Candy sat next to Kip in the third seat of the fifteen year old Ford Taurus station wagon. They faced the rear, and she would have loved it there watching every place the car had been instead of where it was going. It was like she was seeing the world backwards, and where she was going was a surprise. That’s what she liked to pretend. But she was sitting next to Kip, and that made the car pool to school the one time she didn’t enjoy sitting in the way back. She couldn’t pretend him away.
Kip was ten years old like herself. He was going through an awkward phase, although Candy didn’t know that. His nose was upturned, his face full with baby fat, his teeth not yet straightened by braces. All she knew was that he looked funny and acted like a crybaby. In fact, that’s what she called him. Baby. It wasn’t a term of endearment. It was the meanest thing she could say.
She hated boys, and this boy in particular.
They both attended a Christian academy across town (none of their parents trusted the public schools), and they were both in the fifth grade. Kip’s sister Kelly and her friend Belle, who attended tenth grade, rode in the second seat, while Sam, a seventh grader, rode up front with Candy’s mother, Betsy Powers. The trip took thirty minutes every day to and from school. Kelly and Belle gossiped and traded homework on the way, trying to ignore the din going on behind them. Sam was always staring silently out of the window next to Mrs. Powers. Candy and Kip were left in back, Candy pinching and slapping Kip until he howled. She thought it was funny that she could make him flinch or cry. She knew his parents had told him to never hit a girl, and she took full advantage of his obedience.
Of course Mrs. Powers tossed the occasional weak scold towards the way back where her daughter tortured Kip. “Now, now Candace Powers! Be nice!” “Jesus doesn’t approve of mean little girls!” “Candy! Take a sunshine pill!”
Kip didn’t understand why Candy hurt him. He told her once that he would never hit a girl, that boys didn’t hit girls no matter what. It just seemed to make Candy even more peevish. He tried to scoot over as far away as possible, but the seat belt kept him firmly in place. He didn’t try to look to his sister for help. She tortured him at home, locking him out of the house when their parents left her in charge, or slapping him when he disturbed her while she talked on the phone. He was still in elementary school so she really didn’t want anything to do with him, and Kip really didn’t like Kelly very much because of it. So he suffered Candy’s abuse every day, unaided by anyone in the car.
It was a bright, reflective day. The cold had coated everything in frost and ice, gleaming in the morning light. The temperature seemed to make Candy even more cruel. She reached over and thumped Kip’s ear which was red from the cold. Even though it stung very badly, he didn’t say a word. He just cowered as far from Candy as he could get.
“What’s the matter, you big baby? Are you afraid of me?”
“No. I mean yes. I mean just leave me alone!”
“Why? You’re just a big baby!” She gave him a sock on the arm.
“Ow. Candy just stop it!”
“Make me! Come on you big baby!” She hit him again.
“Candace! Candace Powers! You take a sunshine pill! Stop picking on Kip!”
Candy didn’t listen to her mother. She knew that if she quit messing with Kip about a mile from school, she could leap out of the car when they got there and run inside the building. By the afternoon her mother would forget about her bad behavior and she could torment him all the way home. She never got punished, so she never stopped.
She hit Kip again.
“Please just leave me alone! I’ll give you my lunch money if you do.”
“What’s to keep me from just taking it?” Candy grabbed Kip’s backpack where he kept the money.
“Candy! Give that back to me!”
She punched him again and he started crying. “You said you were going to give it to me anyway!”
“Not unless you stop hitting me! I can’t hit a girl!”
“You big baby!”
“Candy, did I not say to take a sunshine pill? Take a sunshine pill right now1”
Kelly who was sitting copying Belle’s algebra homework looked up. “Candy, leave him alone.”
“Are you gonna make me?”
“Candy! Take a sunshine pill like I said!” Her mother said, exasperation making her voice low.
Candy pinched Kip on his ear. He cried harder.
Kelly unbuckled her seatbelt and turned around. She grabbed Candy by the hair and slapped her hard across the face. “There’s your fucking sunshine pill, you little goon. Leave my brother alone.” She hissed through her teeth.
Candy’s eyes welled up with tears, and a bright red handprint appeared across her cheek. She panted. “Ouch! Ouch! OUCH!” She shouted.
Mrs. Powers glared in her rearview mirror. She hadn’t quite heard what went on “What did you do to Candy, Kelly?”
“She didn’t take her sunshine pill so I gave her one. I don’t think she’ll be picking on Kip any more, will you, Candy?” Then she whispered, “I’d be very careful of what I said, if I were you.”
Candy moved as far away from Kelly as she could. She never picked on Kip again.