Call me old fashioned, but I think it's really weird that on the weekends, when my best mate has run out of things to do and is in one of his stupid moods - the kind that make him set fire to his arm hair with his pocket lighter when he's drunk, do eyeball shots of vodka and get into fights with total strangers (he's got a lot of anger bubbling under the surface) - it strikes him as a really great idea to come into my room, make a total nuisance of himself trying to distract me from the essay I really have to write, then sign up to some random chat site to convince some poor sod that he's a sixteen year old virgin cheerleader from South California.

36, 23, 34. Blonde, of course. Blue eyes. Probably a Catholic school girl. Just about the exact opposite of him.

I'm betting she's a model this week. Maybe she's related to Barbie.

Reasons all this is a very bad idea (like anyone apart from him needs this spelled out)?

Let's start with the obvious, shall we? We're both male.

And twenty.

And British, living in the UK, which is probably about as far away from Southern California as you could get. Maybe I'm paranoid, but when your IP address doesn't match the country you're claiming to be from, your lie is already on dodgy ground. Not to mention that neither of us have ever been there, so if gets asked questions about his local area, he's a bit stuck.

Not that I'm seriously worried about that. He's selling himself as the perfect little chunk of Page Three goodness. I seriously doubt anyone's going to talk to him about the local sites.

This brings me onto the thing that really bothers me about this. He's not even gay. Why the hell does he want to con a guilable teenage boy into thinking he's romantically interested? I mean, I know Craig's weird, but Jesus.

I don't understand it. What does he get out of this?

Because he seems to get something out of it. I've been sat here for two hours now watching him cyber-flirt, LOLing all over the place. Defying all of my experiences of the internet and chat sites in general, ScotchGuard150 is attempting an actual conversation. It didn't even start with those godawful letters ASL? And Craig's fingers are clattering over the keys just about as fast as he can manage.

Does this count as Grooming? I think he might be Grooming.

He's so going to get caught and hauled in by the cyber police for being a paedophile, because everyone lies on the internet, which probably means that ScotchGuard150 is fourteen at the most. Except hewon't, because it's mycomputer he's not the gay one. Why the hell would he want to chat up teenage boys?

And then they'll find all that really dodgy porn that he downloads on my computer to gross me out and laugh at, and it'll really start to look bad. I mean, what kind of sicko actually gets off on animal porn? But it's not like the 'oh funny story - Craig, have you met Craig? - sends me these links. Yeah. Not mine,' excuse is going to sound remotely plausible. 'I don't enjoy it. No, really. Honestly. Definitely don't like the snuff film either. Yeah... ok, the firemen are mine. And the cartoon cat-boys... No, I would definitely say they're over the age of consent. They're just... thin.'

I can just see that going down like a lead baloon. 'Fourteen year old boys are thin too, aren't they Mr Creevy?'

I'd have some Judge John Deed type come down on me so hard that I'd just go to pieces and admit everything, completely convinced by their logic that it was just one small step away from my demented, anime cat-boy fantasies, a tiny little leap for my twisted mind to make, and that's why I babysit my neighbour's kid every summer, even though I have never, never even thought about having sex with anyone even close to under age, unless I was the same age.

Except maybe Tom Daley. Oh my God. There is no way he's fifteen. That is not a fifteen year old's body. It just isn't. And I bet they'd bring that up against me too. Like flash photos of him at me and wait for a reaction. That's entrapment, though, right? Yeah. That's entrapment. They can't do that.

Craig leans back, hands behind his head, fingers knitting on the rounded part of his scalp.

"Dogs or cats?"

"Cats. What - what?"

"He wants to know whether Yasmin likes dogs or cats. C-a-t-s. Man, I need to learn to type faster."

"Wait - what? Why are you telling him what I think?"

Craig shrugs again. "You're nearly a girl. Come on - channel Elton, give me some rambling about kittens. Think pink fluffy thoughts."

You'd think I'd have better things to do with my time than watch him doom me to life imprisonment and the sex offenders register.

Like I said, you'd think that.

"I'm not helping you with your evil plan. And, what? How many times have I told you about the Elton Bloody John jokes? I swear to God Craig. He's not even dead. How am I nearly a girl? Go on - explain it to me. I see no breasts, do you see breasts?"


I glare, still kind of fuming from my rant and Craig laughs swinging back and forwards on his swivel chair. Myswivel chair. He does that a lot. So many things he could say right now. One thing I win at is suicide in arguments - I line myself up to get slaughtered without fail. Always realise what I've said just too late.

"Say it and die."

So now you're thinking I'm fat. You're thinking I'm a total lard-arse with proper full-on moobs, even though I was talking about the girl bit, because he always, always makes out that being gay is exactly the same as being female and it just... Ugh. You know? It's like those guys at parties who think it's funny to decide which dress I'd look best in, as modelled by some unrealistically attractive girl they're never going to score with. And use it as some kind of twisted ice-breaking, hitting on them technique. Hahaha, Phil in a dress. Hahaha.

