Dorothy heard the car idling in the driveway and gathered her things to go. She stopped for a quick glance in the mirror. Gently adjusting her hat she admonished herself for neglecting to visit the beauty shop the day before. The outing scheduled for today was of utmost importance and she wanted to look her best.
Louise waved to her friend from the car. As a widow, Dorothy always welcomed a ride. The Buick parked in the garage was like new but no matter how many years passed, it was still Frank’s car. Today, however, Dorothy was in greater need of moral support than a chauffeur.
“Look at you, Dot!” Louise whistled. “You should’ve told me we were going to church.”
“Oh, you know where we’re going. I just wanted to look respectable. Prove that I’m not a criminal.”
“Criminal,” laughed Louise as she backed out of the driveway. “Do you have the goods?”
Dorothy checked her tote for the hundredth time. “Yes, right here.”
Louise drove in silence, knowing her friend wasn’t up for chit-chat. The trip was too short for Dorothy. She needed more time to rehearse her apology, think up more excuses.
Louise parked the car. “Here we are, if you ask me you should have done this a long time ago. They do this at least twice a year.”
“I was skeptical, still am. I hope they take checks.”
“You won’t need money. They don’t call it ‘Amnesty Day’ for nothing.”
“Well, I’m prepared to use my Christmas club account just the same. The kids have already been warned that Santa may not be coming to Granny’s this year.”
“Oh, Dottie, why can’t you accept a little grace?”
“Because, Louise, nothing is free. Well, it’s now or never. Let’s go in. Let me do the talking. Better yet, you go on ahead, I understand if you don’t want to be seen with me.”
“Come on, silly girl,” laughed Louise taking Dorothy’s hand.
“Wow!” Dorothy’s eyes widened as they entered the library. “So much has changed. It’s huge now. What have I been missing?”
“Well, I don’t want to say I told you so. But at least you’re here now. Now go turn those books in and have your card wiped clean.”
Dorothy nervously cleared her throat as she approached a young woman at the desk. “Excuse me? I understand you are forgiving overdue books today.”
“Of course, I’ll be glad to help you.”
“Well the thing is,” stammered Dorothy, “I had three young kids. They were always hiding things. I was just so busy. The books slipped my mind. I found them years later in an old trunk. I’m so sorry.”
“I’m just so sorry. When I found them I knew I couldn’t pay the fine. Times were hard. Later on, I was just so embarrassed. But I can pay now.”
“Ma’am, there’s no need to pay. Today is ‘Amnesty Day’. We are forgiving all debts.” The library assistant smiled at Dorothy as she took the books.
Dorothy took out her checkbook. “And I’ll feel better being forgiven, but I’d like to take care of my debt.”
“It’s really not necessary. I wouldn’t even know how much to charge you, I’m sure we don’t have records on these books anymore.”
“So it really is gone, just like that. Hmmm, well, I’m sure I’ll be on some sort of list, like probation, right?”
The young woman laughed, “Not at all. You have all the rights as our other patrons.”
“Thank you, so much.” Dorothy felt the tears welling in her eyes as she turned to Louise. “I can’t believe I spent all those years avoiding the library over some overdue books. Why was I so stubborn?”
“It doesn’t matter now, Dorothy. Don’t waste another minute worrying about it. You are forgiven. Enjoy the library. Check out a book. Just remember to bring it back this time.”
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