Dilemmas and decisions
When we entered the morgue, a police officer rose from one of the benches in the reception area. It took me a second until I recognized Constable Schulte, one of the two officers who brought the bad news two nights ago.
He walked up to me and greeted me first, “Hello there, Ingo. I would say that it is nice to see you again if we met under different circumstances. But anyway, I'm glad that you are here, so we are able to wrap all of this up.”
I shook his hand and introduced him to the others. A hint of a smile flew over Chris' face when I introduced him again as my best friend. We had to wait for a couple of minutes until one of the attendants was ready to take us in, and all of us stood there in uncomfortable silence, not sure what to say to such an awkward situation.
Finally, we were lead into a room which I had only seen in TV up to now. White tiles on the floor and the walls, and one wall was covered with metal doors which looked like small fridges.
The attendant took a look into a list she was carrying, and then opened one of the doors. I steeled myself for what to come when she pulled out a retractable table, but all I could see at first was a bag on the table.
The attendant asked me, “Are you ready for this?”
I could only shake my head, “No, not really. But go ahead, I want this being over.”
She reached for the zipper on the bag, and I could feel a hand reassuringly squeezing my shoulder. When I turned my head, it was not Anna, as I suspected, but Chris, who smiled weakly at me. I could hear the zipper, and turned my head again towards the bag.
The attendant reached to widen the opening in the bag, and I could feel a huge lump appearing in my throat. As soon as I could see the corpse in the bag there, it was clear that it was Dad. I looked at him for a second, lying there with a grey face, not moving at all. I wanted to scream at him, “Wake up! You can't be dead!!!” but I couldn't get myself to produce a single sound.
After a moment, I felt the tears welling up in my eyes and I started to sob. Up to now, it could still have been a mistake, and maybe I had secretly hoped that it weren't my parents who were dead. But the view of my Dad there on the table destroyed every single ray of that hope.
The world around me grew fuzzy as more and more tears came into my eyes. Chris turned me around towards him, using his hand on my shoulder and enveloped me into a hug, whispering soothing words into my ear. I could just stand there, letting him hug me and sob into his shoulder.
A couple of minutes must have passed, while I was oblivious to the world around me. Then I could feel another hand on my shoulder, and when I got my head up to look who it was, I could make out the vague outline of Anna there.
“Ingo, I'm really sorry about this, but you need to take a look at your mum as well.”
Unwillingly, I let go of Chris and wiped my eyes with my sleeve. Once I could see again, I saw that the attendant had closed the first door again and had pulled out another table where I could clearly make out Mum lying there. The tears welled up again, and I simply broke down.
Everything was over.
I could hear Anna say, commandingly, “Chris, get him out of here. Sit down with him on one of the benches out there. We will be with you shortly,” and Chris steered me out of the room, towards a bench, and pushed me down on it. He sat next to me, put his arm around my shoulder and pulled me close.
I could do nothing more than sob, and expected never to stop again.
But, surprisingly, after 10 minutes, the tears slowly started to stop and I could start to think coherently again.
The adults stood together in a corner of the room and were talking quietly, Chris was stroking my hair, and I just sat there. I felt ashamed a bit for breaking down so completely, but I had the feeling that the others, especially Chris and Anna, would understand.
Constable Schulte looked toward me, and when he saw that I was holding myself straight again, he came over to me.
He said, “First of all, I'm really, really sorry that you had to endure this, but there simply was no other way to do this. And I'm really sorry that I have to ask this right now: Could you identify the corpses in there as Ulrike and Franz Villard? I HAVE to ask this, so I can make a statement back in the office.”
I could just nod and croak, “Yes, those were my parents.”
He nodded and said, “Thank you very much, I will send the statement to Mr. Marzahn. And again, I'm really sorry about what happened to your parents.”
With that, he shook my hand and returned to the other adults, shaking their hands then as well, and taking his leave.
Anna and Mr. Marzahn then came over to us. Anna must have cried a bit, as well, as her eyes seemed to be red, too. But she seemed to have regained her composure much quicker than me.
Anna then told me, “Go ahead and go outside with Chris. You will have a moment of private time then, while I wrap things up, here, together with Helmut.”
While I looked at her a bit dumbfounded, Chris had already gotten up from the bench. Why would I need private time with Chris? But Chris had already taken my hand and tugged at it, clearly wanting me to get up and go out with him.
I just shrugged inwardly, getting up and going outside together with Chris. I let go of his hand once I got up, but he stayed at my side until we were next to the cars again.
This was the first time I took a look at him after we had gotten in there, and he looked distinctively pale.
So I asked him, “Are you alright, Chris?”
He shrugged his shoulders at that question, “It was a bit creepy back in there, and definitely not nice. But I think I'm okay. But more importantly: Are YOU okay?”
I could only shrug as well, “I really don't know. I guess I'm okay. I have to be okay.”
