteen minutes later home room was over. The bell rang and I was off to my first real class.

The classroom was on the top floor of the school, which was two stories above my home room. I thought it would be easy to find, but I quickly discovered the building had been remodeled by a truly sick mind. Tell me: who in the hell builds stairwells that lead to blank walls, turns hallways into classrooms and doesn't number the rooms consecutively? Just what I needed, to be late for my first real class. Seconds before the bell rang I finally found the room and raced in. Everyone turned to look at me. I could feel my face flushing as I looked at a room full of ten jocks and two girls. Great- just great.

I looked around for an empty spot. The room had several long tables with chairs pulled up to them. There was only one seat left. It was next to the biggest guy in the room - obviously a football player. He gave me a lopsided grin as I walked over. I found myself staring dumbly into piercing blue eyes.

You get lost too? It took me forever to find this damn room.” I nodded at him and managed to tear my eyes away long enough to slide into the seat. “My name's Brian.”

Uh, I'm Sam.”

Nice to meet you, Sam I am. So, do you like green eggs and ham?” He gave me that lopsided grin again, and I couldn't help but smile back. I felt myself relaxing just a bit.

Why, is that what they're serving for lunch today?”

Probably worse, at least according to my siblings.”

You have sibs going here?”

Yep. There's ten of us all together. I'm the youngest. My sister Mary is a junior. Everyone else has graduated, but they all swear that the lunch ladies are trying to kill off the students.”

Ten?!” The thought of that many brothers and sisters just blew my mind.

Yep.” He grinned again. “I even like 'em all most of the time. How about you?”

I'm it.”

So my first high school friend is a one-of-a-kind? Cool!”

I couldn't help smiling at him again. I was beginning to think that I could really learn to like this guy when the teacher walked in and started class. As she called roll, I took some time to study Brian. He was a mess; his school uniform was one giant wrinkle, his dishwater blonde hair was standing up in all directions and his tie was crooked. He clearly had a great body that screamed “I play football!” He was confident, but not in the cocky way that some jocks can be. He just seemed totally comfortable with who he was. Maybe it was the goofy grin he seemed to always be wearing. It was tempting to think of him as a “dumb jock”, but there seemed to be more going on in his head than that when I looked in his eyes.

The teacher, Sister Theresa, was a tiny woman. The mounds of fabric from her habit looked like they were about to swallow her. The squeaky voice emanating from the cloth began lecturing on the wonders of learning a second language and the joys of Spanish verbs. Brian and I turned our attention to her lecture as we furiously tried to keep up with the torrent of information she was giving us.

When she dismissed class, Brian turned to me and asked what my next class was. We pulled out our schedules and discovered that the only other class we had together was P.E. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We did have the same blocks free for lunch, though, and our next classes were on the same floor.

Brian turned to me and said, “Want to walk together? That way we can both look for the damn rooms.”

He had that grin on his face again and I found myself grinning back. “Sure, but if you get me totally lost, you have to explain it to my teacher.”

He laughed. “Deal!”

We talked all the way to class, and I felt totally comfortable with this guy. No small feat given the fact that most of my previous interactions with football jocks involved me getting beaten to a pulp. I found myself smiling throughout the next two classes, and I actually looked forward to lunch for the first time ever. I arrived in the cafeteria at lunch time and spotted Brian right away. He was with a group of guys who most certainly constituted half of the freshman football team. Given my track record with football jocks, the prospect of sitting down for lunch with these guys made my stomach clench. It felt a bit like I'd be hanging a sign around my neck saying, ”I like getting the crap beat out of me.” I was about to quietly slip out of the cafeteria when Brian spotted me and waved me over. Before long I'd been introduced to all of his friends. Much to my shock, however, no one seemed to question the presence of the short skinny runner-guy in their group. The guys I'd grown up with would have drop kicked me on sight.

Just as I was starting to relax, a guy named Tom leaned over. “Hey, weren't you at soccer tryouts?” he asked.

Yeah. I'm playing forward this year, and I'm running on the cross country team.” I was still waiting for someone to kick me out of the group, but instead he smiled.

Cool. I tried out, but didn't make the team, so I'm playing football instead.”

Football was your second choice?” I couldn't figure out if this guy was for real.

Well, yeah. I like soccer better, but I'm just not fast enough. The soccer coach always picks the small quick guys for the team – it's just how he likes the team to play and I'm definitely not that. No way I could keep up with the cross-country folks. Only place left for me would be keeper and I suck in that position.”

I must have looked like someone had just slapped me because Brian started laughing. “What's with the look?”

Sorry. At my last school playing anything but football went over like a lead balloon.”

Brian looked at me for a second with a serious look on his face. “Let me guess...St. Anne's?” I nodded. “No offense Sam, but most of those kids are just plain mean. A group of them always tries out for football every year, and they always play dirty. My brothers told me about those guys when they were here, but I didn't believe them until this summer. Most of those guys get over it by their senior year. That had to be a crappy place for you to be.”

