Chapter 1:

Chapter 1: Disappointment


"Wasn't your day all right, young sir?" Alfred greeted me at the door. As my father's butler, he usually picked me up from school, but since I insisted on going to a public school (I really couldn't stand those snooty assholes in private schools) my father forbade him to take me to school or to pick me up from there. So he always waited at the door, and the moment he saw me, my sagging shoulders and hunched posture was probably the first thing he noticed.

“You look really unhappy, young sir. Now tell me what happened!” I straightened up immediately, looked him straight in the eyes. “Oh, it was nothing. Only a few others have called me a snob, nothing new so,” I tried to smile away the situation. That’s something I thought I‘m really good at, I believed it was one of my new strengths. In any case, it would be too embarrassing to tell him about how Lisa turned me down, because I had already told him how much that girl meant to me. "Oh, don't listen to these boys, young gentlemen, they're probably just jealous of you," he said while taking my backpack from me and setting it aside. "I also think, after all, I have no reason to feel bad," I continued to lie while I walked with Alfred down the long hallway to get to the dining room.

“I'm glad, young sir, that you connive it so easily! You are such a kind person!," Alfred said, while he opened the huge double door with a swing in the usual manner, so that the view of the quite huge room opened up, in which I always had lunch with my father. It is actually amazing, because my father, as a classic businessman with various ventures, is busy with work from morning to evening, and is otherwise very rarely seen. But lunch, yes, he did his best to be there. Though even then he only appeared from time to time, business trips and meetings are more or less the order of the day for him.

"Your father has not yet come home, an employee called by phone and said that a meeting was spontaneously scheduled".

"As often as he has had meetings in the last month, shouldn’t he have already discussed all the secrets and problems of this planet?”

Now Alfred slowly approached me and leaned over me. He wasn't the youngest anymore, 63 years old to be precise. After my grandparents died in an Allied air raid in 1942, he had become a kind of grandfather to me over time; it just happened that way.

“Sir, I can understand that you are dissatisfied with your father. But he always gave everything for you and your mother, worked hard and built it up here during hard times."

He looked around the room. The expensive paintings on the wall, the beautifully decorated fireplace in a Christmas mood, the table that was already set, he looked at everything very carefully.

"A little more respect would be appropriate at this point, don't you agree?" Others would have found this rebuke quite annoying, but with the smile with which Alfred said this to me, I was only able to nod, whereupon his eyes brightened directly. My day was shitty enough in itself that I didn't need another argument.

"Perfect, I knew you would understand!" With a truly sincere enthusiasm he folded his hands and walked quickly towards the kitchen.

"Please sit down already, I'll ask Paolo if the food is ready to serve". "All right, I'll do it," I said, still in a slightly pained voice. The pain from before was still deep inside me, but I did my best to hide it. At the end of the really long table, which stretched across the room, I sat in my chair and waited, as I was used to. Waiting was one of the virtues that I knew all too well after all these years when my father was usually late for lunch.

After a few minutes I heard a car pull up outside. The noise of the engine was unmistakable to me: a Mercedes 300, my father's car, which he attached great importance to. He is also proud that it is the same model as that of the Federal Chancellor, but no idea why it now played such a special role for him. I guess it has to do with the fact that my father has an high opinion of the new order that arose after the war, because it was thanks to those people that he could do what he wanted and make so much money that way as he wanted. But I digress. Anyway, at the same moment I heard the driver's door, which my father used to open and close with an intense swing; it was hearable for everyone around. Alfred immediately ran out of the kitchen, crossed the hall, and sprinted down the corridor; despite his old age, he gave everything to do his work as perfectly as he could. "Welcome back, sir"; I assumed that was what was just coming from his lips, because he too had his habit of greeting. Heavy steps approached the large double door, which gently opened a crack. My father stepped through, wearing a coat, his suit underneath, his hat held at his chest and looking at me with a slightly tired look. "Well?" Short, harsh, thrown at me, that little word was his trademark with which he started almost every sentence. "How was school?"

He couldn't have asked a more annoying and inappropriate question. Every child has probably heard this question so many times that each subsequent time has been an ordeal.

"Oh, it was okay, nothing special happened". My answer must have been just as annoying for him, after all, it wasn't as if I would answer this oh-so-extraordinary question with something extraordinary. This pointless question from my father, this useless answer on my part, a joyless and endless game.

"Well, I'm glad to hear that". He pulled back the chair at the other end of the table and more or less flopped on it. He looked like he had no energy at all, his tired gaze from before was supplemented by his seemingly powerless body; his work probably finishes him off. Suddenly someone shot out of the kitchen; the one was almost faster than his shadow, and that was actually the curious thing about it, because nobody except Lucky Luke should be able to move like that, especially when someone’s carrying several glasses and plates with something in or on them on his hands and arms. But Paolo, the "wild beast of Calabria" (that's what everyone called him after he won a big street fight) was able to do this without even showing the slightest sign of exertion. Despite the distance, it didn't even take him a few seconds to get from the kitchen to the table, stopped and stood straight and rigid next to my father, almost like a soldier; he loved this goddamn show.

Paolo, our head chef, came from Italy after the war to find work here. His village was very impoverished, and so he had decided to go to Naples in order to get a job there after the abdication of the king. With the ingenious plan to get there by ferry, he was so immersed in a newspaper at the port that he accidentally took the wrong steamer and ended up in Cologne and had to stay in Germany due to some complications. However, Paolo made the best of it, started a family and lived with them in the port area of our town for 2 years. Then one day my father found him when he first tasted Paolo's food in a restaurant near the harbor. He had almost no other option to hire him, so he always told him. Whether it was his typical Italian aura with his mustache and temperament, or because of his outstanding pasta, I couldn't really say, in any case, just like Alfred, he had always been a close part of the family. Well, and that was his incredible story. "Ah, Signor Schäfer, finalmente be arrivato!" Whirling around my father, you could clearly see the joy of being around him. Paolo adored my father, just like almost everyone who has anything to do with him. After all, he’s the great "Mr. Schäfer".

