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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3. The Hospital

Monday 10th September 08:30AM

Flat E182, East River Court, London

JJ, Josh and Anthony’s Flat

 

“…One day when I came home at lunchtime, I heard a funny noise, went out to the backyard to find out if it was one of those rowdy boys, stood there was my neighbour called-”

I dragged my finger across my iPhone as quick as I could muster; revelling in the silence which followed the end of my alarm.

Unfortunately, someone had decided that nine o’clock in the morning was the perfect time to go stomping around the kitchen breaking things and sleep was immediately made impossible.

‘…Peter with a flux capacitor! He told me he built a time machine like one in a film I’ve seen!’ Josh’s out of tune singing made me groan loudly, apparently this only spurred him on as he began to sing Busted in a much louder voice- quickly joined by Anthony’s.

‘If your plan was to make me want to change my alarm then you’ve succeeded!’ I yelled out into the air. The singing stopped.

But then came Anthony’s reply, ‘It doesn’t matter what you change it to; all the songs you have on your iPod I have on mine and I guarantee I know the words to nearly all of them.’

‘And if not then we’re willing to learn!’ Josh piped in.

Another groan and I’d only been awake for about a minute.

‘Stop moaning and get your arse out of bed, I made breakfast.’

With a grumble, I did as Josh said but literally crawled out of bed, not standing up until I got to my doorway.

‘I don’t know if your parents ever told you JJ but your legs are generally supposed to be used for walking.’

Deciding to ignore my best friend’s snide comment, I walked casually past Anthony and over to the kitchen where Josh stood holding out a ham, cheese and onion omelette smothered with ketchup.

‘You’re becoming quite the cook Flint.’ I praised him while he scowled at the use of his last name- on cue Anthony began singing Fred the Flintstones.

As I walked over to the sofa to sit down he retaliated, ‘I don’t know what you’re smirking about O’Connor.’

Anthony gasped in horror as I began to hum the tune to the song in The Mummy non-discreetly.

‘You can shut up Johnson!’

I just looked up and shrugged, ‘Face, look, bothered?’

He just scowled at my use of Catherine Tate before giving up, ‘Just eat your omelette and shut up.’ I gladly did as he said and tucked in to the delicious egg mix.

‘So…’ Josh sunk down into the armchair opposite the sofa Anthony and I were inhabiting, ‘What lessons do you have today?’

Swallowing my mouthful of food, I reached for my timetable on the coffee table and gave it a once over before placing it back down again, ‘I have a two hour English lecture that starts at ten then I’m free for the day.’

‘Did you do your eight thousand word essay?’ Anthony asked innocently- even though I asked him to remind me two days ago- but luckily I was able to grin smugly and nod. Martin had reminded me instead the day before the party. 

Josh ignored Anthony’s comment, ‘Anything going on after twelve then?’ he hinted.

I chewed my lip instead of the omelette, ‘Yes.’ They both exchanged glances, ‘Yes I am going to see Martin.’

‘Do you want us to come with you?’

Shaking my head, I pushed my unfinished omelette away- the prospect of seeing Martin again churning nerves in my stomach, ‘I need to see him alone.’

‘The last time you went to the hospital by yourself you nearly walked in on a surgery.’ Anthony commented casually; he looked away as he said it though, knowing that I wouldn’t want to be reminded of that.

‘Yeah,’ Josh ignored the warning signals, ‘How did you even manage that anyway? I thought you couldn’t get in there if you weren’t a doctor.’

Ignoring Josh’s rational question, I just stood and headed to the bathroom after grabbing a fresh towel from the radiator. All I needed was a hot shower to calm me down.

The steaming hot water managed to loosen my muscles enough that when I stepped out of the bathroom ten minutes later in just a towel- there was a smile on my face as I noted our new visitor.

‘Hey Nathan.’ I greeted the beaming, blonde haired boy lounging on my sofa; presumably while waiting for me so that we could travel together on the tube to university.

‘Alright JJ?’ he didn’t look away from the TV as he raised one hand in a half wave.

With a roll of my eyes, I walked past him and headed for my bedroom, ‘Great. Just give me a few minutes.’

‘Kay!’ came the reply as I shut the door with the heel of my foot.

