Austin, Texas. Alpha Phi Frat House.
“Sorry, Henry, but I don’t owe you an explanation. It’s over, and that’s all there is to it.” Elle’s big brown eyes show zero emotion, so I put on my game face. I’ve never been chucked like this. Never. Because I’m fucking Henry Walton, one of four heirs to the Walton oil fortune, famously handsome, and the most anticipated NFL college draft pick since that asshole who got signed with the Steelers.
Elle’s giant brain must be broken.
Standing in the doorway of our two-story, Southern-charmer of a frat house, I step outside in my Pirates PJs bottoms onto the porch. I carefully close the door so the guys inside, who are fellow Pirates, don’t overhear. They’d never let this go. Football players live to fuck with each other.
“You—you’re rejecting me?” I point to my bare chest, snarling down at her little round face. Sure, she’s got a genius IQ and is the likeliest person to build a tele-transporter or some geeky Star Trek shit like that, but I’m what the ladies call a bona fide catch. Six-five, two hundred and eighty pounds of pure muscle pleasure, orgasm philanthropist, future football Hall of Famer, and—fucking bonus point—I’m an all-around fun guy. Elle can’t deny it. My ability to turn her frowns into smiles is irrefutable. It’s the reason she bought that raffle ticket, the prize being a date with me, during our fraternity fundraiser. It’s the reason she said she wanted me to show her a good time after she won. Which I did. Several “good times” in one night and about fifty more “Oh, Henrys!” since then.
So why is she dumping me? Not that we were official. But, dammit all to hell, I like her. I really fucking like her. Normally, I don’t go nerd, but Elle suckered me with her cute little gap-toothed smile and spunky personality. Okay, and she’s a blonde, which I like, and she has nice jugs.
I swallow down a tangled mess in my throat. “Fine. Plenty of fish in the sea. I’m cool with that.”
“Errr…you don’t look cool. Do you need to sit?”
“Just a hangover,” I lie. “Big party last night.” Actually, I can’t remember what I did. I can’t think straight.
Elle touches my arm, pity written all over her face. “Henry, we were never really going to work out. Even you had to know that.”
I slowly remove her hand. “Never gave it much thought.” Too busy living the dream and all that.
She shoves her petite hands into her pink overalls. “Well, I need more than a hot guy with big muscles. I need…” She blows out a long breath. “I need a man. One who will be there when things get difficult. One who’s had to deal with the real world. You only know screwing and football, and I respect that. I might even be jealous. But there is no universe in which your interests and mine could coalesce into a symbiotic relationship outside the bedroom.”
“Who says you even symbiotified me there?” No. That’s not a real word. And we both know I could fuck Elle all day long and never get tired of her. There’s this little squeaking thing that she does right before she’s about to come. Adorable.
Wait. No. Fuck that. It’s annoying. Just like her shrill laugh, obsession with spy novels, and stupid nerd jokes about black holes—“Two protons walk into a black hole, blah, blah, stupid science punch line, blah, blah.”
But as I think those words, something deep inside sets off like a grenade. Boom. I’m pissed. I just can’t fuckin’ believe that she’s kicking my awesome ass to the curb and won’t even tell me why. Not the real truth anyway. Because even a guy like me with only above average intelligence can see that Elle’s little line about needing “a man” is bullshit. Men just don’t come any manlier than me.
Elle laughs, followed by a little squeak. My eyes zero in on that gap between her teeth. How had I thought that was hot? She looks nothing like a young Madonna.
Yeah, she looks more like Urkel. Only pale as shit with blonde pigtails and tape in the middle of her glasses. I’m the one who actually broke them, though. I sat on them after we screwed. She kind of got mad, and I offered to replace them ten times, but she just shrugged it off. “No biggie. What’s a nerd without a little tape? I’ll fix ’em later,” she said.
Elle finishes honking out a final laugh. I can’t believe I’m into her.
Was into her.
“Symbiotified. Oh, Henry. I’m going to miss your humor.” She grabs my arm and gives it a squeeze. “It was nice knowing you.”
I jerk my head. “Been nice knowing you, too. Good luck with your…math ’n shit.”
Fuck. That sounded lame.
Elle crinkles her nose. “Yeah. I’ll cross my fingers and hope those big scary numbers finally make sense.” She turns away and heads toward campus, shaking her tight little ass in her overalls.
