Fresh Start Chapter 2"Liz! You made it!" an overly enthusiastic blonde woman greeted his mum. Her skin was tanned dark from years in the sun. "Welcome to Caldera de Gaia Spa!"
Josh watched as his mum hugged the other woman. He figured that she was her old friend, Judy. Josh was surprised at how much younger she looked than his mum. He was under the impression that they were the same age, but Judy looked at least ten years younger - not that his mum looked old!
"And you must be Josh," welcomed the woman. "You have the same hair colour!"
"Josh, this is Judy, my boss," stated Liz.
Judy was in the middle of giving Josh a huge hug. She looked over her shoulder at Liz. "Oh, please! Don't call me your boss!"
"Well, you are!" replied Liz with a grin.
"Just promise me that you'll call me Judy and not Ms. Ramone," stated Judy.
"Okay, just as long as you don't call me Dr. Reid," replied Liz.
"Deal! Now, have you eaten yet?" asked Judy.
They shook their heads.
"Okay, let's go eat. I didn't know when you'd be arriving, but I have everything standing by. I have some shish kabobs ready to throw on the grill as soon as the coals get hot," stated Judy. "I'll take you to your cottage after we eat."
"Are you still planning on opening next month?" asked Liz.
"Yes. I would have liked to have opened sooner, but we had some construction delays. The good news is that I've almost finished with hiring our employees," stated Judy.
Over dinner she showed them a map of the complex. There were ten guest cottages in addition to the main lodge that had thirty rooms.
"The two main highlights of the spa are the hot mineral pools and the mud baths," stated Judy. "If we're successful, I plan on adding more guest cottages and rooms."
"People actually pay to have a mud bath?" asked Josh.
Judy nodded. "Absolutely. One of the benefits of your mum working here is that you'll have access to all our facilities."
"The mineral water baths sound nice, but I'm not so sure what's relaxing about sitting in mud," replied Josh.
"The mud is warmed and contains minerals that help revitalise the skin. My family has owned this land for decades and I've been soaking in the mud since I was a kid," explained Judy.
"Where do you get the mud?" asked Liz.
"There's an old dry creek bed that runs through the property. The hot springs are next to it. Native American women would gather the dirt from the creek bed and use the water from the mineral springs to make a therapeutic mud. They would use it to heal all sorts of ailments. But mainly it was used in fertility rights," explained Judy. "I'm not sure how much of Grandma's story is true, but it's a nice tale to tell the tourists. I do know that it's very relaxing."
Judy went on to tell how the dirt would be gathered and then recycled. The clients would first have to take a shower before entering the mud baths. Afterwards the mud would be spread out on a nearby hill to dry out.
"What's interesting is that the potency of the minerals in the mud doesn't seem to diminish, even after multiple uses," explained Judy.
"What do the baths look like?" asked Liz.
"They're large copper kettles! There was a chocolate factory that went out of business, and I was able to buy them as scrap. We have them hinged, so that we can just dump out the mud after we're done. The copper also allows us to control the heat of the mud more accurately," stated Judy.
"I can't wait to see them," stated Liz.
After dinner Judy showed them their cottage. It was a nice three bedroom building connected to the spa's clinic. In keeping with the south-western theme, all the buildings were adobe with tile floors.
"This is wonderful," remarked Liz as she entered their new home. The house was fully furnished.
"I was hoping you'd like it," replied Judy. "Once your furniture arrives, we can move this stuff out."
"I don't know, it looks nicer than some of our things," joked Liz.
Josh began carrying in their bags. He had to admit that it was really nice. He was especially pleased to see that Judy had already had the cable TV and high speed Internet installed.
He checked out his room. It was very spacious and had doors that opened out to its own deck. He also had his own bathroom. This wouldn't be so bad, he thought.
"Where do you live, Judy?" asked Liz.
"I'm in the house over there," replied Judy. "It's not that big, but then again I don't need a lot of room. Besides, if I have guests over, I do have the rest of the resort!"
Judy explained that there were ten other homes that would eventually be occupied by fulltime employees. She then listed them off. All Josh caught was that their neighbours would be two women on the right hand side and a husband, wife and daughter to their left.
The two women were in charge of the spas. Tara was the head masseuse, and her partner, Cari, ran the mud spas and mineral baths.
Cody and Hannah Dylan were old friends of Judy's. Cody was the entertainment director and ran all the outdoor activities. Hannah was the head chef. Josh was pleased to learn that they had a daughter his age. Her name was Lindsey.
"The Dylans won't get here until tomorrow. They're moving here from Seattle," explained Judy. "However, Tara and Cari are here. I'll introduce you to them at breakfast."
Josh nodded. Mum had told him Judy liked the staff to have breakfast together each morning.
"I'll introduce the rest of the staff to you then. The fridge is full, just in case you didn't get enough at dinner. I'll see you in the morning. Damn, Liz, it's great to see you again," exclaimed Judy as she hugged Liz again. She also gave Josh a big hug before departing.
As they unpacked, Josh turned to his mum. "Has she always been so shy?"
Liz laughed. "Oh yes! I've told you how we met?"
"Not in the past twenty-four hours," replied Josh with a grin.
Liz threw a pillow at her son.
Liz had first met Judy while they were at college. They were on the same dorm floor and had equally annoying roommates. They were trading tales of whose roommate was worst when Judy suggested that they move in with each other. Within a week they were sharing a small apartment off campus. By the time Liz entered med school, they had moved to a large house along with two cats and a mixed lab-setter. Judy had also been Liz's maid of honour when she married Travis.
Judy had married well and often, and had come out of her three marriages quite wealthy. She'd invested all her funds into the creation of the resort. She had inherited the land from her grandparents.
Judy had called Liz after the funeral and offered her the position. It wasn't out of pity; rather Judy was giving her friend a chance to heal. Liz appreciated this offer and was happy that Josh was willing to make the move.
Later in the evening, mother and son sat out on the main deck and absorbed the silence of the early evening. It was very peaceful and serene.
"I'm glad we came out here, Mum," stated Josh.
"Me too. I have a feeling this is going to be a good move for both of us," she replied. She sipped her coffee.
There was a long silence. "I miss Dad," stated Josh.
"So do I, honey," replied Liz, as she reached over and took his hand into hers.
Josh knew no other words were necessary.