How To Grow Up

Jennifer "JJ" Johnson is a university student living in the heart of London; dealing with heartbreak, old friends, new friends, love and money. She has a lot of growing up to do and a few big obstacles in her way- join her journey and learn how hard it is to grow up when you're still a child inside.

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1. The End

Sunday 9th September 12:53AM

32 Chestwick Road, London

The Marcus’ House

 

The alcohol burned my throat as I gulped it down. Laughter echoed around me at the look on my face as I tried to rid my mouth of the taste.

I couldn’t see Martin.

Lights blurred in front of my vision as I span in the seething mass of moving bodies searching for my boyfriend. Beside me, Anthony laughed even more hysterically as I began to slant to the side- only managing to catch myself at the last minute by grabbing his arm. However, we both still managed to end up sprawled across the floor with me flung across his chest.

Up close I realised how pretty Anthony really was; his pearly white teeth as he grinned widely, his eyelashes which were longer than any I’d ever seen, the way his light brown hair was tousled perfectly- even after partying for hours in the sweaty, cramped house we were currently inhabiting. I knew in my heart that I was in love with him.

Unfortunately, I also knew in my heart that he was as gay as it was possible to be.

A sigh left my body just as strong hands gripped my arms a bit too tightly and pulled me up into a muscly, musky smelling hug.

Martin’s breath tickled my neck as he whispered in my ear ‘How much have you drunk tonight babe?’

Hastily, I turned in his arms so that I could see the face that belonged to me; had belonged to me for three years and would hopefully belong to me for forever more.

‘Just a tiny little bit…’ I managed to slur while showing him with my fingers how miniscule that amount was.

The raised eyebrow thrown my way suggested that he didn’t believe me but I wasn’t ready to stop partying; so when Martin began to pull me towards the door I pulled away and out of his grasp. I barrelled straight into Anthony- who had only just managed to stand up again- and sent him back to his new found home on the floor.

‘I’m not leaving!’ I stomped my foot like a five-year-old having a tantrum and somehow managed to slip and find myself on my arse on the floor next to my best friend again.

‘Don’t be stupid JJ,’ Martin knelt down beside me, dropping his voice so low that I struggled to hear him over the pumping bass coming from the nearby speaker ‘You’ve had so much to drink that you can barely get your words out and you’re currently sitting on the floor because you somehow managed to trip over nothing while standing still…’ he was silent for a few moments ‘You promised you wouldn’t act stupid tonight.’

The rational part of my brain screamed for me to do what he was asking and listen to him; but then the five-year-old came back and I shook my head stubbornly ‘No.’

With his eyes I could see Martin pleading with me- but I wasn’t backing down and after a few more silent moments he could tell that and stood abruptly. His own five-year-old came out to play.

‘Well then,’ his voice was as cold as ice as he stared down at me ‘Don’t let me disturb anymore of your night.’ And then he was gone; disappearing into the sea of the people, barrelling them out of the way with elbows and fists until I could no longer hear people shouting rude things after his tall form.

A giggle behind me and Anthony appeared at my shoulder holding another shot glass- where he got it from I have no idea- but I gladly snatched it from his hand and downed it, and another after that. I knew that if I took enough the guilt would slowly fade.

And slowly fade it did; seconds turned into a minute and then minutes turned into an hour and before I knew it I was slouched on the table I had been dancing on just a little while before. I lifted my head to see some people being led out of the room and the house by sober friends and I found myself wondering what the time was if people were already leaving.

It couldn’t have been that late, or early, surely?

Suddenly a glass of water was placed in front of me and I focused on the face of a younger girl who I felt I should remember.

‘Drink it; otherwise you will have a horrible hangover…’ a quick glance down at her watch, ‘later on today.’

‘Thanks.’ I mumbled, taking the glass I gulped it down greedily but stopped myself when I remembered my best friend lying on the floor below me. Quickly, I dropped down beside him and shook his still shoulder.  

Anthony opened one groggy eye to glare up at me ‘What?’ he slurred, his cheek against the cold wooden floor and his narrowed eye staring up at me.

‘Drink this.’ I told him simply, giving him the rest of my water and watching him chug it down as I stood up, until only a drop was left in the bottom.

‘Here you go,’ the girl appeared again and gave us both a new glass each ‘Do you know where Bobby is?’

I recognised her now, it was Melanie, Bobby’s little sister.

So, being the gracious person I was, I grabbed my phone from my bra and rang his number- a second or two later a shrill ringing could just be heard over the music and it appeared to be coming from the back garden, making Melanie scurry off and me hang up.

‘I have a hangover bitch.’ Anthony slurred again; not having moved except to switch glasses.

Gazing down at him in confusion, I scrunched up my eyes ‘How can you have a hangover when you’re still drunk?’

Of course he just tapped his head like he was a genius or something.

‘It’s all biology isn’t it?’ He said knowingly before slurping up some more water and grabbing onto my ankle.

‘Hey,’ he said after a few minutes of silent drinking ‘When did you take your shoes off?’

Slowly, I lowered my gaze from the family portrait across the room and glanced down at my bare feet which Anthony was staring at intently. Almost like he thought he could make my shoes reappear.

