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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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!!!!
Kell_Bell13 said...
Jun. 29, 2011 at 9:18 am
I LOVE this! It really captivated me the way you lead me to believe it was an eating disorder, when all along it was cancer. Keep writing more!! I would LOVE to see this become a mini-series of stories!!
Eke0505 said...
Jun. 29, 2011 at 2:49 am
This is so good, it's crazy. Love it. I usually write some comment on where you could improve, but this is perfect. Keep writing! <3
toshilou said...
Jun. 29, 2011 at 1:10 am
Loved this! Keep on writing! Just rated your storybut of course my phone messed up and gave ypu the wrong rating. tomorrow i shall re-rate it!!!
Graysen said...
Jun. 25, 2011 at 8:29 pm
Great Job!!!
babygirl15 said...
Jun. 17, 2011 at 7:22 am
this is soo good , i love it .
Lauren said...
Jun. 15, 2011 at 12:37 pm
YOU ARE TOO GOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!      I dont need to say more! (:
ExpRESsY0uRselF said...
Jun. 10, 2011 at 10:11 am
Just you know anyone with cancer? Because this isn't that realistic. You can't exactly hide cancer. Judging from how she already has bald patches, it means she started chemotherapy. And after you start chemotherapy, you are most definitely in no condition to go to mom has cancer and after chemotherapy, she's too weak to even get
ExpRESsY0uRselF replied...
Jun. 10, 2011 at 10:12 am
But it was a nice piece anyways....please checkout my poem, The Girl Inside...and others...thanks!
luv2run2299 said...
Jun. 9, 2011 at 11:47 am
I LOVE this writing piece! You did an awesome job on it! Keep writing. It is amazing!
Annieboo said...
Jun. 7, 2011 at 11:28 pm
I liked how you really described everything that she was trying to hide and what she was hiding it with. Everything was well written and I felt the feeling in it. Good Job!
citylightsgirl93 said...
Jun. 7, 2011 at 8:21 pm
this was really good. don't let anyone tell you differently. great job.
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