It really had hit me hard. I think, I probably couldn't accept, before this, that they were really gone. It just seemed like a bad dream up to now. But I guess I would have to face reality: They were gone, and I wouldn't see them again.
But I didn't want to appear to be that much of a wimp in front of Chris, so I tried to toughen it out a bit.
Chris asked me, now, “Will you come back to school with Mr. Marzahn and me? He already offered to take me back there, after this is over, and I guess he would have no problem taking you with us as well.”
I had to think about that for a moment, as planning ahead wasn't really existent at the moment for me. Then I shook my head and answered, “No, I don't think so. Anna said I could stay home from school for the time being, and I think I will really stay at home for a couple of days. Maybe until next week or so. At the moment, I seem to be breaking out in tears at times when I really don't need it, and I think I want to at least get over that before I come back to school. Anyway, I don't think that I'll really miss something important at school, at the moment.”
Chris nodded gravely, “Yeah, that makes sense. Well, I hope you'll be able to come back soon, it will be really dull without you being there. Maybe I could come over one of the next afternoons, and we could hang out a bit, or so.”
“Sure, I don't think that will be a problem,” I shrugged, “just call ahead, I really don't know what will be going on, the next few days. Anna just appeared this morning, and we really didn't have that much chance to talk, up to now.”
He smiled at me, the first smile I had seen from him since I had identified my parents, and I immediately felt better.
Just then, Anna came out of the morgue, closely followed by Mr. Marzahn and Alberto.
She came over to us and stood next to me, putting her arm around me, “Are you alright, Ingo?”
These days, everyone seemed to be more concerned about my well-being than their own, but I nodded.
She looked a bit doubtfully at me, and I just shook my head slightly, hoping that she was getting the hint that I didn't want to talk about it right now.
Luckily, she did, and continued, “Helmut told me that he intended to take you back to school, Chris. When do you have to be there?”
Naturally, she assumed correctly that I wasn't going to school this day.
Chris looked at his watch, and said, “It's 11:40 right now, my next class starts at 12:15. I probably shouldn't miss that, it's biology, and the teacher there doesn't like me that much. If I miss class, then, without a good reason, she'll probably come down hard on me.”
He looked at me and rolled his eyes, I knew how much he detested Ms. Nortis. Somehow, she took a real dislike to Chris and let him feel it a lot of the time.
Anna said, then, “It's your decision. I would have offered to take you back to Ingo's, otherwise.”
I interrupted her then, “Chris asked if he could come over later this week. Would that be ok?”
Anna looked at me a bit incredulously, “Sure, why wouldn't it be ok?”
She furrowed her brows a bit, but I couldn't make out a reason for that. She continued then, “Originally, I had planned to take us out for lunch today. But after the morgue, I guess this is out of the question.”
I contemplated that for a moment, and realized that I was hungry. After all, I only had a bit of cereal earlier, and Mum had always said that I must have hollow legs, because of the amount of food I could put away.
So I replied to her, “I wouldn't mind something to eat, really, and it is nearly time for lunch. So we could go there right now.”
Anna looked at me incredulously again, “Already?” But then her face flattened a bit, and she smiled, “Ah, I really forgot the German meal times. Everything is a bit later in Argentina. I guess we could go for lunch now. And I know the perfect place to go with a starving teenager, I hope it still exists. They make the best Schnitzels in town.”
I looked to Chris, who shrugged, not knowing either, which place Anna was talking about. I didn't know of a place which was famous for Schnitzels here.
So we took our good-byes. I shook Mr. Marzahn's hand, thanking him again for coming and helping me out. Chris then hugged me quite close, and a bit longer than I felt comfortable with, in front of the adults. But it felt real good anyway, and I just knew that Chris was a real friend.
Alberto, Anna and I then went to their car, where Anna asked me if I would mind sitting on the back seat, so she had a better look where we would be going and could direct Alberto.
I didn't mind, and soon we were driving through the streets of Detmold. Anna directed Alberto to a few wrong turns, as she hadn't been here for quite some time, but I couldn't help her as I had no clue where we were going. She told me the name of the restaurant, but I hadn't heard it before, and Anna didn't know in which street it was. So she was on her own, but after a short time, she finally said that Alberto should look for a parking space. When he did, we left the car and finally stood in front of a shabby-looking multi story building.
The place looked quite awful from the outside, and it wasn't in the best part of town, so I expected the worst when we went into the backyard where the entrance to the diner was. Anna looked around and commented, “Okay, I admit, it looked a lot better here 10 years ago. I just hope the food is still as good as it used to be.”
I looked at her a bit dubiously, but it was worth a try. If it was absolutely awful, we always could go to the pizza place where I had been yesterday with Mr. Marzahn.
I tried to be a gentleman, and held the door open for the adults. Anna smiled at me approvingly, entered into the restaurant and after looking around for a second, directly steered us to one of the empty tables. Not many were occupied, so we could pick where ever we wanted.
