BHM The Improved You

Discussion in 'Recent Additions' started by Unbasher, Mar 7, 2019.

  1. Apr 7, 2019 #41

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

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    What can I say... For one thing, I love chickens. For another, there is that expression "verrücktes Huhn", which fits Mandy to a tee ;)
    What amused YOU so much about my choice in name?
     
  2. Apr 7, 2019 #42

    agouderia

    agouderia

    agouderia

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    Yes - of course I know that Huhn - as many other animals - can be a normal last name in German. Unlike in English, where they are few and far between. My great-aunt played bridge with a "Frau Huhn".
    But still, in combination with Mandy - which as a first name is most common in former East Germany - it has a comic quality.
     
  3. Apr 10, 2019 #43

    Starling

    Starling

    Starling

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    I love where this is going! Your writing is even more impressive since English isn’t your first language!
     
  4. Apr 10, 2019 #44

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

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    Thanks!! :D In one of my books I have one of my characters mention that she's a "translingual". She wasn't born in the wrong body, she was born in the wrong language. That would be me ;) I just love English. I'll keep posting chapters, I promise.
     
  5. Apr 10, 2019 #45

    Clandy Caine

    Clandy Caine

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    Just wanted to let you know that I’m really enjoying this story and am looking forward to the next installment!
     
  6. Apr 10, 2019 #46

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

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    Thank you, Candy, that means a lot! I'll upload the next chapter tomorrow. Mandy and the improved Severin are meeting at last...
     
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  7. Apr 11, 2019 #47

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

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    Chapter 10: The doubly new tax advisor (part 1)


    In the year following her first customer consultation, Mandy designed five other stones besides the one for the Landers. Five might not sound like much but when one kept in mind that Waldhorst's portfolio offered much more than headstones, and that not every customer wished for an individual stone, five was an impressive number. Albert was optimistic that business was going to pick up in this new branch and was furthering the concept with increased advertising.

    Mandy certainly hoped so, because although she continued to be grateful for her position among a team she had come to consider as family – the two pay raises since Mandy had started working at Waldhorst's didn't hurt either – the old restlessness refused to be appeased by a mere five design projects. Sooner or later she wanted to work in design full-time. In these five projects Mandy had felt the old passion and energy surge every time she brainstormed and researched until she finally produced her initial sketch. Suggested by Dominic and financed by his father, she had even signed up for a computer-aided design class two weeks ago, which would last several weeks.

    "Amanda?" a soft male voice interrupted her musings, and Mandy's contrite gaze abruptly snapped up to its owner's face.

    "I'm sorry, Herb,“ she apologized to the company's tax advisor, who had become a dear friend despite their difference in age. He was the only one to ever call her by her given name.

    "It's fine, dear," the gray-haired man in his late sixties assured her with a benign smile. "A lot on your mind?"

    "I believe I could use a few days off,“ Mandy smiled in an attempt to shrug off the somber thoughts.

    "Well, you sure deserve it, you always work very hard. How long has it been since your last vacation?"

    "Uh... spring?" Mandy ventured a guess. The summer months were always the busiest for a stonemason company, so she usually took time off at the end of the year as well as in spring.

    "Well," Herb smiled at her indulgently, "seeing it's October now and things are slowing down, I am sure you can take some time off soon. Uh, dear, there is something I have mentioned before that I would like to talk to you about today.”

    Herb Winters and Mandy had taken to one another immediately and Mandy had always enjoyed meeting with him. A few months ago, however, he had apprised Mandy of the fact that their meetings would come to an end soon, and judging by Herb's face and tone Mandy knew that 'soon' had turned into 'now'. Herb's kind, wrinkly face assumed a solemn expression, and he folded his spotted hands on the tabletop as Mandy had so often seen him do over the past three years. With a sinking heart she sighed and prepared for what she knew her dear friend was about to tell her.

    "We have spoken about this before briefly: I'm planning to retire within the next few months, and I would to make sure all my clients are taken care of."

    "I know, Herb,“ Mandy sighed, still reluctant to face the unpleasant music. "And while you deserve it more than anyone I know, it doesn't mean I like the thought of not seeing you anymore on a regular basis."

    "It pleases me to hear that, my dear, and I whole-heartedly share the feeling. It has been a pleasure working with you and seeing you thrive. You have become a really accomplished businesswoman, and a pretty one at that. Just don't tell my wife I said that,“ he added with a conspiratorial wink.

    "You're vastly exaggerating, but thank you. And of course I won't tell on you."

