A Novel by Mira Steffan
Being in a hurry Charlotte greeted Günter Heinze, who bumped into her in the hallway. But Heinze forced her to stop: “Hello, Mrs. Reimann. Why did you disappear to so quickly after the meeting yesterday? Actually, Mr. Schuster wanted to talk to you about the monthly report. He was very disappointed when he couldn’t find you.”
“I had to go home instantly. My daughter came back from her class trip. We’ll discuss the report in a minute. We have the meeting in an hour,” Charlotte said.
Heinze nodded graciously, “Fine, but please don’t leave early again anytime soon.”
“I don’t believe it. There’s Heinze picking on me for leaving right after the meeting,” Charlotte indignantly slapped the tabletop with her right hand.
Dorothea sat in front of her across from her in the visitor’s chair in her office.
She waved it off, “Last week I met with female lawyers from other companies. Believe me, they all have the same problems as far as having a family. That should put your mind at ease.”
Charlotte frowned, “That doesn’t reassure me at all. That’s bullshit! Not just for women.”
On the wall shelf in the hallway was an invitation to an art opening. Charlotte hung her coat and bag in the coat rack, kicked her shoes aside, and reached for the card. She didn’t know the name of the two artists.
Invitation in hand, she entered the living room, where Justus sat cuddled up on the sofa with Emma, watching a cartoon.
She gave them both a kiss.
“Is this from you?” she asked, waving the card.
Justus nodded, “My colleague invited us. I told him you were interested in art. What do you think? Do you have time? Should we go?”
Charlotte looked at the date, “It’s next Sunday at 11. We don’t have anything planned then. And we can take Emma with us.”
“Great. Then it’s a done deal.”
Impressive sculptures by a French sculptor were presented alongside paintings by a Swiss artist. Charlotte could hardly take her eyes off the abstract works and had difficulty concentrating on the gallery owner’s greeting and the art historian’s introductory speech. Again and again, she focused her gaze on the tense interplay of energy, elegance, and movement. The words rushed past her. Absentmindedly, she turned the stem of her champagne glass back and forth. She glanced sideways at Emma, who was sipping an orange glass, and then at Justus, who winked lovingly at her. Then, finally, the applause rang out, announcing the end of the speech. Invisible strings pulled Charlotte toward the sculptures.
“You like them?”
Charlotte hadn’t even noticed that Justus and Emma had followed her.
She nodded, “Aren’t they beautiful. Look how they combine complexity and simplicity in equal measure.”
“That’s true. But did you see the price?”
Charlotte followed Justus’ pointing finger, “Too bad, I guess it’s not for us then. But admiring doesn’t cost anything. It’s enough for me, though, to be able to look at beautiful things.”
“I can’t live on that, though. Nevertheless, thank you for the compliment. I’ll be happy to pass it on to the artist.”
Startled, Charlotte slapped her hand over her mouth. Standing next to her was a slender woman about her age with shoulder-length wavy brown hair, who winked at her in a friendly manner, “Very pleased to meet you. I’m Lana Sass, the gallery owner.”
“And my name is Charlotte Reimann, and I’m quite fascinated by your exhibition. Are you primarily dedicated to contemporary artists?”
“First and foremost, I want to offer a platform to young, talented artists, to present their work to a broad public. But I also exhibit artists who have enjoyed an international reputation for some time.”
“How many artists do you have under contract?”
“Around 30, though that varies.”
“It’s an interesting profession. You must travel a lot, too?”
Lana Sass nodded, “Sure, I accompany my artists to art fairs when I’m not there with a booth myself. I often visit my artists in their studios, give them artistic advice, organize exhibitions in my gallery or visit other exhibitions, and I look after collectors and clients.”
“That’s very versatile.”
“Well. You know, as a gallery owner, you’re a kind of agent, someone who gets things out there, both in terms of content and commercially. The most important thing is that you act out of conviction.”
“I’d like to have such a varied profession, too.”
“Now I’m curious. What do you do for a living?”
“I’m a controller in a company that manufactures plastic packaging.”
Admiration was in Lana Sass’ gaze: “A controller who is interested in art and knows about handling money is something I could use. After all, accounting is my weak spot. You also have a really good eye for quality. But unfortunately, I don’t think I can afford you.” She shrugged regretfully.
Charlotte raised her eyebrow in amazement, “Why does a gallery need a controller?”
“Because we’re salespeople, too. Let me break it down to a common denominator: Your company sells plastic packaging, mine sells art. I don’t see much difference there.”
Charlotte tucked the corners of her mouth down and shrugged her right shoulder, “Well, in that sense, you’re right.”
“Look!” Lara Sass made a sweeping gesture with her right hand, “think about it.”
“Are you serious?”
“Sure. If you’d agree to a small salary,” Lara said, looking left and right and pulling Charlotte into a quiet corner that couldn’t be seen from the exhibition space, “I can pay you 2,500 euros a month gross for four days a week.” And seeing Charlotte’s surprised and confused expression, she added, “I told you I can’t pay you much. Oh, forget it.”
“No, no, you misunderstood. I was just surprised, It’s not every day you get offered a job out of the blue.”
“So you’re accepting?” asked Lara Sass slyly.
Charlotte laughed out loud, “It’s not that quick either. I’ll have to think about it and talk to my family.”
“It’s too little money for you?!” insisted Lara.
“No and yes.” It’s a quarter of what I make right now. It would be a big financial loss. But as I said – I need to think about it carefully. In addition, I have never thought about such an activity before. I’ve never thought of art as a product to sell, but as a creative force.”
Lara nodded and smiled thoughtfully “Oh well. Well – think about it. I’ll give you four weeks too.” And after a little pause, she added, “I’d cut you in on the sales. In addition to the small salary,” she smiled at Charlotte and went back to her guests.
In the car, Emma immediately fell asleep in the back seat. And Charlotte told about Lara’s offer. Calmly, Justus listened to everything.
“What do you think about it?” asked Charlotte at the end of her report. “Difficult. Lousy salary, but fewer working hours and therefore more free time.” “We’d miss the money.”
“Well. After all, we got along fine before with just one salary. Besides, you’d be close to the art you love without having to give up your job.”
“Sure,” Charlotte looked down at her hands without a glance, “I just got promoted, though. Besides, we’ve gotten used to the money. And, honestly…art as a commodity…I don’t know…”
“Think it over calmly. We can’t decide that today. But – I’ll carry it all.”
Spontaneously, Charlotte leaned over to the driver’s seat and gave him a hearty kiss on the cheek, “Thank you.”