"To err is human; to forgive, divine."-Alexander Pope

This parable stars two children; however, if we adults examine our hearts closely I think we'll find bits of William and Hannah hiding somewhere deep inside them.

William and Hannah were next door neighbors which served them well, since they were also the best of friends.

Hannah's mother was ill most days and confined to bed so when William's parents took him to town he invited Hannah along. Sometimes they'd stop at Pop's Ice Cream Shoppe and William would buy Hannah her favorite treat-a chocolate sundae with extra whipped cream and a cherry on top.

Sometimes they'd stop at Cold Creek Park where they'd race each other to the swings and see who could swing the highest. Then when they got going really high William would dare Hannah to jump off into the warm sand below. William would jump and shout "Chicken!" and Hannah would wait until her swing slowed considerably then make her jump.

Afterwards, they'd take turns carrying small pails of water up from the creek to mix with the sand. William would pat the sand this way and that to help Hannah build princess castles.

When they arrived back from their trips exhausted William's parents would often invite Hannah to dinner so Hannah's mother could rest.

One night after dinner William and Hannah were playing in William's room.

"Want to play catch?" said Hannah.

"Sure," said William and as he rummaged through his closet for his orange foam ball Hannah slipped her hand into his dresser drawer and pulled out the twenty dollar bill he kept hidden there safely "from burglars". She pushed the money into her pocket and quietly closed the drawer.

"Here's the ball," said William and the two played catch until Hannah's mother phoned and asked Hannah to come home.

"See you tomorrow," said William.

"See you later," said Hannah.

The next morning when Hannah met William at the bus stop he had his face buried in his hands, crying.

"What's wrong?" said Hannah.

"Burglars," said William. "They broke in last night when I was sleeping and stole my money."

Hannah used the end of her sweater sleeve to brush the fat tears off William's red cheeks.

"Oh, my gosh," said Hannah. "Lucky they didn't hurt you."

"Yeah, lucky," said William, "but I worked so hard for that money, raking leaves for hours."

"I know you did," said Hannah. Then she began to cry, too.

The school bus pulled up. Hannah and William hopped on board and nestled into the very backseat together.

Hannah took a deep breath and slipped her hand into her sweater pocket. She pulled out the crumpled twenty dollar bill and shoved it into William's hand.

"This belongs to you," she said. "I'm so very sorry."

"You...you stole my money?" said William. "How could you? I thought you were my best friend."

"Please let me explain," said Hannah. "I was only borrowing it for a little while. Mom's birthday is Saturday and I wanted to buy her a cake and some flowers to cheer her. I was going to put the money back...somehow. Can you ever forgive me?"

"Forgive you? I hate you!" said William and he rose up out of the seat and walked to the front of the bus.

When Hannah tried to sit by him at lunch he snatched his tray off the table and moved. He watched her eat her meal alone.

She deserves it, he thought. Still, he missed the funny stories Hannah made up at lunch about the trash trolls who snuck into the cafeteria windows at night and devoured all the uneaten cookies and cakes in the trash cans. Burglars. Kind of like Hannah, thought William.

And, a few days later when he went to town William didn't offer to take Hannah along.

"Is something wrong?" asked William's mother when they were eating ice cream at Pop's Ice Cream Shoppe.

"Nope," said William but the truth was that he missed the way Hannah kicked him under the table when they were eating and they way she let him kick her back. He thought it was cool how she never grimaced and got him in trouble.

"Would you like to swing by the park on the way home?" said William's father.

"No," said William. The park wouldn't be fun without Hannah. She always let him stomp her castles flat into the ground before they left. He could do that without her but what fun would it be without Hannah screaming pretending to be the horrified princess trapped inside the crumbling castle walls?

"Let's just go home," said William.

"How's Hannah?" said William's mother on the drive home. "I haven't seen her around in days."

"Okay," I guess said William.

"You don't know what a blessed life you have, William. Hannah's mother struggles everyday to stay alive and Hannah's a witness to all that pain and suffering."

William reached into his jeans pocket and pulled out the dirty crumpled twenty dollar bill.

"Dad, can you stop at the store really quick?" he said.

"Sure," said his dad. "What do you need?"

"Oh, just a cake and some flowers," said William. "Tomorrow is Hannah's mom's birthday and I want to buy her something nice."

"That's very sweet of you, William," said his mother.

"It's the least I can do," said William. "I mean, her daughter is my very best friend, you know."

And William's mother smiled as she watched her son skip down the grocery store aisle to the bakery department.

Author's Bio: 

Cherie Durbin is a writer who calls Conover, North Carolina "Home Sweet Home". She wrote this story for herself because she struggles with forgiveness. However, she hopes you enjoy it, too, and she'd love to hear from you.