The waiter was surprisingly fast with us, I had halfway expected to wait quite some time for service. But he handed us our menus, though with a big frown, and took our orders for drinks.
When I opened the menu, I quickly decided that it definitely would be Schnitzel for me, for one reason - there was basically nothing else on the menu. Five variations of Schnitzel, two salads and a soup - that was it. So I decided on a Schnitzel with mushrooms in gravy, and fries.
I closed my menu, and looked expectantly towards Anna. She was in a hushed conversation with Alberto, seemingly to explain to him what the differences between the items on the menu were. She talked in a language I didn't really recognize, but I thought that it was Spanish.
They had come to a decision on what to order, and closed their menus as well.
I decided to clear the mystery of Alberto first, as I still was a bit unsure what his relation towards Anna was. I addressed him, “So, Alberto, you work for my aunt?”
He looked up at me, obviously a bit startled, and responded slowly, “Yes, I have been with her now for....I think it must be nearly three years.”
“And what do you do?” I didn't tried to be inquisitive, I was just curious. I hoped he understood.
Alberto smiled at me, seemingly not annoyed at my curiosity, “As she said earlier, I'm her personal assistant. I manage most of the daily business for the gallery, and do the bookkeeping for it, as it is just something she isn't good at.”
Anna hold her hand in front of her mouth then and chuckled, it seemed to be like a running joke between the two of them.
“And I coordinate her appointments, answer the telephone and just help her where ever I can. Just what a personal assistant does,” he shrugged.
I was curious about something else, “And just so, you accompanied her to Germany? On a moment's notice?” It sounded a bit strange to me.
He just shrugged again, “At first, she wanted to go alone, but I saw how upset she was about the whole thing. And after she could only get a flight to Amsterdam and it was clear she would have to drive here, I just had to go with her. She hasn't driven for herself in years, and she isn't the youngest...”
At this, Anna cleared her throat, and looked sternly at Alberto.
Alberto's ears got a bit pink, and he hurried to say, “Um, I mean, doing the trip alone would just have been very strenuous. So I offered to come along, and Anna accepted.”
Anna added to that, “And I accepted very gladly, and I am really grateful that you offered to come along. You know, I would be lost without you!”
At this, Alberto's ears got even pinker than before, and he looked down at the table.
Luckily, he was saved by the waiter coming to the table and taking our orders. After we had placed them, Anna took the initiative once more.
“You said you were okay earlier at the morgue, but you didn't seem to be. Do you want to talk about it?” she wanted to know.
I contemplated that for a moment, then slowly shook my head, “Could we please talk about something else? I guess I will have to talk about it at some point, but not right now, please?”
Anna looked at me with a warm smile, and nodded, “I can accept that. But please, you are not”
alone, you don't have to go through all of this alone. All of us are here for you, and we will help you where ever we can, even if it is just listening.“”
Alberto nodded at that as well, and I smiled weakly at them, “Thanks.”
In an attempt to change the subject, Anna said then, “I asked you this earlier, but I think we got interrupted then. Do you have any idea where you will be living from now on?”
Not a subject I was really fond of either, but it would work. Maybe Anna had some more ideas what to do.
“No, not really. Miss Meinert is currently looking for a foster family or a place in an orphanage for me. And until she finds anything, I really have no idea.”
At that, Anna looked critically, “You know, there are other options, right?”
I was a bit astounded by that, as Irene hadn't mentioned anything else, “Really? What other options than CPS are there?”
With a frown, Anna said, “I can't really believe it; that pushy....um....woman didn't tell you about your options. But, on second thought, I'm not really surprised at all. When we were in the morgue, I talked a bit to Helmut, and he told me that he has talked with a family attorney as to what your options are. First of all, you could, of course, just hope that CPS will find a placement for you. I really don't know about that, but I'm not in the least impressed by that Meinert woman.”
I could just shrug my shoulders at that, Irene had at least tried to be nice.
Anna continued then, “Your second choice would be to file for emancipation, so you could live on your own, without a parental guardian. Your parents had a life insurance policy, and there would be no problem getting you through school, at least not financially, and probably even through university, if you want to go there. And, of course, I would support you the best I could, as well.”
I sat there, stunned, and my eyes must have been as big as saucers, “You mean, living all by myself? Alone? I could stay in our house?”
“Well, you would need to convince a judge that you are mature enough to handle that kind of life, but after what I've seen of you, I don't think it would be that big of a problem. If you could stay in the house, I don't know. It is in a village without a shop, and it is quite a bit of distance to your school. And there are still two years to cover until you get your drivers permit. But somewhere here in Detmold, I don't think that that would be a problem.”
Now I was really stunned, Anna had obviously thought about this quite a bit. But I really wasn't sure if I was ready for that life. I knew so few things about running a household, finances, and all those things. And all of that without an adult helping me...
