When my Lover is not with me, I sleep fitfully, work worries flitting around my head, like moths around a lightbulb. When I do manage to sleep, I migrate onto his pillows, which are impregnated with the scent of his skin, unconsciously seeking the comfort of a warm shoulder.
I wake and the winter moonlight gives no clue as to the hour. It could be hours or minutes before the alarm sounds. Reluctant to rouse myself further to squint at my watch, I lie wide awake nevertheless, mildly paranoid, as always, that I’m going to be late, that the alarm will not work at all.
Familiar knots tighten in my stomach as my mind predictably turns to the office. Will it be a neutral day, or a stormy one? Weather map symbols swim before my eyes. Where once every day was dry with light cloud and sunny intervals, nowadays there are, at best, ominous grey clouds gathering; at worst, a violent storm.
After what seems like an eternity, electronic beeps signal 6.45 am. I switch on the bedside light, ease my glasses onto my nose, and try to will my body out from under the heavy, duck down duvet. Five minutes pass, then ten. Why, oh why does a bed always feel at least ten times more comfortable when it is time to leave it?
If I strain my ears, I can hear a gentle, regular snoring coming from Tadpole’s room along the hallway. She’s as reluctant as I to wake in the winter, and invariably turns to face the wall, her sleepy, plaintive voice protesting “No mummy! I can’t get up. I’m tired!”
Today is no different. Softly I repeat her name until she stirs; the pattern of her breathing subtly changes. Curling into a foetal ball, she emits a little moan. I begin to pull on my work clothes, knowing that she will come around, in time.
Sure enough, when my head emerges from a polo neck jumper, I see sparkling blue eyes looking at me mischievously over the top of a teddy bear.
“I peeping mummy!” she giggles, as she raises herself up on one elbow.
I smile, feeling one of the knots loosening, unravelling, in my stomach.
Gathering the sleeping bag sheathed Tadpole into my arms, I sink into the nearby sofa, my face buried in her neck. Small, soothing fingers caress my neck and run themselves through my dishevelled hair. She pulls herself upright, eyes close to mine, the tips of our noses touching. Suddenly animated, she exclaims:
“Go outside and make some clouds?”
I see us in my mind’s eye, yesterday morning, walking alongside the park, our warm breath visible in the frosty air. Tadpole’s eyes were wide with wonder, and she beseeched me “souffle mummy, souffle!” over and over again. Simple things which I take for granted take on new meaning when I can show them to Tadpole for the very first time.
Slowly, in the presence of my daughter, office stress recedes into insignificance. From our exchanges I draw the strength to face my day.