“Look at my little girl!” I say, handing Mr Frog the cake box over Tadpole’s head and motioning to him to hide it in the kitchen. “She’s four years old!” Tadpole executes a coquettish little twirl in the turquoise dress I bought the day before in an Indian shop, with its silver thread and sequin detail. Any dress with a skirt big enough to curtsey in finds favour with my daughter these days. But god forbid I try to dress her in any sort of skirt which doesn’t have “corners”. That will simply not do. At all. And as for trousers, well, we simply don’t go there.
I had staggered down the rue de Belleville earlier that morning, leaving a mojito scented fug in my wake, and collected the Chinese sponge and whipped cream monstrosity I had thankfully had the foresight to order several days earlier. Now, complete with garish Disney princess decorations purchased on my last trip to England, it is suitably hideous. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that Tadpole will approve.
“But mummy,” says Tadpole frowning, “when I did wake up this morning, I was not more-ler bigger! My legs are the same. My face is the same. My hair isn’t longer. I can’t be four years old yet. Because when I’m four years old, I’m going to be extremely big. Much biggerer than this!”
“Ah,” I reply, looking askance at Mr Frog, who shrugs and peers inside the cake box, his face registering first horror, then amusement. I dig inside my jeans pocket and hand him four glittery Barbie candles in nauseous shades of pink and purple, then turn back to Tadpole, my head spinning. “Honey, did you think you were going to be all grown up when you woke up this morning?”
“Well,” I say reasonably. “Nobody grows that quickly.” A sly smile spreads across my face as I realise I can turn this to my advantage. “Especially not little girls who don’t eat their vegetables. Because no one can grow if they don’t eat green beans, and carrots and broccoli.”
“You’ll never guess what happened to me last night,” I call to Mr Frog, who is busy melting candle ends in the kitchen with his lighter and sticking them in the plastic holders I have already inserted into the icing. “I got asked if I wanted a student rate on my way into a club. Imagine?!” I for one am not looking forward to the birthday when I suddenly begin looking my actual age overnight. I take a step into the kitchen.
“Don’t come any closer,” says Mr Frog sharply, “you’re probably flammable!” Clearly the lashings of perfume I applied and half packet of chewing gum I’ve put away this morning have masked nothing. “Let me guess. Rum? Mojitos?”
At that moment, Mr Frog’s parents appear at the front door, his father brandishing a bottle of champagne. My stomach lurches at the prospect of alcohol, reloaded and I begin to feel light-headed.
“Hair of the dog,” I mutter under my breath as a generous flute of bubbly is put into my reluctant hand. “And don’t you dare translate that,” I caution Mr Frog as he sets down the cake.
“Wow!” says Tadpole, her eyes like dinner plates. “Qu’est-ce qu’il est beau, mon gâteau…“
At least, I think to myself, taking a celebratory swig of champagne and managing to stifle my grimace, my horrorshow cake was worth the considerable effort I had expended that morning.
Maybe I’m not such a bad mummy, after all.