I’ve been busy on three fronts with Jasmine Frame this week. I’ve put together a new flier for my ‘Jasmine & me’ presentation and been in contact with some literary festivals and readers groups. It is quite clear that if Jasmine is going to be publicised I’ve got to get out and meet people. That will be true even if I find a publisher for Painted Ladies and the rest of the series. Which is something else I’ve done – sent off a package to an agent.
I’ve also moved on with editing Bodies by Design. I’m not changing huge sections which feels fine but I wonder if I’m critical enough. The trouble with writing is that you feel you are living the story. Editing sections, perhaps even removing whole incidents, is a little like changing your memories.
The next episode of Blueprint has also occupied me‘ for a while. It’s amazing that it is now up to its 23rd episode and has reached 30,000 words. I’m having to be careful that I don’t contradict things I wrote in earlier episodes. I hope I’m keeping the story bubbling – it is reaching a climax, I promise, and in the not too distant future. I think it’s going to end up as a novella rather than a novel, but that’s fine.
Blueprint: Part 23
Tom Shepherd ran through the freezing drizzle and jumped into the car beside James.
‘I thought you were never coming,’ Tom said glancing at his watch. James put his foot on the accelerator and pulled away from the block of flats where Tom lived.
‘I sent you a text to say I was running a few minutes late.’
‘A few minutes! It’s gone seven thirty already. What kept you?’
‘I was knackered after yesterday.’
‘Long day up in Manchester?’
‘Long drive, especially last night.’
They reached the main road into the centre of Kintbridge and come to a halt.
‘There I knew it,’ Tom said, ‘Get here after half seven and you’re in the rush hour.’
‘I’m sorry,’ James said, ‘You did say you wanted a lift.’
‘Well, since you had my car, I think I deserved one.’
James pulled into the outside lane and drove forward a few car lengths.
‘It won’t take long.’
‘So you spent the whole day as, uh, Jasmine, did you?’ Tom asked, his voice taking on a strained quality.
‘Yes. I said I would.’
‘You didn’t find it strange acting like a woman all day?’
‘I wasn’t acting,’ James said, he tugged on the lapel of his suit, ‘if anything I’m acting when I’m wearing this.’
‘You mean being a woman is more natural for you than being a bloke?’
‘Yes, Tom.’ James sighed. How could he explain his feelings to someone who had no concept of what it was like to feel in your head that you were someone while your body suggested someone else? Tom was a great mate but obviously had never questioned his identity, gender or otherwise. ‘I know it’s hard for you and I find it difficult to put into words but for years, possibly as long as I remember, I have felt more comfortable being feminine than in pretending to be a guy.’
‘And Angela’s happy about this?’
‘Happy? Probably not. We’re happy together and she’s always supported me, but when we got married I don’t think she planned on having a woman for a partner.’
‘If you’ve felt like this all your life why did you marry Angela?’
They’d crept towards the roundabout. Police HQ was just off to the left. James signalled and pulled into the inside lane.
‘We got married because we loved each other and back then I didn’t understand my feelings about myself. I hadn’t reckoned on how powerful my need to be female was or would become.’
‘So you’re prepared to end your marriage and lose everything so you can become Jasmine fulltime.’
‘It sounds awful put like that, Tom, but the answer is yes.’ James pulled into the car park beside the police station and turned off the engine.
‘Let’s go and get a coffee,’ Tom said, stretching his legs out of the car door, ‘I think we need to talk before going up to the office.’
‘So, did you find out anything?’ Tom gazed at James across his mug of coffee. They were sitting in a corner of the canteen in the basement of the police station. It was quiet, just a few officers taking a break at this time in the morning.
‘I found a few people who met Petula on her trips to Manchester.’
‘Suspects?’ Tom looked eager.
‘Perhaps.’ James described his meeting with Geraldine, the transvestite who hung around Betty’s Boudoir.
‘She did it,’ Tom said confidently, ‘or is it he?’
