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annj 12-01-2019 05:56 PM

The little stranger chapter 8
With Ellie safely tucked into the car seat in the back, Gemma sat upfront with Jake in his car, as they headed for his father's house. Now dressed in a casual shirt and jeans and clean shaven, Jake looked a lot more respectable, but Gemma didn’t miss the tension in his face as he negotiated the busy traffic, but she had a feeling it was more than a lunchtime traffic jam that was on his mind.

“I thought you and your father would have resolved your differences by now,” she finally spoke up with a bewildered frown, “I mean, he use to give you a hard time about being in the band, but you proved your point, you made a success of your life and your music career, you have done well. Surely he recognises that at least?”

“Well that’s the thing,” Jake replied, still looking out the windscreen in front of him, “I think he begrudges me my success, and that I proved him wrong in some way. He will never it admit outright of course, his pride won’t let him, so he hones in on other things, like my failures, and he likes to remind me of them. He keeps telling me it's to keep my oversized ego in check, and remind me I am no different than every other mortal on the planet”

Despite the fact knowing Jake’s father's attitude irritated him to the point of frustration, Gemma couldn’t help smiling as she imagined Robert, or as he liked to be known, Bob Kavanagh coming off with such statements to his son.

“I take it you agree with him then?” Jake queried accusingly, as he glanced around, noticing Gemma’s smile of amusement.

“Eh no, I wouldn’t say that,” Gemma hurriedly replied, her expression quickly turning serious again, “I am sure you do not believe you are that different to the rest of us, but it's just now, I can imagine your father coming off with something like that”

“Like I said, he hasn’t changed” Jake sighed wearily

“You know he just gets on your back sometimes, and seems hard on you because he worries and cares about you, ” Gemma then said consolingly, “I know he has a funny way of showing it, but like you said he is a proud man, and stubborn, that’s the problem you both share that trait”

“I guess so,” Jake admitted, “But sometimes it would be nice if he would even acknowledge how far I have come, then I ask myself why do I even care what he thinks?! It's my life”

“Yeah, it is, and you have lived it how you wanted too,” Gemma agreed, “You shouldn’t let what your dad says get under your skin. He is from a different generation, with different values, so it doesn’t mean either of your viewpoints are right or wrong, they are just different” she pointed out diplomatically

Jake nodded thoughtfully, “Yeah. you are right. And you know what, you can pass that bit of wisdom on to him, if he starts on me”

Gemma remained silent, hoping it would not come to that point. She had great respect for Jake’s father, he had always been kind to her, and made her feel welcome, she would never dream of lecturing him about how he behaved with his son or taking sides.

They finally arrived at his father's house a nice three bedroomed semi-detached house, just outside town. “He didn’t really want to move out of our old house,” Jake explained, as Gemma fetched Ellie out of the back of the car, “Only he got fed up with my fans turning up at the door, and having to tell them to clear off, then giving me a hard time about it”

“Oh dear,” Gemma looked suitable concerned, as followed Jake up the pathway with Ellie in her arms.

“I mean this is a much nicer house I found for him, and no one bothers him. But he still gets the odd dig in, about having to move out of his home, because of me and my fame” Jake continued to grumble resentfully.

“He must have really loved that other house, poor man” Gemma remarked sympathetically

Jake halted right at the front door frowning round at her, “Hey, who’s side are you on?”

“No one’s” Gemma reiterated with wide eyed innocence, “I am just the nanny, remember?”

“Ha ha, very funny!” Jake drawled, realising she was winding him up and teasing him, in an attempt to relieve his tension.

He recalled she used to do it a lot with him when they were younger, because she knew he could never be angry with her, even if he was angry with the rest of the world. and it still worked, because now he was grinning, despite himself, “Remember, distract him as much as possible,” he murmured the reminder as he knocked on the door.

Jake’s father finally came to the door to let them in, Jake had fixed a smile on his face to greet him “Hey dad, how's it going? I brought some company with me”

“Yeah, I can see, and about time too” His father replied a little tersely, stepping aside to let them enter.

Bob Kavanagh was taller and burlier than his son, but he looked a lot frailer now than Gemma first remembered him. His mop of hair had gone from grey to white and had thinned a lot, but there was still that sharp look in his blue eyes.

“You remember Gemma, don’t you?” Jake now said as they stood in the living room.
“Of course, I am not senile yet” his father shot back, and Jake stared across at Gemma pointedly, as if to say ‘see what I mean.’

“Hello Mr Kavanagh, it's nice to see you again after all this time” Gemma replied smiling warmly

“Oh, don’t you Mr Kavanagh me young lady,” his scolding changed to a much friendlier tone, “Its Bob to you, remember that. I still remember you visiting us when you were no more than a nipper, you were a good girl, always keeping this one in line,” he waved a hand in Jake’s general direction, “more than I could ever do”

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” Gemma said laughingly, feeling her face heat up, realising that was how Jake’s father remembered her, “It certainly didn’t feel like that at the time” she added shooting Jake a look of amusement now.

He just shrugged, looking a little sheepish.

“Sit down, sit down” he urged her pointing to one of the arm chairs in the cosy sitting room, “Now you can tell me where have you been all this time? and how has that son of mine, convinced you to look after my granddaughter for him?”

