A Novel by Mira Steffan
7:30 p.m.: Charlotte switched off her computer and left. She had a dinner date with her sister Pauline. Twenty-five minutes later, she pulled into the restaurant parking lot. As she got out of the car, she saw Pauline’s dark blue convertible driving toward her. Her sister waved cheerfully, drove around her and parked with momentum next to her white Rabbit.
“Gee, we’re both on time again,” Pauline said as she got out of her car, smiling broadly.
She looked good. The pink and gray sweatshirt accentuated her lightly tanned skin and blue eyes. She had tied her shoulder-length dark blonde hair into a ponytail, long legs and blue three-quarter length jeans with white sneakers. Intuitively, Charlotte looked down at herself. Was she dressed appropriately? Didn‘t Pauline look a lot better? And at the same time, Charlotte shook her head at herself: what was this immature impulse all about? She had once again fallen back into her insecurity-ridden puberty. For as far back as she could remember, they had always been compared to each other. However, not by her parents. But by her grandparents, relatives, and her parents’ friends and acquaintances. Charlotte remembered phrases like: Pauline is much better at memorizing than Charlotte. Charlotte is better at math than Pauline. Pauline looks pretty in her new dress, but Charlotte should have worn something else, the pants are too tight for her thighs. Pauline plays the piano much better. Only to discover two weeks later that Charlotte was better.
These degradations, uttered without restraint, had left traces of insecurity in Charlotte. Involuntarily, she had to think of a sentence she had read somewhere once: “Whoever starts comparing himself has already lost.” And yet another piece of wisdom came to her mind: “Comparison is the attempt to make of a person somebody else”
Good sayings. But they didn’t help at the moment. Resolutely, Charlotte shook off the uneasy feeling and turned towards Pauline.
Her sister was three years younger than her. She taught English and Educational Theory at the Immanuel Kant High School in Cologne. She had been married to her colleague Sven Böhm for 13 years. When the twins announced themselves twelve years ago, she had reduced her teaching hours.
Pauline took Charlotte in her arms, “Give me a hug, my favorite sister.”
Smiling, she returned her warm embrace. Arm in arm they strolled toward the restaurant.
“How was Ibiza?”
“Fantastic. A lot of sun, a lot of relaxation and a lot of of sex.”
Giggling, Charlotte poked Pauline in the side with my elbow. Pauline laughed up and pranced good-humoredly toward the door of the restaurant, pulled it open, stepped aside, made a bow in her direction, “Here you go, young lady.”
Charlotte let herself be taken in by her good mood. With a smile, she entered the reception area. A young, brunette, friendly smiling woman in a white shirt and blue cloth pants greeted her.
“I’ve ordered a table in the name of Reimann.”
The young woman looked at her clipboard and nodded, “If you’ll follow me, please.”
The table was in an alcove, right by the window overlooking the adjacent park. A waiter came and handed the menu.
“You should try this, too,” said Pauline.
“What?” asked Charlotte absentmindedly, for she was completely lost in the matter of whether to order a calzone or cannelloni.
“A vacation without kids,” said her sister, as pleased as Princess Lillifee in the morning after breakfast. For the twins had spent those two weeks with Sven’s parents.