A man with long beautiful hair and a short woman stand side by side, looking at an abandoned building. They’re bundled up against the cold, breath visible in the air. The single story concrete structure is streaked with grime, weeds poke through the thin layer of snow on the ground in the alley. Some miscellaneous rusty junk is partly visible in the small yard out back. A decrepit awning hangs at an ominous angle, canvas rendered unreadable by sun and weather.
“I mean it’s your money, I don’t think I really have a say in what you do with it.” The man with the beautiful hair said, looking at the concrete building with the soaped up shop window. “It’s kind of a dump, though.”
“Look, you want to go into business with me or not? The location is good, we’re right off the main road. I can afford to own it outright, we’ll get the dead stock with it so you can fix those up to sell, and you and me can do the renovation ourselves.” The woman said, hands shoved into the opposite sleeves of her coat to keep them warm. The rusted remains of an awning chose that moment to creak loudly and drop to the ground with a significantly less substantial crash than it really should have made. They stared at it.
“Ok. Most of the work ourselves.” Mari turned to Takumi. “Are you in, or out?”
“In, I guess.” Takumi said with resignation in his voice. “Can’t sponge off Keitaro forever.”
“Then it’s settled, I’m buying it.”
And she did.
It was a lot of work. Mari and Takumi spent every spare hour scrubbing, cleaning, painting, and polishing. When the weather started to warm up they rented a power washer and blasted the grime off the exterior walls. Mari got discounts from some of her clients on plumbing and electrical work, as word got around from her clients she wanted to open her own salon space. She could be available more hours, and also the salon owner wouldn’t be making disdainful faces at all her lesbian clients anymore.
They bought tools and stands and set up a workbench so Takumi had a shop where he could work on bikes. He started cleaning and oiling the dead stock that came with the store, around 20 bicycles that had been sitting dusty and forgotten in the abandoned store for several years. He taught himself from a couple of books.
They took out one of the display racks for bicycles and converted that side of the shop into Mari’s new salon, with wash sink and mirrors and all.
Takumi and Mari moved into an apartment. They’d made the excuse Yuka and Keitaro could use more privacy, but privately they agreed the home over the cleaner’s was way too hetero with the two of them making goo goo eyes at each other all the dang time.
Mari passed her licensing exam and became an officially licensed cosmetologist. The health inspector declared the store the most unorthodox location she’d ever inspected, but everything was up to code.
The next day was beautifu weatherl and they soft opened for the hell of it. The sign wasn’t going to be done for another two weeks so Mari grabbed a piece of broken plywood and a marker and wedged her handmade sign in a corner of the window.
Takumi and Mari were observing their handiwork when Kiba and Yuka rounded the corner. Kiba was carrying a tray of coffee. Yuka was waving excitedly.
“Mari!” Yuka threw her arms around the other woman and they spun together, thrown off balance and laughing. “Congratulations! It’s so exciting, I can’t believe it!”
Mari and Yuka went inside to tour the shop.
Yuuji took the only plastic cup in the paper tray and offered it to Takumi, who accepted it curiously.
“What is this, iced?”
“Cold brew, just for you.” Yuuji smiled and Takumi looked away in embarrassment, but took a sip.
“It’s really good.” He muttered.
“Good, my practice is paying off. Wouldn’t want to serve bad coffee when I open the cafe again.”
“You bought a cafe?” Takumi’s eyebrows rose.
“I guess it’s not as interesting as a bike shop slash hair salon, but the money I got from Smart Brain isn’t gonna last forever.” Yuuji sipped his own, hot coffee. “I told Kaidou he’s in charge of picking the music for the shop and he’s gotten really into that. I’m not relying on him sticking with it, but…” He trailed off. Takumi just nodded. Kiba felt responsible for Kaidou, even if the man was a flake.
They drank coffee and watched Mari wash Yuka’s hair through the big window.
“So,” Yuuji broke the silence. “What makes it a lesbian haircut? Is it a haircut you get from a lesbian or a haircut a lesbian would have?” They contemplated Mari’s handwritten sign for a long moment.
(also bike store)
“Honestly, I didn’t ask.” Takumi said.