The Secret Sex Life of Henry Gould

Henry thought Jack was better than most of the guys who had wandered into (and then out of) his mother's life. Jack didn't smack his mother around like some of the others or insult or abuse Henry either. The new guy didn't scream and yell, threaten or control.

As far as Henry could tell, Jack was an okay guy who liked his mother, a single mom struggling with addiction and alcoholism, usually depressed and challenged to keep a job. As far as Henry could tell, his mother was never happy. She was usually angry or sad and she had a knack for starting fights with whichever guy she happened to be with that week.

Henry's mother also lacked standard mothering skills (Henry often played the parent role) but Henry loved her just the same. Henry knew his mom tried hard so he was willing to overlook her faults, mistakes, bad choices and often appalling behaviour because he knew his mother was all he had in his life.

Henry never knew his father who was long gone when his mother was still pregnant with him. Her family kicked her out of the house for running with the wrong crowd and making bad choices, one of which ended up being Henry. His mom mostly depended on the kindness (and patience) of friends, co-workers, and men she met. She worked as a cocktail waitress, stripper, and bartender along the way, bouncing from job to job, town to town, state to state, and man to man.

Henry was in the sixth grade when Jack came into their lives. By then, Henry had attended seven different schools so making friends was not something that came easily or even interested him much.

As long as Henry had a good book to read he was contently happy. He was reading at a high school level by fourth grade and by the time he reached middle school he had already polished off most of the classics. For Henry, it was easier to escape into a good novel or historical biography than to deal with his mother's ongoing soap operas.

Henry lost count of the number of apartments (and trailers) he had lived in. There were times when he and his mom lived in somebody's cellar or back room when things were tough and they were always moving in (and eventually) out of various men's homes. Henry was used to living out of suitcases and not having his own bed for very long.

At first, Jack was just another in an endless procession of guys in his mother's life. Henry didn't pay much attention to such fellows because he knew they were terminal as far as how long they lasted in his life. His mother would have some sort of fight, or do something horrible or unforgivable, and she and Henry would be asked to leave (or be thrown out on their asses). Other times, Henry's mother would realize that she had hooked up with a particularly dangerous loser or psychopath and she would be the one who escaped the abusive relationship with Henry in tow.

Henry and his mother were living in a fleabag old motel in Miller City for eighty bucks a week when Jack entered their lives. Henry's mother had been seeing Jack for more than a month when Henry finally met him. Henry's mother brought her son to Johnny C's Diner in Hillsboro where a grinning Jack was waiting in a booth. He was pleasant enough, younger than most of the men Henry's mother previously 'dated'. Jack had a good sense of humour and he was friendly, polite and actually interested in Henry's opinion as the three conversed over supper.

From what Henry could tell, his mother really liked Jack (Henry had the suspicion that his mom was simply using most of the men she was with). Henry hadn't seen his mother looking so happy and relaxed in a long time. Because of that, Henry didn't mind so much when Jack dropped by the fleabag motel to take them out for a burger or cone. Henry long ago figured out that most of the guys who 'dated' his mother were fakes who really didn't care about her and even less about him. But Henry could tell that Jack was genuine in his attitude and that made the new guy okay in Henry's book. Jack was the first guy who asked what Henry was reading whenever he showed up for a visit.

Jack was a couple of years younger than Henry's mother but so much more mature and while Henry couldn't figure out why a guy like Jack was interested in a woman like his mother he wasn't going to complain about the unexpected turn of events. About a month after Jack started showing up on a regular basis, Henry's mom announced that they were leaving the fleabag motel for good and moving in with Jack in his apartment in Hillsboro. Henry rarely questioned his mother when it came to their comings and goings because it wasn't as if he had a choice anyway.

Jack's apartment was definitely a step up improvement, a spacious, multi-windowed three bedroom place on the second floor of an old Victorian in a nice neighborhood of Hillsboro. Henry liked the view from his room and he was impressed that Jack had a large living room bookcase full of books.

Jack worked as a Heating and Cooling Technician and he spent some of his summer evenings playing amateur baseball in what they called the Serguci League at nearby Beano Field. Henry was never into sports but his mother brought him to several Serguci games to watch Jack play with the Beansboro Beansters. Jack was a right fielder and Henry studied up on the game to be able to understand what was going on when he sat in the stands with his mother watching Jack play.

Henry noticed quite a change in his mother's outlook, attitude, and behavior once Jack came into her life. She was working at the much more respectable Bullpen Tavern (at Beano Field) instead of her usual tittie bars and other drives. She was drinking less. She was happier and more grounded. She seemed to be enjoying a relatively normal relationship with Jack who didn't get caught up in the usual drama Henry's mother was capable of creating.

Jack paid attention to Henry, taking him on the job one day to show him what he did for a career and offering the youngster advice and insight when asked but also giving Henry the space to be his own person.

"I'm not your old man, Henry," Jack told him early on. "I can be your friend and hopefully a mentor but not much else."

Jack was the first guy who brought Henry and his mother to a family function. Most 'suitors' kept Henry and his mother under wraps and at an arm's length, rarely introducing them to other people but Jack was happy to be seen in public with Henry and his mom, almost as if he was showing them off.

Henry and his mom attended Jack's family Fourth of July barbeque and Henry realized that he had seen some of the family at Beano Field watching Jack play ball. Henry's mom probably would have fit in better if she didn't have so many tattoos on her arms and neck and if the look on her face didn't convey that she had just stolen money from every person there.

The family welcomed Jack's new friends with smiles and warm greetings and Henry was amazed at how much of a close knit clan Jack's family was as a cohesive unit. Henry and his mom met Jack's extended family – his parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, including Reagan who was Henry's age, quite attractive and appealing.

Reagan was wearing denim bib overall shorts over a white tee shirt. Her long black hair was pulled back in two pigtails. She had more freckles than Henry could count. She approached Henry fifteen minutes after his arrival. He didn't know anybody but he didn't want to tag after his mother and Jack like some little needy kid so he stood off by himself by the potato chip table eating Doritos.

"Hi," Reagan said with a grin. "I'm Reagan Sinclair. Jack's my Uncle."

"Oh," Henry said, trying to look personable and sociable. "Hello."

"Jack said you could use a friend," Reagan remarked.

"Oh?" Henry replied, feeling slightly offended. "What, did he pay you to be nice to me?"

"Pay me?" Now it was Reagan's turn to be offended. "What kind of shallow jerk do you take me for?"

Henry wasn't sure how to respond.

"Listen, kid, I already have plenty of friends and relatives," Reagan snapped. "I really don't need any more if you're not interested. You can just stand here all day by yourself stuffing your face with potato chips if that's what makes you happy."

Henry stared at Reagan with a dumbfounded look on his face. He hadn't met very many girls in his life but this Reagan Sinclair person was definitely the most interesting he'd ever encountered.

"I think what my Uncle meant was that you're new around here and don't know anybody," Reagan said, calmer now. "The Codys and Sinclairs can be kind of intimidating and overwhelming when you first meet us. I'm guessing Jack wanted you to fit in. Do you want to fit in with me or not?"

"Sure," Henry agreed. "I'd like to fit in with you."

"Good," She said, grabbing his hand and dragging him toward the rest of the cousins. "What's your name?" She wanted to know.

"Henry."

"Henry what?"

"Henry Gould," he answered.

"Gould?" Reagan frowned. "Oh now, that won't do. From now on, you're Goulden."

"Like the mustard?" Henry wondered.

"More like Golden," Reagan explained.

From that moment on, Henry Gould was fascinated by the girl named Reagan Sinclair. Of course, Henry's social skills were muted and limited but he was drawn into the various cousin activities. It felt good to be part of a family for the first time ever as he played volleyball and horseshoes and hung out with a group of kids outside of school.

"How many tattoos does your mother have, exactly?" Reagan asked Henry at one point as they sat on the stone wall in the back yard watching Jack and Henry's mom socializing together

"I don't know, exactly," Henry confessed. "A lot, I guess."

"She's not like most moms I know," Reagan decided.

"Probably not," Henry agreed.

"Oh well, Jack seems to like her," Reagan observed.

"He does," Henry confirmed.

When it was time for Henry to leave, Reagan made sure she said goodbye.

"You'll be back for our family Labor Day bash at the end of the summer, right Goulden?"

"I hope so," Henry said.

Henry continued seeing some of Jack's family members at Beano Field and he made a point of saying hello, especially if they said hello first. A couple of times, Henry even sat with Reagan and some of her cousins watching Jack play ball.

The few fights Henry overheard his mom having with Jack centered around his family with her complaining that the "Cody Clan" as she put it looked down on her and Henry, considering them poor white trailer trash.

"Did anybody say such a thing to you?" Jack wanted to know.

"No, but I can tell," Henry's mom argued.

From what Henry could see, Jack's family treated his mother and him just fine. Reagan's Mom was Jack's older sister Becky and it was clear that Becky adored Jack and supported whatever he was interested in, including Henry and his mother. What Becky and the rest may have thought about Henry and his mom behind their backs was out of Henry's control so why not enjoy the ride being part of Jack's family while it lasted? Henry knew nothing lasted very long when it came to his mother's life so even though he liked Jack, his family, and that girl Reagan he still maintained his emotional distance.

Jack brought Henry and his mom to the family's Labor Day bash which went down pretty much the same as the Fourth of July celebration and Henry was happy to see Reagan again.

"Goulden!" Reagan exclaimed as she rushed up to him, grabbed him by the hand and dragged him off to play Volleyball, horseshoes and other games.

Henry found himself in a new school once again when the school year started – Hillsboro Middle School, along with Reagan and a couple of other of Jack's nieces and nephews. It felt good to at least know a few familiar faces at his new school and Reagan was nice enough to show Henry around and give him tips about the school culture and kid codes.

Henry was honestly feeling pretty good about how things were going in his life. He had new friends in Jack, Reagan and their family and Henry could see that his mother was happier than he had ever seen her.

"He's my Prince Charming," Henry's mother replied one time when Henry asked her if she liked Jack. "He's my knight in shining armor, honey. I've waited my whole life to meet a man like him so everything could come together and it's finally happened."

Henry could see that his mother's face lit up like a light bulb whenever she was around – or talked about - Jack. It was the most unexpected thing Henry had ever seen. His mother was giddy with excitement and hope instead of being moody, sullen, and drunk like most of the times in the past.

