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"Tundra" by Wendy Newbury

When it’s all said and done, and the wild flowers have bloomed, mother forgets.

At the moment, she oozes with passion from the thrill of him, blasting Gloria Estefan’s “Live for Loving You” on repeat as she vacuums, cord laced between fingers, floor nozzle, her microphone. Flushed cheeks, bright stars in her eyes, she’s spring cleaning again, packed the harsh remains of winter in storage boxes, and rides high on newfound love.

Unlike her, we’re frozen in time. We, her guardian daughters, watch mother unthaw. She’s softening, shedding her permafrost skin as she dances under his temporary warmth, her heart mush, her swaying hips liquid. We scoff at her awful sense of rhythm in love, her bad instincts, her poor taste. And though they all bring her roses, we swear never to be as forgiving. That no amount of apologetic bouquets will erase the bad habits of men. Excuse

red flags.

Dare we remind her of last December, piling into our rusted maroon van to see the holiday lights? She over dressed for the occasion, insisted we get fresh air in a near blizzard. We wasted gallons cruising up-scale neighborhoods, places we had no business being, only to stumble in front of his place, watch his new life unfold without her, in front of her. We noticed then that she’d always second guess, yearn for his shelter, as we sat stranded, shivering in his tundra. She gripped that steering wheel so tight, her ice knuckles shattered while Gloria crooned, “Don’t Wanna Lose You” on the stereo as it finally snowed. How we wanted to smash that cassette, smash his windows.

When romance is cooking, we still feel his chill. Most days, she’s making grand plans, dreaming the seasons away like winter won’t come. She can’t remember which parts of her are frostbit. She forgets his bitter wind, how it howls, stings, and digs into her before cutting.

We’ll do what we do. Carry her across his frozen landscape. Cradle her head and caress her snowflake hair. Chip away those icicle tears. We will be all she has, all she will ever need. She’ll call us her saving grace, guiding lights, her snow babies. Her breath a glacial cloud of regret, she’ll vow to make it out alive, and never look back. How relieved we’ll be to hear her say it. We’ll move mountains for her, use our last ounce of strength to plow her through his tundra. Maybe for the last time we won’t have to brace for it.

But we forget.

Wendy writes and teaches high school choir in eastern Washington. Her creative non-fiction is featured in Emerge Journal, Complete Sentence, JMWW, and more. This is her second feature in Roi Faineant Press. When not writing, she tries to keep up with her three kids. You can find her on Twitter @newburywrites or


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