Another full week. There was another event with the Malvern Book Promotions group – good fun but not a successful marketing event as the audience were largely writers not buyers.
There has however been some lovely news which is covered on my SF and Fantasy page. Here though I’m really getting in to the next Jasmine Frame prequel – Soft Focus. I’ll have to see how that title works out. This story is from an early stage in Jasmine’s journey to womanhood and her career as a detective but a significant one as will become clear.
Soft Focus: Part 2
First they had to cross the communal kitchen-cum-dining-room-cum-lounge of their shared flat. This was the bit that bothered Jasmine most. Andy was the only one of her recently met flat-mates that knew that Jim Frame was trans. Jasmine sighed with relief when the multipurpose but small room turned out to be empty.
‘The guys are out,’ Jasmine observed.
‘Probably in the bar with their other sciency friends,’ Andy replied. ‘Come on.’
Jasmine knew she would have to reveal herself to her new acquaintances soon, preferably before the gossip got to them. Ross, Gavin and Meirion seemed like good guys but she wondered what criteria the university authorities had used to put them together. Probably none at all as they apparently had little in common. Andy was the first of her flat mates she got to know when they had met up by chance at the LGBT stand at the Freshers’ Fair. They weren’t together much as her history and politics course couldn’t be much more different to his computing studies.
They left the flat, descended the stairs to the entrance and stepped out into a typical late October, Saturday evening, that is, dark, damp if not actually raining and a breeze which had a cold nip to it. They walked the few hundred metres to the Students’ Union building along streets which were busy with pedestrians, not all of whom were students, but the majority were. Jasmine looked anxiously around as she always did when she was out. Was anyone taking an unusual interest in her? She caught some pairs of eyes looking her up and down but they belonged to young men and she thought theirs was a look of lust rather than suspicion. She was satisfied that they were seen simply as a boy and girl, a pair of students out for the evening together. Together? No, she didn’t consider that she and Andy were a couple. He had said she was fanciable but he was gay so was immune to her feminine attributes. What about her? Did she want attention from a boy? It was a question she often asked herself. She wanted boys, and girls, to accept her as a woman but the thought of going further, of kissing, petting, having sex with a boy didn’t seem to be something that aroused her. On the other hand, pretty girls did. Knowing her own feelings only made her confusion about her status seem more complicated. What was she? A boy who liked dressing up as a girl. What did that make her?
They climbed the steps into the SU building and found their way to the room the LGBT club had hired for its party. It was supposed to be an opportunity to welcome new members, that is, innocent first years, but Jasmine guessed it was really a chance to get pissed on cheap wine and beer and for older members to eye up the new intake. There were only a dozen or so people in the dimly lit room as Jasmine and Andy entered. The DJ was still sorting his gear so the music was playing relatively quietly. They crossed to a corner where a make-shift bar had been erected. A young man wearing a tight white t-shirt and black jeans stood behind it.
‘Got your membership cards?’ he asked. ‘First drink’s free to members.’
Jasmine opened her shoulder bag and searched among her tissues and lipstick for the small card which she was thankful she had remembered to bring. She found it and thrust it out alongside Andy’s.
‘Great,’ the barman said.’ What do you want?’ Andy selected a bitter beer while Jasmine asked for a white wine. Andy was handed a can and Jasmine received a small plastic cup filled with a pale green liquid. She tasted it. White wine was a far as its identity went. Sweet with an acidic after taste, it was no doubt cheap. They stepped away from the bar and sipped their drinks.
‘There’s someone I know over there,’ Andy said pointing to a trio of men near the DJ’s stage. ‘Do you mind if I go and…’ Jasmine guessed that he wanted to talk to the boys alone.’
‘Go on. I’m fine. I’ll just watch what’s going on.’
‘Thanks, Jim, I mean Jasmine. I’ll keep an eye on you. Make sure you’re okay, like.’
Jasmine waved him away and he hurried to join the group of lads, presumably gay or computer nerds or both. Jasmine sipped her wine and looked around. More people were coming into the room and the volume of the music had increased. Lights had started to flash but there wasn’t anyone dancing yet. Someone approached her wearing a flowery, sleeveless dress over blue jeans. She had breasts but a short boyish hair cut and long multi-coloured earrings.
‘Hi, you’re new,’ she said with a voice that had a male timbre to it and a strong Liverpool accent. ‘I’m Silla – with an ess.’ She transferred her can of beer into her left hand and held out her right. Jasmine took it and they shook hands limply.
Silla looked at her, ‘I’d guess from your dress that you’re not a lezzer.’
‘Um, no, I’m not.’
‘So, my guess is you’re trans. That right?’
‘Yes. How did you guess?’ Jasmine hardly needed to ask. She knew what Silla’s answer would be.
