The little stranger Chapter 6

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War Child
Dec 2, 2003
This is as far as I have got in rewriting this story for anyone who is reading it. I am half way through chapter 7 at the moment. so hopefully have it done by next week


Jake was feeling a mixture of emotions, now that Gemma was back in his life again.
In one way he could not have been happier to be reconnected with her again, it gave him a sense of stability and security knowing she was the one caring for his daughter. But he was discovering trying to repair their long-term friendship to what it used to be, was going to be a lot harder than he first thought.

Although she treated him much as she had done when they were younger, he realised she was using the excuse of being employed by him, to keep a distance between them that had not existed before. So, he was never quite certain if she was just being professional as her job required, or was she using it as an excuse, because she had not fully forgiven him for losing contact with her and leaving her behind.

He was beginning to realise that things between them could never go back to the way they were. They were no longer the innocent, and to a certain extent, carefree teenagers with their whole future ahead to think about and plan.

Over the years, life had dealt them blows and challenges that had changed and shaped them, and their outlook in life into different people. Strangely, he seemed to be having more trouble adjusting to this than Gemma. But she had always been the pragmatist accepting what life threw at her, and dealing with it, whereas he would rail against it.

Still, after all that had happened trying to deal with the stress and strain of Caroline's death, and the fact he was now a father of a five-month daughter, Gemma’s solid presence when he came back to the house after a hectic day of finishing and promoting his new album, was more welcome to him than ever, and made him feel that little more grounded.

Because of his busy schedule, they had barely had a proper meaningful conversation. He was mostly away through the day, coming back in the early hours of the morning, and when he was around through the day, it was mostly dealing with Ellie’s welfare and needs, that were the main topic of discussion, even then he was always in a hurry, and found himself feeling a little guilty he was not around so they could talk properly and catch up as he had first intended.

If it bothered Gemma, she did not let it show in anyway, then again, perhaps it suited her, and made it easier for her to maintain that distance. But Jake didn’t want her thinking she was just a convenience in his life right now because she was caring for his daughter, and nothing more. Because that was not the case at all.
She had been, and he still hoped she considered herself his closest friend who he was able to confide in, and he had missed her, and thought of her over the years more than she perhaps realised, and he wanted that relationship back.

It was just unfortunate the circumstances of their reunion had made that more difficult, but Jake was never one to give up trying.

Which was why, when he finally managed to get away a little earlier one evening from the recording studio, he headed home alone for a change, without the usual entourage, of musicians and friends surrounding and accompanying him, he was happy he caught Gemma just coming out of the nursery after settling Ellie for the night.

She looked a little surprised to see him, much to his satisfaction. He knew after several weeks of looking after Ellie, she rarely expected him to show up like this, but catching her off-guard he intended to make the most of it, now she didn’t have to be in ‘nanny’ mode.

“Hey Gem, glad I caught you before you disappeared to your room for the night, seeing I have managed to find some spare time, I thought we could use it to chill out together, have a proper catch up, now Ellie is settled for the evening,” he suggested casually, “It’ll be nice talking about the old days”

Gemma couldn’t really think of a good enough excuse to refuse his offer, she wasn’t sure talking about the old days was a good idea or something she really wanted to do, but still, a little taken aback by his unexpected appearance, she found herself shrugging nonchalantly, “I guess so, if you are sure you have the time”

“Oh, I do, let's make ourselves comfy in the living room, or even better the kitchen I fancy making an omelette, I am actually feeling peckish. Are you hungry? I am quite good with omelette's; it will give me a chance to show off my cooking skills”

“Well in that case, how can I refuse.” she found herself grinning, now relaxing her guard, as she let him lead her towards the top of the stairs.

“So, I haven't had the chance to ask you if you have settled in ok, and if everything is alright for you?” he then said as they started descending the stairs to the large open hallway
“Uh, yes I think I am settled in well, Ellie is a very good, and a pleasure to look after, so I can’t complain” she admitted truthfully

“Good,” Jake nodded and smiled, “But if you need anything personally, or otherwise you know you just have to ask, I still can’t express how grateful I am to you for doing this”
“I don’t mind really, like I said, Ellie is a pleasure to look after, and you are paying me well for the privilege” she reminded him.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” he returned as they reached the bottom of the stairs and now headed in the direction of the large open planned kitchen.

