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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5. The Visit Back Home

Friday 14th September 04:02PM

1278 Millbrook Lane, Watford, London

The Johnson’s House

 

Cold air hit me the moment I stepped out of my car and I saw it visibly hit Grant too as he joined me.

‘Why is this country so fucking cold?’ he groaned out through gritted teeth.

I shrugged, ‘Something to do with the equator.’

His glare burnt through me, ‘I wasn’t looking for an answer to my rhetorical question.’

Putting my hands up in surrender, I had to smile, ‘Whoa someone’s moody.’

‘I’m sorry,’ Grant sighed deeply and slammed the passenger door shut, ‘it’s just the closer we get to the door, the more scared I get.’

My laugh surprised him as I too shut my car door, ‘She’s not going to kill you.’

He shrugged, ‘You don’t know that…’ trailing off, he tilted his head to the side and crouched down to get a look at the front of my car.

After a few seconds of silence I became impatient, ‘What?’

Standing back up again, Grant pointed down at my car, ‘Whatever that garage was supposed to be doing with your car for the past two weeks, they didn’t do it.’

My eyebrows rose, ‘What do you mean?’

‘Look,’ I made my way round to where he was standing and looked where he was pointing, ‘do you see it?’

To answer his question, I ran my fingertips lightly across the rim of the front right wheel which was very clearly broken, ‘Bastards.’

‘I’ll fix it this weekend- let’s just go in and get this over with.’

Nodding, I clutched my bag tighter and led the way to the front door- ringing the doorbell before turning to face my brother.

‘So are you going to tell them?’

He shook his head vigorously, ‘Hell no. What are you cr-’

The door swung open and our dad stood there in all his glory; grinning down at me with arms crossed over his chest and clothes to suggest that he’d just come back from the gym.

‘JJ, sweetie.’ I was pulled into a tight bear hug, my dad fussing over me because he hadn’t yet noticed or perhaps registered that his son was there too.

Finally, Grant coughed to get his attention and my dad’s gaze snapped to Grant’s face, eyes locking as he stared at him in a complete silence.

‘Hi dad, guess you missed me then?’

Grant nearly dropped his bag due to the force my dad put behind his hug- squeezing so tight, almost like he thought if he let go that his son would disappear again and it would all just be a dream. But it wasn’t.

‘No I didn’t miss you at all.’ My dad lied meekly, taking both of our bags, his grin stretching even wider when he realised that all of his children were back home.

‘Alan what’s taking you so long?’

My mum appeared, walking quickly through the living room doorway but stopping when she saw us.

‘Grant?’ her voice came out squeaky and within seconds he had been wrapped up in another very tight hug.

‘JJ?’ I mocked loudly as he continued to hug my brother and not even look at me.

But she just waved me off and went back to gazing at Grant- so I rolled my eyes at my dad and continued further into the hallway.

Amy and Daniel were sitting on opposite sofas in the living room- Amy was sat, tapping away at her phone with an expressionless face while her eyes flitted from the TV screen to her mobile screen. Daniel was just staring at the TV, but he jumped up as soon as he saw me and raced over; clutching at my legs tightly until I reached down to swing him into my arms.

‘Alright buddy?’ I asked.

Daniel nodded enthusiastically, ‘I missed you.’ He whined, something which made me laugh.

Spinning him round, I put him back on the ground, ‘Well I have a better surprise for you.’ I whispered in his ear before leaning back and watching his reaction as Grant walked in the door.

My little brother’s scream was so loud that even Amy looked up; although she didn’t go running towards her big brother like Daniel had.

My dad seemed to notice this too because he frowned, ‘Amy!’ she glared at him, ‘Your brother is back from his tour in Iraq.’

But she just shrugged and stood, tall for a thirteen-year-old, ‘If wanted a hug from me then he shouldn’t have left in the first place.’

As she went to walk past Grant, he let go of Daniel and grabbed for Amy instead- spinning her around even when she protested until she was laughing like the rest of us.

‘Now you can stop being a stroppy teenager.’ Grant chuckled with a raise of his eyebrows, letting her go and shaking his head as she raced straight up the stairs to the room she and I had shared for the past thirteen years of both of our lives.

‘So Grant…’ my dad was giving Grant a curious look as he set down our bags in the hallway, ‘Why are you back early from your tour?’

Because I was looking for it, I saw the anxiety flash through Grant’s eyes- glancing sideways at my mum- but it was gone as quick as it came and was visible to no one else. Hopefully, that is.

‘Uh…I…um hurt my hand so bad that I couldn’t use a gun and they had to send me back to get rest.’ He looked really pleased with himself, until my mum saw straight through his lie that is.

‘Mm,’ she mumbled, taking a step closer, ‘strange; your hand seems perfectly fine…’

Grant pulled away and took a step closer to me- backing away from my mum and pulling me in front of him to shield the wrath which was going to explode at any second now.

‘Okay,’ he breathed deeply and clutched onto my upper arms tightly, ‘I may have got shot.’