    "I'm not exaggerating,“ Herb insisted, holding up one hand to stifle any further protest on her part. "What I've been meaning to say is, there is a young colleague of mine whom I have come to know quite well while he was working for me. I might have mentioned once that one needs at least two years of work experience before one is allowed to take the final examination and may call oneself 'tax advisor',“ he added. "Severin opened up his own firm a few months ago and I'm entrusting my most valuable clients to him."

    "Severin?" Mandy's eyebrows shot up and her voice emerged in a most unnatural squeak.

    "Yes, Severin Meyers, that's his name," Herb replied with a frown, clearly puzzled at her reaction.

    Although her then study partner had never introduced himself with his full name, Mandy remembered his answering a brief phone call once with 'Meyers'. She had always had an excellent memory for names. While she took a deep but silent breath lest Herb recognize her sudden turmoil, she tried to convince herself this was nothing but a strange coincidence. The Severin with whom she had studied might have been a business major, yet a guy like him would never have ended up as a tax advisor. Mandy had always thought a smooth-talking charmer like him would make an excellent salesman and could not imagine him undertaking anything more serious with a spreadsheet than typing a shopping list, probably with two fingers.

    "Herb?" Mandy asked, both afraid and eager for his answer to her next question.

    "Yes, my dear?"

    "What does this Severin Meyers look like?"

    Herb's kind face was shaped by concern now. "Why do you ask?"

    "I went to university with a Severin Meyers and since it is quite an unusual name, I was wondering..."

    "I understand." Herb was looking reassured now. “Well, he is a big guy, maybe 6'4" and... oh, I would put him around 350 lbs., I think."

    350 lbs.? No, that could not possibly be the athletic Severin from her university days. The height matched but--

    "Short brown hair," Herb continued, "and glasses. Does that sound like your friend?"

    Although her study partner had had imperfect eyesight – Mandy might once have been holding his entrancing hazel gaze sufficiently long to detect the telltale shade of contacts around his irises – she was certain he would never stoop to wearing glasses.

    "No, it can't be him," Mandy replied carefully, gradually coming to believe her own words. “It would have been a funny coincidence, that is all."

    "It would have. At any rate I can truly recommend him. He is very smart, works hard and will always make sure your business is taken care of."

    Hard-working, that was definitely not him. "OK, you know I trust you, Herb, so if you say he'd be a worthy successor, I'll meet with him."

    "You know I trust your judgment, too, my dear. I'm sure he would like to hear from you. He is very good at his job and I'm sure you will be in good hands with him."



    ***



    Once back at the office, Mandy composed a brief but friendly email to the address on the business card with which Herb had provided her, informing Mr. Meyers of Herb's recommendation and asking for an appointment.

    Severin Meyers… Ever since Herb had mentioned the name, her old acquaintance had once again taken up residence in her mind. What might have happened to him back then? Why had he suddenly fallen off the grid? What was he doing these days? Somehow, however, Mandy managed to concentrate on her tasks sufficiently despite her swirling thoughts until the arrival of a new message yanked her away of her paperwork:





    Dear Ms. Huhn,



    I'm glad you're considering me as your new tax advisor, and I would very much like to meet with you. It would help me if you thought about a few points prior to our meeting such as:




    • Processes you would like to handle yourself, and others which you would like to entrust to me



      Your preferences regarding data exchange, e.g. a common data base, digital or paper copies

      Tax software

      Practices from Mr. Winters you would prefer to continue and others you would like to change

      Intervals for meetings


    You can find my office hours below but I'm flexible for an appointment outside office hours as well. I look forward to hearing from you and hope our meeting will be conducive to facilitating your decision.



    Sincerely,



    Severin Meyers





    A long exhale escaped her as she realized this email constituted another piece of irrefutable proof that Herb's colleague was definitely not the Severin Meyers. 'Facilitate' or 'conducive' had most likely not found admission into his overseeable vocabulary. With a calmer heart, Mandy typed her reply, suggesting the upcoming Wednesday at four. This message was answered promptly as well, confirming the date, and after Mandy had finished her work for the day, she typed together a few notes on the issues Mr. Meyers had suggested.



    ***



    Before Mandy knew it, Wednesday had arrived and so had she, namely in front of a new suburban two-story house with an attached garage, a neat front yard and three client parking spaces. A simple but classy sign in the window proclaimed:



    Severin Meyers

    Tax Advisor



    Despite her conviction that she was not about to experience a blast from the past, Mandy walked up the neat flagstone path and up the few front steps with a growing queasiness in her stomach. A friendly-looking, slender brunette in her late forties with a perky pixie cut opened the door a few moments after Mandy had rung the bell.