“Today I have conjured up something molto delizioso for you, you will be delighted!” Revealing the dish with enthusiasm, he presented my father his absolute classic: Spaghetti Carbonara, which, according to Paolo, was the first thing he had learned to cook from an ancient family recipe. They were correspondingly good, and my father was accordingly happy: “Fabulous Paolo, I have to say that! You know what I need in these times!" Paolo's broad smile grew even wider and gesticulating wildly, he bowed so deeply that you could think he was about to fall over. "I owe this life here only to you, so this is only a small offering".

Now he turned to me. "And for you, my little gentleman, of course I conjured exactly the same thing!," he called out to me from the other side of the table with a seemingly inexhaustible enthusiasm. Like the "wild beast" that Paolo was, he got to me in no time and served me my food with his usual smile. "I hope you’ll like it, there is a lot of amore in it!" Sometimes I found his appearance kind of ridiculous, but today, interestingly enough, this fuss made me a bit perky. The fact that I will probably think of myself as a worthless piece of junk for the near future will still not change. The best friend betrays me with the girl I love; even if he didn't know, doesn't he have any compassion? That made me boil with anger inside!

"Young sir?" Alfred tore me out of my thoughts. I drifted away, that experience made me think more than ever. I also saw that I was clutching my fork tightly in the rising anger.

"Oh, everything is fine, I was just thinking about something unimportant," I lied again, to get out of it without some kind of drama, and inevitably put the fork on the table. "How embarrassing," I thought to myself, because usually I tried to avoid anything that attracts more attention. I just didn't like being looked at with that one, special look.

"Well, let's start eating then," my father said, and saved me from a pretty uncomfortable situation. "And you two may please go, I would like to be alone with my son".

"As you wish, sir". In perfect synchronization, Paolo and Alfred uttered the same sentence and disappeared at the pace in which they had appeared. So finally I sat there, directly across from my father; it has been some time since this last happened. As I said, he's a very busy man.

A few seconds passed, no one dared to say anything. "Well? Let's eat then, won't we?” My father took the first step and broke the silence between us. "Alright….," I said a little uncertainly and pushed my fork into the spaghetti, turned it over a few times and put it in my mouth. The food tasted really good.

Again some time passed while my father and I did not speak a word. Most of the lunches with him went like this because he was mostly too exhausted and had to leave anyway afterwards, and to be honest I didn't know what to say because it usually didn't matter all that much; my life wasn't exactly eventful, and apart from Georg, the guy who cheated on me, I had no other friends. Photography and making music, those were my hobbies, but so far I have not met anyone who could be enthusiastic wholeheartedly, or who perceived it as art.

"Tobi, I have to tell you something. And please, don't start an argument when I'm done”. Immediately I was pricked up my ears. Meanwhile, my father's gaze sharpened and the mood in the room changed.

“I know I told you back then that if you don't want to go to private school, you don't have to. You could even go to the same school as Georg. I knew that I wouldn't do you any good with anything else”. George. I got a bitter taste when I heard that name.

"I am grateful to you to this day," I replied to him. "I appreciate that you let me go there".

"Yes…". He turned his head to the side for a moment, but then looked back at me. “It's just that you will soon be 17, my son. And one day you will take over my company, I hope you are aware of that”.

"Of course, you've been telling me that since I was little". What should I answer that, I thought to myself. However, I had a very bad feeling about what would follow now.

“When you take over my company one day, you will have a lot to do. Taking care of employees, negotiating, scheduling meetings, etc. And to be able to manage all of this, you need special training. I can give you a lot of input on the way, but I believe that there are better teachers out there than me ”. He took a quick sip of the red wine that stood next to him. “Although of course I know everything about it”. My insides contracted, the dull feeling of premonition intensified.

“To make it short: I have decided to send you to an elite boarding school in the south. Or to be more exact, near Munich. There you will learn everything you will need for your later life as managing director of ‘Schäfer Inc.’”. He paused for a moment. "I hope you know it's only for your own good".

Silence. Even quieter than before, if that was even possible. Shocked, irritated, confused, my feelings went crazy. My head burned inside, the experiences of that day were too much for me. Breath after breath, I tried to think more clearly, only to bring out a pitiful "Ah".

"Perfect! I knew you would understand!” Not looking directly at him, I could feel my father's relief. Grinning, he poured himself more red wine, tore up the glass and shouted: "We should celebrate that!"

“But dad,” I responded to his overwhelming joy, “I am learning enough at my current school. Besides, you said yourself that you knew that anything other than sending me to this school would be bad for me”. I looked him in the eyes. "So why the hell do you think this is a good decision!?"

I got really loud, my aggression, which built up over the day, discharged and ended with me yelling at my father. And this one no longer smiled. No. He put down his glass and walked over to me. Now he was standing next to me, replicating my anger with his gaze. When he crouched down, he continued to look at me. Slap. I didn't see his quick hand coming, and immediately my right cheek began to burn.

"Boy. This is a done deal. From now on the seriousness of life begins for you. Be grateful that I made your start easier”. A short smile, then my father got up again and went back to his seat. There was nothing I could do towards him or his plan to shape myself the way he wanted to. So I preferred to keep quiet, saying something would be a wasted effort anyway.

So I finished eating and wanted to go to my room as soon as possible. I was almost out the door when my father called, "Oh, and boy ..." A quick turn, a look over my shoulder. "I am sure that you will handle it, you’re a Schäfer at last". And with these words my father said goodbye for the next two years.