the little stranger chapter 3

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War Child
Dec 2, 2003
Gemma Thornton, a little disgusted, found herself throwing down a one of the daily newspapers running with the headlines and a story about Caroline’s outrageous behaviour in the past, caused by drug abuse that had finally ended her life.

From the story first broke a few weeks ago, and she had found out about Caroline’s death from media sources. it had left her disturbed and concerned. After all, in a way, she was unwittingly responsible for Jake and Caroline getting together in the first place all those years ago.

Though it had been almost six years from she had spoken to either of them. Up until now, she had been doing everything to not think about Jake, and get on with her life. As it seemed he had completely forgotten about her despite their close friendship when they were teenagers. Once he had found fame and fortune in the music world, he had left her behind, which she had found hard, because they had always been there for each other going through difficult times when they were younger.

But even now, despite the fact she hadn't spoken or heard from him personally, after all these years, she felt the same old concern she always had for him. He wasn’t really good at handling tragedy, he had gone a little off the rails when he had lost his Mother, who died from a massive stroke when he was only fifteen.

It wasn’t like she could just phone him, or turn up at the front door of his house, and ask how he was doing; his fame had made him less accessible now.

She was torn about what to do, wanting to let him know she was thinking of him at this difficult time, but wondering would he really care, or if he had even given her a second thought since the old days.

Still, it wasn’t about how he felt about her now, she needed to know that he was ok and to let him see that she still mattered to him.

She knew he owned a house which was situated in the Wiltshire countryside, which he called home when he was in the UK. So even if she could not see him personally, perhaps there was a way to pass on a message there, letting him know she was reaching out, to offer her condolences on Caroline’s death. At least then she felt she had done what she felt was right. And then she could move on, and stop having him invading her every thought, as he had been doing these last few days.

Finally mustering up the courage a few days later after checking the details of his residence and confirming that he lived there. It wasn’t hard, celebrity gossip and articles on the internet had helped a lot. Gemma got into her car and drove the thirty miles to where Jake lived, and eventually found herself driving up a narrow country lane that led to the large eight-foot wrought iron gates and high walls that secured his property from the public, and making sure he had his privacy.

Now faced with the formidable security, brought back to Gemma how foolish she had been driving out all this was, and how unlikely she had a chance of speaking with Jake.

Then she spotted was an intercom system fitted into the wall next to the gate. She supposed if she pressed the button in there was a vague chance someone might reply. She been having mixed feelings about actually meeting Jake again face to face. But this way, just leaving a message for him, as she had planned would do.

Besides, she told herself she hadn’t much to lose, more likely Jake wouldn’t even be home, and no one would reply, but at least she had tried.

So, overcoming her indecisiveness, she pressed the button, but she was still torn between hoping to hear a voice, and the other part of her wanting to turn just walk away and forget all about it.

She was about to do that, when she heard a slight crackling sound from the intercom speaker “Yes, hello?” a female voice enquired

Gemma stilled staring at the intercom speaker, suddenly not sure what she was supposed to do or say,

“Hello?” the voice enquired again

“Er, h-hello” Gemma now recovered enough to reply

“Who is this?” the other voice asked politely

“Uh. My name is Gemma Thornton. and well, I am an old friend of Jake’s. I just wanted you to leave him a message from me, if that is possible. If you could just let him know how sorry I am about what happened with Caroline, I knew them both you see, and I wanted to let him know I was thinking about him at this terrible time”

“I see,” the female voice replied, almost condescendingly “that’s very kind of you, let me assure you that Jake appreciate all the kind thoughts and sympathy from his fans, I will make sure to pass the message on to him.

“Hang on, a minute, wait! I am not a just some fan-” Gemma started to correct her a little indignantly, but then decided it was too much bother to try and explain. Besides, this woman whoever she was, probably wouldn’t believe her anyway-

“-Um, its ok, it doesn’t matter, thanks.” she hurriedly said instead, whilst inwardly kicking herself for being so foolish. What the hell did she think she was doing anyway? Jake wasn’t some sixteen-year-old lad who needed her to lean on anymore. He was a grown man, with plenty of friends and family to support him and didn’t need her.

This was crazy she needed to get away from here before she humiliated herself any further. She hurriedly made her way back to her car, fumbling for her keys in her bag so she could get the door open and drive away, she finally retrieved them, and opened the door to into her car. She took a minute to try and gather her senses still feeling foolish, but wanting to get away.

