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!

sleavs This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 25, 2014 at 10:45 pm
I loved the part when you said: "Sometimes I wonder if it's worth it, wasting one twenty-fourth of my day..." I think that way of thinking is v cool.  Sometimes you get a bit too literal, and I know you're trying to explain to us what's going on (she has cancer, she's dying) but that part seemed rushed to me.  Like, "oh I have to make sure I get this all out so they know what's going on."  Try and make it less expositional.  But overall... (more »)
PeachCakePie replied...
Sept. 21, 2014 at 12:42 am
yeah, that's what I thought too...
Kinah_32 said...
Feb. 24, 2014 at 10:07 am
Your article was incredible!
FaithToFallOn said...
Feb. 20, 2014 at 10:28 am
That was beautiful... upsetting and powerful, but beautiful. 
peyton_banks said...
Feb. 17, 2014 at 4:18 pm
This article is amazing! Can't believe that plot twist!
oliviajocson said...
Feb. 6, 2014 at 9:53 pm
Wow! Awesome story. You said in a lot in such few words. Great job 
wMESw said...
Feb. 1, 2014 at 9:11 pm
Great story, I loved the begging, it really pulled me in/ Keep up the good work.
Liz_Liz_Liz said...
Jan. 31, 2014 at 9:43 pm
This is really good! At first I thought she had an eating disorder, but it turned aroud and really surprised me, which is awesome!!
Pseudonym329 said...
Jan. 13, 2014 at 3:25 pm
Okay, I don't want to sound like spam, so first, THIS WAS AWESOME! Second, Pretty, pretty please take a minute to open my profile and read my stories! I've been writing since age SIX (yeah, six, I know) and writing is a huge thing for me! Thanks guys! Hope you can give me feedback on my stories. By the way, again, THIS WAS AMAZING!
siorose said...
Dec. 26, 2013 at 8:24 pm
Truly touching, heartbreaking and lovely at the same time. It really flowed well.  Would this be the end of it or is it part of a longer piece?
ImAWxllflower said...
Dec. 25, 2013 at 7:55 pm
I thought something else was going on with her at first, but then it turned around and it really did end up being a great story. good job<3
MissLovett said...
Dec. 4, 2013 at 7:30 pm
Very good. I really liked it.
EscapingfromReality said...
Dec. 4, 2013 at 9:02 am
Really beautiful. Loved it. :)
themusicnerd said...
Nov. 14, 2013 at 8:23 pm
This is an amazing story!  I love it :)
Dolly9471 said...
Oct. 19, 2013 at 1:14 pm
This story is so touching!
Monroe4President_ said...
Oct. 3, 2013 at 8:13 pm
Touching <3
RelativetoWriting This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 8, 2013 at 10:40 am
What a beautiful piece! It is heartbreaking, but written serenely at the same time. 
catwithglasses said...
Jul. 31, 2013 at 12:38 pm
This was a nice piece. It's sad, but also beautiful at the same time. 
SavannaCumbee This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 29, 2013 at 1:48 pm
This story was very simple, yet powerful at the same time. It takes place for only a few moments of this girl's life, yet it was very impactful. I enjoyed how you showed the characterization through the girl's actions, not from narration. I would suggest that you show more of this story though. It would help the readers be able to connect with the girl if we were able to see a day of her life and what she has to go through. It would be better if you continued it instead of leaving it whe... (more »)
AdrianaMartinez This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 11, 2013 at 1:38 am
Absolutely loved this piece. It reminded me a lot about "The Fault In Our Stars" by John Green, since instead of pitying people with cancer, you  describe them as srong and self-independent human beings. The character's actions were very brave and the ending tied the whole story pretty cleverly. Absolutely loved your piece.
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