Jesus, what was I even doing with her? I can get tens—ten cheerleaders, ten models, or ten of the hottest women at any party.
I snarl at the back of her head and clench my fists. “Stupid geek!”
Without slowing her pace or turning around, she throws up a middle finger. “Dumb jock!”
I can’t help but laugh. She may look like a helpless, lost little nerd begging for social ridicule, but I’ve yet to meet anyone with bigger balls. Male or female.
Stop it, Henry. It’s over. I gush out a breath of frustration. Fuck her. I don’t need anything but football.
Four weeks later.
“Walton! Get your sorry ass over here!” the coach yells, cutting our play short and eliciting a mixture of groans and “eat me, Waltons!” from my fellow Pirates.
I don’t know why I’m in my worst slump ever. I really don’t. Play says go right, I go left. When I’m supposed to block left, I put my head up my ass. It’s like my brain is scrambled or something.
“Fulking herl,” I mumble, spitting out my mouthpiece and releasing my chin strap. This is the seventh play I’ve fucked up this practice, and it wanes in comparison to the chunky-style cluster I created during our last game versus San Diego. And the game before that with LA. And the game before that with Notre Dame—we lost that one. The other games were close calls. Too close.
“Hey, man, it’s okay. Everyone has a bad streak,” says Hunter. He’s the new starting quarterback, so not as big of a dude as me, but a damned good player especially for a freshman. The topper? He’s a damned good friend too—something I never expected to gain out of this shit storm more unaffectionately referred to as the sinking SS Henry.
But I’m not a quitter.
Never have been.
Never will be.
I’ll do anything to turn my ship around, even leaving the coveted Alpha Phi frat house a few weeks ago. With my head in such a bad place, I decided I might be due for a change. That and the parties every night were getting on my last iron-pumping, protein-shake-fueled nerve.
“Walton! You deaf or something?” the coach yells, still standing on the sidelines, waiting to chew me out.
I look over at Hunter, whose face is all soured up, like he’s cringing on my behalf. He knows, just like I do, that the coach doesn’t want me here anymore because I’ve been playing like a moron. Of course, he needs me too much, and luckily, my agent says no one else is worried. The offer to sign with the Texans after graduation is still on the table.
“Uh-oh, Pretty Boy Liam’s in trouble,” one of the guys sings teasingly.
I fucking hate it when they call me that. I do not look like Liam Hemsworth. I am definitely Chris. But bigger.
“Shut it, asshole,” I tell the guy and remove my helmet. I jog over to Coach Newton—a short bald dude with shit-brown eyes. “Hey, Coach, I know that wasn’t great, but I’m working on it—”
“You’re out, Walton.”
My gut fills with cement. “Out? You can’t make me sit out. I need to practice, not jerk off on the bench.”
“No, jackass. You’re out for the season. Take a seat.” He points his finger in my face. “And don’t start, Walton. I warned you, so you’ve only brought this on yourself.”
I am literally speechless. This is my fourth season playing for the Pirates, and my stats have put this team on the map. The publicity alone has attracted new players with solid pro potential, like Hunter, and Coach Newton is now hailed as the best college coach in the country. Everyone is living the dream, thanks to me. Okay, and it doesn’t hurt that my family donates a few million each year to the school. We have the best equipment, best facilities, best everything.
I cross my arms over my chest and snarl down at Coach Newton. I may be a college student, but I’m no child. I know the score. I know my value. “You bench me and you’re the one who’s going to look like a jackass. Everyone’s going to put this on you—your inability to manage one of your star players. Then there’s the fact that the university chairs won’t be happy. The Waltons are key donors.”
Coach Newton’s sunburnt nostrils flare, and his right eye twitches. “That a threat, Walton?”
“No, sir, just a fact. A fact like any other. Including how I could’ve switched schools and taken my money with me. A fact like I’ve been playing flawless defense for almost four seasons and nothing will get more guys signed and bring in more money for the school than me.” I point to my chest. “Me getting drafted for ten mil a year.” It’s a three-year contract, so that adds up to a nice sum, but I’m not in it for the money. I love the game and have since I was old enough to walk.
“Look, Walton,” Coach hisses quietly, “no one is going to deny what you’ve brought to the table, but I’m not putting the championship at risk because you suddenly decided to act like a chimpanzee rolling around in his own shit.”