"I've found my soul mate and I want to spend the rest of my life with him," she told Henry on another occasion. "Nothing's going to stop me from being happy this time," she vowed.

Henry grew up without any kind of male role model before Jack came along. He never knew his father or grandparents and the men who hung out with his mother were not good examples to learn from. Henry realized how inept he was socially every time he hung out with Jack and the rest of the Codys, especially Reagan Sinclair who was friendly to him whenever their paths crossed at school, always making sure to yell out "Goulden!"

Henry didn't have much confidence in himself. His self esteem was low because of all the turmoil he had witnessed and the abuse he sometimes received but Jack was someone who cared about how Henry was feeling and what he was thinking.

Jack loved sports and he was a great athlete but Henry lacked the grace to be good at athletics. Henry desperately wanted to have real talent beyond his reading skills but he never had anyone who worked with him or encouraged him to try. It was Jack who had Henry stand around the batting cage during pre-game warm ups at Beano Field. Henry also retrieved balls during batting practice. He even acted as a fill in bat boy occasionally. Jack also took Henry to the golf course and taught him how to putt and eventually how to hit a golf ball.

Henry's first job was retrieving golf balls from the three ponds on the golf course, a job Jack got him. Henry knew that Jack was taking a chance on him and Henry didn't want to let him down. Henry was amazed to realize that he and Jack were actually hitting it off and Henry appreciated it whenever Jack spent time with him.

Jack paid attention to him and treated Henry like no other man had before. Jack made Henry feel good about himself and he looked forward to the times when Jack would take him out for a milk shake at Johnny C's or a pizza at the pizza house where they'd just sit and talk. For the first time in his life, Henry felt important and his self esteem greatly improved because of it.

Henry was less shy and more confident with Reagan and other girls at school. He liked visiting Jack's sister Becky's house to hang out, especially when Reagan was home. Jack was always available to talk no matter what the situation and he helped guide Henry through the awkward middle school years.

"I've got a hunch about you, Henry," an enthusiastic Jack remarked one day. "You're going to be okay."

Jack was the first mentor and positive male role model in Henry's life. Jack was the first of his mother's boyfriends to invest his time and effort in Henry without any strings attached. He made Henry feel worthy and Henry learned from Jack's integrity and character. In fact, Henry wanted to be like him.

Thanksgiving and Christmas with Jack and his family were holidays of celebration instead of the stress, tension, drama and depression Henry was used to in years past. How great it was to sit around a large table with all the Codys sharing holiday meals and good times.

"Sit next to me, Goulden," Reagan insisted.

Henry finally felt like he belonged somewhere and that he was no longer an outsider or an outcast. He saw impressive improvement and changes in his mother too, who loved her job at The Bullpen Tavern, working the mid day shift so she would be home when Jack returned from work and Henry got home from school. She lost weight, no longer looking bloated with bloodshot eyes. She never talked about her past and Henry never saw her with a drink in her hand or hung over at the breakfast table.

One day while putting golf balls on the golf course practice green with Jack, Henry asked him what it was about his mother than attracted Jack to her.

"There was nothing at all attractive about her," Jack confessed. "I know you know everything there is to know about your mother so I'm not revealing any state secrets here, Henry," Jack told him. "Your mother was drunk. Passed out at the bar of Mike's Pub in Miller City. It was two o'clock in the afternoon. I was there to work on the cooling system."

"That's how you met?" Henry asked with surprise as they putted around their golf balls.

"Yep," Jack revealed. "I took her to the café down the street for a cup of coffee."

"Why would you do that?" Henry wondered.

Jack sucked in his breath and gave Henry a long look. "Because she reminded me of me," he said.

"I don't understand," Henry said.

"You see, I used to be just like her, Henry," Jack admitted. "I was a drunk. Homeless. Jobless. My family kicked me out and told me not to come back until I got it together. It was a tough few years. I lost everything. I wasn't going anywhere. I screwed my life up big time."

"How'd you get sober?" Henry wondered.

"My sister Becky," Jack said proudly. "I got arrested for the umpteenth time and I called her to bail me out and she told me no, no more. Instead, she showed up at court and asked that I be sectioned."

"Sectioned?"

"Thrown in rehab against my will to dry out," Jack explained. "For some reason, it took that time. I got sober and stayed sober, went to therapy and meetings, amended my life, made changes, made apologies, went back to school and trained to become a Heating and Cooling man, and here I am, living to tell."

Henry was fascinated by Jack's story. "Your family treats you like a king."

"Even after all that," Jack concurred with a grin. "Amazing what a little faith and redemption will do for you."

"And that's what you've given my mother?" Henry asked.

"So far," Jack nodded. "One day at a time, though, Henry. She's still getting her life back together but I think she's doing pretty well, don't you?"

"Best ever," Henry replied.

It was clear that Jack's family had accepted Henry and his mother as part of Jack's life and therefore, by extension, a part of the Cody family. Becky and the rest of the women in the family included "LuEllen" (Henry's mom) at various girls night out events and other social occasions. Reagan invited Henry to her birthday party and a weekend family skiing trip. After a while, Henry had a hard time remembering his previous life of misery, loneliness, weirdness and drama. He fit in at school, his grades improved, his social skills were much sharper, and he was a part of his peer group. People who were friends with Reagan included Henry as part of that circle and it was nice to finally belong somewhere.

It was one of those unimaginable, indescribable meaningless freak accidents that can't be explained. Jack was electrocuted by more than 500 milli-amps of electricity when his co-worker failed to cut power to a large machine Jack was working on. The powerful jolt caused Jack's heart to go into defibulation and the 29 year old was dead by the time he was rushed to the hospital.

Henry was at school on that fateful March day. He heard Reagan's name called over the public announcement system being summoned to the Principal's Office which was unusual and ten minutes later his own name was called and Henry knew something terrible had happened.

Reagan was crying, being embraced by her father (Mark) when Henry entered The Principal's office and by the look on Mark's face Henry was pretty sure either his mother or Jack was dead. But if it was his mother, Jack surely would have been the one to come for Henry.

"Jack?" Henry asked, his voice cracking.

"I'm sorry, Henry," Mark said in a soft voice. "He's been killed in a work accident."

"You're free to go, Mr. Gould," Principal Hallett told him. "Take as much time as you need for this."

Reagan broke from her father and gave Henry a meaningful hug, the first time a girl other than his mother had ever held him in such a way. "I'm so sorry, Goulden," She sobbed. "It's terrible!"

What surprised Henry the most about the incident was how strong his mother was throughout the ordeal. In the past, she would fall apart whenever anything trying, challenging, or upsetting happened, overdramatize incidents as end of the world moments and using such occasion as an excuse to go on a week long binge.

But when Henry arrived at Reagan's house with her and her Dad that afternoon, he found his mom sitting on the couch with Reagan's mom looking surprisingly together. This was Henry's first experience with death and he was feeling mostly numb and confused, unable to grasp the complexity and finality of the loss and what it meant not to be able to see or talk with Jack again.

Reagan's mom was understandably a mess and the rest of the family showed up as the afternoon went on to mourn together. It was consoling and helpful for Henry to be around other people and he appreciated the sympathy he received. Several people told him how much Jack admired and liked him and how happy Jack was to have Henry and his mom in his life.

The next few days were a blur for Henry. Reagan's mom wouldn't let Henry or his mom go back to the apartment knowing Jack's absence would be too profound in the initial days. Henry didn't know how to properly mourn and he was confused when Reagan told him they didn't have to go back to school until they were ready.

Jack's was the first wake Henry attended and it was very difficult. His mother stood up front in the parlor with the rest of the Codys greeting people who came through the receiving line, past rows of photos of Jack, endless flowers, and of course the opened casket with Jack's body for all to see.

Henry spent most of his time sitting in the back of the room watching the activities. Reagan sat with him for some of the time but neither had much to say. Once again, Henry's mom was a rock, showing social skill and grace greeting people and talking about Jack and his shocking death ('no pun attended' was Reagan's joke). Henry was completely impressed by his mother's ability to maintain her grace, composure and dignity under such trying times.

An endless line of friends and family were very loving and supportive throughout the ordeal which Henry found helpful but he was feeling lonely and alone realizing that he wasn't going to have Jack around anymore and he wondered if he was being selfish.

Henry and his mother stayed at Reagan's house until the funeral was over – there were two extra bedrooms on the second floor of the Sinclair's impressive house so room was not an issue. The funeral was the next day and the minister did a good job capturing Jack as a person – as a son, brother, uncle, co-worker, community member, ball player, and boyfriend.

Henry felt guilty about not being more upset about Jack's death. Sure, he was sad but he wasn't a sobbing mess (like Reagan's mom through the funeral service) and even at the post-funeral reception at Reagan's house afterward Henry wasn't feeling particularly despondent or distressed. He was actually enjoying the attention and the company as Reagan rarely left his side throughout the afternoon.

"You okay, Goulden?" Reagan would repeatedly ask.

"Sure," Henry would reply. "You?"

"Not so much," she would admit.

Although his mother had been strong during these past few days of loss, Henry was worried about her. What was going to happen once all the focus and attention went away and everybody returned to their normal lives? Could they return to Jack's apartment? Stay with the Sinclairs? Would Henry's mom fall apart once they were alone? Would she keep working at The Bullpen or would they be hitting the road again?

Henry liked Hillsboro. He liked Hillsboro Middle School and the neat town library. He liked Beano Field. He liked Johnny C's and Hillsboro Pizza House. He liked Reagan and the rest of the Cody family. Was he going to lose all that now that Jack was dead?

Henry's mother insisted that they sleep at Jack's apartment that night after the funeral and that was fine with Henry although he was disappointed to be leaving Reagan's house. She had been such a comfort and pillar for Henry since they learned of Jack's death. Henry knew that Reagan had been close to her favorite uncle and that his loss was a big one for Reagan and the family. He appreciated her kindness and warm gestures and how she acknowledged that Jack had been a special person in Henry's life too.

Henry listened to his mother cry herself to sleep in Jack's bed and he wondered if they would get through this together and continue living their new lives with the Cody family as their beacons or if his mother would suffer a major slip and return to her former life.

Henry went back to school the next day – Reagan didn't return until two days later and Henry was surprised how much he missed her during her absence. Once she returned, she and Henry tended to spend more time together in a quasi-silent shared secret grieving process. They didn't talk about Jack much but just being together knowing the other was grieving too was enough comfort to get them through their days.