I was shocked, and I looked around the table at the other guys who were all nodding their heads in agreement.

Yeah, that's what you get for living in the boonies. All that inbreeding,” Tom grinned at me, and everyone at the table started laughing.

Well, don't ask me why my parents moved there. At least I'm not a native.” I replied.

The rest of lunch was filled with easy banter, and by the end I was feeling pretty good about these guys. They all seemed genuinely nice, and it was the first ray of hope that I'd had in a long time.

* * * * * * * *

Tuesday morning started with P.E. Not exactly my favorite way to begin the day. P.E. teachers always seemed to detest me on sight, and the locker rooms were always a perfect opportunity for someone to “accidentally” knock me around. I couldn't decide whether having Brian there would be a blessing or a curse. On the one hand, having him around might ward off any would be attackers. On the other hand, he might decide that I wasn't enough of a jock to be friends with him. I got to the locker room early, changed into my gym clothes, and was folding my uniform when Brian arrived.

Hey Sam! You're here early. What's with the long sleeve shirt? You're gonna roast.”

I shrugged my shoulders. “Nah, I'm always cold. Comes with being one of those skinny runner types.”

Okay, man. If you get hot I've got an extra t-shirt you can borrow.”

I laughed. “I think I'll pass. As big as you are your shirt would not only still come down to my wrists, but it would come down to my knees as well. Not an improvement! I'll be fine, really, but thanks though.”

You're not that much smaller than I am. You make me sound like some kind of giant oaf!”

Well, you are a football player...I thought the two were synonymous.”

Oooh, big words. You can't scare this football player with vocabulary words mister. Let's see what you've got runner boy. I'll race you to the gym!” With that he took off leaving me to catch up, which I did. Barely.

The P.E. teacher turned out to be my English teacher and the wrestling coach. Mr. O'Leary seemed like a decent guy. He cracked weird jokes and told wresting stories throughout class. For the first time ever I got through a P.E. class without hearing a single disparaging remark. Now I just needed to get through the showers.

I discovered, much to my relief, that the showers were semi-private. I raced through my shower and into my uniform before most of the guys were even undressed. I was tying my shoes when Brian meandered out of the shower with just his boxers on. “Hey wait up for me and I'll walk with you to the main building.”

Sure thing.”

Just give me a sec. I need to check my blood sugar. You're not squeamish, are you?” Brian said as he plopped down on the bench next to me.

Not hardly. Blood sugar?”

Yeah, I'm diabetic. Exercise can really do a number on my blood sugar. It makes an excellent excuse to munch on things in class.” He grinned up at me again and we continued with idle chatter while he checked his blood sugar and then climbed haphazardly into his uniform.

I couldn't suppress a grin when he stood up.

What?” he asked.

You might want to cruise past the mirrors before we leave.”

Nah. I'll just look like I was in a tornado five minutes from now anyway.” He grinned at me and we set off for class. I couldn't help but marvel at his nonchalance.

We agreed to meet up again for lunch as we went to our separate classes. At lunch, the talk at the table was about who everyone was taking to Homecoming. While none of the guys were varsity, they were all expected to attend. Brian nudged me with his elbow. “So, who are you asking?”

Me? Probably no one. There's no way in hell I'd take one of the girls from my old school, and I don't know anyone else.”

Man, you've gotta go. We're all going to go in a big group so no one feels awkward if their date turns out to be a total waste. You should come with us.”

Brian, I'm not a football player. Who's gonna go with me? Hello!...scrawny nerd boy here.”

Sam, you've gotta get over this inferiority thing. Football isn't the big deal here that it was at your old school. Honestly, cross-country is probably a much bigger deal. Besides, according to my sister you could ask just about any of the girls on the cross-country team out and they'd go with you.”

I nearly choked. “What do you mean according to your sister?!”

Brian laughed at me. “Mary's on the team. You didn't tell me you made varsity your first year out. My sister said, and I quote, 'He seems really nice even if he is awfully quiet, and damn he's cute,' “ Brian said in a falsetto while batting his eyes at me. He looked like he'd just been possessed by Betty Boop. I could feel myself blushing a very deep shade of crimson.

There is no way your sister said that. There's only one Mary on the team and I seriously doubt she knows I'm alive. She certainly wouldn't say that.”

Okay, maybe she didn't put it quite like that, but she does know you're alive, and she did say that you were both nice and cute.”

I grimaced. “Man, babies are cute. Puppies are cute. Saying I'm cute isn't quite a compliment.”

From her it is," Brian said, grinning at me. “So, you gonna ask her?” he asked while he elbowed me and wagged his eyebrows salaciously at me.

No way in hell am I asking a junior to the dance. I'd be the butt of every joke for the next four years!”