    "Hello there! Ms. Huhn?"

    "That's me,“ Mandy smiled at her, liking her immediately.

    "My name is Christina Stipp. Come in, please, I'll tell Mr. Meyers you're here. He'll be ready to see you in a minute."

    "Thank you.”

    Mandy followed the nice assistant inside into a gray carpeted waiting area, sparsely furnished by a cloak stand and three metal chairs. Well, few tax advisors were gifted both at numbers and interior decorating. What mattered was that he would manage to fill Herb's shoes adequately. The assistant reemerged from an open doorway to the right and smiled at Mandy. "You may go in. I'll bring something to drink in a minute."
     
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  8. Apr 11, 2019 #48

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

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    Chapter 10: The doubly new tax advisor (part 2)

    Mandy nodded at her as she stepped past her and into Mr. Meyers' office. A big man in dark blue jeans and a light blue shirt, easily 6'4" and wide in the shoulder as well as in the belly and rear area rose from his huge, neatly organized metal desk. Immediately the familiar tingles set in.

    "Ms. Huhn," he addressed Mandy with a large hand extended, offering a brief smile that did not quite reach his hazel eyes behind the elegant semi-rimless glasses. "It is nice to meet you."

    The tingles vanished within an instant. These hazel eyes... and that voice... oh God, it is him after all! Mandy almost gasped out loud. Even though this large man bore such little resemblance to the trim Severin from her university days, this was the prick she had studied with, albeit if in a much larger edition, and her next words tumbled out with a will of their own while her suddenly moist palm shook a large, soft one.

    "I would say 'Likewise', but I think we know each other."

    Mr. Meyers seemed to freeze for a second before he eyed Mandy intently. "I don't think so,” he finally answered with a slight frown.

    Mandy would not have thought it possible either, but his eyes were a dead giveaway. Swallowing hard, she willed her voice to emerge steadily: "Did you... did you study in Murnau?"

    "Yes." When his eyes became guarded, Mandy sensed that he was beginning to recognize her, too.

    "And do you, by any chance, recall a girl you called 'Chucks', with perpetually messy hair and no sense of style?" Mandy added with her own brand of self-deprecating humor, feeling a silly grin claiming ownership of her face that shooed away all traces of panic she had heretofore felt. The tax advisor’s eyes roamed over her honey-colored bob, her simple three-quarter-sleeved purple blouse and blank pants down to her black boots, her usual office outfit.

    "You're... you're not--"

    "One and the same.”

    "Wow.” He scratched his now short, neatly gelled hair, a vast difference to the shaggy mane from their university days. “Uh, talk about a small world, huh?"

    "I couldn't agree more. Huh," Mandy mused, turning on the spot to take in their surroundings, and finally settled back on the new, unfamiliar XXL-version of her old... huh, what was he? Even before Mandy had discovered he had just been using her, they had never been friends. "I never would have pegged you as the spreadsheet type."

    "And how come you are working for a stonemason's company?" Severin retorted. He did not even seem to realize they were still standing in the middle of his office instead of sitting down. "Didn't you want to become a teacher?"

    Touched though Mandy felt that he would remember, the circumstances that had preceded her career change never failed to sadden her. "Things change, and so do people," she contented herself to say, instantly regretting her choice of words when she saw Severin wince. Evidently he was sensitive about his weight gain and tended to interpret ambiguous remarks such as these as an allusion to it.

    What might have happened to him that had caused him to balloon? Despite his weight he was still a pleasant-looking man. His clear hazel eyes and regular facial features saw to that. However, in addition to the considerable number of pounds he had piled on, it was their distribution that caught the eye. Although it was not as extreme as it had been for even heavier Michael, instead of settling exclusively on his belly as was common for men, many other parts of his body had received their share, too, and his once swift stride had slowed down to a slow trudge. Resolved, however, to stay focused on the topic at hand, Mandy called her screaming thoughts to order.

    "You might remember my friend Dominic – a little shorter than me, tattoos, glasses? You two have never met, but you might have seen us on campus together." Mandy saw him nod vaguely. "His father is the owner of the company. Initially they offered me a job after my diploma because I wanted to gather some more work experience before I would let myself consider spreading my dubious wisdom in the classroom, but for a lot of reasons I stayed with them."

    A knock interrupted their reminiscing, and both their heads snapped to the door where Severin's assistant had appeared with a small tray. "What are you still standing for? Come and have a seat! Really, Mr. Meyers, where are your manners?"

