Christmas is coming. . .
There is a lot about Christmas that I enjoy but there are two things (perhaps more) that bother me.
The first is – what am I celebrating? Of course I was brought up to believe that it is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, etc. etc. I’m not sure whether I ever did believe all that but I certainly don’t now. I do accept that there probably was a bloke who may have been called Jesus who was a charismatic leader around 0 AD in Judea who probably got executed by the Roman occupiers on behalf of the Jewish leadership, but he was certainly not born on 25th Dec. and the miraculous stuff was added afterwards. Nevertheless I am happy to get together with the family and have a great feast; send cards to family and friends (even if I don’t see them from one year to the next) and sing carols (I love sacred music even though I don’t believe the words). I’m not celebrating the pagan mid-winter festival that the Christians hi-jacked although mid-winter is a good time to have a bit of a party and holiday. I suppose that’s it. We need a few occasions when everything stops and everyone can celebrate, worship, or do what they wish. I don’t want to stop anyone, of any religion, from celebrating whatever mystery they wish. On the other hand I do wish Christmas didn’t start in September.
My other problem is presents. There is nothing like the enjoyment of seeing someone open a present you have wrapped up (perhaps all of an hour or so beforehand) and seeing their happy face. Opening presents oneself is almost as big a pleasure. When the kids were younger our present-opening session used to last for two to three hours and much fizzy stuff was drunk. The problem is the “Christmas list”. I like surprises but, unfortunately, so many unexpected presents turn out to be something that gets put away in a cupboard as unwanted or not fit for purpose. So we write down the things we would like to receive which means the element of surprise is lost. Unless of course you can actually forget what you asked for – I know one or two who express surprise when they open a present taken from their list but I wonder if they are just saying it so that the giver feels happier.
Anyway, onto the next episode of Falloff, the Jasmine Frame prequel. Is it a coincidence that I have set this story in the summer heat of Ibiza while we pass through winter?
Falloff: Part 6
‘Come on James, let’s do something,’ Angela said. She sat up and gave him a friendly shove in the ribs.
‘Ow! What did you do that for?’ he replied.
‘You’ve been moping around all day. We haven’t done anything other sit around or swim in the pool, and that meal. . . well!’
‘What was wrong with it?’ James couldn’t remember what he’d eaten.
‘If we’re in Spain I want to eat Spanish food, not stuff served up for English kids.’
James considered. The menu had consisted of typical English dishes: fish & chips, pizza and chips, chicken tikka and chips, even roast beef and chips. ‘It’s what the kids who come to Ibiza to party want I suppose.’
‘That’s it,’ Angela said, sitting up straight, ‘They come to party. We did too, didn’t we; to dance in the clubs.’
‘Come on, brighten up. What’s on your mind?’
James sighed, ‘I can’t help thinking about Raquel and who would have wanted to kill her.’
‘Well, you know it wasn’t Carl so that put an end to your dying breath clue.’
‘I suppose so.’
‘So, come on. Put it out of your mind. Let’s have fun. Look, do you want to be Jasmine or not?’
A little light lit up amongst the gloom in James’ head. It was true that he had been feeling glum with no further theories for identifying Raquel’s killer, but the thought of being Jasmine was guaranteed to brighten his mood.
‘You’re happy to go clubbing with Jasmine again?’
‘Yes, of course. You know I enjoy it as much as you do.’
‘Well, OK then.’ James swung off the lounger and stood up. He held out his hand to tug Angela to her feet. ‘Let’s get partied up then.’
They joined the queue waiting for entry to El Danza and looked around. The loud dance music made conversation difficult even outside the venue but Jasmine felt her muscles starting to pulse in time to the beat. The queue moved forward quickly and soon they were inside and joining another less orderly crowd at the bar.
Jasmine handed over her cash and reached across the bar for the two tall glasses of white wine and soda packed with ice. She turned and brushed a girl’s shoulder with a cold glass.
‘Sorry,’ she shouted over the music.
The girl turned her head to look at her. ‘That’s okay.’ Their eyes met, they stared at each other for a moment, then recognition arrived. Jasmine refrained from saying anything and would have made a quick escape except the press of bodies prevented it.
