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Chapter Four

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"You're hurting me!" Michelle squeaked out, grinning. All smiles himself, Bryan released her from the bear hug and she dropped back onto her feet, miming a fake cough.

"This is going to be so great!" Bryan rubbed his hands together, in glee, like a cartoon villain.

"It's going to be a lot of work," she corrected, laughing, flipping through the pages of scribbled handwriting and doodles. They'd spent several days in Michelle's living room, making notes, going from drawing idea charts and lists and mind maps to a workable plan. Even with Bryan's level of experience—thanks to helping Derek the Douchebag run the gym for so long—he still lacked a sense of general organization. But that's where Michelle complemented him. She too had untapped skills learned by osmosis: project management.

After all their hard brainstorming, they had a workable platform, enough for Michelle to try tackling a 'Capital B. P.' Business Plan.

Bryan did a goofy dance across clear space on the living room floor. "I know, I know, lots of work, but it's going to be fun, too. We get to make MuscleTone all ours!"

Michelle winced at the name, and not for the first time. "We still need to talk to Uncle Gary about the rent. He hasn't called me or responded to my texts."

"Oh yeah, sure." Bryan nodded sagely. "That's cause he's out of the country."

Michelle felt like she'd been karate chopped across the middle. "...what?"

"Yeah, he's out of the country. Not sure for how long. Or which country, actually... Anyway. I talked to one of his friends—associates?—last week. Or was it the week before?"

She squeezed her eyes shut, rubbing her temples. "We need Uncle Gary to be on board otherwise this isn't going any where."

"Well, I mean, it's not that bad." Bryan dropped himself onto the couch with an oof. "We could always find somewhere else—" He trailed off, shifting uncomfortable under Michelle's furious gaze. "What?"

"Were you not paying attention at all this week?" She scrambled by her feet for the requisite pile of financials. "We're on a total shoestring budget! We can't afford space anywhere else, especially not if we have to buy all the equipment. Even used! We're only getting a deal because of Uncle Gary. And he can't even tell us if he plans to sell it or not."

Michelle harboured a strong suspicion that Uncle Gary intended on keeping the warehouse for nefarious purposes, but didn't bother voicing that to Bryan, who adored their sleazy uncle for reasons she didn't fathom. "Anyway, we have one shot at this. It'll take a while to get a bank loan while restrictions are so tight, so we'll have to run the gym off our own savings at first."

"Yeah, but we should be able to do that, right?" Staring at the mass of papers, Bryan started the sentence with a confidence that leaked out of him with each syllable until his voice rose at the end with questioning.

She shrugged. "That's the risk part."

Both siblings gazed around the living room in silence.

The doorbell rang, causing Bryan to yelp and Michelle to jump. "Oh! I forgot, Dolores!"

"What? Now?"

"Yeah, we're trying out an evening walk, then getting a bite. Come with?" Michelle ducked out to open the door. "Come in! Come in!"

Dolores paused on the threshold of the paper-festooned living room, eyebrows raised. "Ay, you've been busy."

"Well, yeah, but we're in the final stages," Michelle surveyed with pride, hands on hips. "I'll scan it all tomorrow and then start typing up a business plan."

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