The Little stranger chapter 17

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War Child
Dec 2, 2003
On Tanya’s arrival Gemma got out of the pool and hastily made a retreat to her room, informing everyone, thanks to Jake she now had to go and change her clothes.

Jake also got out of the pool and lifted a towel to dry himself down, still a little thrown by what had almost happened between him and Gemma, and now trying to act like nothing had happened, as he faced Tanya.

She was looking a little apologetic, as if sensing her unexpected arrival had interrupted something. Even under the sudden circumstances, she had not missed that Gemma and Jake seem to have trouble looking each other in the eye. And Jake’s whole demeaner seemed distracted by what was going on around him.

“I am sorry for just dropping in unannounced, but I am heading back to America tomorrow, and I thought I would come over and say goodbye before I left” she explained

“It’s ok, we were just messing about with the kids,” Jake replied, feeling guilty for momentarily wanting Tanya as far away as possible, “I am glad you came, I would never forgive you if you left without seeing saying goodbye, goodness only knows when we will be able to get together again” he said with sincerity, now putting his hand lightly on her lower back and leading her into the Villa “C’mon I will get you a drink, I am needing one myself right now” he finished truthfully, still trying to get his mind off, what had almost occurred between him and Gemma just minutes ago.

Up in her room, Gemma removed her wet clothes and went to have a quick shower, despite this, she could still feel the imprint of Jakes hands round her waist, from when they were in the pool, and the look in his eyes, even though she closed hers tight, trying to block it out.
Once she got out of the shower, she found something else to wear, but after she got dressed, she found she could not go back down the stairs and face him again, especially not with Tanya there, so instead she sat on the edge of her bed staring at the floor, still trying to figure out just what had occurred between her and Jake?

It was something yet, it was nothing. her mind was confused, she wasn’t sure if she was relieved or disappointed that Tanya showed up when she did, making her escape easier.
She could hear them below, Jake Tanya Fiona Deke, even the kids, though not very clearly, but she could make out muffled talking and laughing, they were all getting on like everything was normal, she wished she could feel like that, but normal was the last thing she was feeling,

A knock on her door made her almost jump out of her skin, the door opened Jayla popped her head round, “Uncle Jake sent me up, he wants to know if you are ok, and can you forgive him for chucking you in the pool with your clothes on, and come down the stairs”

Gemma forced herself to smile, “Tell him I am fine, and that I will be down soon, I am just drying my hair”

“Ok.” Jayla replied happy enough, and left closing the door again.

Gemma let out a long breath, bracing herself knowing she couldn’t hide up in her room forever, she would have to go down and face everyone, and act like nothing had happened.
She took her time drying her hair, but finally left the room, going down the stairs to join the others, hoping she looked calmer than she felt inside.

Jake came over to her as soon as she made an appearance, his blue eyes filled with concern, “Are you ok?” he enquired quietly.

“Yes, I am fine, why shouldn’t I be?” she shot him a quick smile

“No reason I guess,” he shrugged, smiling back.

Fiona was busy chatting to Tanya, and looked over in Gemma’s direction, beckoning her to join them. But Gemma wasn't sure she was quite ready for casual chitchat just yet, so distracted herself by going over and picking Ellie up, “I may go and check to see if she needs her nappy changed, I will be back in a bit.” she informed Fiona.

Fiona invited Tanya to stay for supper with them, insisting on it when she was a little reluctant to accept the invitation and when Jake joined in, telling her he also wanted her to stay, she finally acquiesced.

Gemma was happy enough with Tanya being around, it meant that Jake Deke and Fiona had to keep playing hosts to their guest, so, Gemma obligingly took care of looking after the kids and kept them occupied, and not having to join in the adult conversation much, staying in the periphery of the company, including Jake, which suited her just fine,

When it came time to prepare supper she only too willingly offered to help Fiona prepare it as well, which kept her busy in the kitchen, and not in the least like she was avoiding anyone around her.

Whilst Fiona and Gemma were busy in the kitchen, Deke had gone to put their little boy down for his nap. The older children were out playing in the pool again, leaving Tanya alone with Jake,

Getting this time on her own with him, Tanya wasted no time to investigate what had been bugging her since she arrived, “Ok, what is going on between you and Gemma?” she demanded as she sat on the sofa next to him

Jake feigned bewilderment “Nothing, I don’t know what do you mean?”