Dropping my towel, I pulled on my underwear before leaning into my wardrobe and searching for the perfect outfit to wear for university and going to see Martin. Something smart and sexy but comfy and practical. After several moments of hesitation I grabbed my light blue skinny jeans, grey vest top and loose knitted black jumper- they were definitely comfy and practical as well as fairly sexy; the smart thing could wait till tomorrow. 

A quick blow dry of my hair and application of makeup later, I laced up my brown ankle boots and grabbed my bag which contained my English essay before grabbing my phone and finally emerging from my bedroom.

Nathan turned his head from the TV to look at me, ‘Took your time a little bit.’ He huffed as he stood; pulling on his backpack and running a hand through his messy and uncombed hair.

‘Whatever.’ I scowled jokingly- knowing he hated it when people did that I wasn’t surprised when he just narrowed his eyes at me and headed for the door.

I followed him out at a quick pace; pulling the door up behind me but stopping at the last second to pop my head round the door.

The amazing friend that he was, Anthony didn’t even look up from the magazine he was reading as he threw my keys and oyster card towards me. With a brilliant catch and a mumbled goodbye from me, I turned and closed the door- stuffing them in my pocket and running down the stairs since Nathan had already gotten into a crowded elevator.

And even though I ran down them two at a time, faster than Usaine Bolt (in my mind) Nathan still stood waiting for me at the door to our building with a smug smile on his face. Not surprising, considering our flat was the sixth floor up.

‘Took your time.’

The only acknowledgement I gave Nathan after his sly comment was a sharp glance in his direction as I strutted past where he stood leaning against the wall with a bottle in his hands. Then I noticed that the “water” inside the bottle didn’t look a lot like water.

‘Is that vodka?’ I asked hesitantly, ‘and are you drinking it at half nine in the morning?’

Cool air whipped my hair away as I stepped out onto the busy London street with Nathan right behind me; his hands still wrapped around the suspicious bottle.

‘Yes and yes.’ Came his reply, taking a long swig of the drink, his face contorted at the bitter taste before the muscles around his mouth relaxed and he tucked the bottle back into his bag.

Stealing Anthony’s signature move, I raised my eyebrows, ‘Is there a reason or are you just…’ trailing off; I realised I didn’t really know what to say.

Nathan just shrugged and hunched his shoulders against the cold British weather, ‘I had a bad dream.’

It sounded like a petty excuse to anyone else- but by bad dream I knew that he meant he’d had a dream about his parents. And Nathan didn’t know his parents; they abandoned him on a doorstep when he was just a baby, for as long as he could remember he would have a bad dream every once in a while about them. When that time came, it was rare to see Nathan without a bottle of some sort of alcohol.

‘Have you talked to Louise?’ I asked quietly, squinting my eyes against the sudden sunlight; then relishing in the darkness as we began our descent down into the underground.

Managing to look over at me amongst all of the fat bald business men pushing us apart, the expression on Nathan’s face suggested I was crazy for thinking he would share something like that with his girlfriend.

I sighed, ‘Well what does she thinks wrong with you when she sees you drinking?’

Another shrug, ‘How should I know?’ he thought about it, ‘She never says anything though.’

The crowd began to disperse and I got distracted from our conversation as I fumbled in my pocket for my oyster card; I glanced at the board on the side for a second before carrying on through the tides of people and scanning my card- waiting on the other side for Nathan to follow me through.

He reached me a second later and I led him quickly through all the little tunnels to the right tube train. We reached it just in time to leap into a full carriage and get disappointed looks from most people in there.

I ignored their faces and went back to my former conversation.

‘Then you need to tell her Nath.’

Nathan’s eyebrows furrowed for a second as he tried to figure out what I was talking about; when he realised he just shook his head at me, ‘I’m not talking about this now JJ, drop it. Please?’

Not wanting to drop it, I opened my mouth to continue the conversation but the torn look on his face made me stop in my tracks. Maybe this wasn’t the best thing to talk about on a tube train full of people listening in to my friend’s alcohol and relationship problems.

‘Fine; but we are not done here.’ It was supposed to be a promise but it came out as more of a threat.

The rest of the ride and three stops were completely silent- as was the fast run up the escalator and the tourist dodging.

