The Secret in the Attic

Launi knew that Mr. Morgan was lying.

His claim that his stepson Oliver had stolen his rare coin collection valued at $100,000 just didn't make any sense. Why would Oliver take the coins? What would he do with them? It was just a crazy accusation but Mr. Morgan insisted that was the reason Oliver had run away. Launi knew Oliver wouldn't vanish a month before graduating from high school and she wasn't buying the story.

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary the last few times Launi saw Oliver. It was no secret that Oliver's home life was chaotic but he gave no indications that there was a crisis going on or that he was thinking of fleeing.

Oliver's step father was abusive and strict and Launi knew there had been several fights, confrontations and other incidents but she knew Oliver would never steal from Mr. Morgan.

Launi missed her friend and she hoped he was okay. She was happy that Oliver's name was read at the graduation ceremony but she was worried about him. What if he had met up with some sort of foul play? Maybe he was being held captive in the cellar of the house or something!

Launi's Dad said that the Police had been to Oliver's house and saw no evidence of wrongdoing. Nobody knew if Oliver actually stole the coins but they were hopeful he would return eventually to either defend himself or turn himself in. Launi thought the entire scenario was very strange and she wished Oliver would come home because she missed their chats and his companionship.

Launi and Oliver were close neighborhood friends with the shared experience of losing a parent – Oliver's dad died when he was six and Launi's mom passed when she was ten. That unusual sense of loss gave the two friends a strong bond of understanding and closeness that Launi didn't feel with many others, including her boyfriend Randy who didn't show a whole lot of sympathy for Oliver's disappearance and actually seemed relieved that he was no longer in the daily picture of Launi's life.

Launi' best friend Cheryl believed that Launi and Oliver were meant to be together as a romantic couple. Cheryl thought that Randy was self-centered and narcissistic and while it was true that Oliver was damaged goods with baggage, at least he cared about Launi and put her first whereas Randy often treated her like his lap dog. Of course, Randy came from the perfect family and he brought status and popularity to the relationship. Sometimes Launi felt unworthy as Randy's girlfriend because she was clearly homogenized middle class with a dead mother while Randy lived in a big house on the hill and was a member of the local country club.

With school over and the summer in gear, Launi picked up more hours at her job as a cashier at Fontaine's Family Grocery Store even though Randy didn't like her working at a market.

"It makes you look low class," he complained.

Those types of catty remarks made Launi realize that her boyfriend was quite the snob.

Launi wasn't sure when she started feeling weird around the house, sensing that something just wasn't quite right. Her Dad worked a lot of hours and he was on the road a lot so she was frequently home alone. Randy didn't like being seen around her house (it wasn't a bad neighborhood but it wasn't the hill either) so Launi usually socialized with him at his huge Victorian on the hill where Randy had the entire third floor of the house as his own.

Maybe Launi was feeling insecure and paranoid because of Oliver's absence and that kept her on edge but strange things kept happening around the house that simply were not in sync. Small and subtle yet annoying things. A couple of her favorite cookies missing even though she knew her father didn't like them. Less leftovers in the frig then she swore she left. Not as much milk in the carton as she thought there was that morning. A can of beans missing from the cupboard. A damp towel in the bathroom even though she hadn't showered. The washing machine turned to warm water instead of the cold she always used. This weirdness had been going on for weeks. Sometimes days would go by and she would forget all about the strange happenings but then she would notice something else that just didn't feel right. The television on a different channel then she had left it that morning. A window shade or curtain just slightly off from where she usually kept it. Three bananas in the fruit bowl when she knew there were four that morning.

There was no point asking her father about the strange occurrences. Launi knew his schedule and that he wasn't around the house to cause the changes. She didn't want to freak him out or get him paranoid either so she kept the weirdness to herself even though deep in her gut Launi knew something goofy was going on.

One afternoon Launi walked down the hall to her room and out of the corner of her eye she noticed that the door to the attic was open ever so slightly – just enough to be noticed – an eighth of inch perhaps, but definitely not completely closed as usual. Nobody ever went up there so unless the wood had expanded in the summer humidity Launi knew something was amiss. She went downstairs and dug an old baseball bat out of the front closet and slowly walked back up the stairs with her heart thumping. Could somebody actually be in the house? Did she come home and surprise a burglar?

She pulled the door open and charged up the stairs with the baseball bat in a position that was ready to smash anything that moved. When she reached the top of the stairs she stopped dead in her tracks, stunned to see Oliver jumping off the old unused couch at the sound of her footsteps on the stairs. There was an old green wool blanket she recognized from the downstairs linen closet and a plate from the kitchen with a few crumbs on it sitting on the floor. Oliver's hair was messy and unkempt and he hadn't shaved in a while. He was also noticeably thinner than the last time she saw him, drawn in the face with his clothes hanging off of him.

"Oliver!" A shocked Launi cried. "Oh My God!"

"Damn," Oliver muttered, upset to be found out. "What are you doing up here?"

"It's my attic," she frowned. "What in the hell are you doing up here!?"

"Hiding," he sighed. "I knew it couldn't last forever though."

"You've been hiding up here all this time?" Launi asked with amazement.

"Well, I'd sneak downstairs when nobody was home but I tried to hide the evidence," Oliver admitted sheepishly as he took a seat on the couch again.

"I noticed the missing food mostly," Launi admitted. "I just couldn't put my finger on it."

She glanced around the dusty, warm, unattractive attic full of boxes, unused furniture, old Christmas decorations, and other forgotten junk and shook her head. "You must be going crazy up here."

"It does get a little lonely and claustrophobic," Oliver admitted. "It's nice to see you."

Launi looked as beautiful as ever in his view. Her long brown hair fallen down her back. Her light freckles on her fair skin. Her dancing blue eyes that seemed to be penetrating him. Her shapely figure that could be seen through her loose summer clothes.

"What in the hell is going on, Ollie?" Launi asked stepping closer to him. "What happened?"

"I had a huge fight with my step-father," he shrugged. "He went totally off the rails. Said I was eighteen and I was no longer going to free load off of him."

"Freeload?" Launi asked with confusion.

