As we crossed the park, Tadpole singing “Bla Bla Black Sheep” at the top of her lungs, I brought the pushchair to an abrupt halt, struck with the sudden realisation that my keys were in the pocket of my jacket. The very same jacket which was hanging in the cupboard at work, blissfully unaware of my predicament.
For once, my little-used mobile phone was charged. I hastily called Mr Frog, who is in possession of a spare set of keys to our former home. He answered on the first ring.
“J’ai fait une énorme connerie,” I wailed. “My boss was stressing me out when I left work, and I’ve gone and left my jacket at the office with my keys in. Is there any way you could come and let us in with your set?”
The alternative would have been a forty minute round trip to where I work on the métro, or in a taxi, with Tadpole, the pushchair, and the bulky bags of shopping I was carrying. Possible in theory, but braving rush hour with a child is not for the faint hearted.
Thankfully, Mr Frog was able to ride valiantly to our rescue on his gleaming white Vespa. I thanked him profusely, and cast around for ideas. How best to entertain Tadpole for the forty minutes prior to his arrival? It was a mild evening, so we could have idled in the park for a while, but we had already left the play area far behind us, and I was mindful of the fact that it would be awkward to keep an eye on both Tadpole and my bags.
Plus, all I really wanted at that precise moment was a nice cold beer and a sit down.
Half an hour later, when Mr Frog arrived, Tadpole and I were seated outside our local café in a leafy, cobbled square. I was draining the dregs of my pression, while Tadpole applied herself to positioning stickers on the pages of a hastily purchased kiddy magazine, tongue protruding from between her milk teeth in concentration.
She looked up, and her expression changed from absorbed to overjoyed in the blink of an eye. The sticker book fell to the floor, forgotten.
“Daddy DA-ddy DADDY DADDY!” she cried, breaking into a fit of ecstatic giggles.
I looked from Tadpole to Mr Frog and back again, tears threatening to well up. For a moment I felt overwhelming remorse. What a cruel, heartless, selfish bitch I was to have left him, separating father and daughter. The feeling lasted only a second, because I know that Tadpole and Mr Frog are closer now than they ever were before, the result of long evenings and weekends spent en tête à tête since our separation.
Mr Frog chaperoned us home, explaining to Tadpole that he would pick her up on Wednesday from the childminder’s and take her back to “daddy’s house”. Tadpole nodded, apparently satisfied with this arrangement, and waved goodbye. Mr Frog kissed me gently on the cheek and went on his way.
Our family unit may have splintered apart, but I can’t help thinking we are in pretty good shape.