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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2. The Phone Call

Sunday 9th September 02:03PM

Flat E182, East River Court, London

JJ, Josh and Anthony’s Flat

 

A throbbing pain in my head caused me to groan audibly as the autumn sun streamed through my newly opened curtains.

‘I hate you.’ I moaned just as Josh placed a glass of water and a couple of paracetemols on the bedside table beside my head.

‘There’s a fry up in the kitchen.’ He smirked at me before leaving without shutting the door.

I groaned again; he knew that there were only certain things in this world which I would get up for on a Sunday when I had a hangover. A fry up was on the list.

This is why I sat up- grimacing when my head span in a way that made me feel sick- and gulped down the pills and water on the side before standing up slowly and trudging into the living room with the empty glass in my hand.

‘Well look who’s up!’

I winced at the booming voice and glared at the smiling, blonde haired idiot on my sofa angrily, ‘Ugh why are you here?’ I muttered with disdain before perching myself on a stool at the breakfast bar.

Corey’s expression turned sad ‘Well that was rather mean; I came to visit my lovely little brother.’

At that exact moment Anthony stepped out of the bathroom with only a towel around his waist and scowled at his brother, ‘Piss off.’ He hissed then stormed into his room and slammed the door shut behind him.

‘Don’t mind them,’ Josh sighed; heaping bacon, sausages, eggs, fried mushrooms and tomatoes on my plate, ‘they both went to a party, got hammered and text me for a lift home at half-two in the morning.’ He glanced down at me with fake disgrace as I dug into my beautiful breakfast, ‘I’m guessing they both have pretty big hangovers.’

I nodded at his last comment- lifting my hands from my plate; I stretched them out on either side of me to show how big my hangover really was.

They both chuckled, which is when I thought of something.

‘Hey where’s my phone? I need to text Martin to let him know I’m okay.’ I smiled, glancing around for the white iPhone.

That was when I noticed Anthony standing half-dressed in his doorway frowning, and when I noticed the awkward silence and when I noticed Josh clutching onto my phone so hard that his knuckles were turning white.

‘Josh, pass my phone.’ I laughed lightly as I said it but he didn’t move, causing me to furrow my eyebrows in confusion ‘Josh? Give me my phone.’

But he shook his head and backed away; looking between Anthony, Corey and I.

‘What?’ the way they were all staring at me was creeping me out so I spread my hands wide to make them get the point that I was totally confused.

Anthony took a deep breath ‘JJ…’ and just from the way he said my name I remembered.

Laughter erupted from my throat again, the non-humorous kind his time, ‘Oh yeah,’ smiling through the pain I picked at a piece of bacon on my plate ‘We broke up last night didn’t we?’

Josh and Anthony nodded at the same time that Corey mentioned how it was technically this morning. Pain stabbed so hard in my heart that I almost didn’t notice the shoe Anthony threw at his brother; or the way it hit him smack in the chest with a loud thud.

‘Yeah,’ I smiled some more and stood up numbly; pushing the plate away from me ‘I’m not hungry anymore.’

There was drop dead silence as I slowly picked my way across our living room and to my room; Anthony began to follow me but I just shook my head ‘I’m fine.’ I told him and with a small smile I closed the door behind me.

For a moment I stood, waiting for the tears, but they never came.

Instead, I found myself standing and staring at the picture frame on my desk. The picture frame that had been a Christmas present from Martin last year; he had gotten our prom photo and placed it in an expensive glass frame with the word Jennifer inscribed at the bottom.

He rarely called me by my full name and I had made jokes about it for weeks after- he had just smiled and laughed it off, not caring as long as we were still happy and together.

And just at that moment my eye caught on something at the end of my bed I hadn’t noticed before. Cautiously, I crept closer- picking up the dark grey material with the tips of my fingers- I lifted it and twisted my hand to see what it was. All at once the material fell apart to reveal a large man’s hoodie.

Gasping, I clutched it to my chest and breathed in the smell of Martin. Mints, lynx, smoke and the rose scented wash Martin’s mum used all wafted up into my nose.

I found myself smiling as I remembered the numerous times I had attempted to stop Martin from smoking in the first year of our relationship, he had given up but started again when his dad developed cancer at the beginning of the year. The smell didn’t even bother me anymore.

A sigh escaped my lips and angrily I flung the hoodie across the room, pushing the memories away and huddling into a little ball on the floor of my room at the bottom of my bed. It was strange how things could change so quickly in the space of just a few hours.