Dick. My playing isn’t that bad. I’m more like an untamed stallion. Who’s forgotten how to run. “I thought chimps wore diapers,” I say.
“Shut up, Walton!” He points a stubby finger in my face. “I don’t know what’s gotten in your head, and I don’t care. I’ve given you a month to turn it around, but you keep playing like a little cunt, which means we’ll lose the season. All of us.”
Fuck. I run a hand over the top of my sweaty hair. I can’t really argue with his logic. If I keep screwing up, our team won’t go to the play-offs, and that’ll make us all look bad.
I kick at the muddy grass. “Yeah, well. That’s not what I want.”
“That’s a good boy.” Newton goes to his tiptoes and taps the top of my head. “Knew you’d see it my way. Now take a seat.” Coach turns and walks away.
Good boy? And did he just pat me on the head like a dog?
“But I’m still playing!” I belt out.
The coach stops in his tracks and slowly turns to face me.
“Hey, don’t look at me.” I throw him a snide grin. “You’re the one who says ‘quitter’ is just another word for giant pussy.” I smile and point to my crotch. “And I’m not seein’ pussy down there, Coach.”
Just one big dick. Which I’ve had to be in order to get where I am. Because despite growing up in a privileged family, I’ve had to fight tooth and nail every step of the way.
I put on my helmet and walk past him, giving him a slap on the ass. “Thanks for the pep talk, Dana. Just what I needed.”
Dana is his first name. We think Coach hates it because it’s a chick’s name, too.
My teammates eye me in silence as I take my place on the field, head down, fingers pushed into the mud.
“You okay?” Hunter asks, coming up to my side.
“Never better. Let’s play.”
Hunter stands there for a moment too long, like he wants to say something, but then leaves.
The guys line up, some playing offense and facing us.
I can do this. I can make this play. I have to believe that. I have to push out the noise in my head that keeps me from being here and nowhere else.
Focus, Henry. Focus. I can’t keep letting everyone down. Not when their dreams are on the line, too. Most of us have worked since we were ten to get here—the last stop on the way to pro. And there is no sweeter glory than doing what you love for a living, even if it’s just for a few short years. It’s what we’ve all been killing ourselves for: The chance to say “I did it. I made it.”
I feel the soft grass and cool mud beneath my fingertips, and the air fills with a ferocious calm as everyone prepares for the play. I feel the energy spike all around me while my thoughts melt away. Here on the field, there are no tests to cram for, no wars, no angry girlfriends or psycho parents. The only thing that matters is this field where we become one. One team. One goal. One team. One goal…
Suddenly, I’m there. In the zone. And the rush feels like nirvana—a moment of peace and silence so fragile yet so vivid and alive that my entire body electrifies, like I’m touching God or plugged into some supernatural energy.
Playing opposite us, I hear Hunter call the hike, and the moment of serenity shatters like a plate-glass window that’s met with a brick. Grunts and snarls fill the air as I charge at my teammate, Jon, who’s playing tight end and trying to create an opening for the running back so Hunter can pass. There is no doubt in my mind I can block Jon. I’m faster and stronger. No one gets around me. Not ever. That’s what I tell myself, anyway.
I plow into Jon, who goes flying back, landing with a thud on his ass. I keep going, rushing toward an opening right through the guards. Hunter is about to make his throw, and I barrel into his chest, knocking him clean into next Sunday.
“Fucker!” Hunter barks from underneath me.
I chuckle and roll off him.
“Jesus, Henry. You nearly took my head off,” he says.
“It’s a beautiful thing.” I hop to my feet and offer Hunter a hand.
His blue eyes are crisp with anger as I yank him up, but the moment he’s on his feet, his expression turns into a glib smirk.
“Looks like someone’s here to see you,” he says, looking over my shoulder.
I turn, and there she is, sitting on the bleachers. I could spot her thick-framed hipster glasses and honey blonde hair from a mile away.
Elle. Oh, man. Why’s she here?
“Christ,” Hunter chuckles his words. “What is she wearing?”
Her T-shirt has a huge picture of a grey-and-white cat with its head tilted to one side.
“Yeah, that’s Mr. Nucleus.” I clear my throat. “He was hit by a car last year.”
“She’s wearing a picture of her dead cat?”
