I’m getting ahead of myself this week as I am writing this on Wednesday for publication on Saturday morning. I had the next episode of Soft Focus in my head and wanted to get it down before other things got in the way and filled the rest of the week.
I often wish that other things didn’t intrude so that I could devote all my time to writing – Jasmine Frame stories, SF/Fantasy and other ideas that float around my brain. Then I wonder whether in fact spending all my time at my desk would stifle my imagination and writing would become a bore. I’m unlikely to find out because I have never been single-minded about things; I couldn’t even make up my mind between chemistry and physics at university and throughout my career I would devote time to this and that whereas a determined individual might have pursued one straight route to the top – of something. The trouble (is it a problem?) is that I am interested in all sorts of things but carrying out a task in one topic can allow me to procrastinate in another. One thing I’m not pursuing with due diligence at the moment is promoting the Jasmine Frame stories as much as I should, and that must change. There, an aim and objective. But while we await developments, here’s the next episode of the tale of Jasmine Frame as a student.
Soft Focus: Part 10
They were some distance from the women’s protest before Jasmine started to feel comfortable again. The caterwauling of Rachel and her followers attracted the notice of the passers-by who had given Jasmine a more thorough examination than usual. She felt exposed and vulnerable. Now though the Saturday shoppers wandered by without a second look at her. She was grateful to be anonymous again, simply a young a woman out for the afternoon with her friend. Awareness returned and she noticed that they were walking down the hill towards the cathedral and the docks.
‘Where are we going now?’ Jasmine said to Angela who was at her side.
‘I don’t know. I’m just keeping up with you. You set off so quickly from Rachel and her gang that I thought you just wanted to get away.’
‘Are you, OK?’ Angela’s voice showed concern and that gave Jasmine a warm feeling. It was a strange feeling, a new feeling. Someone, who wasn’t related to her, cared for her.
‘Yes. I am now. But those women! They hated Silla. They hated me.’
Angela stopped and grabbed Jasmine’s hand. Jasmine was jerked to a halt. She turned to face Angela whose large, wide brown eyes were fixed on her face.
‘Don’t worry about them. They think they are standing for all women but they don’t. Not all women think that trans-people like Silla are fakes. I don’t think you are a fake. I’m not sure I understand this gender thing but I knew a few girls at school who were anorexic and I think they were similar – their image of themselves didn’t match their bodies.’
Jasmine nodded slowly. ‘It’s not quite the same, anorexia and gender dysphoria but I know what you mean. I don’t think I hate my body. I’m not sure. But Silla certainly did. Even in just the short talk we had I could see that she was desperate to change hers.’
‘That’s right. So I’m prepared to believe that Silla was a woman inside her head and there’s at least some of that in you. Rachel and her mates can’t see that. They just see the part of the person that’s on show and think that anyone with the body of a man must have the character and emotions of a man, and in their eyes that’s all bad.’
Angela’s forthrightness surprised Jasmine. She was expressing ideas that Jasmine had thought of but rarely put into words.
Angela continued. ‘But I don’t think Rachel or any of the others had anything to do with Silla’s death.’
Jasmine considered. Rachel’s denial of any role in Silla’s plunge from the bridge was certainly vehement, and Jasmine sensed that it was the truth.
‘I don’t know how good I am at picking out liars but I think you’re right, Angela. Like Martie, Rachel didn’t like Silla, not at all, but I don’t think she was bothered enough about her to kill her. What do we do now?’
‘Well, I don’t know about you, Jasmine, but I’m starving.’
Jasmine hadn’t been thinking about food but now that Angela mentioned it she realised that she was hungry too. Just two coffees in the whole day so far left a big hole.
‘So am I. Where shall we go? Back to the Union, or to your flat or mine. I’m not sure there’s much food in our place.’
‘I don’t think I can wait much longer. Let’s go in a café, there’s lots down here.’
Jasmine clutched her shoulder bag, mentally counting how much money she had inside it. ‘I haven’t got much cash.’