"Yeah, I guess he figured parenting stops at eighteen," Oliver said. "Just as well. I couldn't take it anymore," Oliver confessed. "The endless verbal confrontations. The family stress. Not being wanted."

"Why didn't your mother stand up to him?" Launi asked, taking a seat on the couch next to him.

"She already lost one husband," Oliver sighed. "I guess she's not ready to lose another. She's got my nine year old half sister to focus on so I'm expendable now that I'm of age. I've been a fourth wheel for a very long time in that house."

"That's so sad," Launi sighed. "Plus you missed graduation," she pouted.

"I felt bad about that," Oliver revealed.

"What's the deal with the coins?" Launi asked.

"They're my father's coins," Oliver explained angrily. "My mother never even told Stan about them. She should have had them in a safe deposit box somewhere but she had them in baggies in a shoe box in her closet. He found them and claimed them as his. I grabbed the shoe box off the table and ran like hell."

"You stole them!?"

"You can't steal something that rightfully belongs to you, Launi," Oliver pointed out. "Stan taking my father's collection is just not right"

"Why are you hiding out?" Launi asked. "If you didn't do anything wrong?"

"I know he's looking for me," Oliver sighed. "He's got low-life friends around that would be glad to kick the shit out of me to get the coins back. And I'm sure the cops are after me too."

"Where are the coins now?" Launi asked.

"In a safe place," Oliver answered.

"You can't hide forever," Launi told him.

"I know. I'm just waiting for the documentation to show up."

"What documentation?"

"Authentication on the coins," Oliver explained. "My father inherited the collection from his great uncle but my mother lost the documentation years ago. I've written to the lawyer who handled the estate hoping to get authentication on the collection and then Stan and his goons won't have a claim and the cops will leave me be."

"Don't you think your mother's worried about you?" Launi asked.

"No," Oliver answered truthfully.

"Maybe we should tell my father," Launi suggested.

"No, don't get him involved," Oliver requested. "I don't want him to feel responsible or caught in the middle. Besides, he wouldn't let me stay here alone with you anyway."

"Why not?" Launi asked innocently.

"Look, I just need a month or two for this to get resolved and then I'll be out of here."

"Where will you go then?"

"I'm thinking of joining the service."

She stared at him with sadness. "This is a crazy way to end our high school career, Ollie," she protested.

"But a nice way to spend our first summer as graduates," he grinned.

"You're just going to stay hiding up here?"

"Well, now that you know I'm here I can come downstairs and hang with you when your father isn't around."

Launi smiled. "That could be fun," she admitted.

"Just keep an eye out for an official looking envelope from Schwartz, Chandler and Morrison in the mail," Ollie requested. "I used this address to have the certification sent. And I owe you two hundred and fifty bucks for the fees."

"You took money from me?"

"From your stash in your underwear drawer," Ollie confessed. "I couldn't chance going back to my house to get the money."

She shook her head with annoyance. "Thief."

"Sorry."

"Wait a minute," Launi said. "Doesn't by law the coins belong to your mother?"

"She told me years ago that I was the beneficiary," Oliver revealed. "It was supposed to pay for my college. But I don't want to cash them in."

"Why not?"

"Because there's a lot of history in those coins," Oliver revealed. "My father's great uncle spent a lifetime on that collection. It's not about the money. It's about family and legacy and history. I need the certification to save the collection from Stan cashing in on it."

"Okay," she sighed. "I guess you can stay here stealth if that's what you really want to do,"

"Thanks," Oliver said with relief in his voice.

"I can't believe you've been in my attic all this time," she realized. "You haven't been spying on me have you?"

"Of course not," Oliver insisted.

"But you went through my underwear drawer," she protested.

"I didn't mean to violate your privacy," he said sheepishly.

Launi peered at him. "I barely recognize you with the hair and beard, Ollie," she said.

"It's hard to groom in hiding," Ollie shrugged. "I didn't want to risk using your father's razor and all that. I left my house with the clothes on my back and nothing else. I stole an extra toothbrush from your linen closet."

Launi shook her head. "As strange as all this is, I'm really glad to see you, Ollie. I was worried about you and I missed you."

"I'm right here," he smiled.

"It's kind of nice to have you here like this," she admitted. "All to myself."

"What about Randall?"

Randall was Oliver's sarcastic name for Randy, of course.

She ran her hand along his thigh. "What about him?" She asked innocently.

"Launi," Oliver whispered almost desperately.

She studied his face for a long moment. "You've always wanted me, haven't you?" She boldly asked.

"We're friends," he offered meekly.

"Oh?" She asked disbelievingly. "Are you sure that's all?"

"We've known each other for years," Oliver clarified.

"And for years we've been close," she reminded him.

He sighed with resignation and glanced away.

"Look at me," she instructed.

Oliver did as he was told.

"We really only have each other, don't we?" She asked. "You, the boy with the dead father, me the girl with the dead mother. That was us all these years. You were the only one who ever really knew me."

"I guess," he admitted.

Launi's face moved towards his and she pressed her lips against his.

"Launi," he whispered.

"Welcome home, Ollie," she said with a smile before she got up from the couch and started for the stairs. "My father should be home soon. I'll bring you dinner later."

Oliver watched Launi leave the attic and he let out a breath of relief, happy to be out of hiding. He had been going stir crazy in his lonely isolation and to finally have a conversation with somebody besides himself after nearly two months in hiding was both welcomed and needed. Now he wouldn't be a prisoner and an intruder, drifting through the empty house alike a ghost when nobody was home and being held captive - especially on the weekends - when Launi and her Dad were home. There were times when Ollie had to relieve himself in a jar in the attic because he couldn't risk using the upstairs bathroom with people in the house. Now, with Launi aware of his presence, he wouldn't have to spend so much time held up in the attic.

Launi went down stairs shaking her head. She was relieved to know that Ollie was okay and no longer missing but there was something bizarre about his story and something strange about him hiding in her house like some sort of criminal or stalker. Oliver had never talked much about his family in all the years they knew each other. Ollie idolized his dead father and was always speaking warmly of him (even though Oliver was only six when he died) but he rarely spoke of his stepfather Stan or even his own mother. Launi's suspicions about that were raised even more now - she knew he wasn't telling her something important in his tale about the coins and what was going on in the family. On the other hand, Ollie was in her attic and now she had a chance to spend some quality secret time with him - perhaps she'd be able to get some truths out of him she never could before.