“Oh, stop the BS Jake,” Tanya gave a little laugh of disbelief, “I have been watching the two of you these last few hours, she is doing her best to avoid even looking at you, and every time she comes into the room you are darting those little worried looks, trying not to make it obvious, but not doing a very good job of it. So, what is going on? I know something has happened between you”

“It's not so much that something has happened,” Jake finally replied frowning down at his finger nails, as he inspected his outstretched hand, suddenly glad there was someone he could talk to about his situation, because it was driving him crazy, especially after the incident in the pool.

“It's more about what’s not happening” he smiled bleakly as he looked up at her.

Tanya just continued to stare at him questioningly.

“I love her, Tanya,” he then confessed, “I have come to realise lately that I have always loved Gemma. Only when we were younger, I was so scared that I would let her down and I would lose her, so I ran the opposite direction, but then I ended up losing her anyway” he finished with a small ironic laugh.

“I had kindda gathered you had feelings for her, the way you talked about her in your texts to me over these last few months since she came back into your life” Tanya smiled.

“She has been let down badly by the people she cared for in the past, including me,” he admitted shamefacedly, “and even though she says she forgives me, I don’t think she has. She is determined to keep this distance between us, even though I know she has feelings for me. I just don’t know how to get past the barrier she has put up” his frustration was evident, “Maybe you could have a word with her” he then suggested

“Me?” Tanya looked startled and realising how desperate Jake must have been feeling, to even suggest it.

“Yeah, you have some things in common. She seems to think she can go it on her own, that her job and career is more important than relationships with other people” he then pointed out

Tanya screwed up her face a little, “I am not sure if I can take that as a compliment or not” she said uncertainly.

“That’s not how I meant it” Jake assured her realising how it was coming across.
Tanya now looked thoughtful

“From what you have told me, and what I have seen, I think you are wrong about me and Gemma, we don’t have anything in common” she then stated much to Jake’s surprise.
Slipping her arm through his, and smiling, she continued, “You see Jake, when I chose my career in modelling, and decided to put that first in my life, above everything else, it was my choice. It was something I came to the conclusion to for myself, without any other influence affecting my decision” she explained with conciseness, “Now, from what you just told me about Gemma, and how she was abandoned by those she cared about, can’t you see, these actions have forced her to believe she is better going it alone, but I don’t think that is what she really wants in life, unlike me”

“How do you know?” Jake still didn’t quite understand, how Tanya came to her conclusion.

“Oh, c’mon, have you seen her with Ellie and the other kids? they adore her, and she is great with them, unlike me. I don’t mind holding Ellie for five minutes and admiring her cuteness, but I know I could never revolve my whole life around a child enough, to give up my career” Tanya pointed out, “Can’t you see? Gemma would be quite contented in domestic bliss surrounded with kids. So, I would be not very good trying to convince her of that, when the idea is quite alien to me”

“I guess so,” Jake relented as he pondered on Tanya's words.

“Why don’t you just be honest with her, and tell her how you feel?” Tanya then suggested practically.

“I have tried, but she keeps running away, or shutting me down before I get anywhere, then I get scared if I tell her, and come right out with it, she will run a mile in the opposite direction” Jake frowned, “I just don’t know what to do for the best” he admitted.

“If you want my honest opinion, watching the both of you, even for the short time I have been here, I think you would be good together. She is far more suited to you than Caroline ever was, I really like her” Tanya stated, “So my advice is, don’t give up Jake, I am sure you will find a way to convince her that you were meant to be together, if that’s what you really want”

Jake found out he had brightened up after his talk with Tanya, realising she had a point “You are right” he told her, “something happened this afternoon, that convinces me even more that we are right for each other, that much I am sure of. So, I am not going to give up just yet, while I know there is a chance”

“That’s more like the Jake I know.” Tanya smiled, reaching over and give him an encouraging kiss on the cheek, making him grin.

“Y’now, if you ever give up your job as a model, you should become an agony aunt” he then suggested with a chuckle

Tanya laughed, “I will have to keep that in mind for the future.”


