Sweet Repentance

Kelly wanted another piece. She knew that it was wrong. She knew that she had promised not to take any. But butter toffee was her favorite candy, and since it was too expensive for her allowance and too hard for her to make by herself, she just couldn’t think of another way to get any more.

She watched her sister, Sondra, back out of the driveway and head down the street. Sondra wouldn’t be back from her job until late.

Kelly shut out of her mind everything but the heavenly taste of butter toffee. Stealthily she opened her bedroom door, peered down the hall, then slipped quickly across the hall and into her sister’s room. Sondra had told Kelly that she was going to trust her to keep her promise to not take any more candy. But quickly, and as quietly as she could, Kelly opened Sondra’s drawer and lifted up the pile of sweaters. There it was, the pretty gold box with elegant, raised black letters: “Maxworth’s Famous Butter Toffee.” Kelly lifted the lid. The smell overwhelmed her, making her mouth water.

I’ll just take one piece, she told herself, choosing the biggest piece that she could find, then rearranging the others to hide the empty spot. Putting everything back as she had found it, Kelly tiptoed to her room and shut the door.

Sighing contentedly, Kelly settled onto her bed, her legs folded under her. She bit off a piece of the rich candy and savored it, her eyes closed. It tasted even better than she remembered. She ate it slowly to make it last as long as possible.

“Kelly, hurry down, dear. It’s time to go to the church,” Mother called from the bottom of the stairs.

“Oh no,” Kelly whispered. She had forgotten her baptismal interview. Luckily she was already wearing a blouse and skirt, so she wouldn’t have to change. She shoved the rest of the toffee into her mouth and chewed fast.

“Kelly, did you hear me?” her mother called again, starting up the stairs.

Swallowing hard, Kelly cleared her throat and yelled, “OK, Mom. I’m coming.” Without thinking, she licked off her fingers, then wiped them on her blouse. She jumped off the bed, slipped on her sandals, and grabbed her hairbrush.

“Oh no,” she moaned, looking at herself in the mirror. Chocolate ringed her mouth and had smeared her blouse. She pulled off the blouse, wadded it up, and stuffed it under her pillow. Then she washed her face, grabbed a clean blouse and put it on, and raced downstairs and outside, where Mom sat waiting in the station wagon.

Kelly slid in beside Mom and closed the door. Mom smiled and reached over to pat her shoulder.

“I’m proud of you, Kelly,” she said. “It’s a very special thing to be baptized.”

Kelly nodded and smiled back, but her face felt stiff and awkward.

Bishop Barton shook their hands warmly and invited Kelly into his office. “This is an important occasion, young lady,” he said, sitting down at his desk across from Kelly.

Kelly ran her tongue across her teeth before answering, “Yes, sir.”

Bishop Barton began asking her questions about faith and repentance and about what baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost meant. Kelly had practiced the answers with Dad, so she answered every one correctly.

“Very good,” said Bishop Barton. “Now that you’re eight, Kelly, Heavenly Father is trusting you to be able to make and keep promises. Sometimes it will be hard. That is when we find out how much we really want to be righteous. The promises that you make when you are baptized are sacred. It is important that you take them seriously. Kelly, are you determined to keep those promises all your life?”

“Oh yes,” said Kelly. “How could anyone make a promise to Heavenly Father and not keep it?”

“Good,” said Bishop Barton, and he signed her baptismal recommend. “It is very important to prepare yourself for baptism by being as righteous as you can. If there is anything that you have done wrong, try to make it right before you are baptized so that you will be prepared to receive the Holy Ghost for your friend and guide.”

As they were leaving, Bishop Barton put his arm across her shoulders. “Remember, Kelly,” he said, looking right into her eyes, “being honest is a very important part of keeping your baptismal promises.” He smiled and squeezed her. “See you on Saturday—all in white!”

Mom chattered happily all the way home, but Kelly didn’t say much. She was already thinking about butter toffee and the fact that she hadn’t really been able to enjoy the piece that she’d eaten before. Telling her mother that she wanted to read by herself before bedtime, she took one more piece of Sondra’s candy. That piece was so good that she had two more. Then she remembered her blouse. She pulled it out and locked herself in the bathroom with it.