Launi didn't want to think too much about Randy. She had been struggling in her relationship with him in recent times, especially since graduation. She was staying home and attending local Green College in the fall while Randy was destined for a successful basketball career at the University of Rhode Island. Randy had already started distancing himself from her and Launi knew it was only a matter of time before he broke up with her. She had been toying with the idea of calling it off herself but she knew Randy needed to be in control of everything and that he would resist her attempts. She was probably better off waiting for him to pull the plug and allowing the relationship to end surgically and completely without drama, emotion, or a big scene.

Launi knew that her friend Cheryl was right - that Ollie was the one she was supposed to be with. But Randy gave her prestige and popularity in high school while Ollie was handicapped by mystery and social stereotypes - he wasn't popular or particularly well known in school circles and he preferred to stay out of the limelight and keep to himself. Launi chose Randy for the status but in the end she realized it cost her a piece of her soul. Maybe now that high school was over, Launi didn't have to worry about that stupid stuff anymore.

Launi waited until she knew her father was in bed before venturing up to the attic. Her Dad was a heavy sleeper and she knew he'd snore through her footsteps on the attic stairs as well as the noise of the microwave in the kitchen as she warmed up some left over mashed potatoes, meatloaf and peas for her accidental guest.

She found Oliver awake, sitting on the couch waiting for her. The bare light bulb overhead was the only light in the room. Oliver usually had to keep it off unless he knew Launi and her father were in for the night and wouldn't see the attic light from the outside of the house.

"Hey." Oliver greeted her with a smile.

"I know you're hungry," Launi replied, holding the tray out in her hands. In addition to the meal, there was a tall glass of milk and brownie for dessert.

"Thanks a lot," Oliver said sincerely as he accepted the tray from her.

Launi sat next to him on the couch and watched as he practically devoured the food.

"You must be famished," she observed. "You've turned into a toothpick."

"I could only steal a little food at a time," he said.

"You're probably malnourished," Launi worried. "I'll have to make sure to feed you from now on."

"As long as your father doesn't catch on."

"I usually do most of the shopping and stuff," she said.

Oliver nodded as he continued to eat and Launi smiled as she watched.

"This is really good," Oliver remarked as he wolfed the food down his throat.

"Thanks," Launi replied. "I had to become a good cook after Mom died."

Launi felt relaxed and comfortable which was a nice change from always having to be 'on' and 'impressive' when she was with Randy who could be demanding with his expectations. She always felt as if Randy's parents were judging her and that she could never measure up to their social standing and status, the check out girl at Fontaine's Family Grocery Store. She got good grades and she presented herself well but she was still the girl with the dead mother and hard working middle class Dad who was away a lot.

Launi waited patiently until Oliver took his last bite of the brownie and the last sip of the milk. He put the dishes and tray on the floor and glanced sheepishly at Launi.

"That was a long time coming," he admitted with gratitude.

Launi had never seen him so vulnerable and suddenly she felt nothing but sympathy and concern for him. Her eyes met his before she fell into him and rested her head on his chest. Oliver tentatively and awkwardly wrapped his arms around her waist and she gladly pushed herself into him.

"This is nice," she whispered happily as she placed her hand on his and gently squeezed it.

Launi was pleasantly surprised when Oliver wrapped his fingers through hers and held her hand for a long moment. She wasn't sure how much time had gone by before she finally spoke.

"It's getting late," she sighed. "I should go."

She stood and picked up the tray. Oliver stood too with an expression on his face she'd never seen before. She moved the tray to her side before leaning in and kissing him.

"Good night, Attic Boy," she smiled.

Launi left the attic feeling more hopeful and at ease than she had in recent times. Oliver collapsed onto the couch just as Launi turned off the switch at the foot of the stairs, leaving him in darkness but for the first time in a long time he didn't feel quite so alone.

The next day was Saturday. Launi had a shift to work at Fontaine's and Oliver was trapped in the attic because Launi's father was home. When he was out mowing the back yard, Oliver quickly sneaked down and used the bathroom. Launi came home at four and brought him a grinder from Fontaine's Deli but she had a date with Randy she couldn't get out of and Oliver spent the evening alone in the attic with Launi's dad downstairs watching television.

Launi didn't get home until midnight - dinner with Randy and his family and then 'quality time' with Randy in his third floor abode. She had to use a flashlight to get up to the attic where Oliver was asleep on the couch. Her father, of course, was dead to the world in his bed. There was enough moonlight coming through the attic window for her to kill the flashlight and see his outline of the couch. She sat onto the couch and leaned over, close to his face.

"Oliver," she whispered before finding his lips with hers.

At first, Oliver thought he was dreaming but then he opened his eyes and focused and saw Launi's sweet face inches from his. He pulled her against him and kissed her passionately, almost still in a dream state.

"Oliver," she purred with approval.

"Launi," he sighed through the kisses.

Launi hoped he didn't smell the sex from her evening with Randy. They were only going through the motions now and she didn't enjoy their intimate times together. She knew Randy was using her for his own selfish physical pleasures and that he had no long term interest in her. As soon as he left for college it would be over between them.

She pulled away and handed Oliver some cookies she had stuffed in her pocket on her way through the kitchen. "You're probably hungry," she said.

He smiled and took the cookies from her. "A little," he admitted as he took a bite from one.

Launi let out a breath and stared into his eyes. "It must be hard to be trapped up here like this all the time."

"It's tough when your Dad's home," Oliver said.

"We usually go to church together around nine and then out to brunch," she said. "Our special time together. You'll be able to go down and shower and get something to eat. I have to work at one and then I'm going to the movies with Randy but I'll bring you something to eat when I get home, okay?"

"Sure," He agreed, disappointed to hear about the Randy part.

"Well, goodnight then," Launi said.

She started to leave the couch but Oliver pulled her towards him and somehow she bounced into his lap. He reached his hand out to her face.

"What are you still doing with Randall?" he dared to ask.

"You sound like Cheryl," she groaned.