So I slowly shook my head, trying to take it all in. I responded to Anna, “To be honest, I don't think I'm ready for that yet. There are SO many things I don't know about yet, and just the thought of living alone scares me a little. I'd rather take my chances with CPS then I think...”
Anna hold up her hand, and said quickly, “No need to decide right now. There is some time until we really need to know what to do. Take your time, think about it, discuss it maybe with someone you trust. But don't rule out anything prematurely.”
She took a deep breath, then, and swallowed. I looked at her curiously, as it seemed she was having trouble with what she wanted to say. “The third option would be to look for someone to take you in and care for you. CPS doesn't know about everybody who could take you in. Maybe some parents of one of your friends would be willing to care for you, I don't know. It is an option, after all. Of course, secretly, I had hoped that you would come back with me to Argentina. But after I saw you together with Christian, I think that wouldn't be fair on either of you. And by the way, I am really sorry about that girlfriend remark, earlier, I just had no idea.”
I was stunned once more. “But....but.....how would that work? I mean, do you have space for a kid like me? What about school? And what do you mean about Christian?”
I was really confused by now. When she appeared at our door, I instantly had the hope that she could take me in. After all, she WAS family, and I really grew to like her during the half day I had known her. And really, what did she mean with that remark about Christian?
Solemnly, she said, “I saw how close the two of you are, when we met at the morgue. And as much as I would like to have you come back with me, it just would be very selfish of me to take you with me, and destroy what you have here. And all the other things....space, no problem at all, and school, there is a good international school in Buenos Aires. The children of some of my friends are going there, and the school is really great. But anyway, I think that is out of discussion.”
I really didn't get it. What did she see that I didn't? And to what conclusions did she jump?
“But why?” My confusion clearly must have really shown, as Anna looked confused now as well. “It sounds so much better than the other options. Sure, I would miss Christian, and all my other friends as well. But, honestly, that sounds so much better than either hoping for CPS to find a foster family for me, or going into an orphanage.”
I involuntarily shuddered at the simple thought of that. “And as I said, I don't think I'm ready to live on my own.”
Anna shared a look with Alberto, and then slowly said, “As I said, no need to decide right now. But just for the record, I would be more than happy to take you in, no question. But it definitely has to be your decision, that is one decision that no-one else could make for you. Just think about all the options, and decide what you really want. I won't be angry or disappointed if you choose to stay here in Germany. I know, I really know, how frightening it is to leave everything, and everyone you know, behind you, and start all over again.”
I nodded at her, unable to speak at the moment. I think I was in overload right then, and was not able to process everything.
I tried to respond to it a couple of times, but couldn't make real sense of the mumbo-jumbo in my brain right at that moment, and after the third attempt, Anna raised her hand and put me out of my misery, “I know, it is a lot to take in right now, and the last couple of days have been really hard on you. Just let it sink in, and we will talk about it later, okay?”
I let out a huge sigh of relief, as I had absolutely no clue what to say.
Right then, the waiter brought our food and conversation was stopped for the time being.
The food looked really great, but I still hadn't forgotten how the restaurant looked from the outside. So I carefully cut off a small piece of my Schnitzel, and sampled it.
“Wow, this is great!” I exclaimed, and really dug in.
Anna chuckled lightly, and got that big, warm smile again when she saw I really enjoyed the food.
Eating gave me something to focus on, and kept me from being totally lost in my thoughts. I wasn't a very good companion for the rest of the lunch, I think. Anna tried to get some small talk started, a couple of times, but gave up after I just answered with “Yes” or “No”, and resorted to another quiet conversation with Alberto.
I was finished with my Schnitzel way before the two others, and I just sort of stared into space while they were finishing. A couple of minutes after I was finished, Anna offered me her plate. She had cut off half of her remaining meat, and motioned for me to take it off her plate.
When I looked curiously at her, she just stated, “You are a growing boy, you can definitely make better use of it than I can,” and she smiled that smug smile again at me.
“But....,” I tried to say.
Anna cut me off, “No buts, no arguing; take it!”
I had to laugh at that a little, and offered no more resistance.
So it came that I was now the last of our group to finish, as Anna put more than half of her salad on my plate as well, with just the remark, “Vitamins are good.”
When he saw that I was finished, Alberto motioned to the waiter to come, and took care of paying.
Anna then said, “Oh boy, jet lag is as annoying as I remembered it. And this way is worse than the other way around. I really could use a nap, right now.”
I jumped to that, as I could use some time for myself as well, “Then let's just go home. I know I wouldn't mind.”
“Great, then we have a plan!”
When we arrived back home, it took some time to sort everything out. As the guest bed still had the sheets on it that Irene used, and none of us felt like changing them, Anna resorted to taking a nap on the couch in the living room.
After she had retreated, Alberto asked me where he could have some quiet time as well. He told me that he had brought a laptop with him, and needed to sort through some things for their business. I asked him if he could work in the kitchen on the big table, as I planned on going to my room for some thinking as well, I wouldn't bother him in the kitchen, anyway.
