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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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Write139 said...
Jul. 21, 2011 at 8:01 pm

That was really good! I like your writing style and how you developed the main character. 

If you have a chance, could you read my story, "The Dance"?

teeninkwriter said...
Jul. 21, 2011 at 4:45 pm
This was excellent. You made the character so believable. I should know, my mother died of cancer. Im okay now but the way you made the character sound brought tears to my eyes. perfectly portrayed but I love it
KatrinaCampbell said...
Jul. 21, 2011 at 4:26 pm
This was so moving :) I really did fall in love with this character you created, great job :')
paperandpen said...
Jul. 21, 2011 at 3:54 pm
that was so good! you have such a unique style! my mom had cancer but is okay now..but i'm always scared i might get it later..:p it was a 'perfect' story:)
eMiLyP said...
Jul. 21, 2011 at 11:19 am
That was amazing! You have talent! Keep writing. I would be interested in reading more. : )
RosieB. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 21, 2011 at 1:50 am
This is a really great story. The plot itself is unique, and the way you deliver is beautiful. You could really write a book with your writing and original plot. You have talent, keep writing (:
writerfreak21231 said...
Jul. 17, 2011 at 11:32 am
I loved the story! and was impressed! Great job! (Sorry for the advertizing!) If any of u coulld read my two stories called the beast and nightstalker, that would be great! Also please post comments saying if u liked it or not. Thanks! And keep writing! :D
Uttara said...
Jul. 12, 2011 at 1:15 pm
i loved the way u wrote this, its awsum, very few can bring real meaning in such short phrases, well done
Ally_H. said...
Jul. 11, 2011 at 11:41 pm
I absolutely love this. The exchange at the end with the "I love you" and the realization of how important it really is literally brought tears to me eyes. Fantastic.
CarpeDiem96 said...
Jul. 8, 2011 at 1:44 pm
The story is beautiful. I'm writing a novel about a girl who has a cancer right now, so this is especially interesting. The dialog was a bit forced, but I understand you wanted to get the story across in a short piece. Great job! I hope to read more of your stuff :)
Wolverine said...
Jul. 7, 2011 at 1:33 pm
Wow... Beautifully written...
booklover04 said...
Jul. 6, 2011 at 11:16 am
This story touches me because I had a close friend who went through the same exact thing. I know how it feels like to be around someone who has cancer and you captured those exact emotions and mannerisms in words. That's a really powerful thing to have! Great job :)
Ellimee Pawn said...
Jul. 1, 2011 at 1:06 pm
I'm stunned by how well you bring out the reality of people with cancer. Man, you're a great emotion writer. You're rare, you know!
Pooja11 said...
Jun. 29, 2011 at 10:07 pm
I don't know how you do it..
U have the knack to paste your thoughts in such a way that it sounds "Perfect".
Hats off* Couldn't keep my eyes off till the last word.
Pooja11 replied...
Jun. 29, 2011 at 10:09 pm
Do check my pieces :)
annh said...
Jun. 29, 2011 at 9:27 pm
This is really good, very deep and emotional. You have great skills:)
cheetoz45680 said...
Jun. 29, 2011 at 8:25 pm
really deep. i loved it. a lil sad. but awesome :)
zero1 said...
Jun. 29, 2011 at 3:29 pm
i really liked it, it was very touching keep up the good work
ohcaptainmycaptain said...
Jun. 29, 2011 at 3:07 pm
Congratulations! You wrote a wonderful and really powerful story. It weird how we all strive to be perfect yet in the end even those we strive to mimic are not actually perfect. It makes you wonder if perfection can be achieved in this world.
TaylorJade said...
Jun. 29, 2011 at 11:46 am
Omg. This was amazing. Like really... it's definitely one of the best stories I have ever read on here. (: so.... yeah... awesome job!!!!
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