“What are you eating?” she asked Linda, her voice sounding strange and painfully new. Linda wore a purple blouse and cream skirt that reached her ankles; the blouse matched her lipstick, perfectly done and shining.
Linda paused and looked down at her food, as if she’d forgotten about it. “An omelet.” She stood and, before Rachel could protest, took the full plate at an empty seat and handed it to Rachel. The fat omelet made Rachel’s belly squirm in a way she wasn’t sure was hunger or nausea, or some gross knot of both.
“Can I eat in . . .” My room. “In the bedroom?”
Without missing a beat, Linda said, “Of course.” And led her there. Rachel should’ve added “alone,” so her meaning was clear.
Sitting on the bed’s edge, Rachel poked the fat omelet. Thankfully, it didn’t bite. “It smells . . .” Weird. “Okay, I guess.”
Linda smiled. “We try to excel at okay.”
In chapter ten of Rabbit Heart, Rachel wakes up in bed. After a traumatic event, she’s been unofficially adopted by two people who live in a cabin in the woods. The good news is that this is the first time in years she has a stable home and people who care about her well-being.
The bad news is that she’s in a Southern Gothic horror novel, and they’re serial killers with questionable tastes in food. Hannibal Lecters without the fava beans and chianti. Sadly, there aren’t as many peach cobblers on the pie rack like my grandmother would make.
That late morning, Linda, acting kind, offers Rachel an omelet to eat. Accepting food from a stranger is an act of trust. Rachel is immediately wary of Linda, and their talk over the meal outlines the main conflict: Rachel’s need for love versus her loyalty to her morals. She’s horrified at what Linda and Marcus have done, but their need to care for her, including making sure she eats, leads her to compromise her moral issues with killing others. While Rachel herself doesn’t hurt anyone on purpose, she ignores any suffering, so she may have a good home.
Often for families, a breakfast offers a moment of bonding and connection, which is what Rachel craves. “You are what you eat” might be taken to a more literal extreme in horror, but food offers us a moment to sit with others or insight into others’ traditions and cultures, which are shared with us.
In the end, Rachel receives inclusion, which impacts her on an emotional level. She accepts what she’s given to eat. The question is whether she continues to accept it as the years go by.
Thanks for stopping by and sharing your food for thought, Emily!