I nod. It’s one of Elle’s many eccentricities. She seems unable to accept that Mr. Nucleus is gone, like she’s not good at dealing with death or something. I once tried asking her about it, but she’d simply replied by telling me that death is just one more mystery of the universe she hopes to solve. “You can’t solve death, Elle. It’s not a math problem,” I had told her, but she’d just shrugged and changed subjects.
Anyway, I think it’s kind of sweet, the way she loves her cat and doesn’t want to forget him. Still, “If you think the cat shirt is interesting, you should see her unicorn T-shirt collection. It’s magical,” I say dryly because it’s not. It’s fucking horrible. All glittery ’n shit.
The coach blows the whistle to return us to formation, and I hustle. That had been a perfect play, and I don’t want to waste time getting back into my groove. My mind has suddenly snapped into place and everything feels right. I don’t even mind that Elle is here.
“Let’s play, boys,” I say, and get into position.
It’s Friday, the last day of classes before Thanksgiving break, and I’m not exactly sure why I’ve come to see Henry practice, considering that I told him we were through. Maybe part of me longs for a little stress relief, the reason I began seeing him initially. I had never had casual sex before him, but nothing in my life has plotted normal this past year, and now I’m nervous about going home for an entire week. The two-hour drive isn’t far, so I go home all the time to see my poor mother, who has a brain tumor and is in the process of evolving away from this world. At least, that’s the way I like to think of it. When it’s our time, we transform, but we never truly die.
Matter can’t die.
Of course, if my heart believed all that, I wouldn’t have to remind myself fifteen times a day that death is part of life or that my mother can’t leave this world seeing me a mess. Her final happiness is why I started college at the age of nineteen after swearing I’d never go. She’s why I’ve stuck with it and pretend things are normal. Pretending is also how I handle seeing her for a day or two before running back to campus, where I erect my mental fortress and make it all go away.
Thanksgiving week, though… Ugh. My aunt and uncle from California will be there, as will my cousin. My older sister, Lana, who lives nearby, and my father will be there, too, of course. But I know this upcoming week, likely our last Thanksgiving with her, is going to feel more like a funeral, not a holiday. Because my family’s not like me. They’re not able to bury their emotions in a sea of logic. I’ll have to sit there and listen to the sadness in their voices and see the tears. Then I’ll have to watch my mother trying to stay strong for them when I know on the inside, nothing hurts her more than watching the people she loves suffer.
How am I going to get through this?
Crap. It’s no wonder I find myself longing for Henry. Mr. Fun. He’s also the hottest guy I’ve ever met. Tall and strong like a great oak, vivid green eyes, dirty blond hair, and a panty dropper of a smile. My roomie, Tassie, says he looks like a seriously built, young Brad Pitt. I just say the man is fine. Sigh…
I watch Henry’s towering hulk of a frame mow down two guys on the field; one of them is Hunter. Hunter is tall and lean with dark hair and blue eyes. He’s cute, hotheaded, and has a serious heart-on for Tassie, who is currently not speaking to him. It’s a mess, really. Anyone can see that Hunter and Tass are madly in love and have been since they were little. They grew up next door to each other and somehow ended up at the same college.
Anyway, Tass has become a good friend, which is why I feel bad for having lied to her. She has no clue I kept seeing Henry after she had her fallout with Hunter and their frat did the unthinkable. But there hasn’t been a good time to tell her until recently—she’s been too upset.
Well, maybe it’s time to clear the air. And since I’m here, I can warn Henry. Yes, a great excuse for being here since I can’t tell Henry the real reason. I kinda miss him.
I lean back and watch the cheerleading squad—all Gamma Nu sorority sisters—doing flips on the side of the field. I suddenly wonder which one of these incredibly beautiful women with perfect thighs, boobs, and legs is keeping Henry’s bed warm at night. He’s an animal in the sack, completely insatiable, and words cannot describe how much I miss the stress relief he brought to my life. No, he has no clue about my mom, and I have no intention of ever telling him. I need him and everything related to school to remain isolated from that part of my life.
Practice wraps up with the blow of the coach’s whistle, and the sweaty, tired-looking team makes their way to the locker room. Everyone except Henry, who’s high-fiving a few ladies as he heads toward me and the bleachers.
My heart rate increases, and little flutters erupt inside my knotted stomach. I don’t know what I want to say to him. Somehow, I doubt I’ll muster the courage to spit out, “I needed to see your smiling face.” Besides, it wouldn’t be fair. He’ll think it means something more than it does when I already know he’s not the guy for me.