Finally, Nathan and I emerged panting on the pavement near our university college.

‘Ready to talk yet?’ I asked out of breath.

Darting a glance at me, Nathan sighed, a sly grin on his face ‘You never give up do you?’

We both glanced to the left before running across the road, away from the Thames River and towards the university.

‘Nope I never do.’ I admitted.

His chuckle attracted the attention of one of the professors as they strode past and we power walked through the doors trying to find our English lecture.

‘I’ll tell you what,’ Nathan smiled ruefully, ‘I’ll spill all details in our double lecture.’

‘Deal.’

Together, we opened the right door and began searching for some seats.

‘Besides, it’s not like we’ll have a lot to do with Farrell teaching us; he doesn’t wake up till twelve.’ Too late he realised his mistake as Professor Farrell appeared from the side of the room.

‘Unluckily for you Mr Kemp,’ his booming voice filled the entire room and all the students already seated turned to look at a red faced Nathan, ‘today I woke up two hours early.’

I couldn’t hold in the laugh as I sunk into my seat.

**

‘Drop your essays on my desk before you leave and I expect you to all have read the book and watched the movie by this time next week.’

Professor Farrell’s sentence was final and everyone was out of their seats within five seconds; two hours was a long time for people to sit still with no break.

‘You coming to Nandos with me and Kieran?’ Nathan asked as he reached out a hand to pull me up out of my seat- knowing me well, he knew that I was like an old man trying to stand up after sitting for more than an hour.

Shaking my head slowly, I pulled my thick essay out of my bag and shifted the strap onto my shoulder, ‘I…can’t.’ came my reply.

We walked down the little aisle to Professor Farrell’s desk together, with him looking confused the whole way.

‘And why would you not be able to go to Nandos?’

Smiling a bit to myself; I pushed him away and placed my essay on the desk, ‘I need to go and see Martin to check he’s okay.’

‘You don’t need anything from that dick.’ Nathan’s tone had immediately gone defensive and big brotherly- prime example of another person who had heard of the breakup and how it came to be.

However, Professor Farrell’s head snapped up to raise an eyebrow at his student.

Nathan ducked his head; embarrassed for the second time, ‘Sorry sir.’

Our teacher just shook his head but then turned to me, ‘Jennifer could you stay behind for a few minutes please; it’s about your English?’

Casting a wary glance at my friend, I nodded for him to leave and gave him a quick wave before turning back to my professor as the door closed- leaving us alone in the room.

‘Yes?’ I asked hesitantly after a few moments of silence.

Professor Farrell beamed at me, ‘I’m very impressed.’ He stated simply.

Smiling back, I nodded slightly, ‘Impressed with what exactly?’

‘Everything.’

That took me by surprise and I glanced around the room to check that he was in fact talking to me and there wasn’t some other student standing behind me laughing at how stupid I was being. But no, there was no one else there.

He must have seen my surprised look because he chuckled, ‘Jennifer, you have a real talent for writing and I hope you are going to pursue it to the best of your abilities.’

‘Of course.’ I replied immediately- English meant a lot to me, I planned to be a journalist.

‘But I thought you only signed on for a bachelor’s degree.’

This confused me, ‘Yes…but I still want to do well.’

Professor Farrell nodded at me, ‘Yes but, I have had a lot of interest from certain newspapers and magazines, searching for a new young writer. And a lot of them are looking at you.’

My eyes widened but Professor Farrell hadn’t finished.

‘However,’ my heart dropped, ‘a young writer with a bachelor’s degree is usually recruited and dropped within a few years because they are good but not good enough to make a really big impact in the industry. If you do a master’s degree instead of your bachelor’s I can almost guarantee you a brilliant career.’

Not knowing what to say, I took my mother’s advice and didn’t say anything. Instead I stood staring at my teacher with a happy look on my face until he laughed.

‘Go, talk to your parents, decide what you want to do and let me know if you’ve made a decision by Monday, okay?’ there was a genuine caring tone in his voice, like for once I wasn’t just some mediocre student who didn’t stand out.

‘Sure, um bye Professor Farrell.’ I stumbled on my way out, closing the door to his quiet laughter and breathing in a deep breath as I stood bewildered in the basically empty hallway.

‘Jennifer Isabella Johnson!’

