A bit late with this week’s post because I was out all day on Saturday and didn’t have time to write the second episode of the Jasmine Frame prequel, Blueprint – see below.
It’s been a busy week of marketing Painted Ladies. There was a big feature, with photos in the Hereford Times. It made page 3! Not a review, unfortunately, but a bit of exposure that might boost sales. That led to a short interview on BBC Hereford & Worceter’s Drivetime slot which went pretty well. Painted Ladies is available as paperback and e-book from all booksellers.
Anyway, to the next bit of my serialised story about Jasmine before the Painted Ladies period
Blueprint part 2
Jasmine fitted her feet into patent black high-heeled shoes, and picked up the matching clutch bag from the bed. She checked that she had the essential lipstick, compact and hanky. The last choice was what coat to wear. It was pretty cool out, not surprising for November and the sequinned dress was not really warm. There was only one choice really, the mid-length, fawn, fake-fur coat.
‘Are you nearly ready?’ Angela called up from downstairs.
‘Coming,’ Jasmine replied, putting the coat on then steeping out of the bedroom. She was growing in confidence on high-heeled shoes but she took each step of the stairs with care; too often she had almost twisted an ankle by toppling. Angela met her at the bottom with her coat on and her car keys in her hand.
‘I’ll drive then, if you’re wearing those shoes,’ she said nodding at the high heels.
‘Thanks. What are we going to do about eating?’
‘There’s Susan’s sandwiches and cakes at Butterflies.’
‘Yes, I know, but I’m starving. Tom and I didn’t get any lunch.’
Angela looked thoughtful for a moment.
‘Well, let’s go into town, get a pizza or something before going out to Butterflies. It doesn’t matter if we arrive late.’
‘That’s right. Yeah, let’s go to a restaurant first, but not in Kintbridge.’
‘Still afraid of meeting some of your colleagues? They wouldn’t recognise you.’
‘No, but they might remember you. We’ve been to a enough does together for them to know who you are.’
‘Anyone seeing me with you would just assume I’m out with a friend.’
‘Yes, but if they decided to come and have a chat they may become suspicious.’
‘You’re still nervous aren’t you? Even though you’re spending most of your time as Jasmine, when you’re not at work.’
‘I suppose so. I’m still not sure what would happen if I bumped into one of the senior officers.’
‘Probably nothing at all. Mind you the chance of meeting them on a night out in Kintbridge is pretty slim.’
‘OK. Let’s give it go.’ Jasmine opened the front door and stepped into the cold night air, glad of her fur.
Angela parked her small VW in one of the city car-parks and together they walked the couple of hundred yards into the town centre. Arm in arm with Angela, Jasmine felt confident and content. It was in the queue at the restaurant that she felt nervous. A few minutes standing still in the light gave people a chance to give her more than a passing glance. They might wonder at this tall (in her heels) woman with the broad shoulders and narrow hips. In fact no-one seemed to give her a second look and in a few minutes Jasmine and Angela were seated at a table for two and giving their order to a waiter.
‘I’m glad we’ve come here first,’ Angela said, leaning forward a little so that she didn’t have to shout across the table to be heard.
‘Why?’ Jasmine replied.
‘Because we don’t get much chance to talk with Sloane keeping you going all hours of the day or night.’
‘It’s because Tom and me are new to his team. He’s trying us out, seeing what we’re good for, whether he wants to keep us.’
‘Yes, I can understand that but he is not giving much thought to your home life.’
‘I don’t suppose that ever crosses his mind. I don’t think he has one himself – always on the job.’
The waiter interrupted them to deliver two small glasses of wine. When she had moved away, it was Jasmine’s turn to lean forward.
‘What did you want to talk about, anyway?’
Jasmine felt a tingle of anticipation in her stomach. She was dreading having these conversations.
‘What about us?’