Bored of laying in sullen silence, after just a few minutes, I rolled over and tapped my iPod from where it was connected to speakers on the edge of a small box. I quickly unlocked it and went onto music where I pressed play on Ed Sheeran.

The volume was on high how I left it and I allowed myself to be lulled into a false sense of security by music once again. All I needed was some vodka and a replay of last night was sure to happen.  

There was a short, sharp knock on my door about an hour later but I ignored it. However, after the fourth knock I got fed up and mumbled an audible noise which sounded slightly like ‘shut up’ but it could have been anything.

Not a second after my quiet outburst Anthony and Josh both burst through my door with masks covering their faces. Anthony had a Robert Pattinson mask whereas Josh had opted for Justin Bieber.

Turning, they both began glaring at someone still in the living room until- very unwillingly- Corey slumped through the door with the Queen’s face as his mask.

I was unable to contain my laughter and burst out laughing; but they weren’t done yet because Anthony quickly rushed past me and swiped a couple of times on the screen of my iPod before returning to his place in the middle of his brother and flat mate.

Ed Sheeran had stopped playing and I guessed the song a second before it started.

And, as soon as it did, all three of my friends began dancing to Gangnam Style by Psy; it was honestly the funniest sight I had ever seen and for the first time in days the tears streaming down my face were tears of joy.

‘Stop, I’m going to die! Please?’ I begged them- doubled over on the floor, shaking with laughter, the scene had become all too much all too soon and obviously they all agreed as a moment later they plopped down on my bed and lay panting.

‘Where did you get the masks?’ I had to ask once I could finally speak again.

I heard a low grumble as Josh pushed himself up and then his head appeared over the edge of the bed, ‘We all got one from Jay’s stag do last month.’

Immediately a frown took over my face and Josh sighed- he knew what was coming next.

‘I can’t believe I wasn’t invited…’

From on top of my bed I heard Corey reply, ‘You’re not a boy JJ.’

To which I raised an eyebrow, ‘I wasn’t even invited to the hen party though.’

‘You don’t know Jay’s wife…why would you think you’d get an invite to her hen party?’

‘Because I am her husband’s good friend!’ my voice became slightly whiny as I protested; but I wasn’t giving up the argument just yet- even if I wasn’t that bothered by it.

Anthony slowly slid down onto the floor beside me, ‘Correction JJ, you are her husband’s cousin’s friend.’

This just made me shrug my shoulders ‘And? I still know him don’t I?’

‘No you don’t. I think the longest conversation you two have ever had was about university fees.’

‘Hey they are making students pay way too much!’

Corey laughed and appeared beside Josh on the bed, ‘Let it go JJ; you weren’t invited- so what?’

I shook my head ‘Well it’s just rude isn’t it?’ my attempt at sounding nonchalant failed when I began giggling at the funny faces Anthony was making.

Suddenly my phone began to play a song which made Anthony pause. The song was Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol and it was Martin’s ringtone.

Josh pulled my iPhone from his pocket and widened his eyes when he glanced at the screen.

‘Give it Josh.’ I said calmly.

‘Uh JJ-’ he began but I cut him off.

‘I know who it is, just give me the phone.’

After a second of hesitation- and a slight nod from Anthony- Josh lowered his hand and passed me the phone like it was a delicate bird that could die with one wrong move.

I too hesitated for a second before pressing the answer button and lifting the phone to my ear, ‘Yes?’

‘JJ?’ well that wasn’t Martin…

But I did know the voice ‘Delilah?’

A sob came from the other end of the line ‘JJ thank god.’

Immediately, I froze ‘Are you crying? What’s wrong?’ then another thought occurred to me ‘Why are you calling me on Martin’s phone?’

‘Something happened…’

Silence, ‘What do you mean?’

More silence, ‘Martin was in a car crash.’

The term “my heart skipped a beat” had always confused me; how could something like that happen in everyday situations. Surely it would be bad if your heart just skipped a beat like that? Wouldn’t the doctors be the next stop for something that bad?

But now I understood, because the dread I felt at that moment definitely caused my heart to skip a beat- it caused my whole body to just stop for a second. And now I knew what people meant.

‘He’s just come out of an operation and he’s stable, but they had to revive him JJ!’

Delilah was still talking but I zoned out and my phone hit the floor with a thud; a slight buzz from the phone indicated that the call was still on but I didn’t want to hear anymore.

Anthony took one look at me then picked up my phone and walked out of the room talking urgently in a hushed voice to Martin’s big sister.

