tagNovels and NovellasJake and Gill

Jake and Gill


Chapter 1

"John," Gill started the conversation rolling.

Everyone at the bank referred to John Jacob Nicholls as John. It was his given first name, although his family always called him by an abbreviation of his middle name, as both his father and grandfather had been Johns. His great grandfather had been a Jacob, so were a number of uncles and strangely enough even a couple of great-aunts shared it as a middle name. There was no way that Gill would have known that, of course.

"Everyone tells me that you are the person to ask," continued Gill, a little nervously. Usually so decisive, the department head was clearly out of her element here.

"Ask me what?" Jake looked up from filing his daily copy logs in his binder, and concentrated his warm brown eyes, smiling expectantly at her.

'Oh my god,' the thought almost escaped her lips, 'he looks like a cute puppy!' She so wanted to kiss him and clutch his slim, hard body to her breast. She cleared her throat, 'concentrate, girl!'

John Jacob Nicholls, or Jake to his family, had a thing about Gillian Jarvis. He always had, ever since he first saw her. She started working at the Standhope Winter merchant bank, off Cornhill, deep in the heart of the City of London, twelve years ago. This was about two years after Jake started working there in the copy/fax room.

When she first started at the bank, Gill Jarvis worked part-time, as she still had two young children in nursery, and, as office gopher, she had to go to the copy room several times a day. So Jake got to know her quite well, which only reinforced his initial positive feelings towards her. Okay, he noticed the wedding band on her finger almost immediately and soon found out that she had two young children. That didn't concern him, or affect his friendly relationship with her, as an actual design on her affections was quite the last thing on his mind.

Even if Gillian Jarvis had been single he would have been reluctant to approach her with any romantic expectations, in fact, to approach any woman in that respect was at that time considered by him to be impossible.

But that was when he first knew her, would Jake make a move now, so many years later, if they were both single?

In the January update of the company telephone list, that Jake had printed out and circulated a couple of months earlier, the entry 'Gillian Jarvis assistant manager enterprise asset management division' had disappeared and a new entry, 'Gillian Moorhouse manager enterprise asset management division' appeared instead, a page or two further down the alphabetical list. Jake noted that she was taking the opportunity of her latest promotion to revise her surname.

Gill was what you would call petite, about 5 foot 3 inches tall, and naturally of slim build. Her hair was dark brown, thick, wavy and shoulder length. Her face was open and generally cheerful, with deep brown eyes, an upward curling mouth and the faintest cleft in her chin. She was pretty by any standards but Jake thought she was singularly beautiful. She was an efficient worker, had performed well in banking and management examinations, and performed to exceed expectations in each of the positions she had undertaken. Jake thought she could go all the way to the top and he was aware that others were of the same opinion.

Jake was about six inches taller and also slim, perhaps a little too slim, most of his acquaintance might suggest. He too, had an open countenance and was noticeably bright and attentive. He always dressed smartly and was extremely cool under pressure, he never let anyone down. Most of the girls, and some of the guys too, thought Jake was handsome, but he always fended off amorous advances. The girls assumed therefore that he was gay, while the gays were under no illusions that he was anything other than straight.

When he first started working at the private merchant bank, the copy room managed to carry a busy staff of four, with the room populated by a complex assortment of telex machines, faxes of different resolutions and speeds as well as a range of the latest photocopiers. Now he was the only print room technician manning the department, the telexes and fax machines having long gone and the staff to operate them departed. There were slightly more multitasking copiers, which acted as scanners and computer printers of various sizes, and binding equipment than before, but the degree of automation meant they were a lot less labour-intensive. Jake also stocked general office stationery and he scanned archive copies of documentation for the bank. He had now been in the same basic but continually evolving job for fourteen years.

Gill was aware of the fact that Jake was not actually employed directly by the bank any more, but worked for a separate facilities management company, which leased and maintained their own copying equipment. That policy had been put in place shortly after Gill started at the bank and the move was thought to have brought benefits in cost savings and efficiency. In theory, Gill thought, if Jake's little department was closed at the bank, his company could move him onto another managed facility; in practice, in the current economic and banking crisis, she thought he would probably be laid off.

