Maison Fleurie was on the sixth of thirty floors in a building wedged between two much, much wider buildings, themselves mere blocks in Tokyo's urban jungle. Juneau doubted the "House of Flowers" housed many flowers. They pushed inside below an awning and a tiny neon sign of the salon's name in Roman letters and Japanese characters.
"My friend Guillaume LeFèvre owns this place," Claire told them as they rode up in the elevator. "We worked in makeup together for a number of years. He ran a small salon in Montmartre, though every month he was just clawing by to make ends meet. He was an incorrigible coke addict. I helped him 'kick' the habit. Once he was clean, he landed a gig with a movie studio, with a little more of my help, of course." She patted her hair and looked herself over in the reflective elevator door. "Later on, he asked me if I wanted to audition for a role or two. I did--little bits, nothing too big. I didn't want to draw too much attention to myself."
This, naturally, reminded Juneau of her first encounter with Claire. "That must be when you became 'The Gabber Girl'."
" 'The Gabber Girl'?" asked Yuki.
Claire said with a sly smile, "Guillaume heard about a silly American telephone company wanting to film a commercial in Paris. Some French girl going on and on and running up her American boyfriend's phone bill. Guigui got me the part--and voilà, I became 'The Gabber Girl'!" She chuckled to herself.
Guillaume LeFèvre turned out to be nothing like Claire remembered him. The years since she had last seen him had turned him from whip-thin to roly-poly, but eating--rather than snorting--your dinner had that effect on you. He was in his early thirties--though he looked much older--five-seven, and bald. Apparently, his rugged good looks, as Claire remembered them, had disappeared with the coke habit.
"Claire, ma vie!" he cried upon seeing her, his blue eyes twinkling.
They traded kisses on each cheek, one for each year apart. Claire made the introductions, then announced, "We need your help, mon coeur. Will you make us beautiful?"
"Done!" he jibed with a clap of the hands. "You're one your way."
The only thing more outrageous than Guillaume's demeanor was the salon itself. Two walls divided the narrow room into thirds, the middle compartment of which looked to have everything necessary for a good glam session: vanity mirrors, a smattering of makeup cases opened to reveal an array of eyeshadows, lipsticks, lipliners, and rouges in every color of the rainbow. Hidden among these were clippers, razors, tweezers, emory boards for nail-filing, lash crimpers. Everything and anything that could be done to the face could be done in this room. But that was expectable.
What really made the salon an eye sore was the decor. Peach paint reminiscent of naked flesh gave the room a vaguely pornographic effect, and this was little mitigated by the frills that lined the most inappropriate of surfaces. Only the sleek metal chairs had been spared, to austere effect.
Luckily, Juneau didn't have to suffer the view too long; Guillaume and his assistant Zara went to work on their faces and hair immediately. They spent the next two hours prettifying the trio. Guillaume focused much of his efforts on his "Claire de Lune." They rhapsodized about the past the whole time. Much of it, however, was in French, so most of it went right past Juneau, her years of studying the language notwithstanding.
Juneau could not take her eyes off of the assistant's bizarre up-do. It had what looked like raffia braided around something stiff protruding straight out of the top of the girl's head.
"Look, look!" Yuki joked, secretively pointing at Zara's hair. "The Eiffel Tower!" she mouthed, then dissolved into giggles.
At one point, while crimping Claire's eyelashes, Guillaume gasped with a great, dramatic intake of air and such a tizzy of hand gestures, they all thought he would tip over and break into a million pieces, a Franco-Japanese Humpty-Dumpty. "Did you hear about Himeji Castle?"
"No, what?" Claire's eyes were bright at the prospect of gossip. "Hijackers? Or just stupid tourists?"
When all was said and done, the three were dressed to the nines. Juneau felt criminally girly in a conservative blouse of rich mauve color, like baked eggplant--but classy. Chic denim jeans cheekily hugged her hips. She traded her sneakers for flat pumps. Zara could do little with her straight tresses, so they simply washed and teased it out so it shone like jet.
Yuki refused to go too far out. She wore a printed tee--with the inane wordage "Love is beginning with L, like Lettuce. You wanna toss my salad?" The bawdy words were muted in pink and glittering gold on plain black. She too wore jeans, straight cut, no curves. She refused to part with her sneakers. She tucked her locks into a cutesy--though not too cutesy--backwards cap.
"You look like a chigger-thug," Juneau joked, though she had to admit that even this was an improvement over her normal street clothes
No one was surprised when Claire stepped out from behind the changing room curtains, though her sisters still gasped. The eldest Ieyasu wore ribbons of shimmering green and sable eyeshadow on her eyes, and a hint of mascara. Blood-red lipstick carved her mouth out, like a beautiful wound. Her coiffure was wound in a compact beehive tight over her right ear, her hair tinged the color of cinnamon bark. As if to incite scandalously, inappropriately sexual thoughts, her strapless, silky dress was a tint barely removed from her skin tone with frilly angled sleeves. Juneau would've thought her naked but for the lack of nipples on her breasts and the thin teal piping trimming the edges over her bosom, around her waist in two places, and at the base of the billowy ruffles about three inches above her knees. To finish it off, she would wear nothing less than stilettos.
"In black," she admonished Zara when she appeared with another color, espresso. "Can you imagine those, with this?" She threw her head back with the silliness of it.