Yeah, ok, so that's Craig too.

I'm his 'Ugly Friend'. I'm not having a pity party - that's just the name for it. I don't think I'm ugly- plain, sure, but ugly's special. Ugly's like The Beast or something. Ugly's scary. The 'Ugly Friend' is just the one you take out when you go on the pull, to improve your chances. If you took someone totally minging, you'd only look like an arsehole, because the ploy would be obvious. I'm a good choice, because even allowing for warped taste on the girl's part, I am never going to be a threat, and I don't complain about it. I specialise in tagging along.

As you might be able to tell, I'm not a great fan of 'the gay scene' right now and if I'm going out, chances are it'll be with Craig, so I don't really mind. Being a mascot's ok. Could be worse. Don't ask how.

Craig hits a few more letters on the keyboard, attention back to the screen. "...Coming to the gym wouldn't hurt."

"Oh, cheers Craig. You can fuck right off."

He's right though. I kind of do have moobs at the moment. Not huge ones. I'm just a bit softlately. Because I comfort eat, my ex deserves to be impaled on rusty iron railings and left to die, and cheesecake loves me. Well-fitting t-shirts do not. Who'd have thunk it?

"I'm just saying..."

I've never been the svelte type. I'm the brick-shit-house kind. You know what I mean? Compact, kind of square. Broad shoulders, not much neck. I've never been anywhere near hench, but when I stop working out, my stomach and chest muscles go into hiding under an insulation layer pretty damn quickly. Blubber. That sounds so horrible - like I'm a whale. It's not even that much. I just should do some sit-ups or something. Pump some iron. But, yeah, first I was wallowing, and then I was lazy, and now I'm just apathetic, because screw other gay men - they're all vain and petty and I don't bloody want one because they're arseholes (healthy attitude I have there, hey?). At least, I wasapathetic, until Craig implied I have breasts. He's such a dick.

Way to totally harpoon my already minimal self esteem.

God, Iwouldn't shag me right now. Right now I'd be bloody lucky to have some straight fourteen year old wet-dreaming about me as an American cheerleader.

That's so wrong on so many levels.

"Anyway... I need a smoke. Talk to Scotty for me."

"What - what? No! I'm not pretending to be bloody Yasmin."

Craig gets up from the desk chair, already fidgety, digging in his pocket for his fag packet. I know smoking's bad for you, and I try to get Craig to quit all the time, but sometimes, he really looks like he needs to light up, and then afterwards he's fine. I guess that just proves how addictive it is.

"Whatever. Don't then. Jesus. Just leave him drifting away in cyberspace, being all teenage and depressed, thinking he's just been rejected. Maybe he'll slit his wrists. He's into Emo stuff. Your call. He's boring me now anyway."

He shrugs a bit and walks out of my bedroom, padding along to the kitchen, because that's the window he always smokes out of.

He is such a dick.

"I have an essay to write Craig! For Monday."

"Better get on with it then!"

Oh, yeah. Just ignore the suicidal kid. Great plan.

In other news today, the body of a teenage boy was discovered late this afternoon by his parents. It appeared that young ScotchGuard had been suffering from depression for several months and an abruptly ended instant message conversation, still evident on his open computer screen, proved to be the last straw. Experts have traced the IP address of the person he was talking to, only to find that he had a lucky escape from an internet paedophile posing as a sixteen year old girl. Police are in the process of making an arrest.

Knowing my luck lately, it could happen.

The tree branch that nearly touches my bedroom window moves in the breeze, tapping against the glass and I jump about a foot. Stupid damned police-imitating tree.

I glare at the computer screen, flashing away because of the unanswered message.

Honest to God, I don't know why I'm friends with Craig at all. That poor kid. My poor essay. All he ever thinks about is himself.

I huff, tapping my highlighter on the surface of the photocopy I was scanning for suitable quotes, and then, predictably, cave.

I heave myself up from where I was crashed out on top of my mattress and wander over to the screen.

Hello? Are you still there? The screen flashes rather desperately. I sigh and slump down in the swivel chair.

He types in full sentences - thank God for small mercies.

Hi, I type, then stare at the word. It seems a bit lacking. Yasmin left.

Oh way to be less blunt and rejecting, Phil. She had to go somewhere. Sorry.


Nothing jumps back at me for a little while. The pause is a bit awkward. I don't know what to say, because I really don't want to flesh out Craig's lie anymore.

So... Who are you?

Oh God. Who am I? I mean, who do I tell him I am? Honesty's good. Right? Except not so much on the internet. Oh screw that. I'm the older one, unless he really is sixty and slathering.

