A Novel by Mira Steffan
“Ms. Lah could print this out straight away,” Meier told Charlotte. What she meant was the adjusted figures for the budget planning she had just discussed with Meier. They left his office.
“Wait here. I’ll be right back,” Meier pointed to an armchair in his outer office, and Charlotte took a seat.
“Ms. Lah, please one scan and two printouts,” he said, handing a stack of paper to his secretary. She nodded and frantically turned to the large device on the right behind her desk as Meier left the front office for the restroom.
The device buzzed and blinked. When she was done with it, Lah went back to her desk at the computer, typing and typing, visibly getting nervous. Quietly she muttered to herself, “Crap…damn….,” as Meier came back whistling shrilly.
“Finished?” he asked.
“I scanned the sheets and sent them to my email adress. I don’t see any mail in my inbox, though.”
Meier stepped behind his secretary, who was visibly intimidated by so much closeness. Restlessly, she slid back and forth in her chair.
“Click send/receive up there,” Meier said. She scanned the screen.
Annoyed and with raised eyebrows, Meier rolled his eyes, whereupon Heidi Lah became even more nervous: “Up there leeeeeft.”
“Where’s your left,” Meier said smugly, demonstratively drumming his fingers on the desk top.
Charlotte watched the whole thing with great discomfort.
Lah frantically slapped his index finger on the computer mouse.
“Well, finally. Now, click the cursor on Update folder.”
The printer started up and Charlotte heard a sigh of relief. Even though she didn’t like Heidi Lah very much, she deeply hated and disliked such a show of superiority.
Tired, Charlotte rubbed her forehead. “I don’t sleep enough,” she said, reaching for the pot and pouring coffee into the mugs for her sister and for herself. It was Saturday morning and Pauline, who had taken her twins to judo class, had dropped by spontaneously.
Pauline nodded, “Yeah, me too.”
Well, sure, thought Charlotte, out loud she said, “Right now it’s very stressful at the office. It’s not so much the work as it is the working atmosphere. Apparently, it’s keeping me awake at night.”
“Mhm,” Pauline poured milk into her coffee cup, “I need your help,” Pauline said abruptly.
Irritated, Charlotte looked at her sister, “Now that’s what I call an abrupt change of subject.”
Pauline ignored the objection and continued unperturbed: “The Saturday after next, Sven and I are invited to a colleague’s 50th birthday party. Can you join us that Saturday and keep an eye on Marie and Liam? Our neighbor, who always looks after the twins in such a case, is out of town.”
Everything in Charlotte resisted. She needed peace and quiet to finally get some sleep: “What about Dad?”
“I’ve already asked him. He’s out of town. Something to do with politics,” Pauline said.
“Oh gosh. I’m totally exhausted.”
“I ask you for help and all you do is whine,” Pauline looked at Charlotte with a furrowed brow.
“Whoa, Pauline. Don’t you understand me?”
“Whoa, Charlotte,” Pauline mimicked her, “don’t YOU get ME?” “Why do you always have to twist everything?” Charlotte shot the words off like arrows.
“I thought you said I was lazy and not a good mother?” “Huh,” Charlotte rolled her eyes, “I didn’t.”
“Yes, you are!”
The sisters stared angrily at each other,
Charlotte took a deep breath. How quickly they had become children again: Like that time: you started it. No you. No you.
Aloud she said, “Okay, watch this. I’ll ask Justus if he’s home and can watch Emma. If that works out, I’ll take over watching the twins.”
Two weeks later, Charlotte sat yawning on the sofa in her sister’s living room. She could barely keep her eyes open. She had loved the twins ever since Pauline had told her about her pregnancy back then. Simply because she was attached to her sister. But today her affection was eclipsed by her tiredness. Upstairs, she heard Marie and Liam arguing. Should she go upstairs? But somehow she lacked the energy. As the voices grew louder, her guilty conscience spoke up. After all, she was in charge. To be on the safe side, she decided to take a look. As she entered Marie’s room, a brush flew by Charlotte’s head and bounced off the door frame. A startled silence fell, but after three seconds it abruptly disappeared in a babble of voices. Charlotte understood nothing.
“Be quiet,” she yelled. Sure enough, the kids listened to her, “What’s going on?” “Liam won’t give me my phone back?”
Charlotte turned to her nephew, “Is that true?”
“She’s bitching about me on Whats App.”
“Is that true?” This time Charlotte turned to her niece. “I won’t say anything about that,” Marie defiantly jutted her chin forward.
Charlotte held out her hand, “Give it to me.” “But why. It’s my cell phone.”
“Give it to me,” Charlotte said, adding conciliatory, “I also promise I won’t look.”
Frowning, Marie handed over her cell phone.
“I don’t want to hear anything now. Everyone go to your room. If you want, you’re welcome to watch TV with me downstairs.”
“Nah, I still have homework to do,” Liam said, and trolled off. “Marie?”
“Don’t be mad at me Auntie Charlotte, but I’d rather read.”
Charlotte grinned to herself. A charming rejection.
“When do I get my phone back?” “When you stop teasing your brother.”
Marie looked at her uncertainly, “He misunderstood. I admit that I’ve been texting with Johanna about him. We weren’t gossiping, though.”
“Well,” Marie said hesitantly, “Johanna is in love with him and has been asking me questions.” “So, so?”
“Yes really,” she said, eagerly continuing to talk, “She asked me if he had a girlfriend yet, what he liked to eat, if he had ever mentioned her. Stuff like that.”
Now Charlotte couldn’t hold back the smile, “Okay, in that case. Here’s your phone back. Don’t let your brother catch you again, though. Got it?”
Marie nodded and Charlotte made herself comfortable in the living room again. Nothing more was heard from the twins. And it remained quiet until Pauline and Sven were finally back home at 3 o’clock