Episode 2 – The Labyrinth of Charlotte Reimann

A Novel by Mira Steffan

Justus no longer noticed the slamming of the front door. His thoughts twitched like random lightning in all directions: Checking the PowerPoint presentation, packing the laptop, not forgetting the exposés. He got into his car and joined the rush-hour traffic wondering if he had time for another cup of coffee at the office. He shook his head. Not a good idea. Running to the bathroom during the lecture would not work. He was going over the calculations again, seeing the tables and figures in his mind’s eye, when red lights flashed. The Audi in front of him had stopped abruptly. Startled, he slammed his foot on the brake and came to a stop just short of the bumper of the car in front. Roughly, but effectively, he had landed in the present. For the rest of the ride, this adrenaline rush kept his undivided attention. And he needed it. For the hazy January weather with its low-hanging gray cloud cover prevented any chance of good visibility.

“Don’t you realize how unhappy you are?” Seriously, Susanne looked her best friend in the eye.
Susanne had turned 40 a few weeks ago, shortly after Charlotte. She was slim and blond, wore boyfriend jeans, an asymmetrically cut black sweater and black ankle boots. In short, she looked stunning. They had met in the first semester of their studies. In front of lecture hall D. The approximately 1.78 meter tall, blond, skinny young woman, who nervously paced up and down in front of the door, looked just as shy and insecure as Charlotte felt. Immediately Charlotte sensed a great deal of sympathy. Finally, someone who didn’t stride blasély and arrogantly through the hallways in a pantsuit and carrying a briefcase of importance, like many of the other fellow students who already saw themselves as CEOs just because they had just started studying business administration at a prestigious university.

“Are you also looking for the room where the accounting lecture is held?” asked Charlotte.
Susanne nodded and chewed her thumbnail uncertainly, “I’m just not sure if I’m in the right place. The lecture has already started, and I don’t dare go in there.” That awakened Charlotte’s protective instinct and drove away her own anxiety. Determined, she grabbed Susanne by the arm and entered the lecture hall. It was the right lecture. The professor interrupted his lecture, which had just begun, and explicitly greeted them both. Embarrassed, they returned the greeting, looked down in embarrassment, and, with ears as red as ketchup, bashfully looked for a seat. From that day on, Charlotte and Susanne were inseparable, studying and partying together, drowning their heartbreaks in chocolate orgies, dancing at their weddings, and remaining friends even as their careers and lives developed differently.

On Saturday mornings, since they had both become mothers, they always met for coffee at their favorite café in downtown Bonn while their husbands took care of the children. Charlotte looked through the large picture window at the pedestrian zone, which was slowly filling up with people. So Susanne thought she was unhappy. Charlotte took her eyes off the bustle of the alleyways and looked at Susanne with narrowed eyes and raised brows.
“This isn’t working, Charlotte. You can’t intimidate me with that look,” she said, showing all many and white teeth. “Too bad,” Charlotte grumbled, sipping her tea.

Unlike Charlotte, Susanne, despite her two children, had never stopped working. Together with her husband Paul, supported by her mother and changing nannies, she had made it to the executive floor of a large car company two years ago.
“Okay, granted.” Reluctantly, Charlotte agreed with her, “I’m bored,” she stared blankly at the cookie next to her cup, “and feel worthless, fat, and unattractive. And Justus is married to his work. At what crossroads did I actually take a wrong turn?” questioning, she looked at Susanne and mumbled the answer to herself, “When I got pregnant.”

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