> Guest Character
Laura Dennison Carole Skinner
Laura Dennison (née Simpson) 1986
Marital Status: Tom Dennison (deceased)
Siblings: Helen and Gwen
Family Tree: Dennison/Simpson
Hardworking and honest Laura Simpson married Tom Dennison and together they had one daughter, Nicole. When Tom died suddenly, Laura wanted the best for her daughter and decided to send her off to a boarding school in Melbourne. Laura remained in Charleville, but was forced to work long hours in a local pub in order to keep up with Nikki’s fees. Mother and daughter only saw each other during the Christmas holidays and their relationship became incredibly strained as Nikki grew into quite a snob and resented her down-to-earth mother. When Nikki opted to spend one Christmas with friends and also grew closer to Laura’s sister, Helen Daniels, and her family, things only got worse and Nikki even started lying to people about her upbringing and her rich mother.
Helen decided to pay for Laura to fly down to Erinsborough for a holiday, in the hope that it would repair some of the damage done to Nikki’s relationship with her. Unfortunately, when Laura arrived, Nikki didn’t know how to speak to her and refused any offers to spend time together. Nikki accused her mother of being an embarrassment as she flirted with Max Ramsay, but Laura warned her that she wasn’t about to make any apologies for her larger-than-life personality. Meanwhile, Laura was developing a closeness to Max and she was delighted when he asked her over for dinner. He sent the family out and arranged for gourmet food to be delivered, and the evening went very well, until Max's sister Madge and his son, Danny came home just as Max and Laura were getting comfortable on the couch. Laura opted to go home, where she found Nikki, who’d just got in after a row with her on-off boyfriend, Mike Young. Laura and Nikki ended up having a frank discussion and Laura told Nikki that if her snobbery was going to continue, then they would have to take her out of the boarding school.
Nikki decided to beat her mother to the punch, and went to see the headmistress, Miss Davidson, to arrange to leave. She tried to claim that her mother simply couldn’t afford the payments any longer, as her country mansion was becoming more expensive to keep. Moments later, Laura arrived at the school, not realising that Nikki had already quit. She spoke to Miss Davidson, who revealed that she knew that all of Nikki’s claims about her mother were lies, but she was essentially a decent and bright girl. Miss Davidson brought Nikki back in and told her that her own father worked on the land, but she was still very proud of her background. Nikki thought about this, but decided that she would still leave the boarding school and move in with Helen. Laura realised that, whatever she did, she would never win her daughter back and announced to Helen that she would be returning to Charleville. In the meantime, Nikki had been doing a school project in which she had to learn responsibility by looking after an egg. As Laura was being driven out of Ramsay Street by Shane Ramsay, Nikki knocked the egg onto the floor and it broke. She realised the significance of it all and ran out onto Ramsay Street as the car left. Luckily, Shane spotted her in the rear view mirror and returned, where mother and daughter were reunited. Laura agreed to spend an extra day in Erinsborough and she and Nikki spent the time shopping and repairing their relationship. She even had time to see Max and tell him that she hoped they would remain good friends, before leaving.
Soon after, Helen visited Laura and returned to Erinsborough with the news that Laura had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Nikki decided to leave to look after her mum and moved back to Charleville. A few months later, with Laura coping well with her condition, she and Nikki paid a visit to the Robinsons. Although Laura was in high spirits, she was also finding it difficult to cope with the over-protectiveness of her daughter and was worried that Nikki was missing out on having a life of her own. In a desperate attempt to give Nikki some freedom, Laura arranged an exchange programme with America at the end of her HSC. Nikki refused to go, stating that her mother’s health might suddenly deteriorate and she wanted to be around to care for her. Although Nikki’s friends and family tried to convince her to leave her mother, when Laura spilt some hot tea on herself, Helen began to realise that perhaps Laura couldn’t be left on her own.
Laura’s mind was soon taken off her illness when Helen’s oldest friend, Grace Barnett, arrived in Erinsborough. Helen and Grace, along with Helen’s late husband Bill, had grown up together in the country and Grace had suddenly left one day and moved to London, with little explanation. Laura knew that Grace had had a one-night stand with Bill and couldn’t cope with the pain of seeing him with Helen. She tried to convince Grace to leave, not wanting to see Helen hurt by the truth. Meanwhile, having Grace around caused Helen to reminisce, and she went to visit Bill’s grave, finding some flowers already there with an anonymous note declaring everlasting love. During a dinner party that evening, Laura found a moment alone with Grace and told her to leave town, but Grace instead arranged lunch with Helen for the next day. The following morning, Laura met once again with Grace at The Waterhole, where they had a frank discussion about the situation and Grace agreed to leave before too much damage was done.
That afternoon, Laura found Helen sitting alone in the park. She explained that Grace had gone back to London suddenly and left her a note at the hotel reception, and Helen had matched the handwriting to that on the note with the flowers. Despite her attempts to cover up the truth, Laura was forced to tell Helen everything she knew and a horrified Helen struggled to deal with the revelation and told Laura to move out of number 26. Confused by Laura’s sudden move to Lassiter's Hotel, hotel manager, and Helen's grandson, Paul got the truth out of her and went to chat to his gran. He spoke to Helen and reminded her that Bill stayed with her because he loved her, and it was the same reason that caused Laura to keep the secret for all those years. Helen realised that throwing out her sick sister was only making her feel worse and she patched things up with Laura, before offering her a ticket to join her and visit Rosemary in America. Although Laura was happy to have patched things up, she turned down the offer as she didn’t want to abandon Nikki just before her exams.
Meanwhile, more symptoms of Laura’s MS were beginning to show and she was beginning to resent the attentions of her daughter, who would barely let her out of her sight. As Laura attempted to take up jogging, fill in for shifts at The Waterhole and take part in a Ramsay Street charity cricket match, Nikki begged her to take things easy. Laura told her that she didn’t want to simply give up and allow the MS to take over her life. In the end, local doctor Clive Gibbons arranged for MS counsellor Peggy O’Hara to visit Laura and Nikki. Peggy explained to Nikki that between 80 and 85% of MS sufferers led normal lives and that Laura needed her daughter to be supportive rather than mother her. The visit was a huge turning point and Nikki arranged for her mum to go with Helen to America and also agreed that, after her HSC, she’d go there to take part in the student exchange programme. And so, with their differences finally settled, Nikki bid her mother farewell as she left for the airport.
Biography by Steve