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!

pinksage33 said...
Jul. 18, 2009 at 10:46 pm
This is AMAZING!!!
Nina X. said...
Jul. 17, 2009 at 1:29 am
This story is AMAZING!! Keep writing!
princess_of_the_king said...
Jul. 15, 2009 at 9:01 pm
I love it all!!! Keep writing!!
xlacrossex22 said...
Jul. 12, 2009 at 2:02 am
Wow. That was really good. At first I thought that it might have something to do with an eating disorder, you played the story out very well. Very heart touching
corin G. said...
Jul. 10, 2009 at 11:28 am
wow i loved it :)
LilJ<3 said...
Jul. 7, 2009 at 11:22 pm
This was so great. Cancer is something that affects everyone. Thank You for putting into perspective how degrading this disease can be on a persons body. Ilike how you made the main character strong and you showed that even though, yes she will die, she will die with dignity and is livng the rest of the life she has left with dignity. Simply Amazing. Great job once again, and congrats! Please keep writing, im sure to be reading....
Jordon said...
Jul. 6, 2009 at 7:47 pm
its sad, but amazing. x well done. x
MissAmbitious said...
Jul. 3, 2009 at 11:28 am
very touching:)
GlassHeart said...
Jun. 30, 2009 at 7:50 pm
I really liked it and the start!
reeree012 said...
Jun. 30, 2009 at 2:55 am
This story is amazing. I love the start out to it, and how it takes each piece of makeup and clothes, and how it hides a different flaw.
Haley G. said...
Jun. 27, 2009 at 2:45 am
omg im gonna cryyyyyyyyy :"""""""""""(
Zero_Kiryu This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 27, 2009 at 1:29 am
This is beautiful! At first I thought that she was annorexic or bulemic until she said she had cancer. Does that affect one's appetite? I wonder. . .Really excellent writing!
*LunaNight* said...
Jun. 26, 2009 at 1:27 pm
i read this story in the teenink magazine,and i thought it was absolutley wonderful.
coffee01 said...
Jun. 25, 2009 at 8:37 pm
i love it! it's sad but truthful and i'm sure it will inspire teens with cancer to be stong! said...
Jun. 25, 2009 at 4:36 am
Truly was a gorgeous piece of writing you've got here... it's so real and sad and beautiful and true. Thank you.
Valkyrie_123 said...
Jun. 24, 2009 at 5:53 am
this was amazing it was perfect just like the title.
Andrea S. said...
Jun. 19, 2009 at 5:12 am
amazing :) aww i love it
pinksage33 said...
Jun. 18, 2009 at 10:20 pm
Reslly Really good. it shows how ppl are not always what they seem. pluse it invokes strong emotin!!!
<3::wish4wings::<3 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 17, 2009 at 6:23 pm
awww i love it!!!!
sallyloco said...
Jun. 17, 2009 at 5:01 pm
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