Corey and Josh were by my side in seconds; Corey held me and attempted to rock me like a baby while Josh tried to get something out of me, but neither could. All I could think of was how it was my fault- he died, it didn’t matter that they brought him back, he died because of something I said. Because of some stupid mistake I made a big deal of which ruined my relationship with my loving, caring boyfriend.

I didn’t deserve these friends now trying to comfort me.

A minute later of this, Anthony walked back in with the phone by his side and Josh’s car keys in his hand; he threw these to Josh and pulled me up with one strong arm.

‘We’re going down to the hospital, now come on.’

My head shook involuntarily but I had to slightly agree with it. I was worried about Martin, yes, but that didn’t in anyway mean that I was willing to forgive him or even look at him.

But Anthony wasn’t having it, and within a couple of seconds I was being flung over his shoulder as they all strode out of the flat with me unwillingly in tow.

The three people we passed on the stairs gave us weird looks- unsurprising, considering three men were jogging down the stairs at a fast pace with a girl being carried kicking and screaming on one of their backs.  No one offered to help though, also unsurprisingly.

Once outside, I was thrown in the back seat of the car and had my seat belt clamped on as well as my door locked before I could even take three breaths.

‘You are all utter bastards.’ I muttered once they had stopped fiddling and Josh’s hands were on the steering wheel.

All I got as a reply was a huge grin from my best friend and a timid smile from his older brother.

‘I’m sorry for being mean to you earlier.’ I said with a light smile on my face.

Corey opened his mouth to reply but Anthony beat him to it, ‘Don’t be sorry; he’s a twat, no one likes to see his face in the morning.’

Josh snickered but got a smack over the head- almost making him crash into the car in front as he pulled out onto the main road.

‘Idiot.’

I took this opportunity to calm down and actually take a look at what I was wearing. Of course I was still in my pyjamas.

Anthony obviously heard my sigh because he turned his head to give me a scrutinising look, ‘What’s up now princess?’ he didn’t mean princess in a flattering way; he only ever called me that when I was in a mood or wanted something.

‘You couldn’t let me get changed first could you?’ I said with a roll of my eyes and a pointed look at my pyjama bottoms and vest top.

He just raised an eyebrow ‘Rolling your eyes is a very unflattering habit. Makes you look like a retard.’

‘Raising your eyebrow is a very disturbing habit. Makes you look like a pervert.’ Was the reply I shot back with, quickly followed by ‘I’m cold.’

A coat was thrown at me but I’m not sure from where so I just let a “thank you” hang in mid-air as I pulled on the warm jacket.

London flashed by outside and I found myself glancing at places I had visited or walked past with Martin; we’d stopped in that café, he took me for our anniversary to that restaurant, we walked through that park, he had his birthday in that club, we sung a drunk duet in that pub on the karaoke. The memories overwhelmed me so much that I was unsure whether they made me sad that they were over, angry that they had ever happened or happy that I had them stored forever even if Martin and I were now over.

I came back to the present in the middle of a conversation via the boys.

Anthony and Corey were ganging up on Josh because he was a Manchester United fan and they were Arsenal fans.

‘Do you even know football Josh?’

‘Well obviously…’

‘What about good football?’

The only reply was a sharp glare in the wind view mirror.

‘You’re gay anyway Anthony shouldn’t you be interested in gymnastics?’

‘That was highly offensive and stereotypical you little twat.’

‘I’m taller than you mate.’

‘You’re also younger…mate.’

‘Stop bickering.’

‘You can shut up! You like Arsenal too!’

‘Yeah, because they’re better.’

‘That’s like saying to JJ that shit is better than Nutella.’

I chose this moment to get involved ‘What, where Nutella?’

There was a snort from all of them before Corey turned towards me ‘So who do you side with? Me and Anthony or Josh?’

Anthony groaned ‘Don’t even try bro; she’s a Man City fan.’

Corey shot me a disbelieving look, ‘What the hell?’

‘Correction,’ I wanted to make this point clear, ‘Grant is a fan- I am just a loving sister who agrees.’

‘Why?’

‘Joe Hart.’ Anthony and Josh replied in the same monotone voice, they then glared at each other before Josh said, ‘Still hate you.’

Anthony just chuckled ‘Don’t worry I still hate you too.’

Suddenly, in the distance I noticed the hospital come into sight just further up the road amongst piles of traffic and masses of people before Josh was forced to brake under a red light.

