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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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ActressSingerAuthoress said...
Feb. 1, 2012 at 6:17 pm
I love this. Excellent attention to detail, very convincing voice (although sometimes the dialogue is a little unrealistic--just barely). It's an interesting idea, too: a girl hides her cancer diagnosis to avoid pity from her classmates. I was expecting her to have an eating disorder from the beginning, but I like that you surprised me. Keep writing.
 
Airidella replied...
Feb. 4, 2012 at 1:27 pm
Me too but I loved how she shifted it.
 
welcometoplanetearth said...
Feb. 1, 2012 at 5:06 pm
I can never get enough of this story. It's beautifully written and the details are amazing.
 
FluteWriter said...
Jan. 31, 2012 at 7:38 pm
i like the bit about wasting 1/24th of her day...but its kind of a cliche really, good writing, but you could probably find this in almost every YA book today...
 
dmpizzo24 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 30, 2012 at 12:43 pm
This is a really nice story. I like the beginning, where you mention that she doesn't want to waste 1/24th of her day, and later we figure out why. The one suggestion I might have is to be a bit more subtle. She doesn't need to explain everything to her mother in perfect detail, maybe show instead of tell in certain places so that the reader can infer.
 
rexyness said...
Feb. 4, 2012 at 9:51 am
What does? The fact that the main character has cancer? Yes, that does suck. But the story itself is beauiful. Sad, but beautiful.
 
lyddiebug said...
Jan. 26, 2012 at 12:56 pm
Wow...That's such a beautiful piece! I loved the ending, it was really powerful :)
 
Vithiya said...
Jan. 23, 2012 at 9:54 pm
I love it! Its touching , sweet and beautiful. I'm happy to be alive....
 
Anny_Grace This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 23, 2012 at 5:19 pm
Love the ending! Most powerful part of the story.
 
EPluribusUnumThis 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...
Jan. 21, 2012 at 8:25 am
Wow, that was beautiful!
 
Riley79 said...
Jan. 19, 2012 at 4:44 pm
That was great!
 
USERNAME1996 said...
Jan. 19, 2012 at 11:07 am
This is a really good piece of writing! Wanted to read on, write more ;;) :)
 
4qui133 said...
Jan. 17, 2012 at 6:49 pm
if that's the best thing you can think of to do with your time, read the story above again, and I'll interpret it for you: not all of us have time left. stop wasting yours on wiping excretion off your extremities.
 
FakesmileThis 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. replied...
Jan. 19, 2012 at 7:44 pm
There's been more then one person being mean, so it wasn't only him. Don't feel too sorry, i mean, he did have help.
 
RosyPosie96 replied...
Feb. 18, 2012 at 11:15 pm
Oops. Sorry I called him indecent. You're clearly a good person trying to patch things up.
 
Claire_baller replied...
Apr. 25, 2012 at 3:00 pm
True that!
 
TheBeatlesareBritish said...
Jan. 17, 2012 at 6:30 pm
Awesome paper!
 
4qui133 said...
Jan. 17, 2012 at 6:49 pm
if that's the best thing you can think of to do with your time, read the story above again, and I'll interpret it for you: not all of us have time left. stop wasting yours on wiping excretion off your extremities.
 
FakesmileThis 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...
Jan. 15, 2012 at 7:20 pm
For everybody who doesn't like this piece, ok yo don't have to. But i do, so don't be rude and hurtful.
 
Rice1017 replied...
Jan. 16, 2012 at 1:52 pm
These people are being stupid, and if someone said something i wrote was bum-wiping quality, I'd cry... What if the person who wrote this actually has cancer? You guys should feel horrible for this
 
Rice1017 replied...
Jan. 17, 2012 at 6:41 pm
Ok I don't know what is wrong with you... But if you have nothing better to do than go on a website for aspiring young authors and criticize their work, you are just creepy trolls. DId you know that people have ben known to kill themselves over these kinds or things, that people have said over the internet? One of my friends tried committing suicide. Do you know what that feels like? And don't comment that the girl deserves to die. If you want to be responsible for a death, be my guest. Just kno... (more »)
 
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