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In hindsight, she realised that it had been obvious right from the start. The relationship – if you could even call it that – had been doomed to failure all along.

It wasn’t the fact that he was tighter than the proverbial Scotsman, although that had quickly become a fundamental rift between them. The Christmas present, second hand, wrapped in the previous week’s free newspaper. The tomato ketchup and cheese toasties he offered whenever she suggested that she was in the mood for pizza. The dreadful, powdery, cheap instant coffee he bought, and the fact that all this came from a man with more in savings than she could even hope to earn in ten years, all this added up to constant frustration. On its own, this probably would have torn them apart after a few years of, “You’re not going to spend that much on your mum’s present, are you?”

It wasn’t even the fundamental lack of support he showed her. She could, perhaps, have eventually forgiven him for the six months he’d spent telling her that she would never finish a marathon. His suggestion, after she had done so, that she had cheated was almost a final straw, but she was soft hearted and prone to mistakes.

No, the real warning sign, the one she should have noticed straight away, the one that should have prompted her to finish her dreadful cheap coffee, pick up her coat and leave, the one that would have saved her from all that trouble, was a perfectly simple and perfectly obvious one.

The man had no books in his house.

© Kari Fay

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