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!

BiancaRaquie said...
Jul. 9, 2013 at 5:48 pm
Perfect. This piece flows so well! Great job!
hippiechild said...
Jun. 7, 2013 at 7:44 am
Please Keep Writing!!!!!!!!!
x--Mirage--x said...
Apr. 21, 2013 at 9:17 am
This is beautiful!  I see no mistakes or problems with flow.  It's a flawless piece that definitely deserves the attention it's getting.  Great writing, keep it up!
TheaterGirlThis 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...
Apr. 19, 2013 at 10:28 pm
So beautiful!!!! It made me cry!!!
Dramarama said...
Apr. 18, 2013 at 7:58 pm
One of my favorites!!!! Beautiful!!! :)
nicf1999 said...
Apr. 8, 2013 at 9:53 pm
This story was amazing!  It fills so many emotions in a short piece.  You are such a talented writer.
RoseLink said...
Apr. 7, 2013 at 10:43 am
Wow. You're amazing. I would really like to know you. Emotions are important and very hard to grasp in stories. But you honeysweet did it without a sweat. Bravo!
hollyax1999 said...
Mar. 20, 2013 at 2:29 pm
Amazing. I love the emotion and suspence created within the story. You're obviously a very talented writer. Love this!
E.A.P.lover said...
Mar. 15, 2013 at 9:55 pm
That was an amazing story. I love the emotion and suspense it created within myself. It's like I could feel the emotions through your descriptions. Great piece of work, please continue writing. You have a true talent. : )
Shadeah said...
Mar. 5, 2013 at 11:01 am
I really like your story. The way you wrote how you were feeling and everything you was going through. It was very suspenseful how you was describing the things that was happening to you. I wouldn't have thought you had cancer.
Emily_96 said...
Feb. 22, 2013 at 9:07 pm
You are obviously a talented writer with a knack for pulling on the heartstrings. At first I thought she was being abused, but once you said cancer it all made sense. The bags. The bruises. The exhaustion. All of it, together, hints at something terrible such as cancer. I do suggest adding more background to the character, such as when she was diagnosed, how she reacted, things like that so we can relate to the character just a little bit more. I do love what I got, though, and I can't wai... (more »)
KatelynHanks said...
Feb. 20, 2013 at 3:21 pm
Ahhh I love this :D
yaruuna said...
Feb. 7, 2013 at 12:19 am
Amazingly well-written. Love the voice!
Peacetomustaches said...
Jan. 30, 2013 at 9:31 am
I low this story! I have breast cancer and it sucks and adding a brain tumor recovered last year AND bronchitis I sometimes am scared that I'm going to die!
TheSkyOwesMeRain This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 15, 2013 at 1:32 am
I was honestly not expecting that ending... I suppose this really serves to bring up the point that even popular people suffer. You are a great writer!
Peacetomustaches replied...
Jan. 30, 2013 at 9:33 am
I agree this really is going to help me still have confidence in myself because I beat a Brian rumor last year I have breast cancer and I have all timers + bronchitis!
In_Love_with_Writing said...
Jan. 9, 2013 at 7:50 am
This was soooo good! Great job! I liked it a whole lot! Can you comment and rate some of my work?
In_Love_with_Writing replied...
Jan. 9, 2013 at 7:53 am
*Heheheh whoops I already posted here :P
OracleIz said...
Jan. 7, 2013 at 3:56 pm
Oh my gosh this was just beautiful in the most heart breaking of ways.
In_Love_with_Writing said...
Jan. 7, 2013 at 12:54 pm
Really nice job! Can you comment and rate some of my stories? Thanks!
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