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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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Airidella said...
Feb. 4, 2012 at 1:36 pm
This story is amazing and I love how you described the mother's sadness. I almost cried when she told her mother about everything she had won. And to all you haters out there- if you didn't like the story then you can just say so in a non-rude way. You don't have to put hateful comments because it really hurts when people put those type of comments. I'm not saying you have to like it but don't go around calling us nerds because we thought this story was heartbreakingly awesome.
Nothing_Is_Real said...
Feb. 4, 2012 at 12:38 pm
I cannot believe how many people are trashing this piece of beautiful writing. You jerks who are completely hating on this, well, then, please. Keep your opinions to yourself. Because I don't know of a single person who wants to hear a great big wad of jerkiness. I don't know anyone who wouldn't love this, either.
rexyness said...
Feb. 4, 2012 at 10:07 am
"no one has cancer these days". Really. Why don't you check out the oncology ward at your nearest hospital? I dare you to say that to a balding patient. I dare you to tell that to a family who cries at the bedside of an ailing relative. I dare you to say that to the doctors and nurses who dedicate themsleves to saving these poor people. "No one" has cancer these days? Wow. Dumb.
ElkieLion This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 4, 2012 at 9:55 am
I love it!
Hilidan said...
Feb. 4, 2012 at 3:36 am
Great.I give u 5/5. You described the mother's sadness very well.Keep writing.
FutureNovelist said...
Feb. 4, 2012 at 3:01 am
excellent, very sentimental. I love it. Keep writing.
Lillie M. said...
Feb. 3, 2012 at 11:20 am
I felt like crying towards the end. What a beautiful story.
ActressSingerAuthoress said...
Feb. 1, 2012 at 6:17 pm
I love this. Excellent attention to detail, very convincing voice (although sometimes the dialogue is a little unrealistic--just barely). It's an interesting idea, too: a girl hides her cancer diagnosis to avoid pity from her classmates. I was expecting her to have an eating disorder from the beginning, but I like that you surprised me. Keep writing.
Airidella replied...
Feb. 4, 2012 at 1:27 pm
Me too but I loved how she shifted it.
welcometoplanetearth said...
Feb. 1, 2012 at 5:06 pm
I can never get enough of this story. It's beautifully written and the details are amazing.
FluteWriter said...
Jan. 31, 2012 at 7:38 pm
i like the bit about wasting 1/24th of her day...but its kind of a cliche really, good writing, but you could probably find this in almost every YA book today...
dmpizzo24 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 30, 2012 at 12:43 pm
This is a really nice story. I like the beginning, where you mention that she doesn't want to waste 1/24th of her day, and later we figure out why. The one suggestion I might have is to be a bit more subtle. She doesn't need to explain everything to her mother in perfect detail, maybe show instead of tell in certain places so that the reader can infer.
rexyness said...
Feb. 4, 2012 at 9:51 am
What does? The fact that the main character has cancer? Yes, that does suck. But the story itself is beauiful. Sad, but beautiful.
lyddiebug said...
Jan. 26, 2012 at 12:56 pm
Wow...That's such a beautiful piece! I loved the ending, it was really powerful :)
Vithiya said...
Jan. 23, 2012 at 9:54 pm
I love it! Its touching , sweet and beautiful. I'm happy to be alive....
Anny_Grace This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 23, 2012 at 5:19 pm
Love the ending! Most powerful part of the story.
EPluribusUnum This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 21, 2012 at 8:25 am
Wow, that was beautiful!
Riley79 said...
Jan. 19, 2012 at 4:44 pm
That was great!
USERNAME1996 said...
Jan. 19, 2012 at 11:07 am
This is a really good piece of writing! Wanted to read on, write more ;;) :)
Apology said...
Jan. 18, 2012 at 2:12 am
Hello Teenink. First I would like to say that I am sorry for the silly messages my sons have been posting on this website. I have been notified he has been writing extremely obscene things, and I hope that none of you have paid attention to it. Once again, I have made sure he has been punished, and this will not happen again.
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