The little Stranger chapter 11

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War Child
Dec 2, 2003
“Hey guys, have I showed you the latest pic of Ellie Gem send me? She has just cut another tooth and you can see it when she is smiling” Jake addressed his friends, and backing musicians, Stewart Halliday and Tom Gordon, who had just settled down in their seats on the plane. Their flight was soon heading to Paris, where they would be doing their next Gig on the European tour.

They had been on the road for almost a month now, and Jake’s new enthusiasm for fatherhood was still on a high.

Which was why Tom and Stewart exchanged wary looks with each other,
“Er, is that the same one you showed us last night, after the concert was over?” Tom enquired

“No, that was a different one,” Jake replied,

“Oh, lovely,” Tom replied, forcing himself to sound pleased.

“Did I tell you she called me ‘Dada’ over the phone the other night?” Jake enquired.
“Yeah, I am sure you have mentioned that once or twice,” Stewart nodded.

“More like a hundred,” Tom muttered dryly under his breath, so that only Stewart sitting next to him heard it, and he had to fight down the urge not to snigger.

“Ahh, here is the picture,” Jake exclaimed happily, “See her new little tooth coming down, isn’t she just adorable?”

Stewart and Tom obligingly looked at the picture, nodding and smiling with the doting father's assessment.

“You are well and truly smitten with that daughter of yours,” Tom then remarked in amusement, as he handed Jake back his cell phone.

“Yeah, I guess I am,” Jake realised “I guess I do go on a bit about her, don’t I?”

“Maybe just a bit,” Tom nodded, “No, actually more than a bit. Quite a lot really.” he then amended with a good-natured grin

Jake chuckled and looked a little sheepish, “Sorry if I am driving you guys crazy with all the baby talk, but this fatherhood thing is still all new to me, and I never realised how much one tiny little person can take over your life in such a short period of time,” he then explained in wonderment

“Wait till you have more than one, the novelty soon wears off,” Stewart grinned
“Oh yeah, you have three, don’t you? So, you would know all about that.” Jake laughed.
He put his phone away, reminding himself, that he really had to curb his enthusiasm for his daughter in front of the others, because he was probably driving them nuts, which was very uncool.

It seemed strange thinking back on it now, that when Ellie had come into his life all those months ago, he had been looking forward to going away on this tour, to escape the whole situation of dealing with her. But then when the time finally came to go, he found it hard that he was leaving her behind. And he wouldn’t be around her physically for a while.

He was still adjusting to all these new emotions; happy he was on tour again, performing in front of thousands, getting that buzz and kick from the concerts and the crowds. And at the same time feeling a slight guilt with that enjoyment, because he had left his daughter behind and was missing out in some way, when he was just starting to enjoy the idea of being a father.

He consoled himself with the fact, that he got to video message with Gemma every day for a few hours and see Ellie that way. Though he realised with amusement that Ellie seem to preferred trying to snatch the phone from Gemma’s hands, and chew on it, because she was teething, rather than actually pay any attention to him.

But Gemma was also very good at sending him lots of pictures, and keeping him up to date with all that was going on as much as possible back, so he didn’t feel like he was missing out on a lot.

He had worked hard to get back to where he was now, after the band split up, and he was happy it was paying off. The concerts had all sold out, His album and the latest single was riding high in the charts around the world and selling well, so, he felt on top form again. Yet everything was different, from all those other previous tours and successes.

He realised his whole outlook had changed, He no longer craved the wild freedom and hedonistic merry-go-round, that could be enjoyed with all the fame and fortune, where every door was open to him, and everyone wanted to be his best friend and hang out with him, so that he got invited along to all the so-called best parties and clubs and social gatherings that lasted well into the early hours of the morning.

None of it really appealed to him anymore. Not that he had quit socializing completely, and was not enjoying himself. But just that he had become a little choosier about it, and whom he kept his company with.

Strangely, his sex life was also almost non-existent. It wasn’t that women and his female fans were not throwing themselves at him, he was still getting that in abundance. The fact that he could be classed as single now, since Caroline’s death, it should have made it even easier for him to take up those eager offers. But it seemed to be having the opposite effect. Though he still found enjoyed the company of women, and flirting with them. But going beyond a cuddle and a few quick pecks on the cheek, was rare and far between. In most instances, to many of the lady’s disappointment, Jake preferred to go back to his room and his bed alone.

Just as he was doing tonight after the concert had ended. Finding himself alone in his hotel room thinking about going to bed and having a good sleep, he mused his father might finally be proud of him, because he was starting to turn into a boring old fart.

But as tired and weary as his body felt, when he finally lay in bed a while later, he couldn’t get to sleep much to his irritation. In the end he picked up his cell phone, deciding to go through the latest pics of his daughter Ellie. Scrolling through some of them he found himself stopping at one in particular, the one which Gemma had included of herself in a cheeky selfie, with her tongue out, whilst holding Ellie.

She had sent it in response to a text message a few days ago, when he wanted to know why she had not video messaged him right on the dot, at the usual time. She had sent him the picture with the return message ‘hold on to your horses, we are only through the door after visiting your new little nephew Callum, you do remember Fiona went into labour yesterday afternoon? I told you we were going to visit them’.

