Episode 1 – The Labyrinth of Charlotte Reimann

A Novel by Mira Steffan

77 kilos. Charlotte stared at the scales in horror. No wonder her pants didn’t fit anymore. For only being 165 centimeters tall, that was clearly too much. Disgruntled, she looked at herself in the bathroom mirror. Who was this pale woman with the dull, shaggy brown hair and the roll of flab at her waist? Reluctantly, she closed her eyes. Where had the time gone when she had fit into a 38 size dress and been on the top of her career ladder.

A call in a sergeant’s tone interrupted her dismantling thoughts, “Maaaama.” The handle bounced up and down. Charlotte sighed deeply in resignation, then turned to the door and opened it swingingly. “Good morning sweetie,” she said lovingly, getting down on one knee and hugging her daughter Emma. “I have to get dressed for school now,” the little girl said, looking at her with her big blue eyes that she had inherited from her father, “are you ready?”

She nodded, “Do you want me to help you?” Emma shook her head as seriously as nine year olds do when they really want something. Charlotte nodded affectionalety. This step into more independence should definitely be supported. Aloud, she said, “I’ll go make breakfast then.”

Yawning, she put on her bathrobe and tied her belt as she crept down the stairs. What was she so tired of, anyway? Because of the housewife‘s leisurely life, she answered her silent question sarcastically. It was cold and dark in the kitchen. Charlotte turned on the lights, the radio, and the coffee maker. She also turned up the heat. Better. It made the cold January morning more bearable. When Emma came into the kitchen with her schoolbag, breakfast was ready and the sandwiches and apples were carefully packed next to their respective plates.

“Is Daddy up?” asked Charlotte. Emma bit into her jam sandwich and nodded. That’s when Charlotte heard the water from the toilet flush rushing through the pipe. With a cup of coffee and yesterday’s dry pretzel, she sat down with Emma.

“Kevin gave me a note yesterday. It said, “Will you be my girlfriend?” said Emma casually, and Charlotte’s coffee landed in her trachea. Between coughs and a stifled laugh, she asked breathlessly, “What did you answer?” Emma shrugged and looked at her mother with a reprimanding expression, “No, of course.” Charlotte admonished herself to sound serious, “No?”

“The note said yes, no, maybe. I checked no,” Emma said in a tone as if that were explanation enough. “I don’t understand that? You like him, don’t you? Why wouldn’t you want to be his girlfriend?”

“Because he didn’t look handsome yesterday.” A giggle rose up inside her again. With a hearty bite into her pretzel, she stifled the impulse. “He went to the hairdresser. Now he looks goofy,” Emma declared snidely.

But before she could enlighten her daughter about inner values and hair regrowth, her freshly showered and shaved husband came into the kitchen. Fleetingly, Justus’ lips brushed her right cheek. He looked good in his gray suit, dark blue shirt and blue tie. He hadn’t gained any weight since their wedding. Unsatisfied, Charlotte looked down at herself, silently resenting her pounds again. Standing, Justus wolfed down his sandwich, poured coffee after it, stuffed the bread and apple into his bag, and hurried to the front door.

“I’ve got to go. The meeting about the new construction project starts in half an hour,” he called in her direction. And wham – the door fell into the lock with a roar. Sighing, Charlotte helped Emma to put on her school bag. A few moments later, the door slammed for the second time. Fed up, she rolled her eyes and shuffled back to the kitchen. There, dirty dishes, leftovers on the plates and coffee stains on the tablecloth awaited her.

She would have been better off checking “no” at the marriage registry office then, too, she reasoned. Tired and irritated, she plopped down on the kitchen chair. Another cup of coffee wouldn’t be bad right now. She rubbed her face with both hands.

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