He agreed that it would work. I fetched something to drink from the fridge, and excused myself from Alberto.
When I came to my room, I browsed through my CD collection to find something fitting for the thinking I had to do. In contrast to most of my friends, I appreciated classical music as well, and that was nice music for the moment. I could loose myself in the notes if the things in my head got too overwhelming, it had that effect on me.
I turned on the music, put on my headphones and settled down on my bean bag once more. I had turned down the volume quite a bit, in contrast to the last day. There I needed the music to drown out my thoughts - now I needed it to help my thinking.
When the first notes of Beethoven's 5th symphony came on, my thoughts were instantly drawn back to Mum. She detested my taste for classical music, as I had a tendency to make it loud, and sometimes I forgot that my parents already had gone to bed when I turned it on. So at one point, Mum bought me that expensive headset, telling me that I would 'enjoy the music much more with it'. I knew it was a ploy to keep me from disturbing her with the music, but it worked. The sound quality was a lot better than on the stereo, and I could really loose myself in the music that way.
Thinking about Mum brought back the tears. I felt them running down my cheeks, but there was nothing I could do about it. Everything was just so overwhelming. But getting lost in grief wouldn't get me anywhere, so I concentrated for a moment on the music, and then focusing back on the task at hand.
The thought about Mum had brought me a different approach to the task, though. What would Mum and Dad have wanted for me? Even though they could be overbearing at times, especially Mum, but I just knew that they loved me without doubt. They loved me so much, and I couldn't imagine that they would want anything bad for me. They probably would want me to continue with my life, and not spend my whole time grieving for them. They probably wouldn't mind me grieving and thinking about them from time to time, but they also would have wanted me to keep going to school, have fun and still be myself.
What would they have done in this kind of situation, if they had to make the decision for what I should do now? As much as they loved me, I knew that they wanted me to be somewhere where I was loved as well, and cared for. They wouldn't want me to be alone. Would they want me to go and be with Anna?
I considered that carefully. She was, after all, my only living relative. I know that both of my parents were really sad that they didn't have any more family, especially Dad. They never wanted me to be an only child. A couple of years earlier, they had told me that they had tried to have another baby after they had me. Even though our family wasn't big, they still emphasized how important family was.
That left me a bit in the dark, as to why they never mentioned Anna at all. I knew Mum would never hate anyone, as she had always said, “Hate is not something to have, but something to overcome!”
She might have been angry, but she never could have hated Anna for what she had done. That gave me an idea: What if Mum had come to that realization only after that fight that Anna told me about? That at first she had hated Anna for what she had done, but then only realized that it hurt her, and Anna. And that she was just afraid that Anna hated her now, and wouldn't want any contact anymore?
That would have hurt Mum very much, I think. That train of thought just really rang a bell, and it felt so much like the way Mum would have felt. I had asked her once why she didn't have many friends, and was home most of the time, and she said that she had been hurt very much, once, by someone, and that she was afraid that it might happen again. Because of that, she was always a bit distant to people, except for me and Dad.
Okay, I had now established that Mum probably hadn't hated Anna, but just was afraid of getting hurt by her. Anna told me that she had been feeling the same way.....If they just could have told each other! Adults can be so stupid, sometimes.
That would mean that Mum probably would like me to go and live with Anna, instead of going to complete strangers, or living alone by myself. And when I thought about that possibility in comparison to the two others, I could feel it deep down in my heart that it was the thing I really would like to do as well.
I already felt quite close to Anna, although I had only known her for half a day. She acted very selflessly, always thinking about me first, and really seemed to care about me. I was pretty sure that she really wanted me to be with her as well.
What about living in a foreign country? The language was a problem, no kidding. I would have to ask Anna what she thought I should do about that. I would have to leave everything I knew, behind me. The town I lived in all my life, the house I lived in. But I might have to do that anyway - especially the house. And as there were no places in foster families around here, I might be sent away from Detmold anyway, or get to live in an orphanage. Moving to a foreign country sounded much less frightening to me right then, than living in an orphanage - it might even be exciting to learn something new.
My school here? Since BjÃ¶rn had decided to stop being my best friend, it wasn't the same, anyway. I felt alone a lot of the time, and the changes in the new school year, with the course system and all, hadn't helped any at all. I had no one I could relate my problems there to - well, no one except maybe Chris, now.
Thinking about Chris and the decision I was about to make gave me a lump in my throat. Chris had already stated that he didn't want me to go away, and breaking the news to him would be hard, very hard. I just couldn't really picture his reaction to that, though he probably would be really sad. I should ask Anna if he could come and visit us sometime.
Following up on that thought, I realized that I subconsciously had already made my decision. I wasn't thinking anymore, if I should go, but how I could tell Chris, and not if I would miss school, but that I just wouldn't miss it very much.
As I reflected on it for a moment more, it became quite clear that it was the thing I really wanted. Argentina it would be.