Gill had headed up a cross-department committee looking into cost-cutting and efficient reduction of overheads a couple of years previously and the print department was the leading favourite to be shut down entirely, with the bank staff forced to do their own copying and printing in addition to their normal duties. However, the top management at the bank had vetoed her committee's recommendations without supplying any supporting arguments for overriding their decision.

There was nothing personal in Gill's assessment of the cost-cutting exercise, it was purely based on economics. She had liked the young John Nicholls from the moment when she first started working at the bank and was required to pop into the copy shop half a dozen times a day. The older staff in the room were generally always rude, negative and annoyingly vague about when her jobs would be ready. As the office junior she had no seniority and her jobs were often bumped down in order of priority, causing her to waste time making fruitless journeys and adding anxiety to her other pressures.

Jake though, who Gill had always known as John, was the most approachable of the team. He gave precise promises when her request would be ready and would come up with helpful suggestions for her when schedules were too tight for him to meet in their entirety. He was always bright and cheerful, in fact with his potential, he was wasted in the copy shop, Gill thought early on, and she was still of that opinion, although her opportunities to see him became increasingly limited the higher up the promotion ladder she climbed.

When the print room inevitably closed, as she was convinced in time it would, she would definitely seek to find a place for him in her department. As far as she was concerned, the bank really couldn't downsize any more than they had over the past two years.

In contrast to Jake's apparent immobility, tied as he was to the print room, as it was now labelled, Gill had made significant career progress in the bank and was now a firmly respected member of the senior management team. This in effect meant that Jake had seen less and less of her in the print room over the past few years and had long ago resigned himself to continue observing her from a distance. His feelings for her hadn't diminished one iota over the years.

So, he was quite pleasantly surprised to see Gill - indeed it was unusual to see anyone at all at that early hour - just three minutes past seven in the morning.

As usual the print room office door was wide open to show that they were open for business, with a stack of the previous day's jobs ready for collection, piled up by custom on the table near the door. Jake had only been in for a few minutes and he was still in the process of getting the equipment switched on and warmed up, when he looked up and there she was, standing in the doorway, quietly watching him while he worked.

It was still very early for the rest of the office workers. Jake usually arrived at least an hour or so earlier than the bank staff, in order to sort out any prints that had appeared in the delivery trays overnight, so they were ready to collect or deliver as appropriate first thing.

Gill stood there empty-handed with her usual brilliant welcoming smile, while hesitating to declare what was on her mind. Jake swapped a ready smile with her and continued to bustle round the office, waiting for Gill to declare what she had come to say. She clearly wasn't carrying anything she wanted him to copy, and there was nothing in the overnight prints addressed to her nor anything urgent for her department.

While he busied himself around the office, he stole the occasional glance in her direction and realised how much slimmer she was since the last time he had seen her just a few weeks ago. She was 36 now, three years older than he was, and her weight had been creeping up ever so slightly over the years, he had noticed by his close observations. However, in quite a short space of time, since Christmas he thought, she appeared to have lost all that excess, without appearing gaunt. She looked good, very good in fact.

She was similarly noticing how slim and athletic he looked and even this early in the spring season his skin appeared to have a tanned and healthy glow. Jake had a good-looking boyish face, he could've passed for twenty, but she knew he must be late twenties at least, he had worked at the bank as long as she had, maybe even longer. He might even be as old as thirty, she mused, a gap between them of around six years. Would that be too big a gap? 'Yes,' she thought sadly, 'it probably would.' She had just lost her marriage, she wouldn't want to compound that shame by losing every scrap of her dignity as well.

He was much too young for her then, she thought, but instantly dismissed the thought as a silly idea, he had never showed the slightest bit of romantic interest in her. Nor had he appeared to show interest any of the other girls in the office. He was simply equally friendly with everyone, it seemed, without going over the top.

