As the ferry ploughed on through the fog, Nate's phone buzzed again. He slipped it out of his jacket pocket; the second-to-last bar winked out, as they had been doing steadily since departing from the terminal.
Jessie: i miss u
He thumbed past the lock.
i miss u too. i can't believe i have to do this.
Jessie:its ok. just try to have a good time!!!! :-)
middle of nowhere. not even any signal out here :-( this place better have wifi. i'll text u when i get there.
Message not delivered. No bars. Nate cursed quietly.
"Yours not working either?" His mom, Marie, poked her head over his shoulder. "I told your dad I'd call him when we got there. I guess we'll have to wait until we hit the room." She sniffed. "Not that he cares."
Nate bit his tongue and inhaled. It was going to be a long two weeks if he was going to have to listen to her complain about his dad the whole damn time. He looked around the boat; a couple of the other passengers, all of them couples or single women his mother's age, were tucking phones away in purses or suitcases. At nineteen, he was almost definitely the youngest occupant of the boat. The ferry's pilot was at least three times his age, a greying sinewy hippie of a woman with beaded hair, a tie-dye broomstick skirt and an enormous bubble vest in safety orange.
A dim light at the end of a dock-shaped shadow rose up through the mist. People began picking up their luggage, and the pilot throttled the engine down to a dull putter. A few steel radials hanging over the side of the hull scraped against the dock as she bounced to a stop.
"I cannot believe I let you talk me into this." He shouldered his pack.
"Look at it this way," Marie said, "you and Jessie are going to be gone to Cuba the day after we get back, then it's off to college and I won't see you again until Thanksgiving or Christmas. I'm sorry I didn't win a trip to somewhere a bit more fabulous, and I'm sorry your dad's a dickhead who couldn't be bothered to put in the time off to come, but maybe we should just make the best of it? Okay?"
"Okay, sure." Nate hopped onto the dock, and gave his mom a hand as she made the jump herself. The other passengers filed over on the gangplank. They all clustered around a sign:
JOCASTA'S PLAYGROUND RESORT AND SPA
RECEPTION AND GUEST SUITES 30M -->
CAFE 45M -->
<-- SEASIDE OVERLOOK 10M
WELCOME, ENJOY AND LOSE YOURSELF
The mist swallowed up their footsteps as the group sauntered off to the right, a looming treeline almost visible in the distance. The website's promo shots had promised an island of primeval Pacific forest and kilometers well-groomed hiking paths. Almost none of this was visible. What Nate did notice was a change in the air: it was warmer now, sweeter almost. He took a deep breath, and for the first time since leaving the house this morning, he felt better. It was hard to put a finger on, but he felt more at ease or relaxed or something. Nothing like good, clean, fresh air.
A few of the other passengers spoke together in hushed tones, some of the couples walking hand-in-hand, everybody huddled up in parkas or raincoats in the wet grey. Ahead of them, chimes tinkled and soon a warm square of light appeared in the mist. Eager to find relief from the chill, Nate and his mom quickened their pace, her long stride easily matching his.
The passage from dank grey afternoon across the threshold of the spa was like walking out of a shadow and into sunlight. The lobby of the spa was bathed in warm light from amber pots overhead, illuminating a wide, open space flanked on one side by a modern reception desk and on the opposite side by an enormous statue resembling the Willendorf Venus set in a natural grotto. Opposite the entrance, a set of floor-to-ceiling windows looked out on a huge garden.
The air in here was even sweeter than it had been outside somehow, and Nate was immediately very warm in his jacket. Before he had time to process this, he heard the approaching sound of heels on hardwood.
"Oh my darlings," said a lyrical female voice. "You're all so wet. What a simply miserable day to arrive! Let's get you checked in on to your suites at once." The approaching woman was a statuesque blonde, with a mane of loose curls shot through with the odd streak of grey; she was wrapped up in a loose white labcoat and wide beige palazzo pants underneath. No amount of loose fabric, however, could hide the dramatic curves of her bosom and trim waist as she strode towards the group of damp travelers. The left breast of her jacket bore a nametag that read "Madeline," and what Nate assumed to be the logo of the place: a black circle with a pair of red figures inscribed within, in the style of a Greek urn -- the pneumatic motion underneath the labcoat made it hard to discern what the figures were doing, exactly, but they seemed entwined. He had only a few seconds to take it all in as his eyes were drawn upwards to her mouth, pink and pouty and frosted in a thick layer of gloss. Madeline was a well-preserved woman of middle-age, but she was shockingly beautiful nonetheless.
