Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Her Name is Iris
Her Name is Iris
The gala in the ballroom of The Merryweather was in full swing. Melanie Fairchild was dancing with her latest costar, Kevin Abbott. Speculation was high that a romance was in the offing for Miss Fairchild and Mr. Abbott. There wasn't any truth to the rumor. The love of Melanie's life had died in skiing accident three years ago, leaving her to raise their daughter, Samantha, alone.
“Melanie, let's escape through the back door. I'll have room service send a chilled bottle of champagne to my suite. We will have our own party,” the handsome actor said it in such a way Melanie was tempted, but only for a split second.
“Kevin, you know my daughter is with me and I don't want to leave her alone any longer than I have to.”
“She's not alone, dear. Her nanny is with her and I know you trust the woman or she wouldn't be within ten feet of Samantha.”
“Julianna is a wonderful nanny, but I'm her mother and it's important that I am with her during the night. She is in a strange bed and may wake up and be frightened. Kevin, you know I am not ready for any kind of relationship. There are at least five different young ladies drooling over you as we speak. Let's go sit down and you can ask any one of them for the next dance. I'm sure the lucky girl will be delighted.”
“Someday you are going to regret breaking my heart like this Melanie. You will wake up in that big feather bed, your daughter will be off and married with five kids and you'll think about old Kevin and wish you'd taken me up on my offer.”
“A big feather bed, huh? Sounds rather cozy, maybe my five grandchildren will hop in it with me and we can laugh as we watch some of our old movies on a Saturday night.”
“Our old movies will be classics.”
“Not the last one. It was a dud and we both know it.”
“Maybe, but we are making a ton of money because people like seeing us together. Just think what a humanitarian thing it would be if you took me up on my offer. People think we are the perfect couple.”
“We are the perfect couple on screen. Kevin, you would be bored to death with me if I was in your life. I normally don't hang around this long at a party if I go at all. I agreed to come here tonight because some family members were from Camden Corners. Their last name was Taylor. That was my name before someone thought Fairchild would sell more seats in the movie theater.”
In Melanie's suite, Samantha and Julianna were watching a Shirley Temple movie. Samantha wanted Mama to ask the child actress to come over to play when they returned to California. Julianna tried to explain that the movie was made many years ago and the little girl was a big lady now. She was as old as her Grandma Taylor. Samantha thought that was the funniest thing she had ever heard and giggled so hard she fell off the sofa and on to the floor.
“Didn't Mama look very beautiful tonight, Julianna?”
“Your mama always looks beautiful, pumpkin.”
“I think so too. I would like to go downstairs to see Iris again. May we, Julianna?
“Who is Iris, sweetie? I don't remember seeing any other little girls in the hotel.”
“She isn't a real little girl. Well, she is real, but she is in a picture on the wall. She is with her mama and papa and her sister and brother.”
“I did see some pictures when we were checking in. I would like to see them again. I think it would be fun to go to the lobby. We can't stay too long because it's almost your bedtime.”
Samantha held Julianna's hand as they skipped down the hall to the winding staircase. Samantha pretended she was a princess as she glided down the stairs giggling all the way.
“Good evening, Miss Samantha. My, you look lovely tonight in your ball gown,” said Holly as she glanced up and saw the pretty little girl.
Samantha giggled again. “This isn't a ball gown, it's my sundress.”
“I'm sorry madam, it must have been your glass slippers that fooled me,” Holly said cheerfully. “Is there anything I can help you ladies with?”
“We came to see Iris,” said Julianna. “The princess here was telling me her photo was hanging on the wall.”
“Please do look. Samantha, I think Iris was just about your age when that photo was taken. Come to think of it, you look very much like her.”
They walked over to the row of framed photographs. “There's Iris. She's the one who is smiling at us.”
“She does look like you, Samantha. You have her eyes. Isn't that the strangest thing. They say everyone has a double. I think we may have found Samantha's.”
“Iris was a very special little girl,” said Holly who had read every journal and knew the history of the townspeople very well. “Diana and Joe Taylor didn't think they were going to have any children until the day Joe found Iris sleeping alongside the firehouse dalmatian. Joe was a fireman. Anyway, they adopted Iris and soon after they found they were expecting another child and another after that. Iris brought them luck.”
“Iris lived in the mountains before she came to Camden Corners. She didn't have a mama and her papa forgot she was in the buckboard he was driving to California and he left town without her. He never came back because he died just like her mama.”
“Oh dear, I hope someone on our staff didn't tell you that.” Holly looked at Julianna, “I'm sorry, we want everyone to enjoy their visit here, not be forced to listen to sad stories.”
“Iris told me,” Samantha said innocently.
“It must have been Melanie. She is an actress and maybe found the truth interesting. She may have been looking at the pictures while I was making sure the room was in order. This photography is excellent. Someone in Camden Corners was very talented back then.”
“His name was Tony Marino. He took many photos of his friends and neighbors when he was just a young boy. He grew up to be a photo journalist during the second world war. He won a Pulitzer for the photographs he took during that time.”
“Of course, I have studied his work. What a thrill to see these original photos. I'm studying photography. I work part time for Melanie and attend classes during the school year. I would like to be a photojournalist just like Mr. Marino was.”
