Allison never cared much about appearances, not like Lydia does. She knows she's beautiful in a very detached way: people tell her she is but she can't see it. She can't see herself as pretty, no matter what.
She knows she's thin; it's a combination of her training and her fast metabolism: Scott once told her she runs almost as hot as werewolves and Allison supposes it has to do with how she's always hungry but the food never seems to catch on her hips or her ass or her breasts.
She spares a thought to it once in a while. For most of her life, Allison doesn't care about it.
Werewolves don't change that, obviously. Not directly anyway.
It's her parents that do so. Not that they try, and Allison keeps her mouth shut about it. Throwing acid words at them when she's so mad she could scream won't change anything. Their life is screwed up enough so she keeps her resentment inside to avoid hurting her parents. And it's not like anything she could say would fix their family.
The only time she points out their bullshit, though, is when they blame everything wrong on werewolves. Werewolves didn't destroy my future, you and your legacy did. She hates when they're unfair. It doesn't make them stop.
Her mom dying makes it worse, unsurprisingly. Still, it takes a few more months for the underlying problem to surface.
It's not Allison herself who notices she's lost weight, it's Lydia. It's a while after her whole murderous breakdown -no one ever talks about it- and her relations with the Pack are still shaky but she tries her best to regain their trust. To be part of their life, not just as Scott's ex-girlfriend but as herself.
She has a lot to make amends for. She understands their wariness towards her. Sometimes she can't even trust herself.
When Lydia says, “You've lost a few pounds,” with a mix of interest and worry in her eyes, Allison looks down at herself in surprise.
“Really?” she says, shrugs. “I didn't have time for snacks lately,” -since Kate and Gerard and her mom and running and wanting to kill- “that's probably why,” she adds.
It's not mentioned anymore for a while. She goes to the mall to buy new pants. Smaller ones that won't slip down her waist like her currents one do. Maybe she lost a size. Maybe she just never bought the right one, she's always needed to wear belts after all.
Shit keeps happening and Allison forgets to take stock of her mental and physical state. Or maybe she just doesn't care. Or maybe she just completely avoids doing it. Her days consist of getting up, going to school, helping with the latest crisis, going to sleep. Sprinkle a bit of parental expectations on it, the weight of socializing, always looking happy and strong, don't show your fear, keep your grades up.
You need a good college to get out of here, out of this life or maybe even deeper in it. Your dad keeps training you to be the best and you need the approval in his eyes for the both of you. So he doesn't stop to think about his dead wife and this life he never wanted for his own daughter but is forcing on her anyway. What other choice is there?
And one day, Allison gets up a flight of stairs in school and she's...out of breath. Muscles burning. She looks behind her and there's, what, seven steps? She's never felt the exertion of it before.
Lunch hour comes and she pushes her food around her plate. The stairs incident keeps replaying in her mind and she hates how it makes her realize that she's rarely hungry anymore, even for things she used to enjoy eating.
Lydia looks at her, calculating. But she doesn't say anything. This Pack is loud, but in the end no one has the right words to offer at the right time.
Allison gets home one night, and her dad is awake. And drunk.
“Good night, sweetheart,” his slur impossible to detect if Allison didn't know him so well. He's still composed because that's what hunters always are. In control.
She goes up to her room. She can't sleep.
Some girl she doesn't even know complimented her on her loss of weight in class, said she looked much better like that. It confuses Allison.
That night, she looks at herself in the mirror. Really looks. She doesn't see a difference, doesn't see what this girl saw. She thinks it doesn't matter anyway. Some new little part of her feels like it's a lie.
“You need to eat more,” Lydia says.
Allison doesn't answer. There's always leftovers in her plate, and she can't quite understand how she managed to eat the whole thing before.
At night, she puts her hand on the jutting bone of her hip. She could always feel it that way, as far as she can remember. But somehow, lately, she feels safer with it under her fingers. Like she's still there. Like she still exists.
She spends longer in the shower than before. It the only thing that makes her feel safe and complete.
Allison still doesn't see the difference on herself. The stress and the expectations still weight on her so much she feels heavy all the time. She has no appetite but that's okay, right? You're supposed to eat when you're hungry and she's just...not.
Except at dinner. But at dinner her dad is tired and they order take out or they make pasta, soup. She doesn't eat it because she can't stomach anything despite the ache in her belly. At some point the sharpness of it becomes familiar.
At some point, the emptiness of hunger becomes reassuring. She yearns for it.
She tells herself it's nothing to worry about. She'll eat tomorrow.