My survival instincts kicked in and I began to struggle; unclipping the seatbelt I clawed at the lock- trying to unlock it. And I managed.

The boys sat there staring at me for a moment too long, if they had moved to try and stop me then I wouldn’t have opened the car door and nearly been hit by an angry cyclist and I definitely wouldn’t have been able to slam the door shut again and race across the road to the pavement. Without getting hit by the several cars racing by.

However, a quick glance behind me confirmed that Anthony had jumped out and was racing after me too. I made a judgement call and raced down the nearest street off of the main road and along a dingy alleyway, onto another, smaller, street full of shops.

Anthony was a fast runner and he would catch up with me in a few moments if I didn’t hurry so I dived for the nearest shop and searched for anywhere to hide.

The only person in there was a young guy who looked only a few years older than me so I hurried towards him.

‘Hey, um…’

His head snapped up and I took in his dark hair and bright green eyes in one gulp as a slow, lazy smile spread over his face, ‘How can I help you babe?’

A glance out of the large window gave me a glimpse of Anthony stood in the middle of the street searching for me- he had his back to me now but he was slowly turning.

‘I need a place to hide!’ my voice came out frantic and probably a little bit squeaky.

The guy took it all in his stride, ‘And who are you hiding from, may I ask?’

Another glance outside- his attention was on the shop next door ‘My friend.’

His gaze flitted to the window, obviously noticing where my attention kept going to and frowned, ‘Would that be the person outside by any chance?’

I nodded, ‘Please? I will be gone as soon as he goes! Please?’

A moment’s hesitation and several glances at the window later, the guy nodded and motioned for me to crawl underneath the counter.

Not needing to be told twice; I crouched and hurried under the counter to sit at his feet while he kept me informed on what Anthony was doing.

‘He’s walking away…no, no now he’s coming this way…nope...yeah….he’s coming in…he’s-’ the guy was cut off by the sound of the door opening and slamming shut a second later.

‘Hi, how can I help you?’ his voice sounded friendly and warm, and not at all strained from being caught up in whatever he thought this was.

I could hear Anthony’s footsteps coming closer until they stopped right next to where I was hiding. If he looked down then he would see me.

‘Yeah…um, have you seen my friend?’ there was a pause, ‘She’s quite tall, blonde hair, wearing her pyjamas, slippers and a man’s coat?’

The guy gave me a slight nudge with his foot as he said ‘Oh blonde girl?’ I held my breath, ‘Quite fit if I’m honest?’ that made me smile, ‘Yeah. I saw her run past the window a couple of minutes ago. She was heading towards Hyde Park.’

A long sigh ensued ‘Right, thanks mate.’ And then he was gone.

‘You can stop hiding now.’

I took it upon myself to check quickly before following his suggestion and crawling out of my hiding space.

‘Thanks so much.’ I said as I brushed myself down.

He opened his mouth to reply but a loud squealing cut him off once again.

‘JJ!’

Whipping round, I came face to face with Ashley, she and her twin sister Rachel had been my closest girlfriends since I was around the age of thirteen and I had barely seen either of them lately.

‘Oh my God, Ashley!’ I ran up to her in a heartbeat and we gave each other an equally enthusiastic hug as I took in her change in style, ‘You dyed your hair red.’

She smiled, ‘Well I thought it was about time me and Rachel went our separate way in identical looks. She dyed hers black by the way.’

‘Gosh I’ve missed you both.’ I breathed out sadly.

I received a sympathetic look in reply, ‘I know about Martin by the way, the girl he was having sex with is in one of my classes.’

It seemed like everyone knew about what happened between Martin and I and it had only been a day, news travelled fast at university.

Ashley gave me a knowing look, ‘Don’t worry about it, honey, if it wasn’t meant to be then you’re better off.’

This just made me sigh, ‘But he crashed his car and I was supposed to go to the hospital today to see him…’ trailing off, I looked down at the ground; only just remembering the black haired- green eyed sex God watching us from the counter.

‘Jennifer look at me,’ Ashley appeared to be taking this all in her stride as I lifted my gaze to her face, ‘You have to go and see him-’ my eyes lowered once more, ‘…but not until you are ready.’

Her words struck me and I smiled.

Yes, I did have to go and see Martin. Yes, I did have to see him in my least favourite place in the world, the hospital. Yes, we needed to sort out our issues and at least become civil.

But no, no I did not have to do any of that right now. And putting things off till the last minute was one of my many talents. 

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