Oliver brushed his finger softly across her cheek and she stared into his eyes.

"You're leaving for the military," she reminded him.

"Only if there's nothing to keep me here," he replied.

She moved her face closer to his. "Really?"

"Yes," he replied honestly. "I've had a lot of time to think about stuff, Launi."

She kissed him with passion and even tried to stick her tongue against his teeth. She was relieved when Oliver opened his mouth and accepted her tongue. But she knew she couldn't go any further having just had sex with Randy so she broke from the intimate face sucking and sprung off the couch.

"Good night, Ollie," she said breathlessly before darting from the attic, using her flashlight to find her way down the stairs.

Oliver fell back on the couch with a silent moan while downstairs in her bedroom Launi had to stop herself from bursting out in tears. What was she doing with Randy, damn it!

Oliver stood in the corner of the attic window the next morning watching Launi and her dad leave for church and brunch. Once he was confident they were gone, he went downstairs and used the bathroom and took a quick shower, careful to return everything to its rightful place as if never touched. Then he went down to the kitchen and ate a bowl of cereal and a bran muffin and drank a glass of orange juice. He glanced at the Sunday paper for a few minutes and then washed out the cereal bowl and orange juice glass and returned them to their proper place in the cupboard and made sure he hadn't left any muffin crumbs. He also made sure the paper looked exactly the same.

Oliver went upstairs and peeked his head into Launi's room. It smelled of her and he stood in the doorway for a few minutes inhaling her scent. Then he returned to the attic and retrieved the jar of body waste from its hiding place in the corner, returning to the second floor bathroom to dispose of the waste and clean the jar. When he was done with that chore, he returned to the attic a second time, re-hid the jar and then took the two books he last borrowed from the living room book case and returned them to their rightful place while finding a few more books to read. He was beginning to run low on options, having read nearly every book he could find in the house!

He brought the new selections back to the attic before returning to the first floor yet again. He did some stretching exercises and then sat in the chair in the front bay window to catch some rays of the sun through the glass and watch the Sunday morning activity on the street. Getting out of the attic was always a welcomed change and he enjoyed his new scenery for as long as it lasted.

To play it safe, Oliver returned to the attic before the guesstimated return of Launi and her Dad. He heard them enter the house a few minutes later and not long after that he watched from the attic window as Launi climbed into her car and went to work, leaving him trapped in the attic for the day with her Dad downstairs.

A while later, a familiar red sedan appeared in the driveway and the same woman Oliver had seen before emerged from the car. The woman had visited on previous weekends. Oliver would hear her and Launi's father laughing downstairs and sometimes they would make their way to the his bedroom on the second floor and Oliver would hear muffled moans, the squeaking of the bed, and the occasional scream of passion. He didn't know who the woman was or if Launi was aware of her existence in her father's life.

The couple eventually made their way to the second floor bedroom and Oliver tried to avoid hearing the sounds of their lovemaking. This was another reason why Launi's father could never know Oliver had been hiding out in the house – he knew too many secrets.

Launi thought about Oliver during her shift at Fontaine's that afternoon, dreading her movie date with Randy that evening knowing he was not the guy she wanted to be with. But she didn't have the guts to break up with him, fearing potential reprisal and an ugly scene so she continued to hope that Randy would end it with her soon.

She met Randy after her shift for the movie and then a late bite to eat before Randy practically mauled in her the front seat of his sports car in the parking lot of the restaurant afterwards.

"Come on, Randy," Launi protested. "In the car? Really?"

"What?" He asked incredulously. "You said you didn't want to go back to the house."

"Yeah, because I'm tired and not in the mood, not because I wanted to do it in the front seat of your car."

"Oh, excuse me for assuming," Randy growled sarcastically.

"Where are we going in our relationship, Randy?" Launi wanted to know.

"What do you mean?" He frowned, giving her the death stare as he slumped in his seat, frustrated by her lack of interest.

"You'll be leaving for URI soon and I'll be staying here."

"You'll be coming down to visit me," he said with authority.

"What if you meet somebody else?" She challenged.

"Look, let's not worry about what or what not might happen when I get to URI," he growled. "Summer's not over yet."

Launi knew that meant that he would be using her until he left.

"Could you take me home please?" She sighed. "I've had a long day."

"Oh, you poor dear," Randy grumbled as he started the car. "Guess I'm not gettin' any tonight."

He was so frigin' good looking but sometimes he could be such a shallow pompous asshole. Launi bit her tongue not to say something mean or insulting to get him going. He was aggressive and angry when they had arguments, disagreements and conflicts and Launi learned long ago not to push his buttons or engage him in fights because it always turned ugly and he played relentless hardball.

Randy drove her to Fontaine's where she had left her car and said nothing as she got out of the car. Normally, she'd feel bad and guilty but tonight she just didn't care about poor Randy's hurt feelings and blue balls.

She drove to the pizza house that thankfully was still open and got Oliver a cold cut grinder before heading home. The house was dark and her father was asleep and she tip toed up into the attic using her flashlight to find Oliver dozing on the couch, patiently waiting for his midnight meal.

"I got you a grinder," Launi whispered when Oliver sat up on the couch.

"Thanks," he said with gratitude as he took it from her.

Launi also handed him a can of soda she got from the refrigerator on her way through the kitchen. She took a seat on the couch and once again watched him eat. She could tell he was hungry as he quickly ate the sandwich.

"I have the day off tomorrow," she told him when he was done eating. "I usually sleep in. Come on down as soon as my father leaves."

"Okay," Oliver agreed nervously.

"Goodnight, Ollie," Launi said warmly with a smile as she left the couch and used her flashlight to maneuver the stairs.

Oliver awoke feeling nervous. He had a sense that something new and different was about to start between him and Launi and he was anxious as he waited for her father to leave for the day. When he finally did, Oliver went downstairs and used the bathroom, sure to brush his teeth before quietly making his way into Launi's room not quite sure what to expect.

She was still asleep, lying on her bed with her sheets kicked off. She was wearing a pair of skimpy white flower print summer pajamas with short sorts that barely covered her fanny as she lay on her stomach. Oliver thought about making some noise to disturb her but then he tiptoed across the room and he gently sat on the edge of the bed next to her.

