56: The Tax Girls

56: The Tax Girls

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls

The Tax Girls

Soul mates are people who bring out the best in you. They are not perfect but are always perfect for you.

~Author Unknown

The voice inside my GPS said, “In fifty feet turn right.” I followed the instructions and turned my car into the unfamiliar parking lot, driving slowly to read the signs on the stores in the small neighborhood shopping center. The tax school had to be here somewhere. Tucked back in the corner I spotted the familiar name. Parking the car nearby, I walked into school and took a seat.

My husband and I had moved to a new town only a few months earlier. I’d been unable to find a job so I enrolled in tax school hoping it would open up some new opportunities. Being an accountant, I loved doing taxes. I wasn’t worried that the class would be too difficult. But I was apprehensive about fitting in with new people in a new place. I’d left the big city for a quiet small town. Life was different here.

“Hi. My name’s Linda,” I said, as I introduced myself to a woman who appeared to be about my age.

“Kay,” she said. “Nice to meet you.”

I looked around the room at five women and two men, all fidgeting in their seats waiting for class to start. The instructor, Larry, stood up and introduced himself before explaining the rules of the classroom. He asked us each to tell the others something about ourselves.

The other women all told similar stories about needing to find work in a weak economy. I felt camaraderie with them from the start even though their ages and priorities seemed very different from my own. The two men, both retired, were looking for something to fill their time and extra money to boost their pensions. The women seemed much more driven in their quest for employment, a quality I could relate to.

Three mornings a week, Larry calmly led us through the rules of the Internal Revenue Service, including filing status, dependents, and adjusted gross income. Nightly homework and weekly quizzes reinforced our lessons.

“Linda, what answer did you get on yesterday’s practice problem?” Carrie asked one morning before class began. She closely examined papers spread across the desk in front of her.

I pretended to look through my briefcase. I didn’t want to admit I hadn’t done the homework.

“I got a refund of $180,” one of the Susans said.

“You must have left out some of the income. They owe taxes,” Debbie added. Over time we had learned that Debbie’s homework was always complete and correct. The odds were great that it was this time too.

“Deb’s probably right. They took a distribution from their retirement fund,” I added, feeling pressure to contribute to the conversation.

Kay slid into the seat next to me and whispered in my ear, “I didn’t do the homework. Did you?”

I shook my head no.

Larry rapped on his desk to get our attention. The other Susan flung open the front door.

“What did I miss?” she yelled out while she jogged to her seat.

The men sat quietly not saying a word. As the weeks wore on they stopped coming to school. We didn’t miss them. The bantering amongst us was rapid and lively. Their absence gave us more room to spread out, compare notes, and speak our minds. Most days Larry sat back in his chair, arms crossed, and smiled, watching his students learn from one another.

“Next week the district manager will be here to conduct interviews,” Larry announced one day. “I’ve told her how well you’re doing.”

A look of panic crossed Carrie’s face. Debbie took a big hard gulp from her bottle of water. Susan brushed her long blond hair out of her face. Kay laughed. The other Susan threw open the door, took one look at our faces and said, “What did I miss?”

I watched the group’s anxiety quickly melt away.

On the day slated for interviews we all showed up in well-pressed suits with colorful blouses. I put on make-up for the first time. Not dressed in our usual attire of shorts, sandals and T-shirts, we barely recognized each other.

The district manager called us to the back of the office one by one. Larry wasn’t teaching a lesson that day so while we waited for our turn, we spoke freely as a group. We talked about books, our favorite television shows, and sports we enjoyed. The conversation never missed a beat as each of us rotated in and out for our interview.

We had to wait a week to learn if we’d been hired or not. When I got to class on the big day, in unison the group burst out, “Did you get hired?”

“No,” I answered. “I haven’t heard anything yet.”

“We all heard. We’re hired!” Susan number one shouted out.

My heart sank. I needed a job. And working alongside this wonderful group of women would make it extra special.

Kay put her arm around me. Carrie scrolled through her cell phone looking for the manager’s number. Susan, Susan, and Debbie prodded Larry to do something, anything for me.

Carrie handed me a piece of paper with a phone number on it. I went outside to make the call. I got the manager’s voicemail.

They all sat up straight when I came back through the door. I shrugged my shoulders.

I sat through class that day under a cloud. My friends did their best to try to reassure me. All gave me their good thoughts that everything would be fine by tomorrow.

When I got home the phone rang.

“I sent your hiring documents to your e-mail. You’ve been assigned to a high volume office,” the manager told me.

I thanked her profusely, a weight lifted. The next day the women barraged me with questions. When I couldn’t hide the smile on my face any longer, they knew I’d been hired too.

On graduation day Larry proudly handed each of us our diplomas. We’d all passed the course with flying colors. We agreed to meet the following week for lunch at a local restaurant to celebrate.

The lunch conversation volleyed back and forth across the table, a mix of questions, answers, and laughter. We revealed our ages and birth dates, told tales of children and grandchildren, husbands and boyfriends. The plates had long been cleared before anyone even thought to get up to leave.

While the waitress refilled my glass again, I remarked, “This was so much fun. Let’s do this again.”

A monthly lunch with the tax girls was born. I never miss it. Each time a different tax girl picks the spot and I put the address into my GPS. In addition to a delightful afternoon, I’ve learned my way around town. Even with several tax seasons behind us, we never lack things to talk about.

At tax school, I met five wonderful women, from different backgrounds with different points of view. My tax girls will forever hold a special place in my heart as friends I found when I needed them most.

~Linda C. Wright

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