This is my first Waterloo Road fic, so go easy on me! I was so sad when Josh left, it was so cute and I will miss him sooo much, but I will never love Waterloo Road any less!
Lily stared at her new school uniform with a mixture of disdain and excitement. Waterloo Road wasn't exactly different to her last school, it was still in Rochdale, and the uniform was similar, but it was these similarities that made her feel uneasy. It was going to be made especially awkward by the fact that this was her taster day, she wasn't even starting properly yet. She was annoyed to have to move, this was the first day of the new school year and she wasn't going to be coming back for ages after this. Year 9 was a big year; she didn't want to screw it up. At that moment, her mum Lauren walked in, and smiled when she saw her 13-year-old daughter standing in front of the mirror.
'Oh, Lily, you look so grown up! I'm so proud of you, darling, you know that don't you?' Lily shrugged her off.
'Yeah, right. I look like I just got washed up.'
'Honestly, Lily, you look gorgeous, now hurry up, the bus won't wait forever.'
'But it's not even there yet! Can't you just drive me? Please?'
'Alright dear, but as long as you promise to catch the bus home.'
'Thanks mum. We'd better go.'
2 hours later
So far, Lily hadn't really made any friends. She was just too shy. In assembly there was a bit of drama, though, as one of the pupils had left her baby at school and no-one knew it was there. It was all a bit much for Lily to take in; she'd been very sheltered from that sort of thing, boys included.
A smiling, curly-haired boy walked up to her shyly, and offered her his hand. She anxiously took it, not sure what he wanted.
'I thought you looked a bit lost. You must be new here. I'm Josh. What's your name?'
'Lily. Lily Longhope. Yeah, it's my taster day. I'm hopefully starting after Christmas.'
'What year are you in? It's just I haven't seen you yet today and you're in none of my lessons.'
'Uh… Year 9. I'm 13, 14 in a few months' time. How about you?'
'I'm 16, I'm in Year 12. So, what do you think of Waterloo Road so far?' He winked at her.
'Dunno, it's nice enough I guess. Is there always so much drama?' He laughed at that. She noted how he threw back his head joyfully when he laughed. At least he wasn't laughing at her. She grinned, glad that someone around here actually found her interesting, or even funny.
'Yeah,' he chuckled, 'although you get used to it. I bet it's a bit strange for you isn't it?'
'A bit. My mum was always very protective of me. She didn't want to get ditched like Dad ditched her. He left when I was a baby, I don't really remember him- sorry, am I blabbing?'
Josh was looking at her with an amused expression. 'No, not at all. Why, do you tend to blab?'
Lily laughed nervously. 'A bit, I guess. Sometimes, when I'm nervous...' She looked at the floor, ears burning, cheeks glowing.
'Am I making you nervous?' Josh laughed.
Lily looked up in horror. Phew, he was smiling. 'Um, yes. I mean no, it's just… Sorry, it's not you; it's just been a hard day. I've got to go.'
'Ok. I'll see you around, Lily!' He walked off, but turned around as he got to the door and waved, before disappearing through the door. It was a cliché, but Lily kept on waving after he'd gone. She turned, smiling, and headed to her next lesson, which was English with Mr Clarkson. What was happening to her? She'd never had a crush on anyone before, and now she had one on someone she'd known for less than a minute. She didn't even know his surname. She made a mental note to find out.
The rest of the day passed by in a blur. She loved English but found that she couldn't concentrate at all. She just kept thinking about Josh, and the way his eyes softened when he smiled, and the kind but bold way he had just approached her after assembly. She hoped she'd bump into him again, but no such luck. She was suddenly struck by how he spoke to her as if she were his equal, even though she was a mere Year 9 and he was a mighty sixth former. She smoothed back her short, straight auburn hair and wished she was in his year, so she could be in classes with him.
By the time she got home Lily was in a daze. She had spent almost the whole afternoon thinking about Josh. She felt faintly ridiculous. Her mother felt anxious when Lily walked dazedly through the door with a small smile on her face, and when she asked her how her day went, she merely nodded, giggled dreamily and skipped upstairs to her room, almost staggering. Mrs Longhope actually worried that she was drunk. But she knew she wouldn't be. She could trust her daughter. God knows, she had never even had a crush before in her life, she was so innocent.
Oh, she was so wrong. If Lily had known what she was thinking, she would have burst into tears and split her sides laughing, she'd feel so ashamed and guilty. And embarrassed.