The change in Henry's mother was slow and subtle. She continued to put up a good front and she involved herself with several Cody family functions and gatherings during the next few months. She allowed the family to take what they wanted from the apartment as remembrances to the fallen Jack. She kept working at The Bullpen Tavern but when the Serguci League season started on Memorial Day, she and Henry didn't attend any games except for the small ceremony given in Jack's honor before the Beansters first game.

Henry and his mom attended the Cody Memorial Day picnic at Becky and Mark's house and Henry saw his mother with a beer in her hand for the first time in nearly two years. Reagan continued to be a good and supportive friend (and semi family member) and Henry enjoyed her company, insight, humor, and understanding. Reagan was the only person who really listened to what Henry had to say now that Jack was gone. Reagan's parents were kind but it wasn't the same. He valued Reagan's opinion and insight the most.

"Your mother's wilting," Reagan observed as she and Henry sat on the stone wall watching the festivities in the back yard.

"She's about to fall off the cliff," Henry predicted without much emotion in his voice.

Henry's mother had lost the smile Jack gave her. Her sunny disposition had also faded, becoming cloudier with each passing day. She lost her positive energy and her hopeful outlook. She skipped Uncle Mel's birthday party (Henry showing up alone) and she started staying out later at night.

"Your mother wilted?" Reagan asked Henry when they had a quiet moment alone at Mel's party.

"Just about off the cliff," Henry confirmed.

Henry didn't say much about his mother's darkening mood and he kept up a good front not wanting the others to worry about his mother. He also didn't want to be kicked out of Jack's apartment if it was thought LuEllen was going off the deep end.

And then one day Henry's mother simply didn't come home. It was the first time since Jack rescued them from the fleabag dump motel that his mother had done something so 'old behavior' but Henry figured she'd be back that day….or the next…or the next…..so he didn't say anything about his mother's absence but days turned into a week and then another week and still there was no sign of – or message from – his mother.

Henry made up excuses and alibis whenever Becky or another family member stopped by or called. Henry's mom was working an extra shift, or visiting a friend, or out shopping and it wasn't until nearly a month had gone by without any LuEllen sightings that Becky and some of the others started becoming suspicious.

"You're full of shit, Goulden," Reagan said to him one day at school. "Your mother finally went off the cliff, didn't she?"

"I don't think she's hit bottom yet though," Henry replied.

Henry had enough money to pay the bills for a couple of months if his secret wasn't discovered first. He managed to keep the ruse going by showing up at school every day and acting as if everything was normal. He picked up groceries at Fontaine's Family Grocery Store to feed himself. He did his own wash. He kept up with his homework.

But it was torture. The ghost of Jack was everywhere in the apartment and the silence of his mother's absence was deafening. Henry didn't believe his mother had met with foul play. He just assumed she was drinking again and that she probably took off with some guy. The only real mystery was why she didn't take Henry with her this time but Henry was pretty sure that even in an alcoholic fog his mother knew that Henry was better off with the stable Cody family than he was living her dysfunctional life.

Henry was able to keep his job at the golf course where he picked up extra hours and responsibilities thanks to some of Jack's friends who went to the boss on his behalf. Staying busy helped but at the end of the day Henry still had to return to the empty apartment. He had the cable and phone turned off to cut down on expenses but it felt morbid to be hiding out in Jack's place which only caused Henry to miss Jack all the more.

Henry was reading on the couch one evening when there was a knock on the door. Henry was clueless as to who it might be and he worried, fearing it might be the cops with bad news about his mother. He nervously walked to the door and tentatively opened it, surprised to see Reagan and her parents standing in the hallway. He hadn't been with the family since the Cody's Fourth of July gala and it was nice to see Reagan again.

"Hello," Henry said politely, trying to act cool. "How are you?"

"Where's your mother, Henry?" Becky asked bluntly.

"Uh...er...working," Henry lied.

"Where?" Becky demanded, her hands on her hips as she barged her way into the apartment.

"The Bullpen, of course," Henry said weakly.

"Really?" Mark asked, raising his eyebrows as he followed his wife into the apartment. "'Cause the Manager said she quit weeks ago."

"Oh," Henry sighed, throwing Reagan a pleading look but she could only shrug as she stood in the doorway.

"The landlord hasn't seen LuEllen in weeks either and he tells us that you paid this month's rent in cash last week," Becky said. "What's going on, Henry?"

"Nothing," he insisted.

"Where's your mother?" Becky pressed.

Henry tried to come up with some sort of cover story that would make sense but he realized he had nothing. "I don't know," he admitted with an embarrassed shake of his head.

"When's the last time you saw her?" Mark asked gently.

"Six weeks?" Henry guessed as he sat on the couch, prepared to be yelled at and evicted from the apartment.

"You've been living here by yourself for six weeks!?" Reagan asked, sounding impressed.

"Why didn't you tell us your mom left?" Mark asked curiously.

"I didn't want to get kicked out or taken away by DCF," Henry revealed.

"We should notify the Police," Becky reasoned as she glanced around the apartment remembering her brother.

"They'll send me to DCF for sure," Henry sighed.

"But something could have happened to your mother," A concerned Becky worried.

"She fell off the wagon, that's all," Henry theorized. "Probably took off with some other drunk. She left me behind this time because she knew you guys would look after me."

"Can't Henry stay with us until his mom comes back?" Reagan asked as she stepped into the apartment.

"What if she never comes back?" Reagan's father asked.

Becky sucked in her breath. "If Jack was here, he'd let Henry stay," she concluded. She glanced at her husband for his approval and after a pause he finally nodded okay. "Pack your bags, Henry, you're coming home with us." Becky announced.

"Great!" Reagan exclaimed.

"Can't I just stay here?" Henry asked.

"You're a fourteen year old boy," Becky reminded him. "So, no, you can't stay here alone."

"This isn't the first time I've been left alone," Henry revealed.

"You're a minor," Becky told him. "You need a guardian in your life. Jack and your mom are both gone so I guess that leaves us."

"You'll like it at our house," Reagan said cheerfully.
There wasn't much for Henry to pack up.

Reagan's Dad was a lawyer and her mom was a nurse so finances were not an issue for them. The Sinclair house was huge and well styled, an older home that had been remodeled with an open kitchen and dining area, an attractive living room and - Henry's favorite - a large study with tons of books. The second floor included a large master bedroom for the parents and three other bedrooms (Reagan's two older siblings had already moved out).

"I was the oops baby," Reagan explained to Henry.

Reagan's bedroom included a television, computer, stereo, and a closet with more clothes in it than the local department store. Henry eventually made himself comfortable in his new room that had once been Reagan's brother's Tom room. Becky brought some of Jack's furniture into the house, including Jack's large oak desk that ended up in Henry's room. Henry returned to Jack's apartment with Mark and some of the other relatives the following weekend to clear it out, a depressing and sad endeavor but moving in next to Reagan Sinclair's bedroom was definitely an impressive and exciting alternative.

Turns out Henry liked living at Reagan's house just as she promised. Although Reagan's parents were in their early fifties they were still hip and cool and Henry enjoyed their presence. Living with the Sinclairs gave Henry his first sense of structure and normalcy in his life. Dinner was every night promptly at six o'clock. There were house rules to be followed. Reagan was close to her parents so there wasn't much tension, discord or conflicts and Henry welcomed the lack of drama which was new for him. With his mother, it was always just a matter of time before some crisis exploded in his face.

Henry and Reagan were freshmen when school started a few days after the family's Labor Day Gathering. By then, Henry had become accustomed to his new life. His only fear was that his mother would return and once again wreck a good thing.

Henry wasn't sure what his relationship with Reagan was. They lived on the second floor like brother and sister even though they weren't related. They were treated as if they were cousins even though that was a stretch because Henry had no family tie to the Cody and Sinclair clans.

"I guess we're just friends who live together, Goulden," Reagan teased.

Although Henry liked the routine and structure of his new living situation (especially being able to see Reagan every day), he had emotionally backslid since his glory days with Jack who had done such a great job with Henry's confidence, bringing him out of his protective shell in many ways. Henry missed Jack terribly and without Jack's influence and mentoring, Henry felt adrift. He was still grieving Jack's death and that left him feeling vulnerable, unwilling to put himself out there again emotionally. Henry's mother's quick fall from grace and cold disappearance also messed with Henry's head. Feelings of abandonment, rejection and insecurity were just below the surface and Henry maintained a guarded, reserved and cautious approach to his life knowing it could all end the instant his mother returned.

Reagan blossomed as Freshman year unfolded. She was in the chorus, on the swim team, and she participated in student government. She was popular and well liked around school. She went to the Freshman Welcome with Paul Schwartz from the swim team. Henry envied Reagan even as he withdrew socially at school. People knew who he was (Reagan Sinclair's cousin) and that gave him some leverage but Henry preferred to lay low and keep to himself, falling back into his excessive book reading escape, happy to head home as soon as the last school bell rang where he held up in his room reading. It was only when Becky and Reagan forced him to do stuff with them or when Mark got him out of the house that Henry socialized. He wasn't strangely anti-social - he simply wasn't interested in putting himself out there again.

Henry enjoyed his friendship with Reagan. She made it a point to check in with him several times a day, often stopping by his bedroom in the evening for a conversation. She included him at her lunch table at school and made sure she said hello to him in the halls of Hillsboro High. Henry was flattered by her attention and he valued her company.

"Do you hate your Mom?" Reagan asked Henry during one of their evening bedroom discussions.

"No," Henry replied from his spot on his bed, a book in his hand. "I feel sorry for her."

"You don't hate her because she left?" Reagan wondered as she sat in her Uncle Jack's desk chair staring at Henry.

"In some ways, I'm kind of glad she's gone," Henry admitted. "She used to say that you only get one chance in life. I think she saw Jack as her one chance. She told me he was her Prince Charming and her Knight in Shining Armor and she really did change her ways because of him."

"But then he died," Reagan sighed.

"And I think my mother believed her one chance died with him," Henry theorized. "She got through the funeral okay but then the grief caught up to her and as much as your family tried to be there for her she just couldn't maintain her sobriety or her new way of life without Jack."

"That's so sad," Reagan sighed.

"I think she saw this as my one chance," Henry said. "That's why she left me here. To have a chance."

"Well, I really hope the chance works out for you," Reagan smiled.

