Sarah Butland was born in Ontario, the year was 1982. She moved to New Brunswick for over 15 years and now resides at home in Nova Scotia, Canada. Butland has been married to her high school sweetheart and has a superstar son named William, and a cat named Russ who all make her house a home.
I've always been told we all bleed red, take breaths, and die if poisoned so I often wondered why I wasn't dead yet.
A pot of live bouganvilleas was set in the center of my white marble coffee table in the middle of the stark-white room. The contrast between the white and the deep red of the flowers was exactly what I had envisioned since I was a little girl. I just didn't realize I'd actually see it in my very own house.
When I was a young girl I had discovered my love for contrasts and couldn't ever conform to what society expected. Each foster family I had visited or lived with, as they'd say, labeled me with no originality. I was either a challenge, a handful, difficult, or trouble because I refused to be typical. Something inside always convinced me I wasn't, so I tried my best to be different.
It wasn't that I didn't want to get along with at least some of my foster families, it just didn't happen. Most of the families I was moved into reminded me of “Leave it to Beaver” when I was more the “Family Guy” type.
Years of rejection for being myself only strengthened my resolve and character. I guess I'm thankful for that, but often wonder where I'd be without all of those complications. Each scar on my left arm was representative of a new family – upright or corrupt; the ones on my right leg, friendships which could have been had I been someone else. I stopped before I had to move on to my left leg with the decision that friendships no longer mattered. That was when I was 24.
I reached out and broke a single flower from its group and methodically touched each of its stems thorns with the tip of my index finger. Staring with concentrated effort as each pricked my finger, broke through my skin but drew no blood. Still, on my 28th birthday my fluid wouldn't drain and I had to wonder why I was told my birthday was so special.
With memory sharp and detailed I recalled the legend told to me of what I was and who I would be. Each birthday I tested the myth and each year I was more confused and distraught than the last. I tried to end my life on many occasions knowing what I may have been missing out on and with each failed attempt I anticipated more the future. If my life was so important to continue to live there must be something waiting for me to do and yet I had no idea what it was.
“Veronica, you are to cherish each teardrop, every drop of spilled blood and your memory most of all. We both wish we could stay but it's our destiny to leave you and we cannot disagree with what the universe has told.”
They were the only words I ever really listened to. They were the only words said so distinctly, with such concern and concentration from my birth parents. The moment I could write I wrote them and the first I could type I saved them to my computer but neither action was necessary. They were committed to memory like nothing else. Of course, I learned in school and was at the top of most classes to the complete confusion of everyone involved. They never could decide if I was cheating, intelligent but rebellious or what. I liked the “or what” the most.
In high school I was the one who got along with everyone but befriended no one; the quiet one who did as she was told except for when it came to gym class. Never one to dress or undress with others I always forgot my change of clothes, energy and took on my “attitude” that was rarely seen at school. Failing gym class became my thing, even more so than surpassing everyone's expectations in art. My paintings, pastels and photographs often had everyone talking even more about me and my disturbing behavior but had the student body, even teachers, envious of my vision for beauty.
It wasn't surprising to anyone that I became a full-time interior designer and writer in my free time. Buying, re-decorating, renovating and reselling old houses was my main income and it never failed to impress me that buyers would see past my own personality and buy the house for what they could make of it. Real estate agents constantly suggested I put everything away, leave the house empty or stage it with their own suggestions so I never listed with them. I rarely followed tradition even though my parents implied that I should.
It puzzled me for all my 28 years, minus a few months because my parents waited till then to tell me. Strange how most kids don't remember their early years even when those are the most important years of their life. Learning to walk, talk and eat are key essentials to being human but so is who to trust, love and respect but the latter are things forgotten. Sometimes, often really, I wondered if I was human but then my heart would break, I'd feel the need for success no matter who I stepped on to do it and craved chocolate just like the books told me a human female would. Nothing else, besides my memory and lack of bleeding screamed unearthly.
No one sat me down to explain that I was supposed to bleed regularly every month so it never crossed my mind that it was weird that I never did. My feminine parts grew as did everyone else's and I thought this natural.
Another year of guessing, searching and reshuffling furniture but at least this year I'd be spending most of it in the home of my dreams. This particular house would not be sold again as I immediately felt connected with it. Even when the walls were egg-shell, the couches a boring beige and the lighting too bright and all wrong. The lights were the first things to go, most of them being taken out completely while others were changed to cast only a shadow on the few items in the room.
“Ma'am? Ma'am?” I turned to find a mover about to tap me on the shoulder and I stepped back to ask him what he wanted.
“We're done here. Fastest job our men have ever had, really. Lightest, too. Are you sure we're not forgetting something?”
“You may be but nothing that I left behind. Everything is here and as it should be. The rest I can take care of. Let me get my money clip. Please wait on the step and I'll be right out.”
“That's not necessary, ma'am. We were already paid and...”
“Do as I say and I'll reward you handsomely.” Those words were rarely said and never failed to have the listener respond accordingly. They were the easiest words I could get off my tongue as I knew I'd be alone soon after.
As I made my way upstairs to the guest room I looked over all of the others. It wasn't a large house but some would say it was too big for one person. Instead I thought it the perfect size and paid 10% more than the asking price once I saw it. This ensured I was able to move in the same day, eager to finally be settled, to have a place of my very own. Even with the few pieces of furniture, for example the guest bedroom was made up of only a futon, a wardrobe and a shelf filled with vases of deep red bouganvilleas, the house gave me no impression of being too much for me.
I reached into the middle flower pot and retrieved an old coin left to me by my parents. There were a handful of these that I dragged from place to place and still really didn't understand the value of them. I just liked seeing the eyes of the people receiving them light up in surprise. I held it carefully in my hand as I envisioned the workers and slowly counted to four as I made my way down the spiral staircase. When I opened the door and saw the four men standing on the porch I opened my clenched fist.
The men stared down at the four coins now resting in my hand and each were nervous to take one. I was as grateful as I was nervous about their comments continuing about my long sleeves in the sweltering heat. Although I mainly dressed completely from neck and wrist to ankle, the temperature never seemed to bother me. I often thought I was cold-blooded but that could only be true if I confirmed I even had blood to be cold.
The men cautiously took what I was offering and disappeared into their trucks and down the road. Standing for a minute to take in my neighbourhood of trees, fields and flowers, I concluded it was soon time to plant my garden. Of course I'd hire some help for the mandatory lawn maintenance but the weeding, planting and digging would be my pleasure. That afternoon I planned to visit the local nursery, which, by road, was twenty minutes away. Pure seclusion was what I thrived on, what I always craved so something I often rewarded myself with.
Turning, I closed the front door and made my way to the family room where I knew there would never be a family. At least not of the traditional sense. Catching my reflection in the full length mirror I caught my breath, startled at what I saw.
Thank you Sarah for sharing an excerpt of your story. Read the rest of Blood Day which is available at amazon.com. You can discover more about Sarah at www.sarahbutland.com
I am so excited to announce that next week on the 4Q Interview you will get to meet one of the greatest new voices in jazz, Kitty LaRoar from London, England.