The tea I had suggested to introduce Nikki to a few members of the Junior League got off to a tricky start when I arrived and found her dressed just as I suggested.

I must have looked confused.

“You said bows and pearls,” she reminded me.

I should have been more specific, adding words like understated, tasteful, or even just plain small. Nikki wore a white dress covered with big red flowers and the largest red bow I’d ever seen that wasn’t on the hood of a new car parked in the driveway Christmas morning.

“Well, ah, don’t you look . . . just like you,” I stated with an enthusiasm I didn’t feel.

Nikki beamed and twirled. “Can you believe I found such an amazing dress?”

It is difficult to manage the byways of indirect speech when you have someone asking a direct question. I experienced the very real desire to tell her just exactly what I thought of her attire. (You look like a two-tiered party cake at a Sweet Sixteen birthday party.) But years of training in the Right Sort of Behavior prevailed and I swallowed the impulse and said, “No, I can hardly believe it.”

Just then the doorbell rang.

“It’s time!” Nikki smoothed her dress and looked like an actor getting into a part. “Okay, I’m not going to mess this up. I’m ready to meet the ladies.”

Though I had little doubt that no one in the Junior League of Willow Creek was ready for Nikki Grout.

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