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.


4. The Ban

Thursday 13th September

Apartment E182, East River Court, Dame Street, London

JJ, Josh and Anthony’s Flat


‘I can’t believe I’m spending my one free day during the week to go food shopping.’

Popping his head round his door, Anthony scrutinised me with narrowed eyes, ‘Hey, I’m the one paying for it on my credit card!’

‘That’s because you’re the one who has the best job.’ I answered him; while not looking away from the TV.

‘You don’t even have a job anymore.’ Came the reply as he went back into his room.

‘I wasn’t the one who fired me.’ I retorted.

Anthony laughed, ‘And yet you were the one who deliberately poured cold coffee over a customer.’

Standing up, I turned the TV off and stretched, ‘He pinched my bum four times and therefore totally deserved it.’

Another laugh, ‘I’m not saying he didn’t deserve it,’ he appeared around the door once more but this time with shoes and a top on, ‘I’m just saying you only have yourself to blame for being fired.’

‘Yeah, whatever.’ I muttered childishly, going to grab my handbag and Josh’s keys, ‘Bugsy driving!’ I yelled; racing out of the flat before Anthony could stop me.

He did however catch me on the stairs because the lift wasn’t working.

‘We’re not ten JJ, bugsy doesn’t work anymore.’ Anthony commented while attempting to snatch the keys out of my hand.

I thought about this, ‘You’re right but then again if we get pulled over by the police wondering why we’re driving a car we’re not insured to drive…’ I trailed off, ‘Who has the bigger boobs?’

‘Fine,’ he huffed, grabbing my hand and pulling me the rest of the way down the stairs, through the lobby and out onto the street where Josh’s car was parked, ‘But if you crash then you’re paying for it.’

My smile was triumphant as I unlocked the car and slid in, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, I sir am a brilliant driver.’

Anthony’s sceptical look said otherwise but I decided to ignore it and instead of retaliating, put the car in reverse and made my way onto the main road, heading for ASDA.

If there was one thing which made Anthony and I best friends, it was our love of yelling songs at the top of our voices without caring who heard us and no matter how terrible we both sounded.

And what song came on the radio? One of the best songs to sing out loud ever, We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together by Taylor Swift.

My best friend looked at me from the corner of his eye- his face was still facing forward but the smile spreading quickly across his features told me that he was up for it if I was. And I was so up for it.

Obviously we didn’t know the song well enough to sing it the whole way through so we waited with bated breaths for the chorus, rolling our windows down to let the weak sunshine in as we readied ourselves for the performance of our lives.

‘Ooh, we called it off again last night,’ I glanced sideways at Anthony as I began to sing but he stayed silent, waiting for the right moment, ‘But ooh, this time I’m telling you, I’m telling you…’

Together the song came bursting from our throats as well as the radio, ‘We are never, ever, ever getting back together! We are never, ever, ever getting back together!’

‘You go talk you to your friends,’

‘Talk to my friends,’

‘Talk to me,’

‘But we are never, ever, ever getting back together!’

This carried on for the next two choruses, each time we had an audience of people in cars and on the street looking at us like we were completely stupid or drunk or both.

Only once did we seem to brighten someone’s day- two children in a family car leaned out of the windows to laugh with us and sent us their childish smiles. They reminded me of my little brother and sister so much that I was glad it was a Thursday; it meant that I could go back home at the weekend and spend some quality time with my family. Although it sent a pang through my heart when I realised someone wouldn’t be there. And that person was my big brother, Grant; he would still be touring in Iraq.

Subconsciously I reached a hand down from the steering wheel to brush against the tattoo on my ankle which my brother and I shared.

I had cried when he told me where he was going and for how long, I had locked myself in my room and been so upset that one day he burst in, threw me over his shoulder and dragged me out into the street. There he had taken me to the nearest tattoo shop and forced me into the chair; he had ordered me to get the tattoo he had designed himself so that I would have a piece of him wherever I went so he would never really be gone and I could stop crying.

After I got it, I designed one myself and made him get it too and he had been right. It made me feel better knowing that it was there- not enough to make me stop from having a heart attack every time a soldier was reported dead on the news, but enough to stop me from locking myself in my room again.   

‘What are you thinking about?’ Anthony asked quietly although he probably had a good enough idea; sometimes it was like he knew me better than I did.

‘Grant.’ Came my reply as I pulled into ASDA car park.

He just smiled and patted my knee gently, ‘Stop worrying about him- you’ll die before he does trust me.’