‘Most of the lesbians will be wearing jeans and a shirt. But I’m trans too so I know one if I see one.’
‘Oh, I see.’
‘Except I’m also a lesbian. I fancy girls. Do you? But now you’re going to ask why I’m wearing this dress over my jeans.’
‘Because the fucking Gender Identity clinic make you wear a fucking skirt or dress to prove that you really do want to be a woman.’
‘Oh, you’re having gender reassignment surgery are you?’ Jasmine hadn’t met many transsexuals and Silla was certainly the most outspoken of them all.
‘Yeah, well, when I get lucky and win the NHS lottery. I’m on the hormones but when I’ll get rid of this,’ she grabbed her crotch, ‘is anyone’s guess.’ She took a swig of beer and then went on. ‘Look it’s great to have another trans member. We’re organising a protest; fighting for the right to be recognised as women.’
‘What do you mean?’ Jasmine asked.
‘You know. Be allowed to get our birth certificates changed when we have the chop. It’s fucking disgusting that everyone will still know that my name was Kevin John even when I’ve got my own boobs and a cunt.’
‘Kevin John?’ Jasmine repeated.
‘Yeah, my father named me after Kevin Keegan and John Toshack – his bloody heroes. I want a bit of paper that says that my real name is Silla McBride and it always has been.’ Even in the flashing coloured light Jasmine could see that Silla’s face was red with emotion.
‘Why do you spell it with an ess?’
‘My Mum used to play Cilla Black records when I was a kid thinking I was a girl so I sort of identified with her. I’ve stuck with it but that “Blind Date” nonsense, pimping for heterosexuals, put me off her. So I changed the spelling.’
‘What about you? Where are you on the programme?’
‘The GI clinic.’
‘Oh, I’m not,’ Jasmine answered.
‘You’re not?’ Silla stepped back from her and looked her up and down again. ‘You’re not a tranny are you?’
‘What do you mean?’ Being a tranny was how Jasmine thought of herself.
‘A fucking bloke who wears a skirt to get a hard-on.’
‘No!’ Jasmine’s retort was louder than she intended. She noticed a few heads nearby turning in her direction.
‘That’s what it looks like in your tarty miniskirt and long blonde wig. It is a wig isn’t it. You can’t be a real trans-woman wearing a wig. Fuck you, you transvestite.’ Silla strode off. Jasmine stood shaking and mystified by Silla’s sudden anger.
‘Are you OK, love?’
Jasmine turned to see she had been joined by three young women, all three in the “lesbian uniform” as Silla had described it. Two had hair cut short but one had auburn tresses that touched her shoulders.
‘Uh, yes, thanks.’
‘Silla’s like one of the Taliban. A bit of an extremist when it comes to feminism and transgenderism,’ one of the short-haired girls said. ‘She was at a women students’ meeting we went to.’
‘Funny thing is the really radical women won’t let her join because she’s still got a penis,’ the other cropped girl giggled, ‘What do you want to drink, Angela?’
The auburn haired girl smiled, ‘A white wine please.’
‘We’ll get it. You stay and look after this young lady,’ the first girl said with an emphasis on “lady”.
The two short-haired girls moved off, squeezing through the growing crowd.
‘You’re Angela?’ Jasmine said.
‘That’s right, and you are?’
‘Jasmine.’ She looked at the girl. Although she was apparently wearing the same outfit as her two companions Jasmine now noticed certain differences. The jeans were fitted and revealed the curve of her buttocks. The top buttons of her shirt were undone revealing a pretty lace bra, and she was wearing eye-shadow and lipstick unlike the other girls. ‘The other two …’ she started struggling to find the appropriate words.
‘Sid and Tiff. They’re my flatmates. Lesbians. They dragged me out with them rather than leave me on my own.’
‘Oh, so you’re not a lesbian.’
‘No way. We just got thrown together.’
‘You’re a first year.’
‘Yeah, you too?’
‘But, Jasmine, you’re not a lesbian are you. Why are you here?’
Jasmine had been waiting for this. Silla had dragged her gender identity from her and if she couldn’t be honest at an LGBT party where else could she be?
‘I’m trans, a cross-dresser. My real name’s James. James Frame.’ Jasmine expected Angela’s face to show distaste and for her to make an excuse to walk away, but instead there was a sparkle in Angela’s eyes and a broad grin.
‘Really? That’s fascinating. Why? What do you like about dressing as a girl?’
‘Here’s your wine, Ange,’ Sid or Tiff thrust a plastic cup into Angela’s hand, ‘We’re going to get some dancing and snogging done. You OK?’
Angela took the cup, ‘Yes, Jasmine and I are getting to know each other.’
Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book and paperback from all booksellers including Amazon