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!

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?
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.
luv2run2299 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.
pahweirfo replied...
Jan. 14, 2012 at 12:35 am
"almost cried" we dont care!!!! besides, only softies would cry wen reading this junk.
Fakesmile replied...
Jan. 15, 2012 at 7:11 pm
Well i guess that C. Brooke and i are total softies because i almost cried too. And even if you don't like it, you don't have to be rude to others who do.
@FakeSmile replied...
Jan. 15, 2012 at 7:54 pm
How can you fail this much? What do you possibly mean by "c"? Btw, im surprised a jerk like you has a friend. I feel sorry for brooke.
RosyPosie96 replied...
Feb. 18, 2012 at 11:08 pm
Oh. My. God. WILL YOU SHUT UP??? If you don't like it, stop commenting on it! At least some of us have decency in our bodies.
RosyPosie96 replied...
Feb. 18, 2012 at 11:10 pm
By the way, I thought this was a truly touching story. I had a close friend die of cancer, so this made me think of her a little. Keep writing!
4qui133 said...
Jan. 13, 2012 at 11:50 pm
says you, whose user name is what it is. if you had cancer, or if you knew what it was like to be the subject of looks and whispers, you'd watch your mouth.
@jerk above me replied...
Jan. 13, 2012 at 11:58 pm
really? would I? At least Im not a nerd. Besides, no one has cancer these days. -smirk-
Fakesmile replied...
Jan. 15, 2012 at 7:18 pm
Not only did i want to jump into the screen and slap you for saying that, but i want you to know that you're being incredibly rude. And if you're only on here to be hurtful then people will start to ignore you fast.So don't get used to all the hatelful attention. Once you write something and some one else judges it, try to not be so mean.
Fakesmile replied...
Jan. 15, 2012 at 8:26 pm
Y do u hav to b so hurtful an comment on everything I hav to say?!
Fakesmile replied...
Jan. 16, 2012 at 2:17 pm
cock said...
Jan. 13, 2012 at 11:21 pm
yea i agree with can you NERDS be reading this wen u can do other stuff. at least read better quality garbage then this!
bums said...
Jan. 13, 2012 at 11:16 pm
how can u fools read this garbage? Why not play games? This SUX! losers
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