Gemma had forgotten how forthright Bob could be, he never minced his words. She on the other hand, wasn’t sure were to start explaining how she ended up in this situation. “Oh, it was just one of those things,” she replied vaguely, as sat down with Ellie on her knee.

Bob sat in the sofa across from them and was now smiling at his granddaughter, “she is a grand wee thing, isn't she?”

“Yes,” Gemma smiled, “Here, do you want to hold her?” she then offered

“Of course, come here my love,” Bob held out his arms in delight, and Gemma happily handed Ellie over to him, she stared at him with her big brown eyes, sizing him up as he cooed and chuckled at her, and he was rewarded with a drooling smile, then she attempted to grab his nose, making him laugh

“Poor wee mite,” Bob now spoke up, “Suppose it’s as well Gemma came along when she did,” he looked round at Jake sitting across the room on the other armchair. “You are always on the go, I don't suppose you have spent much time with her? Then you will be away months on end, on this solo tour”

“I could hardly cancel it Dad, everything was already arranged by the time I found out about Ellie, and its only for a few months” he added defensively

“Yes of course, can't let anything come between you and your music,” Bob replied dryly “all this solo business though, “Being in a band not good enough for you now, you have to go it on your own”

“The band breaking up wasn’t solely my fault dad, it wasn’t like I planned it that way, it just happened, I was not happy about it; I told you all this, when it happened at the time you know how upset I was” Jake reminded him, his jaw tense as he tried to remain calm.

“So, Bob, how have things been going with you?” Gemma dutifully decided now was a good time for some distraction tactics.

“Yeah, you chat and catch up with Gemma dad, I will go and make us all some coffee” Jake’s tone was still a little tight and his smile strained, as he got up and escaped into the kitchen to calm himself down again.

Bob shook his head in exasperation and then addressed Ellie sitting on his knee, “I don’t know what sort of a father he's going to be”

“Oh, I think he will be a good one,” Gemma piped up, “I guess the way it happened, it's just taking him a little while to adjust, which is understandable under the circumstances” she then pointed out

“I suppose so,” Bob relented and heaved a sigh, “A bad business with that wife if his, I never cared for her, and how could she do that? Not let Jake know about his daughter, then fill herself with drugs with these wee one in the next room, what kind of a mother, was she?”

“She must have been very troubled,” Gemma replied neutrally, not wanting to delve too much into the situation with Caroline, or judge her, mostly out of loyalty to Jake.

“He should have stuck with you, and married you,” Bob now said, “You would have kept him straight”

“Oh, but It was never like that between us,” Gemma hurriedly corrected him, feeling her face redden again, “we were always just friends”

“Yeah well that's where you made the mistake.” Bob stated. And Gemma found herself lost for a reply. At that moment Jake appeared, carrying a tray with three coffee cups and a plate filled with various biscuit's

Glancing at Gemma, he noticed she seemed uneasy, and wondered ominously what his father had said now.

“I was just saying to Gemma here how it would have been better if you two had got together, instead of you ending up with that Caroline,” Bob informed him

“Is that right?” Jakes tone was light, as he sat the tray down on the nearby table, and lifted one of the cups and handed it to Gemma whose cheeks had grown a darker red than usual, “And what did you have to say about that?” His blue eyes rested on her steadily with a hint of amusement.

“I-I was just saying to your dad it was never like that between us, we are just friends” she had trouble looking him directly in the eye, and instead stared into the coffee cup he had just handed he

“Yes, that’s true, we are just friends” Jake agreed, but Gemma wasn’t sure if she heard a slight rueful tone in his voice. Before she could look up to see his expression, he had moved away to hand his father his cup of coffee, taking Ellie from him, so he could drink it in peace.

“Well I still don’t think that Caroline was right for you, I don’t know why you got mixed up with her, it says it all the way she ended up, she was always bad news” Bob then said.

“Don’t start up about that again dad, you have made it plain your feelings about Caroline, she is dead now, can’t you let it rest” Jake replied wearily

“I just don’t understand why you defend her actions, after everything she has done” his father returned with a frown

“Because maybe I knew and understood her far more than you, or anyone else,” Jake replied heatedly, “You don’t have a clue what she went through-” he broke off there, realising he needed to control his tongue and his temper, noticing how Gemma was frowning at him in questioning concern.

“It doesn’t matter anyway, she is gone, so let it drop, this is not the time, not in front of Ellie” he finished gruffly.

“I think Jake is right,” Gemma spoke up calmly, attempting to ease the tension in the room, “Ellie has been through enough, as you pointed out,” she addressed Bob, “she doesn’t want to listen to her dad and grandad having a go at each other, I think we should just change the subject for her sake”

“You’re right,” Bob relented with a heavy sigh, and looked round at Jake, “I am sorry, you know what I am like, it’s just I don’t understand it, that’s all” he spoke in a more reasonable tone.

“I know,” Jake replied now calmed down, “It's just one of those things, sometimes there is no easy answer.” he found himself hugging his daughter a little tighter, to ward of the sense of despondency that threaten to overcome him.

Gemma went back to staring into her cup of coffee, pondering on Jake’s reaction over Caroline, and what he had blurted out before stopping himself.

He was still protecting her, defending her. He must be hurting badly still from her death, and she realised she had been silly and foolish thinking about his remark earlier about their friendship, when she thought he was implying he regretted it was not something more.

That was obviously not the case, which was a good thing ion the end she consoled herself, because in another six months she would no longer be in his life.

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