She was about to start it up, when she heard the male voice urgently shouting, “Gem, wait, hang on, don’t go”

Sitting behind the steering wheel, peering out the car windscreen in front of her, Gemma could now see a figure charging around the bend of the driveway that led from the house. Then through the iron bars of the large gate she now noticed they were waving wildly, as if trying get her attention, suddenly Gemma felt her heart flip in her chest, realising it was Jake.

When he reached the gate, he was too breathless to speak, but he motioned her with his hand to stay put, before trying to punch in the code to open the electronic lock on the gate.

Gemma now found herself getting slowly out of the car again, not quite believing that she was coming face to face with him after all, and suddenly not sure it had been a good idea.
He stood at the open gateway still a little breathless, but those familiar blue eyes were now resting on her, as if not quite believing she was really standing there. Gemma’s mouth had gone dry and she found she didn’t know what to say.

Even though she had seen pictures of him in magazines and newspapers and on the television, over the years she still noticed the changes in him more distinctly now, his dark hair was a lot shorter, there was a shadow of a beard around his lower face, he seemed to have filled out a lot more than she remembered him as well, yet despite that, the smile and the eyes was the same making it feel like it had been only yesterday she had last saw him in the flesh.

“Gem, it’s really you,” He spoke up first, sounding delighted, and before she realised his next intention he hurried over and swept her up in a tight hug that almost took her breath away. It threw her off-guard for a moment, she was pleased that he seemed delighted to see her, and it was good to see him again too.

But at the same time, she thought it was a little tactless of him not to also acknowledge and remember how he had completely cut her out of his life, once he became famous. And now it seemed he expected her to easily forget that part, and play at being best buddies again, as if it had never happened.

She was beginning to wonder with a small sense of disappointment, that perhaps the importance of their friendship had meant more to her, and that Jake had more likely viewed it a little differently.

She felt a little foolish, wishing she had never pressed that damned button, and walked had just away when she had the chance

But still, she managed to force herself to smile as he finally pulled her away, scrutinising her up and down.

“Just look at you now, you look great!” he then said grinning with approval.
Despite her earlier disappointed frame of mind, Gemma felt herself laughing a little, and had the grace to blush

“Thanks, you are not looking so bad yourself,” she replied a little glibly, deciding he must never know her true thoughts. If it was a casual happy reunion he wanted, that was what he was going to get.

He now ushered her towards the house, his arm around her shoulder, but then he was always a touchy feely sort of person with everyone, so Gemma didn’t read too much into this physical contact

“When I heard your name over the intercom, I couldn’t believe it. I am sorry that my housekeeper thought you were just some random fan, but when she looked round at me for confirmation, I was kind of dumbstruck for a moment” he then explained

Gemma laughed, “I guess that understandable I suppose, I mean how long has it been since we last met or spoke to each other? It must be over five years at least” she hoped he didn’t notice the tightness in her voice at this reminder.

“Really? It's been that long?” he replied frowning, sounding a little disconcerted, “I never realised

“Well,” she gave a casual shrug of her shoulders as it is was no big deal, “You have been busy reaching the dizzying heights of fame in the music world, making your dreams and ambitions come true, I guess the time kindda flew by for you”

“Yeah I suppose so,” Jake agreed. They were now standing in his spacious hall way and he led her through one of the doors to her right into a comfy lounge all pastel green and light brown and blues, with a large cream leather sofa and armchairs, with a huge flat screen television up on one of the walls

“You have got a nice house,” she remarked glancing around her, deciding it was a safe enough subject

“Yeah,“ Jake smiled, “But never mind that, I still can’t believe it’s you, and that you came to see me like this” he then confessed, his eyes once more taking stock of her, now he had calmed down from his first excitement of seeing her again.

“Well, I wouldn’t have really bothered, only when I heard about Caroline’s death, I felt I had to come along to offer my condolences” she then explained sombrely, “And I did consider coming to the funeral, only when it said it was a private affair, I wasn’t sure if it would have been proper at the time” she then added

“Of course, you should have come along, the funeral was for close friends and family, you would have been welcome.” Jake replied

“Well I wasn’t too sure, after all we haven’t exactly been that close for a while” she then pointed out, hoping she sounded more light hearted than she felt.

“No, I guess not,” he relented looking a little sober, as he reflected on her words.
But now Gemma suddenly felt bad that she was making him feel guilty about it, especially, when he was just coming through such a terrible time with Caroline’s death.

