My Jasmine Frame stories explore the life of a transsexual through the medium of crime cases. My description of Jasmine’s moods and experiences comes from what I hear and read about the lives of trans-women (and to a lesser extent trans-men). I feel I have a rapport with Jasmine but I can’t be certain of her thoughts and feelings because I am not transsexual myself. I don’t have to live full-time as a woman and I don’t have a deep desire to alter my body. That makes me a cross-dresser although the label “dual-role transgender” is perhaps more accurate (all the labels are pretty awful).
Today’s Guardian has an article about a cross-dresser who is happily married and who has been “out” all his/her adult life. Like me, he/she has pictures of her on Facebook and elsewhere. No-one is bothered. The dilemma he and his wife have is when to tell their children who are growing up (the elder is 10). They already know that Daddy sometimes has his nails varnished and he wears ladies’ knickers (for comfort) but they haven’t seen the full female version. They worry that the children may be bullied at school if they talk to their peers about their cross-dressing father. It is a problem I can understand and it is true that children can be cruel. On the other hand children are often more open and accepting than adults. I’d advise them to tell their children the truth, explain it as fully as possible and let the children know that it has no bearing on their love for them. I’m sure that truth and openness is the best policy. I just wish I had realised that sooner.
So, on with Soft Focus, the fifth of my prequeles to the first Jasmine Frame novel, Painted Ladies.
Soft Focus: Part 7
‘How should I know if someone has been driven to murder? I’m no Cracker.’ Angela said glaring at James.
‘No, you don’t look like Robbie Coltrane,’ James said trying to soothe her. She elbowed him in the ribs. ‘Hey!’ he groaned as he sprawled on the bed.
‘I’m not sure that was much of a compliment,’ Angela said. James saw she was grinning.
Andy rose from the chair. ‘I’ll leave you two to your lovemaking.’
‘Wait a moment,’ James called. ‘Where, does Martie live?’
Andy paused on his way to the door. ‘Why do you want to know?’
‘So we can go and question him about Silla,’ James said.
‘Oh, you really are going to play the detective, are you?’ Andy asked.
‘Well, we need to find out more before we go to the police with our suspicions,’ James replied.
‘Do we?’ Angela said leaning on James’ thigh.
‘Yes, we do,’ James said, ‘We’ve got to find out who killed Silla.’
‘Oh, so you’re certain it was murder now, are you?’ Andy said.
James stared defiantly. ‘Not completely, but I’m pretty sure it was, aren’t you Angela?’
Andy sighed. ‘Well, I’m not sure how much you’ll get from Martie. He lives at one-one-five Pembroke Road. The basement flat. It’s a bit of a commune for gay guys. I don’t know how many of them live there officially but a lot hang out there.’
‘You’ve been there?’ James asked.
‘Once. Just after term started. I got taken to a party by some of the boys from GaySoc. But Martie is not fond of straight guys – or straight couples for that matter – so I don’t think you two will get anything out of him.’ Andy departed.
James sat up and found Angela’s face a few inches from his own. Without thinking he leaned forward and placed his lips on hers. A part of him was surprised that she didn’t recoil. Instead she pulled him towards her and they kissed deeply. Their tongues met and he drew in her taste and odour.
It was a minute or two before they parted. James took a deep breath.
‘That was nice,’ Angela said.
James breathed out. ‘Yeah.’ A first kiss. He felt light headed with a throbbing in his groin.
‘So are we visiting this Martie guy,’ Angela said.
A moment passed before James could focus on what Angela said.
‘I think we should. He’s the only lead we’ve got, but you heard what Andy said. He’s not going to like us turning up at his gay pad; a straight boy and girl.’
Angela frowned, thinking. ‘We don’t have to be. Why don’t you become Jasmine, then we won’t be a straight couple.’
James mind leapt from one thought to another. To be Jasmine and still be with Angela? It seemed too good to be true, never mind progressing with the investigation into Silla’s death. Visiting somewhere unknown to her was, though, a fearful prospect. How would Martie and his friends react to Jasmine? An opportunity perhaps to test his guilt?
‘That’s an idea. And if there was something between Martie and Silla perhaps seeing another trans-person might trigger a reaction.’
There was one other thing. Becoming Jasmine. Angela had seen her when she was in her party mode, after hours of preparation, and they had become fairly drunk together. Now in the pale, chill autumn day, how would Angela view her? James froze, uncertain of what to do next, his confidence in himself as a girl, shaky.
‘That’s right. Well, go on then. I want to watch the transformation of James into Jasmine.’
‘You want to watch me turn into a girl?’
‘Yes. I’m fascinated. You say Jasmine is you, the girl you want to be, at least some of the time. Last night I liked Jasmine. Today I’ve enjoyed being with James. I am wondering what differences there are between you.’
‘Uh, yes.’ James was unsure how to respond. He didn’t try to change who he was when he put on a bra and a skirt, although Jasmine did attempt to speak with a higher lighter voice than James.
‘Get going then,’ Angela urged.
James was stirred into action. He pulled off his trainers and socks, and started to undo his jeans. He paused with the flies undone, nervous of being seen undressed.
Angela gave him a wicked smile. ‘I have seen male flesh before, you know.’
‘I had a boyfriend at school. We played about a bit. Got naked. I’m not sure whether Bill Clinton would have counted what we did as sexual intercourse.’