As a maturing teenager with hormones percolating. Henry was definitely aware that Reagan was an attractive, sensual and even sexy young lady and sometimes he felt perverted because even though he was acting normal and brotherly he also enjoyed looking at her figure. Reagan was relaxed around the house and she had no problems being comfortable in her attire, darting to the bathroom in undergarments, wearing skimpy bed wear at night, or perhaps short shorts and a sports bra. It was easy for Henry to take notice and sometimes he would catch himself staring at Reagan's long black hair or her clothing options that revealed her body in interesting ways. He couldn't help but notice the shape of her bra and her loose breasts beneath her flimsy night shirts when she didn't bother with a bra. He tried not to look but it was hard not to take a good look. Henry was paranoid about what would happen if Reagan caught him looking which would definitely be embarrassing and could possibly negatively affect their friendship. If Reagan was aware of Henry's secret lust toward her female form she didn't let on. They enjoyed a hearty and healthy relationship. Henry liked being her confidant and he looked forward to Reagan stopping by his room in the evening to tell him about some incident that happened that day, or what she was thinking or feeling, seeking out Henry's opinion or insight on something that was bothering her.

Henry had no illusions about his relationship with Reagan. She was going places while he was a survivor. She was energetic while he was drained. She had unlimited possibilities while he was chained by his past and crippled by his upbringing. Henry knew he was "safe" in the Sinclair home. Reagan knew he wasn't going to hit on her and that gave her the freedom to be more honest and vulnerable in his presence. She rarely censored herself when she was talking to her parents in front of Henry and she didn't seem to worry about what Henry thought of her.

"I've never had a confidant before, Goulden," Reagan told him one time and that made him extra special. He was glad he played a role in her life.

Becky and Mark were caring and compassionate people but they were career professionals busy with their lives so raising another teenager was not high on their priority list. Henry was grateful that they provided him with a roof over his head and three meals a day. Becky and Mark were supportive and quick to offer their advice and Henry appreciated their influence but he was still the kid of Becky's dead brother's missing girlfriend and not really a true member of the family.

Henry was flattered that the Sinclairs trusted him, believed in him, and treated him with respect. As long as he followed the general rules of the house he was a welcomed resident honored with the advantages and privileges of living there. Reagan's parents trusted her too and they didn't appear to be hung up on her behavior or decisions. They knew that she was a mature and conscientious individual and they allowed her to make her own choices. There were no bolts on doors or midnight checks of bedrooms and that created a sense of independence, freedom and maturity in the house.

One evening, Reagan stopped by Henry's room for one of her evening chats and Henry congratulated her for getting a lead solo in one of the chorus numbers.

"You're really impressive," Henry commented with sincerity, being truthful instead of trying to be flirtatious. He was lying on his bed, reading a book as usual.

"Singing is no big deal," Reagan shrugged as she took a seat at the foot of the bed.

"You're a great swimmer."

"So aren't fish."

"You're a terrific student government representative."

"Believe me, politics will be my last career choice," Reagan let him know. "Where'd you think my name came from?"

"Yeah, I remember Jack talking about the family politics," Henry recalled.

"If you ask me, you're the one who's really impressive," Reagan said.

"Right," Henry laughed, rolling his eyes. "My greatest claim to fame is I'm a good reader." He held up the book to accent his point.

"Hey, you've been through more in your short life than most kids could only image," Reagan remarked as she gave him a knowing look. "Uncle Jack told me some of the horror stories you mom put you through. Hell the worst thing my mom ever did to me was make me get a goofy hairstyle in fifth grade."

"It wasn't so bad," Henry lied.

"Neither is root canal work without Novocain if you survive it," Reagan reasoned. "You don't have to protect your mom when she's not here."

"I'm not protecting her," Henry insisted.

"Well don't minimize what you went through," Reagan told him. "Any kid who lived six weeks on his own is a hero in my book. Don't sell yourself short, Goulden, you're an impressive kid."

"I'm a survivor," Henry told her.

"You're a winner," Reagan smiled. "I'm glad you're here. I've never had a friend like you before."

"I'm no different from any of your other friends," Henry remarked.

"Oh, trust me, you are," Reagan assured him with a smile before she got off the bed and left the room.

Henry sighed once Reagan was gone knowing he was destined to be Reagan's cousin brother friend and nothing more. Maybe he should try to get some girl at school interested in him but the truth was he wasn't interested in any of them. Reagan was the only girl who made him feel warm inside and good about himself. She was the only one he wanted to talk to.

Becky and Mark were out at political fundraiser one night and Reagan had choir practice. Henry took advantage of the empty house to enjoy a long hot bath. There were plenty of times when he went days without bathing or was forced to take an ice cold shower because there was no hot water in whatever dump that he and his mother were living in. Sitting in hot bath water reading a great book was as close to paradise as Henry could imagine.

Suddenly, the door barged open and Reagan burst in. "I really gotta pee," she announced. "I can't hold it any longer!" She was wearing a gray skirt and a white blouse and red vest, part of her choir get up.

"There are two other bathrooms in the house," Henry remarked with surprise.

"Oh, what fun would that be!?" Reagan smirked as she glanced at Henry in the tub. He hoped the strategic placement of his book above the water would block her from seeing anything she shouldn't be seeing but he wasn't going to make a big deal out of it. Living on living room couches and sharing apartments with all sorts of people had relieved Henry of his modesty years ago.

The toilet was at the end of the bathroom facing the bathtub and Henry was sitting in the tub facing the toilet. He really didn't think Reagan would be so forward as to relieve herself in front of him but she turned her back to the commode, yanked up her skirt and tugged down her panties as she sat down. Henry was pretty sure he saw a glimpse of her dark pubic hair before she reached the seat. She looked at him as he heard the sound of her stream echoing inside the bowl.

"How's the water?" She asked, clearly not embarrassed by the situation.

"I like it hot," Henry replied, although he didn't mean it in a sexual way.

When she was done, Reagan stood and turned her back to him, grabbing a piece of toilet paper to wipe herself between her legs while exposing her bare fanny to him as she kept her skirt hiked up. She dropped the tissue into the toilet and flushed before pulling up her panties, dropping her skirt and turning to face Henry.

"You're supposed to wash your hands after you go to the bathroom," Reagan said as she knelt down by the tub and stuck her hands into the bath water. "Oh!" She said. "That is hot!"

She was close enough that he could feel her breath on his face and it was all Henry could do not to drop his book in the water. Reagan smiled as she pulled her hands out of the water and gave him an interested look, glancing down into the water to see what was down there. Henry moved the book away to help her view. She nodded with approval before standing.

"I told you I never had a friend like you before," she whispered before leaving the bathroom and Henry knew it would never be the same between them again.

Henry definitely knew what sex was. He lay awake at night plenty of times listening to the sounds of his mother in the next room with whoever she was with. Other times, when he was stuck on a couch living in someone else's house - usually drunken party houses with people coming and going - he would overhear conversations, listen to snickering, try to cover his ears from the noises, and sometimes even stumble upon some couple doing it - once on the kitchen floor, another time when he opened the door to a bathroom and saw his mother's stripper girlfriend getting banged against the tiled wall.

But Reagan represented none of those shameful, horrible, disgusting, vulgar, dirty, inappropriate moments that robbed Henry of his innocence and childhood. She was everything good and beautiful and pure and even if they could never be together he was glad that she trusted him enough to pee in front of him and let him see her ass. She also saw what was private to him and that was okay too.

They didn't mention the bathtub moment but Reagan kept stopping by Henry's bedroom in the evening for chats and daily reviews. They usually ate breakfast together, sometimes with Becky and/or Mark when schedules permitted. The family ate dinner together most nights unless something came up. Freshman year was coming to an end and Henry's reoccurring fear of his mother returning to yank him away from his new life lessened with each passing day.

When the school year finished, Henry picked up summer hours at the golf course. Reagan landed her first job - twelve hours a week at Red's Tastee Freeze serving ice cream to give her something to do. She was also seeing more of Paul Schwartz of the swim team and Henry knew there wasn't much he could do about that. Sometimes Henry would walk from the golf course to the Tastee Freeze and walk Reagan home from her shift, other times Schwartz beat him to it. Henry didn't see Schwartz as a threat or as his competition. While Henry knew living with the Sinclair family as his 'once chance' to have a semi-normal teenage life, he didn't see Reagan as his once chance for romance given the family set up. You can't fall in love with your surrogate cousin.

Unfortunately for Henry, Reagan wasn't making it any easier on Henry. One evening, she stopped by his room (after a movie date with Schwartz) and sat on the bed.

"How was the movie?" Henry asked, glancing up from his book from where he lay on his bed.

"Okay," Reagan replied. Then she gave him a long stare. "You know I really like you, don't you?" She asked.

"I really like you too," Henry assured her awkwardly.

Reagan leaned in and gave him a kiss. Was it wrong that Henry's first kiss came from Reagan, his cousin sister friend? He had fantasized about his first real kiss for years but experiencing Reagan's kiss was surreal and Henry felt himself slipping into a daze. Reagan finally broke the kiss and sat up straight on the bed.

"I just wanted to do that," she explained.

Henry looked into Reagan's dreamy eyes and at that moment he knew she was the girl for him even though he knew she couldn't be the girl for him. She saw the confused look on his face and she leaned in and kissed him again only much more intensely and passionately and she slowly pushed him onto the bed falling on top of him and kissing him for what felt like forever for both of them.

Henry wasn't sure what to do with his hands during the encounter. His book had fallen onto the bed and at first he wrapped his arms around Reagan's waist to keep her secured on top of him. After a while, he worked his hands inside the boys' boxer briefs she was wearing and he dared to feel her smooth buns underneath. She didn't protest as she continued to smooch him so he kept exploring her southern area throughout the make out session. It was the greatest moment of his life.

Reagan eventually broke off the kiss and stared into his eyes. "Paul is just a muse," she said. "A front. A ruse. A decoy. You're the one I want to be with."

"Oh," Henry replied, taken by surprise.

"But you can't say anything," she warned. "They'd throw you in reform school and me in an institution for sexual deviants if anybody ever found out."

"Yeah," he agreed.

"But if you don't mind having a secret sex life with me I'll be here for the next three years," she said.

"Okay," he said, happy for such an agreement.

"We'll have to be careful and discreet," she said. "Let me be in control of when and where."

"That's fine with me," Henry replied with excitement in his voice.

"Great," Reagan smiled as she gave him another kiss before rolling off of him, forcing his hands out of the inside of the back of her boxer shorts. "I'll see you around."

