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!

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.
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 »)
NoMercy666 replied...
Oct. 24, 2012 at 9:49 am
u r stoopid dis piece wuz bootiful
FearlessAngel replied...
Dec. 11, 2012 at 10:37 am
notquietsoquaint is right. The story has amazing potential but the diction needs to shift into something more personal and real. The author did great for a rough first draft yes. There is still room for improvement.
Megan M. said...
Oct. 23, 2012 at 10:37 am
The imagery was there, some was unneccessary " heels are too dangerous with the shaky legs- and grab my Hollister bag" describied things that were already put in place by other descriptions. You need to show dont tell. The dialogue you used I found realistic in some ways. Other times the mother daughter conversation became too forced and as a reader I did not feel much sympathy for your main character because of that. Speaking of your main character i found her misleading in the d... (more »)
Morgan B. said...
Oct. 23, 2012 at 10:37 am
I liked it. You held off the fact she had cancer which kind of threw me off.  I thought she was anorexic. You had good imagery and you avoided cliches up until, "Perfect." It was unessacary. She already explained what happpened if people can't read she's covering up then you didn't show them properly. You avoided awkward wording and unessacary big words that could've thrown the reader off.
NoMercy666 said...
Oct. 23, 2012 at 10:36 am
Though the idea of imperfection is widely felt among young adults and people in general it's become a very written about topic. The story's lacking of emotion between the characters doesn't make me feel anything for them, but I know it should. The description in the first paragraph was done really well, "The eyeliner makes the dark circles less pronounced. The lip gloss hides the trembling. The ponytail conceals missing patches of hair." That's a good way to show t... (more »)
bwriter24 said...
Oct. 21, 2012 at 12:20 pm
honestly love it
Alyssaberry said...
Oct. 16, 2012 at 10:58 am
That was really well written. I could almost feel the girls emotions.   
cheerjulia said...
Oct. 9, 2012 at 5:29 pm
Honsetly great story. So well written.
Jessiemin said...
Oct. 5, 2012 at 6:48 am
so awesome! It's just perfect!
photobraun said...
Oct. 1, 2012 at 9:17 pm
i love Perfect. It's amazing what a story like this can do to a person.
vballgirl99 said...
Sept. 23, 2012 at 9:39 am
Wow! This is amazing!  I love the description at the beginning and it kept me guessing until the end.
snowgirl said...
Sept. 20, 2012 at 6:28 am
Love it. It was well written and beutiful. Keep up the great work.
AfternoonsThis 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...
Sept. 14, 2012 at 4:39 pm
Absolutely, and positively brilliant.    This is one of those pieces that you can read over and over again—and yet, you still won't lose captivation. One of the first pieces I've read on this site, and I'm intrigued.    Short, and simple.   Beautiful short story. 
MarieAntoinette2012 said...
Sept. 1, 2012 at 10:41 pm
If one more person ever bashes anyone on this sight, there will trouble. This sight is for CONSTRUCTIVE criticism. Please, remember that and stop that crud.
In_Love_With_Love said...
Aug. 29, 2012 at 1:58 pm
The way you explained the character is what made me so interested! You put A LOT of heart into your writing which makes it SO wonderful! keep up the good work :D
RandiRose said...
Aug. 27, 2012 at 6:40 pm
Very good!!!!!! Anyone want to check out my stories and give me some feedback? =D
alliegeoca said...
Aug. 21, 2012 at 12:02 pm
I liked the plot a lot, it was certaintly interesting, but maybe develope your writing skills more?
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