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!

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

That what she is. She is the girl that the guys fall too hard for and end up getting hurt because she cannot return those feelings. She is one of those cursed girls, you know, the one many adore and few hate. With eye... (more »)

PerfectImperfection replied...
Mar. 29, 2010 at 8:40 pm
I've also already commented on this, I loved it. SO sad, and it really makes you think. I've never taken life for granted, and this just makes you stop and say "wow." hehe double comment (: I really loved it. Keep writing, please.
justbe-3 said...
Mar. 29, 2010 at 5:10 pm
i love how she tries to hide it from everyone else but inside she knows she dying. such a great story. great opening paragraph.
MCRlover2011 said...
Mar. 27, 2010 at 12:50 pm
It's sooo good, i loved the wiritng!!
PrincessPineapple said...
Mar. 27, 2010 at 6:23 am
Awwww! this is such a sad story! but the writing is really good.
erkamarie93 said...
Mar. 24, 2010 at 11:39 pm
much better than your article about edward...haha
hate_love_theory said...
Mar. 24, 2010 at 10:16 pm
this is a beautiful story..almost made mw cry!
amethyst990 said...
Mar. 24, 2010 at 8:26 pm
that story makes me want to always have a positive outlook, even in really bad situations! The girl is so strong, and she faces death with a smile on her face.
riley1516 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 24, 2010 at 7:54 pm
Kind of reminds me of my life, i have a terminal lung disease but no one at school knows.. i wake up everyday and attempt to put my best smile on
Striker said...
Mar. 24, 2010 at 7:50 pm
This story is inspiring. You are an amazing writer. Keep it up.
Sarbear This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 24, 2010 at 5:31 pm
you're very talented, i love how you kept the cancer surprise a secret and kept us guessing til the end. well done and keep writing! check out my stories too:-)
Chingu said...
Mar. 24, 2010 at 5:10 pm
that was... perfect :)
Allessandrea-Rukia said...
Mar. 24, 2010 at 4:20 pm
this is brilliant :)
starlight26:) said...
Mar. 24, 2010 at 3:43 pm
Heart-Breakingly BEAUTIFUL. LOL I LOVED IT. . U COULD HAVE A CAREER IN WRITING. keep doing what u love!! :)
sunnyhunny This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 24, 2010 at 10:20 am
I really love this! I seriously meant to give you five stars but it clicked wrong, so i apologize
fun size said...
Mar. 24, 2010 at 9:26 am
Thats sad! =[ but its still good! so you should keep writing! it was fantastic! But yet still sad!
soccer4 said...
Mar. 24, 2010 at 9:25 am
i think i would love to buy this. Just dont let people stop you what your best at!!!!!! :)
emwillis said...
Mar. 24, 2010 at 9:23 am
that is sad.
Nala96 said...
Mar. 23, 2010 at 9:30 pm
I think you should some more!
Nala96 said...
Mar. 23, 2010 at 8:28 pm
WOW! that was sicerely awesome! u havea way with words! I give you 5 stars!!!
nutmeg212 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 19, 2010 at 5:41 pm
that was so good. not like all the other "girl has cancer" stories. it has depth, meaning and made me FEEL something. keep on writing!
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