"Oh, Madge, have I mentioned how marvelous you look in that scarf?" Harriet's eyes bulged and her mouth gaped open as her face stretched to twice its normal length. "Wherever did you get it?"
Madge tossed her head, tilting it ever-so-slightly to the left. "This? Oh, I picked it up at Saks the other day. Charming, isn't it?"
"Divine, Madge, divine. What I wouldn't give for your sense of style, your panache."
"It truly is a learned skill, dear Harriet." Madge raised her eyebrows. "I'd be thrilled to give you some pointers."
The ladies quieted down and shifted in their seats as their hostess, Amelia, tapped her water glass with a pen.
"Thanks so much for coming, ladies, and welcome to my home. Maybe we should start by introducing ourselves. Just share your name, perhaps a bit about your family, and why you've decided to come."
The ladies looked from person to person awkwardly.
"I guess I'll start." Amelia cleared her throat. "I'm Amelia Barson. My husband Greg is a deacon at church, and we have two boys, 8 and 12. I'm here to develop closer friendships with the women of the church, to grow closer to God, and, well, because I'm leading this group." She giggled at her joke, but stopped quickly when nobody else joined her.
Amelia tapped the woman to her right. "Why don't you go next, Janet?"
The mousy-haired lady, who appeared to be in her mid-20's, kept her head down. "I'm Jan Smith. I don't really have family or friends around here. That's basically why I came: I want to meet people."
Madge was sitting to Jan's right. "My turn, it seems. I'm Madge Steiner. Frank and I have been at First Community since we were married 40 years ago, and my Wednesday afternoon literary society was cancelled this week, so I needed something to keep me busy, and out of Frank's hair."
Harriet giggled, covering her mouth. She poked Madge in the side with her elbow.
Amelia pursed her lips. "So glad to have you here."
Six eyes focused on Harriet for a good 30 seconds.
"Oh - my turn, right?" Harriet blushed. "I'm Harriet, and I'm here for the throw pillows."
"Excuse me?" Amelia glanced at her guest as if she'd just stepped off a spaceship.
"The throw pillows. You know, the lacy ones on page 16 of the catalog. They would look perfect on my loveseat in the living room."
Madge turned toward Harriet. "Oh, darling, don't you think they're a bit too loud? I do believe the orange quilt I saw toward the front would look just right on that loveseat."
"Perhaps you're right." Harriet opened her handbag and pulled out a booklet. "Now, which one were you talking about?"
"Um, excuse me, ladies," Amelia offered shyly. "You do realize this is a home group, right?"
Harriet nodded vigorously. "I got your 'home show' invitation in the mail last week, and the catalog looked just lovely. I just had to come and buy some of those wonderful items." Harriet pulled out her checkbook and waved it about. "By the way, Andrea, where's the sales rep?"
"Harriet, I think there's been a mistake." Amelia stuttered. "Andrea Billon's home decorating party is next Thursday, I think. You must have, um, gotten the dates mixed up."
Harriet looked straight at Amelia, crestfallen. "You mean no throw pillows?"
"The quilt, Harriet, the quilt. Trust me," Madge insisted.
Amelia tittered. "I have neither, ladies. I do, however, have some fellowship, a bit of God's word, some prayer...oh, and cookies. That's what a home group is all about. I do hope you'll stay."
Madge and Harriet glanced at each other.
"Cookies, you say?" Madge licked her upper lip discreetly.
"It should be a lovely afternoon," Amelia encouraged.
"There is a sale at Saks that we're missing, you know," Harriet offered, picking up her handbag.
Madge glanced at Harriet discouragingly, causing her to put her purse back on the couch.
"Why don't we just stay, Harriet? We'll certainly shock our husbands." Madge rested her hand on Harriet's shoulder. "Have we ever gone out with the checkbook and not spent money?"
"Better yet," Harriet said, a gleam in her eye, "why don't we stop at Saks when this is over? That way we can get in our share of praying and paying."
Amelia smiled. "Wonderful. So glad you are joining us, ladies. Shall we get started?"
Amelia bowed her head.
"Sounds great," Harriet boomed. "So, where are the cookies?"
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