Perfect This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

February 10, 2009
More by this author
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.

Join the Discussion

This article has 823 comments. Post your own now!

OrangeTurkey said...
Mar. 16, 2010 at 10:15 pm
This story, Perfect by Kelsey H. is completely Amazing! I love it because you had your character very well planned out! A way you developed it was by the having the Dialogue, thoughts, and physical appearance. Your dialogue was strong and really showed how your character was very concerned about her rep. n ect. She had a very strong personality. The way you wrote the Physical appearance was very interesting because it showed how she was changing and Character change is IMPORTANT. A piece of... (more »)
writergirl13 said...
Mar. 12, 2010 at 8:35 pm
Amazing!! You write well!
If you want to, please take a look at my piece, it would mean a lot to me. :)
supsup said...
Mar. 12, 2010 at 10:48 am
This short story was very well written. i like the way you ended the story. it kind of ended the way it started. keep writing im hoping to see more!
Rose19 said...
Mar. 7, 2010 at 8:21 am
I don't agree with the ppl below who say this can be dealt with better.. Beautifully and realistically written.
Except for the part about blatantly stating "I have cancer".. everything is 'perfect'.. you could have been lil more subtle there.
Good job !
kgallagher said...
Mar. 2, 2010 at 10:35 pm
It is a good plot and a touching story, but the way you mention the character's insubstantial choice of clothing brands makes her seem shallow and pretentious. Very well written, though.
katty replied...
Mar. 24, 2010 at 4:01 pm
I agree, it did seem make her seem shallow... But the story was very nicely written... I wonder if it's a true story?
hrsegrl said...
Mar. 2, 2010 at 9:04 pm
Awesome job! It's so touching, and it brings out a lot of emotion. I can almost feel myself being in her shoes.
potentialgurl said...
Mar. 2, 2010 at 7:33 pm
Good stuff! I loved it all! Made me a little sad but i still loved it. Keep writing!
rainlover1994 said...
Mar. 2, 2010 at 5:31 pm
It was well written, wonderful hook. However, I had some jssues with the character. Yes, she has cancer. But the whole time you are describing her inner thoughts, she just sounds whiney. Sure she has issues and good for her for still showing up. Sure it is hard to keep a positive attitude during hardship, but I believe that it could have been dealt with better.
Hollywog. said...
Mar. 2, 2010 at 4:29 pm
This piece of writng is amazing!!
It really moved me and I think you have incredible talent.
Keep writing!
Love and Sunshine,
AuhmazinAllie said...
Mar. 2, 2010 at 3:31 pm
I love reading stuff like made me kinda sad tho..keep on writin:)
cupcakesNbrownies97 replied...
May 7, 2010 at 5:10 pm
You're really good at writting. First I thought she was abused. But then, about not pulling the sleves up fartther... is she a 'cutter'? Just A thought. And then I though cancer after the throwing-up thing. I know this girl who's in 5th grade and went through it. She was really sick but then she came to run the mile anyway, and then she threw up alot after that. I felt bad for her.... but, you know, if she isn't aking for pitty, don't give it to her! She's one of my closest friends now. =3
LoveOfWords said...
Mar. 2, 2010 at 1:47 pm
This is a really good piece of work! The conversation is really realistic.
At first I thought she had anorexia or bulimia, not cancer. But it's a really good piece. Well done!
RachelFord2068 said...
Mar. 2, 2010 at 10:47 am
This is Amazing! Great job!
star_struck_93 said...
Mar. 2, 2010 at 10:01 am
This is really really good! It is really sad! Keep writting!
ScarletThread said...
Mar. 2, 2010 at 7:32 am
really sad and really beautiful.
keep up the good work!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
juicyfan6 said...
Feb. 18, 2010 at 6:35 pm
Sad. But still, it's a good story.
Silverae said...
Feb. 9, 2010 at 6:49 pm
it's so sad : ( i feel so bad for her! btw, can u check out my story? I rlly need some feedback!! http ://www.teenink .com /fiction/romance/article/173895/Hollywooder-Part-One/
Audrea15 said...
Feb. 8, 2010 at 8:28 pm
this is sad but great please please check out my new stuff and the effect of kissing:)
Silverae replied...
Feb. 9, 2010 at 6:50 pm
I'll check out your stuff, but can u check out my stuff too? please!
Site Feedback