It was the summer of 1962 and a sandy-haired, slender teenager had landed an internship in the White House press office.
Mimi Beardsley, the polite 19-year-old from New Jersey who would return to all-girls Wheaton College in Massachusetts at the end of the summer, left her job as much more than an intern. She was John F. Kennedy's mistress, and continued the affair until his assassination in 1963.
Mimi Beardsley, now Mimi Alford, a 69-year-old retired church administrator, has broken her long silence about the affair with her memoir, Once Upon a Secret: My Affair With President John F. Kennedy and its Aftermath. The book will be in stores on Wednesday.
"I think when you keep a secret and when you keep silent about something, you do it because you think it's keeping you safe, but in fact, it's deadly," Alford tells Meredith Vieira in an interview to air Wednesday on NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams.
Alford says that keeping the affair secret was more damaging than the affair itself. She said it affected her relationships and contributed to the demise of her first marriage.
She was publicly outed in 2003 when historian Robert Dallek mentioned a "tall, slender, beautiful" intern who had an affair with Kennedy in his biography of JFK called An Unfinished Life.
At the time, Alford gave a short statement confirming that she was "involved in a sexual relationship" with Kennedy from June 1962 to November 1963. Working for a Presbyterian church and living in Manhattan, she faded back into obscurity, but says now that the secret eventually became too much to hold inside.
"It's not so much that I feel that I'm exposing myself, it's that I'm really unburdening myself," Alford says in the NBC interview.
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Mimi Beardsley quickly caught the president's eye. Four days into her internship, JFK aide David Powers invited her to go swimming in the White House pool. Kennedy joined her and two others.
Later that day, "the president came over to me and asked me if I'd like to take a tour of the second floor of the White House and see some of the rooms that had been redecorated. The last room that we went into was the bedroom. … I learned later that it was Mrs. Kennedy's bedroom," Alford said.
He began undressing her, she writes in the memoir. He paused when he noticed her resisting. "Haven't you done this before?" he asked.
"No," she replied.
Afterwards, "he hitched up his pants and smiled at me," Alford writes. "I wouldn't describe what happened that night as making love, but I wouldn't call it nonconsensual either."
Alford says their sex life was "varied and fun" and describes an affair that was more than just sex. He confided in her during key moments, such as when his infant son died and during the Cuban Missile Crisis. But he never kissed her on the lips.
The affair had a dark side. At one point, during a noon swim, Kennedy asked Alford to "take care" of Powers, his aide. He watched as she performed oral sex on him. Kennedy ended up apologizing to both of them.
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By the summer of 1963, Alford was dating Anthony Fahnestock, a graduate of Williams College who had enlisted in the Army. The couple announced their engagement in September. Still, she kept up her affair with JFK.
A week before he was killed in Dallas, Alford writes that Kennedy hugged her and said he wished she was coming to Texas.
Alford and Fahnestock married in 1964. The marriage ended in divorce. She later married Richard Alford, a sports marketing executive.
Discussing Kennedy with Viera, Alford said: "I'm not going to say he loved me, but I think he did like me a lot. He cared about me. … Just the way he was, the way he smiled with me.''
Information from MSNBC.com, the New York Daily News, New York Post, Toronto Star, Slate.com and the New York Times was used in this report.