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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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This article has 750 comments. Post your own!

--sarah said...
Jan. 26, 2011 at 5:22 pm:

Loved the writing! The opening was really fabulous :)

As it continued, though, the style changed, and it seemed a little forced. Like when you said "I have cancer. I have maybe a year left", it felt like you were listing details that could have been inferred. 

I hope you keep writing-- you have a real talent :)

 
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ha52214 said...
Jan. 26, 2011 at 3:51 pm:
at first i thought the girl was abused by like a boyfriend or something...then i thought it was an eating disorder...it keeps you wanting to find out more....absolutely fantastic!!!!
 
jenniraffe replied...
Jan. 26, 2011 at 4:00 pm :

i thought so too!!!

this story was absolutely fantastic!

read mine? (its called my favorite picture)

 
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JelloAngel92 said...
Jan. 26, 2011 at 3:16 pm:
Oh my gosh! Heartbreaking!
 
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Dyl2011 said...
Jan. 26, 2011 at 8:42 am:
One word sums up this whole story "Perfect!"
 
NeVassa replied...
Jan. 26, 2011 at 12:52 pm :
TOO TRUE! :)
 
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Jenns_Ink said...
Jan. 26, 2011 at 1:16 am:
One word "Wonderful!"
 
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Adrenalinejunkie52 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 22, 2011 at 7:48 pm:
That was really good. At first I thought it was a girl with an eating disorder, but I figured it out as I kept reading. You have a gift- keep up the good work!
 
ha52214 replied...
Jan. 26, 2011 at 3:47 pm :
I thought so too!
 
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cheer1018 said...
Jan. 6, 2011 at 12:43 pm:
Wow, this was really good.  Very powerful!  As did many others i just assumed it was about an eating disorder.  I'm sure a lot of people are thanking you for posting this because it was amazing!
 
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Sayruh This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 4, 2011 at 11:27 pm:
this was so good, heart-rending and powerful. 
 
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Duckie430This 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. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 4, 2011 at 6:57 pm:
at first i thought this was about an eating disorder too...when you revealed at the end that it was cancer, it absolutely blew me away. this is so wonderfully written & emotional.
 
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Starrah101 said...
Jan. 4, 2011 at 5:50 pm:
I loved this it felt very real. The beginning made me assume she was bulimic
 
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Wackykoala19 said...
Jan. 4, 2011 at 3:48 pm:
Wow! That was soo good, it almost made me cry!
 
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Hollypaw18 said...
Jan. 4, 2011 at 11:08 am:

Wow... this seriously almost made me cry. Great writing and it really makes you curious at the beginning... like what's going on?

LOVE IT :D

 
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Vanendra said...
Jan. 4, 2011 at 9:16 am:
i cried when I read this, the way the words were put together made me feel the emotion in the coversation and in the family. You're an excellent writer
 
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Supergirl101 said...
Jan. 4, 2011 at 6:32 am:
Aww amazing can't even describe this. It was so powerful and true. You're such a strong young woman.
 
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ErisRose said...
Dec. 13, 2010 at 5:17 pm:
I was crying when i finished reading this... It was so amazing!!! Keep writing:)
 
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song-writer26This 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...
Dec. 13, 2010 at 4:51 pm:
This is beyond AMAZING
 
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maki:p said...
Dec. 13, 2010 at 4:51 pm:
I really liked the last part about "I love you," being an essential part of conversation.
 
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