Okay, so I made a decision. But one that would require serious planning. I felt myself filled with fresh energy once more - I was always better at planning, than just thinking about alternatives. I began trying to decide what would have to be done in order to leave, and I soon realized that it was too much to keep it all in my head, so I grabbed some paper and a pencil and began scribbling down things I needed to discuss with Anna.
I had maybe filled half a page with points I either needed to think about, or talk about with Anna, when I reached down to take another sip out of my glass - realizing that it was empty.
Sighing, I paused the music and got up from my bean bag to refill the glass.
When I came into the kitchen, Alberto looked up at me, and immediately got a concerned look, “Everything alright, Ingo? I see you have been crying.”
I realized that I did earlier, and that the tear marks must still have been visible on my face. I smiled at him, and responded, “Yeah, I guess I did. But don't worry, it wasn't bad, I just forgot to clean up before I got down here.”
He looked relieved, and then looked at the clock on the wall, “Oh, I think I must wake Miss Anna, now, she asked me to not let her sleep longer than an hour, so she could get into the rhythm here, but I think I should prepare a coffee first. She definitely would want one. Do you want one as well?”
I scrunched my face, “No, really not, thanks. But I think I will prepare a hot chocolate for myself, I'd like that.”
Alberto responded to that, “How about we make a deal? You show me where to find the things for the chocolate, I will prepare it, and you will go and wake up your aunt?”
I grinned at him, “Sounds good!”
I showed him where to find everything, and he promptly went to work. So I made my way over to the living room. I stopped at the door, and decided that it probably would be better to wash my face before I woke her up. So I turned on the spot and went to the bathroom.
After I looked presentable again, I went back to the living room and opened the door gently, in an attempt not to startle Anna by a loud noise.
I sat next to her on the couch, and gently said, “Anna.....Anna, wake up!”
Her eyelids started to flutter and after a couple of seconds she was wide awake and sat up, smiling at me. Definitely not the way I would wake up!
But I smiled back at her, and said, “Alberto said that he was going to prepare some coffee for you. I think it will be waiting for you in the kitchen.”
She yawned for a moment, and then said, “Great, that is exactly what I need. Could you tell him that I will be there in a minute? Please give me a moment to get decent again.”
I leaned over to her, and out of an impulse, I gave her a kiss on the cheek. She beamed at me, and then said in a mockingly angry voice, “Now, get out! No lady deserves to been seen like this!”
She really played her lady image quite a bit, but it fit her so perfectly. I got up instantly and said, “Okay, I will wait for you in the kitchen, Alberto was about to prepare some hot chocolate for me, as well.”
As I came back to the kitchen, Alberto was sitting at the table again, typing on his laptop. He had already set a mug on the table for me, with steaming chocolate in it. The coffee was still running through the machine, though.
I sat down on my customary seat at the table, then jumped up again and exclaimed, “Oh, I have written some stuff down to talk about with Anna. I'm gonna go get the list!” So I ran back to my bedroom and fetched the list.
Alberto had closed the laptop by the time I returned, and was now busy filling the coffee mugs. I sat back down at the table, and Alberto carried the mugs over to the table, put one next to the laptop and one to the seat where Anna sat in the morning.
A moment later, Anna appeared as well, and sat down with us.
She got a blissful look when she took the first sip from her mug, and sighed. “Oh, I really needed that, right now. You are a real life saver, Alberto!”
Alberto got that embarrassed look again, and seemed to find something very interesting on the kitchen table, as his eyes were fixed on a point there.
Anna smiled at that, obviously enjoying the mild “torture” she was exerting on Alberto. But it seemed like Alberto was an easy target for that, as he seemed to be embarrassed at the slightest praise, and blushed really easily.
She turned her attention now to me, and said, “I hope you had a good time while I was taking a nap, Ingo.”
I gave her a doubting look, and explained, “I'm not sure if I could consider it a good time. I listened to some music up in my room and thought about this whole....mess I'm in.”
I took a deep breath, knowing that this announcement would change my future in ways I couldn't even begin to estimate at the moment. “And...and....and I have decided that I really want to come with you to Argentina.”
Anna arched her eyebrows in surprise, and exclaimed, “Wow, that was a quick decision!”
She squinted her eyes then, and turned her gaze towards Alberto, “Have you talked to Ingo about this, and told him how I made all sorts of plans on the flight already?”
Alberto's eyes grew really wide, and he hurried to say in a voice of horror, “No, Miss, really not! He just told me where I could work on my laptop a bit, nothing more!”
Relaxing visibly, Anna let out a big sigh of relief. I looked at her, equally wide-eyed as Alberto. So she hurried to add, because of that, “No need to be horrified, Ingo. I just wanted this to be your own decision. That is such a big change, and I just wanted to make sure that you didn't feel pressured into anything you are not ready for. And Alberto knows how much I would love to take you with me, so I just had to make sure that the decision was, in fact, totally yours, and not one you thought you had to make just to make me happy.”
