Episode 6 – The Labyrinth of Charlotte Reimann

A Novel by Mira Steffan

“Have you signed up?” with a stern look on her face, Susanne wagged her index finger back and forth. It was another Saturday morning. There were red and yellow tulips in a white vase on the bistro table, coffee steam rose from the porcelain cups, wafting back and forth before Charlotte’s and Susanne’s eyes like wisps of mist, making the other café guests seem unreal. At first Charlotte didn’t know what Susanne meant, but then it occurred to her, “Yes.” She looked uneasily at the white tablecloth and played with a loose thread on one corner. “Not true,” Susanne said, sighing in frustration. “Well, I’ll do it though,” Charlotte said meekly. Susanne nodded as if she didn’t believe her, but dropped the subject, “How’s Emma?”

When Charlotte hung her jacket on the coat rack at home two hours later, Justus looked at her hurriedly, “I just got a call from the boss and have to go back to the office.”

“It’s Saturday,” she said more calmly than she felt like saying. She would have loved to yell at him, stamp her foot, and give this boss a good kick in the butt. “I know,” Justus said, shrugging his shoulders apologetically, “It’ll be quick.” He gave her a quick kiss, hastily picked his coat off the coat hook, and the front door slammed shut behind him. Charlotte looked at the door in disbelief and still couldn’t believe it. What a silly mess. Alone again. I wonder if it was really his boss who had called. Furious, she turned around, kicked the wall in the hallway, and walked into the kitchen with heavy, loud steps. “That’s enough! I’m sick, sick, sick of it!” cursing, she yanked open the drawer with the recipes and rummaged around in it.

There they were, the sheets of job ads and the flyer advertising the refresher seminar. Determined, she anihilated her fears of failure, tossed the papers on the dining room table, grabbed the flyer, stomped into the study and booted up the computer. That booting up always had to take so long. Impatiently, she drummed her fingers on the desk top while staring furiously at the screen. Unfortunately, the computer wasn’t impressed. Four hours later, okay actually it was half a minute, it was ready for action. Charlotte searched for the institute’s homepage. And without giving it a second thought, she registered for the seminar. A short time later, she received a confirmation. Yay! She raised her right fist in the air. Now I’ll show you who‘s in charge! Satisfied, she looked at the email. Then she felt a shock run through her limbs. The seminar was taking place during Easter vacation. What should she do? Unsubscribe? Charlotte stared at the desk top. No, no way. She wanted to do this seminar. The more she thought about it, the more she wanted to. No more bumming around.

Justus’ nerves were tense. This round-the-clock availability was driving his blood pressure up. He was looking forward to a relaxed weekend with his family. As he hurried down the hall to the CEO’s office, he saw him poring over file folders through the open door. “We need to go over the lineups again. Something’s not right here,” he said instead of a greeting, tapping on a sheet. Justus took off his coat and shook off his musings, pushing aside his guilty conscience and strained nerves to focus on work.

“The vacation is booked,” stunned, Justus looked over his breakfast roll at Charlotte. “I know,” she said, nodding uneasily, “but this refresher seminar is important to me. I want to go back to work,” tentatively she placed her right hand over his left, which was next to his plate. He didn’t flinch, which she took as a positive sign, “Emma is at school most of the day, or with her friends, like today, or with my parents. I need a new job. I’ve always enjoyed working in my job.” And besides, I feel tired and puny and useless, I have nothing of my own, I depend on my husband’s money, I am the woman in the genitive. Without my husband, I am nothing. But she did not say this aloud. Instead, she said, “Why don’t you go alone with Emma? She spends little time with you. It will do you both good.”

“That idea is stupid.” Justus pushed his chair back so abruptly that it fell to the floor with a thump, “I want you to come with me.” His furrowed brow and fixed gaze didn’t miss their effect on Charlotte. She felt like a scolded child who should be ashamed of his bad behavior. 

As Charlotte realized this, anger surged through her body, “For years I’ve put my needs on hold. It’s natural for you to do what you want. I used to be really good at my job. I even made more money than you,” with her outstretched index finger, she poked his chest rudely, “Whether you like it or not, I’m doing the seminar.” Upset, Charlotte left the kitchen, stomped up the stairs to the bedroom, and slammed the door. Oh great. Now. Completely unnerved, she settled down on the edge of the bed and ran both hands through her hair. Downstairs, she heard the front door slam. She had to do something. Her anger and frustration were now joined by a guilty conscience. Determined, she turned to the closet and pulled out her gym clothes. At the front door, she took a deep breath and started moving energetically. With her head down, she grimly set her sights on the asphalt. But the longer she ran, the more she relaxed and more and more she became aware of her surroundings. The dirty gray mass of clouds matched her condition. Boring weather, boring life, she thought melancholically. Going back was out of the question now.

“Singin’ in the rain, I am just singin’ in the rain”. – This song by Gene Kelly was playing on an endless loop in her head. But Charlotte was further away from good humor and happiness than Jupiter from the moon. Why hadn’t she taken the car to the institute where the seminar was taking place? Why did everything always have to be so stressful? Gloomily, she circled a puddle. Why, damn it all, was she running alone and lonely through the dripping wet evening. Just as the darkness drowned in the rain, Charlotte sank into self-pity over her dreary existence.

A light illuminated the street in front of her. Dazzled, she closed her eyes. Now a thunderstorm was coming, too! Could it get any worse? There was a splash, and moisture soaked through the soles of her shoes. Charlotte stood in a puddle. And then she saw white. A color that always appeared in her mind’s eye when she was so angry that even Hulk rush of aggression seemed like a choirboy in the against her. However, completely unexpectedly, a deep voice reached her ear: “Good evening,” said this voice, and her anger dissolved as quickly as sugar in tea. Whaaat…? Puzzled, she looked up.

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