The boy running towards me was none other than Jay; I welcomed his hug eagerly as he wrapped me up into his strong arms.

‘I was talking about you yesterday,’ I told him with a smile; ‘Your cousin said that we’re not friends.’

Jay waved the comment away with a flick of his wrist, ‘Ignore him.’

‘So,’ I began, ‘How was your honeymoon?’

The scrunch of his nose was there for only a second but it made me raise a questionable eyebrow and made Jay sigh in defeat.

‘We’re over.’ He lifted his hand to show me the absence of a wedding ring.

‘Why?’ I protested, ‘She was lovely!’

‘She was a bitch JJ.’

‘I know.’

Jay sighed again, ‘Oh well you win some you lose some. Anyway I’m going to the hospital want a lift anywhere?’

‘Coincidently a lift to the hospital would be great.’

He nodded and we walked, ‘So why a lift to the hospital?’

‘Martin.’ Was the only word I said; spotting Jay’s posh silver car across the car park and making my way towards it.

Tossing his car keys in his hand, Jay glanced at me with confusion, ‘What’s he doing in the hospital?’

This was a surprise to me- it appeared I had met the only person in Central London who didn’t yet know of mine and Martin’s breakup. Then again, he had just come back from what seemed like a pretty dismal honeymoon in Hawaii.

‘He got in a car crash after we broke up.’ I mumbled as the lights on the car flashed and I slid into the passenger seat.

Slipping in beside me, Jay shut the door behind him and turned his key in the ignition; pulling out of the car park and onto the main road, he kept his eyes ahead as he continued to talk.

‘And you broke up because?’ his voice was cautious now as he kept his gaze away from me.

‘He decided to have sex with a girl at Bobby’s party on Saturday night.’

This obviously confused him, ‘But I thought you were at that party too with Anthony.’

I nodded, ‘Correct.’

Jay shook his head, ‘Asshole.’ He mumbled under his breath and I had to silently agree with him.

To dispel the silence, I decided to the turn the radio on; allowing What Makes You Beautiful by One Direction to fill the car, I bobbed my head to the beat as Jay groaned beside me.

‘Please don’t tell me you’ve turned into one of those screaming fan girls who has loads of posters of these guys and the Jonas Brothers on your wall.’

Laughing, I shook my head, ‘You’ve only been gone for a month Jay, geez.’ I pretended to ignore his sigh of relief, ‘The only poster of a guy in my room still remains a shirtless one of Josh on my ceiling.’

Shivers racked his body, ‘I have no idea how you get to sleep at night with that hanging above you, watching you.’

‘You can’t see it once the light is off, but I have a heart attack every morning.’ I admitted; my nerves grew though as Jay turned slowly into the hospital car park- he circled for a place for several moments before finding one on the edge of a row and stopping.

‘How much is the ticket here do you know?’ he asked as I began to get out.

Glancing over at the pay and display machine, I squinted my eyes, ‘I have no idea. Want me to check?’

Jay stood up; glancing over at the machine too before shaking his head, ‘Nah, go find Martin. Punch him in the face- I’ll do the ticket.’

‘Well see you later then.’ I told him before I could back out; I walked quickly towards the hospital doors and within a few moments stood in the reception area full of people.

Taking a deep breath, I made my way over to the woman behind the reception desk.

She glanced up, a smile on her face, ‘Hello sweetheart, how can I help you?’

‘I’m looking for Martin Adams.’ My hands twisted nervously together as I spoke; my voice was quiet and timid but she appeared to hear me as she nodded and began to type something into her computer.

‘Okay are you a relation of his?’

I shook my head- the lie coming out before I could stop it, ‘I’m his…girlfriend.’

The woman nodded some more, ‘Second floor up, first room on the right.’

This was it then, I realised as I reached the elevator and stood waiting for the doors to open; this was the moment that I checked Martin was okay and let him know that we were over for good. As if on cue, the doors slid open to reveal an empty elevator so I quickly walked in, pressed the number two on the side and leant against the wall to allow a mother and father with twins in a pram to enter the elevator as well.

Luckily they wanted the first floor, so I wouldn’t need to push past them to get out.

