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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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LiveInTheMoment said...
Mar. 14, 2011 at 6:25 pm
This was a well written piece, and it had so much emotion behind it. I can definitely relate to this. My mom has cancer, and I haven't told anyone I know yet. I don't want pity glances and sympathy hugs. I want people to like me because I'm me. I loved this piece. Please write more, I'd love to read more articles from you. This article was an eye opener and brought tears to my eyes. Beautiful8)
cascadeblanche said...
Mar. 11, 2011 at 8:13 pm
I can so relate to this. I have lupus, and I get the same treatment as cancer- chemotherapy. I know how it's like to try to hide what I have. This story is marvelous. :)
knowhowyoufeel replied...
Apr. 2, 2011 at 10:43 pm
I have lupus too. I finished my chemotherapy a year  ago. It's good to know I'm not the only one. Good luck with yours. :)
PJD17 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 11, 2011 at 3:48 pm
I thought that story was excellent. very well written
Hover This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 11, 2011 at 3:00 pm
I love this so much in a "I want to cry" sort of way. Great job! :')
Jayanna said...
Mar. 11, 2011 at 2:25 pm
wow. Great job:) I loved your introduction! You're gifted,  :)
Fran94 said...
Mar. 11, 2011 at 1:46 pm
Great story! I love the imagery in this story. The story is pretty dramatic and I also thought it was going to be about anorexia. I was wrong. Oh, well. Anyway, I loved the story! I bet you have a knack for writing great stories. Keep writing great stories like this one!
BeautifulSouls said...
Mar. 11, 2011 at 11:51 am
Wow! That was amazing! I think I'm going to cry . . .
Anthony 1414 said...
Mar. 11, 2011 at 11:09 am
It was really touching and i really liked it.
AlexisB This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 11, 2011 at 7:10 am
Absolutely touching!
Nerd34 said...
Mar. 11, 2011 at 7:10 am
This is really good. Loved it!!
DiscipleoftheBlueBox said...
Feb. 17, 2011 at 9:24 pm
This was really, really beautiful. I can't really add anything to the other comments -- it sounds like we all love you!
RainyWriter This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 17, 2011 at 8:08 pm
A little like PaRaNoRmAl627 said, I thought it was going to be about bulimia or anorexia. But thenas I scrolled down and kept reading, I realized it something the character couldn't control, that she couldn't save her own life. Short and sweet, but it's perfect. :)
AbigailElizabeth said...
Feb. 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm
Perfect. Perfect. Perfect. (:
PaRaNoRmAl627 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 17, 2011 at 4:14 pm
At first I thought this was going to be another cliche story about anorexia, so I almost didn't read it. I'm glad I did though, it was refeshing and very well-written. However, the part where you listed all of the superlatives that she won seemed a little forced. Awesome job overall though, I loved it :)
WelshSam said...
Feb. 17, 2011 at 4:02 pm
I'm sure you know how talented you are by all the previous comments...But well done, all the same.
GemValley250This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Feb. 17, 2011 at 3:36 pm
I loooove this! You're sooo talented!
AthenaBook said...
Feb. 17, 2011 at 3:06 pm
WOW! That was very nicely done- I loved how you began this piece- it was very pulling and well written. Towards the end of the story, I thought you could have made it a little more evasive. For example, you seem to be just listing facts when you say "I have cancer. I have a year left." I think that could have been done a litttle more carefully. Other then that, great job!
a.singlenote This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 10, 2011 at 6:31 pm

This is a great story, I really liked how it read! The part about how "I love you" became important was a great part, and her mother's offering and then her offering, that was very well done.


One thing had me going oh, yeah, fine, this became predictable. The paragraph of dialogue describing her popularity could either be more sparingly distributed, I think, because it kind of made the story more predictable.... In my opinion.

But it was very well done :)

Holliee said...
Feb. 9, 2011 at 8:05 am
wow. simply amazing. 
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