I shook my head at that, “No, I just really thought about it, what Mum and Dad would want me to do, and what I felt I would like the best. At some point, I must have made the decision without really knowing it, as I realized that I was just thinking about how to explain it, if I would really miss certain things. It just became clear, then, that it was the thing I really wanted anyway.”
She looked at me a bit worried then, “How do you think Chris will take it?”
Some sort of anger welled up in me then, “Why are you so concerned about Chris??? He is my friend, he won't like it, he will miss me, I will miss him, both of us will get over it!”
It just frustrated me that there was something she seemed to know, and I wasn't getting it. I took a deep breath, and said more calmly, “Sorry, I didn't mean to be so harsh. It is just a sore point, as I know he won't like it, as he has told me before. So it will be very hard to tell him that I'm going to leave.”
At that, Anna nodded, “Totally understandable. If you need someone to talk to, you know that I'm always there for you.”
I nodded at that, getting a bit frustrated again, so I just continued with a different subject. “When I realized that I really wanted to go, I tried to gather the things which need to be done before I could leave, and the things I need to know a bit more of. First of all: What about the language? I think they speak Spanish there, and I don't know any Spanish at all. I had French at school, but no Spanish.”
That was the thing which really concerned me the most.
Anna nodded at me, and smiled, “First of all, I want to say how proud I am of you. You have really thought about that, and it doesn't appear to be a decision, based on a whim. And I can't tell you how happy I am that you will come to live with me.”
There she did it again, but with me, instead of Alberto. A silly praise, and I was coloring up like a fire hydrant. I was just not used to getting compliments from people I didn't know that much. Even though I already felt close to Anna, she was still half a stranger.
She continued then, “I assure you, we can make everything work. I won't say it will always be easy, I won't say you will like everything, but if we talk and work like a team, I'm absolutely sure that we can make it through this. As I said earlier, I have already thought a bit, during the flight here, so let me tell you what I have come up with so far, and we can go over the points on your list, which are still unanswered. Will that work for you?”
I just nodded, prompting her to continue.
“First things first, school. I know you asked about Spanish, but that is closely related to the school issue, so let me talk about that a moment first. As I said during lunch, there is an international school in Buenos Aires which is very highly regarded. A lot of the diplomats' children are going there, and as those are moving around a lot, the school is used to getting students during the school year, and a lot of those don't know much Spanish either. So they are perfectly suited for your situation as well. Half the classes there are taught in Spanish, and the other half is taught in English. You speak English, right?”
I wasn't sure about that, so I pleaded, “Just how they teach it in school, so not that good!”
Anna waved that off, “Ah, you will be up to speed in English in no time. And there are special tutors for Spanish, in that school, so you will learn that quickly, too. And, of course, there are a lot of people around to practice it on, just use the language, and you will be fine. I think the school year is structured a bit differently there, being in the southern hemisphere and all, so you will probably have to go back half a year - in that time, you will learn the language, and when the real learning for you starts, you will be able to follow the classes in Spanish as well. And the graduation certificate from that school is good for studying at any university, anywhere.”
She took another sip from her coffee mug, and continued then, “But even if you discover that you don't like it there, after you have mastered Spanish we can go and look together for a different school. But everything I've seen from that school, up to now, is really, really good.”
Anna took a deep breath, I knew something difficult would be coming from her then, when Anna went on to a different topic. “But just don't think that there will be no way back, if you really discover that you don't like living with me. I had thought that we could leave the house here, just as it is, for the moment, just making sure that nothing bad happens here. So you can always return home if it isn't working for you. As much as I would hate seeing you gone, I won't imprison you there, you have to be sure that there is always a way out. But if you are really going to stay with me permanently, as I hope you will, or at least until you are ready to be on your own, we could look into renting the house out, later on. But I'm getting ahead of myself, there. The important thing is that you could go back anytime. To make that clear, I will even get you an undated return ticket for the flight back here - as a reminder to us both, that it is a blessing for me to have you in my life, and for you to know that there is a way out, if I ever come down too hard on you.”
My eyes grew wide at that statement, “You will just waste THAT much money on a reminder to us both?”
Anna actually chuckled at that, though I wasn't sure to which part of the statement I made.
“Oh, I don't think that it will go unused for all time. I'm sure that you would like to return here anyway at some point, even if it is just to visit your friends here. So I don't think that it will be wasted. Anyway, that brings me to another concern, or better said, non-concern: Don't even think about money, at all. At least not for living. When you come to live with me, I will care for you. End of discussion. And that even includes things like a flight for visiting Germany. We will leave the money left for you, by your parents, untouched, so you will have a good start being on your own in the future. I would like you to manage that money for yourself, so you can get a feeling for investing it, checking on it, etc, and I won't object if you decide to withdraw some for things you would like to have. But it should be within reason, and I would like you to discuss it with me, or even better, with Alberto, if you don't object. He is a regular whiz with investing money, I couldn't think of anyone better suited to teach you about that,” she elaborated further.