Strangely, I found my nerves fading as the doors finally opened on the second floor and I turned straight to the right- the door was ahead of me as promised and I was as calm as I could possibly be in this situation when I knocked lightly on the door.

‘Come in.’

With a light nudge, I pushed the door open and found myself in a room with Martin and his mother, Karla.

‘Hello Jennifer.’ Karla smiled tightly at me as I entered; we had never been all that close and I could guarantee she was someone who would be pulling out the champagne when she found out about the break up.

‘Could I…uh…have a few minutes alone with him?’ my voice came out ragged- I was refusing to look at Martin for the moment but I guessed that he nodded because Karla quickly stood and strode out of the room like the model she used to be.

The silence was deafening once she left.

‘You can’t even look at me can you?’ his voice was full of guilt and sorrow; it was what pulled me out of my childish game and towards his bedside, he looked absolutely terrible.

There were bandages in almost every space available and more than enough cuts and bruises in any places which weren’t covered by the white material.

Ignoring his question, I looked him over again, ‘What happened?’ my voice came out stronger but a lot quieter.

‘Well,’ he averted his gaze now, ‘I was so angry with myself that I got straight in my car- drove it as fast as possible to get out of London and got on one of the country lanes.’ He paused for just a second, ‘Unfortunately I was so busy being disgusted with myself that I didn’t see headlights coming the other way and smashed straight into a Land Rover.’

The amused tone in his voice surprised me, but I needed to get this over with.

‘Well I just came to check you were alive-’ I began but he cut me off.

‘No you’re here to make sure I know we’re over aren’t you?’

I couldn’t say anything, so I didn’t.

‘Please don’t do this JJ, please stay, please don’t leave me…’ his voice had taken on an immediate begging tone and I could hear the fear shaking within every word leaving his lips.

Again I said nothing, because I had nothing to say.

‘Don’t leave me yet,’ he dragged in a few sharp, uneven breaths, ‘can’t we talk it out? It was a stupid mistake. The stupidest mistake I’ve ever made and it won’t happen again.’

A few lone tears trickled down his cheeks and that came as a surprise to me- Martin wasn’t one to cry, but it was only fair; I had shed enough of my tears last night and now I was holding in some more.

My head shook slowly, ‘I know it was a stupid mistake,’ I sighed in complete and utter defeat, ‘but it was one big fucking mistake, and it was a mistake which I’m not willing to stick around and forget about.’

Martin’s one good arm reached out for me and I didn’t pull away as he grasped my hand tightly in his own.

‘I love you,’ the words fumbled out of his mouth, my own heart was pounding, but not in the way it was when we first met, ‘Stay with me, forgive me.’

Now I had had enough- I pulled out of his warm grasp and took a step away from his bed as I wiped furiously at the tears which had managed to shed.

My bottom lip trembled as more tears escaped from my eyes, ‘It’s pathetic that you can go and do something like that then sit there and cry to make me feel bad,’ I snapped out; anger evident on my face, ‘if you wanted someone else so bad then you should have said it to my face!’ my tone was rising and I gulped loudly, closing my eyes briefly, ‘Allow me to save you any more trouble.’

Turning round, I began to head for the door, stopping with my fingers lightly curled on the handle when I heard him whisper my name, just once.

I hated the way my heart still filled with happiness when he said my name, I hated the way I really wanted to be doing anything but walking away from him right now, but most of all, I hated how every memory we had made together for the past three years had just been destroyed by one “stupid mistake”.

‘If you ever loved me you wouldn’t leave.’ Were his final words to me; his gaze burning on my back.

More tears trickled down my cheeks. Why did it have to end this way? Why did he get to steal all my perfect memories yet not even give me my heart back in return?

Fingers curling more tightly against the handle I turned back just once to look at him- really look at him. The past three years together had been challenging, but the tender moments had always been worth every petty argument- now though I wasn’t so sure.

‘I love you, but I don’t think I love you enough.’ I murmured one last time before turning back and leaving the room with him no longer a part of my life.

It was an almost unbearable pain to leave him behind, I realised this when I had to lean against the wall for support, but if it had really been love then I wouldn’t be able to walk away right now.

So with that thought in mind, I stood straight, lifted my chin, and walked with an empty heart back to the elevator. It would take a while to move on- but I was never one to shy away from a challenge. 

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