I couldn’t hold back my laugh; he always knew what to say.

‘You can get the ticket.’ Smiling, I got out of the car as I told him this and stood by the door as he ran across the deserted car park to where the ticket machine was and placed in a pound before returning to me.

He ripped the ticket in half so I had the one for the car park and tucked it onto my dashboard, slamming the door shut behind me and locking it- linking my arm with Anthony’s and following his lead towards the supermarket.

‘Trolley or basket?’


At my command Anthony reached down and grabbed a green basket as we stepped through the door and into the air conditioned shop. There was barely anyone there, a fact which was not surprising considering that it was a weekday and everyone would be at work or school.

‘Now remember we can’t be too long because I have a lecture at half two.’ Anthony told me, sticking his tongue out at a little girl who was making faces at him from where she sat in her mum’s trolley.

I smiled at him, ‘You’re too cute.’

He smiled too, dimples popping up on either side of his face, ‘Oh I know.’

Grabbing the basket from his hand, I pushed him away and headed for the fruit and vegetable aisles.

‘Go and get the milk.’ I called over my shoulder.

‘Yes boss.’ His reply echoed through the shop, as did the laugh which followed before it was drowned out by the music they were playing.

Turning my attention away from Anthony, my eyes scanned the shelves for anything we might need. No bananas because Josh was allergic, no broccoli because Anthony wasn’t a fan, no tomatoes because we had a cream carpet and, after an incident last month, they were now banned.

Finally, I grabbed some lettuce, carrots and some apples and onions before heading further into the shop.

Anthony caught up with me, carrying two four pint cartons of milk and a single bottle of Jack Daniels.

Raising my eyebrows at him, I grabbed for the bottle and gave him a look, ‘Wow they’ve really changed the packaging of milk.’ My voice was dripping with sarcasm as I turned the bottle over and over in my hand.

‘Hey I have a two hour law lecture with Mr McDonnovan; I’m going to need that.’

‘Careful you’ll turn into Dylan.’ I warned him, causing a scowl to overtake his face as he snatched the bottle back.

His mood had been visibly dampened by the mention of his brother’s name.

‘Don’t ever compare me to that dick, I’m nothing like him.’

‘Really?’ I wasn’t smiling anymore, ‘Strange, I seem to remember him getting through his law lectures in the same way before he dropped out in his second year.’

The look Anthony threw my way was a plead for me to drop it, and I did but it wasn’t something I was willing to give up and he knew that, which is why he clutched the bottle tightly to his chest like he thought I was going to take it away any minute. Which, if I had my way, I would.

It took us another half an hour to get around the whole shop; searching for meals for the rest of the week, snacks for in between and any essentials that were necessary.

At one point we were even stood in the freezer aisle arguing over which wedges to buy- I wanted southern fried whereas Anthony wanted spicy. Finally the price decided it and I got what I wanted for a change because of the difference of twenty pence, an important twenty pence.

We made our way quickly to the till after our little argument because Anthony didn’t have long until his lecture and, as much as he was dreading it, he knew he had to go.

The woman behind the till regarded us suspiciously for some unknown reason as our shopping made its way down the little black belt to where she was scanning it. I had no idea how she wasn’t driven insane by the sound of the constant beeping every time she passed something through the scanner. It obviously came with the job description but it was still a drag just standing there for five minutes let alone five hours.

‘Do you have any ID?’

The question was directed at Anthony and he pulled his credit card out of his wallet, holding it out, ‘Will this do?’

The woman shook her head, ‘No, if you look under twenty-one then I need an ID.’ She pointed to the sign below the till as she clutched tight onto the bottle of Jack Daniels and I sighed, reaching into my pocket in search of my driver’s license.

I knew I had put in there somewhere because I always took it with me wherever I went.

But I couldn’t find it so I quickly pulled my handbag off of my shoulder and began to rifle through it in search of the little pink card.

‘Hey get the rest why I look for this.’ I told Anthony, accusation in my tone because it was his fault that I was being forced to look for it in the first place.

Minutes later, the shopping was paid for but I still couldn’t find my license, so I sighed in defeat and placed my bag back on my shoulder.

‘I can’t find it.’ I admitted; not liking the smug look I was receiving from the woman.

‘Fine I’ll just have to go without it.’ Anthony groaned, grabbing both bags and beginning to walk out of the door.

