Joanne Pendleton was the daughter of a highly financed research geologist. She was a supremely intelligent, highly capable woman. But many said there was something wrong with her. At first glance, she appeared to be cool and reserved, in fact many said she was incapable of feeling at all. Men found her attractive and good company, but not in a way that was warm and fuzzy. Scientists these days didn’t seem to need that sort of thing. Other men found her frigid, a term which was usually applied to women who seemed incapable of physical warmth and attraction. But Joanne was nothing of the sort. Her father blamed the climate in which she was born and the temperament of her mother for his daughter’s behavior.
Her mother had waited very late in life to have children, and when she had nearly given up the idea she was on an expedition in Greenland during the coldest part of the season. She was a beauty and had on several occasions drawn the attention of several reputable scientists and even dignitaries. Despite wanting to have children she did not have much interest in men. She found them confusing and overbearing. It was difficult for her having gotten used to being intelligent and independent to have to pretend she was weak and clueless in the presence of men. When she was introduced to Joanne’s father, however, somewhere in her heart she could feel a warmth that sometimes caused her physical pain.
Joanne was born in the Arctic in the middle of winter. She seemed to have a fondness for the cold, and accompanied her parents on many expeditions to some of the coldest regions in the world. She thought ice an amazing structure and by the age of thirteen was formulating complex structures using ice crystals and theorizing about the possible energy uses of water in the future. But when it came to boys, she was very similar to her mother. It wasn’t that she found them confusing or that she thought them overbearing, she just didn’t appear to be able to feel for them. But one winter in Russia, she and her father met a colleague and his son. The boy, fifteen, had an odd appreciation for the cold and was similarly interested in the uses of ice and cold for energy purposes. She was smitten with him immediately, though outwardly no one seemed to notice any difference.
Not until they had gotten close to adulthood had anyone realized how close the two had gotten. Anton asked for her hand in marriage at the age of 21. Her mother had thought it foolish for her to get married at such an early age. Joanne didn’t argue. She had learned long ago that this was a tactic that did not work with her mother. Her Father had learned it as well. Both decided they would wait a year and planned for the wedding anyway like her mother had not objected at all.
Despite her demeanor, Joanne’s mother was thoroughly excited. It was just difficult for her to express it. She participated in every decision from start to finish and when all was done she gave her daughter away with a wry and cynical smile. Anton was nothing like Joanne in demeanor, but their mutual interest was enough to solidify their relationship. For two years they had a whirlwind romance filled marriage. Then Joanne began having misgivings.
“You just need a change of atmosphere,” Anton said.
For the next year he took her to a variety of places; some she enjoyed, others she found debilitating. During a visit to the tropics, they were grounded by a hurricane and were required to remain in their hotel for several days. Joanne found the heat unbearable and grew deathly ill. She’d sat in bed and sweat profusely. She had grown accustomed to the air conditioning, but it had been out now since the storm began and had not been restored.
“I’m afraid,” she confided to Anton, “I think if I do not find a cool place I may melt away.”
Anton laughed and reassured her that this would not be the case. But over the next day he realized that the heat in their room increased. He had several vases collecting the water which seemed to be dripping everywhere. He said it was condensation caused by the moisture in the hotel but couldn’t tell where it was coming from. By the time he realized, Joanne was merely a sliver, a slip of a woman. He gasped in horror and ran to the hotel manager to see what could be done to get the air conditioner back on. He was assured that they were working on it. He ran around in search of some means of cooling the rooms, but by the time he had returned it was too late.
Joanne had evaporated.
In tears Anton collected the condensation and packed it in containers for travel. He was not certain what to tell her parents. When he returned home, he had beautiful jars created for her remains. Joanne’s mother was not upset, though her father had been devastated. She comforted him saying it would be okay as the seasons passed. He mourned terribly for a year and then decided it was time for him to get back to work. But found he did not feel comfortable away from the jars too long. He decided he would go back to Russia where they had met and work on his research there for awhile. With him he took the most beautiful of all the jars to sit in his office and keep him focused and also company on his often long work nights.
One evening on his way home he passed the energy plant, a place they had spent hours talking as youth. It’s entryway had a tiny courtyard with a fountain and a bench. It was cold but he dusted the snow from the bench and sat staring at the tiny fountain. He rose leaving his things and stood looking down into the frozen water. An icy tear flowed down his warm cheek onto the ice. On impulse he grabbed the jar and emptied it into the fountain. She would have wanted it to be that way he thought. He collected his briefcase and the jar and went home. He sat weeping in his sitting room chair until he fell asleep.
Near eleven pm he was awakened by a rapid knock at the door. A naked nearly frozen Joanne walked in.
“You were correct in your assessment my love, that is exactly what I would have wanted. Though I like the cold, I would have preferred a blanket. I wish we had come back immediately after the tropics, then it would not have been an entire year of torture and upset for you. I wish I had been able to communicate with you in some way. Hearing you cry on so many nights has softened me to almost butter, and that one gentle tear has corrected all the difference in my ability to understand feeling. I will never leave you again. But you must promise, no more warm vacations.” she said shivering.
Anton touched her skin, though cool it was true she was living flesh and bone. He called her parents immediately and told them she was alive. Her father was astonished and looked at his wife who said only, “Winter is a season of hibernation and renewal, after which all things regenerate and spring into life anew.” She smiled and kissed him.
Together Joanne and Anton finished his research. He bought her a summer house in the Arctic. She delivered her first baby in the spring in New Zealand. The following three each in a separate season, with a temperament like the time of year in which they were born, with the exception of the little girl born in California in the winter. They all enjoyed the cold, but the baby could tolerate neither extreme cold nor extreme heat.
Joanne learned to live with everything in moderation, and love without limitations.
After winter truly comes the spring.
Frigid © DJuna Blackmon 2014, All Rights Reserved