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!

charzard said...
May 4, 2010 at 8:04 am
really good. i don't think you should have said what her condition was because i started off thinking cancer, and then i thought eating disorder, but then it said cancer and... yeah. if ya hadn't included that, it would have been more mysterious. i still really enjoyed this one. 5 stars 'n faved! (:
DanceAway This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 30, 2010 at 6:06 pm
This was really good, but until they said cancer I thought it was about eating disorders, since it fit perfectly. But not giving it away right away might be a good thing. 
Aelita replied...
May 18, 2010 at 10:36 pm
Me too, I thought the story was about an anorexic for a while, there!
ellelavielovee said...
Apr. 27, 2010 at 6:08 pm
please keep writting this !!
notebookgirl said...
Apr. 25, 2010 at 2:37 pm
I read this like a month ago and it has stuck with me since then, I think back to it a lot. it was nice to read it again
Grrcya said...
Apr. 24, 2010 at 1:14 pm
This is beautiful. It's simple, but touching. I enjoyed it.
poisonivy said...
Apr. 15, 2010 at 11:58 pm
What an emotionally touching piece of literature! I loved it! Keep writing!
krazyk said...
Apr. 15, 2010 at 5:06 pm
This is amazing! It's very sad, but so beautiful. I love the way you told the story. I thought at first she had an eating disorder and got abused, but once I got to the point where she had cancer my heart dropped. So so sad. keep writing!
trestonsgirl replied...
Apr. 15, 2010 at 7:32 pm
wow its beautiful and i thought the same thing very very good!!!!!!!
xBaByGiRrL22x said...
Apr. 15, 2010 at 2:58 pm
wow. luvv this. so meaningful. amazing descriptionz. plz keep writing!! ;))
HeronHero said...
Apr. 15, 2010 at 2:23 pm
Excellent!I almost cried it was so emotional dispite how short it was. You are truelly an amazing writter keep up the good work.
lesliej94 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 15, 2010 at 1:32 pm
This piece is very sweet and beautiful:)
tyana.bug said...
Apr. 15, 2010 at 1:15 pm
This is very beautiful. Your an amazing writer. Keep it up.
Ally25 replied...
Apr. 15, 2010 at 3:39 pm

At first I thought she was bolemic. But it was kind of sad, It had amazing description. Good job


^unshed.tears said...
Apr. 15, 2010 at 11:50 am
this is really good!! keep writing, you have talent. =)
soccercrazy said...
Apr. 15, 2010 at 9:06 am
 loved it! your writing is awesome, unexpected, passionate and everything else wonderful! keep writing. =]
bigdreamer14 said...
Apr. 9, 2010 at 7:04 am
I have to agree with Wellington because I thought that she had an eatinf disorder as well, but this is a good read and ur descriptions are acceptable for this kind of writing. Good job. =)
Wellington This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 7, 2010 at 12:27 pm

very well written..

at first i thought it was an eating disorder. . but the cancer at the end was unexpected for me. good job!

rayj095 said...
Apr. 5, 2010 at 4:08 pm
Very good writing. Great job on keeping the cancer part unknown until the end. Keep writing :)
PerfectImperfection said...
Mar. 29, 2010 at 8:38 pm

Hi, I don't have access to a flashdrive or anything so I'm going to comment with something I've written already so I can resave it tomorrow. I apologize for this, but it's somewhere I'll know where it is.


Thank you!


Barley Lee-gal

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