‘Come on Jas. Don’t go silent on me. You know what I mean. You’re out most of the day. When you get home you change into Jasmine. I hardly get to see James. I love you whoever you are but I want to know where you’re going. Where we’re going. Do you want to become Jasmine, full time?’
Jasmine sighed. It was the question she often asked herself. She sipped her wine before answering.
‘I don’t know Ange. I am comfortable when I’m Jasmine and always feel I’m playing a role when I’m James but at the moment I haven’t got time to work things out. I love being on Sloane’s team, even though he’s difficult. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do.’
‘I know that Jas.’
‘And I love you. I want to be with you.’
‘I know that too.’
‘So I really don’t know where I’m going. I’m sorry Ange.’
The pizzas arrived and they ate while chatting about less important matters. Angela seemed content to put off the difficult discussion for another day.
It wasn’t long before they were back in the car heading away from the bright town lights and out into the dark country lanes. Jasmine recalled how difficult it had been to find the village hall where Butterflies met for their first visit when they were new to the area. The hall was isolated from the village it served, but that made for a discreet and quiet venue for a transgender club. There were a dozen cars lined up as Angela pulled into the small car-park with faint sounds of the Beegees coming from the hall.
‘Sounds like the disco fans are here,’ Angela said getting out of the car.
‘Their period,’ Jasmine noted referring to the age of most of the members.
They entered the hall and found about twenty people inside. All appeared to be women but Jasmine knew that all but one or two were either transsexuals or cross-dressers. Just four were dancing to the music while most of the rest sat at tables in conversation. At least the music wasn’t so loud that shouting was necessary in order to be heard. They were approached by a large woman in a brunette wig and weighed down with heavy jewellery at her neck and wrists.
‘Good evening. Jasmine and Angela isn’t it?’ The woman said, smiling broadly and ushering them in.
‘That’s right,’ Jasmine said
‘I’m sorry most of the sandwiches and cakes have gone.’
‘That’s OK, Belinda. We’ve eaten.’
‘That’s alright then. We missed you last month.’
‘I was busy.’
‘It’s her work,’ Angela offered by way of explanation, ‘She’s hardly home.’
‘Oh, yes,’ Belinda nodded, ‘I understand. You’re a policeman aren’t you?’
‘A detective now,’ Angela said proudly.
‘With lots of crimes to solve?’ Belinda asked.
‘Quite a few.’ Jasmine agreed.
‘Well, get a drink and relax. I’m sure everyone will be pleased to see you both again.’
Jasmine and Angela went to the hatch where the drinks were served and collected a lemonade for Angela and another red wine for Jasmine.
‘Shall we dance, Jas?’ Angela asked.
‘I’m not sure 70s disco is our thing is it?’
‘We used to dance to anything. You loved it.’
‘I still do.’ It was what had brought them together. They met on the dance floor at the students’ union and found that their rhythm and movement merged. Each took the cue from the other so that their bodies seemed to merge into one.
Angela put her glass down on a table and took Jasmine’s hand.
‘Come on then.’
Another woman approached them. Jasmine recognised her from previous visits to Butterflies and thought she was one of the cross-dressers – a man living his fantasy for a few hours before returning to a male life somewhere. She was dressed in a short, sleeveless green dress with sparkly flesh-coloured tights, green high heeled court shoes and a light brown wig with curls that tumbled over her shoulders. She had a large handbag slung over one shoulder. Jasmine wondered if she was feeling cold as the hall wasn’t warm and her outfit seemed more suited to a summer party.
‘Hi. You’re Jasmine, aren’t you?’ she said.
‘That’s right, um, I can’t remember your name.’ Jasmine struggled with her recall.
‘Oh, hi, Petula.’
‘Look, you’re a policeman aren’t you?’
‘Yes.’ Jasmine wondered if she had been right to give out that piece of information.
‘I thought so. Look, I wonder if you could help me?’
Petula opened her handbag and drew out an envelope.
‘I’d like you to take a look at this.’