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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This article has 823 comments. Post your own now!

-DreamForever- said...
Jun. 7, 2011 at 7:20 pm
This is really good.  At first the reader thinks she has anerexia and trichotillomania, but then you say she has cancer. It's a well written story about a serious issue and the way this girl has chosen to deal with it. Well done.
Hermione700 said...
Jun. 7, 2011 at 4:34 pm
This is so so amazing!!! I love how you have done this. Its suspence to find out whats wrong with her makes people want to read this! Keep writing this stuff!
Express-- This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 7, 2011 at 3:08 pm
You should continure this story! Do a part two!
MansiManic said...
Jun. 7, 2011 at 8:35 am
My best friend died because of this. Why god has to do all this..........
thatclarinetgirl said...
Jun. 7, 2011 at 8:22 am
I love it!
Little2Feet said...
Jun. 6, 2011 at 3:50 pm
I absolutely love this! It's so sad, but so reassuring and just goes to show how much people thrive for normality!
JoPepper said...
May 26, 2011 at 5:15 pm

This is really good!!!!!! What type of cancer? And why does she have bruises? I really liked it1:()

P.s. Can you please read my story Death From Angels, and give me feed back on what you think?

1234 said...
May 20, 2011 at 3:02 pm
A little boy in my school got cancer. So devestating. Well written
Nerdygal19 said...
May 19, 2011 at 5:56 pm
This was a beautifully written piece! Bravo! I especially loved the little details you included that made your story all the more better! Amazing! Keep it up!
Staciemarielewis said...
May 16, 2011 at 10:20 pm
wow this is sad :( but it was good
Sky.. said...
May 16, 2011 at 9:51 pm
I cried when I read this! This is great! Very sad though..
LavellB said...
May 16, 2011 at 9:47 pm
I love it.... keep up the good work
twizzlerluva97 said...
May 16, 2011 at 3:42 pm
wow tht was beautiful i mean there arent even words to describe how perfect tht was im serious wow
cheerfreak25 said...
May 16, 2011 at 8:55 am
? how do your think shes abuised you read and find out shes missing hair and then shses has lack of sleep and eating thats critical in the world of cancer. 
Das454 said...
May 14, 2011 at 10:57 am
This was a great piece. Your storytelling is nicely done. I liked the 'perfect' character.
cheerfreak25 said...
May 12, 2011 at 8:35 am
i love this story keep writing more!
Xyummixgumi said...
May 8, 2011 at 8:02 pm
i really like this  as i was reading it was like i was feeling what you were going through  
lovestinks39 said...
May 7, 2011 at 1:07 pm
i loved this, at first you lead the reader to believe she has eating disorders but then she has cancer. i loved you writing style. Keep writing!!!!!!!!
navishjaved said...
Apr. 25, 2011 at 4:28 pm

OMG! I just love it! I love the writing style & how it captivates the reader. It was really sad, and it makes me feel sorry for the main character. She sounds like a very brave person. :)

You seem to blend in what you want to say really well. Keep writing!


twilightlover said...
Apr. 24, 2011 at 6:57 pm
wow that was great. at first like most people i thought she was being abused but to find out that she has cancer makes it sad. i can understand how she wants everything to look normal. i would have wanted that too. but thats really good. have you ever thought about continueing that little segment on?
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