    Mandy could tell she would have liked to put her hands on her hips like an indignant mother, were it not for the encumbrance of the tray populated with glasses, a water bottle and a small plate of cookies.

    "Uh, forgive me, Chu-, uh...“ Severin broke off, clearly embarrassed he had almost called her by the nickname he had always been so fond of. "Mandy,“ he corrected himself, blushing slightly, and for a minute Mandy was transported back in time to that hurtful moment when he had had to admit he had forgotten her name. Ms. Stipp set down the tray with a tsk-ing sound, fussed around a little and finally closed the door behind her again.

    "Uh, Christina is right," Severin nodded with a contrite expression, gesturing towards the chairs, “please take a seat. That is...“ he added, now fidgeting. "Would you feel comfortable at all with me handling your taxes?"

    "That depends.” Mandy contemplated the man in front of her with her head tilted to the side, his anxious expression so incongruous with the over-self-confident man from university. "Did you borrow notes from a gullible nerd to pass your tax exam?"

    Although Mandy had never overcome that crucial moment between them from seven years ago, she had intended her teasing question as an attempt to see at least a small smile break through Severin’s clouds of worry. Clearly, however, her mission had failed.

    "I did not,” he answered succinctly and without a trace of a smile.

    "Or so you would have me believe,” Mandy dared to deliver another tease, again futilely. "All right, let us conduct this meeting like two professionals, and hopefully it will be as 'conducive to facilitating my decision' as you expressed it in your email. Commendable use of polysyllabism, by the way,” she could not help but add with a grin and was finally treated to a minute one of his own – the first one yet. In this moment Mandy caught a glimpse of the carefree guy she had once known, and for some reason it warmed her heart so see it. His demeanor had been nothing but polite so far, but Mandy could sense a certain sadness hovering about him. Regular contact with the bereaved had made her sensitive to the feeling.





    Due to her previous working experience with Severin, Mandy failed to say why she would be so surprised that all relevant points were covered in half an hour. It turned out that, despite the excellent business relationship she had always had with Herb, there was still plenty of room for improvement. For instance, Severin shared her wish to digitize their correspondence whenever possible.

    “If your boss decides to choose me as your new tax advisor," Severin concluded the meeting, "I would draw up a contract with everything we have discussed today. You could still make changes or additions and, as soon as everything is to your satisfaction, your business will go on as usual."

    He might as well have added 'You won't even notice I'm there', so anxious did he seem to conclude the meeting, and with it all future contact with her. Mandy's heart went out to him. It could not be easy for him to face a person he had wronged, even if their physical circumstances weren't as profoundly changed as they were.

    "All right then, that was most efficient,” Mandy smiled back at him but received no smile in return. Severin truly had changed, in some regards for the better, in others for the worse, and Mandy given her preferences, she was certainly not referring to his appearance. From the moment he had confirmed that he was indeed the Severin Meyers, a torrent of emotions had come thundering down on her, leaving her soaking wet, shivering and with a pounding head. A thorough analysis of the ramifications of today's meeting would have to be deferred.

    "You know, I never would have thought you capable of conducting a meeting so professionally,” Mandy could not resist teasing him again, but just like before, she failed in drawing forth a smile from the man across the desk, who now seemed to be living up to the name Mandy had always thought so incongruous with his easygoing demeanor.

    "So,“ Mandy leaned back when Severin remained silent, and fixed her gaze on his unabashedly. Even though she had believed her interest in him forgotten, clearly it had only been lying dormant and was now yelling at the top of its lungs like a persistent toddler. "How come you ended up becoming a tax advisor?"

    An uncomfortable look crossed Severin's face at her question. "Uh, as much as I would like to reminisce, would you mind if we did that another time, perhaps over dinner? My office is not the most comfortable place."

    "What a great idea. All right then, I'll call or email you."

    She pushed her chair back and watched him do the same, although with more care. Now that some of the shock had passed, watching his massive form rise gingerly and trudge behind her toward the door triggered a light shower of prickles. At the door they came to a silent, awkward standstill. How did one say goodbye to a person for whom one failed to even find a label, such as 'friend' or 'acquaintance'? Since Severin seemed to be afflicted with the same agony, Mandy finally rose to the challenge and extended her hand to him.
     
  9. Apr 11, 2019 #49

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

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    Chapter 10: The doubly new tax advisor (part 3)


    "It was good to see you again, Severin.”