My phone chose that moment to go off and I instantly reached into my inside jacket pocket to get it- that’s when I felt my fingers brush against something which felt a lot like a card.

Triumphantly I pulled out the little pink card- shoving it in the woman’s face with a smile as she grudgingly scanned the bottle.

Throwing down a twenty pound note on the till, I grabbed the bottle from her hand, ‘Keep the change.’

Walking away from her felt so good that I had to scream happily and hold up the bottle like a trophy as I made my way over to a waiting Anthony- his smile equalling mine.

‘Please don’t scream in the shop.’

Ignoring the order of the woman I screamed again and Anthony joined in- we were teenagers and there was only so much crap we could take before we broke.

‘Stop screaming and get out!’ the security guard now was the one talking to us; admittedly we walked faster because he was big and scary.

But as we walked out the door, the security alarm went off and the security guard reached for our bag. Annoyed now, Anthony grabbed the receipt from one of our bags and threw it in the guard’s direction before grabbing my hand and pulling me out of the shop.

‘Talk to the bitch on the till, she knows that we brought everything!’ he yelled over his shoulder.

The security guard replied with his own shout, ‘You’re banned!’

We were laughing as we walked away from the front of the shop and made our way towards Josh’s car.

‘Did we seriously just get banned from ASDA?’ I asked in between fits of laughter.

Nodding, Anthony laughed some more and glanced behind us at the furious security guard stood in the doorway, ‘We did and it may have been the best experience of my life.’ He answered honestly.

Agreeing with a laugh, I pulled Josh’s keys out of my pocket and unlocked the car so that Anthony could throw the shopping in the back and take his bottle from me.


The voice was so familiar that for a moment I ignored it- he wasn’t here he was far away so that shout obviously didn’t exist and was just in my head.

But Anthony had turned around and now he smiled widely, ‘JJ, turn around.’ He told me.

Immediately, I turned my whole body and my mouth fell open in shock at the man who stood just fifty metres away with a huge smile of his own.

My handbag fell to the floor and lay forgotten as I ran as fast as possible into my brother’s waiting arms and giggled when he picked me up and spun me around like in all of the movies.

‘I missed you so much.’ I told him once he had placed me on the ground once more.

Grant punched my shoulder lightly, ‘Well I’m here now so you can stop missing me can’t you?’

I nodded and wrapped my arms around his waist once more, relishing in the musky, sweaty, natural smell which clung to him- the smell I had had to live without for the past six months.

Finally, I pulled away to look up at him, ‘I thought you weren’t due back for another few months.’

He looked uncomfortable, ‘Let’s talk about that later, for now just drive me to yours.’


The door closed softly behind me, Grant was in the kitchen making a fair amount of noise but the rest of the flat was silent as I dropped my bag on my bed and threw off my shoes, padding silently back into the living room to watch my brother struggling as he tried to work out where everything went.

‘Want some help?’ I asked.

Grant shook his head- closing the fridge door and turning back to me with two empty bags in his hand, ‘Done.’

I nodded and sank onto the sofa, ‘So care to tell me why you’re back early then?’

Sighing, Grant sat down beside me and leaned his head back as he spoke, ‘What I’m about to tell you goes no further,’ his eyes were on me, ‘not even mum or dad and especially not Amy or Daniel. Promise?’

‘Promise.’ I confirmed and he visibly relaxed.

Slowly, Grant sat up once more and pulled his shirt over his head and immediately I gasped.

There was a large swallow on the right side of Grant’s chest which had been there since he was sixteen- however the swallow now had a rather big bullet wound through one of its wings.

‘Oh my God.’ Was all I managed as I stared at the hole someone had made in my brother.

‘There’s another one.’ He informed me, pulling up the leg of his trousers on his left leg so that I just managed to catch a glimpse of another hole going through his leg; it even came out the other side.

‘Now I understand why you don’t want me to tell anyone,’ my voice was shaking as Grant replaced his shirt, ‘but why didn’t we get told about this when it happened?’

He smiled sheepishly, ‘I asked them not to.’

The sound which echoed through the house when my hand collided with his arm made the slap seem a lot worse than it was. Especially since Grant didn’t even flinch.

‘Please don’t go back.’ I begged him, even though I knew it was pointless.

My big brother just wrapped me up in one of his hugs, ‘I have to,’ he whispered into my ear, ‘but I’m always going to come home again.’

I didn’t know whether that statement was true or not but I did know that I wasn’t letting go of Grant anytime soon. 

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