‘Who knows?’ I answered truthfully with a shrug and sank down beside him so that he could wrap his arms around my neck instead of my ankle. He pulled me into him and I lay there for a little while until I had the very sudden, very overwhelming urge to pee.

I began to pull away which made Anthony groan ‘Hey unless you want me to piss on you I would let go.’ I warned and he dropped his arms pretty quickly.

‘Don’t be long!’ he called after me over the still pumping music as I barged through several snogging sessions, a couple of ‘Never Have I Ever…’ games and stepped over more than enough passed out acquaintances.

All of that just to reach the stairs.

And it wasn’t any easier going up them considering they were very narrow and there were several more passed out people on a few steps; not to mention the huge pile of sick which took up three steps in the middle. Without shoes on I had to hold my breath and take a leap of faith…literally.

Unfortunately, although I made it, my toe gently wiped up the edge of the sick spillage; leaving me gagging and rubbing my toe on the carpet for a few long minutes.

Eventually- with the feel of sick still stuck to my foot- I wandered along the hallway to find the bathroom. I had never actually been in Bobby’s house before so I had no idea where it was and I had to guess.

Or open every door I came across.

The first room was empty but clearly Bobby’s parent’s room because, well it looked very grown up and classy. Plus; all of the breakable things had been shoved in here. Just across the hall was another room but this was clearly Melanie’s room and also occupied by their three rather large Dobermans. That door was slammed shut pretty quickly.

I had three more doors to choose from but I could tell one of them was the airing cupboard because it was a different door to the rest and it was smack in the middle of the master bedroom door and another door. The door beside it turned out to be Bobby’s room; which was very definitely occupied by two people very much having sex in his bed. That door was also slammed shut pretty quickly.

I sighed in relief when I opened the last door to blinding white tiles and saw the loo, by now I was completely bursting and sat there for a good long minute and thought as I relieved myself. I began to laugh at the way I could hear the people having sex from here and then I stopped laughing.

Why? That voice sounded a lot like Martin.

Once I was finished in the toilet I slowly crept back along the hallway and stood outside the door for a second listening- I didn’t know the girl but that boy sure did sound familiar.

Without any more hesitation I shoved open the door and stared into the darkness, trying to make out the busy people on the bed.

‘Martin?’ they didn’t appear to hear me as they just carried on doing what they were doing.

However I did need a reply- and luckily for me, the room did have a light switch.

My gasp finally seemed to reach through to my boyfriend and the girl he was on top of; Martin’s head whipped around as his lips broke away from hers and his eyes focused slowly on my face. Immediately, the guilt began to take over the lust filled look- but it was too late.

‘Martin…?’ I had to ask again, I had to check that it was real.

My boyfriend sprang away from the naked girl and scrabbled on the floor for his clothes; he pulled on his boxers and jeans as I stood watching him, I was unable to break my gaze from his face. Not even to spare a glance for the stupid girl who was now pulling on her dress and pushing past me to get back to the party.

I didn’t have the strength to slap her like I wanted too.

‘Why would…’ I stuttered ‘I mean…I thought…we were…you loved me…?’ the colour of his face slowly began to change from his normal tanned look to a rich red and then a tinted blue as he struggled to find an explanation for his activities.  

Now my anger overtook my confusion as I took a firm step forward in my bare feet and he took a hesitant step backwards in his. He hadn’t seen me this angry since he took my lollipop when we were six.

‘JJ, please…I didn’t know what I was doing-’

Cutting him off before he could go any further, ‘How could you not know what you were doing?’ I paused to drag in a harsh breath, ‘You haven’t had anything to drink tonight. You’re completely sober, I’m the drunk one.’

Martin just shook his head; he knew he didn’t have an excuse.

‘Nothing happened okay. I still love you babe.’

Tears found their way to the edge of my eyes as I too shook my head, ‘No you don’t, you don’t cheat on someone you love Martin.’

He took a step forward to stand before me, clutching his shirt to his chest, he leaned down to press a kiss to my lips- but I pulled back and slapped him hard around the face.

I let out a shaky breath as he wiped his cheek, ‘After all those times I’ve trusted you,’ my eyes closed briefly and when they opened the boy in front of me didn’t resemble the boy I had known since I was little, ‘You go and piss away three years for a quick shag with some girl in the same house as me at the same party?’ I could visibly see him flinching away from every word I said. Slowly, I began to back out of the room to slide down the wall in the hallway, dropping my head to my knees.

I felt rather than saw Martin kneel down beside me but I shied away from his touch.

‘Just leave Martin, we’re over.’ The words came out as a whisper but he heard every word.

‘JJ I’m sorry please don’t do this to us!’ for the first time, Martin’s perfect velvet voice cracked on every note as it left his lips.

A sob broke through my body, ‘I didn’t,’ I managed to gasp out, ‘You did.’

Lifting my head; I watched the boy I loved stand and walk to the top of the stairs- he turned once to give me a broken look before he was gone.

