The conversation at school about Storm is difficult. “We have repeatedly pointed out the consequences to him, but it has not made him work harder,” says his mentor. “It’s all just one effort too much for him.”
“And now”, I ask
“He has one more chance. The test week. If he still manages to pick up his crucial subjects such as mathematics, he moves on to the final exam year.”
“What can we do?”
“Make sure he gets the rest to learn. He is a sweet boy, but a dreamer, sensitive and easily distracted. Provide as few incentives as possible.”
A little shaken, we then walk outside together. We didn’t see this one coming. “Just as Spring is getting better, the other one is starting again,” I grumble.
“They are teenagers,” says Anouk soothingly. “Think of it like two kids on the seesaw. If one goes up, the other goes down.”
I look at her with a smile: “Would it be nice if they would sit on another playground equipment with a little more balance, then we also have some rest now and then. Fortunately, Lente can help him with math, because she just bought a state-of-the-art calculator.”
Anouk nods: “Did she show him your pride?” she asks.
“Certainly,” I answer. “After all, I paid him myself.”
“No, I paid him. Watch.” She takes out her phone and shows the apps and tikkie from Spring.
“That’s a coincidence,” I chuckle. “I also have those photos and tikkies.”
“Hey Bass. That’s no laughing matter. She is cheating on us again.”
“You’re right, but at least they’re back in balance.” Despite her dismay, Anouk still laughs.
“Have you thought about Brussels yet?” I continue.
Anouk nods: “Yes, I had decided to come along, but now I have doubts again.”
“Well, you heard what the mentor said: Storm needs rest. Spring plays us off against each other. Is now the right time to travel as two ex-partners?”
“You mean they have to stay out for the weekend?”
“Also,” Anouk agrees. “And I find it confusing: their parents are separated, but they are going on a trip together.”
“Business trip”, I correct her
“We can postpone it until after the test week so Storm can learn at home.”
Anouk nods: “But it remains confusing.”
“Then we won’t say anything.”
“Can I talk to you for a minute?” Kasper asks a few days later. I follow him to his office. I haven’t been in this room in a long time and look around curiously. His predecessor, the previous occupant of this room, had an exuberant taste: red velvet curtains, chandeliers, flowers on the wallpaper. Now everything is tight and sober. Apart from a few photos in his closet. I pick up the first: Kasper and I as a toddler and baby on my mother’s lap. Behind it is a similar photo from a few years later with our father. I’m on his neck, Kasper is standing in front of it. I also had this photo, until Anouk cut it into strips in an angry mood. It still hurts when I think about that. Then my eye falls on a recent photo of the twins with Kasper and Anouk frolicking on a beach. “When was this?” I ask, holding up the photo.
“Oh, last summer somewhere,” Kasper says nonchalantly. “I thought it was a nice picture. Do you find it annoying that I put it down?” he asks
“No,” I mumble. I don’t find it annoying, just weird.
“What did you want to talk to me about?” I continue.
“I had a question about this offer,” says Kasper. And he holds up Anouk’s offer. “I thought you were going to do it alone?”
“How did you get that? That quote is part of my portfolio.”
“That does not matter. Why is Anouk coming along?”
“Because it would be good for the complete picture if a reliable expert takes a look from the outside.”
Kasper nods “Agreed, but we can’t call Anouk an outside expert.”
“She’s an expert,” I object
“Yes, but not ‘from the outside’”
I look at him stunned. Is he going to tell me how to run my business? “Anouk is the right person for the job”, I assure him.
“Yes, but she is vulnerable,” Kasper counters.
“Real. We know what we’re doing. And it would be nice if you just let me handle things in my own portfolio.” Annoyed, I walk back to my own office. It’s nice that Kasper is in the business as a lender, but he shouldn’t be snooping in my papers. I slam the door harder than necessary. Only then do I see that someone is waiting at my desk. Sarah. She is startled by the banging door and immediately bursts into tears.