The teeth-grittingly cheerful chime of my mobile phone (Mr Frog laid claim to the alarm clock, and the coffee machine, and I haven’t got around to replacing either) awakes me from a deep, dreamless slumber and I groan theatrically, playing to an invisible audience.
Thankfully I didn’t overdo it the night before, limiting myself to a couple of sedately sipped cocktails with a new friend; heading home soon after the clock struck midnight. This morning sees the return of the Tadpole, after a week long holiday spent with her grandparents in Besançon. Moderation was a necessity: I will need my wits about me today.
A family of moths seems to have taken up residence in my stomach, and I realise to my own amazement that I am nervous about being reunited with my own daughter. Not only are my nerves jangling, but I am also aware of a unpleasant, needling sensation of guilt. The fact is, I pretty much forgot Tadpole’s very existence this past week, slipping effortlessly back into the skin of the girl I used to be, long before she came along. I became re-acquainted with this long lost me, a girl who followed her every selfish whim, who threw on her party clothes and headed out on the town with no fear of having to deal with both a toddler and a hangover the morning after.
How I cherished every second of my temporary freedom. First, there was Nice. Leisurely meals and long drawn out evening drinks, all the while shooting the breeze with my traveling companion, who I now consider a firm friend. Hours spent hypnotised by the gentle tapping sound of waves against the pebbly shore, the sun teasing my cheeks, as I searched patiently for the smoothest, most perfect pebble to take home in my pocket. Not glancing at my watch, living to no-one else’s agenda. Upon my return to Paris, outings to bars with friends, to the cinema, an evening at home with boy plus take-away sashimi, and all that it entailed.
I hadn’t telephoned Tadpole during all this time. Not once.
I justified this neglect to myself by saying that as she doesn’t really show much interest in phone conversations, it can be a somewhat frustrating, pointless exercise. Took shelter behind the excuse that it still feels rather awkward speaking to the ex-in-laws. But the truth of the matter was that I simply wasn’t missing my daughter, and feared that if I did call, that might change. Dared not risk tainting my enjoyment of the here and now.
So here I am, catapulted back from a carefree parallel universe into a weekend of full-time motherhood. On the menu: an Easter egg hunt in the gardens of the Musée Rodin, a baby swimmers session, lunch in a Chinese restaurant in Belleville en tête à tête (our new Sunday ritual, involving much hilarity with chopsticks). Possibly some finger painting, if the weather is inhospitable. Pleasures of a radically different kind.
It’s not that I prefer one state to the other. Simply that being petite the single girl one moment, then petite the mother the next takes some adjusting to. I now live two parallel lives, which rarely overlap.
The appointed hour is close, so hastily I wash the scent of bar smoke from my hair, remove the traces of last night’s makeup from around my eyes, take a deep breath and head out into the street.
As I thrust my keys into the pocket of my jeans, my fingers close around a smooth pebble.