She bent wearily over her desk like a flabby banana skin. Her head was now as empty as a scooped out pumpkin. She nervously glanced at the clock in the right-hand corner of her computer screen: 4:30 p.m. This was a Friday. Today Justus was coming back from his business trip. She would pick him up from the airport tonight. Except for her boss, everyone had long since gone home. And that’s what she was doing now. She had only checked in with her parents for 6 p.m. to pick up Emma, but she didn’t want to spend another second brooding over numbers. With her used coffee cup, she walked across the hall to the kitchenette and put it in the dishwasher. Back at the office, she shut down the computer, turned off the lights, and hurried to the underground parking garage. Off to the weekend with Emma.
As she pulled up to her parents’ house, Mr. Zimmermeister, her parents’ neighbor, was just coming out the front door and grinning at her. She grinned back and waved at him. That’s when she realized he wasn’t grinning at all, but merely baring his teeth because the sun was blinding him. Charlotte shook her head and couldn’t suppress a slight shudder. What a goofy grimace. It really didn’t look pleasant. Now Herr Zimmermeister caught sight of her. Greeting her, he raised his hand and smiled at her. Or the sun. Anyway, she got out. At the very moment, the front door of her parents’ home opened and Emma ran toward it. She spread both arms and whirled her around in a circle.
“Grandpa bought me a skateboard, and Grandma baked cookies with me,” Emma was breathless with excitement.
Charlotte gave Emma a kiss on the cheek and saw her father standing in the doorway. He winked at her happily, ” C’mon in. How was the reunion with your sister yesterday? Did you have fun?”
“Sure,” she said, giving her father a kiss on the cheek as well.
Her mother approached her with a kitchen apron featuring a roller skating woman with a gray knot. Under the picture was written, “Greatest Grandma.” A gift from the twins.
“We made cookies until now. Here’s our crop,” her mother said, pressing a large, clear bag of cookies into her hand.
“We’ll eat these with Daddy in a minute.” Emma danced around them, singing.
This made her even more nervous than she already was. “Don’t do that,” she said harshly to Emma.
“Come over here,” her mother pulled her into the kitchen, “I saved you some of our lunch. Sit down,” she gestured to a kitchen chair, walked to the refrigerator, pulled out a plate covered with aluminum foil, removed the foil, placed it in the microwave, typed in two and a half minutes and turned to Charlotte, “Stressed out?”
She waved it off, “Everything went smoothly today. But the last two weeks have been rough.” Thoughtfully, she propped her chin in her right palm, ” When I think about it, it’s not so much the work that’s stressful as it is the colleagues withholding information from me.”
Her mother looked at her wondering.
“There’s a colleague in accounting who gives me the wrong numbers or no numbers at all when I ask her about the expenses for materials. I can’t work with that. After all, I need to be able to get a picture to determine where cuts can be made.”
“That’s exactly what she’s afraid of.” Charlotte frowned.
“She’s afraid you’re going to cut her job or tell her how to do her job. That’s why she’s boycotting you.”
“That’s bullshit. I’m just trying to streamline workflows and eliminate the unnecessary.”
“Exactly,” her mother said, smiling mildly, as the microwave gave a piercing whistle to indicate that it was done reheating.
Two hours later, Emma and Charlotte were standing in the arrival terminal of the airport waiting for Justus. His plane had landed fifteen minutes ago. After another quarter of an hour, he approached them through a long corridor with a colleague. Emma was all frantic.
When she saw him, she squealed in excitement, “There he is.” Thrilled, she picked at Charlotte’s coat.
Justus looked in her direction and his eyes lit up. Briefly, he said goodbye to his colleague. Then a loving smile lit up his face. Was it meant for them both? Or was it meant only for Emma? But his firm embrace enclosed them both.
As soon as they were in the car, Emma showed him the cookies she had baked herself, opened the bow and fished out two, which she held out to each of their parents. At the same time, Justus and Charlotte bit into their cookies. Emma looked at them questioningly.
“Mmm, yummy,” Charlotte said. They tasted really good.
Justus nodded in agreement, “Very well done. Can I have another one?”
Emma proudly handed him a second cookie. Charlotte looked at them both and completely unprepared, she felt happiness all over herself. If only it were always like this.
Relaxed, Justus leaned back in his seat and chewed the cookie contentedly. He loved both of his girls. Why couldn’t it always be like this?