"I see some of our regulars have returned at last," she strode between Nate and his mother in a cloud of perfume and into the crowd. "Katherine it's so good to see you again! It's been simply ages. And I see you've brought Jeffrey, your fine young man." She clasped the hands of a couple close to her chest, then released them dramatically. "But I'm keep you all. Go, go! Get out of these wet things and explore!" She waved them on to the reception desk; as they walked away, Nate looked back and saw her speaking to Katherine and Jeffery. He hadn't noticed before, but Jeffery looked at least ten years younger than his wife.
"Hey, stop staring, Romeo." Marie hissed in his ear. "You've got a girl at home, remember? Besides, she looks older than I am." He blushed hard.
"Sorry mom," Nate mumbled as they queued up for the reception desk.
The woman behind the desk was a petite, older brunette with mischievous green eyes, and a black lab coat in the same style as Madeline's, only this one bore a white patch. There was only one figure on the patch, a woman's head, depicted in the same Grecian style.
"Hi," the receptionist said in a smoky voice, "my name is Ronnie; welcome to Jocasta's Playground. Are you two first timers here?"
Nate and Marie shared a look. "Yes," she said. "I won a trip through ModernMommy.com; I didn't even know I'd entered!"
"Oh good," Ronnie said. "You must be Marie and Nate Whitby! We always like to expand our little family circle." She looked down at her screen. "It looks like your suite is all set up; you two are in the Lilith. Here's your key, and a list of services we provide here at Jocasta's. Of course for you, everything will be comped for the duration of your stay." A keycard slid across the desk, tucked inside a brochure. Her fingernails, trimmed short, bore a fine sheen of mother-of-pearl; the oilslick colours seemed to almost swirl in the light. Nate didn't even realize how intently he was watching them until she slid her hand back under the desk.
"Comped?" Marie asked.
"Compensated for. It's all free for you guys," Ronnie winked conspiratorially. Marie gave the brochure a quick once-over and nodded appreciatively. "Now if you'll just follow me, I'll show you up. It's a bit of a maze, I'm afraid."
"What about our bags?" Nate asked.
"Oh, don't worry about it." Ronnie shook her head. "I'll get Barry to bring them up." She knocked on the door of the office behind her, and a tall, very well-muscled young man in his early twenties opened it. He was wearing a tight white T-shirt and a pair of loose white gym pants. "Barry honey, be a dear and bring these bags up to the Lilith suite, will you?" She patted him on the cheek, and Barry's blandly handsome face lit up with a smile.
"Sure thing, mom." The tall young porter bounded around the desk and scooped up Marie and Nate's luggage. He headed off in long, powerful strides, and vanished down the corridor.
Ronnie shook her head.
"He's a a good boy," she said. "But maybe a little too eager. This way, guys." Ronnie walked around the edge of the desk: below the hem of the short coat, Ronnie wore a pair of smoky-grey yoga leggings that flowed through every curve and muscle in her legs, obviously the work of many hours in a squat rack. A tiny version of the logo on her jacket flashed on the back if her left calf as she walked. A pair of black spa sandals slapped against her bare feet as her toenails, painted in the same mother-of-pearl as her fingers, glistened wetly. Nate found himself staring again, and was a little disappointed as she passed by. He wasn't so disappointed that he failed to appreciate the sway and bob of her labcoat as Ronnie led them down the corridor, the hem bouncing just below her buttocks. Every now and again, he was treated to a hint of her curvy behind. Maybe this wasn't going to be such a terrible vacation after all.
His reverie was broken by a sharp elbow in the side.
"Do you mind?" Marie hissed in his ear. "I realize you're a walking sack of hormones, but can you at least try to keep your eyes in your head while I'm around? You can do what you want on your own damn time."
"Sorry mom," he muttered.
.... There is more of this story ...