Gill knew for a fact that over the years more than a couple of handfuls of the single girls, and she was certainly aware of one married woman, who had tried their luck tipping their hats in his direction, without him taking the slightest notice of the offer. They were all sure he was still single, as he never brought a date to any of the bank's social functions, although she wasn't sure about last Christmas, as that was the first one that she and her ex-husband Wayne had missed. Anyway, the rumour among the young single ladies in Gill's department, accompanied by deep meaningful sighs, was that John Nicholls was, unfortunately, almost certainly gay.

His dark, almost black hair was cut short with a partly receding hairline at the front and a slight bald patch appearing on the crown of his head. He only really lacked a drooping moustache to tip him firmly into the gay category, Gill surmised.

Interrupting her thoughts just then, Jake had to reach over one of the printers at the back wall of the print room to grab a binder from a shelf. Gill's eyes were instantly drawn to the smoothly rounded shape of his buns as he stretched his body to reach.

Gill tore her eyes away and tried to focus on the 'In Case of Fire' notice on the wall.

'Christ!' she thought, 'I must be on fire! I'm so sexually frustrated that I'm actually checking out a gay boy's cute bum!'

She remembered all too vividly that the last time she had sex was a furtive quickie that she felt extremely guilty about at Christmas, almost three and a half months ago. It was a rather unsatisfactory reconciliation-romp with Wayne, her ex-husband. That had been a total disaster, which meant the last meaningful sex she had had was the previous summer, although that session and maybe the dozen or so before that had been pretty awful. As that was some time before she was aware of Wayne's long-established affair, the gloss was taken right off most of the experiences of her marriage, other than the births of her two children.

'Get real girl,' Gill forcefully said to herself, 'ask him what you came for and get out of this office and back onto safer ground.'

"John," she started. "everyone tells me that you are the person to ask," continued Gill, a little nervously.

"Ask me what?" Jake looked up from filing his daily copy logs in his binder, and concentrated his warm brown eyes, smiling expectantly at her.

"Well, I have a couple of inactive teenagers at home and, since Christmas, I have been trying to lick them into shape."

'Oh dear, maybe "lick" wasn't the best word to use here,' she thought, especially as she felt more and more like licking him all over. Gill was so wishing he was not gay and that he had an hitherto unrecognised fetish about older divorcees, especially about one older divorcee in particular who had been working her butt off in the gym for months.

She pulled herself together and continued, "I have them eating better food while they are at home with me, but I just can't get them to do any exercise at all, I've even taken out a rather pricey family membership at my local gym but neither of them will get off their backsides and make use of it. Any suggestions, John?"

While talking, her hands had moved expressively, pleadingly, but now she had finished what she wanted to say, she folded her arms across her chest, below her breasts, an unconsciously challenging stance for him to provide an answer.

Jake remembered both her children quite well and had taken a keen interest in them at the time when he used to see them often, although somewhat irregularly. When Gill first started as a part-timer in the bank, she sometimes had to bring them into work when she had been let down by school holiday childminders, or if school was closed for inset days. Once she was full-time and rapidly gaining promotion after promotion, they came in less frequently for a while, and then not at all.

'The girl was Jenny,' he thought, 'a girl as pretty and petite as her mother, and would be about 15 or 16 now I guess; the boy was a couple of years younger and was big for his age, called Carl, no not Carl, but something similar.'

When Gill brought them to the bank, which didn't have a crèche back then, the children would spend most of their time in the copy room, where there were benches, pens and markers and plenty of spare scrap paper to write or draw on and it didn't matter if they made a bit of a noise in there. Jenny was a nice kid, quiet and almost as shy as Jake, and the boy, whatever name he answered to, was clumsy, chatty, boisterous, loud and, back then, could be trouble with a capital T if his interest wasn't fully engaged.

"I think I remember them," Jake said, "Jenny and ...?" he hesitated for a moment.