"Launi?" he whispered tentatively, fighting the urge to kiss her awake.

He was startled when Launi's eyes popped open and she quickly sprang up to aggressively kiss him as if she had been waiting forever for this very moment. Oliver felt electricity between them where their lips touched and finally the dream he had been dreaming for years seemed to be coming true.

Launi literally jumped into Oliver's lap and she wrapped her legs around his waist and pulled him close to her as her hands began to explore his boney body while her kisses grew in their passion.

Oliver pressed his body into hers and he felt the warmth of her breath and skin on his lips and faces as her passionate kissing continued which he gladly accepted.

"Oliver," she whispered, pressing herself tightly against him.

"I've wanted it to be like this between us for so long," he told her.

Launi kept kissing him as she brushed her fingers through his hair. Then she fell out of his lap, laying herself out on her back on the bed and inviting Oliver to join her from the look in her eyes. Oliver nervously lay down, half on her and half off, and her lips found his once again and Launi began to softly moan in response.

Oliver began to explore her body with his hands as they continued to kiss. His hands moved down her sides and when they touched her exposed thighs Launi started to moan louder.

"Launi…" It was almost a plea as his lips stayed planted on hers, their tongues starting to merge as one.

He dared to move his hands back up her torso and they stopped underneath her pajama top when he realized she wasn't wearing a bra. His fingers retreated to her stomach as Launi wrapped her legs around his waist and her short shorts shimmied up her thighs almost to her buns.

"Launi," Oliver groaned.

She could feel his stiff groin rubbing against the sensitive area between her legs.

"Yes?" She asked innocently, tightening her legs around his waist.

"God," he groaned, kissing her some more as his breathing became ragged and she stared into his eyes with fascinated lust.

"Do you want me?" Launi whispered seductively.

He looked at her with longing and she could feel his heart beating in his chest. "Forever," he admitted.

A happy smile filled Launi's face and she moved her hips underneath him in a grinding fashion as her hands made their way up under his shirt.

"You're nothing but skin and bones," she realized when she felt his ribs and spine underneath his skin.

Randy was in full form from his hours of golf and tennis, meaty and burly but Oliver was a skeleton in comparison. The thought of Randy gave Launi a brief pause as she considered the reality that she should at least wait under she and Randy were over before starting a physical relationship with Oliver but he felt so vulnerable, frail, victimized and sad as she held him tight.

Launi increased the power of her lips and her tongue became more active inside Oliver's mouth. Oliver finally dared to return his hand up from her stomach until he found her breast, cupping it in his hand to bring an even louder moan from Launi.

Oliver hesitated for a moment, his hand freezing on her breast.

"Keep going," she told him.

Oliver squeezed her breast with wonderment. He had sex only once before, a forgettable drunken encounter with a girl whose name he couldn't even recall now in the cellar of some dumb party. They did it with their clothes on, up against a washing machine with the girl whimpering in such a way that Oliver wasn't sure if she was enjoying herself or expressing sorrow.

Being with Launi like this was so much different and more emotional. Never before had Oliver felt so connected to another person as he did with Launi right now. He rubbed his thumb across her nipple and Launi purred in response.

"Launi," he said softly through their kisses.

She reached down and pulled her pajama top off over her head allowing a stunned Oliver to see her wonderful exposed breasts. She smiled when she saw the look on his face and the love in his eyes. He was memorized by her breasts and his eyes appeared to tear up from the sight of her beauty.

Launi grinded her hips more forcefully which brought out a moan from Oliver's throat. Then he placed his mouth on one of her breasts and she let out a small 'oh' in a surprised response.

"Oliver," she whispered as she again grinded her hips into his. "Oliver," she moaned as she felt him pressing into her mound.

He was wearing jeans but the friction against her flimsy pajama bottoms left little resistance for her.

"Launi," he whispered in return while still teething and mouthing her breast and nipple as he moved his hands under her and inside her pajama bottoms to feel her naked rear, pulling her closer to him so the stick between his legs was practically gouging her.

"Launi," he pleaded, moving his head up from her chest and back to her lips as he continued to squeeze her buns. "Launi, I…"

She kissed him madly so he couldn't speak and then she reached down and tugged her pajama shorts down her legs, kicking them off her feet so she was naked before him. She could hear Oliver swallow as he glanced at her womanhood.

"I wanted you to see me," she said proudly.

"You have to break up with him, Launi," Oliver announced.

"What?" She was stunned to hear him say such a thing at this moment, in this situation, with her 'launch sequence' already activated.

"You have to break up with him first," he sighed.

"Oh My God," Launi groaned, falling off of him. "You're telling me this now!?"

"It just wouldn't be right," he said with such conviction that Launi immediately knew he had his reasons for being so ethical.

"Okay," she reluctantly agreed as she fell back on the mattress, not caring that she was naked in front of him. "But you owe me some truths right here and now," she demanded.

"Truths?" he asked with confusion.

"I want to know what the real story is with your crazy family," Laurni said. "We've known each other for nearly eleven years and I've never even been inside your house. It's like Boo Radley's place in To Kill A Mockingbird. Keep out."

Oliver looked pale as he stared at her.

"Are you looking at me like that because I'm naked or because you don't want to talk about it?" She wanted to know.

Oliver swallowed but didn't say anything.

"Look at me, Ollie," she said forcefully.

He did, looking shy and victimized.

"I'm willing to be naked and vulnerable in front of you," Launi told him. "There's nothing left for you to see."

He pushed her so she rolled over on her side and he could see her tush.

"Now there's not," he said teasingly.

"I'm being serious, Ollie," Launi replied, falling back on her back and peering on him. "Now it's time for you to come clean and tell me the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Why don't you ever talk about your family? Why didn't you ever confide in me about some of the stuff going on? Why did it take for you to go missing before I figured out how serious all this stuff has been for you? Why haven't I ever been in your house? Why doesn't your mother defend you? Why are you the….what'd you call it….the fourth wheel in your own family? Why haven't I seen any 'missing' posters for you around town? Why did your father leave you the coins and not your mother? I want answers and we're not leaving this bed or this room until I get them from you."