I get up and take the stairs to meet up with Henry on the side of the grassy field.
“Hey,” I say with false bravado.
He pops off his helmet and those stunning green eyes of his sparkle in the sunlight. He’s so full of life. I love that about him.
“Hey, Elle.” His voice is deep, like a growling bear, and exactly what you’d expect from a guy who’s six-five and over twice my size.
A flash of memories explodes inside my mind of Henry groaning in my ear, telling me how beautiful I am, and of him laughing with that gruff-sounding voice as he pins me down and tickles my neck with his stubbly chin. Henry loved making me laugh.
Suddenly, I realize that moments have passed and we’re just standing there staring at each other’s lips.
I shake it off and clear my throat. “I, uh, just came by to say hi. How’s it going?”
He flashes one of those dimply, scruffy-jaw smiles that make my panties instantly steam up. “Surprisingly well, actually.” He makes a little shrug with his wide shoulders, the padding underneath his black jersey making him look even bigger than he already is.
“I’m happy to hear that,” I lie, secretly wanting him to be miserable without me.
Stupid. You don’t want that. Get your head out of your rear orifice, Elle.
He nods and stares like he’s waiting.
“Oh. Yeah, I, uh…just wanted you to know that I’m going to come clean with Tass.”
“About what?” he asks.
“About you and me. I mean, I know it’s over, but I never told her the truth, and I think I should now that she seems to be turning the corner.”
“What corner?” he asks.
“Hunter. She’s finally starting to get over him—I think—and I really don’t like keeping secrets from her.”
The atmosphere abruptly shifts between us, and his eyes harden on me, like he expected me to give him another reason for my visit.
Oh, crap. I’ve made a huge selfish mistake by coming here. Whatever happened between us, we’re still not over it. Yet nothing’s changed. I’m wrong for him. He’s wrong for me.
“Fine by me,” he says. His tone is sharp and accusatory. “I never told you to lie to her—that was all you. I just went along to make you happy. Clearly, that’s not possible.”
The jab isn’t missed, but I need to steer clear of the “us” topic and get the hell out of here. Fast.
“And I thank you for helping me protect her. She would’ve felt betrayed if she’d known I kept seeing you after Hunter slept with her for a bet.”
It’s true, and the infamous bet is also a good reminder of why Henry is so, so, soooo wrong for me. As part of rush week, there’d been a stupid frat game involving stealing things from other Greeks, hazing, drinking, and nailing virgins. The pledges with the highest scores became the newest members of the Alpha Phi fraternity, which is the big football frat that Henry, and now Hunter, belong to. Lame.
Henry shakes his head and drags his strong hand over the top of his sweaty blond mop. He’s the only man in the world whose perspiration comes out smelling like spring water infused with mint or something herbal. He always smells good.
“You’re wrong,” he says. “Hunter didn’t fuck Tass for a bet. He’s into her. Period. And we both know that.”
“Yeah, well, he might be into her, but he still participated in the bet, and you can’t argue that it looks bad.” Henry has three sisters—two older and one younger—so I know he gets what I’m saying.
“It did look bad,” he admits, “which is why a bunch of us left the frat, despite knowing we’d piss off half the team.”
“Why?” I ask, hardly able to believe it.
“I can’t speak for the other guys, but I’m twenty-two and a senior. Doing the same old shit from freshman year just didn’t make sense anymore.”
Wow. My stomach does this little cramping thing that causes a chain reaction, ending in my rapidly beating heart. Henry’s leaving the Alphas takes our romantic equation one step closer to a positive integer. Sadly, however, the facts that football is his life, he doesn’t possess a sympathetic bone in his body, and he’s more narcissistic than an only child who’s a runway model keep our equation in the negative five thousands with regards to chances of succeeding as a couple. Still, Henry’s leaving the Alphas is huge.
“When did this happen?” I ask.
“A few weeks ago. Hunter, me, and two other guys got an apartment.”
“Hunter, too?” I can’t wait to tell Tassie since I’m sure she was the catalyst and she’s never truly going to be happy until she and Hunter make up.
“Hey, who can resist living with me? Plus, my family owns the building, so rent is cheap.”
“Plus you get more privacy for your orgies.”
