I’ve spent this week editing my second Jasmine Frame novel, Bodies by Design – again. It’ll probably need to be done a few more times before it gets published (there isn’t an “if” in that sentence). I find editing difficult as I oscillate from thinking my writing is rubbish to imagining that it’s actually not too bad. Sometimes I can be really ruthless and change whole segments, at others I agonise over changing a word or a phrase. On this occasion I found one glaring error – I’d changed the name of a minor character halfway through and hadn’t noticed it on the previous edit. Anyway I hope the writing is now somewhat tighter and the manuscript less error strewn. And now fingers-crossed…
It’s fun to get back to some new writing so here is the next episode of the Jasmine Frame, prequel.
Close-up: Part 8
Jasmine brought the old Fiesta to a halt behind the smart, new Mini. Angela was back after three nights away on business. That gave Jasmine’s mood a lift. Angela’s new job had benefits, such as the new car and a higher salary but it was taking her away from home a lot more. Not that that should be bothering Jasmine, after all, they were technically separated despite still sharing the house they had purchased as a married couple. Angela had set the legal wheels in motion to secure their divorce in time for Jasmine to acquire her Gender Recognition Certificate. The only problem was that Jasmine wasn’t looking forward to the parting. Angela had been her lover, her confidante and her support so she didn’t want to envisage life as a single woman. It was the being single that worried her, living as a woman was what she dearly wanted.
‘Hi, I’m home,’ Jasmine called as she closed the front door behind her.
‘I’m in the kitchen,’ came the reply. Jasmine followed the voice and found Angela putting spread on slices of bread. They kissed each other daintily on each other’s cheek.
‘I just got in myself,’ Angela said. ‘Just needed a sandwich. What about you? I thought you were doing an early shift today.’
Jasmine couldn’t remember eating during the day and discovered that she was famished. She dropped her bag on the floor and took off her jacket. At least the light and the warmth in the house allowed you to forget the cold, miserable November outside.’
‘Yes, I need something, I’m starving. It’s been a busy day.’
Angela reached for a glass from a wall cupboard and filled it from a bottle she had just opened.
‘Here have a glass of wine. You look fed up. What’s the problem? You were seeing Dr Gould today. Wasn’t that good news?’
Jasmine took the glass from Angela’s outstretched hand, took a swig and leaned back against the cupboard. The reminder of her appointment with her GP cheered her a little. She smiled.
‘Yes, I did see her and it is good news. I’m on the gender reassignment programme and can start the drugs. I’ll pick up the prescription tomorrow I expect. I’ll have at least two different ones.’
‘Oh yes, the anti-androgens to counteract your testosterone and the oestrogen’ for the feminisation.’
Jasmine chuckled to herself; Angela knew almost as much about the gender reassignment process as she did. ‘That’s right. Jilly just needs to get the dosage right for me.’
‘So, that’s the good news. What’s making you miserable?’ Angela slapped a slice of bread on top of her sandwich.
Jasmine took another mouthful of wine feeling the alcohol going to her head on her empty stomach.
‘Work,’ she said. ‘We had a new case dropped on us this morning that’s occupying everyone on the team. That’s why I’m late. I had to go back on duty after my appointment. In fact I’m not sure I’d be home now if Sloane hadn’t sent me.’
Angela frowned. ‘What happened?’
Jasmine thought through the events of the day. ‘Where do I start?’
‘How about at the beginning. You had a new case. A murder?’
‘Could be. No body yet but it’s turned out to be not what we thought at the start. But it was the same as every other case since I transitioned. Sloane sent out Tom, Kingston, Money and Denise Palmerston.’
‘She’s his new DS?’
‘That’s right. They all went off leaving me to stare at a screen all day.’
‘Oh, Jas. Again?’
‘Yes. Again. And when we had a couple of people in to question I got excluded from that too. It’s getting me down, Ange. Sloane just won’t let me do my job.’
Angela grimaced. ‘I know it’s frustrating Jas, but perhaps you just need to give him time. Let him get used to you being a woman.’
‘How much time does he need? It’s been nearly four months.’
‘I don’t think that is very long where Sloane is concerned. You’ve got to be patient, Jas. I suppose you did what you were asked to do.’
‘Oh, yes, I dug up some very interesting information on the case and spoke to someone heavily involved.’
‘How did you do that?’
‘I called on him after my appointment.’
Angela frowned. ‘What did Sloane make of that? Wasn’t that sort of disobeying him?’
‘I wasn’t expecting my little private investigation to be important but it turned out that it was. I think that is why Sloane took me off duty. He thought he was heading off a row with Palmerston.’
‘It didn’t work. She had a go at me before I left. Denise Palmerston is a feminist who doesn’t like transwomen.’
‘Oh. I can see your problem. There’s not a lot you can do but keep out of her way.’
‘That’s impossible when she’s my immediate boss.’
‘Hmm. Would you like me to put a ready-meal in the microwave? There’s a lasagne in the freezer.’ Angela turned away and bent to look in the bottom of the fridge-freezer. It was typical of her, to move onto a task she could do and leave the insoluble problem to stew for a while.
‘Thanks, that’ll be fine.’
Angela found the packet she was looking for and straightened up. ‘Was anyone else difficult?’
‘Money accused me of having it easy being stuck in the office all day. Mind you he was out in the cold and wet most of the time, supervising a search and house to house, so I can almost forgive him.’
