Well, I did promise it – the chance to see me in feminine mode but without the wig. I had a few outings this week so I gave it a try. Not sure I am completely happy with the results – in the photos anyway – but I felt okay. It was certainly more comfortable in the warm weather but I did feel a bit exposed. As I said last week a wig can be a bit like a mask, providing a disguise that many people do not bother to look beyond, particulalry if it is a good, feminine style. Without it I am less likely to pass so it is making a statement – I am who I am, gender identity confused. Responses have been encouraging so we’ll see how it goes.
Anyway back to the more interesting topic of writing. It’s been a pretty good week with work done on Frame 3 and quite a long episode of the Jasmine Frame prequel, Split Mirror below. As always comments would be very welcome.
Split Mirror: Part 3
Sloane’s cheeks and neck turned red. ‘Until we have a body or some evidence that this trans-woman has been abducted it is a case for Missing Persons, not us. Get back to your duties DC Frame.’
It was no use pressing the matter further. Jasmine turned her back on Sloane and walked out of his office. She returned to her desk and tagged a note to the case file about her deductions concerning Diana Stretfield without actually declaring her as a transwoman. After printing out the photo of Diana Stretfield that she had uploaded she looked at the work in her inbox, still seething at Sloane’s rebuff. There were a number of open cases with tasks for her to do. As she worked through each, she was thinking that she would rather be out speaking to victims and witnesses, looking at crime scenes, not for forensic evidence as such but to get a feel for the circumstances of the crime, and interviewing suspects. Yet here she was sitting at a computer screen, collating reports, looking through CCTV recordings, checking that evidence was filed and labelled correctly. It was a drag – a time consuming drag.
She raised her head, stretched her arms and looked around. The office was empty but for her, with the computer screens blank. Even the light in Sloane’s office was out. Everyone else had gone home without a word to her. The wall clock said 7 p.m. Time she went home too; to her new home. The thought of all the unpacking made her groan aloud.
Jasmine picked up her coat and bag and made her way from the building and to her car. The old Fiesta was freezing cold and reluctant to start but eventually the engine chugged to life and she lurched onto the dual carriageway through the centre of Kintbridge.
She came to the big roundabout. The rush hour was ended but there was still plenty of traffic. The left hand lane would take her to her new flat. A horn blared and a car cut inside her. She wrenched the steering wheel and found herself in the next lane heading on around the roundabout and off heading east. Why? She smiled. She didn’t want to head home to the unpacking just yet did she? No, this direction took her towards the Stretfields’ home. Sloane may not want her taking an interest in the case but she was off duty now and it was now more than twenty four hours since Diana Stretfield had left home. She would just call on Debbie Stretfield and offer her support.
She wasn’t particularly familiar with the 1970s estate on the north-eastern edge of the town but she found her way to the Stretfields’ house easily enough. It was in a terrace of small, two bedroomed properties. She stopped in the parking bay a few yards from the row of houses and stepped out into bitterly cold evening. The gate hung on by one hinge and the little patch of front garden was overgrown. The house itself looked in need of some repairs. There’s not much money here or not a lot of love, or neither, she thought. She pressed the bell push but no sound of chimes or bell came to her. She tapped on the door instead.
Debbie Stretfield opened the door an inch or two, peered at her, then pulled the door wide.
‘Yes, Miss Stretfield. I’m DC Frame.’
‘Have you got some news about Diana?’
‘She hasn’t returned home then?’
‘No.’ There was a pause then Debbie added, ‘You’d better come in.’
Jasmine stepped into the small porch. Debbie closed the door behind her, squeezed passed and pushed the door into the lounge open. A single standard lamp illuminated the furnishings which consisted of just a sofa, coffee table and an old CRT TV. There was also a couple cardboard packing cases as used by removers stacked under the stairs. The walls were bare, the carpet looked frayed and the curtains old but everything looked clean. A poor home, Jasmine thought.
Debbie directed Jasmine to sit on the sofa and she placed herself at the opposite end, sitting upright with her knees pressed together.
She smoothed her skirt over her lap. ‘Why have you come if you don’t know what has happened to Diana?’
Jasmine wondered that too. ‘I thought that as it has been a few hours since we spoke that Diana might have come back or got in touch.’
‘I’ve heard nothing from her or you people. I don’t know what to do. Who else can I get to look for her?’
‘Police officers have been alerted to look out for her,’ Jasmine said, feeling that Debbie needed reassuring that her appeal had not fallen on completely deaf ears.
‘That other woman you were with didn’t think it was important.’
You’re right, Jasmine thought. ‘DS Palmerston is a busy person, Mrs Stretfield, Debbie, but I can assure you that we will be giving Diana’s disappearance attention, especially as time passes.’
Debbie’s face didn’t show much satisfaction at Jasmine’s statement.
‘Is there anything more you can tell me about Diana?’ Jasmine went on.
Debbie looked at Jasmine with a confused look. ‘Like what?’
‘Well, has she spent nights away on her own before?’
‘Well, of course. We may look alike but we’re not Siamese twins. There are occasions when we’ve been apart.’
