Exploring the art of prose


Tag: Coming of Age

Ghosts by Amy Stuber

alt text: image shows chain link fence in the foreground and vinyl siding in the background; title card for the short story "Ghosts," by Amy Stuber

  People will say Ry must have planned the robbery for weeks. They’ll want purpose and emotion and strategy. They’ll say she had a gun tucked into a pocket. They’ll say she must have been desperate: four kids at home…

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Author’s Note

I started writing this story as a means of uncovering something about myself—something about my experiences as a girl, in girlhood friendships. I love stories that are phantasmagorical because once the expectations of realism are removed, you can focus on the subjective experience.

This story focuses on the subjective experience of the protagonist—the way she views friendship, motherhood, family, love, loyalty, boundaries. There are no names, no locations, no real grasp on reality. All we see is her, feeling through little moments and experiences, grappling with her identity and her sense of power. There is the saying, “Watch out for the quiet ones,” and this story is in conversation with that message. By the end, it’s the “innocent” and “naïve” one who lives, not because she stays small but because she reclaims her power and revels in it.

In a way, this is a coming-of-age story that isn’t necessarily pretty or soft. I’ve always thought of girlhood as a kind of inescapable terror. Girlhood is where I found and lost myself, where I created imaginary friends, had one best friend after another, was ditched in school bathrooms, sometimes coerced to be cruel. But it was also where I heard the scariest stories of my life, kept pinky-promise secrets, practiced summoning spirits with makeshift Ouija boards, chanted Bloody Mary in mirrors, felt my body threatened by the neighbor boy, had sleepovers with best friends where we prank-called every boy we knew, and where my mom bought me my first tarot deck.

At that age, every best friend is like a sister.

I find myself endlessly fascinated by girlhood and the psychology of girlhood friendships because it is an age of transformation, which can be both empowering and terrifying. “Terrible things” lurk in every corner, whether real or imagined. How we escape this moment is beyond me. (I still cringe when I read my girlhood diaries.) I chose to write this story with a twinge of horror because it feels most honest that way. What is brutal is also what is innocent.

I’d like to say this story is a love letter to the sister I never had, but maybe it is a love letter to my younger self, who did escape.


ADELINA SARKISYAN is an Armenian-American writer from Los Angeles. She holds an undergraduate degree in anthropology and a graduate degree in social work. She is currently studying Jungian fairy tale analysis. She was a therapist in her former life. Follow her ever-changing moods on Instagram @adelinasarkisyan and Twitter @sheisadelina.