At last Jenny had found true love. Just when she’d given up hope, Roger came along.
Stable, intelligent– but not too, employed, owned his own home, wanted children. Perfect. Just perfect. Well almost.
They’d been going out for five months. Things had moved rather quickly and now here it was– Valentine’s Day. She’d been so excited, this was the real thing. Roger was the one. Then he announced he’d be cooking a romantic dinner for the two of them. She’d smiled ear-to-ear but couldn’t hide her disappointment.
She’d already pictured the night: a beautiful new dress and shoes, an expensive restaurant then dancing followed by a marriage proposal while taking a carriage ride through the park. A girl could dream couldn’t she?
The thought of an evening in Roger’s modest and usually messy split-level with his yelping Beagle, Jaws– of all the stupid names was unbearable.
Despite her suggestions otherwise, Roger insisted. It was a tradition his father had started, he’d said. Jenny figured that’s why the cheap old man had been married four times and counting.
She’d finally relented after seeing Roger so completely excited over his dinner menu, which he refused to share but insisted he’d spent so much time planning.
That night, he picked up Jenny at her house. She wanted to drive herself so she could leave if the evening turned out to be a bust, but Roger wouldn’t hear of it. The house was tidy enough, Jaws was locked in the basement. Roger was nearly giddy. She tried to get in a similar happy mood.
A dark Celtic melody groaned from a CD player. Roger served flower-carved veggies, liver pâté, and strawberry spritzers. Dinner was a light broth that floated bits of calf brain, with thin, rubbery cripbread, and red wine.
Her beloved excused himself to the kitchen and the stench of organ meat wafted into the dining room. Good grief, Jenny thought. She’d never realized how much the man loved such hardy fare. The smell was making her nauseous. She finished her wine and poured another glass. Her head was light and buzzy; still it was the only way she was going to get through the evening.
Roger returned carrying a large silver tray. Close your eyes, he said as he neared the table. Jenny complied easily, her eyes weighted. She could hear him rearranging the table, could smell the meat that she hoped– but didn’t suspect was a nice roast or lamb shank.
“Don’t open yet”, he said, with a chuckle. “Do you remember me telling you about Catherine?”
She did, but bringing up his ex-fiancé on Valentine’s Day wasn’t the kind of romance she’d been anticipating. “Yes,” she answered, dragging the word out long and cold.
“Okay,” he said. “Open your eyes.”
Jenny squinted, her lips formed a scowl. Her eyes met Roger’s; his face was beaming, not at her but at the silver tray. Jenny looked down and there surrounded by a bed of greens set a grayish-red heart. Two jelled eyeballs beneath it stared back at her.
“Well,” Roger whispered, “your predecessor’s on tonight’s menu.”