Brian studied me for a second. He had this really serious look on his face that I couldn't quite figure out. He looked me right in the eye and held my gaze. “Look man, I'm not trying to tease you. Okay, I am teasing you, but Mary really does like you. When I mentioned you last night she was really excited that we were becoming friends. My sister and I are really close. She'd already mentioned this new guy named Sam on the team a couple of times before school even started. She really does like you. I'm sorry I brought it up here.”

I felt like a total idiot for overreacting. I also felt like he'd seen far more than I'd wanted him to when he was looking in my eyes. How the hell could he read me so well?

I broke his gaze and looked at my shoes. “It's okay. I just overreacted.”

Nah, it's okay. No one likes to be teased. No pressure where my sister is concerned either. I'd like to see her go with someone decent, and I think you two would get along. If you aren't interested it's really no big deal.” Brian was looking sincerely apologetic.

I honestly never even considered it,” I said, “She's too pretty to really be in my league.”

Modesty will get you nowhere, mister. If you hurt her, though, I'll have to kick your ass. But then again, I wouldn't have told you she was interested if I thought you'd hurt her. Besides, if you ask her, then she can drive us. No parents,” Brian said as he grinned at me, then rejoined the discussion with the rest of the table regarding who the other guys were going to ask to the dance.

I tuned them out and tried to sort out what was going on. I found it hard to believe that Mary, one of the prettiest girls in the school, would want to go anywhere with me. Not only was she a junior, but from what I had seen she was also one of the nicest and smartest girls in the school. I couldn't see any reason why Brian would have lied to me though. All I could think was that he must have misunderstood her somehow. That or he was trying to pull a practical joke on me, but he'd just reassured me that he wasn't. When the bell rang I was so lost in thought that I didn't even hear it until Brian slapped my shoulder.

I returned to reality to find Brian grinning down at me. “Have I created a monster? You aren't busily mooning over Mary are you?”

I blushed again and tried to cover it by slapping his shoulder. “Nope. I figure you'd kick my ass if I mooned her.” Brian and I laughed and headed to class.

* * * * * * * *

That afternoon at cross-country practice I found Mary. She was very pretty with shoulder length auburn hair and blue eyes like Brian's. She was tiny, only 5'1” and built like a runner. It was hard to believe that she and Brian were siblings. I'd certainly noticed her before, but I'd been far too shy to talk with her. I figured I didn't really have much to lose if she blew me off, so I walked over to talk with her while we warmed up. “So, I hear you've been spilling all of my secrets to your brother.”

Oh boy. What did Max say now?” she said, sounding exasperated.

Max?” I said, confused.

Yep. That's what we all call Brian because he is always getting into something, like the kid from “Where the Wild Things Are. I swear he was born to make mischief.”

Where the Wild Things Are?”, I asked, feeling even more confused.

She looked at me like I'd just sprouted horns. “You didn't read it as a kid? How could you miss that one?”

Sorry. My parents didn't really read to me much, and when I learned to read I pretty much picked up whatever was around. That meant that I read whatever my parents were reading.”

You're kidding. No wonder you're so serious. You have a new assignment. I'm bringing in a children's book a day all season and you have to read them all, starting with Where the Wild Things Are.” I stared at her for a second trying to figure out if she was actually going to try to make me read a children's book a day. She was grinning at me like the cat that had just eaten the canary. Apparently Brian wasn't the only one with a wacky sense of humor in this family.

You're serious, aren't you.”

Absolutely.” She grinned at me and I felt my heart do a flip-flop. I could feel a blush creeping up my cheeks.

Well, um, I guess we'd better start our run,” I said as I turned to leave.

See you after!” she called after me.

I started my run and tried to gather my wits about me. Running always cleared my head. By the time I finished I thought I might just be able to face Mary again without turning bright red-- maybe. I headed to the showers and quickly got dressed. I wanted to catch the earliest bus possible or I wouldn't get home until well after dark. That would irritate my parents, and I didn't want them to decide I couldn't be on the team any more.

When I came out Brian was sitting with his sister just outside the locker room. “Hey man!" he said. "I was hoping you hadn't left yet. Want to come over this weekend? I figured we could head to my house Friday after we're both done with practice and maybe you could spend the night. Mary said she'd drop you off at your house Saturday evening.”

I wasn't entirely sure what to think of Brian's invitation. I hadn't exactly had social events overflowing my calendar up to this point. I was getting the distinct impression that Brian made friends with everyone he encountered though, and I was pretty certain that he had declared me his new favorite stray. Spending part of the weekend with him, and with Mary, sounded pretty appealing when compared to my home life, so I figured why not.

Let me check with my parents. It's anyone's guess what they'll say, but if they agree, sure.”

Great!” he said.

See you tomorrow Mary,” I said to his sister. “See you tomorrow Max,” I said to him, and grinned at the shocked look on Brian's face.