"Clay," filled in Gill, "short for Clayton."

"So, what do they do now and what things are they particularly interested in?" Jake asked.

Gill moved one of her hands to stroke her chin, leaving the other arm across her chest.

"Jenny stays in her room most evenings, finishing her homework, watching her own television and texting her friends; at the weekends she normally hangs around with her pals at the town centre. Clay also goes to his room straight after dinner, to play on his games consoles, and he hardly goes out at all; if friends do come over, they just hang out in his room, playing games. I am worried that Jen doesn't quite eat enough and Clay eats far too much of the wrong things without taking any exercise. Neither of them are interested in sport or keeping fit and when they stay with their father, they tell me that they all just sit around and eat bought-in junk food ... Their step-mother doesn't cook much, if at all."

Gill paused, just as the print room phone rang.

"Excuse me," Jake apologised with a smile and picked up the handset before it rang a second time.

Gill watched him as he listened to the caller, a smile playing on his lips all the while as he nodded silently. Gill had to think back to when she had ever seen John without a smile on his face and she realised she couldn't. It was as if he was an extremely slimmed down but serene Buddha.

Jake nestled the phone between his chin and shoulder as he stood at a computer screen and rattled away at the keyboard, uttering the odd affirmative and then "no problem".

Listening to his voice, Gill thought it was a pleasantly deep baritone, not at all gay sounding. He spoke with perfect diction too, which was unexpected for an unskilled worker. Well, that's what copy technicians were, weren't they? Some of the cleaners for example had distinctly London East End accents. And his telephone voice was exactly the same as his normal conversational voice. It was clear to Gill that he had received a good education and probably came from a good family. It occurred to Gill that she really didn't know anything about him at all. It was also curious to Gill why John Nicholls wasn't on the bank's management training circuit that she herself had worked through so successively, despite having taken time out from her career for her children.

Jake finished his call saying, "I've changed your password to 'monday14' all lowercase Gerry, so you'll need to change it again immediately." Jake paused for a moment and finished with "Bye", replaced the receiver and grinned at Gill.

"Was that Gerald?" asked Gill, the chairman of the board of the bank being the only 'Gerry' that she could think of in the company, not that she would ever call him Gerry, ever.

"Yes, he's always forgetting his computer password. Now, what games does Clay play on his console?"

Gill was still absorbing the earlier conversation, "Why didn't Gerald..." she couldn't bring herself to call him 'Gerry' even in private, "call IT?"

"Because" replied Jake, looking at the big clock on the wall, "they don't start work for another 35 minutes and Gerry doesn't like using the out of hours service. To be honest, nobody does.... Now, I bet Clay is really into Max Payne 4?"

Gill still couldn't get Gerald Standhope out of her head, why would he ring Jake, the print room ex-copy boy, for help with getting into his computer?

Jake waited patiently for Gill to ask the next question, but as the pause extended he jumped in by way of explanation, anyway.

"I expect Gerry needs to download and translate the interim figures for Societé Transport de Paris SA, which will be announced on the Paris Stock Exchange an hour before they are released in London, due to the time difference. Now is Clay into Max Payne?"

"Oh, er, yes, I think he got that for his birthday last month, but I'm not sure. Whatever he got, his father bought for him." She continued, "I got him some trousers for school, it was then I noticed how much weight he had put on, as his waist had gone up another size."

"Hence the need to keep Clay active?"

"Yes, I hardly seem to see them these days, just a snatched meal before they disappear to their rooms, and then they are with their father every other weekend," she said wistfully. "We hardly function as a family any more," she realised. "What do you do to keep in such good shape?"

She had said much more than she intended and looked at Jake to see if he was reading anything into what sounded to her like tacit admittance that she found him attractive. Jake smiled broadly at her with a sparkle in his eyes. She hoped he wasn't laughing at her. The way she felt about her self-image was at such a low ebb at the moment that she couldn't bear being treated as a joke, or even worse, as someone to be pitied for her marriage failure.

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