Imprint
Author: AnnmarieM

Chapter 2
The road to hell is paved with good intentions

Warning: Sensitive themes including anorexia (well, really only the very beginning of it. Nothing very graphic or anything.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four months earlier

“Smile.” Click. Snap. “Next.”

Picture days. Sean Lane hated them with a passion, which was rare for someone like him who rarely showed much interest in anything. As he slipped silently out of the uncomfortable chair and as the next unfortunate victim of the camera appeared, he wondered idly if anyone would notice if he simply skipped the next one. It was the same thing every year after all. During the morning of picture day, every single girl’s toilet in the whole damn school seemed to be reserved for the intimidating clusters of girls who would spend hours both before and during lessons painting their faces with makeup and brushing their silky hair in the mirror. Sean had to admit that they looked good on picture day, but decided that it wasn’t worth it. Appearance wasn’t everything, after all.

He stopped outside of the main hall, leaning back against the wall and crossing his arms with a sigh. ‘This is such a drag’ he thought dryly with some irritation. Allie had insisted that he wait for her, so that they could go back to biology together. He did not understand the attraction in being escorted back to lessons. Could she not just walk down the corridor to the classroom herself?

He tapped his foot impatiently after a while of waiting, scanning the various small crowds of people that were scattered in the corridor leading in to the hall with bored eyes. Many of them were small year sevens, the girls with knee-length tartan skirts and the boys with baggy school jumpers the colour of denim. There always seemed to be more and more year sevens each year. It was annoying how jubilant and chirpy they were, quite happy to learn anything and everything they could and always running into you with rosy cheeks and bold grins. He scowled slightly. What had happened to that year eleven authority they were supposed to have? Just last week he remembered being pushed out of the way – and nearly down the stairs – by a particularly boisterous group of the little brats.

Finally, Allie appeared with her curly, blonde bangs flying into her pink face.  It was about time. She met him, smiling shyly to reveal green braces and not-so-straight teeth. Over the years many people had assumed her to be his girlfriend, but the truth was that they were only friends. Good friends, and almost neighbours.

“I don’t think it went very well,” was her first remark, the smile slipping into a frown. She flushed slightly. “I’m really not very photogenic.”

“It doesn’t matter, it’s just picture day. Happens every year.” He rolled his eyes, used to this. She had always had low self-esteem, despite being one of the cleverest students in his year. This had earned her the title of ‘nerd’. And him, the title of ‘the nerd’s friend’.

She just gave a defeated sigh, hoisting the small shoulder bag up slightly. “I guess not. You boys are so lucky, you never have to worry about hair or calories or anything like that.”

“That’s sexist,” he noted, raising an eyebrow. “We care about our appearance too, you know.”

“Did you even brush your hair this morning?”

He considered lying, but then let a guilty smile pass his lips. “Ah, you got me. Nope.”

She chuckled, as though this happened often. “Come on, let’s just go to biology. We’re going to be late.”

He nodded ever so seriously. “Of course, we can’t ruin that perfect attendance score of yours.”

They managed to make it just in time for a riveting lecture about metabolism, bursting through the door and causing the teacher to scowl. However as they took their seats in the second row, Sean couldn’t help but feel slightly uneasy. It was a strange sensation and it almost felt like someone was watching him. Subconsciously, he glanced behind him only to catch a glimpse of a group of girls whispering in the back row. Nothing unusual; it was just him and his overactive senses, he concluded. He had had that feeling a lot lately; maybe he just needed more sleep.

“Hey, Sean, are you okay?”

He quickly snapped out of his musings to meet a pair of worried, chestnut eyes. She was biting her lip slightly, small frown lines creasing her forehead and wisps of hair escaping to frame her face. He had never thought her especially pretty, but she looked cute when she was worried. Then he realised what he had just thought. Cute? He frowned. “Yeah, sure,” he murmured absently. She just accepted his answer and returned her attention to her exercise book, frantically copying down notes about the teacher’s lecture into the back.

After that the lesson quickly declined into day-dreams, note passing and whispered conversation. Sometime during the ‘properties of fat cells’ he had caught a muttered rumour about Laura Herthford and Daniel Johnson getting together. More relationships than usual were always started or ended on picture day. After all it was September – the start of a new year, and of new beginnings. Sean sighed at that. Maybe this year, he could try boosting his withering reputation a little.