Now, how does Mom do this? she wondered. She put hot water into the sink, wet her blouse, and began rubbing the bar of soap across the stains. Then she scrubbed. A lot of lather bubbled up, covering the stains. She rinsed it off, but the chocolate was still there. For a long time Kelly scrubbed. Her arms ached and her fingers felt raw, but the chocolate still showed plainly.

“I give up!” she flung the sopping shirt into the sink. Water dripped down the cabinet, puddles of soapy water spotted the floor, and Kelly was soaked all down the front. What’ll I do? she wailed silently.

“Hide it,” said a little voice inside her. Kelly listened and did what the voice said: She put the wet shirt into a plastic bag and hid it in a garbage can.

As the days slipped by, Kelly ate more and more of the butter toffee. By Thursday night, only one small piece was left. “I’ll save it for tomorrow,” she thought, slipping the box back under Sondra’s sweaters.

“Kelly, what are you doing?”

Kelly whirled around and looked up into Sondra’s angry face. Without thinking, she ran toward the door.

But Sondra caught her arm and pulled her back. “I didn’t want to believe it about you,” said Sondra, “but I guess that it’s true. My little sister is a liar and a thief.”

Kelly’s face turned red. “No, I’m not!” she shouted. She wrenched her arm free, burst into sobs, and ran from the room. She slammed her bedroom door and, flinging herself onto her bed, cried, “I’m not! I’m not! I’m not!” But a little voice inside her asked, “Then why did you lie and steal?”

Kelly sat up, surprised. She wiped her hand across her eyes and blew her nose on a tissue. For a long time she sat thinking. Then she knelt to pray.

“I have to do it,” she said, getting up. “It’ll be hard, but I have to do it.” Kelly went to the phone in her parents’ bedroom, got out the ward directory, and dialed Bishop Barton’s number. “Hello, Bishop Barton. This is Kelly Fife. May I come and see you?”

They made an appointment for half an hour later. Kelly washed and dressed carefully, then walked to the bishop’s house. After the interview, Kelly was very sober. She shook Bishop Barton’s hand, looked hard into his eyes, and said, “I promise, and this time I really mean it!”

“Good,” he said, smiling at her. “I’m proud of your decision. It took a lot of courage to tell me what you did. I’ll tell your parents why we are postponing your baptism. They will agree that you are doing the right thing. I’m sure that you’ll be ready by next month.”

Kelly walked home slowly, thinking about what the bishop had taught her about repentance.

On Saturday no one mentioned baptism. Kelly worked for Sister Roberts all afternoon, weeding her flowers and planting little seedlings. Coming home, she was exhausted, but she had three dollars in her pocket.

On the way home from school the next Wednesday, Kelly ignored a little doll lying on the curb. “It isn’t mine,” she said, “even if it is lost.”

Kelly stayed out of Sondra’s room. Every morning she prayed for help to be honest, and every night she told Heavenly Father how she had done. On Saturday she worked for Sister Roberts again and came home with three more dollars.

The days passed quickly. Soon Kelly was seated once more in Bishop Barton’s office. “You have worked hard to repent, Kelly,” he said kindly. “I think that you are ready to be baptized this Saturday. And I think that your plan for making restitution to Sondra is admirable.”

On Saturday morning Kelly rode her bike to the shopping center near her home, made a purchase, had it gift-wrapped, and tucked it inside her backpack.

Dressed in white and with her hand in Dad’s that evening, Kelly felt peaceful and good. When her turn came, Dad took her hands, helped her into the water, and said the baptismal prayer: “Kelly Sue Fife, having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, amen.”

The water closed over Kelly. She felt light and free, and when she came up into the air, she was so filled with happiness that she hugged her dad right there in the font.

After she was dry and dressed again, Kelly slipped her package out of her backpack and went to find Sondra.

“Congratulations, Kelly! I—“

“Oh, Sondra,” Kelly blurted, “it feels so good to be baptized! I really am sorry that I lied to you and stole your candy. I won’t ever do it again. Thank you for helping me repent. Here!” Kelly thrust out her package.

Sondra was speechless for a moment, then said, “Here!” and took a package from behind her back.

Kelly’s eyes were wide as she and Sondra unwrapped identical gold boxes of Maxworth’s Famous Butter Toffee!

The sisters began to laugh as they threw their arms around each other.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Lori Anderson