"Do you want to get dressed first?" Oliver asked meekly. "At least pull the sheets up over yourself?"

"No, I'm going to torture you by staying like this," she decided. "To make you realize that you need to be vulnerable with me too."

Oliver sighed as he fell back on the bed. Launi rested her head on his chest, peering up at him, waiting for him to tell her his story. He let his arms stretch out along her body, his hands ending just on the top of her buns.

"Tell me," she said quietly.

"I don't remember a whole lot," Oliver confessed. "I have vague memories of my father. We lived in a suburb of Albany New York. I remember the house sort of. My father was a newspaperman. He was gone a lot. On assignment, covering stories."

"How'd he die?"

"Car accident," Oliver revealed. "Late one night."

"Around Albany?"

"Yeah."

Launi climbed over Oliver and hopped off the bed, going to her computer on her desk, sitting in the chair naked. "What was his name?" She asked as she fired the computer to life.

"Christopher Addleson."

"Why are you Oliver Morton?" Launi wondered.

"Stan adopted me and my mother changed my last name," he explained.

"Let's see," Launi said, the keyboard. Newspaper man. Car accident. About twelve years ago. Albany, New York." She hit return and waited for the search to complete.

Some findings came up and Launi scanned through them. "This sounds like it," she said, clicking on a banner. "From the Albany Times Union," she revealed.. "Two Albany Times Union journalists were killed in a one-car accident Thursday night when their car smashed into a State Route Seven bridge overpass pillar, splitting the car in two pieces," She read. 'Oh wow, that's terrible, Ollie."

She continued reading.

"Christopher Addleson, 32, city metro reporter, and Sylvia Morton, 29, investigative reporter, were both pronounced dead at the scene after Addleson's

1998 Volvo sedan careened into the pillar, according to police. No foul play is suspected in the crash.

"'Both reporters were off duty and not working on a story of any kind together,' Times Union Assignment Editor Chet Marlow reported.

Emergency responders pronounced him dead at the scene, the police reported."

Launi peered at the story. "Wait a minute," she realized as she reread the article. "Sylvia Morton!?"

"Stan's wife," Oliver confirmed heavily from the bed.

Launi turned and stared at him. "You knew about this?"

"Not then," Oliver groaned. "But Stan told me several years ago when he wanted to make sure I knew how much of a bastard my father was."

"They were having an affair?" Launi asked as she returned to the bed. "Your father and Stan's wife?"

"Apparently so," Oliver sighed.

"Oh, Ollie, I'm so sorry," she sighed as she fell on top of him, once against resting her head on his chest.

"I'd be a hypocrite to do it with you if you're still officially with Randall," Oliver remarked.

"I don't think it's quite the same, Ollie," Launi reasoned.

"Close enough," he replied.

"How did your mother end up with the husband of the dead woman her dead husband was having an affair with?" Launi wondered.

"I didn't ask for details," Oliver sighed. "I really didn't want to know. I imagine they compared notes in their grief, betrayal and anger," he said. "It's bad enough to lose your spouse in a horrible car accident but then to find out they were having an affair only complicated matters, I'm sure. They must have commiserated on the facts and comforted each other in their pain and sorrow."

"Sounds like a plot from a soap opera," Launi remarked.

"So my mother and Stan moved here, getting married somewhere along the way," Oliver said. "Stan got a job as a mechanic at Miller Motors and my mother worked at the bakery until she got pregnant with my half-sister, Anna."

"But why were they so hard on you?" Launi asked with confusion.

"I guess my mother saw too much of my father in me," Oliver remarked. "That I reminded both of them of the pain of the past."

"But you weren't responsible," Launi protested. "It wasn't your fault."

'I don't think that mattered much," Oliver said.

"They didn't hit you, did they?"

"No," Oliver replied heavily. "Just a lot of misery and unhappiness, anger and resentment, pain and suffering. Yelling and fighting. Arguments and accusations. I honestly think they felt stuck with me. And because they never resolved what happened in their marriages they took all that frustration out on me, the cheater's son. The cheater who got Mrs. Morton killed."

"Wow," Launi said with wide eyes as she stared at Oliver, still lying on top of him.

He kept her from falling off by planting his hands squarely on her butt cheeks.

"I didn't want you to know all that," Oliver sighed. "Stan's anger, resentment, bitterness and blame, my mother's indifferent and detachment, her cool reception to my presence. They both just wished I'd go away, I'm sure of that."

"That's so sad, Ollie," Launi said, her eyes tearing up. "I'm sorry I wasn't there for you."

"You were always there for me," Oliver assured her.

"Do you forgive me for choosing Randy?" She needed to know.

"You had no obligation to me, Launi," Oliver told her. "We were friends."

"I'm going to break up with Randy," she vowed. "I was trying to avoid it until he left because he gets possessive and defensive but there's no point playing this out until the bitter end. I'm going to do it today. In fact," she said, hopping of the bed for the second time. "I'm going to do it right now."

"You don't have to do it right now," Oliver told her, catching her by the arm and tugging her back toward him. "Let's just be together like this now. I'm tired of always being alone."

"Okay," she agreed as she plopped into his lap. "I'll do it tonight, after my father gets home."

"Does your Dad have a girlfriend?" Oliver tested.

Launi gave him a funny look. "Why would you ask that?"

'No reason," he said quickly, immediately realizing maybe he shouldn't have gone there.

Launi studied him for a moment. 'Is there something more you're not telling me?" She quizzed.

Oliver looked away nervously and feeling extremely guilty.

"Do you know something, Ollie?" She asked. "Did you hear something while you were hiding here?"

"It's none of my business, Launi," Oliver told her. "If you have issues with your Dad, you should bring them up with him."

She sighed and rested her head against his shoulder. "Oh, what's my problem anyway?" She groaned. "Mom's been dead for eight years for god sakes. Daddy deserves to have a life, right? I guess I've been in denial about that for a long time."

"I remember your mom fondly," Oliver let her know. "She was always nice to me. That's why I came over here so much. She was like a real mom to me. I was devastated when you told me she was sick."

"I miss her everyday," Launi sighed.

Oliver kissed her forehead. "I see her in you a lot," he said warmly.