Bolstered after his talk with Tanya, Jake’s mind was working overtime, how he could convince Gemma about his feelings for her.

He considered writing her a love song and serenading her, pouring out his feeling through his music. But he got the feeling Gemma would only laugh off this grand gesture, and tell him he was being corny.

He thought about flinging himself on his knees at her feet, and begging her to forgive him for how he had treated her in the past, but he knew it would probably just end up embarrassing her and himself, and she would probably just withdraw from him even further.

Anyway, it was almost impossible to get her to stay longer than ten minutes in the same room as him. She always had an excuse to be doing something, helping Fiona with the supper, sorting out the kids, running around cleaning up. Even when it came time for supper to be served Gemma refused to join them round the table; claiming she was not very hungry, and would make herself a snack in the kitchen later, that she had going to settle Ellie for the night.

Jake shot Tanya a knowing look across the dinner table, as if to say, “You see what I am dealing with here?”

After they had finished supper, and Gemma was still making herself scarce, Jake decided if she was not going to come to him, then he would just have to go to her.

So, when he excused himself after dessert, claiming he needed to see Gemma about something, Tanya smiled at him with encouragement, giving him a quick thumbs up, when the others weren’t looking.

He found her in the kitchen cleaning up, she glanced round as he walked in, then went back to putting a dish in one of the cupboards.

Thought this might be where I found you hiding” he remarked as he walked over to her.

“I am not hiding” Gemma denied, “I am just helping out”

“Sure, you are.” Jake smiled, decided not to argue, knowing it would get him nowhere with her.

“Is something wrong?” she then enquired turning to face him questioningly.

“I could ask the same thing,” Jake replied, “You have hardly stayed still all evening, you must be tired out” he pointed out with genuine concern, “I didn’t bring you along to be my hired help Gem, take a break, chill out and enjoy the company” he then suggested.

“I can’t,” Gemma replied with a small frown, Jake felt it was the first honest thing she had said to him all day.

“Why not?”

She shrugged, absentmindedly wringing the towel she had picked up in her hand, “I just don’t feel comfortable sitting chatting, I don’t feel I have much to say or contribute to any conversations you are having about, the movie stars you hang out with, and politicians, and famous people, I don’t really belong”

“Well, we could always change the topic onto something you are comfortable with, we don’t have to talk about that stuff” Jake pointed, out dismissing this excuse easily.

Gemma shook her head, “No, I am fine here where I am, really, I prefer it”

“But I don’t want you feeling uncomfortable around my friends,” Jake said, “I want them to get to know you, like I know you.”

Then, taking the bull by the horns, he opened his arms and enveloped her in a purely platonic hug

“Don’t ever think that you are less important to me than anyone else here today, because that is not the case, “he informed her, “If anything, you are more important to me. I could never have managed to get through these past few months without your help” he assured her huskily.

Despite her first reservations about his nearness, after the day she had, she was feeling too emotionally and physically tired too fight it any longer, so Gemma just allowed herself to relax against Jake, taking the warmth and comfort his hug offered her, for a little while,
It had been such a long time from she had just accepted this kind of physical support from anyone, never mind Jake.

She always felt she had to be strong, and rely on herself and keeping up that guard. But as much as she hated to admit it, being in Jakes arms, just felt so good.

Jake was just happy that she stayed put, and seemed relaxed for a change. He let himself savour the moment, taking in the scent and feel of her in his arms, realising he didn’t really want to ever let her go.

“Feeling better now, Gem Gem?” he queried, giving her another squeeze, making her giggle, because he called her by the name his daughter used for her, and it sounded funny from him.

“A little,” she reluctantly admitted,

“Good, then stop worrying about cleaning up and the kids, just come and come and relax for a while.” he insisted, now taking her hand and leading her back towards were the others were still gathered round the table.

It was then that Gemma noticed the faint lipstick mark on his cheek, where Tanya had kissed him earlier. She felt a stabbing pang of jealousy, which she hurriedly tried to push away, hating herself for it. Because, the longer she was around Jake, the harder it was for her to keep up this pretence to herself, that it would be easy to walk away from him and Ellie, when the time finally came.
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