The sentence was said in such a rush that I could see both of my parents were taking a minute to work out what exactly he had said. But Daniel, standing forgotten in the middle of the room had heard and understood every word.

And now he ran crying from the living room shouting, ‘Grant got shot! Grant nearly died!’

The second part was lie but he was only eight and eight year olds have a habit of stretching the truth to fit their wild imaginations; however Daniel’s cry did seem to catch the attention of my stroppy teenage sister because she stomped down the stairs a moment later with our little brother in her arms.

That was when the shouting began; so like any good sister would, I went upstairs.

**

‘You are not going back to that place!’

‘I sort of have to, I can’t just leave- I have to finish how long I was signed up for.’

‘Well un-sign it!’

‘That’s not how the army works mum.’

I groaned out loud into the silence of my room; I went to sleep to the exact same argument on Friday night and it was now Saturday morning.

‘When will they stop yelling?’ Amy’s voice came from the other side of the room and I shrugged into the darkness.

‘Probably when Grant agrees to not go back to Iraq.’ I admitted.

My little sister was confused, ‘But he has to go back?’

Silence greeted her words and she must’ve understood not long later because she suddenly sighed and stood up- walking out of the room and slamming the bathroom door behind her.

‘Happy families.’ My voice was dry and sarcastic but truth full.

A second later my dad appeared in a doorway with a huge grin on his face and fully dressed with both of his shoes and coat on as well as his keys in his hand.

‘Why are you so happy?’ I asked accusingly- shouldn’t he be trying to stop the yelling coming from downstairs?

My dad just smiled wider and did a little dance, ‘Your grandma has the flu and needs someone to take care of her.’

‘And that’s good because?’

Again he just smiled, ‘It’s good because it means I get to drive away from this shouting and screaming and spend my Saturday in peace.’

Groaning loudly, I pressed my palms together, ‘Take me with you?’

He shook his head, ‘No, and in fact your mum wants you so get up and get downstairs before she starts shouting at you too.’

‘She wouldn’t-’

‘Jennifer Isabella Johnson get out of bed right now and come here!’

Another huge smile, ‘Have fun sweetie.’ And then he was gone.

Doing as I was told, I swung my legs out of bed and trudged down the stairs without getting dressed; a mistake by the looks my mum was shooting me as I appeared in the living room doorway.

Immediately, Grant grabbed me and pushed me in front of him so that I could take the full blow of any anger which was about to erupt from our mother. The glare I gave him didn’t seem to have any effect.

But, my mum’s gaze softened a little bit, ‘Morning darling, what would you like for breakfast?’

‘Hey!’

Ignoring Grant’s offended whine, I smiled for the first time this morning, ‘A bacon sandwich would be amazing.’

Nodding, my mum shot one last glare at Grant before turning and whisking away to the kitchen- causing me to turn and grin smugly up at my big brother. He just stared down at me angrily.

‘I hate you so much.’ He growled.

I just hugged him patronisingly tight, ‘It’s okay I still love you.’

Laughing, he pushed me away, ‘Get off me.’

That was when my eyes went to the clock above the fireplace and I saw the hour hand was on twelve.

‘Shit,’ I mumbled before turning towards the kitchen, ‘Scratch the sandwich mum I’m going out, give it to Grant or something.’

She appeared in the doorway with a knife in her hand, ‘And where exactly are you going?’

‘To see, Kieran.’

My mum frowned, ‘I don’t approve of that boy JJ and neither does Martin.’

The mention of his name slashed a small hole through my heart and Grant must’ve seen it because he scrutinised my face worriedly.

‘What?’ he asked and I remembered that they didn’t know.

Considering I didn’t have the time to tell them the full story I just told them the basics, ‘We broke up last weekend so it doesn’t matter who he does or doesn’t approve of.’

Quickly, I rushed up the stairs before I could begin to get upset again- that was one thing I didn’t want my mum or brother to see.

I didn’t have time for a shower so instead I just pulled on my light washed skinny jeans, pink contrast top and webbed blue heels, grabbed my denim and leather jacket and then my blue handbag and headed for the door after also applying my makeup and tying my hair up in a bun.

No one was in the living room as I rummaged through the key pot for my car keys, finally clutching round the little gold ‘J’ and heading for the door- I turned once and shouted into the empty house, ‘I’m going bye.’ But there was no reply so I just left.

Outside, the air was warmer than it had been yesterday but there was still a distinctive British chill hanging around so I scurried quickly to my car and slammed the door shut behind me- breathing heavily in the silence and warmth.

The ride to Starbucks was a short one, mainly because there wasn’t much traffic on the roads but also probably something to do with the fact that the coffee shop was only a few streets away. I would’ve walked if it hadn’t been so cold.

I managed to find a parking space on road just outside, noticing the blue golf which belonged to Kieran just a little bit further up. Smiling, I braced myself and got out of the car- double locking it I then wrapped my jacket further around me, clutched tighter onto my handbag and rushed into the coffee shop.

