Laurie’s Cottage Pie

Laurie was standing half naked in front of the bathroom mirror, blow-drying her hair.

Little Vincent was shouting:

“Mommy! MOMMY!”

Vincent pulled at Laurie’s underwear, and she accidentally hit her head with the hairdryer. The string of her underwear slapped hard against her hip.

“For God’s sakes, Vince! Watch it!”

There was no way to keep her blood pressure low these days. On the day Vincent was born she knew that she had literally shortened her life by ten years.

Vincent was pouting at his mother.

“What’s the matter?” she asked.

“I want breakfast!”

“I told you to prepare your cornflakes yourself! You know where the milk is, don’t you?”

“My mate from school said it was in your boobies, but I don’t understand.”

She looked at him, speechless.

“Also I spilled it…the bottle’s empty…”

She took a deep breath and wondered where her own personal universe had gone. When she looked at herself in the mirror, she noticed that it had never been there in first place. It might be a good idea to start exercising again, too.


She looked down at him again.

“Go clean up that mess, before I make you lick it all up!”

Vincent began to sob. She took another deep breath and covered the mirror with her towel.


There was some UHT-milk in the cupboard, which she had bought in case they would run out of milk. She would only have a fruit salad in the morning and self-made orange juice. Vincent didn’t like fruits. There was no morning where he wouldn’t have his Coco Pops.

“You’re gonna become a fatty one day, do you know that?” she said.

Vincent didn’t answer. Kids never listen.

“A fatty…” she repeated.

It was sunny outside, but it would definitely do no harm taking two pills of sedatives before work.

“I don’t wanna go to school today” he moaned.

“You’re not even old enough yet for school, so stop whining!”

“I don’t like the other kids. And they don’t like me.”

“Should I be surprised…?”

The school bus had arrived outside. She was amazed that Vincent had put his coat and shoes on by himself without her telling him to.

“Bye mum…”

“Have a nice day.”

As she was about to wash up, she noticed that Vincent had not touched his bowl of Coco Pops. The milk had turned to chocolate.

“What a weirdo…”

She poured it down the sink.


Laurie’s chief editor Mr Golding had a crush on her. Nobody had noticed so far, but she had a sixth sense for things like that. He was in his mid forties, but due to the great amount of exercise, low carb diet and holidays in the mountains he was in fantastic shape. She didn’t believe that there was fourteen years difference between them. She respected him, but she was also scared of him. Despite his charisma and sex appeal, no woman even dared to throw looks at him. A rumour said that he was divorced.

“Miss Laurie!” Mr Golding shouted from his office door.

Laurie was looking nervously around her and noticed suspicious glances from her colleagues, as though she was about to walk the red carpet.

A couple of women were giggling behind her back.

Mr Golding’s office evoked an atmosphere that was similar to that of a job interview if not worse.

“Take a seat, please.”

She clasped her hands tightly and put them on the table. Her palms begin to sweat.

“Anything I can do for you, sir?”

“Well, actually I need to have a chat with you about your latest article…”

Her right leg started to shake.

“Anything wrong?” she asked.

“Well, yes, but I take the blame, because I didn’t cross-read your article before publication…”

“I’m sorry, what was wrong with it?”

He was gazing at her hands.

“Laurie, your fingers are turning blue!”

She hid her hands under the table. Her right leg stopped shaking.

“Sorry…what is the matter with the article?”

Mr Golding was recollecting his thoughts, and then he chuckled.

“Well, first you are a wonderful writer, Laurie. There’s no doubt. But you seem to be forgetting that the magazine we publish is supposed to be informative…”

She nodded.

“When writing articles, you have to be careful, deadly careful when you decide to question. This is because you are not asking the questions to yourself, but you’re asking the reader! And this is risky. We can argue about rhetoric and philosophy, but that question you asked the reader was inappropriate…”

Mr Golding bit his lower lip and raised an eyebrow.

“You have no idea what you wrote, am I right?” he asked.

“No” she said. “The me that writes and the me that’s sitting right here in front of you are two different persons.”

