Chance Encounter Chapter 3

Relationship On the Scales

Friederich Kavel sat in his chair glancing at the newspaper headlines, reviewing the activities of the day and mentally preparing activities for the next day. He finally turned to his wife Anna concentrating on knitting for one of her grandchildren. “I don’t understand why we haven’t received a phone call from Johann. This is the second evening we haven’t heard from him and that has never happened in all the years he’s been travelling. I hope he’s OK.”

Anna paused her counting and glanced up. “I’m his mother and I’d know inside me if he were in any trouble so don’t worry Father Kavel.” However, this was an odd thing and she began to have her doubts. “Perhaps you should phone him Friederich?”

Friederich paused to consider this suggestion. “We’ll give him one more day and if we haven’t heard from him then I’ll get Louise Marie in the office to find out what he’s up to. He said he was going to check out new potential business on this trip so perhaps is entertaining prospective business contacts at night.” He resumed reading the newspaper.

Two days earlier their son had been pursuing Manja Smit Weber in an early breakfast rendezvous before taking up his Monday business pursuits and this had set in motion the reason for an interruption in his usual daily contact with family. Johann and Manja had agreed at the end of their breakfast encounter to meet after she’d returned from a visit with Stephanie to the Taronga Park Zoo. She’d decided it was time for her to take advantage of her holiday and this seemed to be a good place to start where Stephanie could enjoy the excitement of seeing many interesting animals she’d not seen outside of children’s picture books. It was only after Johann was well into his rush around various new company contacts and had paused for lunch he realized he’d not asked for Manja’s cell phone number. He knew it would be on international roaming and possibly expensive to send and receive calls but not knowing that number he couldn’t satisfy his curiosity about how she was enjoying the zoo with Stephanie. He wished he were there with her and a thought came to mind. He could get a local phone card for her to insert into her phone while she was here to avoid international call charges and had seen the make and brand of her phone on a bedside table. He’d do her a favour and that way he could keep in contact with her during the day when he had a pause between appointments. By this time, he was sure he wanted to develop a relationship with her and the difficulties that would bring were swept from his mind in his eagerness to cultivate a relationship. So, between business contacts he called in at his own phone service provider branch office and got a local phone card and number which he charged to his personal account. He hoped this would show her he had her interests at heart.

That evening he arrived at the hotel earlier than usual and immediately on reaching his room used the room phone to contact Manja’s room. A tired voice answered as it had been a wearing day despite Stephanie’s excitement at seeing Australian animals for the first time as well as the huge collection of other animals from around the world. But Manja’s voice brightened when she heard Johann on the line. Despite her tiredness she agreed to join him for dinner that evening. A half hour later Manja and Stephanie appeared where Johann waited patiently in the reception lounge. Stephanie ran over to meet him, and he picked her up and sat her next to him on the lounge while she chattered cheerfully in Dutch informing him of her day’s activities. Johann looked at Manja in puzzlement as he tried his best to decipher her conversation.

Manja laughed at his dilemma. “She’s telling you about her trip to the zoo. She thinks you know the language, but she does understand German if you want to ask her questions in that language.”

So, Johann had a brief conversation in German with the little girl and then turned to Manja. “I have a surprise for you. I really wanted to talk with you between appointments today and didn’t know how to do that. I presume you are using a Dutch issued phone with global roaming and that can be expensive so I thought to save you expense I’d get a phone card for you to use while you’re in Australia. I can put it in for you if you like and I’ve written down my cell phone number if you wanted to call me during the day.” Johann beamed happily looking forward to her approval.

Manja froze and her look of fear shocked him. “No!” she said firmly and reached to pick up Stephanie than backed away from him. “No, I’ll never go through that again!”

Johann was shocked at her reaction. “What did I do Manja, why are you so scared? I’d never do anything to hurt you, but you have to tell me what I did to frighten you?” Once again he was in a dilemma. What did she mean when she said she’d never go through that again? He hadn’t done anything! Maybe this woman was too damaged for him to even think of a relationship with, so he sighed and hesitated attempting to understand then turned to go back to his room. That was it! He’d obviously made a mistake and it was time to move on. Stephanie walked after him and he turned and pointed her back to her mother who was now sitting on the lounge crying. Johann’s heart was wrenched seeing this woman so far from home and so unhappy. He shook his head and walked back to study her out of sympathy. Manja pointed to the chair opposite her.

She studied his face carefully looking for any trace of Weber but all she could see was kindness and sympathy. “Johann not long after we got married my husband gave me a new phone and took my old one away. I thought it was a nice present but found it had been set up in a way that my moves could be traced by him. Then he began phoning me to question why I was in this place or that place and if it were a place he didn’t approve of he’d warn me and later it became physical. I told Berend my brother as it was his friend I’d married and Berend talked with him, but Weber convinced him he was not spying on me and had never threatened me. He told Berend I was difficult to get along with and vindictive trying to spoil a relationship between my brother and himself and even cried in front of Berend. He was a manipulator and Berend didn’t know who to believe at first until he saw signs of physical abuse. Then he sent Weber packing from our home complex. Weber tried to force me to go with him, but I fled to Berend’s protection and eventually my father had the police intervene and send him away. So, you can understand when I heard he’d died I didn’t mourn for him. Now Johann you can see how this has shaped me so do yourself a favour and walk away now.”

Logic told Johann  this was the smartest move he could make but now he understood what had shaped her he desperately wanted to be the means of her healing as  even though they’d just met he wanted to get to know this woman even more. He’d not give up on her yet.