"Okay," he agreed, the breath gulping out of him.

The summer progressed nicely. Reagan and Henry played their cousin-sibling-friend roles perfectly when Reagan's parents were around and they honestly enjoyed their time together in that capacity but the sexual attraction was always just underneath the surface although Henry gave all the authority and power to Reagan and allowed her to call the shots. He was happy whenever they got to hang out - sometimes taking the bus to Greenville on Friday nights when they got paid to see a movie, or shop at Donovan's Department Store, or even go out to dinner, when Schwartz wasn't around anyway. They took walks around Hillsboro and occasionally rode their bikes (Henry had inherited Tom's old one). Sometimes they'd pile in the back of Reagan's Dad sports car and they'd accompany Reagan's parents on a ride or on a trip to Sun Rise Lake on a Sunday afternoon. All of this was as siblings-cousins-friends although when they were alone together they chatted in a more flirtatious dialogue, occasionally holding hands when they could get away with it and sneaking a smooch when nobody was within eye sight.

One weekend, Reagan's family loaded up Becky's SUV with camping equipment and headed to the New Hampshire mountains for a getaway. Reagan's parents had the bigger tent and they didn't think twice about letting Reagan and Henry share the smaller tent, never in a million years thinking anything could possibly happen between the two 'cousins' as Becky was always referring to them. The four set up the camp site, took a long hike, came back for dinner and then spent the evening looking at the starry night while listening to the ball game on the radio which of course brought up memories of - and stories about - Jack.

The tent wasn't much bigger than the classic pup tent so it was easy with a little innocent maneuvering for Reagan and Henry to be close together under the cover of night. Both Becky and Mark were heavy unworried sleepers so once Reagan knew her parents were out for the night she crawled out of her sleeping back and nestled inside Henry's, cuddling close to him while listening to the sounds of the forest outside their tent. Henry eventually moved his hands onto Reagan's thighs and as time went on he dared to move them to the triangle between her legs. He could feel her body heat in his hands through the fabric of her shorts and panties.

Reagan was also wearing a tight halter top that caused her breasts to pop up and almost out in the position she was laying in. Henry felt a tightness in his groin as he stared at her capped breasts, resisting the urge to touch and squeeze them until Reagan gently took his hand in hers and lifted it to her chest. Henry kept his hand on her breast and he carefully rubbed it, causing Reagan's chest to heave as light moans escaped her throat. Eventually, her halter top slipped down to allow her breasts to spill out. There was enough light from the starry sky and half moon to allow Henry to sneak peaks at her mid-sized mounds and especially her nipples that were noticeably hard and pointed. Henry was hard too.

Henry continued to explore Reagan's breasts as well as venturing with his fingers to her nipples. Reagan had her eyes closed for a while, softly moaning from his touching but then she opened them and stared into his with a contented and happy smile on her face. Then she reached her own hands up and pulled her halter top all the way down so it was around her stomach, and she rolled onto her back to let Henry get a full view of her breasts, pink and beautiful. Henry had never been aroused as he was at that moment and he continued to touch Reagan's nipples and squeeze her beasts.

"Use your mouth," she told him breathlessly so Henry slowly sucked on each breast and Reagan moaned with pleasured contentment.

Henry heard the snap of a twig or some other noise in the woods even above the moaning sounds coming out of Reagan's throat and he stopped what he was doing, lifting his head to try to make out what the noise might be. Reagan heard it too and she pulled up the sleeping back to cover her breasts.

"Is someone out there?" She worried.

"Could have been an animal or something," Henry replied.

"Maybe we should stop," Reagan sighed.

"Maybe," Henry agreed.

Reagan snuggled against him, her bare breasts rubbing against his chest and they both fell asleep. Reagan awoke in the pre-dawn light, pulled her halter top back up, and she moved back to her own sleeping bag so everything would look normal in case her parents arose early.

The four had breakfast together and then Mark took Henry with him to do some fishing. Henry hadn't been fishing in his life and he found it relaxing to stand on the bank of a pond with Mark casting his fishing line and waiting for a bite. It was nice to be in the peacefulness of nature and Mark was interesting to talk with although Henry felt guilty for sucking on the breasts of the guy's daughter just hours earlier. That was one of the perils of having a Secret Sex Life with Reagan Sinclair.

Henry couldn't help but think about Jack and how Mark tried to fill in that role at times but they were two different kinds of people. Mark was much older and a professional man where as Jack had been much younger, a blue collar working guy who seemed to identify much easier to Henry. Henry realized that Jack must have been the 'oops' baby of his generation given that Becky was so much older than him.

Henry asked Mark about Jack and Mark was happy to tell Henry some Jack stories he hadn't heard before. Henry noticed that both Mark and Becky tended to avoid talking about Jack's lost years when he was cut out from the family, instead focusing on childhood stories or when he sobered up and got better. It saddened Henry to realize that he could only capture two years of his mother's life in that category. Nobody talked much about his mom anymore anyway, almost as if they were afraid to bring her up in front of Henry.

The family returned to Hillsboro later that afternoon and the summer played out without any additional sexual liaisons between Reagan and Henry until a late night August thunderstorm rolled through Blue County, loud enough to wake Henry from a deep sleep and he lay in his bed watching the lightning light up the night outside his window.

"Goulden?"

He recognized Reagan's voice as his door squeaked open. He glanced at the bedside clock and saw that it was 2:20 in the morning.

"I absolutely hate thunder and lightning storms," Reagan revealed as she tip toed across the room and slipped into bed with him.

"How come?" Henry asked. They had never bothered him – sometimes, in fact, he found them soothing.

"Oh, my jerk brother Tommy used to scare the shit out of me during storms when I was younger," she sighed. "I guess I never got over that."

"Poor Reagan," Henry sympathized as he found her face in the dark and kissed her.

A lightning bolt lit up the room and he could see that she was clearly frightened.

"You're safe with me," he assured her as he kissed her again and she returned the kisses.

Reagan was wearing some sort of long tee shirt and it hiked up her thighs as she cuddled against him and continued to kiss him. Henry's hands eventually worked their way down to her hips and he was surprised to discover that she wasn't wearing any panties underneath the long tee shirt. Henry explored her lovely backside with his hands once again but eventually she took one of them and moved it to her front side, directing it between her legs. Henry sucked in his breath as he felt her pubic hair and what waited underneath, moving his finger up and down her slit.

Reagan took his hand and brought it up to his face so he could sniff her scent.

But Reagan was too distracted and frightened to pursue sex as the storm raged so Henry remained contented with caressing her ass and occasionally feeling between her legs while they embraced, cuddled, and kissed, Reagan literally trembling in his arms, the first time he had seen her being vulnerable.

Henry eventually drifted back to sleep and when the storm let up a few hours later Reagan gave Henry a kiss goodnight (or good morning in this case) and returned to her bedroom.

Sophomore year started and Reagan settled into her popular existence. She was jogging with Schwartz to get in shape for swimming season. She had moved up the ladder in the student government hierarchy. She was a featured singer in the Chorus. Henry would have continued his semi-anonymous school identity had his English teacher not submitted some of his prose and poetry to the school's literary magazine which were published and well received.

"Wow, Goulden, you're a Poet and I didn't even know it!" Reagan teased although she was very proud of him and she urged him to keep writing. She was holding the latest edition of the literary magazine as she popped into his room for their evening chat.

"Anybody can write," Henry replied, sprawled out on his bed with a book in his hand as usual.

"Sure, but not everybody can write well," Reagan reminded him as she took a seat on the bed next to him. "This stuff is very abstract but moving," she said.

"Thanks," Henry replied. "I guess I see life mostly as an abstraction." He paused for a second and then said "Or is that a subtraction!?"

"That's the first time I heard you joke since I met you," Reagan smiled. "Good for you!"

"Who was joking?" He deadpanned.

"Does anything excite you, Goulden?" Reagan wondered.

"You do," he answered truthfully, thinking about their secret sex life although nothing had happened since the night of the scary thunderstorm.

"Yeah, but you never seem to be emotional about anything," Reagan observed. "You're like the train that keeps on plowing down the track at the same speed on the same route every day.

"I learned early on not to have any expectations," he explained. "My mother was always going back on her word, or forgetting what she said she was going to do, or disappointing me in some way - passing out, not coming home, not showing up to get me at school - whatever. So I learned to expect the worse and then I was mildly satisfied whenever something went reasonably right."

Reagan stared at him with her mouth hanging open. "That's the saddest thing I ever heard in my life," she told him.

They went to a movie at The Greenville Cinema on Friday night. Mark dropped them off and Becky picked them up, but she was five minutes late which bothered Reagan, mostly because it was raining. They stood under the marquee in the brisk September evening with the cold rain splattering on the cement sidewalk with Reagan becoming increasingly annoyed.

"Where the hell is she?" Reagan complained.

"I remember when I was about ten, I really wanted to see one of the Batman movies so I begged my mother to take me," Henry recalled as they stood waiting. "She brought me to the mall and we went into the theater and then she said she'd be right back but of course she never did...come back."

Reagan looked at him with disbelief. "What did you do?" She asked.

"Watched the movie," Henry replied with a shrug. "That's why I went in the first place, right?"

"What happened when the movie ended?" Reagan asked.

"I waited for a while but it became pretty obvious she wasn't coming back," Henry said. "So I walked home."

"How far?"

"Seven or eight miles, I guess," Henry recalled. "I wasn't exactly sure which way to go and I got lost a few times but I eventually found my way back to the dump we were living in."

Reagan chewed on her lip for a moment. "I guess my mom being a few minutes late is no big deal," she said just as Becky pulled up to the curb in her SUV.

It was still raining the next day when Reagan returned from jogging with Schwartz. Her parents were gone and she found Henry sitting in the tub again reading a book when she barged into the bathroom dripping wet and cold from the rain hoping to take a shower.

"There are two other bathrooms," Henry reminded her once again.

"Get serious, Goulden," she said, rolling her eyes as she started peeling out of her drenched jogging clothes.

It was the first time Henry actually saw Reagan totally stark naked. She scooped up her wet clothes from the floor and stuffed them in the hamper with her back to him so he could eye her rear end he had previously rubbed with appreciation and then she turned to face him and he got a full view of her small breasts he had squeezed, felt and licked and her pubic triangle which he had rubbed a few times too.

"Put the damn book down, Goulden," Reagan ordered as she stepped toward the tub.