"Thanks," she said, brushing a tear from her eye before hopping off Oliver yet again. "Come on," she said. "Let me cook you a real big breakfast," she said. "Get some meat on your bones."

Oliver watched as Launi dressed and they both went downstairs to the kitchen where Launi scrambled some eggs, fried some bacon, cooked some hash in a frying pan, and made some biscuits. They didn't talk much but there wasn't a whole lot that needed to be said between them now. They understood everything. Launi had heard everything and Oliver had seen everything and as soon as Randy was released from his relationship contract, Oliver and Launi could finally be together with no more secrets.

"I'm going to ask my father if he's seeing anybody when he gets home tonight," Launi decided as she filled Oliver's plate with the food she prepared.

"You sure you want to do that?" Oliver asked.

"Yes," Launi answered as she took a seat with her plate and a mug of coffee. "I don't want any secrets going on any more between any of us."

"Don't tell him about me though," Oliver pleaded.

"I'll honor your wish until we hear from the lawyer," Launi replied.

Oliver helped her with the dishes and then he assisted with some of the other chores she needed to do on her off day – three loads of laundry, vacuuming, dusting, cleaning the bathrooms. She asked him if there was anything she could get him at the store and he requested a couple of brands of his favorite cookies and chips and perhaps a few books for him to read during his expanded down times. Maybe some cheap colored tee shirts (he had been wearing the same set of clothes for months) and a pair of gym shorts so he wouldn't sweat so much in his jeans.

She went grocery shopping while Oliver took a shower. He waited for her return in the living room window and took the grocery bags out of the car that was protected from view parked in the attached garage. He kissed her as if they were a long married couple sharing a house and a life as they un-bagged the groceries.

Launi started a stew for her father's supper and then she and Oliver sat on the living room couch watching some television for a while, snuggled together. When it came close to her father's semi-normal arrival time home, Oliver retreated to his attic perch after wishing Launi good luck with her conversation with her dad.

"I'll bring you some stew later tonight after he's asleep," Launi promised, giving Oliver a kiss upon his exit.

He felt slightly anxious and nervous wondering how it was going to go but he didn't hear any arguments or yelling from his attic hideout so he assumed it went okay between them. Then he stood in the attic window and watched as Launi drove out of the driveway, presumably to go break up with Randy, another gut retching nervous wait.

Oliver fell asleep in nervous exhaustion and he didn't awake until he felt a flashlight beam in his eye. He opened his eyes to find Launi standing above him where he lay on the couch, holding a large bowl of microwave-warmed stew for him.

"I know you're hungry," she said, handing him the bowl.

"Thanks," he said, taking it from her and once again she sat next to him and watched him eat.

"Are you okay?" He wanted to know.

"Just eat," she replied. "I like watching you eat. We'll talk when you're done."

He nodded his head and ate the stew, soaking up some of the gravy with the two rolls she brought too, along with a bottled water. Launi knew that if her mother was still alive she would be feeding Oliver just like this. She also knew that her mom would have preferred the more vulnerable, emotional and real Oliver to the fake and insincere Randy. Of course, if her mother hadn't died, Launi was pretty sure she wouldn't have ended up with Randy in the first place because she would have felt more confident about herself with her mother's presence to guide her.

Oliver finished his meal and set the empty bowl down on the floor. "How'd it go with your Dad?" He asked with nervous interest.

"He's been seeing a married woman for nearly two years," Launi revealed with a troubled sigh.

"What!?" Oliver asked with stunned disbelief.

"I know, I know, ironic isn't it?" Launi groaned. "She's stuck in an unhappy dead end marriage but doesn't want to leave because of the kids."

"Oh God," Oliver said.

"I told him that he shouldn't be seeing this woman unless she leaves her husband and files for divorce," Launi said.

"What'd he say?"

"He got defensive and tried to make excuses but I think I convinced him that he needed to stop seeing this woman because it was the right thing to do," she said. "Let me know if I'm wrong."

"Don't put me in the middle, Launi," he requested.

"Hey, you're the one camped out in the guy's attic," Launi pointed out. "I also told him that he had my permission to see whoever he wanted as long as they weren't already committed. He's still relatively young and he can surely find more available and attainable women than a miserable wife stuck in an unhappy marriage."

"I agree," Oliver replied. "What about Randall?"

"That one wasn't as easy," she sighed.

"So, you're still together?" Oliver asked with disappointment.

"No, I kept the fight going long enough for him to finally dump me with him thinking it was all his idea," Launi revealed. "But it got ugly. Things were said. Feelings were hurt. Accusations were made. Insults flew."

"I'm really sorry, Launi," Oliver said guiltily.

"It had nothing to do with you," she said with exhaustion in her voice. "But it's been one hell of an emotional day. I think I'll just go to bed if it's okay with you."

"Of course," he agreed.

"It's all good, Ollie," she assured him, leaning in and kissing him. "I wasn't going to let Randy use me for his selfish sexual gratification until he dumped me for something better once he got to URI. Don't feel bad about anything."

"I just want you to be happy," he said.

"I am," she smiled. "And I don't have to be at work until one tomorrow. So as soon as my father leaves, come on down tomorrow morning, okay?" She smiled seductively.

"Okay," he grinned.

She leaned over and gave him a kiss. "Good night, Ollie," she said warmly before using the flashlight to find her way down the stairs.

Oliver had a hard time falling asleep thinking about what might happen in the morning once Launi's father left. She had broken up with Randall, after all, and that was the only deal stopper in Oliver's book.

Morning came and Oliver stood in the attic window watching as Launi's father left. He sucked in his breath and skipped down the stairs in one of the new tee shirts and gym shorts Launi had purchased for him. He made a pit stop in the bathroom where he brushed his teeth too before making his way into Launi's bedroom. She was awake this time, waiting for him, and she lifted the sheet off her body to reveal that she was naked, her flowery summer pjs in a heap on the floor at the end of the bed.

"You too," she grinned and Oliver willingly stripped out of his shorts and tee shirt.

"Geez, I can see your ribs, Ollie," Launi remarked once he was naked. "You really must have been starving all this time."