You are going to pay for this big time Mary!” Brian picked her up and threw her over his shoulder as she squealed and laughed.

Really now. What are you going to make me do little bro?”

You're driving me and my date for Homecoming,” Brian said while he spun Mary around. He was looking pretty pleased with himself.

Well you'd better talk your buddy over there into going with me, then, because I'm not spending the whole night watching you smooch with your date.” Mary looked up at me and blushed, then looked back down at the ground. Had I just been asked out by Mary?

So how about it Sam. Do you think you could be seen in public with her ugly ass?” Brian said, still holding Mary up in the air.

Her? Definitely. It's you I'm not so sure about.” I smiled up at Mary and felt a blush creeping up my face.

Brian put Mary down and turned to me. “Good, now I just need to find a date myself.” He was grinning like a little kid in a candy store, and was obviously pretty happy with this little turn of events. “So, how about you return the favor and get Jennifer in our Spanish class to ask me to the dance?” he said to me.

Sorry man, you're on your own. I gotta catch this bus. See you tomorrow!” I ran to catch the bus before it pulled away. I couldn't stop grinning all the way home.

* * * * * * * *

The next day at practice Mary pulled me aside. She looked pretty nervous. “You know Sam, you don't have to go with me if you don't want to. I kind of put you on the spot yesterday. I'm not sure what got into me,” she said with a nervous laugh, “I'm not usually that forward.”

I could feel my heart sinking. Of course she hadn't been serious about going to the dance with me. God, I'm an idiot. “It's okay. I knew you wouldn't want to go with a freshman,” I said trying not to sound upset.

Mary looked confused for a second, then started giggling. “Brian was right. He said you wouldn't think I was serious unless I told you flat out I wanted to go with you. For the record, Sam, I would really like to go with you, but I don't want you to feel obligated because I'm Brian's sister or something.”

I was staring at her with what I'm sure was a totally dumbstruck look. “Really? I mean, no, that's okay.” I saw her face fall and realized that she thought I was calling it off. “Wait, that didn't come out right. I mean I'd really like to, er, would you go to Homecoming with me?” I'd said it all in a rush so it took her a second to figure out what I'd said.

Then she grinned up at me. “I'd love to, Sam.”

* * * * * * * *

Homecoming rolled around faster than I thought possible. I planned to stay at Brian's that weekend to make it easier for everyone. Mary was indeed going to be our driver for the night, and we were going to borrow their parents van and pick up Tom and his date as well. That Friday we all went to an early dinner together while waiting for the big game to start.

Tom and Brian had both asked freshmen girls, and while both were nice enough, neither of them held a candle to Mary. In the two weeks since we had all agreed to attend the dance together, she and I had talked every day. We met every day before cross-country practice, and I would wait for her to finish, usually missing the early bus. My parents weren't happy about me arriving home well past dark every night, but it didn't matter. I had a permanent smile plastered on my face.

After dinner we headed over to the football game and cheered ourselves hoarse. Our team lost miserably, but we had fun anyway. Afterwards, we headed to Brian and Mary's house to change for the dance. Tom and I got our suits on quickly, then we helped Brian look presentable. Tom and I knew it wouldn't last long, but at least Brian wouldn't look rumpled for a few minutes. Once the three of us were all decked out in our finest we settled in to wait for the girls. They emerged from Mary's bedroom an hour later. An hour. Don't ask me how it took an hour but it was well worth the wait. Mary was the last one out of the room, and she positively took my breath away. She was pretty even under normal circumstances, but that night she was stunning. I heard a gasp and realized it was me. Brian looked over at me grinning.

So you think my sister is hot, huh?” He and Tom laughed at the look on my face. Mary came over to stand next to me.

Well, obviously he does boys. He has good taste too.” She grinned at me as I tried to stammer out a response.

Come on, lets get the flower thing over with and head to this dance.”

I found myself giving a silent prayer of thanks to Brian's mom for suggesting a corsage that Mary could wear on her wrist as I watched Tom wrestle with the pin on his date's corsage. We were all concerned that he was going to stab her to death before he managed to get it on her. Finally, in exasperation, his date asked Mary to fasten it.

We took the obligatory pictures with Brian's family and headed to the dance. The outside of the ancient gymnasium had been decorated in the school colors of blue and white. A local radio station had provided a DJ for the dance and the music was filtering out into the night as we approached the entrance to the gym. Mary was on my arm and I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.

She and I danced almost every dance, talking the whole time. I felt my nervousness melting away. Talking with Mary was just easy. Hours flew by without either of us noticing. Suddenly the DJ was announcing the final dance and she and I were off to find the rest of our group. We all piled into the van and headed back to Brian's house. I thought Brian and Tom would spend the night teasing me about Mary, but we were all exhausted and fell asleep as soon as we hit our sleeping bags.