‘I’m sorry Debbie, I didn’t make my question clear. Have there been occasions when Diana has spent the evening or a whole night away when you haven’t known where she is.’
Debbie turned her face away and was silent.
There was a pause as Jasmine waited for a reply. She decided to push gently, ‘Debbie. Do you have an answer?’
Debbie stood up and walked away from the sofa with her back to Jasmine. ‘Yes, she has – but she’s always been home by morning.’
‘It’s been getting more frequent, every couple of weeks now. It started a year or so ago.’
‘Do you know what Diana is doing on those occasions?’
‘No.’ The answer wasn’t a confident denial but more of a qualified, I’m not sure but I can guess.
‘Does it have anything to do with Diana being a transwoman?’ There she’d said it. Jasmine felt embarrassed that she had brought the matter out into the open.
Debbie spun round looking shocked then shrugged. ‘I suppose it was bound to come out although Diana wouldn’t let me refer to it anymore. How did you find out? Her past is supposed to be secret. She has that certificate and a new birth certificate.’
‘I checked records, Debbie. You were married to Donald Stretfield until your divorce and there is no mention of Diana before then except for that birth certificate.’
‘We didn’t do a good job of covering up the past then, did we?’
‘You shouldn’t have to. The point of the Gender Recognition Act is to give trans-people the chance to live their lives in their assigned gender without fear of being outed.’
Debbie’s expression showed recognition dawning. ‘I wondered earlier. . . your voice. You know a lot about it . . . You’re the same as Donald aren’t you?’
Am I, Jasmine wondered. ‘I’ve just started my transition, Debbie, and I’ve separated from my wife. I’m a long way behind Diana I think.’
‘I think I’ll put the kettle on,’ Debbie said heading into the kitchen. Jasmine got up and followed her. The kitchen was a similar size to the lounge with an old scratched dining table and chairs by the window. ‘Tea or coffee?’ Debbie asked.
‘Black coffee please,’ Jasmine answered.
Debbie filled the kettle. ‘It took a long time for Diana to feel that she was complete as a woman. Actually I’m not sure she did feel that, but she stopped having treatments. Perhaps it was just that we couldn’t afford them anymore.’
‘It is expensive, especially if you have all the extras which don’t seem like extras,’ Jasmine agreed knowing what lay ahead of her.
Debbie spooned instant coffee into two mugs. ‘She had the gender reassignment on the NHS but we paid for the breast enhancement, the laser treatment and electrolysis, the facial feminisation, larynx trimming. It used up all our savings and we lost the house we used to have.’ She looked around the 70s style kitchen. ‘We haven’t always lived in this dump.’ She poured hot water into the mugs. ‘Sugar?’
‘That’s just as well. I think I’m out.’
‘But you stayed with Diana through everything?’
Debbie touched her lips to the hot mug, moved it away and looked wistful. ‘Yes. I suppose I never thought about us splitting.’
‘So Donald being trans wasn’t a shock to you?’
Debbie shrugged. ‘When we got together over twenty years ago a bit of play in bed seemed exciting. Donald liked to wear stockings and suspenders and baby doll nighties. We laughed a lot. It developed of course. He dressed more and we started going out together as two sisters.’
‘He already looked like you did he?’
‘Yes. When we got married everyone said we looked like brother and sister. Don was only an inch taller than me, we had the same dark straight hair and similar features. He kept himself slim.’
‘So you were happy about his dressing?’
‘Why rock the boat? We were doing well. Don was an electrician and I worked in a travel agent. We didn’t have kids – Don didn’t want any and I wasn’t bothered. Don’s dressing was a sort of hobby I could help him with.’
Jasmine drank from her mug and said, ‘But transitioning must have been a shock?’
Debbie nodded, ‘It was. It was the millennium. Don said he wanted to make a fresh start and become the woman he’d always dreamed of being.’
‘You didn’t think of leaving him then?’
‘For a moment, but we were good together. I thought I understood Don; thought I could help her through it.’
‘But living together as two women? My wife didn’t want that. That’s why we’ve separated.’
‘I can honestly say that sex didn’t cross my mind. We were still doing it. It was only when Don started on the drugs and began to lose his erections that I realised what it meant. I know it sounds as if I’m stupid but I still thought we could make love in other ways.’
‘It took a while to complete the transition?’
‘Years. Diana waited ages for the NHS to do the big op but she had the other bits done in stages. But then she lost her job.’
‘The company didn’t really like her transitioning. She was made redundant at the first opportunity. They said she had lost the confidence of customers.’
‘She could fight that now.’
‘I suppose so – this was eight years ago. I lost my job too when the internet started cutting into travel agents’ business. So we started to run out of money but still Diana needed more work done.’
‘And still you stuck it out.’
‘Yes, well by then we had so little money left that it was cheaper to stick together.’
Jasmine put her empty mug down on the worktop. ‘So what’s changed? Why has Diana started taking herself off for nights?’
Debbie glared at her, eyes wide. ‘She wants cock.’
Painted Ladies: A Jasmine Frame Story is available as e-book or paperback from all bookseller including Amazon.