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

February 10, 2009
More by this author
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.

Join the Discussion

This article has 823 comments. Post your own now!

Skylar T. said...
Oct. 3, 2011 at 8:46 am
I thought the first line was a really good hook that showed there was something she was trying to hide.
KendalAnnJ replied...
Dec. 22, 2011 at 11:58 am
I definately agree!
Ktaylorxo said...
Sept. 25, 2011 at 7:33 pm
This was really good. I thought it would be about a girl who was abused. That was quite the twist.
spiritiris said...
Sept. 25, 2011 at 6:22 pm
At first, I thought this article was about someone with anorexia. But now that you've revealed that it's about cancer, it kind of puts a whole new perspective on. It's very interesting to see the varied opinions that people give to this. 
Laura_Oliver said...
Sept. 25, 2011 at 3:17 pm

This is really powerful. And it's completely true--the worst things always happen to good people. I sorely hope this is not from experience (as in you or someone else) but if it is...well, then I don't know what to say. I can't even say much now...


Godschild said...
Sept. 25, 2011 at 2:27 pm
This story really speaks to me, since my dad has cancer, and you really captured the power of the "I love you." all I can say is wow. keep writing!
Pumpkinscout said...
Sept. 25, 2011 at 2:11 pm
Oh wow this is so emotional and touching...great work!
amchaucer said...
Sept. 15, 2011 at 10:16 am
This was a great story! A little more detail maybe, but all in all Fantastic!
SagaLiSela This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Sept. 25, 2011 at 10:01 am
Mmm... Your story is about a common topic, but this does not make it any less wonderful. This story hurts; it leaves a sinking feeling in the readers stomach. The dialogue between the mother and the girl pulled a lot of feeling out of me and Although I have never had a relatable expierience, I grew very empathetic. The lead character faces challenges so different than other graduating seniors. Well done.
star2brite This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 3, 2011 at 3:39 pm
I agree with iWOntRunThisTime--Enjoyable, but not very innovative. Decent story.
iW0ntRunThisTime said...
Sept. 3, 2011 at 2:18 pm
I enjoyed this article, but find it is a typical subject.
Emiri said...
Sept. 3, 2011 at 11:27 am
this thing slapped me in the face. i've got a finit number of days too. you're awesome, thanks for opening my eyes.
SoulSearch13 said...
Sept. 3, 2011 at 9:33 am
Wow! Wow, just wow! This was amazing!
dia.dreamer said...
Sept. 3, 2011 at 9:28 am

lovely story!!!! you're REALLY good at this. it sounds like you actually went through it and then wrote it!!

-5 stars-

keep writing. :)

under the apple tree said...
Sept. 2, 2011 at 8:16 am
This was fabulous! The stady rythym of the words and pictures in your work forced me to continue reading. I loved how short and yet sucsessful your work was.
Bookworm1998 said...
Aug. 26, 2011 at 7:58 pm
HollerGirl26 said...
Aug. 25, 2011 at 10:14 am
Very sad...but brilliant :)
KayGee said...
Aug. 15, 2011 at 10:44 am
This was so well written. Great job!
xxEbonyxx said...
Aug. 14, 2011 at 3:36 pm
Beautiful story. You put so much voice into it. I can't wait to read more.
OnTheLoose This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 12, 2011 at 11:37 pm

Awesome piece, it came across powerful. Just a small typo in the first paragraph, you say "look at bit thinner" instead of "look a bit thinner". 

Keep up the good writing! :)

Site Feedback