Retrospectively, it was this moment that changed Charlotte’s journey before it had even really begun. For, despite what the older woman might have thought, Egg had found her way to Vienna and subsequently to her father’s old booth at Naschmarkt by pure chance and through an innate longing for the time she had spent in the Austrian capital during her childhood days. Finding herself now in the very store she had spent hours on end, feeding her fantasy with almost as fine food as was served by her father to all the waiting customers, felt all but unreal to her. While the hungry Viennese had chosen fresh cheese, a special bottle of wine or handcrafted Italian sauces back then, Charlotte would pick the outside packaging of whatever food was closest to her, imagining happy little tomato plants and ancient olive trees, providing them with their refined flavours and colourful looks. There were fruits and vegetables whose names she had learnt through these hours in the shop, familiarizing herself not only with their taste but with the stories she appointed each and every one of them. In this way, it was almost comical to be yet again engrossed in a story, as she sat surrounded by similar products to those that had entertained her twenty years ago. For as the older woman had settled down opposite of her and started talking about a will Charlotte had not yet heard anything about, a new story started to spin around her, wrapping her up and taking her away into a side of her father’s past she previously hadn’t even begun to discover.
“His will? I … honestly, I am really sorry, but could you at least tell me who you are before going into a ‘will’”, she couldn’t help but draw quotation marks around the word, “that I – as his daughter – haven’t even heard about. Why would I even start to believe anything you say? Just because you happen to know my name or have found me outside my dad’s old store?!”, the words remained hanging in mid air for a moment, surprising both the woman and Egg herself. She didn’t know where this flood of aggressive wording came from, hadn’t expected it any more than the old lady now starring at her wordlessly. And just like that, within moments, the situation had changed completely, had rendered her conversational partner speechless, while Charlotte seemed to have made up for the moments she had spent silent since the nameless woman had first approached her.
“My name is Emma. Emma Kaiser”, she started slowly: Her voice sounded low and calming like a person approaching a scared deer on the road. No sudden movements, no harsh sounds: “My family has owned this booth for many years and we were more than happy to sublet it to your father, when he was looking for a free stall. I worked with him often, playing with you whenever you came to visit him. Forgive my sentimental naivety, but I thought surely you would remember our time together. You used to love the magic tricks I performed for you in the back of the shop …”, she stopped, conjuring an image in the middle of the room; letting it breath and grow until Charlotte felt she could see an invisible film playing in front of her very eyes. All of sudden she could, indeed, remember sitting on one of the upturned wooden boxes with a younger version of the woman, laughing her head off. It hadn’t happened very often and yet, now that her memory had been prompted, Egg wondered how she could have ever forgotten about it. Back then – her little family had only just moved to Vienna – she had been at the peak of her shyness, holding on to her father’s leg for dear life or hiding behind the counter whenever a customer would enter the store. Even the young woman who would help her father in the shop every now and again had not managed to break through her shell – until she had brought the wine. Naturally, Emma had never given her wine to drink but had performed the most wonderful magic tricks with the corks from the bottles. She had made them vanish from inside her fist only to have them reappear in Charlotte’s dark hair or in the sleeves of her dress. Sometimes she had even managed to fasten them back into the neck of a wine bottle, making it look as if it had never even been opened. Whole days had been filled in this way, as Egg had soon started to love the time spent with Emma, who always seemed to be able to pull a new trick out of a figurative magician’s hat. And just like that the girl had won her trust and later on her words. For when Egg had finally started to talk to the young woman, she simultaneously started to become inseparable with her. Now, all these memories seemed like bad jokes to Charlotte: how could she have forgotten about a time she had cherished so much as a child?
“The tricks with the corks … and you used to make this sweet dish I liked so much, the Kaiserschmarrn?”, she remembered now, feeling redness creeping into her face, as she realised just how rude she had been before. Emma nodded, a smile once again on her lips:
“See, you do remember!”, she pushed a full wine glass towards Egg’s side of the table, making the cork disappear within her fist like she had done so many years ago: “Now, allow me to say how very sad I was to hear about your father’s death. I kept in close contact with him until the end. In fact, I talked to him a mere hours before he died”, a sadness tinted her words darker: “He had told me how much he needed you to come back to Vienna, for somebody to tell you the end to a story he had no chance to even begin telling.”
“We never found my father’s will … we don’t think he ever managed to write one”, Egg remembered how confused her remaining family had been about this fact. Oliver Eggleton hadn’t died suddenly, hadn’t succumb to a car accident or an equally dramatic disaster. He had lost a long battle with cancer, had theoretically had enough time to get his affairs in order – a thought that still caused a shiver to run down her back: “Did he tell you what this story was about, why he wanted me to come back to Vienna?”
“He did, indeed …”she began, taking a sip of her own wine and started telling the tale.