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!

Emmalee This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 12, 2009 at 11:21 am
Wonderful. :)
pictolover said...
Nov. 12, 2009 at 10:18 am
Simply Magnificent!!! i thought that since it was short you would skimp on the details but it is amazing!! best thing i've read in a long time.
betrayalhurts said...
Nov. 12, 2009 at 8:58 am
that is so sad plz write more!
Nanna said...
Nov. 12, 2009 at 12:16 am
Uh-mazing! Please never ever stop writing, and continue to share your masterpieces with the world, even if they are as sad as this one.
EricBlair said...
Nov. 5, 2009 at 2:25 pm
Best quality/length ratio I've seen on the internet. Ever. I now have a strange feeling echoing from my chest, and I think others can relate. Never stop writing! Ever!
tessa410570 said...
Nov. 4, 2009 at 10:41 am
I thought that your story was AMAZING!!! i loved it. i thought that it was really sad but good at the same time. lol
wordnerd said...
Oct. 21, 2009 at 10:06 pm
This story was amazing! I wish my stories were this good! I love it because it is so real. Who knows what is happening to people who you see everyday. Thouhg it was also very sad, with her only having a year left to live.
chocolate_lover123 said...
Oct. 21, 2009 at 9:37 pm
this is too good!
WOW :)
left me speechless
writingrox said...
Oct. 21, 2009 at 7:33 pm
Awesome story! I can't say much else, because I'm speechless.
thepreechyteenager said...
Oct. 21, 2009 at 6:33 pm
very good story overall. luv the story line, and the way u carried it out.
the only part that needs a little work is the dialogue, it's alittle to back-and-forth, it doesn't sound very realistic, not enought emothion.
but overall, very good
screenname! replied...
Nov. 12, 2009 at 6:00 pm
wow...that's all I can say...just perfect!
thepreechyteenager replied...
Nov. 12, 2009 at 6:43 pm
oops, i accidentally clicked the 'new comment' button instead of the 'reply' button. Just goes to show... uh, me.
aaaaaaaaaaaaany way, what i meant to say was that you probably would have spelled 'emotion' correctly.
EcoWriter3 said...
Oct. 21, 2009 at 4:43 pm
Oh my goodness--this is amazing! Excellent work! Keep it up! I loved it.
dreamer_believer said...
Oct. 21, 2009 at 2:04 pm
if i wasn't in the middle of the computer class i would probably be bawling right now. this is just amazing :) i love every part of it, but the ending is for sure my favorite. i absolutely love this! your awesome! :)
<3 dreamer
Jaquie This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 21, 2009 at 1:25 pm
Wow. You are really talented. I can't tell you how much I enjoy your writing style. It's not to overwhelming and your not trying too hard. It's. . . perfect. You're a natural. Congratulations on being published. Keep it up.
God bless,
at004 said...
Oct. 21, 2009 at 12:31 pm
Wow this was really good!! I love it!!!
Priscilla K. said...
Oct. 21, 2009 at 12:04 pm
OMG!! that is sooo good iloved it soo much!! =D
oriGINAlity said...
Oct. 21, 2009 at 11:09 am
Wow. Very well written. Sad yet so good!
Kitten111 said...
Oct. 21, 2009 at 1:43 am
made me cry (in a good way) Im named after my cousin who died the year i was born from cancer ... good work :)
Astrid P. said...
Sept. 29, 2009 at 8:20 pm
nice pretty good unexpected twist to everything keep up the good work
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