Yesterday I had one of those moments where I have to seriously consider if I should be trusted to look after other people's children. If you've ever wondered what it's like to be an au pair, here's a little extract from my 'working life'...
We were walking to the bus stop from the park. It was dark. Suddenly the eleven year old disappeared down a corner with her friend Florence*.
"Where's she going?" I asked the eight year old.
"Shh... it doesn't matter." she replied, helpfully.
"WHERE ARE YOU GOING!" I yelled into the darkness.
"FLORENCE'S!" she yelled back.
Florence lives just around the corner and the eleven year old often stays at her house on a Friday night. The eight year old was acting as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening, so I assumed the mum had forgotten to tell me. Still, the mum does normally tell me things like that...
"The bus! The bus!" the eight year old screamed.
The bus drove past us and the eight year old started running after it, so obviously I followed suite and we got to the bus stop just before he closed the doors. We sat down at the back of the bus, laughing and my thoughts turned to what I was going to cook for the dinner. About five minutes later, when we were about two stops away from home, I heard my phone bing. The eleven year old had BBM'd me (who gets a Blackberry at the age of eleven?):
Vous êtes ou?
My stomach lurched. Instantly I knew I'd Fucked Up.
We are on the bus!!
I thought you were staying with Florence tonight??!
Go back to Florence's house and I will come and get you.
No reply. Shit shit shit. I sent her the same messages in French, in case she didn't understand.
Still no reply. As we got off the bus my phone started to ring, it was the mum.
"What you do? She go to get her bags from Florence's house and you leave her all alone! What are you thinking? You not listen! You can't listen! Are you crazy? Now I must go and get her! I am far away!"
I tried to argue back with her:
"I thought she was staying at Florence's house! She didn't tell me she was just going to get her bags! I told her to go back to Florence's house and I'll go and get her."
But the mum wasn't listening to me, she just kept saying the same things over and over again until I stopped trying to argue with her. Eventually I sighed and said "O.k." and she put the phone down.
The eight year old was running around me, wanting to know what was happening, so I tried to explain to her without making it sound as if me and her mum had had an arguement.
"Your sister went to get her bags from Florence's house, but I thought she was staying there, so now your mum has to go and get her."
"But she not say this!" cried the eight year old, indignant, "She say she go to Florence house! It's not you who do this! I go call my mum and I say!"
As soon as we got into the house, the eight year grabbed the phone and rang her mum. I heard her yelling down the phone and she slammed it down.
"My mum say it not real what we say! She say my sister say is real and you not listen you! She say it's not real what you and me say!"
"Oh well..." I said, trying to pretend everything was normal.
The eight year old went off to play with her baby brother and I ran the bath, staring into the water, trying to get a little plan together. What if she fired me? I already know she thinks 'my head is not on my shoulders' because the dad told me... Should I apologise? Or is this my chance to get out? I could stay at Kayt's for a few days and work at the restaurant, or I could go straight to London and stay with my cousin for a few days, I know that her friend Becky would get a flat with me...
I really thought that this could be it. I could be leaving Paris forever.
The doorbell rang and I jumped up, ready to face My Destiny.
It was the dad, sat on his motorbike with the engine still running.
"Give me the other helmet please, I need to go and get her. What happened?"
"I don't know." I said.
I kept thinking about the eleven year old, wandering round in the dark on her own. I felt really bad. Whne I was eleven I used to go to school on my own, but I suppose it's different in Paris. It's not as safe as Manchester. Oh god, what if she wasn't safe? What if she was wandering around crying?
Ten minutes later the doorbell rang again and it was the eleven year old.
"Sorry!" I said when I opened the door. "I thought you said you were staying at Florence's."
"C'est pas grave!" she said cheerfully.
And that was that. She clearly wasn't arsed in the slightest. By the time the mum got home I'd calmed down and forgotten all about it. I couldn't believe I hadn't made absolutely clear where the eleven year old was going. I should have called the mum to double-check before we jumped on the bus. I heard the mum feeding the baby in the kitchen so I went in, wandering what sort of mood she'd be in. She had sounded furious on the phone.
"I'm sorry about what happened."
"It's ok, I just want to ask you both what happened, because I don't want it to happen again!"
"Yeah, of course." I said.
We all sat down in the living room.
"I was surprised because I ring her and she say 'I go to get my bags from Florence's house' and I say 'O.k, tell LBM** and she say 'I have, I have' and the next thing she say 'They are on the bus, they have left me.'"
"Well, she didn't tell me, but I suppose... I should have made absolutely sure."
"I tell my sister to tell her." the eleven year old said.
Then the mum started yelling at her in French and I just sat there, patiently, while the two of them argued it out. After a time the mum said "O.k, good then."
And that was that. I ate dinner with the girls (turns out the baby's nanny had made a potato gratin so I didn't have to cook) and then the mum said I could go a bit early.
I was planning on going out and getting very drunk as I'm working in the restaurant tonight and tomorrow night, but I had an unexpected visitor. Do you remember Ali, my 'jogging partner' (we went four times) last year who left Paris to go and live on a Spanish mountain? Well she was coming to Paris to meet up with an ex-boyfriend (wink wink) and she needed somewhere to stay for one night. As she had been up since 5am she didn't fancy going out, so she just sat on my bed and watched me tidy my room instead.
Now I'm off to get my eyebrows threaded because they look horrrrendous at the moment. If you took a picture of them and showed them to three hundred people and asked them 'Whose eyebrows are these?' I bet two hundred and eighty of them would say 'Madonna- circa 1989'. The rest would say 'This must be a trick question, because they are not eyebrows at all, they are clearly two moustaches that you have photoshopped onto someone's forehead.'
*Obviously I haven't used her real name for Paranoid Reasons...
*...just as nobody actually calls me LBM.