He raised his eyebrow higher and for a moment she thought he would bite his own lip off. Eventually he laughed again. He rarely laughed she thought; you could tell by the uneven, shy wrinkles around his mouth. The leg began to shake again.

Finally he grabbed hold of the latest issue and read:

“The latest abortion statistics of 2009 depict a decrease among teenage girls, which, over the last decade, is a sign of improvement, however, juxtaposed against the increase of young female adults where the percentage has reached up to 27,3%. There are still women coming from abroad to receive treatment.”

He stopped and looked at Laurie, who was smiling.

He continues: “Almost 50% of the young female adults are with partners and less than 26% are single women. As a result of these statistics, one may ask whether these women’s love lives are filled with indecision and disappointment as they approach the midst of life?”

“I wrote that” she said, smiling.

“Now you remember, eh?”

She nodded eagerly, now sitting straight in her chair.

“We have to get serious now, Laurie.”

She shrugged her shoulders.

“Don’t get me wrong, I like your liberal attitude.”

“Listen, Mr Gol…”

“It’s Ethan,” he corrected.

“Yeah, um, listen, I’m not liberal, neither am I a conservative or anything. I don’t take sides… and I admit that sometimes I’m not careful with the words I choose. I happen to question a lot.”

“You have a big mouth you mean…”

She keeps quiet.

“You write things that I never hear you say. This is strange…”

“You don’t know me…”

His smile expressed something familiar.

“Now I’m starting to believe that the person who writes for me and the person who’s sitting right here in front of me are two different Lauries.”

She is sitting still, avoiding his eyes.

“You remember when you came all the way from Belfast for your interview?”

“Yes”, she says. It was over three years ago when she had applied as a researcher in the other department. She came to London as a young Catholic woman, who was pregnant and ready to start a new life by denying her religion.

“You threw up on the supervisor’s desk,” he said.

“And then you gave me the job. Why?”

Ethan looked down, then back at her.

“I like watching women make big decisions,” he said.

There is a lump forming in her throat.

“Can I go back to work?” she asked.

He gestured yes. She moved towards the door and before laying her hand on the handle, she uttered:

“Um, do you like Cottage Pie?”



The teacher called to inform that Vincent had fainted after lunchtime, because he didn’t eat his lunch.

“Why didn’t you eat the sandwich I made for ya?”

“I didn’t want it.”

“Do you wanna mess up your circulation even more?”


“You’re driving me crazy!”

She let go off his hand while walking towards her car. The veins in her head were throbbing hard. She took a deep breath.

“I don’t want to become a fatty, mommy. Stu is a fatty. Other kids pick on him. I pick on him, too. I don’t want others to pick on me…”

“I don’t believe this…Do you have to take everything I say so seriously?”

He looked at her like a clueless child, who didn’t understand what the whole world was about.

Then she remembered that he was a child.

“Just get in the car now.”


While changing Vincent’s bed sheets, she noticed that his room looked very plain. There were a couple of mini soldiers lying around on the floor and some racing cars. She had wanted to buy framed art pictures, but she never did. His duvet cover had little spiral patterns on it, instead of cartoon rockets and green spacemen. His night lamp was second hand. Then she remembered that he had asked for a star projector. He had also asked for a telescope for Christmas, but instead she had bought him Brother Grimm’s fairy tales, which she’d never bothered reading to him.

Ethan popped into her head and she left Vincent’s room almost instantly without finishing the sheets.


“Damn, I haven’t made Cottage Pie in ages!”

She remembered her ex’s mother who was very fond of her Cottage Pie.

“What is it?” Vincent asked curiously.

“Minced beef, sausages, potatoes… Good, everything’s there.”

“Is it tasty?”

She thought it was nice of Ethan to say that he was ready to eat her home made speciality, as it is only for special people.

“Damn, I have no sweet corn…”

“I’m allergic mum!”

So that was why she never bought sweet corn. Vincent once suffered from terrible stomach-ache after a corn on a cob.

