Candie

Candie thought her name was flippant and often regretted that her mother had not written “Candace” on the birth certificate instead. Candie’s mother had wanted her to be popular and thought a cool name like Candie was a good place to start. Candie’s mother thought that it was important that she have many friends since she had no family.

Candie, however, never was popular in the way her mother had hoped she would be. Candie was popular with boys. When she was in sixth grade suffering through a math class that she was failing terribly she noticed the smartest boy in class watching her. He leaped at her offer to help her with her homework. He scribbled out problems and answers, chattering on, while she nibbled raisins or popcorn and watched sitcoms, one eye on the door in case her mother should come home early, which rarely happened. She realized that she had found her way through high school.

When she met a boy who would do her work for her without chattering, just for a touch or a kiss, she left the first sobbing. She rode through high school on the back of puppy love and was accepted into a university with a full scholarship.

Her mother could not have been more proud. Candie’s mother had never finished high school. She had become pregnant and the last 18 years had been a blur of bad boyfriends and waiting tables at diners. She had seen Candie’s condescending looks through the years as she served balding, sweaty boyfriends sandwiches and beers on her sagging couch. She thought, “Perhaps Candie will get out of this life. It wouldn’t matter if she never spoke to me again if only she got out. ”

Candie wanted out too. She imagined a large home near the ocean, a pool, palm trees in the living room and an aquarium with exotic fish. She imagined having dinner parties where she served little roasted birds on white plates with gold rims and peopled called her “Candace”.

Candie listened attentively to the gossip in her freshman dorm. She wanted to know where the boys were who would be doctors and businessman, lawyers and accountants. She frequented the fraternity parties and learned who came from money and who was destined to “make it”.

She heard about Rowan before she met him. His father was a well-known millionaire who had been very public about not giving his five children a dime more than what they needed. Candie had seen him in a documentary. The kids had each gone to a modest boarding school away from the family mansion before going to state colleges. The two oldest were already becoming successful in their own right. Rowan was the youngest. She liked Rowan’s open bitterness and the way he stared down the camera. When she met him she found him equally intriguing in person.

Dating Rowan was unlike any relationship Candie had been in before. He expected more from her than companionship. He scribbled out the answers for her and wrote her papers with a haste and efficiency that earned her barely passing grades and just maintained her scholarship.  She cooked meals for him and his friends in the dorm microwave and on a little electric skillet and cleaned up after them when their planning turned to drinking each evening. They had complex plans to become fabulously rich and while she didn’t understand the plans that didn’t stop her from believing them.

In their junior year, they moved to an off-campus house. He stopped helping her without comment and she failed out of college. They didn’t discuss it,  but she knew that he would take care of her. He was doing well with some kind of app he had invented and was throwing parties most weeks. She went to sleep while the party raged on and washed shot glasses and disposed of pyramids of solo cups the next morning.

Her mother called once and cried for a long time. Eventually, Candie hung up.

When Candie got pregnant she was not worried. She thought, “Now he will marry me more quickly.”

She told him the night after he graduated. He held her for a long time and spoke tenderly to her and she fell asleep dreaming of the house by the ocean.

In the morning he was gone. She was surprised to realize how little he had needed to bring with him. He ignored all of her attempts to reach him and when she called his father’s office the secretary laughed at her.

Her mother didn’t say anything when Candie arrived, crying and babbling, on her doorstep. This second loss hurt less than the first, although she had thought that it would hurt more. Some small part of Candie’s mother felt compensated for the judgment Candie had heaped on her. “It’s too easy to trust, Candie.” She said, finally, patting her back, forgiving her in an instant. Then, quietly, more to herself than to Candie, “Maybe your child will find a way out.”