Twelve years passed. I entered a classroom at the University of Utah and took my seat. The professor began to call roll. "Violet," he called. The girl in the seat directly behind mine answered, "Here." My blood ran cold. As discreetly as possible I turned and looked at her. She had matured, she had changed form an ugly duckling into a swan, but there was no doubt it was violet. When class ended I turned to her. "Violet," I said, "I don't know if you remember me. We were in the same class in third grade at Emerson School." She looked at me, and her forehead wrinkled.
"I'm sorry, I really don't remember you name. I was only in that class for part of the year."
"Violet, may I take you to lunch? i need to ask your forgiveness."
"For What?" She looked puzzled.
"I'll tell you at lunch, okay?"
We walked silently to the Union Building, through the cafeteria line, and to a table. "What do you need to talk to me about?" "How much do you remember about our third grade class?" I asked. "The music," she answered. "Our teacher played such beautiful music. I think she's the reason I'm a music minor today. It had been such a tough year for my family. My father died that July, and we found a little house to rent. It was so croweded with six children. I had to sleep with my two sister, and they both wet the bed. I can remember how embarrased i was to come to school smelling so bad, but the bathtub didn't work, and we had to wash out of a washtub after heating the water on our coal stove. Usually there wasn't time to bathe in the morning." The words were tumbling out as Violet remembered bitterly that third grade experience. I used to come to school and hide in the back corner."
I was finding it harder and harder to confess. As Violet spoke, the colas were heaped higher and higher upon my head. At last she was silent. "Violet, do you remember the Christmas party?"
Tears formed in her eyes. "oh, yes."
"Violet, can you ever forgive me? I was the one who wrote that terrible poem that sen you sobbing from the room." She looked puzzled. "What poem? i was crying because I hadn't had a quarter to buy a gift and yet someone had given a gift to me. I couldn't stand the guilt and the shame."
"Violet, there was a card attached to your gift. On it I wrote a terrible poem. Don't you remember?" Violet tipped her head back and laughed. "I couldn't read in the third grade. i don't think I even looked at your poem." Then the knife twisted. "What did it say?"
"Violet, it doesn't matter. Just forgive me, please."
"Come on, what was the poem?"
I chose not to compound my guilt with a lie, so I quoted it to her.
"Seems appropriate to me," she laughed. "I forgive you."
We finished lunch, and I walked out of the Union Building with a lighter heart. However, every
December 23, I still do penance for the cruelty of youth.