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Perfect This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


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The eyeliner makes the dark circles less pronounced. The lip gloss hides the trembling. The ponytail conceals missing patches of hair. The Abercrombie sweater covers bruises. I might look at bit thinner, but everyone will ask about my new diet. My hair might not shine the way it used to, but the pink ribbon will distract curious eyes. One hour of preparation and I look like myself. One hour of preparation and no one will know. One hour out of 24. Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it – wasting a twenty-fourth of my day on a lie. But then I see my wispy hair and baggy eyes, and I have to do it.

Checking my makeup one last time, I push my sleeves up, though not past my elbows. I slip on a cute pair of flats – heels are too dangerous with shaky legs – and grab my Hollister bag. Padding downstairs, I inhale the scent of waffles and syrup.

“Morning, Mom,” I call.

“Morning, baby,” she chirps. “Did you sleep well?”

“Better than I have been.”

She sighs, and her eyes look a hundred years old for a minute. “Any improvement is good,” she says half-heartedly.

“Of course.”

“I made waffles.” Her offering.

“Thanks, Mom. Smells delicious.” My offering.

I sit at the table and she hands me a plate. The thought of all that food turns my stomach, but I force a smile and thank my mother again. She busies herself at the sink and fills the silence with chatter. When she turns around, she takes in the waffles still on my plate, only missing a few bites. I smile apologetically.

“I’m not very hungry this morning.”

“You’ll need your strength for this afternoon.” She bites her lip. She doesn’t like to bring it up over breakfast. I eat another bite.

“I packed your lunch.”

“I’m 18, Mom. I can pack my own lunch. You have more important things to do.”

She reaches for the paper sack. “But now I know you’ll have something to eat. And you need to eat, okay? You have to keep your strength up.”

Sighing, I take the bag. I know this peanut butter and jelly sandwich won’t be eaten, not any more than the one yesterday or the day before. And even if I do eat it, I’ll just throw it up later. Anything consumed after 11 ends up in a plastic basin at 4:07. It’s just the way it works.

“Hon, have you thought about what I said the other day?” she asks.

I shrug noncommittally.

“Sweetheart, you can’t hide this forever. Eventually you’re going to miss school and people will start asking questions.”

“Mom, I have two months left of high school. I can make it ’til then. I’m class president and probably valedictorian. I was voted ‘Most popular,’ ‘Most fun to be around,’ ‘Best smile,’ and ‘Most likely to succeed.’ I’m the girl who’s got it all together. People don’t want to know that the girl who’s got it all together, doesn’t have it all together. People don’t want to know that girl is dying!”

“Honey, don’t say that. You’re not dying.”

“Yes, I am. I have cancer. You heard Dr. Morrison. I have maybe a year left. But that means I can graduate and then never see those people again. I’ll die and they’ll feel sorry for me, but at least I won’t have to endure their pity.”

“But …,” she tries to interrupt.

“Mom, listen to me. I don’t want to be the girl everyone looks at and whispers, ‘Look at her. Poor thing, she has cancer.’ I can’t handle that. I want to be normal. Just for these last two months.”

“Okay,” she whispers. “Okay. Just remember, it’s okay if you don’t have it all together. Sometimes things just fall apart and there’s nothing we can do.”

“Thanks, Mom.” I grab my bag and lunch and kiss her on the cheek. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” my mom replies. This exchange, once taken for granted, is now a vital part of every morning, every afternoon, every night. Three little words, followed by four more, have come to mean more than an entire conversation. They bridge all gaps and disagreements, because we both know there is now a finite number left.

Keys in hand, I open the door and blink in the early morning sun. My silver car waits in the driveway and as I walk toward it, I check my reflection in the tinted window. Perfect.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 764 comments. Post your own!

WritersBlock123 said...
today at 6:20 pm:
This was such a captivating and intriguing piece! Great job. I really liked how you made the fact that the narrator had cancer rather subtly so it wasn't so predictable. I found it pretty emotional
 
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Damariono said...
Oct. 28 at 8:39 am:
Wow she uses stuff to cover up her cancer and she has everything going good for her
 
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Izzy C. said...
Oct. 12 at 3:31 pm:
Great story! I loved how you created a charecter that I cared so much for in so few words. Your writing reminded me of A.S. King's (one of my favorite YA authors).
 
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the secrets of life said...
Oct. 7 at 5:39 pm:
im sad that i want to read more. (< dont make any sense but still :) ).
 
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itserraticThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Sep. 26 at 10:12 pm:
You are an amazing writer! You know how to capture the readers attention and make the reader want to keep reading. At the end I was sad because it ended and I wanted to read more. 
 
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carissathestorytellerThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Sep. 18 at 10:18 am:
This is gorgeous. I'm floored by your understanding of why and how people hide things. Great story.
 
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lauraxinThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Sep. 10 at 10:48 pm:
Absolutely beautiful. I'm in awe.
 
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taylor.brandond said...
Sep. 2 at 12:34 pm:
hay seth  
 
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AutumnMoonThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Aug. 22 at 6:58 pm:
This was truly beautiful.
 
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Pamezquita1233This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Aug. 16 at 4:37 pm:
really amazing :)
 
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DaydreamingAgain said...
Jun. 25 at 7:58 pm:
This is fantastic! I loved the way you slowly made the audience realize that the speaker had cancer, and the little details that develop the characters.
 
super fun time replied...
Sep. 2 at 12:36 pm :
it was ok  
 
super fun time replied...
Sep. 2 at 12:36 pm :
it was ok,it could be better  
 
super fun time replied...
Sep. 2 at 12:37 pm :
amazing  
 
super fun time replied...
Sep. 2 at 12:38 pm :
amazing/ it was awsome  
 
super fun time replied...
Sep. 2 at 12:40 pm :
amazing/ it was awsome and super fun time says awsome and best storie ever    
 
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wallflower14love said...
Jun. 19 at 10:09 pm:
This is really good and touching!
 
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SabrinaFaireThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jun. 5 at 12:18 am:
You truly have a way with words! It makes you think of the fact that sometimes the person who looks like they have it all together, is also the person that truly has it all falling apart. I love the idea and the bounce of your words. It's AMAZING. 
 
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Eliza M. said...
Apr. 8 at 9:46 pm:
This is a very powerful and compelling story, I loved it!
 
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Starwberry_Rabbit said...
Apr. 5 at 12:57 pm:
This is a great story, but it's so sad. Is it based on a real person?
 
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