4 months later
Josh was feeling…odd. He just knew he was gay, no way was he straight in any way, shape or form, by any stretch of the imagination. But kept feeling sad, like someone he wanted desperately to remember, and get to know better, had gone forever. It had been at the back of his mind for months, but he couldn't remember for the life of him, even if he searched really hard into the depths of his tortured mind, who it was he was missing. It was like they were so significant to him, but had only been mentioned in fleeting conversation, but he so desperately wanted to meet them. Like a child's hero whose parents know he will never meet them, but encourage him to idolise them all the same. But Josh couldn't think about this now, it was the first day back after Christmas and he had bigger things to worry about. He was probably just being stupid, remembering something not real or from a dream. He shrugged the notion off (it just felt so real) and pushed the thought to the back of his mind, and focused on getting back into school and his mates. His problems could wait.
Lily was excited. She knew she had almost forgotten Josh, (almost), but she still couldn't wait to see him again. Returning to her own school had seemed like such a bore after the drama and excitement of Waterloo Road. And the promise of friendship. She had been careful not to make friends on her taster day, her mother would have said make some so joining properly wasn't too difficult, but Lily had disagreed. Making friends would have meant she wouldn't see them for four months. She'd probably end up missing them. And missing friends wasn't a good idea for the teenager. She knew what happens when Lily Longhope misses people. Four months away from Josh had proved that. She had spent only a minute with him, but she had spent hours dreaming about him and their future life together. She knew it was sad, shallow and clingy, of course she did, but she just couldn't help it. Without wanting to sound too judgemental, she just wasn't very good at having crushes. She had never had one before, so she didn't know how to behave in that situation, and how to handle it gracefully. The amount of time she spent clockwatching in the holidays was just absurd. It was time to focus on school again. But she just couldn't. She had woken up that morning in fits of excitement, anxious to start the new term and day, but more to see Josh again. Had he changed? Would he still remember her? She was about to find out…
Josh couldn't believe his eyes when that dear, sweet girl from his first day back saw him at school that day. Her face just lit up when she saw him, with an expression of love and excitement that surprised even him, but then he remembered how he had been feeling earlier that day in the morning. He then felt sure that his face portrayed the exact same emotion as her, as her smile didn't budge. He ran towards her, and literally had to stop himself for flying at her and giving her a great big hug, as that would've looked well weird at school. Instead, he just grinned at her, soaking in all her enthusiasm. She was the first to break the silence.
'Hey Josh,' she beamed. 'So, how's things since we last spoke?' Since we first spoke, she thought to herself.
'Uh, not too bad, I suppose. Boring old school, same old, same old stuff.'
'Yeah, I guess so. Same with me actually. But I'm really glad to be back. I missed it here, it's really cool here, a lot more drama than with my last school at least, certainly,' she thought for a moment. 'Yeah, definitely.' Then she realised she should probably stop talking now. 'Am I blabbing? I am blabbing. I'll stop blabbing, round about now. Sorry. Again. Did we just have the same conversation as we did the first time?'
Josh was gazing at her dreamily with an amused expression on his face. Just like the first time, she thought with a sigh. She gazed into his dreamy eyes, and found herself leaning forward. She could sense Josh also leaning in, his sweet breath hot on her cheek. She thought she had him, until all her dreams from over the past few months were dashed, when he said…
'I think we should know a little more about each other, if we're going to be friends.' Friends, YES, thought Lily, but just friends? I'm gonna have to work on that. Josh coughed a little, and with a start she realised that her eyes had closed. She shuffled, her cheeks turning red, she was really, really embarrassed. She also realised that she had been half-dreaming when she thought he had leaned in, in fact he had taken a step back in response to her advances, which left her feeling more awful than ever. Normally she expected him to look amused at her individuality, but now he just looked shocked and scared. This threw her off guard. She thought she was about to burst into tears of shame, but she managed, somehow, to pull herself together and stay silent, clam and composed. But this was not how she felt inside. Inside, she was in turmoil. Somehow, she regained enough confidence to speak, but all the while she was thinking what must he think of me now?...
'So, yeah, what were you saying, about knowing more about each other?'
'Oh, yeah, by the way, I'm gay.'
Lily felt like she'd been punched in the stomach. She felt winded and literally stepped back and bent over. Josh looked horrified.
'What? There's nothing wrong with that, is there? I didn't really have you down as a homophobe, Lily, but first appearances can be misleading…'
Lily was even more upset and flabbergasted than a moment ago. 'No, no, gosh, no. It was just… a bit blunt and unexpected, that's all. And…' She braced herself, losing her inhibitions but knowing that she would always regret and never forgive herself for what she was about to say… 'I thought you liked me.'