"If Richard could see you now," Guillaume breathed then disappeared for a spell.
"Who's Richard?" Juneau asked while he was gone.
"Richard is Guillaume's long-time boyfriend. When I met them, they had already been living together for years. Richard is a dear man, but he shared Guillaume's nasty habit." She tried not to betray how difficult it was to reveal some of this, how enmeshed her history was with Richard's and Guillaume's. "I wonder where he is..."
Guillaume returned some minutes later somewhat transformed himself. He now wore a black vest over a short-sleeved white collared shirt and pin-striped flat front slacks, also black.
"I can't let you divas go out without an escort," he said in his own defense. Claire wouldn't have it any other way.
Yuki made sure to tell Juneau that they were all severely overdressed for the Qb on the subway ride over. She was miffed that they were reduced to such mundane transportation, but they couldn't be flippant around Guillaume. She was happy that Zara decided to accompany them.
By the time they arrived at the Qb, it was near midnight and the club was bouncing. It too was squirreled away on one of the higher levels of a skyscraper. Yuki led them to the elevator. When the doors sighed open, they saw that it was manned by a boy of about eighteen. He must have felt half-naked despite his bright blue, gold-buttoned, tassle-hatted uniform. His wide eyes fell on the star in their midst, who towered over him thanks to an extra four inches of heels. He was close enough to practically bury his head between her bosoms when he asked with a naughty smile, "You like Japanese boys?"
Claire chuckled without being too condescending and even treated the teen to a kiss when they arrived on the seventh floor. "Something to remember me by."
"As if I could forget," the boy said with a cheeky wink.
At the door, Juneau fretted over getting in, since she was still underage, even in Japan, where twenty-year-olds were fine. Claire told her not to worry, and without ado they were being escorted out onto the floor.
The night had begun in earnest. Claire was like a caged comet released from her tethers, burning hearts and freezing dates with one balefully seductive glance. She went straight to the bar and had a drink in her hand within moments without even consulting her Chloë clutch for cash. The drink came on the heels of a handsome stud with five o'clock shadow and a sense of humor, for Claire dissolved into a hearty laugh.
"We've created a monster," Yuki said into Juneau's ear. Juneau smirked, and they slipped into a newly vacated booth. Guillaume repaired off to the men's room with Zara in tow.
The blaring music, buffeted on beats loud enough to terrify small children, gave the room a surreal feeling. Mixed with the neon lights filtering through dozens, perhaps hundreds of pulsating bodies, it made the walls look like they were melting. Juneau closed her eyes and tried to pretend that this music in this range at this hour was what she needed right now. It was strange that with so much external stimuli she could still think about Kato.
"I'm gonna get something to drink," said Yuki.
Juneau nodded and Yuki left her. Not a minute later, she saw the leaning tower of Pisa--or better: a raffia-bound shark fin--come slicing across the dance floor. Zara plopped down next to her with a hoot and a holler. "I love this place!" she cried.
"It's cool!" Juneau shouted back.
Guillaume appeared next with a host and a bottle of bubbly. The young man holding the champagne looked nothing like Kato, but his Asian eyes, his jet hair, and his very maleness--something she had seriously been lacking lately at Shokadō--all reminded her of him. She tried to make eyes at him, but he was too busy uncorking the bottle of Veuve Clicquot and pouring them rounds. She meant to invite him to stay, but no sooner were their flutes filled than had he disappeared back to the bar.
Yuki joined them now and, plucking up her glass, offered a wordlessly noisy toast. It seemed she knew no other way to drink alcohol than to shoot it down her gullet. After another helping, she dragged Juneau out of the booth. "I wanna dance!"
Juneau humored her, though between them they didn't have enough rhythm to dance the Macarena. She was grateful this wasn't Dune, that this wasn't home, that the champagne had dulled her anxiety. She poured herself into the music and let it move her where it would. Yuki danced like a marionette whose strings had gotten stuck. She kept jerking her head and arms this way and that in an effort to wriggle free. It was unnerving and endearing and Juneau was so moved, she threw her arms around her sister.
"I love you, man!" she cried into Yuki's ear.
Claire came to join them, though her heels and her dress didn't allow her much freedom of motion. She seemed content to bend her knees at odd intervals and lean from side to side. She smelled like a triple martini and laughed like Olive Oil. Soon, Guillaume and Zara came to join them. They wound the next few hours bumping up against each other, and when that got old, they introduced other dancers into their circle. The Japanese gents were more than happy to accommodate Claire, Juneau, and Zara (even with the raffia phallus on her head), though they reservedly stared at Yuki and Guillaume. The two ended up dancing with each other, fine with the arrangement so long as champagne was among them.
Finally toward three in the morning, Guillaume went to the bathroom. Zara and Yuki had ended up sitting off in a corner booth, giggling soundlessly, flirtingly. Juneau and Claire were still dancing, though the latter decided she would follow Guillaume to the restrooms. Not wanting to be on the floor alone, Juneau sidled over to Yuki and Zara. She hunched over the table and wondered if she had actually caught the girls kissing or if it had been her imagination. She didn't have much time to figure it out, or care, for a blood-curdling scream tore through the air. All heads whipped up, eyes flew in the direction of the restrooms. The DJ cut the music, pulling his headphones down around his neck.
Juneau couldn't be sure, but when she saw the shock in Yuki's eyes, all uncertainty faded away.
"That was Claire!"