“Manja I fully understand your situation now. Why don’t you give me a chance to prove not all men are like that” Your brother is obviously a good man why not accept that maybe I could be the same as your brother too?”

Manja nodded. They both sat silently for a while as Stephanie played around them rearranging the magazines on the table. Finally, Manja spoke. “Let’s go eat, I need to have an early night after a full-on day.”

Johann unfolded the stroller he noticed for the first time by her side and put Stephanie gently inside. Then wheeled her outside. He’d take them to his favourite restaurant at Circular Key this evening and maybe the excellent view of lights around the harbour as they ate would relax her. He could understand her feeling of vulnerability after her explanation and his logical mind told him to walk away, but he was emotionally attached to this woman now and his heart overruled his mind. It felt good to feel her hand at his elbow as they made their way there.

At the end of their meal they walked around watching the busy activities on the harbour then headed back to their hotel. Manja clung to his arm as they walked silently. Then at reception Manja steered them to the lounge and sat. She reached inside her purse and took out her cell phone handing it to Johann. “I wonder if you’d still like to put that replacement card in my phone Johann? I probably need to tell my brother not to use my phone number in future and he can contact me through the hotel phone.”

Johann shook his head. “No Manja this is not the right time for me to do that. I was unaware of all the issues you’ve had to struggle with in your marriage but now understand this is not the right time to do that. I only suggested this as I thought it would be helpful to you but there are too many memories and I want to see I don’t make such mistakes in future. Instead of the card exchange I wonder if you’d be open to me spending time with you through the day. How long were you intending to visit Australia?”

“I had a two-week itinerary but cancelled that after Stephanie had such a hard time adjusting after the long trip over. I was thinking about returning home immediately the Sunday we met in the restaurant.”

“I’m glad you didn’t decide to go home.” Johann looked downcast at the thought he had such limited time to spend with her.

“If I can work it out would you be prepared for me to take you around to a couple of places I think you’d enjoy seeing. We don’t have much time before you have to return home. Do you have to return home after such a short visit?”

“Well my sister in law is doing my job with the company now along with her own assignments. Yes, I must be fair and get back to work.”

“Who looks after Stephanie when you’re at work?”

“My mother does.”

“Could I spend the rest of your vacation with you and could I make an itinerary for us?”

Oh, I’d love that but what about your business? Can you just take off like that? I don’t want to get you into any trouble.”

“Then I will spend the rest of your vacation with you.” Johann didn’t realize the concern this would raise with his family who’d wonder what had suddenly interrupted his predictable routines they were used to.

Manja was excited. She’d get her vacation after all and have a protector during the time. “I need to put Stephanie to bed as she’s had a big day. Do you want to have breakfast with me again tomorrow? If you can’t sleep tonight you can phone me if you want. What is your number?”

“I’m the floor above you on 308.”

They looked around for Stephanie and saw her asleep curled up in another chair. Johann smiled, “OK, I’ll carry her up and you can bring the stroller again.”

Johann handed the child over to Manja at the door and she searched his face inquiringly. She wanted him to come in, unbeknown to her he did too but was unsure of what to do so smiled and said. “See you at breakfast tomorrow then!” She watched him retreat to the elevator and turned to go inside in disappointment. But she’d memorized his room number and resolved to use the phone if she couldn’t sleep during the night. She was confident he’d not object.

Johann picked up his cell phone on reaching his room and punched in his sister’s number. She picked up her phone. “How come you’re phoning me at night instead of Dad or Mom do you have something for me to follow up at the office? I already talked with you today.” Louise Marie laughed happily. She and her brother were as close as twins and they worked closely in business affairs too, so they were in regular contact during the day.

“Louise I’m going to tell you something I want to keep a secret from everyone for the time being. I’ve met someone and I’d like to be with her on her vacation as she only has less than two weeks in the country before she returns to Holland. Can you keep this secret from the family for me for a little while as I need to see if this will work out and don’t want to get Mom interested? Would you tell Dad I feel I need to take time off but will contact them in a week? Would you do that my precious sister?”

“Nope, I going to phone everyone this evening and tell them Johann has a girlfriend at last.” She laughed at her joke while trying to quieten her children tugging at her dress. “You know Mom is going to go ballistic trying to figure out what’s wrong with you but OK, I’ll keep your secret just keep in touch with me so I can report on their reaction.” She went into peels of laughter and her husband looked around the corner from the lounge to see what was making his wife laugh.

Johann hung up in annoyance. Then began an internet search. He’d take Manja to Cairns and the Barrier Reef, then they could do the Aboriginal Theme Park and Maranda on the Tablelands next day. They could spend a couple of days on the Gold Coast and the surrounding areas. Stephanie may enjoy rides in one of the theme parks there. Maybe they could fly to Darwin and do water tours there? Maybe he could take her home to the Barossa Valley to see where he lived? Johann worked on the itineraries with enthusiasm. He’d make this the best vacation ever for her. Then he sobered. Vacation, that meant she’d be leaving him after vacation, and he couldn’t bear to see her go now. He looked at his watch. It was midnight! If he was going to have that breakfast appointment with Manja then he’d better get some sleep. He threw off his clothes in a hurry and jumped into bed willing himself to sleep and within minutes was sleeping soundly. Then the phone rang. It was Manja. “I can’t sleep do you mind talking?”

To be continued.

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© Copyright 2020 Ian Grice, “ianscyberspace.” All rights reserved

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