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


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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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LinkinPark12 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 18, 2012 at 3:12 pm:
I thought she was pregnant at first :3 I loved the way you make the reader think "hmm what's going on here" until the very end :) Really good!
 
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hugeNYRfan said...
Dec. 10, 2012 at 6:01 pm:
at first, i'm like:" whats up with concealing herself from the world?" then, towards the end, im like:" stupid! she has cancer!"
 
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Paige739 said...
Dec. 10, 2012 at 10:43 am:
I thought it was well written, but the twist was abrubt; like others have said. I was thinking that her dad abused her, then when she said she threw up, I thought she may have an eating disorder, then it turned out she had cancer. Maybe try to make it a little more clear, but other than that it was great!(:
 
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ChiannW said...
Dec. 7, 2012 at 3:23 pm:
amazing i love how you put the details of how she looked and how her expressions were shown.  i would love to see another one of you writings magnificent!! :)
 
ClaireBearB replied...
Mar. 25, 2013 at 3:39 pm :
This was sooo amazingly good. I loved how it ended... and, I guess honestly how it started and the middle too :) You are an amazing writer, and I hope you keep writing! Please check out/rate/comment on some of my work! XXX-Claire
 
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junedayThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Dec. 6, 2012 at 5:36 pm:
I thought this was an interesting story...however I did have some criticisms. Like some others, i found the twist really abrupt...there were really no clues about her illness earlier, and like everyone else I assumed she had an eating disorder. Plus, i think you should have used less dialogue...the mother / daughter exchange felt reallly forced. I also think you should have expanded on her reasons for not wanting her classmates to know she had cancer. some details were unnecessary.
 
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VelaneDeBeauteThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 3, 2012 at 6:13 pm:
An absolutely amazing tale foretold with just the right crunch and crisp of emotions. :) This serves to be the inspiration for my new story. 'Perfect!' :D 
 
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ravenmysterious said...
Dec. 2, 2012 at 6:08 pm:
wow, that was very good. I thought she had a eating disorder (like everyone else said) then when i found out she had cancer i loved it even more, i just hope she doesn't die! lol  It was wonderful and very inspirational!
 
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WordNinja said...
Nov. 27, 2012 at 7:55 pm:
Oh, my god. This was amazing. I actually almost cried! I had a grandfather who had cancer and this is such an accurate description! Great job!!! At first, I also thought she had an eating disorder, which led to a great twist!
 
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JulesCThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Nov. 27, 2012 at 7:47 pm:
Great story. At first I thought that the girl had an eating disorder, though. Keep up the good work!
 
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nocommentisacomment said...
Nov. 27, 2012 at 1:13 pm:
This is a really welll written story, I like how she is striving for perfection to impress everyone else when her own world is falling apart.
 
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BellaCharlie said...
Nov. 24, 2012 at 5:26 pm:
When I first read this I thought the main character had an eating disorder, but then you mentioned that she had cancer – I liked the twist, not everything is as it seems. Great job!
 
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KewlBeans12 said...
Nov. 7, 2012 at 10:23 pm:
okay at first before i finished reading i was assuming she had a eating disorder but! i was surprised to find she had cancer. very well written... well indeed!
 
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seppydesoto said...
Nov. 7, 2012 at 7:07 pm:
This was such a help to me! An extremely important person in my life is struggling with cancer right now, thanks so much for righting this. you have no idea how much of a help it was to me.
 
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UtahBee said...
Oct. 29, 2012 at 9:21 am:
Great story! The ending made me tear up. At first, though, I thought the girl had an eating disorder, not cancer. I think you should imply in the beginning that her dark circles, bruises, etc. were caused by a disease she couldn't control. Your use of dialogues is great too, but it did feel like you overused them...maybe replace some of them with the girl's personal feelings.
 
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HorseFeathers151 said...
Oct. 25, 2012 at 1:52 pm:
Beautiful peice! I loved it a lot and it brought tears to my eyes. A suggestion however, would be to have the character feel thing's instead of just stating them. It would really help others relate to the character and pull them into the story a bit more. 
 
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dogswolf said...
Oct. 23, 2012 at 10:38 am:
There was a lack of real emotion. The character tells too much instead of showing the reader. The characters were not developed well enough for us to feel any kind of emotional connection. You do make use of proper grammar.The setting seem like it is a real place.The imagery was misleading when she was describing herself, making the readers think something else was wrong with her. There wasn't really a well defined plot, making the story unable to go anywhe... (more »)
 
gophergirl4ever replied...
Oct. 25, 2012 at 3:22 pm :
I think it was fantastic!
 
FearlessAngel replied...
Dec. 11, 2012 at 10:34 am :
I kind of agree with dogswolf. It was too short. I wanted to read more even though the beginning was a bit sketchy with the bruises. As a girl I understand the need to be "perfect" even though its impossible. In that aspect I think the author got the situation just right.
 
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notquitesoquaint said...
Oct. 23, 2012 at 10:38 am:
The main character is extremely difficult to relate to. She isn't developed properly, and not enough foundation is laid to build a connection with her. All the reader knows is that the main character has cancer, and we are mislead to belive that she has an eating disorder until she told us that she has cancer. The narrorator states: " I know this peanut butter and jelly sandwhich won't be eaten...and even if i do eat it, I'll just throw it up l... (more »)
 
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