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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 815 comments. Post your own now!

4qui133 said...
Jan. 17, 2012 at 6:49 pm
if that's the best thing you can think of to do with your time, read the story above again, and I'll interpret it for you: not all of us have time left. stop wasting yours on wiping excretion off your extremities.
Fakesmile replied...
Jan. 19, 2012 at 7:44 pm
There's been more then one person being mean, so it wasn't only him. Don't feel too sorry, i mean, he did have help.
RosyPosie96 replied...
Feb. 18, 2012 at 11:15 pm
Oops. Sorry I called him indecent. You're clearly a good person trying to patch things up.
Claire_baller replied...
Apr. 25, 2012 at 3:00 pm
True that!
TheBeatlesareBritish said...
Jan. 17, 2012 at 6:30 pm
Awesome paper!
4qui133 said...
Jan. 17, 2012 at 6:49 pm
if that's the best thing you can think of to do with your time, read the story above again, and I'll interpret it for you: not all of us have time left. stop wasting yours on wiping excretion off your extremities.
Fakesmile said...
Jan. 15, 2012 at 7:20 pm
For everybody who doesn't like this piece, ok yo don't have to. But i do, so don't be rude and hurtful.
Rice1017 replied...
Jan. 16, 2012 at 1:52 pm
These people are being stupid, and if someone said something i wrote was bum-wiping quality, I'd cry... What if the person who wrote this actually has cancer? You guys should feel horrible for this
Rice1017 replied...
Jan. 17, 2012 at 6:41 pm
Ok I don't know what is wrong with you... But if you have nothing better to do than go on a website for aspiring young authors and criticize their work, you are just creepy trolls. DId you know that people have ben known to kill themselves over these kinds or things, that people have said over the internet? One of my friends tried committing suicide. Do you know what that feels like? And don't comment that the girl deserves to die. If you want to be responsible for a death, be my guest. Just kno... (more »)
the sad trurth said...
Jan. 14, 2012 at 5:04 pm
I can sum up this story in two words: Trash and Garbage? ANy more?
oh yeah replied...
Jan. 14, 2012 at 5:06 pm
thats rite, i forgot 3 more words: junk waste-of-humanities-time plain-waste-of-paper. btw, i printed this out to wipe my bum!
Fakesmile replied...
Jan. 15, 2012 at 7:14 pm
You people are rude. It's one thing to not like it, it's another to be mean and hurtful.
Fakesmile replied...
Jan. 15, 2012 at 7:15 pm
And that isn't what Teen ink is for anyway...
MarieAntoinette2012 replied...
Sept. 1, 2012 at 10:33 pm
Excuse You!!!! How dare you sit there and insult people who come to this website to express themselves! If we were face to face, you'd be in trouble.
Fakesmile replied...
Sept. 3, 2012 at 8:32 pm
Was that supposed to be aimed towards me? If so, why? I'm just asking for people to be more constructive in their comments and tell the author what she did wrong instead of just being rude.
luv2run2299This 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...
Jan. 14, 2012 at 8:27 am
I love this piece! So good!
pahpah replied...
Jan. 14, 2012 at 4:10 pm
ur just weird... its rubbish
Fakesmile replied...
Jan. 15, 2012 at 7:06 pm
How? This is one of the greatest pieces i've read on this website! Stop being so rude! It's fantastic and even if YOU don't like it, that doesn't mean you have to be rude about it.
maizyiscrazy replied...
Apr. 10, 2012 at 5:14 pm

What makes you say that?


C.Brooke said...
Jan. 14, 2012 at 12:00 am
This is amazing. I seriously almost cried.
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