    Mandy surprised herself by discovering she actually meant it. She would not have called it 'closure' since they had agreed to meet again, but seeing him again had provided her with some reassurance at least.

    "It was,” he answered softly as he shook her hand, his remarkable eyes grave behind his glasses. "Take care."
     
  10. Apr 11, 2019 #50

    Ffancy

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    Ahhhhh a reunion at last! I love this story!
     
  11. Apr 12, 2019 #51

    Chubhandles

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    *does a little happy dance* I’m so excited!!!! This is so good!!!!

    Poor Severin, though! I hope Mandy helps him come out of his shell!!!
     
  12. Apr 12, 2019 #52

    thatsnimpossible

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    Omg I'm so happy, they've finally met. You write so well I feel like I'm in love with Severin myself! Cannot wait for more <3 I'm obsessed with this story xx
     
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  13. Apr 13, 2019 #53

    Unbasher

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    Thank you all so much for your replies!! I always fall in love with my characters, too, and I'm glad you're rooting for them :)
     
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  14. Apr 16, 2019 #54

    agouderia

    agouderia

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    This has set me thinking for days now.
    Is there really such a thing of being born in the wrong language? Interesting thought, though.
    I know more than enough people who had to give up their native language for reasons of migration or work - if it is a very small and unusual one and opportunities exist only in one of the major ones. And - unfortunately - also many who as adults become "language-less" because they lose most of their native language and never fully acquire their new one.

    What is daily knowledge in my case is that different languages are good at different things.
    English is simple the best for anything analytical, marketing or business in general (as it totally sets the international lingo). It also excells in options for expressing complex facts in a linguistic nutshell.
    German in contrast is better if you want to write something historical with different time layers, sociological - or anything psychological, as after all, Freud was a native German speaker. French comes first - no surprise - if it's culinary, fashion or cosmetics. But also for motivational, concept driven political speech.
    Italian naturally for opera - but also soccer romantics.
     
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  15. Apr 16, 2019 #55

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

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    the term translingual exists but has a different meaning. I just appropriated it for myself because being born in the wrong language is sometimes how I feel. That diagnosis is my own and by no means coming from an expert ;-)
    However, I'm grateful to have learnt German as a child and English as a second language. German is much harder to acquire later. I appreciate both English and German, and I agree with you, agouderia, that both of them have their strengths.
     
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  16. Apr 17, 2019 #56

    Tad

    Tad

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    The great white north, eh?
    Ehen I read the intro to this story, I held off on reading it for a while. I wanted to hold off until it got beyond the early 'not knowing what I want' sort of stage.

    Today was finally the day to read it, and wow what a perfect time to dive in. It was a delight to immerse myself in the story and the delightful characters, and get a good chunk of story, but still get the anticipation of 'how will they work things out?'

    I've really enjoyed it so far, and am eager to find out what happens next!
     
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  17. Apr 17, 2019 #57

    Unbasher

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    Tad, thank you so much!! I'll post another chapter tonight.
     
  18. Apr 17, 2019 #58

    Tad

    Tad

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    The great white north, eh?
    Totally as anaaside: when reading stories from someone elsewhere, it interests me how so many experiences are pretty universal, but occasionally I'll hit some detail that throws me out of that comfortable rut and reminds me, as a reader, that this is somewhere else with different baseline assumptions. What amuses me is what does and doesn't do this.

    In this story the different education system didn't, the university in an old fortress didn't. The no speed limit autobahn didn't.

    What did? The man who was 5'10" being described as "short". That is about average height for men in North America (and I don't live in the tallest part of the continent). I forget how tall people are in some parts of Germany! So it was actually great that the comment was there, because it better informed me, as reader, of associations that may have gone with some of the numbers.
     
  19. Apr 17, 2019 #59

    Unbasher

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    While it is true that Germany has some tall people, especially in the north, that comment stems from the fact that I'm 6'1", a height I've passed on to my heroine ;-) that awkwardness with shorter men that Mandy experiences is something I've been through myself. In fact, it took me a long time not to care about that anymore. At some point I realized that it my personal insecurities were a big factor that led me to seek out a taller man. However, the more I began to accept and like myself as a person, the less I cared about these things because I knew I didn't need a tall man to make me feel better about myself. Sorry, rambling here. I'll stop ;-)
     
  20. Apr 17, 2019 #60

    Tad

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    The great white north, eh?
    Ah, short compared to her, rather than short to the general population? I may have misread (I was zooming through the stortto find out what happens next, and next after that, and ....), And was thinking about it after. So I may not have read that properly.
     

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