Henry obeyed and Reagan climbed into the bath, turning so her back was to him as she sat down and rested her head against his chest, her rear end rubbing against his underwater penis. She unbraided her hair and let it fall down her back and onto Henry's chest as she sank down in the water to wash out her hair before sliding back up and resting against his chest again.

"Are you going to come watch my swim meets this year?" She asked.

"I didn't know I was supposed to last year," he sighed with guilt.

"It's okay, Goulden, just show up this year, okay?"

"Of course," he promised. "Maybe if I'm lucky Schwartz will drown."

Reagan laughed. "Is somebody jealous?" she teased.

"No," Henry replied. "Envious, maybe, but not jealous."

"He's not my boyfriend, Goulden. I don't believe in all that high school romance crap anyway."

"Why not?" Henry wondered.

"Because it's high school," she replied. "How many people grow up and marry their Freshman heartthrob or their sophomore dance date or their junior crush?"

"I don't know," Henry admitted.

"Not many," Reagan reasoned. "So I'm not interested in all that mushy gushy stuff that usually ends up in heartbreak or pain or anger or stupidity anyway. Why do you think we're having this little secret affair of ours?"

"Couldn't it happen to us?" Henry asked. "The break up part?"

"How can you break up with your cousin - or whatever it is you are to me?" Reagan asked, turning her head to look up and eye him. "We're always going to be together, Goulden. Maybe not as lovers after high school - not that we're lovers yet by the way - but we will always be...related, right?"

"Sure," Henry smiled although he realized that anything could happen. His mother could return or Reagan's parents might find out about them and send Henry away or Reagan could meet some guy and fall crazy in love with him or...could Henry actually meet some girl that would want all that high school drama gushy mushy stuff?

He wrapped his arms around Reagan's waist and rested his chin on the top of her head. "Promise me you'll never hate me," he whispered. "No matter what happens."

"I promise," she vowed.

"Promise you'll never abandon me," he said quietly. "No matter what happens."

Reagan sat up and turned around to face him, resting on her knees so her breasts were out of the water as she stared into his eyes. "I will never abandon you, Goulden," she told him, her voice breaking. "I would never do that to you."

She kissed him and then hugged him, clutching on to him like she had just saved him from drowning in the tub. Henry felt her bare wet breasts rubbing against his chest and he put his hands on her ass and pushed her closer to him.

"Sometimes it feels like you're the only one I have," he admitted quietly.

"I know," she sighed. "I'm sorry what happened to you."

"It's okay," he reasoned. "It brought me here. To you."

Reagan kissed him again with passion before standing and grabbing a towel to dry off. Henry peered up at her and from his unique angle he certainly got an interesting view of all of Reagan as she dried her hair and then her body before stepping out of the tub and wrapping the towel around her.

"Thanks for sharing your bath with me, Goulden," she grinned before leaving the room.

Henry watched after her for a moment before picking up his book from the floor and returning to his reading.

Reagan was increasingly busy with school commitments and getting ready for swim season, now working out in the pool in addition to jogging with Schwartz. Henry maintained his routine without much change although he was hanging out in the literary magazine classroom more often now. Reagan continued to drop in on Henry in his room at night for their evening conversations and before they knew it, Halloween had arrived.

Reagan was excited about the Halloween party she had been invited to and she asked Henry if he was doing anything to mark the occasion.

"Halloween was never a happy event for me," Henry reported.

"How come?" Reagan asked during one of their evening chats.

"My mother was never around to take me trick or treating," Henry explained. "I never had a costume. I used to hide in my room so I wouldn't have to answer the door when kids came for candy because there wasn't any candy in the house anyway."

"Geez, Goulden," Reagan sighed.

"Well, I grew out of all that stuff anyway," Henry remarked.

"Why don't you come to the party with me?" Reagan suggested. "It's never too late to have some fun on Halloween."

"I'm not a party person," Henry replied.

"Come with me, we'll find you a great costume," Reagan said. "Wouldn't you like to be someone else for a change?"

The idea actually sounded pretty interesting. "I usually would rather be anybody else except me," he admitted.

Reagan gave him a sad look but then she decided to cheer him up by listing all the costumes she wore over the years, gleefully telling him various Halloween adventures. Henry eventually agreed to go to the party with Reagan and she helped him with a Harry Potter costume, complete with the glasses, tie, scarf, cloak, wand and even a book for him to carry.

"You're almost playing yourself," Reagan laughed.

Reagan went as Batgirl knowing that Henry would appreciate the irony after telling her the story of the time he had to walk home after the Batman movie. The party was okay enough for Henry who got to hide behind the glasses and wand and play somebody he really wasn't. It was hard to figure out whom some of the people were in the various costumes but Henry didn't worry about it too much knowing he was going home with Batgirl even with Schwartz there in a Superman's costume.

Harry Potter walked Batgirl home a little before their midnight curfew and Reagan's mom called soon afterwards to let her know they were running late from their social gathering and wouldn't be home for another hour or so.

"Did you have fun?" Batgirl asked as she and Harry Potter went upstairs.

"It was fun to do something different," Henry confessed.

"I was thinking of doing something different right now," Batgirl informed him as she followed Harry Potter into his room. "Would you like a trick or a treat?" She asked seductively.

"What kind of trick or treat?" Henry asked suspiciously.

Reagan grinned behind her Batgirl Mask as she dropped to her knees in front of Harry Potter, lifting her hands up and unfastening his belt buckle.

"What are you doing?" Henry asked with surprise.

"Something I've never done before," she purred as she opened his pants and tugged them and his underwear down to reveal Harry Potter's other wand.

"Reagan…."

"It's Batgirl tonight, Harry," she said.

"I'm not sure if I'm ready for this," Henry admitted nervously even though he noticed that his penis had gone hard in front of her mask.

Batgirl didn't say anything as she slipped her warm mouth around his penis and Henry jumped when he felt her wet tongue rubbing against the sides of his member as she started moving her mouth back and forth. Henry felt her teeth along it too and the sensation he experienced from her touch and feel literally staggered him as he stood.

"I've never done this before," she told him again in a mumble as she slipped her mouth back until her lips were on the head of his penis which was flapping like a dying fish on the shore of a river and then Batgirl started sucking on it.

Henry was breathing hard and shaking as Batgirl rubbed her tongue along it and he could feel her saliva mixed in with something that seemed to be oozing from him.

"Reagan," he tried to speak.

"Shhh," she moaned. "Just let me do this for you."

She continued to suck on him and Henry felt like he was experiencing an out of body episode, becoming dizzy and weak legged as Batgirl brought her hand up and wrapped it around his penis to keep it securely in her mouth that she kept moving back and forth so he went deeper into her mouth almost until her lips were catching some of his pubic hair. Henry kept groaning, unable to control the emotions and sensations he was feeling, something he had never felt before as Batgirl's lips continued to lick on him and her sucking noises filled the room.

And then he began to shake and he felt himself throb and then there was a sudden release from his body and he heard Batgirl gag as he let himself go with a loud groan as Batgirl struggled to keep up with his pumping that shot down her throat and he panicked thinking she could choke to death or something so he was relieved (in more ways than one) when his penis stopped thrusting so violently (it seemed to him) and he finally stopped moaning and gasping.

Batgirl was smiling at him as she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. She took her Batgirl cape and wiped his penis dry and then she stood and gave him a kiss on the lips. Henry thought it was strange to be able to taste himself on her lips.

"No tricks, Goulden," she said softly. "I just wanted you to have a treat you'll remember forever. I want to make you happy because I can't think of anybody I know who deserves some happiness in his life more than you do."

"I…I….I…." Henry stuttered.

"Shhhh," she said with a serious look on her face. "Don't question it. You don't even have to say anything. We both know. Happy Halloween, Goulden."

She turned and stealthily left the room, leaving Henry behind to try to collect his wits as he pulled his underwear and pants back up his legs and stumbled to the bed to regroup emotionally and physically. He didn't think what had just happened could ever be possible and now that it was truth he wondered if there was any going back when it came to his secret sex life with Reagan Sinclair.

The next morning, Henry found Reagan in the kitchen with her parents having Sunday brunch and she smiled warmly at him but Henry couldn't stop gawking at her all through the meal. When they were finished and leaving the room, Reagan grabbed Henry by the arm and practically dragged him up the stairs.

"For Christsakes, Goulden, stop looking at me like we're having sex!" She warned. "You trying to ruin everything?"

"Sorry," he replied sheepishly. "I couldn't help it."

Henry tried to act as if nothing had changed even though he knew everything had changed. November turned windy and chilly with hints of winter in the air. Reagan continued with her swimming practices and training and Henry's writing became more emotional, "a new maturity level" his teacher critiqued.

Henry tried not to think about sex when he was with Reagan but sometimes it was hard not to. She had awakened a sleeping part of his being and he thought about being with her in that way whenever they were together but there were no opportunities to explore such desires so Henry tried to focus on their cousin-sibling-friend relationship instead, grateful to have her in his life and content with their evening chats.

Thanksgiving arrived and Henry went to the annual Greenville-Hillsboro rivalry football game with Reagan and Mark which was a lot of fun. The family Thanksgiving Day gathering was at Reagan's grandparents' house this year, another typical Cody-Sinclair family affair full of laughter and good cheer even with Jack being missed as much as ever.

"I don't suppose you had a lot of happy Thanksgiving memories growing up, huh Goulden?" Reagan asked as they sat on the living room couch chatting away.

"I do now," Henry said contently.

"But there wasn't much to be thankful before, was there?" She tested.

"Not really," he admitted. "I remember one year my mother had some of her drunken friends over and one of the guys tried carving the turkey with the electric knife and nearly cut his own hand off. Another guy spent half the day in the bathroom throwing up. Another year I remember my mother dropping the turkey all over the floor in a drunken mess but most years we didn't have a Thanksgiving celebration."

"Maybe it was better that way."

"Sometimes we went to the homeless shelter for a holiday meal," Henry recalled.

"That's so sad."

"The worse part of the holidays was being in school leading up to them," Henry said. "Other kids being so excited and happy about Santa coming or going to Grandma's for Thanksgiving or having an Easter Egg Hunt and all that stuff. I usually felt left out and different around the other kids and when we came back to school afterwards I usually had to make something up so nobody would find out the truth."

"Sometimes when I hear your stories I just want to cry," Reagan revealed with a heavy sigh. "I just don't understand how LuEllen could be so cruel to you. What kind of mother does that to her own kid?"

