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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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prettylittlewriter said...
Dec. 8, 2011 at 4:27 pm
Oh my gosh, I literally just cried. At first I thought she was a materialistic bullimic or something, but when I found out she had cancer it completely changed my perpective. I love this story so much and I'm so glad I had time to read it. You're really talented you should audition for OCHSA!!!!
SammiSquirrel said...
Nov. 30, 2011 at 8:16 pm
Beautiful story!
Jellybeann said...
Nov. 30, 2011 at 7:04 pm
This is an amazing story. Inspires me, thankyou for writing this, you are encouraging others. You are amazing, and keep the good work up :)
belieber said...
Nov. 30, 2011 at 4:56 pm

i loved this story! heartwarming!


Zoestia said...
Nov. 30, 2011 at 4:22 pm
browneyedcat said...
Nov. 30, 2011 at 4:11 pm

I thought it was bulimia at first, had no idea it was cancer! Very sweet, loved it! :)


ThePeaceDaisy replied...
Nov. 30, 2011 at 7:47 pm
That's what I was thinking!
Art_Trash replied...
Dec. 17, 2011 at 8:22 pm
Completly agree!
Mirisa said...
Nov. 30, 2011 at 3:06 pm
I thought it was amazing!!! Keep up the good work!!!!!!!
kairi.kaylyn said...
Nov. 30, 2011 at 12:01 pm
I loved this article, it was great! I hope you write more.
DreamAchiever said...
Nov. 30, 2011 at 11:05 am
This story is WONDERFUL!! Its left me wondering what she had throughout the entire story and not once did I guess cancer. Its a somber story but it had a sweet ending.
amberrrr said...
Nov. 30, 2011 at 8:48 am
this is the sweetest story ever! it just surprised me when it said she had cancer... that was the only thing i didnt think she would have.
Twinkilicious said...
Nov. 30, 2011 at 8:46 am
This story is so sad! But it's REALLY good (:
Meredith15 said...
Nov. 26, 2011 at 8:55 pm
very creative and inspirational
ambeerrr replied...
Nov. 30, 2011 at 8:45 am
ikr ! i wanna cry every time i read it !
Jappyalldayeveryday said...
Nov. 22, 2011 at 4:38 pm
This was really good. Lots of people write about cancer, but you have lots of talent so were able to do it well. 
Victoria.S said...
Nov. 8, 2011 at 6:10 pm
You should keep writing this! It is so amazing and sad. I love the specific details that you gave, and how you ended it with a similar beggining. Keep it up!
KingMiddie replied...
Nov. 9, 2011 at 11:45 am
so much better if you spark some mids
classof20142121 said...
Nov. 8, 2011 at 4:01 pm
This  is a  amazeing  story and  i think  you should  keep  writeing  it 
Fia-fia said...
Nov. 8, 2011 at 10:00 am

This is really good. It shows the part of a girl that always wants to be perfect, but also a new side, about a girl who only has a year left, and how she wants to live that last year. thank you


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