Episode 3: Two Sides of a Coin

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Tomo put his vest on and adjusted the ruffles of his shirt. Ken was tying his tie in front of the only mirror in the men's changing room. They were alone, and already late. Usually, Kouta or Fujiki would be bothering them to finish up and get out on the floor.

But not today.

Ken turned to Tomo. He walked up to him and carefully put strands of hair behind Tomo's ear. "With shorter hair, you want to show off the piercings, Tomo."

"But Ken..."

Tomo felt how the anxiety was filling his chest, making it hurt. The lump was slowly growing, making it hard to breathe. His heart was racing, and he was starting to feel nauseous.

Ken smiled calmingly at Tomo. "It'll be fine. I doubt any of the customers will dislike it. They might even be happy to see a new side of 'Momo-san'. I'll be there to support you, Tomo-chan." Tomo was nervously fingering the ruffles on his chest, and Ken took his hand. "I promise. It's going to be alright. They will love it. I'm sure. Niisan said customers have asked about 'Momo-san' for weeks now. They're worried about you, you know. Especially since niisan refuses to tell them anything private."

Tomo nodded, feeling himself blush.

It was a little weird to know that he was so well-liked. He tried to be himself on the floor. He still wore contacts and didn't wear any feminine colours, but his role was to be gender-neutral. Which... was pretty much what he had felt about himself for many years. Still did. But he didn't understand why anyone would like him or 'Momo-san'.

When Kouta hired Tomo as serving staff, he had been suggested to wear a dress or skirt, although the waiter's uniform would work just as well. But Tomo hadn't liked the idea of a skirt and hadn't felt comfortable in the waiter's uniform. So he ended up working in the kitchen for the first few months instead. Kouta wanted Tomo to be comfortable with the uniform he was wearing.

He still helped out when the kitchen was low on staff or it was too busy to keep up with the orders. The regular customers had gotten used to seeing Tomo roll up his sleeves, put away his tray at the station for the serving staff and then go into the kitchen. He'd come out with orders wearing an apron, which apparently also was a popular sight. He couldn't understand that either.

Kouta had come up with a solution... No, that wasn't right. Fujiki had come up with the solution, and Kouta had eventually accepted it. He had a custom uniform made for Tomo. It was similar to the waiter's uniform, with the trousers and west, but the west had a different cut. Instead of the shirt and tie, he wore a ruffled shirt and a ribbon around his collar. The shirt was similar to the waitress's uniforms which consisted of a skirt or a dress with a blouse, and much like some of the others' his was ruffled to hide his chest.

His appearance had given him his role.

The gender-neutral Momo-san. The gender confusing Momo-san. The one who stood out the most. The weird one.

He had known he'd create questions from people, and it felt like perhaps he should be a 'boy' after all. Change to be officially a waiter. But despite that feeling, he had continued to be 'Momo-san' for the past two years.

Ken went to his locker and looked in his bag. "I got these for you," he said and pulled out a paper bag from a jewellery shop he knew Tomo wanted to visit, but couldn't because he didn't want to seem girly or gay or creepy for buying their earrings for himself.

He put the bag down on the seat of the sofa and picked up four different boxes. "Say which pair you like the best."

Tomo opened one and saw a pair of earrings in silver with some kind of blue gem. The shade of the gem was just a couple of shades darker than Tomo's natural eye colour.

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