James felt a blush rising up his neck. Any sexual contact at all made Angela more experienced than him.
‘I’m not sure I want to know the details,’ he said.
‘OK, but the point is, I’ve seen a boy’s bottom and his willy, so get on with it. You don’t wear those pants when you’re Jasmine do you?’ She pointed at his blue Y-fronts showing through his flies.
‘No.’ Should he explain that he wore robust women’s knickers to hide away his male attributes? Embarrassment prevented him explaining but he resumed lowering his jeans, tugged them off then quickly pulled down his pants. He turned away from Angela so that she would only see the lower part of his buttocks and bent to open the drawer where he kept his female clothes. There was a faint whistle behind him and he realised that Angela was enjoying the view. The blush returned.
He didn’t have many feminine underclothes and he’d worn one set last night. There was another pair of knickers though. He hurriedly slipped them on and tucked his penis and testicles between his legs. Dipping into the drawer again he found a pair of opaque black tights and sat beside Angela on the bed to pull them up his calves and thighs.
‘You’ve got gorgeous legs,’ Angela said. ‘Mine are flabby in comparison.’
‘No, they’re lovely,’ Jasmine replied although she couldn’t recall having had an opportunity to examine Angela’s legs. Not yet anyway. It was a pleasure she would look forward to. She stood up and looked down to check that there weren’t any holes in the tights. There weren’t. Then she reached into the narrow wardrobe and took out a denim miniskirt which she had had for a couple of years but was still able to do up. Now for the top half.
She pulled off the jumper and T-shirt she had been wearing in one movement and rummaged in the drawer for her other bra and fillers. Swiftly she fastened the black bra around her flat chest and tucked the false breasts into the cups. One more dip into the drawer brought out a pale blue long sleeved top with a deep scoop neckline. Over that she put on a chunky jumper. She stood up straight between the desk and the bed.
‘What do you think?’
‘You look great. Typical female student. Are you ready now?’ Angela started to get up from the bed.
‘Oh no, not yet. I’ve got to put make-up on.’
‘I must cover my beard.’
‘You haven’t got a beard.’
‘I know but the bristles…’
Angela stood up and raised a hand to Jasmine’s face.
‘Your skin’s as soft as a girl’s.’
‘I use moisturiser. Holly showed me.’
‘My sister. But I do need to use foundation.’
‘Oh, OK, if it makes you feel better.’ Angela sat down again. Jasmine moved to the wash basin and looked in her wash-bag for the tube of foundation cream. She spread a little over her face and neck and then added a touch of eye-shadow, eyeliner and mascara. The finishing touch was lipstick – bright red. A critical look in the mirror just about satisfied her and she turned away to face Angela.
‘There. How’s that?’
Angela looked up. ‘I don’t bother with make-up unless I’m going to a party.’
‘Oh. Have I put too much on?’
‘No, you look fine. If it makes you feel comfortable. There are plenty of girls our age who wear make-up all the time.’
‘OK.’ Jasmine was sure that Angela felt that she had overdone the cosmetics but she didn’t want to take it all off and start again. ‘Just one more thing.’ She returned to the drawer and pulled out the long blonde wig.
‘Why do you need that?’
‘I had my hair cut. I have to wear the wig to have a feminine hair style.’
‘How much did that wig cost you?’
‘Not a lot.’
Jasmine felt a stab through her heart.
‘What do you mean?’
‘It looks like a cheap party wig. It was fine last night in the dark and the disco lights, but in daylight it will make you look like a tranny.’
‘That’s what I am.’
‘Really. I thought you were Jasmine Frame, female student and budding detective.’
‘Um.’ A mixture of pleasure and disappointment surged through Jasmine. There was delight that Angela recognised how she felt about herself and shame that Angela considered the wig a ghastly mistake.
‘You don’t need a wig,’ Angela went on. ‘Your hair is a little short, but plenty of girls have it cut like you do and it’s such a gorgeous blonde colour. Let’s see if we can spike it up a bit. Have you got any wax or mousse?’
Jasmine returned to her wash bag. There was a small tube of mousse she had attempted to use once when her hair was longer.
‘Here.’ She handed over the tube. Angela put some cream on her hands.
‘Kneel down so I can reach.’
Jasmine did as she was told and Angela worked the mousse into her hair, lifting it. She sat back on the bed examining her handiwork.
‘There, you’re as much a girl as any in Bristol. Got any big bold earrings?’
‘Yes. They’re clip-ons.’ Jasmine got her small jewellery box out of the drawer and pulled out a pair of large black discs. She clipped them onto her ear lobes.
‘Great. Now what about shoes. You’re not wearing those heels you had on last night?’
‘No, I’ve got boots.’ Jasmine reached into the wardrobe for her pride and joy; a pair of knee high black leather boots. They were her most expensive and recent purchase, bought for the trips into Bristol shopping centre that she had planned the moment she knew she was coming to the city to study. She put them on and stood in front of Angela one more time.
Angela looked her up and down. ‘Do your parents know about Jasmine?’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘My father not at all. My mother thinks I did it a little bit and stopped a year or more ago. Only Holly knows all about Jasmine.’
‘Well, they’re not here. So you can be who you like. Let’s go and interrogate our prime suspect DCI Jasmine Tennison.’
Jasmine grinned a pulled on her puffer jacket.
Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book or paperback from all booksellers including Amazon