Phil. I'm her friend.


That makes me snort. Hell no.

Why not? What's wrong with her?

Apart from being the illicit brain-child of my best friend and his hangover cure (half a six pack of Pepsi, a kebab and a joint of some kind)?

I grimace a bit. That thing about everyone on the internet lying? I have problems with it. Truth flows out of me in an unstoppable geyser. I can't even give the wrong 'phone number to guys I don't like, unless I am seriously prepared beforehand. Possibly that goes some way to explaining the string of subhuman boyfriends, culminating in He Who Shall Not Be Named. Evil Incarnate.

She's a she. Which stretches the truth slightly, but it gets my point across rather neatly.

Oh, Dude.

What - what? Is that pity? I tell him I'm gay and he acts like it's a shame? Screw this little git. You're Scottish. You can't pull off 'Dude'.

Oh wow, Phil. Is that seriously the best you've got? Insulting his word choices. He's fourteen (probably) for Christ sake!

Actually, I'm not. I just spill stuff a lot. So, you're kind of bitter. Thought California was all chilled.

Oh bloody brilliant. Sorry Craig, I'm not keeping this charade up – can't do it. I'm British.

Explains a lot. What you doing over there?

Oh good. Nice and vague. I can do vague. No outright lying involved. This is like some kind of test - bore the guy rigid with the truth. That way, he'll leave first and I won't have to feel guilty when he tops himself. Not that he will; I'm sure he won't. Studying.

A-levels suck, right? Or are you doing the Bac?

What is this guy? Human Twenty Questions? I'm at Uni.

There's a longer pause, and I think I've won - made him run away.

So... why are you hanging out with a 16 year old?

I could just exit the window. He doesn't seem that depressed. But I don't like that tone. He's making odd assumptions about me. I can feel it through the ether.

I'm not.

Um? Dude? Either you're using Yasmin's computer, or you have too many people living in your head. You know what I'm saying?

I scowl at his smart-arsey words.

I'm friends with Craig. He's my age.

Who's Craig?

Who the hell is Craig? Think, Phillip - think!

Her brother. That makes sense. It's coherent. It could be true.

Oh God. I just told my first internet lie. This feels like the beginning of something a little sticky in a way I wouldn't usually associate with cyberspace. Should I keep a notebook? This is going to get so tangled so quickly.

Wait – wait. Why am I acting like I'm going to keep talking to this guy? One conversation, make sure he's not going to top himself, I do my essay, everything goes back to normal. Next weekend, I lock Craig out of my room. Simple as.

You ask a lot of questions.

Oh God. I really don't help myself. It would have died. It was happy dying.

Meh. You're interesting.

Interesting? What's he on? I've barely given more than one word answers. Speaking of which, why exactly am I still talking to him? That essay really needs doing. I should blank him out and hope he just gives up. Let's ignore the fact that I am Procrastination King.


Seriously. Any guy who goes to the trouble of making up some slut-girl girl, just to talk to a guy, then completely pussies out of the whole act and admits to being a gay guy anyway has got to have something interesting going on in his head. I mean, man, itsays which country you're in.

Oh shit.

Craig is such a dick. I bet he knew. I so bet he knew he knew. ScotchGuard doesn't miss much. Maybe he's not fourteen. If he's fourteen, I feel very stupid. I am totally rumbled.

Are you forty? That wouldn't be so cool.

I grit my teeth. Do I sound forty? Do I communicate like a middle-aged man? Maybe I should add that to my list of attributes. Kind of pudgy, plain as paper, boring and old. Possibly stupid. This is not going so well.

It was Craig. Craig hijacked my computer and spunked up Yasmin.

Oh, graphic Dude. Way too much information.

I grimace, because, actually I don't want that image either. I suicide in arguments, I also inflict horrible mental images on myself. I am all win.

Yeah, well. I've got work to do. Because I'm mature, and serious and care about my studies and this is just wasting time and he's clearly not suicidal, Craig is just a bastard. Bye.

I click the red x, but a final message springs up before it collapses into nothing.

Whatever. Talk later, Paedo Guy.

It's then that my suspicious side kicks in. I'm out of my chair and storming towards the kitchen faster than I realise. Craig is such a dick.

"If you gave my email address out to that weirdo twelve year old, I'm going to put your nuts through the garlic pressCraig! Do you hear me?"

Oh, wow. Who knew I was so angry? My guess, it's been building for a while. He Who Shall Not Be Named is an epic wanker.

Craig flicks ash out of the window from what looks like his second chain-smoked fag, if the crushed butt in the soil of the Aloe Vera plant pot is anything to go by, and looks up at me. He's in his usual smoking position – window wide open, feet in the empty sink, perched on the ledge.

"Chill out Elton. You can block him."