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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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HereSheIsThis 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...
today at 10:07 am
Your first paragraph is super well written and full of clues that reveal the perfect amount
Halox123 said...
Sept. 15, 2016 at 6:47 pm
Would love if this was the start of a teenage book i would read it!
olivia428 said...
Jun. 30, 2016 at 10:51 pm
Really great job with this! It reads well and the writing is beautiful.
JustAnIdea said...
Jun. 30, 2016 at 2:16 pm
This is so good and so sad at the same time :(
J Morris said...
Jun. 20, 2016 at 9:37 pm
I loved it. I think it was a bit rushed. But, very good with as far as description.
interestingchoiceofwords said...
Jun. 9, 2016 at 1:07 pm
I thought the opening paragraphs were fantastic, but I lost the feeling a little when it got to the dialogue, it didn't seem as natural as it could have. Despite that, it was really great! Keep writing, for sure
FallenAngel11283 said...
May 30, 2016 at 10:53 am
Kelsey while I was reading this piece I had so many emotions. It's beautiful but sad all at the same time. I have to be honest I cried a little after reading this sad tears but also tears of joy in a way. PLease keep writing you have talent. You can do and be anything you want to be
sabbylynn said...
May 23, 2016 at 3:38 pm
this is amazing i love this story so much
Hither2 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 10, 2016 at 10:17 am
I love the way the dry syntax and minimalistic diction reflects the weariness of the character. Fantastic work!
E.Inis said...
May 7, 2016 at 3:53 pm
What a powerful, sad, yet beautiful story. Extraordinary piece about the struggle to be perfect, and the way that having such expectations can destroy you. Very, very well done.
Emily_3645 said...
Apr. 27, 2016 at 7:56 am
Great job! You are an extraordinary writer and had me interested at the first sentence.
ysanjana757 said...
Apr. 27, 2016 at 7:44 am
Great job writing this story! You have a lot of talent as a writer! It was very emotional and touching.
LiveLaughSmile said...
Apr. 26, 2016 at 8:00 am
Great Job! The story is written professionally and sparked a feeling of sorrow, in my heart, for the poor girl that is dying.
Luckystar78This 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. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 13, 2016 at 9:54 pm
This is harrowing, sad, and gorgeously detailed. The style is emotive without being mawkish, gifting it with sensitive realism. You have real talent as a writer!
lizzyyyyyyyy said...
Apr. 7, 2016 at 7:09 pm
I love this story and I can tell you are a good writer. There is a lot of good description and I like how you can touch the reader.
Writergirl009 said...
Apr. 2, 2016 at 3:51 pm
This is so amazing. Very thought provoking. Keep on writing, obviously you are very good at it.
EmmyZ said...
Mar. 30, 2016 at 9:48 am
I really liked your descriptions and the emotion in this piece
KaitlinRoze said...
Mar. 30, 2016 at 8:46 am
Love this story very good description
dpurdy said...
Mar. 23, 2016 at 12:59 pm
i love this story
what.if said...
Mar. 2, 2016 at 6:17 pm
Absolutely phenomenal. Keep it up!
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