“Managing my own money? And you don't want any of it? As far as Mr. Marzahn suggested, I must be pretty well off, now, so I could certainly care for myself. I just don't know how to do all that stuff, I would need help with that.”
Anna got a stern look, but before she could say something, Alberto burst out, nearly laughing, “Don't you EVER offer money to Miss Anna. She will just get annoyed at it to no end, she never would take money from someone she considers family. Trust me, I've seen people try, but never succeed.”
I was a bit astonished by that, and asked Anna, “People you consider family? I didn't think that we have more family, after all.”
She smiled at that, just stating, “Oh, just a couple of close friends of mine, whmo I consider being like my surrogate family. You will get to know them, I'm sure. And if I am really like Alberto said I am, and he is right, not taking money from THEM, just think about how I would react to someone from my real family. So, no discussion about money, okay?”
Slowly nodding my head, I replied, “Okay, I think I can live with that. But only if you will tell me when you are having financial problems, especially because of taking care of me. I would help you in an instant!”
A smile played around her mouth, but she said, “I guess that is only fair. But I don't think that it will ever come that far.”
The whole discussion turned me onto something I hadn't thought about yet. “So...do...do you have any idea about how much money I own right now?”
Anna had said that it would bring me through school, and maybe even through university. I had no real idea what the costs of living would be, but that sounded like it might possibly be around 20,000 Mark - really a lot of money.
Anna pondered that for a moment, and then responded slowly, “I don't know for sure, not until after your parents' will has been opened. But Helmut told me that both of your parents had life insurance, making the house debt free, and some cash as well. I really don't know how the house prices are around here, but I would guess that you would total around half a million Mark - half of that as the value of the house, the other half in cash and assets.”
My jaw now dropped to the table, “Ha....ha....half a MILLION? How....how did Mum and Dad get so much money?”
She shrugged at that, seemingly not concerned at how much money I owned now. “Probably most of it will come from the life insurance, I think.” She held up a hand, then, “But don't go around buying half the country right now. It really isn't that much money, and you will have to pay inheritance tax from that. Though, as a first degree heir, it won't be so much that you would need to sell the house to cover the tax.”
My eyes hadn't shrunk down yet, so I still looked at her wide eyed, “No, I wouldn't spend it. In fact, I wouldn't even know how to get to it.”
I couldn't wrap my head around how much money I owned now, yet seemingly, Anna wasn't really impressed by it.
Anna nodded understandingly, “Yes, that is something we need to take care of, before we leave again.”
“Talking of leaving, when ARE we leaving?” That was one of the other issues on my list.
Anna shrugged at that once more, “I guess when we are finished here. We haven't yet booked the return flight, I hoped that there would be better opportunities than the route we took on the way here, if we have more time to plan the trip. I think it wouldn't be much of a problem if we left in two weeks or so, I probably could stretch it another week if we really need to, but not that much longer.”
Alberto nodded in agreement, “Yes, Miss, I think that would be alright. I canceled all appointments for the next two weeks, and we have coverage for the gallery for that long as well.”
Nodding to that, Anna cut in, “But we will have to see when the funeral is, and how long it will take to take care of all the formalities. We should schedule a meeting with Helmut; he will probably know best what there is to do, and how long it will take. Will you take care of that, Alberto?”
He smiled at her, “Certainly, Miss. Ingo, do you have the phone number of Mr. Marzahn?”
Being unsure for a moment, I pulled out my wallet when I remembered that he had given me his business card earlier. I handed it over to Alberto, and he smiled at me.
Anna looked a bit distant, then, for a moment, and then continued thoughtfully, “I think I have covered all the bases, now, at least as far as I can think. Do you have something on your list we haven't talked about yet?”
I looked through the points on my list, and spotted something, “Yeah, I think so. If I remember correctly, you have talked about that earlier, in the restaurant, but I still wanted to ask: It will be no problem for me living with you? I mean, do you have enough space, and so on?”
“Yes, as I told you earlier, it will be absolutely no problem for the two of us to live at my place, at all. I think you will like it, it is really nice, though quite different from this house.” Anna responded.
I smiled at her, “I just wanted to make sure!”
She said solemnly to that, “I would have never offered for you to live with me, if I didn't have the space for it.”
“Great!” I scanned over the remainder of my list, but the rest of the points on it had already been covered earlier. Slowly shaking my head, I added to it, “I think that was all.”
Anna looked really relieved, and let out a deep sigh. “And just to say it again, I am SO VERY glad that you made this decision, it would have been so hard leaving you here. Come to me, give me a hug!” and with that, she got up.
I gladly obeyed her, and enveloped her into a huge hug, feeling a lot of the stress of the last days just fall off me. I now knew how my future would be, and the world didn't seem to be such a dark place anymore.