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.

Join the Discussion

This article has 823 comments. Post your own now!

Hulud said...
Dec. 17, 2009 at 9:52 pm
Good: Makes you wonder about the reality of those considered well-off.
Bad: Predictable. I could tell by the third line that she had cancer.
sillyaardvarkabc replied...
Dec. 18, 2009 at 3:28 pm
I didn't think it was predictable. I thought she had anorexia until her mother talked about how they could hide it, which wouldn't make sense.
LeslieAnn replied...
Dec. 26, 2009 at 11:24 am
I agree. I found it predictable. Maybe work on the suspence factor just a bit.
lifeneedskelsy replied...
Dec. 26, 2009 at 9:52 pm
I was going back and forth in whether or not the main character was suffering Anorexia nervosa or was going through chemotherapy. Either way, both of the characters were very easy to connect to in such a short essay. Very well written, though.
adalia&pandora replied...
Dec. 29, 2009 at 11:43 am
True, it was predictable, but not completely until her mother came into the sory i didn't know if she suffered from cancer, physical abuse, self abuse, an eating disease, or sexual abuse (possibly from the father or a boyfriend). The theme is one that makes a reader uncomfortable, there is no happy ending, i say when a piece of writing brings emotion out of the reader then you know its good writing.
Darkchloe14 said...
Dec. 17, 2009 at 4:55 pm
That was so good. I really liked it and it was very realistic, too
Prd101 replied...
Dec. 23, 2009 at 10:10 am
I agree... It was very good and realistic :)
DEMON said...
Dec. 15, 2009 at 7:46 pm
"RAZED EXPECTATIONS" It continues...
Her lovely green eyes shifted into hard emeralds.
“What do you know about me, Dare? And what’s so wrong with having dreams? And why are you talking to me like that? I was simply commenting on the sunset.” She tossed her red curls, clearly miffed.
I lifted my chin, and blew smoke in her face. It was easier on me when she was angry. I don’t know why she bothered with me. Why she was brave enough to confro... (more »)
sunsetfire94 said...
Dec. 6, 2009 at 5:55 pm
Oh my god! I love this writing so much! The story brought tears to my eyes; it was so sad! I love the title and the whole "perfect" theme in it. This was really well written and everything. Great job! Keep up the good work!
laneyb said...
Dec. 4, 2009 at 9:59 pm
I loved this, keep it up!
lilcrazyshygirl said...
Dec. 4, 2009 at 9:56 pm
i seriously cried love the feeling!
rmangagrl said...
Dec. 4, 2009 at 9:55 pm
omggg that's soo sad :( T___T
thesilverrose said...
Dec. 4, 2009 at 6:36 pm
IT WAS SO SAD!!! But I loved what you wrote. It was so well put together. Not wordy either. Very discriptive. Keep writing! This story makes me want to read a book with this as the beginning. Keep up the good work. =)
grasslova replied...
Dec. 4, 2009 at 7:06 pm
:) Perfect indeed. This was absolutely beautiful! You had me enchanted the entire story. Thank you for writing this, it gives me a whole new perspective. Food for thought.
JonasLover89 replied...
Dec. 4, 2009 at 10:26 pm
wordy? haha i've never heard that term before
thesilverrose replied...
Dec. 5, 2009 at 4:32 pm
I didn't either till my English teacher said it. It's supposed to be like when someone tries to explain things (example: features and details) and say too many words. Sometime like that. They feel like they can't get an image in the reader's mind... so they tend to overdue it. :D
JonasLover89 replied...
Dec. 5, 2009 at 9:20 pm
hahaha i hate that!
thesilverrose replied...
Dec. 5, 2009 at 10:21 pm
Hate what? The overdueing is not so great. It gets on my nerves. Wordy... hm... I wonder if the dictionary would have a definition for it. Probably not. :(
oh well... :D
katieh4ever said...
Dec. 4, 2009 at 5:17 pm
it made me want to cry..
it was really good! i loved it!
its really well written. :)
ill look at some more of ur stuff and see if its just as good. :)
thnx! :)(:
DAMINIG345 said...
Dec. 4, 2009 at 4:15 pm
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