A Novel by Mira Steffan
She parked her car in the parking lot for hikers and got out. Again she took a deep breath. The air scented of damp earth, leaves and grass. Without paying further attention to her surroundings, she walked along a forest trail, trying to sort out her tormented thoughts. What was important to her? What did she really want? Her little family immediately flashed through her mind. That clearly came first. No matter what problems they were having at the moment. Work was second. It gave her a sense of financial independence. And it also gave her greater self-confidence. But was this job really satisfying? She swayed her head back and forth. Something was missing. Something that made her really feel alive. Perhaps an art or painting class would balance things out? She stopped in front of a large oak tree. I wonder how old this tree was. How had it grown this tall and strong against all odds of the seasons? She put her hand on the tree trunk and felt as if its strength was being transferred to her. First, she had to talk to Justus. Adress the problems. Talk to him. Be honest, she talked to herself, or was it the tree talking to her. This whole mess was not Justus’ fault. Her father was right. She should try to understand his perspective on things. Reaffirming herself, she glanced at her wristwatch for the first time since the argument with Justus thinking how late it had become. She reached for her cellphone and typed in a message for Justus and sent it off. Then she turned around and drove home.
“There you are,” Justus stood seemingly relaxed in front of the stove in the kitchen preparing a meal. Only his tightly pressed lips gave a hint of his inner turmoil.
“We need to talk. Where’s Emma?” said Charlotte softly. She was eager to tell him everything she had found out about herself and her marriage during her absence.
Justus sort of pointed with the wooden spoon in his hand randomly towards the backyard, “She’s playing outside.” He looked at her and his heart gave him a painful leap. He put the spoon aside and sat down on the kitchen chair.
“I’m sorry,” he said with a uneasy feeling in his stomach, but then reminded himself to let her talk and listen.
“I don’t want to go on like this. You were always my best friend. And all of a sudden this was gone. I didn’t think you cared about me or my needs anymore.”
When Justus cleared his throat and took a breath, she raised her hand defensively and continued talking hastily. The words burst from her like lava from an exploding volcano, “I know that’s not true. But our loving togetherness was no longer there. At some point it was gone. We lost each other. And then I was lost. Or maybe it was the other way around. Whatever the case may be. Everyday life can sometimes be so stressful that you forget who you are and what you want. Unconsciously, I blamed you for all of this. I thought something would change when I went back to work. But I guess that’s when everything got even more out of hand. Please don‘t misunderstand me: I don’t want to give up my job, and I don’t feel overextended. On the other hand, I want to do something that inspires me. I am passionate about painting and art. I also realized that I want to keep sharing my life with you. As long as you want it, too,” breathlessly she paused and looked at him questioningly. Her heart was pounding. And when Justus nodded and gave her a kiss, she continued in a calmer and firmer voice: “I may not be able to change our daily routine, but I can change my attitude. And an idea just occurred to me on the way back: What do you think about the two of us dividing our working hours differently. I could work from home. I’ll talk to my superiors. I could stay home on Fridays in the near future. If it works out well, I’ll add another day.”
Justus leaned over and gave Charlotte a kiss, “You wouldn’t believe how relieved I am that you’re talking to me. The last two years have been awful. But I’ve come to realize that I’ve been neglecting you. And not just since you started working again.”
Justus paused for a moment and then continued hesitantly, “I haven’t heard of any controllers who work from home, though. I doubt that my boss will be enthusiastic about the idea. But I can ask. I’d love to spend more time with you guys. You really can believe that.”
Charlotte shrugged her shoulders in agreement, “I know it’s difficult.”
Justus took Charlotte in his arms and she felt his warmth flow into her, “Everyday life has made us blind to each other. Even before our argument, I vowed to listen to you better and spend more time just the two of us. That’s why I came up with the idea of a holiday trip. But I guess I slipped into an old pattern again. I didn’t ask you for your time before. But I promise to get better. And as long as we can talk to each other again, I am hopeful. And because I now know that you love me, too.”