At first, I agonised over how Tadpole would react to the fact that not only did daddy now live across the road, but that there was also a new man in my life.
I was adamant that he couldn’t come to stay in the flat I used to share with Mr Frog, sleep on what had, until recently, been his side of the the bed, on what my daughter still refers to as “daddy’s pillow”. (Although the pillows, mattress and all of the bedding is, in fact, symbolically new.) So, for the first few months we visited Rennes, Tadpole and I, and much as I wanted to, I didn’t invite Lover to visit me in Paris unless Tadpole was away.
I have a vivid memory of our first journey to Rennes together, Tadpole giggling at her reflection in my powder compact, while I hastily applied a little make up, anxious to look my best when we stepped off the train. My daughter, desperate to wear some lip gloss “just like mummy”, had to be fobbed off with lip salve, and was allowed to “help mummy” by dragging a brush, somewhat painfully, through my hair.
Later that weekend, glancing back at my daughter, who was walking hand in hand with one of Lover’s girls and chattering happily, I realised that although this new relationship might seem complicated on paper, it didn’t have to be in practice. And when Tadpole shrieked with delight, seated high above me on Lover’s broad shoulders, I knew that although he would never replace her daddy, she had found a new friend.
Yesterday I reflected on how much things have changed, since that weekend in June. Nowadays, Lover comes to stay in Paris for a week or two at a time, and is a semi-permanent fixture in the anglaise household. When we arrive home in the evenings, Tadpole knocks insistently on the front door, calling his name over and over, until he opens it just a chink, and peeps through the gap. Every day the same routine; every day the same delighted giggles from Tadpole. He is entitled to a kiss and a cuddle at bedtime once the stories have been read. Futile attempts have been made by Tadpole to enlist his support against me when my daughter and I are in conflict over a plate of untouched dinner. Luckily, he is wise enough to take a step back in situations like these, refusing to take sides or to allow the resident manipulator to get her own way by playing us off against each other.
Occasionally Tadpole shows her possessive streak and becomes annoyed at the fact that she is not receiving my undiluted attention every single second of the day. “That’s MY mummy!” she shouted petulantly, eyebrows furrowed, when she arrived home after a weekend with Mr Frog and the In Laws, indignant at being asked to share.
Tonight Tadpole and I will return to an empty flat, the lights out, the laptop conspicuously absent from my dining table. Tadpole will finally have me all to herself, and yet I know that the first thing she will say to me when I pick her up from the childminder’s will be:
“Go see Jim?”