‘She was she when I met her,’ James said, ‘and yes she’s a possible. She may have had a grudge because Petula snubbed her, and she took photos, but…’
James described his interview with Rosalind, the beginner transvestite.
‘Oh, it must have been him, er, her. If Petula was embarrassed by her and dropped her then that could have been reason enough for Rosalind to get her own back.’
‘Maybe,’ James was doubtful. It just didn’t sound so convincing after he’d told the story.’
‘Well, who else is there? You’ve talked about a Geraldine and a Rosalind.’
‘There’s Caroline,’ James said.
‘I thought you said she was the person who Petula drove all the way up north to see.’
‘Yeah. It sounds as though they were great friends. Meeting up once a month for lunch and a shop.’
‘Is that all they did?’
‘Ah, that’s a good question. Caroline got pretty upset when I suggested that there may have been another reason for their meetings.’
‘She denied it vehemently.’
‘Where’s there’s smoke…’
‘Could be or perhaps it was just very far from her thoughts and I surprised her.’
‘OK, but why would she be sending those photos to Petula.’
‘I don’t know, but there was something in her story that didn’t seem quite right.’
‘I’m not certain. It’s just speculation. You see Caroline and Petula were quite different types of trans.’
‘What do you mean? They were both men dressed up as women weren’t they?’
‘Yes, but there’s more to it than that.’
James could see that Tom was confused as if he’d just discovered the world was round after thinking it was flat all his life.
‘Caroline lived her life as a woman,’ James explained. ‘Had done since she retired after her wife died. She only put on male clothes when her daughter and grandchildren visited. Otherwise she’s relaxed about it; she’s accepted who she is. Even her neighbours know. I can’t be sure but I’d go as far as saying that Caroline is transsexual.’
Tom nodded slowly. ‘That’s what you said you are, isn’t it. You want to be a woman.’
‘I am a woman and Caroline sees herself as a woman,’ James corrected. ‘Petula though, was different, at least in her circumstances. She didn’t dress up much. She didn’t have many clothes – just a case full. She was scared to death, literally, of her wife finding out, or anyone else outside of her trans circle. Perhaps in her dreams she was a woman but the urge to dress up, strong though it was, wasn’t powerful enough for her to give up her life as Peter Thwaite.
‘Hmm So Peter/Petula was not transsexual?’
‘I’d say she was a cross-dresser. I may be wrong and misinterpreting what I’ve learned about her but that’s my opinion.’
‘So one is transsexual and one is a cross-dresser, and they’re different.’ Tom shrugged, ‘so what?’
‘They don’t always get on,’ James said.
‘Why not? They face the same sort of reactions from people don’t they.’
‘Yes, but a transsexual faces it all the time if they are living the role. A cross-dresser can step out of their femme persona any time. Some transsexuals may think that a cross-dresser isn’t taking things seriously enough, is just playing at being a woman and belittling their own struggle.’
‘They can be a bit “holier-than-though” can they, these transsexuals.’
‘Occasionally, some are,’ James agreed, ‘but you have to set it against the difficulties so many transsexuals face keeping jobs, families, friends while fighting to get treatment.’
‘OK. So you think Caroline’s friendship with Petula may have soured when Petula carried on wanting to go back to her wife and life as Peter.’
‘It’s just a thought. I’ve got no proof.’
Tom sighed and leaned back in his chair, stretching.
‘So we’ve got three suspects. No evidence against any of them but each may, just may, have a motive.’
‘That’s it,’ James said.
‘Where do we go from here?’
‘I don’t know. I think I’m missing something.’
There was a beep from the mobile phone in James’ pocket. Tom’s let out a similar tone. They both pulled out their phones and looked at the screens.
‘Sloane wants me,’ they said simultaneously as they both stood up.
‘What are we going to tell him?’ Tom asked as they hurried from the canteen.
‘The truth,’ James replied.
‘Even about your trip to Manchester and about Jasmine?’
‘It was going to happen sometime. I just wasn’t expecting it to be like this.’ James called out as Tom leapt up the stairs three steps at a time.