Skin Deep, Iris One Year Later

One year later...

They arrived to find the surprise Joy had arranged for them – a beautiful wrought iron fence that encircled the modest house and property Iris had just purchased. Joy had mentioned the need for a fence when she accompanied Iris to the closing, but she had given no indication that she intended to pay for its installation.

That wasn't Joy's only surprise. While going through the house showing Rosie each room, Iris glanced out of the window and froze. There in the backyard was a child's playground paradise, complete with a child-sized dollhouse for her daughter to play in. Rosie's eyes lit up and she rocked in Iris' arms in that universal childhood signal to be placed on the ground. It would be a while before Rosie could truly enjoy the playhouse. Still, the little girl was thrilled just to babble animatedly to her mother. 

Iris placed Rosie in the sandbox. After an unpleasant experience tasting the sand, the little girl busied herself with repeatedly sweeping it back and forth. "She love it," Iris informed Joy as soon as her cousin answered the phone. "But you shouldna spent all that money by yourself. I'll pay half."

Joy dismissed the offer with an unladylike snort. "Grandmother paid for that," she laughed. Of all the family who had lusted over the old woman's substantial life savings, their grandmother had chosen Joy to leave it to - the one who cared about it least. "She owed you that. Now," Joy changed the subject, "take a picture of my girl and send it to me. Make sure she smiles for her Tee Joy."


The fish didn't seem in the mood to bite. They had been out on the lake since 5 a.m. and they hadn't gotten a nibble. They sat in silence, each with his own thoughts. There was no doubt the two men were related. Life had blunted the older man's dark good looks a bit, but in many ways added a rich depth of character the younger man had not lived long enough to earn.

"I didn't ask you to come on this fishing trip just for the pleasure," Darryl broke the silence. He reeled in his line and waited for his father to do the same. "I need to talk to you."

"Thank you."

His father's quiet response confused Darryl. "Thank you," the older man explained, "for finally realizing that there is nothing you can't tell me. This is about whatever happened to you last year. Right?"

"Nineteen months ago, yeah. And it's a long, strange story. So I am asking you to let me tell it all before you speak."

Daniel Pine nodded and sat back with his arms crossed. Darryl recognized that pose. Growing up, his father would often assume that position when he was attempting to coax the absolute truth from his kids. Darryl sighed. "Like I was saying… 19 months ago I woke up in bed in a sleazy motel in Las Vegas beside a strange woman named Iris Gifford. I had no idea how I ended up there and she made it plain that she didn't know how she got there either..."


"Well, look at us, Miss Rosie Posey!" The nickname always made her little girl grin widely. "This is home now." The room was adorned with flowers all around the wall. Every now and then, a blossom would be replaced by a delicate sketch of Rosie's bright smile. Iris had painted in each flower by hand and no two were alike.

10-month-old Rose Ann sat quietly in her highchair concentrating on a bowl of dry Cheerios. She was as fascinated by the feel of the cereal as she was by the taste. Her coordination was improving, but it took her forever to pick up each piece of cereal with just her forefinger and thumb. The pediatrician assured Iris that was completely normal for someone her age. 

Iris unpacked the first of the moving boxes. It was filled with the toddler's things. Iris wanted her daughter's belongings to be the first things put into place in the new house. As she shook the wrinkles out of her daughter's clothes, the little girl began a stream of conversation that was mostly gibberish. Every now and then Iris could make out the words mama and Rosie and pretty. Pretty was her daughter's response to just about everything she liked.


And then there was that. Where Rosie's newest word came from, Iris couldn't figure. She certainly hadn't broached that subject at all. As a matter of fact, Iris had already decided that when Rosie was old enough to ask about her father, she intended to tell her he had died of anorexia.


"We were both naked. It was obvious that we had been…intimate. The physical signs were all there. But neither of us could recall any details. We had both lost almost a day."

"Why didn't you contact the police the minute you realized what had happened? Hell, son, why didn't you contact me? Are you sure this woman wasn't a part of what happened to you?"

Darryl made a face. "Dad, you promised to let me get through this." He waited until his father acknowledged the point then continued on with his story.  "I'm positive she wasn't a part of it. She was as outraged as I was about it all. Her only thought was of putting me as far in her rear view mirror as she could." He looked away. "That became a lot harder when we found out we were legally married. Once we accepted that fact, we used the marriage license we found to track down the guy who married us. There was nothing he could do for us, so we went to the courthouse bright and early that Monday morning and applied for an annulment. We cited the few details we remembered and then explained that neither of us had been in any condition to agree to marriage.

It took 17 days for the annulment to be granted. I was on a job so she sent me a picture of the decree when her copy arrived…just to let me know that we were officially 'untied'. After that we went our separate ways. 

And that should have been the end of it."


Iris was still laughing at her own joke about the white boy's demise when she placed the last of Rosie's clothes in the dresser. Though the thought amused her, she knew that she would never tell her daughter something so cruel. That didn't mean that she intended to tell Rosie any real truth about her father. All the little girl would ever need to know was that her father never had no place for them in his life.

Iris glanced across the room. Rosie nodded tiredly in her highchair yet refused to succumb to sleep. "Come on, baby girl." Iris lifted the drowsy toddler and carried her into the living room. Rosie's bed was in place in her bedroom, but Iris hadn't installed the monitor that would allow her to listen in for any sounds of distress her daughter might make during her sleep. She was going to open some more of the moving boxes anyway. She might as well unpack those that contained the living room decorations.

As she often did, Iris just took a few minutes to marvel at the little miracle life had given her. "Life gonna be good to you," Iris whispered. "You beautiful like your Tee Joy." She smoothed the fine hairs at Rosie's temple and smiled when the little girl automatically turned into her mother's touch. "You don't need a daddy. You gonna always have me. And I'm gonna do everything I know to make sure you as happy as you are now.

I promise."


"I have a grandchild out there somewhere?"

This was the part of the story Darryl looked forward to least. His father, after a couple of interruptions, had managed to listen silently while Darryl recounted the whole bizarre episode. But already, with the revelation of Iris' pregnancy, Darryl could hear the growing disappointment in the older man's tone. "Yes."

If Darryl thought the simple answer would somehow stop the tide of questions he knew his father possessed, then he was fooling himself. "Is it a girl or boy?"

"...I don't know."

"And you couldn't take a moment to call and find out?" Daniel Pine was incredulous. 

"I promised that I would stay out of his/her life. I signed papers promising I would. And... I don't have her number. I deleted it and she's moved since then."

Daniel Pine stared at his son. "Who are you? You aren't the son I raised. Not if you could walk away from a child you created."

Though his father's words slashed him like a knife, Darryl didn't even flinch. Nothing his father could say would make him more aware of his behavior than he already was. "You're right. I can't ever undo these last months." Darryl held his father's gaze. "But I want to find my child. Will you help me?"

Daniel Pine pulled his phone from his windbreaker and began dialing a number from memory. It was a young colleague he'd mentored at Quantico. "If your child is out there son, I know an agent who will find it."

End Notes:

Rose Ann Gifford

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