‘I’ll treat you,’ Angela said grabbing Jasmine’s arm and guiding her into the Burger King that happened to be the nearest cafe.
Jasmine sat in the plastic chair munching on her burger and looking across the table at Angela. She wondered how the young woman could make even stuffing a large bun in her mouth look elegant. She didn’t feel anything like as adept.
Jasmine swallowed and cleared her mouth. ‘So who did kill Silla?’
Angela shrugged, and through a mouthful of fries, managed to say. ‘We’ve crossed off Martie and Rachel.’
‘I suppose there are other gays and radical women who might have done it,’ Jasmine said.
‘I suppose so, but where do we start? It could be anyone.’ Angela took another large but delicate bite into her cheeseburger.
Jasmine had to agree with her. Martie and Rachel were the most outspoken of Silla’s critics and no other potential tranny-bashers, either male or female, had revealed themselves. She shrugged and continued eating.
‘What about other trans-people?’ Angela mumbled through a full mouth.
‘What do you mean?’
‘Well, what if there was another trans-person who had fallen out with Silla for some reason?’
‘I don’t know. Perhaps they were angry at the way Silla was drawing attention to transgendered people.’
‘I don’t know any other transsexuals or transvestites. Not here anyway.’
Jasmine saw Angela’s eyebrows rise in disbelief. She put her burger back in its box. ‘Really? But there must be hundreds at the university out of the thousands and thousands of students.’
‘I’m sure there are. Well, dozens anyway, but I haven’t met them. Not yet.’
‘I suppose it’s secrecy. A lot of transsexuals, most, just want to get on with their lives; fitting in to society in the gender they feel they belong to. They don’t want to draw attention to themselves and get outed. Silla was unusual in that she made a lot of noise about being TS.’
‘Hmm. I get that.’
‘And the others like me, the cross-dressers, well, they probably don’t want anyone to know about it either in case they get ridiculed or worse. Transvestites will come out when there’s an occasion when other people are having a bit of laugh, a fancy dress party or something. Then they can pull on a dress and a wig and it’s a big joke. If anyone thought they were serious they’d probably die of embarrassment.’
‘I see. But there are advice groups at the university for trans-women and men.’
‘I know but I haven’t joined them. I didn’t think they were for me. I’m not transitioning.’
‘But you did join the LGBT group. You came out as Jasmine last night.’
Jasmine chuckled. ‘That was Andy. We got thrown together sharing the flat and sort of hit it off the first week. One night we got drunk over a few beers in the Union and he confessed that he was gay. I kind of decided I had to give him something back so told him I was a tranny.’
‘So he got you to come out.’
‘Yes, I wanted to. I want to be Jasmine a lot but I was scared. You know, new place, new people. Andy said that the LGBT group would be the place to start; that they’d all be understanding and welcoming. So I decided to give it a go.’
‘I’m glad.’ Angela reached for Jasmine’s hand and gave it a squeeze.
‘But the point is,’ Jasmine continued, ‘Silla was the first and only other transgender person I’ve met since coming here.’
Angela screwed up her empty fries carton and put it in the burger box. ‘So we haven’t got any more suspects.’
‘There’s nothing more we can do, then.’
‘Yes, there is,’ Jasmine was determined not to let the investigation into Silla’s death fizzle out. ‘We must report to the police.’
Angela looked surprised. ‘Report what?’
‘What we know about Silla. The discussions we’ve had with Martie and Rachel and our suspicions about how she died.’
‘Do you think they’ll want to know that?’
‘Silla’s dead.’ Jasmine was adamant. ‘The police have to investigate her death properly. We have a duty to tell them everything we know.’
Angela screwed up her face. ‘OK… if you say so.’
‘Where’s the police station?’ Jasmine rose from her seat.
‘Down the hill, and somewhere up towards The Haymarket, I think.’
‘Right come on. We mustn’t waste any more time before we pass on our information.’
Jasmine gathered up her rubbish and shoved it into the disposal bin. She strode from the café with renewed determination. Angela followed.
Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as an e-book and paperback from all booksellers including Amazon