Episode 7 – The Labyrinth of Charlotte Reimann

A Novel by Mira Steffan

Not three steps away from her, she saw a man who had already caught her eye in the seminar because of his endless questioning.

“What are you doing here?”

“I’m on my way home. We took the same train. But you didn’t see me,” he said, holding out his right hand to her, “My name is Leo Schneider.”

“Charlotte Reimann.” As their hands touched, an unpleasant shiver trickled through Charlotte. Astonished and frightened at the same time, she withdrew her hand. “Which way do you have to go?”Charlotte pointed vaguely to the right as it began to rain harder. Leo held his umbrella over her, “May I accompany you?”

Taken off guard, she nodded. Silently, they set off. Ten minutes later, without exchanging a word, they had reached their destination. The situation was deeply uncomfortable for Charlotte. Indecisively, she stopped. “Good night. See you tomorrow,” she heard Leo’s voice through the patter of raindrops on the screen. “See you tomorrow.” She waved vaguely at him and, without turning around again, ran to the front door. Hastily, she unlocked the door and threw it into the lock with relief. Tiptoeing, she crept up to the window next to the front door. Carefully, she pushed the curtain aside. The dark street was lit by two lanterns reflected in the puddles. No one was to be seen, everything was quiet. Quickly she pressed the button of the electric blind. A strange encounter. She didn’t like him. There was something unpleasant about this Leo Schneider. Charlotte felt inside herself, but could not name this unpleasantness any further. Maybe because she was too tired. Yawning, she climbed the stairs to the upper floor. In the bedroom, she threw her clothes on the armchair next to the bed, got a towel from the closet, rubbed her feet and hair dry, slipped into flannel pajamas, dropped onto the bed, wrapped in her plumeau, and fell asleep immediately.

New laws, rulings and regulations, accounting, financial management and communications – Charlotte’s head was spinning. On the other hand, it was a satisfying feeling to use her mind again. She enjoyed finding solutions to tricky issues. And to her astonishment, she had not forgotten anything.

She kept her distance from Leo Schneider. When she saw him approaching during breaks, she avoided him. In the seminar room, he sat in the back row, Charlotte in the second. And she no longer took the train. She had carpooled with another participant who lived in the same part of town. When the seminar ended after two weeks, Charlotte felt exhausted but satisfied. She was looking forward to the weekend and decided to sleep in on Saturday. And she looked forward to Sunday, when Justus and Emma returned home. Yes really, she thought elatedly, I can’t wait to see them again.

Closing her eyes, Charlotte groped for her vibrating smartphone. What time was it? Her head throbbed dully. With difficulty, she opened her eyes. The display of her alarm clock read 8 o’clock. She looked at the smartphone. Emma. Charlotte cleared her throat to find her voice and reported emphatically chipper: “Good morning sweetie.”

“Hi, Mom,” Emma’s clear, high-pitched girl’s voice reached her ear.

“Are you guys okay?”

“Yeah, Daddy and I are about to go to the beach and build a big castle.” “That sounds great.”

“After that we’re going swimming, and this afternoon we’re going to rent a paddle boat.”

As Emma raved to her about the shells she’d found, she leaned against the headboard of the bed and closed her eyes. Thoughts swirled behind her forehead like a colorful kaleidoscope. Why had she stayed at home again instead of going on vacation with her little family?

The seminar had been just right for her. She longed for Justus and Emma. Spending Easter alone had not been a good idea. “Mom, I have to go now. Papa is calling me. I’m looking forward to tomorrow when I’ll be back home with you.”

Charlotte shook off her musings like a wet dog shakes off its moisture and focused on Emma. She sent kisses through the phone, replied that she was looking forward to it, too, and wished them both a good time, and swung out of bed, did her personal hygiene, ate breakfast, and sat down at her desk. Thoughtfully, she flipped through her report cards and old job applications. She had completely forgotten everything she had done. She graduated from high school with a 1.4, studied in record time, managed various projects, headed a department, and was a member of the board of directors. Could she still do that? For the eighth time, she read through the job ads of various companies. She thought about yesterday, the last day, and the lecture on application strategies. She needed and wanted to finally get off her butt. She desperately needed a change. She fished out her resume from her files, added to it, wrote a cover letter and saved everything on her computer. She scanned her references, certificates and evaluations. She e-mailed some of her applications, printed out the rest that were to be sent by mail, put the documents in ten transparent envelopes, fished ten DIN A-4 envelopes out of her desk drawer, packed everything, slipped the filled envelopes into her bag, grabbed her car keys and drove into town.

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