“Exactly,” he says. “We’re having one tonight. Just us dudes and fifty women. Want to be number fifty-one?”
I make a gag sound.
“Elle, that was a joke. We haven’t even had one party.”
“Yeah, right.” I let out pffft! That’s like saying he’s joined a circus but doesn’t plan to put on a red nose or make balloon animals. Or ride in a tiny car. Or make children laugh. Or scream, depending on their feelings about clowns.
Don’t go there, Elle. Let go of your colorful past.
Henry crosses his big, big arms over his big, big chest. “I’m serious. We’re a no-party, study-only bachelor pad. Why’s that so hard to believe?”
“Because you live for that bullcrap.”
His nostrils flare a little, and his normally plump lips go flat.
“Fine. Whatever.” I hold up two palms in surrender. “I didn’t come here to talk about that, and if it’s true, then I’m happy for you. I think it’ll be good for you academically speaking, because God knows you could use some improvement.”
“Elle,” his light brown brows pull together, “there’s nothing wrong with my academics.”
I laugh. “You have a three point three GPA, Henry.”
Wait. That came out sounding really bitchy, didn’t it?
“Wow.” He shakes his head. “That was bitchy.”
Okay. Mea culpa. Still, how dare he call me that!
I feel my claws extend. “I can’t help it if I find your lack of ambition to be comical,” I say calmly. “Besides, I’m sure you’re used to bitches—since you date the cream of the crop.” I glance over at the cheerleaders, three of whom are watching us and snickering. I know they think I’m just fan-girling over him or trying to trade math tutoring for sex. They wouldn’t ever believe that a guy like him would voluntarily be with a super-nerd like me.
Actually, come to think of it, maybe I don’t believe it either. Just like I don’t believe he could ever make me happy. There. You see, Elle. You made the right choice dumping him.
“That wasn’t nice. Since when did you get so bitter?”
“Must be the company,” I reply.
He shakes his head and throws in a tsk-tsk for good measure. “I don’t know what I ever saw in you.”
His words instantly sting, which shocks me because I’m not new to insults. For example, my nickname in high school was “shark bait.” Yes, from the movie Nemo. I skipped a bunch of grades, which made me very small compared to my much older peer group. For demonstration purposes, I’ll disclose that I literally wore a training bra at my high school graduation. And it was too big. I really needed an over-the-shoulder pebble holder.
Well, that was then and this is now. I’m almost twenty and all filled out. And I don’t need Henry’s approval.
I lift my chin and meet Henry’s angry green eyes. “Well, I know exactly what I saw in you.” I reach for the bulge between his powerful thighs. He’s wearing an athletic supporter, so his footballs look even bigger than they are. But make no mistake, his sporting goods section is as big as a girl like me—who’s five two and weighs one hundred and twenty pounds—can tackle.
I give his man gear a little squeeze, and his whole body freezes up, like he’s sure I’m going to rip off his manhood.
“The truth is, Henry, I stopped seeing you because your goal post isn’t stiff enough to keep me entertained.”
Unexpectedly, Henry cups my left breast. “I know exactly how you feel. There’s just not enough there to hold my interest. Guess I’ll have to find a girl with adult-sized pom-poms to inspire me.” The right side of his mouth curls into a cocky smile.
“Ugh!” I pull my hand from his package and slap his paw from my boob. “You’re a pig.”
“Well, I hope your little—” I glance at his bulge “—sense of humor keeps you warm at night when your brain is dead from all those concussions in two years.”
“Don’t you worry, sweetheart,” he says, letting his Texan twang break loose and looking over his shoulder at a group of pom-pom-toting girls drooling over him, “stayin’ warm ain’t my problem.” He turns and struts his rock-hard ass toward the locker room, like he owns the fucking world.
My innards sizzle with anger. “Dumb jock.”
He lifts his middle finger without bothering to face me. “See ya, gorgeous.”
He didn’t call me a stupid nerd, but his tone said it all.
As I watch him disappear into the locker room, I can’t help feeling like the tiny part of me he’d brought back to life—the part that loved to laugh and play—has just died a sad, twitchy little death. If there’s anyone in the world I wanted to connect with more, it was him. But this reaffirms my earlier assumption. We don’t work and never will. I need a serious guy who’s my equal.
Henry is a man-child. So hmph! Good riddance. Again.