She's often angry now. She has no control over it. Once in the car, her dad says, “You look tired.” She snaps at him. “I really wonder why,” she bites out, it's violent and it's unfair and it's uncalled for. It doesn't even make her feel better.
All it does is make her dad tread carefully around her. That makes her even angrier. It makes him feel guilty. That enrages her. He should feel guilty because it's his thrive for perfection that makes her feel bad all the time. That makes her hate herself because it's not entirely true and she shouldn't place the blame like that just to have something to get mad at when there's nothing tangible for her to put her fist through.
So she does her best to forget about it.
She keeps lying to herself, but she's so sure she can't have a problem.
First, because there's a lot of people around her who got it worse. Isaac is an orphan who's last memory of his dad was his abuse. What can she complain about when faced to this kind of personal history, really?
Second, she can't have a problem with food, because she likes it so much. She still eats her favorite cookies (but only one per day because two is too much, too much, too much) and drinks Coke (that's a lot of sugar she sometimes wonders if it's the only thing that keeps her standing but she chases the thoughts because she doesn't have a problem and she eats enough, always enough, just enough) and she goes to the dinner with the Pack (she can't finish her burger but that's just tonight).
She can't have a problem because it's been drilled into her head from a young age, the dangers of starvation and the consequences of bad eating habits when you get older, and when she didn't want to eat as a kid her mom used to scare her by telling her stories of girls in the hospital with a feeding tube down their nose. She still doesn't know if that really happens, but she can never forget the fear of it.
So she doesn't have a problem. It'll go away. It's just stress. It's just grief. It's just–
“I can see your ribs,” Lydia says. Allison looks at her chest in the mirror, arms raised up to put on her shirt.
“It's always been like that,” bones visible under the skin. It's true. She never thought much about it before. She likes it now. It makes her feel alive.
She looks at the rippling of her rib cage when she moves. She wants more of it. She kinda feels like she could lose some more fat even if she knows there's none there. She pinches the skin between her fingers and she just wants nothing between her and her bones.
She's kinda scared of it. But she's still not hungry. Except when she is. But it just proves that she's still there. Really, it's not a problem.
It's not everyone starting to worry that makes things change. Allison even hates it. She hates their stilted words, their looks, their careful questions. She's fine, she's fucking fine and she doesn't want their eyes to shed light on her problems because she has none.
It's a conversation with Lydia about college that makes Allison think. Really stop to think. Some times after that, she sits down in front of her dad at the kitchen table, and she says, “I want to really stop being a hunter.” She doesn't want the Argent family to “retire”, she doesn't want to train just in case, she doesn't want to know the best way to kill this or that creature.
She likes knowing how to fight like people enjoy martial arts. She just wants to go back to being the girl who was trying painting and photography and was shit at it, but still tried everything to figure herself out.
She wants to go back to this part of her life that was ripped away from her and she'll never get it back but she can start again. She can start again. She can stop being so afraid of the future Gerard and Kate still traced for her from the grave. It feels like the best revenge on everything that ruined her innocence.
She breaks down in the middle of her explanation, fat tears running down her cheeks and a lump in her throat that makes it hard to speak. But she keeps going.
It's not the solution, it's not an easy fix. But it's a beginning. And it's cleansing.
It would be a lie to say that everything wrong magically stops happening. And Allison is done lying to herself for the moment.
She considers herself lucky, though, to have pulled back from the brink while she still had time.
Maybe it's that they finally destroyed the Nemeton and put a boundary around town.
Maybe it's the heavy conversations with her dad about what she wants for herself.
But the stress flows out of her until all that's left is the usual levels of it for a student. She stops feeling so trapped. She starts eating more.
It takes time, until she's finally able to finish a complete meal, even if the portions are still smaller that what she was used to. She gets here on her own time. Her friends help, mostly by not pressuring her.
In her bad days, she misses being hungry. She skips dinner and overeats the next day to compensate, because she's so afraid of falling down again. She traces her hip bone with the tip of her fingers to make sure she's still there.
In her bad days, she looks at herself in the mirror and hates every pound she gained back, looks at that part of herself that will always long for this ultimate thinness she never achieved. She reminds herself that this race has no finish line, that it's never enough, that you're always too much. It makes her grateful for the good days.
For the cookies she eats too much of. For the clothes she fills again. For every time she's hungry and complains about it until she can eat and feel full. For the light that chases the darkness day after day until it's a tiny dot in her rear-view mirror and not a shadow looming ahead of her anymore. It'll always be there, she knows. But she'll keep moving forward.
She's ready for her future, now.