"A drunken one," Henry replied.

"Well, Happy Thanksgiving this year, Goulden," Reagan smiled.

It was Black Friday of the Thanksgiving weekend. Reagan had swim practice with her first meet only a few weeks away and Becky and Mark had gone off to do some holiday shopping and then dinner with friends. Henry spent the day at the house alone reading (and missing Reagan) and he smiled to himself when he heard the front door open knowing Reagan was home.

He climbed off his bed and met her in the hallway, her wearing her swim sweats underneath her winter coat.

"Goulden," Reagan smiled when she saw him. "Come on in," she invited as she stepped into her room and Henry willingly obeyed, always happy to be in her lovely surroundings with her huge bed and fancy furniture, not to mention more stuffed animals then he could count. "I've been waiting for this chance all week," she grinned as she began stripping out of her clothes.

When she was naked, Reagan threw herself on the bed on her stomach and the still clothed Henry slipped on top of her, kissing her neck which still smelled of pool chorine even though she had showered at school. Reagan giggled and grinding her buns against Henry's groin which became hard inside his pajama bottoms (he hadn't bothered getting dressed). Henry pushed his groin against her ass and she teasingly shook it at him as she looked over her shoulder with a huge smile on her face. She shoved Henry off of her and then she rolled onto her back before reaching out and taking Henry's hand which she directed between her legs as she fell back on the mattress.

Henry stared at her with wonderment but he hesitated as to what he should do next.

"Don't be scared, Goulden," Reagan told him.

He could see that her vagina was moist, glistening in the light shining down from the ceiling lamp.

"Go ahead and touch it," Reagan gently instructed him.

Henry tentatively petted her pubic hair and she helped steer his hand with hers to where she wanted it to go. When Henry found her opening and slowly rubbed his fingers along her folds Reagan began moving her hips back and forth while opening her legs wider to give Henry a full view of her hidden secrets. Henry explored her chamber as Reagan continued to move her hips up and down, breathing heavily, her eyes half-closed as she murmured and purred. Henry was mesmerized and kept watching her face as he rubbed her slit.

"Use your tongue," she begged. "Like I did with you."

Henry's eyes went wide but he didn't want to disappoint or fail her so he lay down between her legs and stuffed his face into her hairy muff and the opened slit within it. As he continued with his tongue exploration, Reagan began bucking her hips and moaning louder. Her head rocked back and forth until she stiffened and jerked her hips as Henry kept licking and suddenly he felt new wetness on his chin and nose as Reagan screamed out with passionate ecstasy, her body become stiff as a board for a moment while she thrashed around on the bed screaming and when she finally went still and opened her eyes, she had a sly smile on her face as she stared at Henry.

"Oh, Goulden," she said happily. "That was amazing."

He laid his head on her stomach and stared past her breasts into her face. "You make me very happy," he told her.

Reagan reached her hand out and played with the hair on top of his head.

Henry was pretty sure Reagan was looking at him in the kitchen the next day like they were having sex but he didn't say anything and fortunately her parents didn't seem to notice.

December arrived and Reagan's swim meets began. Henry showed up for them as promised, learning the sport as he watched the various events. Becky brought him to the away meets and Reagan smiled every time she saw him in the stands. Henry had to admit that Schwartz was a talented swimmer, winning most of his heats but Reagan was even better, gracefully quick and impressively stylish in her strokes.

As Christmas approached, Henry tried to think of an appropriate gift he could give Reagan without raising alarm or suspicion with her parents. He decided on a friendship locket that was understated yet attractive. There was a Christmas Eve gathering at one of the Aunt's house and after present opening at home on Christmas morning, another family gathering at Reagan's grandparents house.

"Do I dare ask you about some of your worst Christmases, Goulden?" Reagan asked him during the Christmas Eve gathering.

"They weren't all bad," Henry offered.

"Were they all good?" She challenged.

"I guess it's all a matter of perspective," Henry said. "I remember we were going somewhere in a snow storm and we went off the road, totally the junk car my mother was driving but walking away from the accident without a scratch. I guess that was a present."

"I guess," Reagan agreed.

"One Christmas Eve my mother was opening a bottle of champagne with friends and the cork exploded, hitting her in the eye," Henry recalled. "She had to go to the Emergency Room and Christmas was pretty much wrecked."

"Geez, Goulden."
"There was the year when my mother was with some total loser who didn't like Christmas so there wasn't any shopping or presents that year," Henry said. "They just got drunk the night before and spent most of the day in bed. I did too, depressed."

"Jesus, Goulden."

"I mostly felt lonely and sad which was ironic because most people were so happy and full of joy," Henry said. "I remember thinking how lucky the Baby Jesus was to have a mother like Mary who was so willing to do anything for him."

Henry glanced at Reagan and saw tears in her eyes as she stared at him with a funny look on her face.

"It's okay," he said with a bemused smile. "It's better now."

"I just feel so guilty since I've met you," Reagan sighed. "And I realize how lucky I am to have grown up the way I have."

"You shouldn't feel guilty," Henry told her. "Be happy for your life."

"I have nothing but wonderful memories," Reagan said. "Except for Uncle Jack dying, nothing bad has happened to me. But when I hear about your horrible experiences I just want to cry."

"Don't cry," he advised. "Be happy. It's Christmas!"

Reagan gave him a spontaneous hug even though others could see them. She couldn't help herself. She just wanted to comfort him and make sure he was better.

Reagan got teary eyed and was speechless the next day when she opened her present from him and saw the locket. Her present to him was a fancy journal for his poetry and Henry was moved by her kind gesture.

"I have another present for you," Reagan whispered in his ear when they were alone in the room. "But it will have to wait."

Henry was happy to celebrate Christmas with the Cody-Sinclair families and to be included as part of the family. The more time he spent living with the Sinclairs the more distant and forgotten his past seemed to get. He was grateful for his new life and the gifts he had been given. Becky and Mark brought Reagan and Henry skiing although Henry had never been on skis in his life and didn't do so well, although he faired a little better with a snowboard.

Reagan spent most of the vacation week at swim practices and meets and Henry didn't see much of her because she was also spending time with friends. One afternoon, she came home from swim practice and after a while she called Henry from her room.

"Goulden, come here," she yelled.

Henry left his room for hers and when he opened the door she was lying stark naked on her bed with a bow in her hair, a ribbon around her breasts, and a cherry strategically placed at the top of her pubic hair.

"Time for your other present," she said mischievously.

Henry burst out in a wide grin as he stood in the door staring at her.

"Come in, close the door, get naked, and take my Cherry for Christmas," she said.

"Are you sure?" Henry asked nervously.

"More sure than anything," she assured him. "We've been working our way to this day for months, Goulden. "It's time."

Henry closed the door and locked it, striped out of his clothes and walked across the room, sliding onto the bed next to her.

"I wanted to wait until the right moment with the right person," Reagan explained as she looked into his eyes. "It's the right moment now and you're the one I want to be with."

"But we're sort of kind of family," he replied.

"I don't' care," Reagan replied. "I'm not on the pill or anything, so you can't do it inside of me but I want you to have my cherry."

Henry leaned over and sucked the cherry off her groin.

"Not just that cherry, Goulden," Reagan told him seductively as she brought her hand up and rubbed his penis until it got hard in her hand.

Henry lay on top of Reagan and gently squeezed her breasts before sucking on them too. Reagan found his free hand with her free hand (she was still holding his penis) and directed it to her womanhood which he began to finger. They both became excited, Reagan's home made ribbon around her midsection ripping free and her bow on the top of her head popping off.

"We've been practicing foreplay for a year," Reagan whispered as she directed his stiff penis to her entrance. "I want us to be happy."

Henry kissed her before maneuvering himself on top of her and then he ever oh slowly entered her. Reagan was very tight as he slowly pushed himself inside her. Reagan started to moan, only it sounded like a pained moan instead of a pleasurable one like during their past explorations.

"I don't want to hurt you," Henry worried.

"Just keep doing what you're doing," she said through gritted teeth and then she made an 'ouch' sound and traces of blood oozed out. "Okay," she said. "The balloon is popped. Stick me for real now."

Henry started moving faster and Reagan moved her hips with his thrusts. It went on for so long that he was starting to get tired. He kissed her neck and rubbed her breasts, feeling her pulsing underneath him and they both knew they were experiencing something truly orgasmic, especially when Reagan began to moan and groan and shriek and shimmer as she climaxed with Henry still inside her, screaming his name and God's name over and over again in a breathless cadence.

Reagan had barely recovered from her orgasm when Henry started his own moans.

"I think..."

"Take it out!" She ordered and Henry pulled out just as he ejected himself all over her breasts which Reagan apparently approved of because she giggled happily and rubbed it all over chest as if it was skin lotion.

Henry sighed with relief as he fell on top of Reagan and she wrapped her arms around his waist and held him to her.

"You have my cherry," Reagan announced happily, kissing him. "Our Secret Sex Life is now complete."

"But not over," Henry hoped.

"No, of course not," she promised. "Let's take a shower."

Henry kissed her before rolling off of her. They climbed off the bed and she took him by the hand, leading him to the bathroom where they stepped into the shower and cleaned each other off with soap and washcloths. Henry couldn't imagine how he could have a better holiday.

Henry and Reagan were now officially a couple only nobody knew that they were officially a couple. They continued their sibling-cousin-friend role play at home and Schwartz remained Reagan's muse at school. Henry attended the rest of Reagan's swim meets. They studied for their driver's permit together and took the test at the same time, both passing. They took the classroom portion of Driver's Ed together during February school vacation and often scheduled their driving practice times together too. Reagan also continued her evening conversations in Henry's room, always with the door open to demonstrate transparency to her parents.

They both turned sixteen during the winter with separate birthday parties although Reagan had to ask Henry the inevitable question.

"You probably had some miserable birthdays too, huh?" Reagan wondered after Henry's great birthday celebration with Reagan and her parents.

"One of my mother's loser boyfriends stole my birthday money one year," Henry recalled. "There was the year my mother forgot all about my birthday, of course. And another when she never came home for it. I ate the cake by myself."

"Man, oh man, was all Reagan could say.

"One year, I sort of kind of had a friend," Henry told her. "A kid I liked and he liked me I think, so I asked my mother if he could come over for my birthday. She said sure but he got killed in a car accident the day before my birthday."

