It's 9am and the corridor outside of her bedroom is dark, so I bend down gingerly to slide a note under her door.
'Sapph, I'm taking Milly out for a walk and a play before she bursts. I have my mobile with me, so call if you need anything. Mum xo'
My knees crack whilst straightening up and BANG I crack the top of my head on her door knob. My anguished screech of 'SHIT' shoots out without thinking and I hear Sapphire stir and call out to me; all my previously silent and considerate creeping around for nothing.
She's still sick and it's no longer a joke or an intriguing 'bug that's going around' or a pleasant opportunity for us to watch every conceivable version of Antiques Road Show, Attic Treasure, Flog It, Road Trip, Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is, Ask Our Antiques Experts, Bargain Hunters or Nanna Has A Cracked Pot: Is it Worth Anything via the English channels.
The doctor, once pompous, then apologetic is now a combination of stumped and concerned. "The new drugs haven't worked - the bacteria is still there. No wonder you feel so ill, Sapphire." He even shows me the lab reports and the list of antibiotics that have been proven to work against the evil germ lurking in her belly. "This is supposed to work, it's supposed to fix things. Why hasn't it?" That's the question he asks before I do.
He'll be phoning the laboratory tomorrow, as they've now separated the bug and are testing other drugs on it to see if they can destroy it. "If not, it's time for the Diseases Unit in the hospital to help us." For some inexplicable reason, I'm really glad when he says 'us' instead of 'you' - he's now involved and seems to care. This kid ain't faking and needs help.
As we farewell him - yep, come back tomorrow and I'll also call you as soon as I hear again from the lab - I look down at the Sick Certificate he's given me to send to Sapphire's teacher. Instead of the usual ones that say Retourner a l'ecole and a date, this one states: Retourner est indeterminee. Sapphire sees me frown, snatches it from my hand to read what it says and starts to cry.
The mobile had a message for me. I didn't get the admin job via the Australian embassy. It was almost an entry-level role that they interviewed eight of us for. "Was it my bad French?"
"No, yours was as good as everyone else's."
What the? Come on, rally yourself, girl. "Oh. Never mind, I appreciate you considering me----"
"You could easily have done the job - all the panel agreed - but the person we offered it to has more experience than you."
Ah. More experience in being your niece? More experience in ordering lunchtime tables in perfect Francais? More experience in being a mindless wallah? More experience in ...... time to get off this bitter, pointless track and get ready to take the dog for a walk. Milly does several joy jumps before skidding on the parquetry when she sees me reach for my Outdoor Walking Coat - a 75% markdown from the H&M Mens' Section sized Extra Large. I look like a sleeping bag wrapped around a water tank, but damn if it doesn't keep me cosy.
Hopefully another job will turn up that doesn't involve nannying three children under five years or toilet cleaning for 15 francs an hour. A part-time Librarian's Assistant role looked promising until Selection Criteria Number Nine specified 'Must be fluent in both English and French and possess the ability to read and understand Russian, Spanish and Arabic.' All that to type in 'new additions to the library category coding system' for 18 francs an hour?
Swish Swish Swish whispers my jacket as I stride along, fuming. The bloody UN seems deliberately set up to actively prevent trailing spouses from gaining any form of employment. G-level (yes, as in ground, gofer, gormless, grovelling) employment pays less than our weekly grocery (yes, another G word) bill but still requires a high distinction after sitting their official admin skills test, proving I can speak two languages and understand three in the written form, possess an advanced Masters Degree in International Diplomacy or related issues and over eight years working specifically for international organisations.....
Whoah - the leaves are now long dead and dangerously slippery with damp, and I grab at a railing to prevent from falling. The sudden movement shakes the lump in my pocket - Love Chunks' new camera. Further down the hill, Milly sees Malou and surprises him with some attention and play as I stand there staring at the wealth of photo opportunities. Ice-crusted grass. Malou's excited face. Orange leaves. Pink sun rising through grey foggy sky and the cryptic spray painted 'Avatar Rules'on the lowest hanging branch of a nearby oak tree.
Drops splatter my face as Milly returns, giving her ears an extra-thorough flapping to signify that she's sick of Malou and ready to return home.
Sapph's on the sofa, folded up tightly to squash the stomach pain and resting Elmo - her sleeping partner of choice during times of illness or sadness - on her knees. The Outdoor Walking Coat is dropped to the floor as I dash over to hug her. Her hand lightly brushes against the top of my head, still throbbing from the fight with the door knob.
"I'm glad you're with me, Mum," she whispers.
Perhaps this is the right job for me right now.