‘I’m going to miss you while you’re staying with mamie and papy‘. I snuggle into Tadpole’s back, trying to inhale and exhale in time with my daughter, willing my runaway heartbeat to slow.
At lunchtime I’ll collect Tadpole from the Centre de Loisirs, leap into a taxi, and deliver her into the waiting arms of Mr Frog’s mother at Gare de Lyon. She’ll trundle off with her wheelie suitcase for the second leg of her school holidays.
The panic attack began, inexplicably, on Tuesday morning and shows no signs of abating. My body has slipped free of its moorings, drifted out of my control. It’s a law unto itself. My mind races in pointless circles, skittering from worry to worry. I know my sense of perspective is warped. I know, from experience, that it’s a temporary state. In a few day’s time, when I’m back on an even keel, when I can sleep through the night, I’ll have trouble even remembering how this felt.
‘Don’t worry mummy,’ Tadpole says earnestly. ‘You’ll be with [The Boy].’ She grabs my hand and plants a tiny kiss on the inside of my wrist.
‘And mummy, si tu t’ennuies, and you don’t want to go in your office…’
‘Go TO my office.’ I’m pedantic about prepositions, even at 7.45 in the morning, mid panic attack.
‘If you don’t go to your office,’ Tadpole continues, ‘then, you can play with my toys if you want. You can build some things with my pink Lego, or watch one of my DVDs.’
The back of her pyjamas, where my face is touching them, are now damp. Thankfully Tadpole doesn’t notice.
‘But mummy,’ she says in the bossy voice she usually reserves for her collection of soft toys when she’s pretending to be la Maîtresse. ‘Please don’t forget you have to tidy them up again afterwards.’