I grab Mr Frog’s keys, and bundle my protesting Tadpole out of the front door.
“I want to do my jigsaw, mummy!” she cries, ignoring the finger I have hastily pressed to my lips. I pity anyone in my apartment block who was hoping to have a lie-in.
“Later, darling,” I say, to placate her. I realise that “later”, in my language, usually means “never”, as by the time “later” comes, she will have forgotten what she wanted anyway. Which often works in my favour.
We collect the pushchair from the former concierge’s quarters downstairs, now just a couple of dank, dusty rooms which play host to a collection of bicycles, crates and pushchairs, and set off across the road to “Daddy’s House”. We are on a mission: Mr Frog omitted to return the pushchair’s rain cover, and has gone away on business. As the skies are looking rather ominous, I have asked his permission to call in, in his absence, and retrieve it. Luckily, I have his spare set of keys.
Mr Frog’s building is only 200 m further up the road, but from a completely different era. Whereas my flat is in a stone building built in 1905, in the typical Parisian style (six floors, balconies on the first and fifth), Mr Frog’s is a circa 1970 tower block, albeit a rather swanky one. There are long echoing marble corridors, plants in the entrance hall and a live-in gardienne, whose curtain twitches every time she hears an unfamiliar voice outside her door. We take the lift up to Mr Frog’s floor, and outside the door I fumble for the right key.
The door swings open, and Tadpole surges into the flat, immediately at ease in her home from home, whereas I hesitate, cautiously, on the threshold. It feels a little odd to be here. An intrusion, despite the fact that I have permission to enter. Mr Frog’s new home symbolises, to me, all the changes I have wrought in our lives since last spring. It is filled with furniture which he bought without me. He has it looking really nice, but, somehow, it always has a melancholy feel.
I spy the pushchair cover immediately, but do not pick it up, yet. Instead, I follow Tadpole into the bedroom. The shutters are half closed; the room in semi-darkness. There isn’t much to see: the futon bed is made, with familiar bedding; Tadpole’s new Dora the Explorer pyjamas are laid neatly out in her travel cot, in a corner; her toys spill out of the wooden crate he has bought for their storage.
Moving into the kitchen, this time without any pretext, I smile ruefully at the packets of chocolate biscuits and sweets piled on the work surfaces. Mr Frog is clearly up to his old, pre-petite tricks. I bet he hasn’t cooked a proper meal since he moved in, back in July. I wonder, if I looked in his cupboard, whether I wouldn’t find some of those packet noodles he used to live on before we met.
I draw the line at opening the cupboards, however.
The living room is sombre, the blinds also drawn here, partially obscuring his stunning view of the rooftops of Paris through the huge French doors. The place has a tidy, not very lived-in look. I don’t suppose he spends many evenings at home when Tadpole isn’t staying. He has bought a bookcase since I last visited, and a single token book, the new Brett Easton Ellis, sits on a shelf, in pristine condition. Again, I smile a knowing half-smile. I don’t believe I saw Mr Frog read a book from start to finish in the eight years we were together. I see my immense bookcase in my mind’s eye, with its paperbacks stacked three layers deep.
Feeling that I have outstayed my welcome, I pick up the plastic cover and call Tadpole’s name. We leave, but the voyeuristic feeling I had in his apartment stays with me all day.
This is Mr Frog’s new life. This is the new home he has built for himself out of the ashes of our relationship. His life will go on now, without me, regardless of me.
And it’s none of my business.