I suppose it was always only going to be a matter of time before FP or I - or both of us - bumped into one of our ex’s. After all, when you move into an apartment in Versailles - the city squashed between two other towns in which our respective ex’s live – you should really be prepared for an awkward meeting in the street. I thought I was prepared...
We were doing our weekly shopping in the local supermarket when it happened. I had carefully written out my usual two shopping lists - one for the left side of the shop and the other for the right side - and sent FP off to the other end of the supermarket with his list. (This, I have found, is the easiest way to get the weekly food shopping done. Writing the list of food in order of the layout of the shop cuts down on the time spent wandering back and forth, although I have been known to become rather cross when the layout has been changed around. And sending FP off in search of certain things that I can trust him to get right - wine, tissues, lightbulbs and not soda [“I said Diet coke you eejit!”] or moisturising cream [thought this was a safe one until he presented me with a tub of anti-wrinkle cream which started a big fight] – means that I can get things done faster without him pointing at the Haribo sweets and throwing a temper tantrum until I plonk them in the trolley.)
I was standing at the frozen food section browsing the pizzas, trying to make the decision between the pepperoni (his favourite) and the goat’s cheese (my favourite) when something caught my eye. It was FP, marching down the frozen food aisle, list in one hand, pink and orange striped wicker basket in the other, and wearing an odd, unfamiliar grimace on his face.
“That was fast! You finished already?” I asked, about to send him off in search of something else to keep him busy.
He shook his head, and that’s when I noticed how pale he was. His face had lightened several shades and he looked faint.
“I’ve just seen a ghost,” FP said.
I began to laugh and stopped when he hadn't followed suit. “What do you mean?” I couldn’t understand, couldn’t make head nor tail of the situation. Could he have seen a ghost? I wondered naïvely before a second voice in my head snapped back: Don' be stupid, ghosts don't hang out in your local supermarket.
FP took my hand in his and looked into my eyes with a pained expression as though he was about to reveal the news of a death in the family. "A ghost from the past." He said. “Toad is here.”
Ah. Toad. The ex-boyfriend. French, but not a frog. He was rather a bit of a toad, actually. He was one of those men who enjoy the challenge of getting the girl, but afterwards lose interest, the novelty wearing off. He was also a man who expected to be shared with other girls, if you get what I mean.
I suddenly felt very hot as the panic built up inside of me. No, no, no this cannot be happening. Not now, not here. I knew this was going to have to happen at some point, after all we moved into an apartment only ten minutes down the road from him. Not deliberately, you understand. We hadn't even realised this fatal error until we decided to explore the area a month or two after we had moved in, and by that time we had signed a 3 year contract and had fallen in love with our new home.
"Are you sure?" I said, feeling like I might faint myself. FP nodded his head solemnly.
"He said hello to me, shook my hand, all awkwardly like."
Oh bugger. So there was no chance FP had made a mistake then. My ex-boyfriend was definitely under the same roof as me now, after over two years.
"Well where is he? I need to avoid him!" I hissed, panicking. Things ended horribly messily all those years ago and I desperately did not want to have to face him now and be forced to smile and...shake his hand. Eugh!
"He's at the meat." FP jabbed his thumb in the direction of the meat section. "I'll keep an eye on him and you hide." I watched wide-eyed as my boyfriend ran off to the top of the frozen food aisle before stopping at the last freezer and peeping around the corner, back pressed to the rows of ice cream. Feeling stressed I opened the freezer door in front of me and pulled out several boxes of goats cheese pizza - I'd be needing them when this was all over - and pressed them to my burning red cheeks, as surreptitiously as I could.
"Pssst!" FP hissed and waved me on. "The coast is clear for you. Go to the next aisle!"
"Okay," I mouthed and sprinted to the next aisle (the flour and sugar section to be exact), keeping my body pressed as closely to the shelves as possible, James Bond style. I waited, two minutes, five, six...After seven long minutes FP appeared at the far end of the aisle and gave me the thumbs up sign. He waved me on to the chocolate aisle where, because of the extreme stress I was suffering from, I flung a good few family size bars of milk chocolate into my basket. FP appeared at the other end once more.
"Chocolate aisle, very dangerous!" I whispered loudly up to him and he nodded in agreement, waving me on. We continued on several more aisles this way (which is extremely exhausting, let me tell you) until we reached the wine section where all hell broke loose. FP came running towards me, hair stood on end, panic written all over his face.
"Danger! Danger! The cat is out of the basket!"
"What?!" I didn't catch on.
"He's coming this way!" He shouted. "Run!"
And so I did. FP and I, our baskets spilling over, dropping bananas and chocolate bars behind us as we escaped, ran hand in hand to the safe haven of the hidden loo roll aisle. (Only regular clients of this supermarket know where to find the toilet roll. Tucked away as if in a cupboard, it took me three long months before I finally discovered where they kept it. Was now feeling very thankful for that strange hidden haven.)
I held my body close to FP's and tried to catch my breath. My hero looked down at me and chuckled quietly, shaking his head. "This is ridiculous!" I began to laugh along with him at the absurdity of the whole scenario when we heard footsteps squeaking along the floor. They were getting louder and louder, closer and closer. I looked up at FP and held my breath, scared to be caught by Toad. FP held me tighter and there was nothing to do but wait.
And then he appeared at the end of the aisle. He looked us up and down in bemusement and what I suspected was anger. "You cannot run in the shop like that." The security guard told us. "I'm going to have to ask you both to leave."
And so we were escorted out of the shop by the big, burly security man who had caught us in the loo roll aisle. It was humiliating and we haven't been back there since. I'm not sure we'd be welcome.
But at least I didn't bump into Toad.