“Sit down and make yourself comfy,” he gestured to the sofa in the far corner of the room, “I will open a bottle of wine for us”

“You sure you don’t want me to help?” Gemma offered, feeling a little odd not having anything to do.

“No, I insist, you just sit relax, besides I enjoy cooking now, I find it very therapeutic, it helps me chill after a hard day, believe it or not.” Jake explained, going over to take a bottle of wine from the large fridge. Then grab two glasses from the cupboard next to it

“OK,” she found herself reluctantly agreeing, then going over to sit on the sofa, “But just a small glass for me, I am still not a big fan of alcohol” she reminded him

“Of course,” Jake smiled a little dryly, “I am glad to see some things don’t change.”

After handing her the wine glass half full as instructed he filled his own glass generously before busying himself rummaging in the fridge and cupboards getting various ingredients and the kitchen utensils, he needs for making the omelettes, whistling to himself whilst he did so.

Gemma sat on the sofa taking a sip from her wine glass watching him in bemusement as he started to briskly whisk the eggs in a bowl. This was not the Jake she knew and remembered, but perhaps that was the point he was trying to make.

He glanced up and noticed the way she was looking at him, and grinned almost sheepishly, “This makes a change from we were younger though, doesn’t it?” he remarked, “Usually it was you doing all the cooking, either in my kitchen or yours, whilst I just sat around going on about my dad, or the guys in the band, or whatever was bugging me. that particular day” he recalled.

“Yeah, stuffing you with food, was usually the best way to get you to shut up” Gemma replied with cheeky good humour, that transported them back to their youth and how they acted around each other.

Jake chuckled, “It still does,” he admitted, glad to see she was being a little more opened and relaxed around him, his plan was working.

He now went about putting the pan on the heat and melting some oil and butter. Then took a sip of his wine, before looking across at her again a little thoughtfully.

“I know you said your mum planned for you to join her and her husband in Canada eventually so how come you didn’t go over. once she sold the house?” he enquired with genuine curiosity, as it was something that he was still trying to understand.

Gemma stared into her glass of wine for a moment before replying, “Well her new husband Frank, he had big ideas about this business he was starting in Canada, but they never came to fruition. After a year were, I basically put my life on hold when they moved there, and waiting for them to eventually invite me to join them,”

She sighed, and took another sip of her wine, then looked directly up at Jake, “it turned out they ended up more in debt than making a profit. Mum had to sell the house to try and recoup some of the losses, and it seemed more sensible for me to stay were i was, than add to their problems. Well that’s the way they put it. I guess it was just Luck, I had a friend in work, whose sister was looking for a flatmate, and so I was able to move in with her.” she explained.

“Yeah, but it still could not have been easy what age were you then? Eighteen going on nineteen? Left to fend for yourself. It doesn’t seem right” Jake frowned as he now occupied himself with the omelette mix in the pan.

“You know me, I was more or less used to fending for myself anyway when my father walked out on us Mum was such a mess, I had no choice, so it was no big deal,” Gemma insisted, refusing to have him pity her. Once I knew where I stood, it made it easier for me actually to plan my future. Mary, my flatmate, she was the one who pointed out I could go on the same college course as her they were still vacancies opened, I could grab back my education I lost stacking shelves in a supermarket, and in the end after a few years I qualified with honours I got my degrees and certificates that helped me in my career as a Nanny.” she smiled

“I still wish I had been around for you, to support you,” Jake confessed ruefully, now he plating up the omelettes.

“Don’t be silly, you had enough going on. Hitting the big time, getting married, releasing your third very successful album, I didn’t expect you to have time for me as well.” Gemma replied, although Jake wasn’t convinced of her dismissive attitude that it hadn’t bothered her.

