"Hello Grandma, I wanted to get in touch again. How are you?"
"The same as always. And you, Grete?"
"What do you mean: fine? You sound so funny."
"Not really good. Actually, the devil's going on with me."
"That's what I thought. Go on, tell me!"
And so Grete Hansen got all her grief off her chest. In the end, she no longer tried to suppress her tears.
Sometimes she had to go on a bit longer so that her grandma could understand her better. Since Grete was four years old, after her parents' accident, her grandparents had become her support, refuge and comfort. Her grandfather had lost his battle with lung cancer ten years ago. After that, only her grandma and she were her family.
"Inke was there yesterday," said Grete.
"Is she still your best friend?"
"Yes, and unfortunately my only one. She told me about Klaus. He suddenly turned up at her gym."
"What did he want there?"
"He probably wanted to know if I'd forgiven him."
"No, of course not! You can't forgive something like that."
"Not even after five years?"
"Not even after a hundred years. He's run away. We lived well together for so long, as if we were married. And then he tells me at breakfast, without any warning, that he's fallen in love again and that it's like a magical coincidence for him, some cheap crap."
"How did you react to that?"
"I don't think you want to know. Something like: 'Get lost, right now, and don't ever show your face in my house again! The china stayed intact, I still needed it."
"And now? Is he still living with that other woman?"
"Inke said he'd been single for a long time. He'd enquired about me and said how much he regretted everything. He would help me any time I was in trouble. Without expecting anything in return."
"That sounds good, doesn't it?"
"You don't know Klaus. He always says things like that with an ulterior motive. And now he probably thinks he can buy me back, just plonk a wad of banknotes on the kitchen table and we'll pick up where we left off years ago."
"Is that what he said he wanted?"
"Not that directly, but Inke had the feeling that he still loved me."
"Is that important to you?"
"For heaven's sake, no! When he was still living with that chick, it wasn't even an issue for him. And now all of a sudden he remembers me and is all lovey-dovey. That pisses me off."
"I actually thought Klaus was quite nice," says Grandma. "He always made me laugh."
"Me too, but that was ages ago. I'm through with Klaus. He's the last person on this planet I'd ask for help in times of need."
"I understand that. You still have me to help you in times of need, my child. And your profession."
"I was just about to tell you that. I'm broke."
"That can't be true, you're young, clever and successful. Tell me, why are you broke?"
"Well, I'm young, that's right. And that's my disadvantage in this business. I'm a web designer, kind of like a graphic designer who works on the internet. You remember that?"
"Yes, I remembered that. And now you have problems?"
"My problem is actually my age. I'm new to the job and only get work when a customer wants it particularly cheap. And so I'm regularly taken advantage of and I'm getting less and less comfortable with my money."
Grandma wanted to know if that was the case for everyone in her profession.
"Yes, everyone who starts out has that problem. The market is fiercely competitive. Those who have been in the business for a while are well networked and don't want to share their slice of the pie with anyone. It takes years to build up your own network. I no longer have that time. I lost my last customer today. He says I work too slowly. I'm finished, over and done with."
"Never say that, my child. You've got the beautiful house I left you. Besides, I bought shares for you as security, they're worth much more now than they were then. I can cash them in for you at any time."
"Leave it, Grandma, that's sweet of you, but you've already done enough for me. I went to my bank today for a loan."
"Why would you do that? I'll give you everything without interest and you don't even have to pay it back. I don't understand why you went to the bank."
"It doesn't matter any more, they refused the loan and won't accept the house as collateral."
"How can that be? A thatched house like this is a jewel. Even if it's getting a bit long in the tooth."
"A bit long in the tooth. This bank advisor even called it a derelict building. He gave me a long lecture. About monument protection, complex material structures, expensive construction companies, costly material procurement. I didn't even listen any more. At the end, he shook his head sadly."
"That's bad. But don't worry, my child. It's getting late. Now go to sleep and tomorrow we'll sell my shares. You'll be amazed that there'll even be a lot left over in the end."
"Thank you, Grandma, you're lovely"
"You too, my darling. Good night!"
When Grete was left alone in her bedroom, she threw herself onto the bed. She screamed her pain, her loneliness and her deep despair out of her soul. She had lost all hope.
The next morning she rang Klaus. He still had the number she knew and at least his voice hadn't aged.
He seemed happy to receive the call and suggested they have coffee together somewhere in the city, preferably this afternoon.
She agreed without thinking. She must be crazy.
Klaus wanted to get something off his chest.
"I don't mind that I've been looking after your grandparents' grave for five years. But you were very fond of your grandma. Why don't you just pay her a visit?"
"I hate graves and prefer to remember Grandma as I knew her. I've been talking to a ghost for five years and I always get answers to my questions."