There it was - the ultimate proof that life had obviously chosen her as its personal scapegoat, the butt of all its practical jokes, its own life-size (no pun intended of course) punching bag.
For years Natalie had wondered what exactly her purpose was in this world. Fall guy, it seemed. And no Lee Majors around, either.
She'd thought the whole vicious cycle was over when she'd met Sean. Everything seemed to fall into place at that point. Truth be told, she'd been apprehensive at first - was she going to handle it? Would she not ruin it somehow? Would someone ruin it for her? When would lightning strike?
Then she'd loosened up and rushed into it. And it turned out, that whole couple thing, my, what bliss that was. Two months into it, and Natalie couldn't take a decision on her own anymore.
That wasn't even a slight exaggeration - working out the weekly shopping was a hair-splitting affair involving lengthy discussions over what kind of meal Sean would maybe like to eat three evenings from now, her friends hadn't seen her alone in ages, and her father, a terse, humorless man who would have made a pretty convincing case for the addition of coldness among child abuse practices, dearly missed his up-until-then weekly telephone guiltrip.
Oblivion being what it is, spring had been truly fantastic.
Summer was now here, and Natalie was really looking forward to their planned holiday. She'd be having none of her traditional pilgrimage up North this year, oh no. Sardinia it was, as a couple, per favore.
It really shouldn't have surprised her when she stumbled upon the foil packet in Sean's trouser pockets. She wasn't looking through his stuff, by the way, just packing their things for the trip.
She just stopped folding the pants, looking confused at first. She was vaguely aware that something was not right with the presence of a rubber among her lover's stuff, especially after they'd both tested for HIV and decided to have a go at it, but strangely, her thought process seemed to have been thrown completely out of whack.
When the enormity of what that meant hit her, she did the only thing she could do without having to think. She ran out of the flat to her best friend's place. That was what best friends were for, wasn't it? Comforting you in times of need, and saying horrible things about the cheating bastard you'd been dating for half a year, while plying you with tissues, alcohol and chocolate.
Natalie got there at the same time as a pizza delivery guy. She just stood there while he rang the bell, and when the door opened, Natalie's brain froze for the second time that day. What was Sean doing here with only a towel wrapped around him? Surely she hadn't packed all of his stuff yet?
The way his jaw dropped when he saw her helped her put two and two together. She turned around to go, paused, grabbed the pizza box and walked slowly down the stairs, while the delivery boy looked from her back to his towel.
Sean hadn't said a word.
- That'll be 10.95, mate. Sorry.