What was wrong with her? She chided herself in annoyance It had been a mistake coming here and raking up the past. She should have just let sleeping dogs lie, and now all she wanted to do was escape

“Anyway, like I was saying, I was really sorry to hear about Caroline, and I hope you are coping ok. But I guess you are a busy man, so I should just be going,” she then said hardly able to look him in the eye.

“Gem, you don’t have to go already?” he sounded slightly dismayed at the prospect, “We have hardly got talking, and there is so much to catch up with”

“Oh, I am sure there will be other times, we can do all that,” she replied dismissively taking a step backwards, away from him.

“Gemma, wait!” he insisted, his hand now coming to rest on her arm, in an attempt to restrain her

But they were interrupted by the sound of the front door opening, and Jake’s sister Fiona strolled in, armed with bags in one hand and her young son Brad hanging onto the other one, busily demanding his mother’s attention

But Fiona stopped dead when she caught sight of Jake and Gemma, then she shushed Brad to be quiet, handing him one of the bags. His complaining immediately stopped as he started searching in the bag and happily pulled out a blue plastic dinosaur toy.
It took a moment for Fiona to place Gemma’s face, then on realising who she was, she smiled.

“Hey its Gemma isn’t it? How lovely to see you again, it's been a while” she went over giving her a quick hug

It's nice to see you again the too,” Gemma replied smiled.

“This is turning out to be quite a reunion” Jake grinned, but then was distracted by his young nephew who came over waving the dinosaur at him wanting him to play with it.

“Later Brad, I am busy now,” Jake fobbed him off, turning back to Fiona, “Gemma just came up to offer her sympathies about Caroline,” he explained

“Oh, of course” Fiona’s eyes widened a little, “And here was me thinking for a moment that perhaps she had come about the job” she laughed

“What job?” Jake now looked just bewildered as Gemma.

“For a children’s nanny, of course,” Fiona reminded him, giving Jake a look of exasperation, because she thought he would understand exactly what she was referring to. “You know, that’s what we have been trying to find lately”

But then she turned her attention back on Gemma with a small uncertain frown, “Well, if I am right, I recall hearing a few years back, that was what you were doing?”

“Oh yes, I was up until a year ago actually,” Gemma admitted, still feeling a little confused by this turn of the conversation

“Yes, I thought so. I ran into an old school friend Jess, a few years back. She told me she had seen you with two young children, and thought they were your own. But then you told her you were looking after them because you worked as a Nanny” Fiona explained.

“Well, I think I can recall that time,” Gemma replied, having a vague memory of the moment.
“You never mentioned it me!” Jake now spoke up, sounding a little put out as he looked at his sister

“Oh, didn’t I?” Fiona looked slightly thoughtful as she tried to remember, “that’s because, you were away on your European tour at the time, so you weren’t around, and then I probably forgot to mention it when you came back because it went out of my head” she then realised.

Jake shook his head with mild frustration, and turned his attention back to Gemma, feeling he needed to explain himself.

“The last thing I knew about you, was that your mother had remarried, and she had immigrated to Canada, So I had assumed you had gone with her,” he informed her, “In fact I imagined you had probably settled there, and had found yourself a nice Canadian hunk, and that you had more than likely got married, and had a few kids” he finished with a small smile.

“No, that’s not quite how it turned out,” Gemma replied, her own smile a little tight, “actually, its true my mum did go to Canada, but when she remarried and immigrated, I was not invited along”

“I see,” Jake looked faintly taken aback then shot her a speculative look, making her suddenly want to take the focus of herself, she turned to Fiona, noticing growing the bump in her belly

“Anyway, if you are looking for a nanny, I might be able to recommend someone.” she told her brightly

“Oh, the nanny is not for me,” Fiona laughed, “Though saying that, maybe I could use one too, the way I am going,” she added dryly, “No, actually it’s Jake who needs the Nanny, to look after his daughter Ellie”

“Oh!” was all Gemma could say taken aback by this latest piece of information, now looking round at Jake. “I never knew you were a father”

“Neither did I, until a month ago,” Jake replied. Then on seeing Gemma’s questioning look, he shook his head, “it’s a long story,” he finished dismissively, not wanting to go into the whole sorry tale right now

Fiona looked from her brother to Gemma, thoughtfully, “Hmm, looks like you two have a lot of catching up to do, by the sound of it,” she then remarked

“Yeah, that’s just what I was saying before you came in,” Jake agreed, shooting Gemma a small ‘I told you so’ smile.

Gemma just smiled back a little uneasily, suddenly having the feeling she wouldn’t escaping, as quickly as she had planned.
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