The Labyrinth of Charlotte Reimann – Episode 36

A Novel by Mira Steffan

Nervously, Charlotte kept glancing at her wristwatch. She had to pick up Emma from her piano lesson in 45 minutes. And Schuster was having an argument with Horst Alt about the unnecessary purchase of an injection molding machine. Her father was at a committee meeting, Justus at a technical conference. She drummed on the tabletop with the fingers of her right hand. The men were yelling at each other. There was no way to intervene. Okay, it took her 20 minutes to get there. So she could watch the spectacle for another 25 minutes. The big hand on her watch moved inexorably forward. Charlotte glanced at the digital clock next to the door. There, too, time was ticking away inexorably. Twenty, fifteen, ten, two minutes to go. Charlotte pushed her chair back with a thud. Startled by this loud scraping sound, the squabblers paused.
“Gentlemen. I’m sorry. I must be off. My daughter is waiting for me,” Charlotte said, grabbing her cell phone and her papers and leaving the meeting room. As she hurried out, she noticed Schneider’s face smirking in satisfaction and heard Schuster exclaim, “What! Is she out of her mind, we’re not done yet. She can’t just leave the meeting.”
Feeling guilty, she ran on, grabbed her coat once in her office, and hurriedly left the building.
When she pulled up in front of the music school, Emma was already standing outside waiting, wrapped in her thick coat with scarf and her gloves. And again Charlotte had a guilty conscience. Clearly, she was a bad mother. Emma opened the back car door and climbed into the car.
“Hi honey, have you been waiting long?”
Emma shook her head, “I just came out.”
Charlotte breathed a sigh of relief, “When we get home, I’m going to make us some hot cocoa with lots of whipped cream on top. And then we’ll listen to one of your Lilli CDs.”

Enthusiastically, Emma clapped her gloved hands together and was all smiles.


“Look. You have to hold your hand like this,” Julia said and demonstrated the correct posture.
Charlotte copied Julia and then drew a line, “You’re right. Now it works, too.”
After a while of silent career, Charlotte said, “You make drawing look so easy. Your pencil hardly seems to touch the page.”
“Believe me. It just looks that way.”
“Well, in any case, I recognize a pear on your sheet at first glance. My pear looks more like a crashed grasshopper.”
Julia laughed heartily, “You don’t always have to be so hard on yourself.”
Charlotte pulled up the right corner of her mouth and eyebrows, “It’s true though.”
After two hours of class, they left the building together.
“See you next week,” Julia said, turning toward the dark path that led to Main Street.
“Aren’t your parents picking you up?”
“Not today, I’m afraid.”
Charlotte didn’t think twice, “Come on, I’ll drive you home.”
“If that’s not a detour for you.”
“No problem. I’ll drive you. After all, I can’t let you walk alone through the dark.”
“Thank you, Charlotte.”
Charlotte nodded with a smile, opened the car doors with the remote control and together they got into the car.

“You know, I’ve been watching you draw for quite a while. You’re really good, and I hope you’ll meet the right people in Berlin who will encourage your talent,” Charlotte said as they drove through the evening.
“That’s sweet of you.”
“I’m just telling the truth.”
Laden with her laptop, two files and her purse, Charlotte trudged down the hall to her office. From a distance, she saw Schneider standing in the middle of the hallway flirting with Ricarda Baldus. She ran toward them, assuming they would make room for her. But they did not. Exasperated, Charlotte stopped in front of them and asked with raised eyebrows and in an emphatically polite tone, “May I please pass?”
Schneider remained rooted to the spot, peering at the small gap between the wall and him with an arrogant look.
Surely he doesn’t expect me to squeeze past him, Charlotte thought, and in turn remained rooted to the spot until Ricarda Baldus relinquished her position and cleared the way for Charlotte to enter her office.
“Thank you very, very much. That’s exceedingly kind,” she said wryly, though inside she was seething with anger.
As she set her things down on her visitor’s table, Charlotte noticed that Schneider had followed her.
“What do you want?” she snapped at him peevishly.
“In your investment plan, you conclude that we don’t need a new injection molding machine.”
“Nonsense. I have presented and calculated different variants.” “But I understood that differently.”
“Then please look through my plan again properly.”
“I have done that. But I still don’t understand it.”

Charlotte’s patience evaporated, “Jesus, did you study business administration or not?”
But Schneider wasn’t impressed, instead biting down on the topic like a pit bull in someone’s calf “Doesn’t an investment plan have to be written in an understandable way? Isn’t that important?”
Charlotte now spoke up, “Mr. Schneider, what do you want from me?”
Schneider grinned cheekily, “I’m just saying,” he said and trolled off.
When Charlotte looked after him, she saw that he was blowing a kissing hand to Grüntal. Charlotte heard her secretary giggle goofily.
It was the last hour of her drawing class. As their final project, they were to draw an object that meant a lot to them. Charlotte had chosen to depict several brushes and pencils, Julia her cat. Charlotte’s painting was praised by her drawing teacher, but she was honest with herself. The brushes had curvatures that the originals did not, and the pencils were out of proportion. She liked Julia’s painting all the better for that. A black and white cat lay mysteriously and majestically like the Sphinx on a sofa. Although painted realistically, the picture was reminiscent of pop art and comic drawings. Again and again, Charlotte looked at the cat.
“It’s great. My daughter would like that,” Charlotte said, and after a brief pause added, “Would you sell it to me?”
Julia rubbed her nose and pursed her mouth, “Mmm, actually I was going to hang it in my room.”
“I’d like to give it to my daughter for her birthday. I’ll pay you two hundred euros.”
“Wow, really now?”
Charlotte nodded emphatically.
“Fine, then I’ll sell it to you. When it’s ready, I’ll drop it off at your house.”

Deep in thought, Charlotte drove home. The realization depressed her: she was not good enough as a painter. It was enough, if at all, for a hobby. She had to admit that to herself. She had been kidding herself. Reality had slapped her in the face. She looked at the street. The evening was black as tar, cut by the headlights of her car. Her world seemed as dull and dreary as the winter world outside. She loved the visual arts. However, she could not create it. Nor was she an expert. She felt as empty as….Charlotte searched for an apt comparison and just then she remembered a phrase she had recently read in an article…as empty as a eunuch’s underpants. She laughed out loud. And a light went on again inside her.


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