Laura trades in her City life

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The Independent Online

I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that I may be rather - how shall I put it? - shallow. "What makes you say that all of a sudden?" Laura says, pulling a goo-goo face at the burbling baby on her lap. "Oos a clever Archie, den? I mean, why now?"

I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that I may be rather - how shall I put it? - shallow. "What makes you say that all of a sudden?" Laura says, pulling a goo-goo face at the burbling baby on her lap. "Oos a clever Archie, den? I mean, why now?"

"Well," I say, "that business with Jaap and the ring." I gaze down to where my hands are resting on my legs and am unable to quash a surge of glee as the sapphires and diamonds flash in the light. "After all, I'd told him I never wanted to see him again, I'd thrown my drink in his face and then when he produces a socking great piece of jewellery I fling my arms round him and tell him how much I love him. You must admit, that does look shallow."

Laura gazes idly into Archie's eyes. "Hmm," she answers. "Maybe. But you were bound to sort out your silly row soon, and you have been planning to get married anyway. Besides, I don't know why you're so worried about it. You work in the City; you're expected to be shallow."

"Ouch," I say. "Besides, you work in the City, too, remember. Just because you're on maternity leave doesn't make you exempt. You're no different from the rest of us." I am bracing myself for a smug, self-satisfied, "I am a mother now" smile from Laura in response to this, and a pitying comment along the lines of how the experience of giving birth changes you for ever, but it doesn't come.

Instead she smiles wryly, and says: "Actually, I wanted to talk to you about that." There's a pause, and I try to work out which particular "that" she's referring to. "You see," she continues, "I've made a decision. I'm not coming back to work."

"But..." I say plaintively, because I'm wondering how I'm going to survive without her. It's been hard enough for the past few months, and not just because it's left us a team member short. No, what I've missed most is having someone to talk to who doesn't like football, doesn't list "maths" as a hobby and understands why dress-down Friday is such a bore.

"But..." I continue sadly. "What about our monthly girlie lunch? I'll never get one of the boys to come out for two starters and a half-bottle of vintage Veuve Clicquot. I don't think I can handle another Dr Johnson's Platter ever."

Laura laughs. "Well, you can invite me to lunch anyway. There'll be a few raised eyebrows about me bringing a baby to a City restaurant, but if you can handle it then so can I. Besides, we're going to be a lot poorer, so the occasional treat from the company credit card wouldn't go amiss, you know."

I gaze at Laura with growing dismay as I realise what she's said. "But how will you cope?" I say. "You're going to be poor. You can't possibly survive on one salary between two. And everyone knows babies cost a fortune. How will you pay the school fees? What's he going to wear? You won't even have money for holidays, and you'll have to go, oh my God, you'll have to go camping."

By now, Laura's nearly falling off her chair from laughing so hard. "Oh, Archie," she says fondly. "What are we going to do with her? We're not exactly on the breadline, you know. It's only one salary, but it's a good one.

"Anyway, we'll save money on lots of things: we'll have no nanny or cleaner, no ready-meals or restaurants except as a treat, no smart work clothes - and no nervous breakdown from stress."

Suddenly, she looks grave. "There is one thing, though," she says solemnly. "I think we may have to give up champagne." And as my eyes widen in horror, she bursts out laughing again.

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