“Would you mind having pasta instead, tonight? I mean it’s your favourite!”

“No! I wanna try Cottage Pie!”

Take a deep breath, she thought. Vincent followed his mother around the kitchen, watching her prepare food he had never tried before.

“You’re getting on my nerves. You’d better behave later.”

“Who is this guest?”

She rolled her eyes.

“It’s mommy’s boss. So if you don’t want me to lose my job, then behave!”

“I want to help.”

“No, thanks. Go and have some orange juice.”

She made him drink a glass of self-made orange juice every day, but he gets a can of Pepsi instead.

“Those sugared drinks will definitely make you fat! Get a glass for your juice!”

“I don’t wanna be a fatty…my head is fat.”

“Yeah, your head is enormous” she muttered, remembering his birth and those painful stitches. While Laurie was mixing up some thick gravy, Vincent climbed up the stool to open the cupboard. All the glasses were placed on the top shelf. As he was still too small, he tiptoed to reach one. His small hand failed to grasp the glass, so it slipped and broke on the kitchen table, where the mince beef was.

Laurie almost choked to the sound of breaking glass. She even made sure her ears weren’t bleeding. As she turned around, she saw Vincent standing frightened on the stool not knowing whether to get down or not. Then she looked at the glass pieces and splinters in her well prepared mince beef, which she had already removed from the cling film.

“I have no time to go buy new mince, you know,” she said, her voice shaking.

“I’m sorry, mum.”

“AHHH!” Laurie screamed and threw the wooden spoon against the kitchen window.

From the outside it looked as if blood had been spilled; the thick gravy began to drip down slowly.

“I’ve had enough of your fucking foolishness!”

Still stiff on the stool, he glanced at her with huge eyes.

“Can’t you do anything right?!”

Finally he lowered his head and stared at the floor like someone who was about to leap off a cliff.

“I’m talking to you, goddammit! Is your big head that heavy? Did you know my vagina needed some stitching on the day you were born?! Do you hear me?”

It was like talking to a ghost or something. All of a sudden something dawned on her.


Finally he looked at her.


Never had she heard him yell like that. There was so much anger in his eyes, too, which she had never seen. Finally he jumped off the stool. She shuddered.

Vincent ran out of the kitchen and up the stairs. He didn’t cry. For a second she thought she would choke on that lump building in her throat and then she accidentally laid her hand on the hot stove.


The crying began and she wasn’t able to stand upright any longer. She couldn’t feel her legs. As she looked at the broken glass on the floor, she covered her eyes with her other hand. She saw herself in the hospital after Vincent’s birth. Finnegan never came and Vincent was never planned in first place. Then she opened her eyes again and tears were still rolling down her cheek. Vincent was kneeling in front of her now holding a piece of cake in a breadbox. The guilt on his face mirrored Laurie’s own.

“I’m sorry mommy.”

She sobbed uncontrollably.

“Stop crying, please.”

She was shaking her head and then hid her face in her hands.

“What is this?” he asked and took her hand. “You’re hurt, ma.”

“No, it’s nothing.”

He grabbed some cream from the cake and rubbed it in her hand. Now she was crying and laughing at the same time.

“It’s Stu’s birthday today. He gave us all cake…thinking he can make friends. “

“You should make friends with him” she sobbed.

He shrugged his shoulders. He took the cherry off and placed it in Laurie’s mouth.

“There is your fruit,” he said.

She touched his face gently.

“Mommy, watch the cream!”

He wiped the cream off his face immediately.

“I’m so sorry, Vince…”

“It’s ok. It’s just cream…”

Then she noticed Ethan standing by the kitchen door and wondered how long he had been there. His smile was more illuminating than anything, although he did give the window and the floor a quick confused glance.

“I guess there’s only just one Laurie in the world after all…” he said.

“And I guess it’s vegetarian pasta tonight, boys!”


By Paula Deckard (written on 31st Dec 2009, revised 2016)

For all mothers who first considered abortion

(Thank you Weezer for the inspiration.)

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