*****

Allie White was a typical sixteen year old girl, very near the bottom of the social ladder, and yet experimenting in ways to increase her popularity. You could say she was disillusioned in this aspect however, knowing that becoming ‘popular’ would be about as hard as learning a foreign language due to her reputation as the school’s nerd. So she was happy right where she was. She wasn’t particularly pretty or funny, but that didn’t matter too much. After all, there were plenty of other people just as unpopular as she was. She liked being part of the checkers club, the debating club and actually learning things in lessons. And she had a few, good friends. She sneaked a glance to her left. She had Sean with her as well, and she was more than grateful for this fact.

The truth was she had admired the boy sitting beside her for a long time, before finally realising that what she felt for him was more than just admiration – it was love. Well, she still did not know the exact definition for what love felt like, but she took a guess from the various romance novels and pulp fiction she had read. Sean was her friend, her best friend, and although he rarely showed it he could be quite caring. Sure, he usually seemed bored with most things including her, but she knew that he did care about her on some level. After all, he had stayed with her all these years despite the huge blow he took to his own reputation for it. And he had even stuck up for her a few times against the bullies of the school, in particular Damien Rickets.

She sneaked another glance at him through her bangs, pretending that she was still copying down notes. There was a quiet undertone of muttering throughout the class as the teacher wrote something on the board. Allie flushed slightly and quickly fixed her stare on her book when Sean caught her gaze, noting how his pretty steel blue eyes travelled down as well. She sighed. Day dream over. He was copying her notes, again.

“Copy cat,” she hissed quietly, mock glaring. He just shrugged.

“I do it all the time and you never complain,” he retaliated.

“Yes, but you need to do your own work otherwise you’ll-,”

After that, they were effectively silenced with a stern glare from the rather menacing biology teacher.

Another ten or so minutes of note copying and lecturing ensued after that, in which one boy made a paper airplane and had managed to throw it across the whole classroom before it was confiscated. If she was honest with herself, Allie would love to try doing something rebellious like that one day, except the thought of punishment scared her into submission.

Finally, the practical started. Today, they would be working out their metabolism. Once the instructions were clear, the whole class burst into loud, rowdy chatter as they got up gratefully from their seats and revelled in being able to talk in loud tones again. Allie and Sean sidled away from the loudest groups to one of the weighing scales in the corner, which looked old and broken but apparently worked fine.

“You go first,” Sean said.

She bit her lip for a moment in worry about the prospect of finding out her weight, before agreeing. “Fine, but don’t look.” He only rolled his eyes in reply.

142 pounds. 64.5 kg.

She had to stifle a small gasp of surprise when the numbers appeared. Why were they so high? When had she gotten so heavy? She forced herself to swallow past the lump in her throat, stepping off the scales and letting Sean onto them. He only weighed a hundred and seventeen pounds and he was a boy.

Working out their BMIs only managed to depress Allie further. She was naturally short for her age, at only 1.6 metres, a fact that some people still liked to remind her off. Her BMI was 25. She almost had to hold back tears as she wrote down the results of the investigation shakily, the numbers glaring angrily back at her from the page. They were high. Too high. Glancing at Sean’s result table beside her, she was horrified to see that his BMI was only 19. In fact by the end of the lesson, she had sneakily managed to catch glimpses of the BMIs of most of the people in her class. Almost all of them were below 22. It made her feel even worse and more self-conscious than she could ever remember feeling. She just wanted to sink into the floor, or fade into a wall. Therefore she was very glad when the lesson finally ended and she was free to rush out of the classroom and push through the throngs of students until she reached the school field.

She spent the rest of that day trying to avoid Sean, feeling horribly self-conscious. All she wanted to do was to go home and look in the mirror to see if her reflection mirrored the numbers on the scales. She stayed out on the school field for the whole of lunchtime, hidden behind some foliage. It was better this way, because it meant that she could silently watch the athletics club doing their usual laps around the field without being noticed or seen. However it did not last long. Sometime during lunch break, her friend Liz had come out looking for her.

“Oh hey, there you are,” the girl cried when she finally found her, jogging up to sit down beside her with a cheerful grin. “What’s wrong, Al? Did you forget that it’s debating club today?”

Allie turned to give the other girl a despairing look. It wasn’t fair. Sure, Liz had a few spots and her glasses really didn’t suit her, but at least she was skinny. “Sean…he’s never going to like me back,” she finally sighed.

Liz looked bemused. “Why do you suddenly think that?”

“Because I’m so fat!” Allie cried out tearfully. “I have a BMI of 25.”

“You’re not fat,” the other girl consoled, still looking a little confused by her friend’s sudden behaviour. “And besides, Sean’s smart enough to know that appearance really doesn’t matter.”

“But…” she sniffed slightly. “You’re skinny and all of the boys like you…”

Liz chuckled. “Two boys, you mean. And one of them dumped me through text – for another guy.”