Josh looked pained at this, and suddenly his voice was a lot softer than it had been. 'I'm sorry, Lily, I really am. I mean, I thought I liked you; I was even concerned that I might be bi, but I just don't know. I think I love you, but I just need some time, and give me a bit of space, yeah?' He smiled weakly. 'I'll let you know when I'm not as muddled and I have made up my mind. It's also just, you know, the age gap.'
Lily nodded. 'Yeah, I understand. See you later then?'
Josh nodded sadly. 'Goodbye, Lily. For now, anyway.' And then he bent down and kissed her very deliberately but softly on the cheek. When he pulled away, she automatically put her hand over where his lips had been, and he placed his hand over hers. Then with a final weak smile, he turned and was gone.
Lily kept her hand on her cheek for a long time after he had gone, just staring at where he had been and trying to process everything he had said. She had no idea what was going to happen, but she knew that everything was going to change, and be a lot more complicated and confusing than before. Than it had ever been.
5 months later
Lily had almost come to terms with the fact that she could never have Josh. It had taken him a while to figure himself out, but eventually he came to the decision that he was definitely gay and not even his love for his Lily could change that. They had stayed best friends, in fact virtually inseparable, not even the three year age gap could tear them apart. They had become relatively more distant after Josh had admitted to taking drugs, and though Lily had been initially cautious, scared that he might convince her to take them; she had soon come round and helped him through this difficult period. He was soon fine again, and their friendship had continued. Until it went wrong again. Until everything changed…
Lily was struggling to process everything that Mr Clarkson, Josh's dad, was telling her. He was in tears himself, and that alone was enough to freak the innocent Lily out, she had never seen a teacher cry before, let alone her best friends' and love of her life's dad. She knew why he was telling her this face to face rather than let a rumour get to her first; he knew she would be almost inconsolable when she did eventually find out. Better to tell her now when she could be helped. All the teachers understood how much Josh Stevenson meant to Lily Longhope, she devoted all her time to making sure he got better and he was never alone. Josh had a few other friends, but he hardly ever saw them and Lily had no one else, she refused to make friends with anyone other than Josh. The teachers worried that she was unhappy or lonely, but it never seemed to be the case whenever they spoke to her about how things were going in her first year at Waterloo Road. She was top student in nearly all her classes, and not just by chance. She was a bright girl, and probably had been all along, but she worked incredibly hard out of lessons to support her working in class, doing extra research and revision to supplement her. In conjunction with her fantastic behaviour, participation, effort, homework and attendance she was one of the best pupils in the school. Combine all this with her enthusiasm and her ability to listen made a great friend, too. One that Josh certainly couldn't have done without in these past few months. She thought (even though she was also very modest) that she had done an OK job, she had tried her very best with Josh, she was proud of him and he seemed to be on the mend. But now this. Schizophrenia. It was, admittedly, a word she hadn't come across often before, but she thought she knew the basics of what it meant. She didn't think she'd ever need to know. But now Josh had it, and her world was crumbling to pieces.
Mr Clarkson watched Lily Longhope process everything he had said, and with tears in his eyes he painfully bared the silence for her. Letting her figure it out in her own time. She went through a variety of different facial expressions. Surprised, shocked, horrified, distraught, broken. And then an awful kind of blankness, as if she'd shut herself off from his kind words, knowing that with every passing second she shattered like glass a little more. It took her about three minutes to put on an unaffected façade and speak to him.
'Thankyou, Mr Clarkson, for telling me before someone else did.'
'Well, that's just what I thought; I thought maybe it might be easier if it came from me rather than from one of your mates.' Seeing her patient but hasty expression, he silenced himself, and let her continue.
'But I don't really see what I can do. I've tried to help Josh, God knows I have, but he obviously isn't getting any better, I think… yes, I think I've done all I can. I'll leave it up to the experts to sort him out now.' She bowed her head in despair.
'But you can't just give up on him! After all you've been through together, you can't just leave now!' Tom cried.
'Oh, I'm not giving up on him,' she replied calmly, a little too calmly, Tom guessed that she was holding back her emotion. He respected that, so he let her continue. 'I'll never leave him, not for anything, no one can stop me or hold me back. Josh is my only and best friend, and I'll never let him down. I've tried so hard to protect him, and my life has changed so much because of him. I just can't do it any more.'