Reagan stared at him with her mouth hanging open.

"We didn't celebrate my birthday another time because my mother had a date," Henry said.

"Enough!" Reagan cried. "I don't want to hear anymore."

"I had a Happy Birthday this year though," Henry smiled with warmth.

Reagan looked at him and shook her head with sadness. "I promise I'll never feel sorry for myself again," she vowed. "The worse thing that will ever happen to me will never compare to some of the pain you've already experienced."

"I'm happy now," Henry told her. "Isn't that all that matters?"

The thing about having a Secret Sex Life was that nobody knew about it so that took the pressure off as far as frequency of Henry and Reagan's lovemaking was concerned. Because Reagan wasn't on the pill yet (her mother had previously told her not before she got her driver's license) and Henry was too embarrassed to go to the drug store to buy condoms they didn't have intercourse again until Reagan finally brought condoms home for Henry to use. The couple took advantage of the empty house whenever they could to share a bath or practice some of the oral sex they had experimented with earlier. Reagan liked sucking Henry off and Henry learned how to eat Reagan out and bring her to orgasm every time. There were other times when they simply got naked together and lay on Henry's bed talking while cuddling. They both knew that whenever they were home and Reagan's parents weren't the likelihood for some naked time and oral sex definitely improved but it wasn't a mandatory event because just being together was what was really important to the two, especially given the taboo aspect of their cousiny relationship.

Reagan had a grin on her face the day she came into Henry's room holding a package of condoms in her hand. "As much as I've enjoyed your seaman showers on my tits and ass, how bout we try having actual intercourse for once?"

"Those things aren't fool proof, you know," Henry warned.

"I'm not ovulating," Reagan replied with confidence. "This is just for added safety."

"How do you even put one of those things on?" Henry frowned.

"I'll show you," Reagan smirked.

So they got naked once again and Henry stood by the bed watching the nude Reagan open the condom package (seductively with her teeth). She knelt down in front of him and rolled the rubber onto his stiff penis which was one of the most erotic sensations Henry had ever felt, well evidenced by his rapid heart beat. Even after all this time sharing their secret sex lives, Henry still got turned on every time he and Reagan got naked together.

Reagan pushed him onto the bed on his back and she mounted him, helping him to guide his condom covered penis into her vagina. Henry enjoyed the sensation of being inside her and he looked forward to emptying himself inside her for the first time. Reagan was riding him with authority and they picked up a rhythm that seemed to go on longer than any of their previous times together.

"I love making love with you," Reagan whimpered as Henry stared up at her face, watching her breasts bounce as she rode him until she finally climaxed with a scream and Henry filled the condom with his fluid.

There was nothing more disgusting in Henry's opinion than a used condom which he peeled off his penis and went and flushed down the toilet. Reagan appeared behind him standing at the commode and she rubbed herself against his back as she wrapped her arms around his waist and rested her face against his back.

"I know you were meant to be my first love," she whispered. "All of this might be unorthodox and improper and scandalous but I don't care," she said.

"I don't either," Henry admitted., turning to face her, giving her a hug as they stood naked in the bathroom.

Reagan was tickled when the Hillsboro High School Golf Team Coach Mr. Miner recruited Henry for the squad. Coach Miner had seen Henry on the links when he was working at the course and Coach felt he would be a great addition to the team. Henry was initially uncertain about joining the team, fearing he wouldn't play well and also feeling socially awkward about becoming part of something new but Reagan became his biggest cheerleader and Henry actually did pretty well as a member of the team. It was the first time Henry actually felt like he belonged to a group.

The school year played out without much drama. Not getting caught in their scandalous affair was the biggest achievement as far as Henry was concerned although Reagan didn't seem to be so worried about such a discovery..

"We've been very discreet, Goulden," she pointed out. "Nobody has a clue."

"Don't you feel guilty about using Schwartz?" Henry wondered during one of their evening bedroom chats.

"Schwartz is getting plenty of publicity being seen with me," Reagan reasoned. "He'll probably move on when he gets tired of not getting any sex from me."

Sophomore year ended and Reagan got more hours at Red's Tastee Freeze anticipating her license in a few months. Henry returned to the golf course and played in the Jack Cody Memorial Tournament which he almost won. He still picked up Reagan at the Tastee Freeze some days and they walked home from work together.

One afternoon, Henry and Reagan strolled into the house from work and were summoned into the living room by Reagan's parents who were sitting with a woman visitor. Henry knew he never met her before but she looked uncannily familiar as he stared at her. Reagan picked up on her parents' tension right away.

"What's going on?" Reagan frowned, her defenses going up immediately.

"Henry, this is your Aunt Lilly," Becky said nervously.

Henry nodded, knowing that his worse fear had come true. His mother was somehow back in his life.

"You're here about my mother?" Henry guessed.

"Why don't we all sit down?" Mark suggested, sounding like the professional lawyer he was.

Reagan looked panic stricken as she collapsed into one of the overstuffed chairs. Henry tentatively sat on the arm chair of the couch and stared at his Aunt.

"Where is my mother?" Henry asked.

"Fort Lauderdale, Florida," Aunt Lilly replied.

There were hints of his mother in Aunt Lilly's face but she looked in much better condition than his mother ever did and there were no tattoos on her body. She had bleached blonde hair and she was well tanned.

"Henry, first off, I want to say it's a pleasure to finally meet you," Aunt Lilly said with a smile.

"Yeah, it only took sixteen years," Reagan said sarcastically.

"Honey," Becky warned diplomatically.

"It's true," Lilly said politely. "LuEllen was estranged from the family for a very long time."

"You've come to get me?" Henry guessed.

"Only if you want to go," Lilly replied knowingly.

"He doesn't want to go," Reagan said forcefully.

"Reagan," Becky said cautiously. "This isn't about you."

Reagan pouted and folded her arms across her chest.

"Your mother is in a half-way house, Henry," Lilly revealed. "She's been sober for almost a year."

"LuEllen showed up on Lilly's doorstep about a year ago," Mark explained.

"First time I saw her in nearly seventeen years," Lilly sighed.

"So, she's sober and doing okay?" Reagan wanted to know.

"She's not doing so well," Lilly said sadly, looking at Henry with concern. "She's sick, Henry. Lymphoma."

"Lymphoma?" Reagan frowned.

"Cancer," Lilly clarified. "We're not sure of the prognosis yet but we thought Henry would want to know."

"She sent you here for me?" Henry asked.

"No," Lilly replied. "But she did tell us where you were and how the Sinclairs have been watching after you. I came here because I wanted you to know that your mother might be dying."

There was a long heavy pause in the room as the news was digested by Henry and Reagan.

"It's your decision, Henry," Mark said, acting as mediator. "You can stay with us or you can go with Lilly."

"Back to Florida!? A shocked Reagan asked.

"Back to Florida," Lilly confirmed. "Henry, your grandparents are down there and an Uncle and some of your cousins."

"His grandparents who abandoned him?" Reagan accused angrily.

"Reagan!" Becky scolded.

"It's okay," Lilly said with patient understanding. "My family practiced tough love with my sister but we clearly made mistakes and we all have regrets about how it all turned out."

"Do you know the hell Henry has been through?" Reagan demanded.

"I think I can relate," Lilly answered openly. "We all went through hell with my sister. Now we're trying to do the right thing, made amends and be there for her in her time of need."

"When do we leave?" A sad faced Henry asked as he stood.

"HENRY!" Reagan shrieked. "You can't!"

"Reagan, please," Becky said.

"Mom, Henry doesn't owe his mother anything," Reagan insisted. "He's finally found happiness here. Why should he give all that up?"

"She's my mother, Reagan," Henry replied quietly.

"I have two open tickets," Lilly told him. "There's a flight leaving at 10:20 tonight."

"Tonight!?" Reagan shouted with disbelief.

"I'm sorry, but I left a husband and two kids to come up here," Lilly said.

"I'll go pack," Henry muttered.

Reagan burst into tears and ran from the room.

'Don't be hard on her," Henry said to Becky and Mark. "I told her a lot of horrible things about the past."

"Don't feel guilty about leaving, Henry," Mark advised. "We understand how difficult this is for you."

"I'll never forget your kindness," Henry replied.

A teary eyed Becky gave Henry a hug before going to her husband for needed comfort and support.

"Give me a few minutes," Henry requested of Lilly as he left the room.

Reagan was sitting on Henry's bed when he entered, streams of tears rolling down her face.

"How can I abandon her they way the others abandoned her, Reagan?" Henry asked when he saw the pained look on her face.

"You can't," Reagan sighed. "I know that. I'm just being selfish and feeling sorry for myself."

"Remember you said you'd never feel sorry for yourself again after hearing my story?" Henry asked with a half-smirk.

"Shut-up," she told him.

"This was always my worse fear you know," Henry revealed as he went to the dresser and started pulling out clothes. "I always knew it was only a matter of time before my mother came back into my life."

"Me too," Reagan admitted.

"The only thing is I thought she'd come back to wreck it," Henry sighed.

"Well, isn't she?" Reagan asked.

"Yeah, but not on purpose," Henry replied. "It's not her fault she's sick."

"I know," Reagan groaned, wiping tears from her face. "But it still sucks."

Henry stared at her for a long moment. "I love you," he told her.

"I love you too," she said, the tears coming again.

"But I'm not your boyfriend," he said. "You don't believe in the high school romance crap, remember?"

"So I lied," Reagan admitted.

""How many people grow up and marry their Freshman heartthrob or their sophomore dance date or their junior crush?" He asked, repeating her line from a few months ago.

"Or their would be cousin?" Reagan added sadly.

"You weren't interested in all that mushy gushy stuff that usually ends up in heartbreak," Henry reminded her.

"That's why I had our secret affair," Reagan said. "It wasn't supposed to happen to us."

"The break up part?"

"We'll always be related, right?" She asked tearfully.

"Yes, we'll always be related," Henry said.

She watched him pack his two bags and when he was done, he turned to her.

"You coming downstairs?"

"No," Reagan said, shaking her head. "I just can't face your Aunt. I hate her for taking you away."

"I'll miss you forever,' Henry said.

Reagan jumped off the bed and latched on to him. "Me too," she resolved.

"Thank you, Reagan," Henry whispered. "You gave me my life back."

"Goodbye, Goulden," she said, breaking the hug and running from the room.

Henry carried his bags from the room and headed for the stairs knowing his Secret Sex life had come to an end.