“Yeah, but the least I could have tried to do was to keep in touch someway,” Jake insisted now coming over and handing her the plate “Bacon and mushroom, and my own special mix of herbs,” he informed her, sitting next to her with his own plate on his knee.

“It looks good,” Gemma remarked, her expression that of one suitably impressed, before picking up her fork and breaking some off and putting it in her mouth. Jake watched and waited with bated breath for her opinion.

“Mm, it tastes good too,” she finally nodded in approval, and forking another piece into her mouth, “Ok, you are right you can make a good omelette” she conceded somewhat grudgingly, making him grin in satisfaction, and now he started to eat his own.

After swallowing a mouthful, he frowned again. His mind going back to their conversation whilst he had been cooking. “You know my memories of those times are still fuzzy so much happening at once I can’t even remember when I last saw you before we lost contact with each other, it's all a bit of a blur, was I with Caroline at the time?”

Taking a sip of her wine to wash down the omelette Gemma found herself thinking back, and recalling the time. For her it wasn’t in the least bit vague or blurry, she recalled it very well.

“Yeah, you were,” she replied, “I know the two of you had this off and on relationship in the beginning, but you were with her for sure then.” Gemma screwed her face up as she recalled the time, “I remember just the year before that she broke off with you, that was the time shortly after we heard she had stolen money from her parents and just and disappeared. Everyone kept telling you that you had a lucky escape,” Gemma reminded him.

“Yeah, I can remember that clear enough,” Jake nodded, *I thought that was it, and would never set eyes on her again”

“Hmm,” Gemma swallowed another mouthful of omelette, finding she was really enjoying it, “Then you were concentrating on the band, and becoming big and famous, and for a while you got over your heartache, when you got signed on with that record label. That’s when you went on that little mini tour around pubs and clubs in the UK and Ireland to promote your new album, and how you met up with Caroline again.

“ True, I couldn’t believe how that happened” Jake grinned

Wasn’t she was working as a waitress in some club in Ireland where you ended up playing in?” Gemma frowned, “I remember the rest of guys coming back, and Dave being pissed with you because you stayed over there an extra week to be with her, and then he told me in his opinion how you were crazy getting involved with her again,”

“They were very vocal on their opinion of Caroline” Jake agreed reflectively

“Yeah, but it seemed you thought meeting up with her again was some sort of fate, and you were meant to be together again. So, you refused you to listen to any of the band, when they tried to tell you she was bad news, Dave came to me, wanting to know if I could I talk some sense into you” Gemma mused.

“And what did you say?” Jake demanded with interest, not realising all this had happened.
“I was rather diplomatic, and replied with something like, ‘Who was I to interfere with fate?” Gemma replied with a small grin.

Jake chuckled, “Yeah, that sounds like something you would say,” he admitted.

“Anyway, when your album became a success, and you got into the charts shortly after that. The next thing I knew you had got a place in London to live, so you could be near the music studios, and I think Caroline moved in with you eventually. It was a few months after that you were celebrating your single getting into the top ten, and I actually managed to get up to London to finally see you, and join in the celebrations,” Gemma now recalled, “It was around the time my mum was starting to come out of her depression a little, and she had started going out with friends and move on with her life, accepting my dad wasn’t going to come back. So, I had a bit more freedom. Anyway, I am sure that was the last time we were in each other's company”

“Now you are bringing it all back to me, I think I vaguely remember.” Jake admitted, “everything happened so fast after that, it just blends into one crazy rollercoaster ride.”

“Yes, I can imagine,” Gemma nodded, though on her side, she remembered it with much more clarity especially the last conversation between her and Caroline that night, which had perhaps caused the rift that eventually led to her friendship with Jake fracturing.
It was something she had not thought about in a while. She didn’t think he was aware of the conversation that night, at least she hoped not. But now dredging up the old memories it brought it all back

She had been excited coming up to London and meeting up with the band and looking forward to seeing Jake again after so long, and everything had been going more or less fine, except she felt like a fish out of water, surrounded by the crowd of people that were in Jake’s apartment, and found it all a bit overwhelming at first, It was as if Caroline sensed her unease and half way through the evening found herself alone with her in the kitchen......

