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!

mandygale77 said...
Sept. 29, 2009 at 7:19 pm
The ending was incredible, a total twist from what I expected. Cancer...
writer24/7/365 said...
Sept. 29, 2009 at 7:17 pm
I love this! I've read it four times. I searched for it and couldn't find it, so I was so glad it was voted othe highest the most so I could read it again and tag it as a favorite!!!!!! :D
jackie17 said...
Sept. 29, 2009 at 4:40 pm
this was so good!!!
mladdissa said...
Sept. 29, 2009 at 2:16 pm
It was a very good story very true and touching.
grand master funk said...
Sept. 29, 2009 at 1:20 pm
I like this story because you gave it a lot of detail good job!!!!!!
Dseventeen said...
Sept. 29, 2009 at 1:18 pm
l liked it a lot
OmazingTwins!! said...
Sept. 29, 2009 at 11:56 am
Omg!!! Thats omazing!! yet so sad at the same time!! i aprove! The begining was awsome it like told you what the story was about but it didn't give away all the little details! it was AMAZING!! :)
daddysgirl said...
Sept. 28, 2009 at 5:52 pm
Wow,that is so sad but so good. A lot of people in my county has cancer this girl who was like 13 died of it last year. I think people should get the word out that if you have cancer people do not Want to be felt sorry for.
jmc.13 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 28, 2009 at 8:20 am
So good. I felt pained as I was reading this, and I absolutely loved how she was hiding from herself using an Abercrombie sweater and eyeliner. It was so perfect.
Ambyy said...
Sept. 24, 2009 at 4:03 am
awesome :) keep it up :D really nice !
Courtney B. said...
Sept. 11, 2009 at 5:07 pm
Loved it. It was very inspiring.
GirlTerryFox52 said...
Aug. 28, 2009 at 12:30 am
Wow. Incredibly beautiful. You are an amazing writer. You really captured, in under 1000 words, just how it feels to be a kid with cancer, desperately trying to live a normal life. One tidbit of constructive criticism would probably be not to put so many labels in your writing. As in, you don't need to say "my Abercrombie sweater" or "my Hollister bag". Seemed a little superficial to me, that's all. But besides that, a superb piece of writing. Keep it up!
Sara B. said...
Aug. 24, 2009 at 1:37 pm
This was amazing, very well written, very touching.
sarah.c This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 22, 2009 at 4:53 am
its short but pictures every thing.beautiful...
Bella I. said...
Aug. 20, 2009 at 8:27 pm
That WAS Amazing,depressing, touching, and written with emotion in every word I LOVE IT!
SuzieQ said...
Aug. 17, 2009 at 9:08 pm
wow. that was very interesting. and its a lot like real life girls, having to look and seem perfect every day....
Stina said...
Aug. 17, 2009 at 3:49 pm
TierraTeam60 said...
Aug. 13, 2009 at 2:30 pm
It's really well written, and I loved it...
KonyaB!!! This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 11, 2009 at 3:32 pm
Superb! I liked the detail!
loren C. said...
Aug. 10, 2009 at 6:36 pm
I love this!It's amazing! :)
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