Another installment from Heartbreak Hill:
The door bell jangled and Tara looked up hoping for Mark, instead it was the Tenaples, the next scheduled appointment. Mrs. Tenaple clutched a manila folder. Mr. Tenaple looked like he was about to have a colonoscopy. Tara didn’t blame him. Their tax return was one of the most complicated in Carterville. Multiple 1099’s, rental properties, and a bugger of a health savings account.
Leslie poked her head out of the break room. “Hello,” she said through gritted teeth. “Let’s go into my office.” She took a step into the hallway as another contraction struck. She doubled over and slumped against the wall. Tara almost skinned her knee, tripping over her chair to get to Leslie. “Mark will be here any second. I’ll reschedule the Tenaples.”
“You can’t. They always forget stuff. They’ll be back and forth six times between now and the fifteenth. Do the pre-interview and get their forms. I’ll take care of the rest,” Leslie said between hitched breaths. “We get to the hospital I’m signing that darned consent form for the epidural. If these are the practice ones, there’s no way I’ll survive the real thing.”
“I can’t do their taxes. They’re too complicated. I’ve only done the basic stuff. No complications, no extra forms. No obscure deductions.” Tara clutched Leslie’s elbow, trying to hold her up as much as fight the panic that lurked. She couldn’t handle the Tenaple’s tax return. Leslie couldn’t entrust that to her.
The front bell rang again. Mark zipped around the Tenaples and flew down the hall, his workboots left dusty footprints on the ceramic tiles.
“I grabbed your bag from home. That’s why it took me so long. I’m on hold with the doctor. Let’s go.” He swept Leslie off her feet despite her protestations that she was the size of a small hippopotamus and could walk just fine. Tara knew they were half-hearted, Leslie had barely made it two feet down the hallway.
The Tenaples gaped as Mark whisked Leslie around them and out the door. Tara stood behind her desk, one hand on her chair with three sets of eyes on her.
She was here alone with customers waiting. Customers who needed their taxes done. Her fingers dug into the mulberry upholstery. This wasn’t what they planned. She couldn’t handle this.
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