February 27, 2012 12:00 PM

>In her explosive new memoir, former White House intern Mimi Alford opens up about her 18-month relationship with the 35th President

HOW IT BEGAN

On her fourth day as an intern in 1962, Alford, 19, was invited to swim with JFK in the White House pool then dine with him. After an aide plied Alford with daiquiris, JFK led her to Jackie’s bedroom, where she lost her virginity. “I think he did take advantage—I was so young,” she says. “But I liked feeling special.” He began flying her all over the country for trysts.

JFK’S YOUTHFUL CHARM

Though Kennedy was 45, “With me, he was boyish, almost shy sometimes,” recalls Alford, 69, now a grandmother living in Massachusetts. The pair liked to race rubber ducks in his tub. “It was fun.” Did she love him? “I think a part of me did.”

HIS DARK SIDE

JFK asked her to give an aide, and later his brother Teddy, sexual favors. Reflects Alford: “It’s dark to look back on.” Still, she insists, he was “a kind man. Just troubled.”

ON JACKIE

“I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t feel guilty,” Alford admits. But when she visited the Kennedy plot at Arlington in ’09, “I felt like an intruder. I know now that was her husband, her marriage.”

THE AFFAIR’S IMPACT

Though Alford doesn’t regret it, “it was not a good first relationship.” After JFK’s death, she confessed to her fiancé, who forbade her to speak of it. For years “it was like something in me froze,” she says. “I felt empty.” During her unhappy first marriage, she took to swimming laps, “crying underwater so no one would know how sad I was.”

REACTIONS TO HER MEMOIR

“I did not write this book to hurt Caroline Kennedy,” says Alford, who’s heard nothing from the Kennedy family. “I had to tell my story.” As for her two grown daughters, who have known her secret since Alford was exposed as a JFK mistress in 2003, “they are still taking it in,” she says.

ONGOING HEALING

Now happily remarried, Alford says it took her “45 years to learn how to have a good relationship. I don’t disappear anymore.” Still, she looks back on her time with JFK with fondness. “I think if I was 19, and as I was, I would do it again—it’s hard to say I wouldn’t,” she says. “He was magnetic.”

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