Oliver crossed the room, knelt on the mattress, and gave her a deep kiss. "Good morning," he said happily.

Launi kissed him in reply and she wasted little time sticking her tongue inside his mouth. He began to kiss her chin, cheeks and neck which brought small moans from her as she buried her hands in his hair and pulled him closer.

"It was you the whole time," she insisted.

"I didn't mind waiting," he whispered as he rubbed her stomach.

"I did," she sighed before kissing him once again and suddenly his lips were everywhere as were her hands until he took her arms and lifted them over her head as she lay flat on her back on the mattress and she watched as he took in her nude body in its entirety.

"I love you," he whispered, leaning close to her ear.

When the first round of lovemaking was over, they fell asleep naked in each others arms. When Oliver awoke later, Launi was waiting for him and they made love again, ending in a sweaty and exhaustive happy heap. They fell asleep again and the next time Oliver awoke Launi mounted him and they did it again.

When they were done that time, Launi glanced at the bedside clock as she lay atop him trying to catch her breath. "I should feed you before I go to work," she said, giving him a kiss and climbing off of him. "I need to take a quick shower and then I'll cook you four hamburgers," she grinned.

A dazed Oliver nodded as he lay semi-comatose and completely spent on her bed. She pulled the sheet up over his nude body before she skipped naked from the room. Oliver didn't know it could be like this. He didn't know what to expect or how it would feel but now that it had happened, he was lost in love.

Launi really did cook him four hamburgers!

"Eat," she said, giving him a kiss as he sat at the kitchen table later, dressed in his gym shorts and tee shirt. "I've got to go. I'm going to be late for work. Eat and get some meat on your bones. I love you. I'll see you tonight - in our usual place," she giggled. "I'll bring you some pizza."

"Launi, I…" he stuttered but she kissed him again to cut him off and then she flew from the kitchen, leaving him alone once again.

Oliver spent the afternoon washing Launi's sheets for her and making her bed. He wondered what was going to happen now. When the authentication came, would they be able to function without him being a captive? What if there was no authentication? Would he end up in jail for stealing the coins? Would Launi turn against him? He felt a panic rushing over him and he began to second guess himself. Maybe he shouldn't have taken the coins in the first place. Maybe he shouldn't have hidden out in Launi's attic.

But wait a minute. He had stopped Launi's father's improper affair. He had gotten Launi to finally find the guts to break up with Randall. And he finally made love to the only girl he ever cared about. Those things alone made the entire ordeal more than worth it because he was happy, contented and - most importantly - in love.

Oliver was waiting in the dark for Launi when she finally showed up in the attic after eleven.

"Sorry, I went out with Cheryl for pizza after work," she explained, holding the carton with half of a large pepperoni pizza still in it.

She also had a couple bottle of soda with her.

"I know you're hungry," she said, sitting next to him on the couch and putting the carton on his lap. "Enjoy."

"Thanks," he smiled.

"After everything that happened today I couldn't wait to see you again," she grinned. "Did you miss me?" She teased.

"More than ever," he admitted honestly.

She smiled happily.

"Launi," Oliver said, putting his hand on her thigh.

"Yes?" She asked innocently.

"For years, I dreamed what happened between us this morning would happen," he confessed honestly. "I've been in love with you forever."

She blushed. "I'm glad," she whispered.

"It's true," he said. "Launi, I love you,"

"Good," she smiled. "And, oh, by the way, I'm totally and completely in love with you."

"You are?"

"Maybe it was the thrill of you being on the lam, of us living together and hiding that finally made me realize it," she explained. "And seeing what you've been going through and learning everything you've experienced, and all the pain and disappointment you've had in your life. It epitomized everything I've felt ever since my mother died and it crystallized every mistake I've ever made, especially Randy." She sighed. "You deserved better from me and I'm sorry for all the time we wasted being apart all this time."

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

That's when Oliver realized that he was no longer nervous or anxious, paranoid or uncertain. He wasn't scared about the coins or being found out. He was overwhelmed by a sense of calm. Finished with the pizza, he put the carton on the floor and he reached his hand out, taking Launi's in his and squeezing it. "Launi," he stated simply.

"It's going to be okay," she said knowingly. "I love you and I want to be with you. We'll make it work no matter what happens with the coins."

Oliver leaned in and kissed her. "I love you," he said and she knew that he meant it, unlike Randy who often said it as if he was on autopilot.

Launi kissed him with meaning. "I'd make love to you right now but my father is sleeping right below us."

"Good night, Launi," Oliver whispered as he kissed her back. "I'll see you tomorrow."

She nodded and used her flashlight to find her way down the stairs.

They followed the same routine. He would kiss her awake in the morning after her father went to work. Sometimes they would make love, or shower together, but mostly she fed him. And then, after seven days of that routine, the letter finally showed up from the lawyer's firm.

It was Launi who spotted the official envelope in the mailbox and she ran into the house where Oliver was waiting for her.

"Open it," she dared breathlessly. "This is the moment of truth. It could mean your freedom."

"Or my arrest," Oliver feared.

"You won't know until you open it."

They sat together on the living room couch and Launi watched as Oliver opened the envelope. He carefully read the letter to himself and then turned to Launi and smiled.

"The coins belong to me," he announced.

"Oh, Ollie!" Launi exclaimed. "At last you're free!"

She hugged him and kissed him and then she drove him to the police station where Oliver turned himself in (even though it took the cops a few minutes to figure out his story and realize he was the kid who went missing nearly three months ago). The Detective agreed that the coins properly belonged to Oliver and that no charges would be filed against him.

"What now?" Launi asked as they left the police station.

"I don't know," Oliver admitted. "I can't go home, can I?"

"You could," Launi replied with a shrug. "But why would you want to?"

He looked at her and bit his lip. "What am I going to do then?"

"You're coming home with me," Launi announced. "No more hiding. You're getting out of the damn attic. No more secrets."

"Your father will kill me," Oliver insisted.

"No he won't," Launi replied. "We'll talk to him. Together." She gave him an interested eye. "How do you feel, Ollie?"

He thought about it for a moment. "Like I no longer have any secrets," he admitted with relief.

"That's because you don't," she smiled, giving him a reassuring hug.