As soon as his back disappeared from view and his footsteps faded into the music, I closed my eyes and laid my back against the wall beside the door. I didn’t even realise I was still crying until the salty tears reached my lips and I angrily wiped them away- however this only left me with a sore face, wet hand and more tears.

It appeared that the breakup that had just occurred had sobered me up because; just as my eyelids refused to open from the weight of waterlogged eyelashes, all I could think was that I was an idiot- and that everyone promised me I had great guy in Martin.

A snort involuntarily found its way out at that last part, everyone had approved of my boyfriend and yet he was the one to ruin our relationship on one stupid mistake.

He wouldn’t call me tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after that; not even to get his favourite Hollister hoodie which he left on the end of my bed last week and never took back. And if I was honest, I didn’t especially want him to call me at all.

Fresh tears trickled over the dried tracks on my face and I found myself sobbing as someone I hadn’t seen in a year decided to stop by my feet.  

The guy crouching before me had been Anthony’s best friend before he found out that he was gay- I could feel some more seething rage building up against Martin so I pushed it down with the biggest gulp I could muster- hoping that I wouldn’t let it out on him.

‘Jennifer…is that you?’ he leaned over me to get a good look at my face ‘Are you okay?’

The nod which was meant to come out turned into a loud sob which left me raking in shaggy breaths. Bending my head, I closed my eyes again and tried to think of a happy memory to stop the tears; unfortunately most of them involved Martin which just made me cry harder.

By the time this circle had stopped and I managed to look up without leaking, the guy had gone. That was a relief at least as I sniffed and began to rub at my mascara smudges angrily. I must’ve looked like a hideous mess, probably the reason Martin cheated in the first place, I mean who wants to be offered sex by hot girls but have to turn them down due to a sniffling, sobbing, panda girl in a short dress and no shoes?

Even I wouldn’t, and I was that girl.

Suddenly I began to wonder what the time was and reached into my bra- pulling out my phone I clicked the unlock button and widened my eyes at the time on the screen. It was only two-thirty (give or take a minute or two) and yet the party had been basically ending when I left downstairs nearly half an hour ago.

‘Pathetic,’ I mumbled quietly to myself, I knew I was being a bit unfair and taking all my anger out on Bobby’s party but no one was there to hear me so who cared?

‘What’s pathetic?’

Anthony’s slightly slurred voice echoed on the walls and a second later he slumped down beside me with two glasses in his hand.

I just shook my head as he handed me one, ‘Nothing.’ I slurped up the water then laid my head on his lap as he continued to quietly drink.

‘Oh,’ he said at last ‘So that’s why I saw Martin storm out of the house looking like someone killed his cat and then trailed its intestines all over his face,’ I grimaced at the graphic image and the mention of Martin’s name but stayed silent and let him continue ‘And that’s why dick face the deserter shouted across the room to me that you looked like a sad and lonely tramp sitting in the hallway upstairs crying.’ Another sip of his drink ‘I understand now.’ He said sarcastically.

With a sigh I turned, so that I was looking up at him and he was looking down at me with a raised eyebrow.

‘I broke up with Martin…’ I whispered quietly. It hurt to say the words to someone, to come to the realistic conclusion that Martin and I were in fact over.

There was a long silence while Anthony processed this in his brain; obviously he found it difficult because he opened his mouth to say something but the words never came out.

I knew why- Martin and I had been the perfect couple (minus a few small arguments) and I burst into tears again.

Instantly I was lifted up and pulled onto my best friend’s lap, he proceeded to hug me to him tightly and allow me to cry into his expensive new shirt as he stroked my hair. That really was what best friends were made for.

‘What happened?’

The words were murmured quietly into my ear and leaned back to look him straight in the eyes ‘I,’ my voice came out all hoarse so I coughed, allowed Anthony to wipe away my tears and started again ‘I heard two people having sex in there,’ I jerked my head towards the bedroom and Anthony nodded knowingly- he had probably already guessed the rest of my story, ‘I thought it sounded like Martin so I opened the door and said his name and it was him and he was having sex…’ I couldn’t go on and re-live the stupid mistake so I stopped.

I could tell by the look in his eyes that Anthony knew the rest anyway.

‘Oh, that stupid bastard.’ He breathed angrily into my hair.

Tears attempted to will their way out of my eyes again but my tear ducts must have dried up because they never made it out.

A soft kiss was planted on my forehead and Anthony looked me straight in the eye, almost completely sober now by the looks of it.

‘I’ll tell you what,’ he whispered in his secretive voice- the voice which said he knew I was going to like what he said next, ‘I’ll text Josh and ask him to come and pick us up and when we get home I will make you a cup of tea and a tuna and lettuce sandwich and then we can all sit down and watch Tangled together.’ He smiled when he noticed my disappearing frown ‘How does that sound?’

I just nodded because my throat had become dry and scratchy and Anthony was already digging his phone out of his tight jean pocket.

There are certain times when you just can’t beat a best friend. Times which coincidently happen to me a lot; for which I was glad I had my best friend beside me through it all.

I wasn’t drunkenly lying when I said I was in love with Anthony O’Connor, because I was.

And I didn’t have anyone else to be in love with anymore. 

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