They both giggled at that. It had been quite amusing, after all, even if Liz had been a little upset as well. “So…” Allie started again after a moment of silence. “You really think I don’t need to lose weight?”

Liz smiled. “You’re fine just the way you are,” she said. “And if Sean can’t see that, then it’s his loss.”

Allie nodded in acknowledgment, before a comfortable silence fell between the two girls. Maybe her friend was right; maybe she really didn’t need to lose weight. She felt a little more confident at that thought. Out on the field, the athletics club seemed to have finished their warm up and had now proceeded to start the hurdles. Although it was fun to watch, she had always had an aversion to exercise and, in particular, running.

“Liz?” she started after a short while.

“Hmm?”

She hesitated. “What…what do you think it would be like, to be popular?”

The other girl made a face, maple eyes crinkling slightly into frowns. “Probably no different from being unpopular, except that we would have to sacrifice our dignity and brains to do it.”

“But…don’t you think it would be nice, I mean?” Allie pressed. “Everyone would respect us and want to be like us…”

Liz sighed. “Al, get your head out of the clouds. Being popular isn’t all that. Most people let the attention get to their heads. It’s much better just to have friends who care for you.”

Allie nodded a little gloomily. “Yeah, you’re right, I guess.”

Liz stared at her friend for a moment, before abruptly punching her lightly on the arm. “What? Are we not good enough for you anymore?” she joked lightly, but there was an undertone of seriousness in her voice.

“Of course you are!” Allie hurriedly assured her, putting her hands up in surrender with an apologetic smile. “I didn’t mean that. You know I love you Liz…as a friend though.” And it was true. Liz had always been there, to offer support or make sarcastic comments wherever it was necessary. And so, she leaned over and hugged the smaller girl, in some effort to show her just how much she meant to her.

“Right back at you,” the brunette laughed lightly, quickly pulling away with a small grin. “So, you want to go window-shopping in town after school today?”

Allie smiled. “That sounds amazing.”

By the time she finally got back home however from this shopping trip, the good mood she had been in while with Liz had quickly dissipated into a sourness and bitterness that rivalled the old lemons her mother had collected in an attempt to make her infamous lemon tart. As soon as she got in the door, she could already smell the tell-tale signs of disaster coming from the kitchen.  It only proved to worsen her mood. The shopping trip had been going fine, really, until she had stupidly decided to buy ice cream. While she was eating it alone at the bus stop, two boys with grey sweaters and sports caps had walked past casually commenting “that nice?” in a way that clearly insinuated that they thought her a pig. It had been humiliating.

After a little while more of thought, she dumped her bag on the floor and hurried up the stairs to her room, before her mother could talk her into being a taster for yet another failed attempt at baking. When she finally made it, she locked the door behind her and threw herself onto her bed with a heavy sigh. Maybe she really should try this dieting thing. She turned onto her side and gazed at the photo on her bedside table. It was one of her and Sean, laughing and smiling at the camera. Maybe, if she lost some weight, he might finally notice her as more than a friend.

She forced herself up, dragging herself over to the large, full length mirror on the wall. She’d never really noticed it that much before. But it was a pretty mirror. It’s immaculate, glassy surface stared back at her in agreement. It was pristine; flawless almost. No dust or dirt or cracks, nothing marring its shiny surface except for her reflection. She frowned at that. She wished with all her heart that the girl she saw in the mirror was not her, that it was someone else. She wished that the dull hair that coiled around itself into little sausages was not her hair, that those bland eyes belonged to someone else, that the freckles tattooed onto her skin was just an illusion. And it only got worse below the shoulders. She looked every bit the 142 pounds that she was. No wonder Sean always seemed so bored whenever she talked to him – he was probably tired of sticking around with the school nerd. He probably wanted someone pretty, like the popular girls with their revealing versions of the school uniforms and their silky hair and perfect figures.

In that moment, Allie White made a decision. One that would eventually be her downfall, but at the time it started out as promise. ‘No more chocolate’ she said, ‘no more ice cream and cake and pie. From now on, I’ll eat healthily and exercise.’

But unbeknownst to her, a figure watched silently from the window with sad, burgundy eyes. Because he knew all too well that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A/N: Well, what do I have to say? I did mention that the angst would be coming in soon. Sorry. I just really can't write anything that's completely cheerful or peppy. I don't do peppy. No, I don't hate all people and I'm not anorexic myself (despite a few self-image problems maybe). To be honest, I just really love bleak humour :) 

Anyway, I'll stop rambling now. Comment, please? Even if it is just to tell me how annoying Allie is ^_^ Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

Currently listening to: Miss invisible by Taylor Swift (so sad but sweet)

 

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