“Good for you Julianna, I'm sure you will find some beautiful photo opportunities in Camden Corners. I realize I'm partial, but I think we have a lovely town.”
“I'm planning to do just that tomorrow morning. Melanie has nothing scheduled and will be able to spend time with Samantha while I go off with my camera.”
“Don't go near the rocks, okay, Julianna,” Samantha said with a worried look on her face.
“What made you say that, sweetie?
“I don't know. Just don't climb on the rocks.”
Julianna and Holly looked at each other. This happy little girl suddenly looked like she had the weight of the world on her shoulders.
Julianna said, “Maybe we should get you upstairs and tucked into bed. It's been a very busy day and you must be tired. We will come back tomorrow to look at all these wonderful pictures. Maybe we will hear more stories that make us smile.
“Good night ladies,” said Holly.
“Good night, Miss Holly.” Samantha turned toward the photograph on the wall and said, “Good night, Iris.”
Holly had never seen such a strong reaction to any of the pictures before. She would have to check with Julianna in the morning. She was hoping Samantha would have forgotten all about the little girl from so long ago.
Melanie was more than ready to call it a day. She had done her duty and made an appearance at the gala. She wanted to get to her suite, kick her shoes off and give Samantha a good night kiss. Kevin didn't argue with her. He had already spotted a pretty redhead on the opposite side of the room. It was obvious from the looks she was giving him that she would be a more willing partner for the evening than his good friend Melanie Fairchild.
“I'm back. Where are my two best girls?” Melanie thought of Julianna as a very dear friend as well as an employee. Julianna was a few years younger than Melanie. She was hired after Melanie interviewed at least thirty people for the nanny position. Samantha had taken to Julianna immediately. Julianna needed a place to live while she attended college and the situation worked out well for everyone.
“Here we are Mama,” came the sweet little voice of her daughter. She was bathed and in her pajamas with the smell of toothpaste still on her lips as she wrapped her arms around her mother. “Did you have fun at the ball, Mama?”
“Oh yes, darling. I had a wonderful time but I couldn't wait to get back here to tuck you in bed and read you a story.”
“Did you dance with Mr. Kevin? Is he going to be my new daddy? Jimmy Harvey said he is.”
“Jimmy Harvey doesn't know what he is talking about. Mr. Kevin plays my husband sometimes in movies but we are just friends. If I ever choose a new daddy for you, you will be the first to know, not silly Jimmy Harvey,” Melanie reassured her daughter. One of the drawbacks to being a success in the movies was that your private life was difficult to keep private. Outside of the movie studio, she and Kevin had never so much as shared a kiss but according to some of the magazine covers at the grocery store checkout, they were having a torrid love affair.
After only a few pages of her storybook, Samantha was sleeping soundly. Melanie walked back out into the living room. “What did the two of you do this evening?”
“We watched Shirley Temple in an old movie. Samantha wants you to invite her over to play when we return home. I tried to explain she wasn't a little girl anymore but I don't think Samantha quite understands. How was Kevin tonight? I imagine he was trying to lure you to his suite.”
“You know Kevin. I don't know what he would do if I took him up on it. I'm sure he won't be alone tonight, as I was leaving he was on his way across the room to give a thrill to an attractive redhead. My guess is she won't be turning him away.” They both laughed. “Who is Iris that Samantha was talking about?”
“She's the little girl in the photo on the wall downstairs. Didn't you talk to her about Iris?”
“No, I don't remember seeing a photo. It must have been in that gallery they have just off the lobby. I was hoping to explore that tomorrow but I didn't see it earlier. Julianna, what's wrong? You seem disturbed about something.”
“It's probably nothing, just a strange feeling I have about that photo. The little girl looks so much like Samantha and Samantha seems very taken with the picture. She knew the child was an orphan who had been abandoned in Camden Corners. She was born in the mountains and later adopted by the Taylor family. Holly Mackenzie was with us downstairs. She was surprised that anyone on her staff would tell a little girl a sad story like that. Samantha wasn't out of our eyesight at anytime yesterday and we both know she didn't talk to any strangers. There is one more thing. I mentioned I would be taking my camera and exploring Camden Corners. She became quite upset and told me to stay off the rocks. It was all very disconcerting, it made me and Holly both uncomfortable.”
“How strange, and the story about this little girl was true? She had been abandoned, did Holly know that for a fact?”
“According to the journals, it is true. Back in 1903 to about 1925, several of the ladies of the village wrote journals. Apparently they tell the stories of the day to day lives of all the folks who lived here back then. Holly has read everyone and said that particular story was true. She told Samantha the little girl was adopted by a childless couple and brought them luck in expanding their family. Samantha added the part about being an orphan and left alone in the town.”
“I'm sure there is a reasonable explanation for Samantha's reaction although I can't imagine what it is. I'll talk with her tomorrow. Maybe it's just her imagination working overtime.”
“Shall we watch some television. I'm too wound up after the gala downstairs to fall asleep right away.”
“I think I'll go to my room. I bought some postcards earlier and thought I'd send them to my nieces. They love getting their own mail. I'll just write a message on them so they are ready to mail tomorrow. I also want to check my film supply. I plan to take many photos tomorrow. This is small town living at its best and I want to capture every detail of it.”
“Good night Julianna.”
“Good night boss.”