‘You’re James,’ Jess said. She looked at Jasmine’s face with her gelled-up hair, sparkly eye shadow, dark red lipstick, long dangly earrings, then down at Jasmine’s bosom. ‘But, you’re. . . you’re. . .’
‘Jasmine,’ she said.
‘But you were James earlier, by the pool. Weren’t you?’ Jess seemed to doubt her own memory for a moment.
Jasmine couldn’t, didn’t want to, deny it and she was trapped with the girl. She had to reply. She nodded.
‘You’re a tranny,’ Jess exclaimed with a giggle. There it was said, that word that defined her and made her out to be a weirdo who dressed like a woman, sometimes. Jasmine managed a wan smile.
‘But you’re married, aren’t you?’
‘Yes,’ Jasmine said wondering why that was a surprise.
‘Where’s your wife?’
James nodded to the edge of the crowd around the bar. ‘There. I’ve got a drink for her.’
‘She’s with you?’
‘Yes, we like dancing together.’
‘That’s weird.’ The man in front of Jess turned around with a trayful of shot glasses held above his head. Jasmine realised it was Andy. She groaned.
Jess shouted in Andy’s ear. ‘Look. it’s James who found Raquel. He’s a tranny.’ Andy looked at Jasmine slowly taking in what Jess had said.
‘Oh. Hi,’ was all he managed. The crowd parted a little and the three of them spilled out into space. Angela stepped forward and took a glass from Jasmine’s hand, and noticed the boy and girl.
‘Hello,’ she said glancing back to Jasmine to see how she was taking the meeting.
‘You must come and meet the others,’ Jess said, ‘They’d love to see you, er, to thank for you what you did.’
Jess grabbed Jasmine’s arm and starting dragging her to the edge of the dance floor. Andy and Angela followed. Jasmine saw two more girls looking at them and through the darkness and the flashing lasers she recognised them as the other two girls in Raquel’s party.
Jess bounced up to the two girls and shouted at them, ‘I know it doesn’t look like it but this is James who found Raquel last night.’
Jasmine stood still, feeling embarrassed. The two girls stared at her with dark eyes wide.
‘You’re a tranny!’ They screamed in unison. Jasmine tried to look accepting and pleased that she had been exposed but failed. One of the girls stepped forward, leaned towards Jasmine and spoke into her ear.
‘I think you look wonderful. What do you call yourself?’
Jasmine felt a sense of relief. Perhaps it wasn’t going to be so bad. ‘It’s Jasmine.’
‘That’s a lovely name. I’m Gemma.’ She put her arm around Jasmine and tugged her towards the other girl. ‘and this is Caroline, although she prefers Carrie.’ The girl gave Jasmine a half a smile and looked away. Andy handed out the glasses of spirit. Carrie raised hers to her mouth and swallowed the whole shot.
Jasmine raised her own glass and sipped her drink while a thought banged around inside her head. Caroline, Carrie, Car. . . was this the name Raquel had whispered, not Carl?
There was another tug on her arm. It was Angela. Her glass was empty.
‘Come on,’ she urged, ‘They’ve started Filthy/Gorgeous.’ Jasmine listened and recognised the beat and opening lines of the Scissors Sisters track. It was one that she and Angela had adopted as their own in the weeks leading up to the wedding. Jasmine lifted her glass to her mouth and took a long swig. Then, as Angela dragged her to the heaving mass of bodies on the dance floor, she stretched out her hand holding the glass. Gemma took it.
Jasmine and Angela were squashed together barely able to move to the beat. Angela’s head bobbed from side to side, her eyes closed. Jasmine bent to her ear.
‘Her name’s Carrie,’ she bellowed.
Angela opened her eyes and looked at her. ‘Who?’
‘The last girl. Raquel’s friend.’
Angela continued to bounce with the rhythm.
‘Do you get it, Ange?’
‘I said her name’s Carrie.’
Angela stopped still and stared at Jasmine. ‘So now you think she’s Raquel’s killer, do you?’