He had forgotten of course, he had been too caught up with things going on around him, and when she had finally got around to video-messaging him, Gemma had light-heartedly scolded him about it.

Maybe it was the distance between them, but she seemed a lot less guarded, and more her old self that he remembered, when they spoke on the phone lately.

On impulse, he found himself scrolling through his contacts and pressing on her number, wanting to talk to her. He wasn’t even sure if she would answer, it was just after twelve where he was, but much to his pleasure, he heard her voice, instead of being put through to the voice-messaging command’

Jake, is everything ok?” she asked with concern. It was unusual that he was phoning her this late in the evening

“Yeah, everything is fine, I just wanted to talk to you, I hope I haven't disturbed you?”

“Well I was reading a good crime novel; you are lucky you caught me though, because I was about to close the book for the night, and try and get some sleep”

“Nice timing then? I am glad I caught you”

“What is going on? Where are you?” she still sounded a little bewildered by his unexpected phone call.
“I am lying in my bed, but I can’t sleep,” he admitted, “that's why I decided to give you a call”

“Really? Surely you have enough company around you if you wanted to chat with someone, there is plenty of your friends you can call” she then pointed out with a small laugh.

“Yeah, but most of them are fed up listening to me going on about Ellie, I don’t have to worry about that with you” he pointed out.

“I see,” she replied after a small pause,” I suppose when you put it like that it makes sense. What is it exactly you want to talk about where she is concerned anyway?”

“Well I have been toying with the idea of seeing her a bit sooner, y’know before I finish the tour. Actually, I was thinking when we are gigging around the UK for that last week or so, she could be with me. I am sure I could get all the arrangements sorted out by then” he suggested, “I just wanted to know if you would be onboard with the idea, after all you reminded me a while back, I don’t want to be missing out on her life right now”

“Well if it's what you really want to do, and you can get it all fixed up ok, I don’t see why not” Gemma replied.

“So, you won’t mind travelling around with me that week looking after her?” Jake then enquired.

Well no, of course I don’t mind, it's what you are paying me to do after all,” she reminded him, “You are Ellie’s father, and my boss, you get to call the shots”

“I wish you would not refer to me as your boss.” Jake sighed, “First and foremost we are still friends, aren't we?”

Once more there was a small pause before she replied, as if she was having to think about it, much to Jake’s irritation.

“Uh yeah, I guess so, but I was just speaking in the capacity of my job with Ellie.” she finally explained.

“Well never mind all that.” Jake dismissed her explanation with a touch of impatience, “You will be coming along as my friend, and that’s how I will treat you as well, we will be on equal terms” he insisted.

“Well if that’s what you want,” Gemma sounded slightly amused, “I was going to say ‘OK boss, but on second thoughts, I had better not”

This made him chuckle, “You see, this is why I need you and Ellie around, you keep me in my place, but manage to make me happy while you do it. It’s a gift”

“Well I don’t know about that,” Gemma replied, refusing to be flattered, just as he expected she would, “It's pretty late, and I am tired, so, speaking as your friend, even if you can’t sleep, I am doing my best to shut you up, so you will hang up, and let me get some sleep”

“Ok, I will let you go.” Jake found himself reluctantly agreeing, because he was enjoying the banter between them, “I will talk to Maurice tomorrow, and see if we can get it sorted out, I will be in touch and let you know”

“Great.” Gemma replied, he could hear her trying to stifle a yawn from her end.

“Sweet dreams Gem.” he said softly

“Same to you, and try and get some sleep I am sure you have another hectic day tomorrow” she advised in her sensible tone, before hanging up.

Jake lay back in his bed staring at his cell phone, feeling a strange sense of loneliness engulf him thinking about Gemma, partly wishing she was with him now, never mind the end of the tour. He found himself asking himself once again, how he could have been so foolish to just let her slip out of his life so easily.


Gemma glanced up at the lavender painter nursery wall, which was almost covered with postcards and plushie souvenirs that had been pinned up from all the different places Jake had been on his latest tour. Every time he had visited a city to do a gig, he had made sure to get something to send back for Ellie

Time had flown in, and now here she was, starting to pack and prepare herself and Ellie to join Jake on the last leg of his tour in the UK. He had got it all arranged and fixed up as he intended of course.

In her last conversation over the phone he had been like an excited school boy that they would be finally joining them. It made her smile thinking about it, yet, she was feeling a mixture of emotions at the thought of spending this week or so with him on tour.

She was happy he wanted Ellie with him, and they would have this chance to be together. On a more personal level for herself, she wasn’t sure being around Jake this week was going to be easy for her, in her attempts to keep some distance between them. It hadn't helped he had made a habit over this last month of phoning her again most evenings, after Ellie was in bed, just so they could talk.

They would discuss things like, how his concert had gone that evening, and he shared amusing stories that happened between him and the crew. Then she in return would tell him about the things going on in her side, about his sister Fiona coping with another child, and taking Ellie to visit her grandfather and other various outings.