The smell of hot chocolate and muffins overwhelmed me instantly; I took in a big breath and waltzed up to the counter while searching for Kieran- I caught sight of him tapping away at his phone in the corner and smiled in relief. Turning back to the cute guy waiting for my order, I scanned the boards above his head before making my choice.

‘Can I have a classic hot chocolate please without the cream and also a cookie?’

Nodding, the guy tapped in the price then wrote my name on a cup as I got out the right amount of money.

A few minutes later I headed over to my friend, relishing in the warmth of the hot chocolate in my hand- even if it was burning my fingers a bit.

Kieran glanced up when I slid into the seat opposite him and a grin overtook his face.

‘JJ, it’s been so long.’

I nodded, agreeing with his statement but too engrossed in my cookie to actually answer him.

Chuckling, Kieran took a long gulp of his coffee, ‘Sorry I should’ve known not to talk to you when you have food in front of you.’

Again I nodded, because once again he was right; if someone tried to talk to me when I was eating then they were going to have to accept that I wasn’t going to answer them until it was all gone.

He waited patiently until I had finished every last bite of my cookie before trying again.

‘So how’s life?’

I raised my eyebrows at his conversation starter, ‘Good, you?’

‘Yeah, good…’ his eyes darted to mine quickly then away and I figured what he was going to say when he opened his mouth, ‘So someone told me that you and Martin broke up.’

The sigh left my lips louder than I intended it too, ‘Yeah, we did. I wouldn’t be here if we were still together.’

Furrowing his eyebrows, Kieran tilted his head to the side like a confused puppy, ‘And why is that?’

‘Martin doesn’t like you very much.’

Kieran laughed, his whole body shaking, ‘That’s true, but then again I don’t like him much anymore if a certain rumour is true…’

‘The rumour that he cheated on me at the same party I was at?’ I guessed.

Again Kieran laughed, ‘That would be the one and by your tone I’m guessing its true.’

‘Unfortunately.’ My comment came out dryly, making his mouth quirk up in a half smile.

His next question was expected, ‘Did anyone get a good hit on the arsehole?’

‘Well,’ I thought about it as I sipped my slightly too hot, hot chocolate, ‘I slapped him when I found him and Josh punched him when he went round to his apartment for my boots.’

There was a nod of approval from Kieran but my gaze had snapped to the people just walking through the doorway. It was a girl around our age pushing a pram; the man she was with- who looked at least ten years older- was carrying a little girl who looked about a year old.

I gasped, averting my eyes quickly and focusing on Kieran.

He frowned, ‘What’s wrong?’ he began to turn around but I pulled him back before he could see what I had seen, ‘What?’

My gaze drifted toward the couple again, jumping when I saw that the girl was staring at me.

‘Stacey is over there and she is looking at us and she is with Mr Harper and they have their daughter with them.’

Kieran’s eyes widened as he realised what I was saying but before he could say anything in return, Stacey appeared at our table with a fake smile plastered across her face.

‘Hey JJ, Kieran.’ Her tone of voice was instantly softer when she said Kieran’s name- we hadn’t really been friends at school, but then again I hadn’t been friends with many girls when I was at school. Girls were too bitchy.

‘Hi Stacey.’ My fake smile was smaller than hers but just as obvious and I didn’t miss the way Kieran had to hold back his laughter when he looked at the both of us.

‘Here on a little date?’ Stacey asked innocently, but her voice was laced with sarcasm as if she didn’t actually believe what she was saying.

‘Yeah actually.’ Kieran glanced at me from the corner of his eye, opening his mouth to disagree but I kicked him lightly under the table.

He nodded, ‘That’s true, we are.’

The annoyingly pretty girl in front of us gave us both a disbelieving look but said nothing because Mr Harper had appeared behind her.

‘Mr Harper.’ We both greeted our old PE teacher and he gave us a soft smile back.

‘Hey guys.’ Handing his daughter over to Stacey, he turned to find a table to sit at and Stacey gave us one last patronising smile before taking her own leave.

My breath came out in a huge rush once she had turned her attention away from us.

‘Well that was awkward.’ Kieran muttered quietly.

‘It was.’

Suddenly Kieran coughed and glanced at me with a shyness I had never seen in him before, ‘So what you said about this being a date,’ one of my eyebrows raised on its own accord, ‘could it be classed as a date?’

My eyes narrowed, ‘Do you want it to be classed as a date?’

His eyes stayed fixed on the table, ‘Yes, actually.’

‘Are you flirting with me?’ I asked in disbelief, this is not something I saw happening when I decided to meet up with my old friend while I was at home. Then again, I didn’t think I would be seeing Stacey and Mr Harper with their daughter either. I should’ve stayed in bed.

Kieran sighed, ‘Why do you have to be so annoying? Just agree that this is a date and you liked it.’

I rolled my eyebrows, ‘How romantic.’

But it was the most romance I’d had in a little while, so I smiled and laughed and enjoyed my “date”.

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