When Melanie left Jake, she took their seven year old daughter Ellie with her. She was also pregnant but she didn't find out until a few weeks after she had left so Jake never knew.
Now 8 years later Melanie is engaged to Andrew and she has to go back to Alabama to get Jake to sign the divorce papers and to tell him about the daughter he never knew he had Gabrielle.
For two years Ellie kept in touch with Jake, talking to him on the phone every week, until one day she stopped taking his calls and had from then had refused to acknowledge his existance. Melanie felt she had to respect her daughters wishes and hadn't pressured her to regain contact with her father.
Gabbrielle (Gabby), knows that Jake is her father, Melanie gave her a picture of him which she frames and kept next to her bed. Gabby thought of Jake as her hero even though they had never met.