(London, five years earlier)
Caroline always looked stunning even when she wasn’t trying, which was why Gemma wasn’t greatly surprised that Jake was enthralled with her. Her own views on Caroline’s outrageous behaviour that upset and annoyed Jakes bandmates, was something she kept to herself.

Gemma noticed how it would just get Jake’s back up, and she didn’t see the point in critizing his girlfriend and her behaviour and causing trouble between them, secretly she hoped Jake would come to his senses himself. Perhaps, because of her silent stance, could have been the reason why Caroline cornered her alone later that night, a little worse for wear with too much alcohol in her.

Despite happy to be in the Jake’s company again, Gemma felt a little out of place amongst all his new friends in London. Something Caroline had probably honed in on. and seem to find it amusing.

“Jake is thrilled that you made it tonight, are you enjoying yourself?” she queried.
“Yes, it's been quite an experience” Gemma manage to reply. Not sure if enjoying herself was the right word

“Yeah, we are a long way from home thank god, I don’t know how you go on living in that dreary place” Caroline drawled.

“Some of us have no choice” Gemma returned a little stiffly

Caroline's brown eyes widened, “We all have a choice, some of us are just more, brave and bold to make the choice”

“I take it you mean like you and Jake?” Gemma mused with a small smile

“Yes, though I think it's funny,” Caroline replied with a small laugh, “How we all started off in the same place, the three of us, in some ways we have a lot in common especially you and me?”

“Really?” it was Gemma’s turn to lift her eyebrows in a surprise, “I never considered we had very much in common to be honest”

“Oh, come one, we started off in the same class as school, did we not?” Caroline pointed out, and both of us are very important to Jake, but perhaps in different ways” she conceded

“Yes, that’s true,” Gemma warily agreed, wondering where this was all leading too. But she didn’t have long to wait to find out.

“Everyone thinks I am bad for Jake, that I am a distraction. They are probably right, so I suppose you agree with them too?”

“What goes on between you and Jake is your business you are both big and old enough to know what you are doing,” Gemma tactfully replied, “Besides I didn’t think other people's opinions really bothered you, they didn’t in the past. So, what does it matter what I think?”

“Because as I said, next to me, you are the most important person’s in Jake’s life, and also, when I think about it, we never would have got together had you not invited me to that little gig a few years back when we were at school” Caroline reminded her.

“Yes, I did, didn’t I?” Gemma agreed, hoping her tone remained neutral, though that was far from what she was feeling.

“I can see why he became friends with you, steady, loyal, dependable, someone who kept him grounded when he needed. But he’s flying high now, and enjoying every minute of it” Caroline mused

“Yes, I know, and I am happy for him, it's what he has always craved for and what he wanted”

“But not you?” Caroline countered, pointedly, “Pity I suppose,” she then added a little mockingly, “Though not for me, after all, you playing it safe, it means I don’t have to worry about you as my rival”

“What a strange assumption,” Gemma was trying to keep her cool, “I never realised you were so insecure”

“There is a lot you don’t know about me,” Caroline replied in a brittle tone. Her eyes were over bright as they looked at her, openly challenging now.

“You are probably the only one who could take him away from me, if you wanted to. Is that what you want?” she eyed Gemma almost challengingly

Gemma found her heart was suddenly thudding loudly in her ears, as she digested this question and the significance of it.

“It's never been about what I wanted,” she finally replied, hoping her voice sounded steadier than she felt inside, she was finding it hard to look Caroline in the eye, “In the end it's what Jake wants, and he obviously wants you”

“Noble to the end, a virtual saint,” Caroline declared mockingly, her smile was twisted with a hint of derision, “You were right, we are nothing alike, I play dirty and I fight to keep my man”
“But he is not my man, he is my friend,” Gemma replied pointedly, fighting back her own irritation, knowing that Caroline was trying to goad her, “I am sorry if you consider me some sort of a threat, but hopefully you realise how wrong you are”

“Oh yeah, I am starting to realise that,” Caroline sounded almost disappointed, “Jake thinks he can fix me still, it's part of the attraction, the challenge in our relationship,” she now leaned forward towards Gemma looking a little furtive, “but I am going to let you into a little secret as his friend, If he doesn’t fix me, I will probably end up breaking him, so you should be waiting in the wings, y’know he might just need you again”

Gemma had felt her heart sink at this warning, but she didn’t have time to respond and find out what Caroline meant exactly, as Jake joined them, “How's my two favourite girls?” he demanded cheerfully kissing Caroline on the mouth, and Gemma on the cheek.