‘Well, go and get out of your work clothes and have another glass of wine. Your supper will be just a few minutes.’ Angela took the wrapping off the meal.
Jasmine laid her fork in the empty dish as Angela entered the lounge. She had changed into her pyjamas. Her nipples and the curve of her breasts showed clearly through the thin material of the top. Jasmine longed for the day when she could slob around casually and appear as naturally feminine. She had changed out of her workday suit but had pulled on a loose dress over her bra and tight fitting knickers. Both undergarments were necessary to maintain her female shape – the bra to hold her breastforms and the knickers to hide away her male genitals.
‘How was that?’ Angela asked as she sank onto the sofa beside Jasmine. Jasmine placed the tray with the almost clean lasagne dish on the floor.
‘OK actually. It’s filled the hole.’ She picked up her wine glass and took another sip.
‘Good. Look, Jas, as we’re both sitting here together for once, I wonder if we can have a chat.’
That sounded ominous. Jasmine knew that Angela’s “chats”, which were different to everyday chats, meant something serious.
‘Yes, OK. I can’t remember the last time we were both on this sofa.’
‘I’ve been hoping we would find a moment. It’s about the house, Jas.’
‘The house?’ Jasmine glanced around the room apprehensively. ‘There’s no problems are there, a leak or something.’
‘No, nothing like that. It’s just – what are we going to do about it when we separate properly.’
‘We sleep in separate rooms now.’
‘Yes, Jas, but you know that’s not enough. We’re getting divorced. I know we’ll still be friends but we agreed we’ve got to go our separate ways now that you’ve transitioned.’
Fear of being parted from Angela gripped Jasmine. ‘It’ll be a while before the divorce comes through won’t it?’
‘Yes, another eighteen months or so since we’re not using lawyers or rushing it through.’
‘So, what’s the rush?’
‘We need to show we’re not cohabiting, and we need to start developing our own lives.’
‘Oh.’ Other than becoming a woman and continuing with detective work, Jasmine hadn’t really thought much about having a life. But they had discussed the separation and divorce before and Jasmine knew that she had to give Angela the freedom to meet other people, perhaps even another man she wanted to have sex with. ‘OK, what are you suggesting?’
‘Well, I couldn’t have done it before but I’ve been doing some calculations and with my new salary I think I can buy out your share of the house and take out a mortgage myself.’
‘I see.’ It wasn’t a solution she had thought possible. Selling up and both finding their own rented places had been the plan.
‘It’ll give you some capital to work with. Not a lot. The recession knocked back house prices so there isn’t a lot of equity, but it should help you get set up somewhere.’
‘Yes, thanks, I hadn’t realised…’
‘So you can start looking around for somewhere for yourself.’
‘I suppose so.’
‘There’s no rush of course. It’ll take a couple of months to sort out the mortgage.’
‘Of course.’ She was going to move out of the house they had shared for so many years, and live alone. Jasmine was terrified.
It was just after six that Jasmine arrived in the empty office. A troubled night disturbed by thoughts of Angela’s plan and Amber Markham’s disappearance with or without her baby, had at least spurred her to rise early. It appeared that her colleagues hadn’t been gone long. There was still warmth in the air and the odour of bodies testing the claims of deodorant manufacturers. A few years ago there would have been the smell of stale cigarette butts and ash to contend with but now it was just the scattered coffee cups that testified to the long hours some had put in.
Jasmine sat at her desk and switched on her computer. There were still some loose ends she wanted to follow up from last evening’s revelations about Parnell and Amber Markham.
‘Hello, Jas. You’re in early.’
She had been so intent on her screen that she had not seen Tom Shepherd arrive, yawning.
‘Well, since I imagine I got off earlier than the rest of you I thought I should show willing.’
‘Just as well. Sloane’s called a briefing for seven. I only got off at two.’
‘Neither he nor Palmerston let me know there was a briefing.’
‘No sign of Amber Markham then?’ Jasmine continued.
‘No.’ A hint of pink coloured Tom’s cheeks.
‘It wasn’t your fault she got away, Tom,’ Jasmine said. ‘Nobody knew then that she wasn’t the innocent victim.’
‘That’s true and Sloane has been good about it, but I still feel I should have been keeping a closer eye on her.’
‘Where have you been looking for her and the baby?’
‘Where you’d expect. Her mother’s place, her father’s, other family members, the lad who is Jack’s father. None of them say they’ve seen her or Jack and there’s nothing to suggest they’re lying. We haven’t located the guy she was living with most recently. He’s supposed to be in Reading but no address has come up yet.’
‘What about her friend?’
‘What friend? We’ve tried all the people she knew in Kintbridge.’
‘The girl she was with when Parnell flashed them.’
Tom stared at Jasmine. ‘Who?’
‘Ashley Stiles. The same age as Amber. They were together when Parnell exposed himself. According to the court records they were mates at school and lived close together then.’
‘Her name hasn’t come up. She can’t be in Kintbridge now.’
‘You’re right. Ashley has done the same as Amber and got herself a baby but she moved out of town.’
Tom’s mouth and eyes were open wide. ‘Do you know where she’s gone?’
‘Yes. Thankfully she hasn’t changed her name. I’ve tracked her down to an address in Aldermaston.’
Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as a paperback or as an e-book from all booksellers.