It was all seeming to get very cosy, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to get that cosy with him.

Yet, there was another part of her less sensible side, that was a little excited about being with him on tour, and getting that experience, which made her push her other concerns aside. After all, it was just a week or so, what could happen in that time?

In the end, Gemma decided to stop fretting about the ‘what ifs’ and focus on getting organised and packed to join Jake in Manchester in a few days' time. She couldn’t wait to see his face when he caught sight of his daughter in real life, and he seen for himself how much she had grown and progressed these last few months, video’s and photographs just didn’t cut it.

A chauffeur driven car came to collect her and Ellie, to take them to the hotel in Manchester, where Jake was staying over those two evenings whilst doing his concerts. Once they arrived, they were discreetly shown to the suite of apartments which Jake and his entourage had commandeered for the time they were staying there.

Jake had already arrived just an hour before Gemma, he was with his Manager Maurice, and his personal assistant Maggie, when Gemma came into the room holding Ellie in her arms.

On seeing them, Jake immediately got up from the chair where he was sitting, with a look of delight, “Look at my little precious princess, you have gotten so big!” he exclaimed in awe, swooping Ellie into his arms and kissing her cheeks

Maurice and Maggie exchanged looks of wry amusement at Jake’s obvious burst of fatherly affection, whilst Gemma looked on grinning, because it was just as she pictured it in her head. Ellie on the other hand, was more interested in her new surroundings and the people around her, in her mind this was a whole new territory to explore

“She is doing well,” Maggie now also came over to see Ellie, “It's been a while from I have been around one this size, mine are all teenagers now” she sounded a little wistful

“Well I will let you get on with your happy family reunion” Maurice spoke up, “I have other business to attend to, so just make the most of it, you have to be down at the arena in a few hours for the rehearsals” he reminded Jake

“No problem,” Jake replied, “I am just going to show Gemma, to her room where she and Ellie will be staying, just to make sure everything is ok”

“Good idea,” Maggie replied “I have to go to, to make sure they sort out all your luggage and put it in the proper place now you have all arrived. So, I will leave you to it” she finished in a more business-like tone as she followed Maurice out, leaving Jake alone with Gemma and Ellie.

“It's really great having you here with me too Gem” he then said putting his arm casually around her shoulders and giving her a quick squeeze, before leading her towards the room where she and Ellie would be staying. I hope everything is arranged to your satisfaction, Maggie and I think we covered all the bases, but let me know if there is anything else you need for you or Ellie” he informed her graciously.

After walking around inspecting their accommodation and the room, Gemma found herself nodding with approval, “It seems fine, I think you have everything covered”

“Great,” Jake beamed. Ellie started wriggling impatiently in his arms now, giving a little wail of protest that she wanted her freedom to explore.

“You had better let her down, or it will turn into a full-blown tantrum, this little miss is headstrong and likes getting her own way, kindda' reminds me of someone,” Gemma said pointedly with a small smile

Jake just grinned, “I wonder who you mean?.” he now obligingly put Ellie down, then watched in wonderment as she got herself on all fours and crawled speedily across the room, “Wow, look at her go, she can certainly move quick enough, I can’t believe how much she has grown” he then said.

“Yeah, she is pulling herself up, and cruising around the furniture now, it will not be long before she is wanting to take her first steps” Gemma informed him, “Then she is going to be a handful”

“Well I am still glad I am getting to spend this time with her now,” Jake replied, as he watched Ellie gingerly pull herself up on her feet using the bed in the room, babbling away in her own baby talk, excited to have her freedom, “You were right I would have missed out on so much, without realising it” he then admitted, and now turned his full attention on Gemma.

“I do want to show you how grateful I am for all you have done so far, that’s why I have arranged a surprise for you” he then informed her.

“Oh?” Gemma eyed him warily now

“Well, I know you will need tonight to get yourself sorted and settled in, but tomorrow night Ellie will be taken care off for a few hours by someone else, and you are going to be my very special VIP guest at the concert.” he informed her enthusiastically.

“Jake you don’t have to do that-” Gemma started to protest

“-Yes, I do,” he interrupted her grabbing her hand, refusing to be dismissed so easily, an earnest look in his blue eyes as they bore into her.

“Listen to me Gem, whether you accept it or not, I have a lot to make up for. I mean you supported me and the band when we were playing in grotty youth clubs and local pubs, and then when we became famous you never even got the chance to attend any of our bigger concerts,” he reminded her.

“But that wasn’t your fault,” Gemma protested, “I just couldn’t get to them, because of looking after my mother and brother at the time” she reminded him.

“It doesn’t matter what the reason was, only that it still should not have happened, I could have found some way, if I had really wanted too,” Jake admitted, sounding a little ashamed, “So, please let me do this for you now, I need to do this” he urged, his blue eyes now pleading.

“Ok,” Gemma sighed finding herself reluctantly agreeing, whilst not exactly sure what she was letting herself in for, still feeling there was really no need for it. But if it made Jake happy and less guilt ridden, and she didn't have to see those blue eyes pleading with her like that again,she supposed she could go along with it for one night.
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