** Content Warning: Physical violence, sexual assault, suicide or self harm, depiction of death or terminal illness **

Returned to Sender


There is no one cruder than a teenage girl. You can see her tattoos when she wears a bathing suit,
you can see the cigarette ashes underneath her fingernails, you can see the bite marks on her
inner thighs. She’s dying but her father doesn’t believe in death.


I was always taught to not take the bruised peaches. Standing in the grocery aisle, sitting in a
shopping cart, I watch my father dig his nails into flesh. I don’t ask him if he’d still take me,
juice leaking down my legs, blooming purple black. After all, the bruised peaches are sweeter.



There is no one crueller than a teenage girl. She takes cherry flavored syrup Tylenol and writes
poetry on her days off. She hides in the laundry cart, takes scalding hot showers, “forgets” to put
on sunscreen. She thinks growing old is something that only happens in stories.


He told me to buy peaches in Italy so I did. I left them in the corner of my hotel room because
the bruised peaches are sweeter. But when I opened the brown paper bag, I was met with the
sickly sweet stench of rotten fruits. It enticed me. I took a bite and threw up in the bathroom for
the rest of the night.

I think of all the cigarettes I haven’t smoken yet. My roommate is never home at night, and when
she is, she smells of cheap stolen vodka from the boba place around the corner. She offers it to
me, cupped in her hands, but Mayo Clinic tells me I’m not allowed to drink while on Prozac. I
               want to ask her if she feels it too, the pressure of taking 500mg of Tylenol.
All dogs go to heaven and all girls go to hell. Licking my tears, licking your wounds. I cry
thinking about people who will die, for the spider I smashed to death three years ago, for how my
mother will react when she sees my tattoos.
My dog is the favorite child, the better daughter, the good influence. I stop vaping because it’s
bad for dogs. I stop burning incense, I clean up the messes on the floor, I don’t eat chocolate in
my bedroom. She sleeps under my parents’ bed, while I can hardly fit.
After my uncle died, my mother stopped accusing him of abusing her sister. When she picked up
the phone that night, I told her it wasn’t like he was going to die. The next morning, I wake up to
my father opening the blinds. He says I should get out of bed. I cry in his arms for the next hour.
Death makes us innocent, but I write poems about it.
Her father read The Giving Tree to me when I was seven. He accuses me now of forgetting what
giving means. I have a tattoo of it on my upper thigh. I want to carry him with me always.


My aunt grows scallions in her backyard, but she doesn’t talk to the girl who was my best friend
for two summers. I wonder if her mother would recognize me if I stood on her front steps. I
wonder if we could still eat ice pops in the basement and catch fireflies barefoot in the grass.
I write to you, my firefly catcher, in the dead of night.

Dearest Evelyn,

               When I met you five summers ago, your mother loved us.
We sat at your kitchen table, my aunt shelling sunflower seeds for us because we kept
breaking them. You showed me your basement, three rooms of dolls and robot dogs and jars for
catching fireflies. I wondered how it would feel to be loved so, to be given three rooms of things.

               But now I wonder if they ever realized it was time, not toys, that you wanted. Your father
came home late at night, your mother never spent a penny on those toys, and you were so, so, so
alone. But I was there, for those two summers.

               We played under the kitchen table with your robot dogs, we danced in the grass by the
lake, I watched the skies turn black and asked my aunt if I could move here, move home. I taught
you how to swim in the neighborhood pool, we baked the sweetest chocolate chip cookies, we
bought ice cream at the gas station. I taught you how to type, to play the piano, left my little
blankie in your laundry machine and cried for an afternoon.

               Those two summers, I was home.

               My aunt tells me they adopted you when you were two. You were such a sweet little girl;
you washed your own dishes, never cried at night, tucked yourself into bed. And now here you
are, unable to shell your own sunflower seeds.

               My aunt doesn’t speak to you anymore. Do you remember how worried I was that the
pool would infect my new ear piercings? Do you remember how sweet those chocolate chip
cookies tasted? Do you remember wearing our mothers’ Fitbits, competing over how many steps
we took everyday, feeling so grown up as we stayed up until 10 in your king sized bed? Do you
remember me?


               She grows scallions in her backyard, but she won’t drive me to your house.

               When I see you five summers later, will your mother still love us?


               Will you?




About the Author

Sophie Ge (it/she) is a sophomore studying creative writing at Interlochen Arts Academy. She is a queer Asian American writer born and raised in New York City. Her work has been recognized by Scholastic Art & Writing, Bennington College, and the Brooklyn Public Library, and she has been published in Scatterbrained, Et Cetera Magazine, and Clues, among others. In her free time she enjoys getting tattoos without her parents’ permission and annoying her dog, Addie.