Jake walked back to his office to find Leah with her face buried in his jacket.

“I love the smell of cigars,” she said, not at all abashed at being caught.

“Could you hang my jacket up and get back up front,” Jake said in his odd, unplaceable accent. “We have a customer.”

Leah hung Jake’s jacket on the rack, giving it one last sniff, and rushed to the woman at the counter, putting on her smile along the way. She had to be polite. She had to perform all tasks perfectly for Jake. She would be the best employee ever and, maybe someday, the best wife. She took the order and started bagging the sides. As she dropped in the packet containing the napkin and plastic utensils, her gaze never left the manager in the black polo shirt and kakis. He was a good deal older than she was, but what did age matter? Some people were meant to be together no matter what. It didn’t matter that she knew little about him, not even what his favorite foods were, or where he was from. The mystery was part of his appeal.

She put the bag of condiments on the rack to await the rest of the order and rushed back to the take her place next to Jake at the prep table.

“It’s pretty slow tonight,” Jake said, not bothering to look up from the cucumber he was slicing. “You can go after you finish that order.”

“What about the onions?” Leah protested. “Don’t we need to prep them for tomorrow?” She knew Jake hated to prep the onions.

“Tom can do it,” Jake said. “I have to cut labor.”

“I was thinking I could hang around and get a ride home from you,” she said. “My mom has to work late and can’t pick me up.”

“Joe can drop you off when he takes his next delivery,” Jake said. “Go ahead and clock out.”

Joe had never been to Leah’s house. He didn’t know she lived nowhere near where she had him leave her. She’d thought quick and selected a spot within walking distance to Jake’s trailer, but far enough so Jake wouldn’t get suspicious if Joe mentioned where she’d had him take her. It took her 15 minutes to reach the trailer, leaving her plenty of time to make up an excuse for being there. She couldn’t tell Jake she’d spent many evenings sulking in the shadows of the trees lining his drive, charting his movements as the light shifted from window to window. He always seemed to come directly home after work, never went anywhere, or had anyone over. He seemed to love animals, though. She’d counted three squirrel-feeders and two birdhouses surrounding the trailer. That was something she’d have to change. Birds she could tolerate, but squirrels were slightly only less objectionable rats. Rats! The image reminded her of all the men who’d disappointed her. All the men who gave off all the signals only to pretend they weren’t interested when she’d reacted.

Tonight she wouldn’t take no for an answer, she thought, fingering the knife she’d pocketed on her way out of the restaurant. It wouldn’t be like all those other times when she’d opened herself up to a man only to be used and cast aside like garbage. Most of them hadn’t even considered her worth the effort it would take to get their rocks off before rejecting her. One of them had actually laughed in her face. As she thought about it, her grip tightened around the handle of the knife. She wished she’d killed them, all of them, for how they’d treated her.

She was sure Jake was different, though. He was more mature and could appreciate what she had to offer. She’d make him see they were made for each other.

Around ten, she saw the headlights of Jake’s truck and sunk down behind a bush. She watched, close enough to smell the smoke from his cigar, as he parked and stepped onto the gravel path leading to his porch. He was about to ascend the steps when, suddenly, he stiffened and turned to the hedges. He raised his head to sniff the air, then lunged forward, sinking his arm into the foliage. His arm came out with a cat. She watched it hiss and claw at his hand as he hoisted it up by the nape of its neck, but he didn’t so much as flinch.  His back to Leah, he hunched over the cat. Leah heard the animal squeal as Jake convulsed in orgasmic frenzy. By the time he stopped quivering and straightened up, the cat was gone. He wiped his mouth on the sleeve of his jacket, leaving a red smear, then started up the steps leading to the trailer before stopping suddenly. He turned, his nostrils flaring, his red eyes focused on her.

He was on her before she could get the knife out of her pocket, his breath reeking of blood and stale smoke as his jaw distended wide enough to encompass her head. She’d been right about Jake. He hadn’t rejected her. She would never have to worry about being rejected again.