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

February 10, 2009
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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 823 comments. Post your own now!

akstory said...
May 14, 2012 at 6:01 pm
This story is so great! So suspenseful and emotional.  And very relatable even if it is necessarily a very common situation.  Good job! :) 
SilverSun said...
May 11, 2012 at 7:35 pm
This was vbeautiful. I love your writing.
Hifriends said...
May 10, 2012 at 2:44 pm
This is my third time reading your story, so I don't think any additional compliment is necessary!
FreeToDream_FreeToSing_Born2BeFamous18 said...
May 8, 2012 at 5:38 pm
I really Like the way that you describe Your Character and how she is "perfect" but how it is really all a lie. it reminds me of how i used to be. Hiding what and who i really was with the make-up and clothes. Hoping that no one would know the change. You are amzing and i absolutly LOVE this piece. :)
Claire_baller said...
Apr. 25, 2012 at 3:01 pm
You probly hear this a lot, obviously becuase you have sooo many comments but that was truely beautiful and amazing!
TheMouseWins said...
Apr. 23, 2012 at 8:02 pm

This is a lovely story with a twist; I'm very sorry about the haters who read your story. They probably are flunking their english classes.

At this point, I would ask you to read my work. But that would be annoying. So I will selectively choose not to.

Piper S. said...
Apr. 19, 2012 at 1:35 pm
This story seemed like an exposition to me, not much of a plot. Nonetheless I liked how the story led me to believe she had an eating disorder and I was surprised when I found it was cancer. The description of her was really well written. I liked the touch of "perfect too". Good story
JMuglia said...
Apr. 17, 2012 at 5:34 pm
That story was extremely well written. I liked the description in the first paragraph. I also liked how you kept the part about her having cancer out until near the end. It kept me curious and wondering what was wrong.
Seshat said...
Apr. 15, 2012 at 8:37 pm
Very, very, very good!
vazenitran98 said...
Apr. 14, 2012 at 6:57 am
This was quite amazing,how the character can be so calm and wise at the situation before her. I'm not sure I even said it right,but anyway,still amazing!
xxiWritexx This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 10, 2012 at 7:08 pm
This is beautiful and chilling at the same time, and so true for lots of teenagers who fake it all the time.
AlliterationAce said...
Apr. 10, 2012 at 6:32 pm
It's very true... Cancer doesn't strike the weak ones it strikes the otherwise happy and cheerful indiviuals. People need to understand that they don't need sorrow, they need to be able to enjoy the time they have left. If I were to have cancer not even my best friend would know, she is an amazing friend but she'd take pity on me and if I only have a little to live, I'd want to be surronded by the happy people, not doctors and nurses just people who don't know...   You really made... (more »)
TTTeeSS said...
Apr. 10, 2012 at 7:41 am
This was really good. It brought tears to my eyes. I know the way it feels to have someone close to you be diagnosed with cancer, and told they have so long left. Then trying to walk around like nothing is wrong.
mollyb said...
Mar. 20, 2012 at 11:27 am
This was absolutely amazing! I loved it, I could read it all day and never get tired of it. Great job!
xfireflightx said...
Mar. 19, 2012 at 8:45 pm
The beggining is good. And your writing is equally interesting. It's just, it's hard to believe she has less than a year left. When cancer strikes, it's not pretty. Not bad, but.  .
Perfect_Darkness1398 said...
Mar. 19, 2012 at 7:54 pm
I Love it, its an amazing piece of writing. It's so sad that for some people this is a reality. 
writer3499 said...
Mar. 19, 2012 at 5:58 pm
WOW this was amazing! I love the part about "I love you" meaning more then the whole conversation. I wrote a poem about that. was brilliant!!!
Lily M. said...
Mar. 19, 2012 at 12:08 pm
that is brilliant!!
Animal-Lover said...
Mar. 19, 2012 at 8:38 am

To all people who hate this story;

There is something wrong with you.  This is a beautiful and touching piece of writing that relates to the harsh real world.  How can you hate what can really, maybe happen to someone close to you.  How would you feel then?  Oh, and a note to the author:  AMAZING job!  This brought tears to my eyes!! :')

ninachoco said...
Mar. 15, 2012 at 8:05 pm
This is amazing! iI love to write and I look to you as a mentor. PLEASE keep writing!
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