“Oh, we are getting along like a house on fire!” Caroline declared draping her arm around Jakes waist, possessively “Though I was just thinking Gemma here needs a bit of excitement in her life, there are lots of your friends here, I am sure she could get laid, with a bit of help from us”

Jakes smile faded, and he looked uncomfortable, and embarrassed “Just ignore Caro, when she has too much drink, she says the stupidest and outrageous things.” he addressed Gemma his expression now apologetic

“Yes, I am gathering that much, don’t worry about it.” Gemma replied as blithely as she could under the circumstances, “And let me assure you if I want to get laid, I think I can manage it without needing your help”

“Gem, I’m sorry-” Jake tried to apologise again, now moving away from Caroline, who was smirking amused by the tension she was causing between the two friends

“Forget it.” she interrupted him forcing herself to smile. ”After all, no sense in spoiling the party, speaking of which, it is getting pretty late I should find Dave, he offered to take me back home at the end of the evening” Gemma just wanted to get away

“You don’t have to go, it’s a long journey, you can stay here, I will get you home tomorrow morning” Jake offered, “It’s just it’s too short a time we haven't got catching up properly” he then pointed outlooking a little dismayed

“Oh, there will be other times I am sure, I really do have to get back tonight, my mum will worry” Gemma hurriedly replied, and refusing to listen to his pleas for her not to go.

She somehow finally found Dave, in the overcrowded apartment. He sensed she seemed a little upset, so he happily offered to drive her home. He had an idea Caroline was behind it, but Gemma refused to discuss what had happened, knowing it would get back to Jake........

Gemma was glad Jake couldn’t really remember that evening, and what had gone happened, It had left a sour taste in her mouth, even thinking about it now, considering it was the last time they were in the same room physically together. Though after that Jake had kept in contact over the phone for a while, and sending her letters and postcards, he had stayed in London with Caroline, and Gemma had no desire to visit him again.

Once their second album was released a year later, their fan base had grown, and the band shot to real stardom the album and songs reaching high in the charts. There was another tour, they even went to America, where he and Caroline ended up getting married in one of those tacky Las Vegas weddings when they were both drunk.

Gemma learned about it when they returned to England and Dave and Jay, the other two band members were visiting home, and she met up with them.

Neither of them seemed thrilled about the Jake’s latest escapade, but for Gemma, as much as it made her heart sink, she realised why Jake had stopped writing and phoning her as much, and perhaps it was time to let him go, as hard as it was.

She had enough to deal with now, her mother had a new man in her life and talking about getting married. Everyone was finding someone, except for her.

But she wasn’t going to waste time feeling sorry for herself, or dwell on how things turned out

Except, looking back on it now, sitting in his kitchen five year or so on, Gemma wasn’t sure how she viewed her renewed friendship with Jake. At this moment they were comfortable around each other again, but how long would that last?

They were not even on the same level, he was her employer, even though he kept telling her that’s not how he viewed her, it was how all his friends would view her. She suspected their little chat and him giving her all this attention tonight, would be a rare occasion. She had observed in her short time living under his roof, he was always surrounded by his celebrity friends, and music buddies and his management. None of these people she really knew from their younger days together.

She also reminded herself, this was only a temporary arrangement, a means to an end. Soon she would have the money to go to Australia as she was planning, so it was no use getting too cosy around Jake again. He would be back to touring and busy with his life in the music world once more, and she, Gemma, would just be a pleasant memory from his past who looked after his daughter for a little while, but who had never belonged in his world in the first place.
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