Jasmine the 4th

Layout 1I’ve spent some of the last week promoting Molly’s Boudoir, the 4th Jasmine Frame novel. The Kindle version will be available from Friday 30th for £2.99 (it’s on pre-order at the moment) and the paperback will be available soon after for £9.99 inc.p&p (send your order here).  There are also various “special offers” this coming week, so go to my Jasmine Frame Publications page to find out all about them.

Of course I had forgotten that this weekend it would all be about “Black Friday”. Why that causes so much fuss, I don’t know (it’s Thanksgiving in the USA which is nothing to do with anyone anywhere else). Everyone is falling over themselves to publicise their special offers which are not special at all. (Mine are though).  Anyway it will be all over by the time Molly’s Boudoir hits the scene.

I’ve sent out press releases and newsletters but word of mouth is still one of the best ways of promoting books. So please buy a copy and tell everyone you know.  I do hope that Molly’s Boudoir appeals as a good crime thriller, but of course it also tells the story of a transitioning transwoman. It’s now about eighteen years since I started writing Jasmine Frame stories and admitted to myself and Lou that the trans part of my nature could not be denied any longer. Painted Ladies was completed in 2009 but was not published until 2013.  That event had quite an effect on my life since it became public knowledge that I was trans, although the revelation didn’t seem to help sales much. It was quite a release however, because it meant that I no longer worry about whether someone does or doesn’t know.

Since the publication of Painted Ladies, I have written three more novels and sixteen novellas/short stories with the seventeenth currently being serialised below.  The fifth, and possibly last, Jasmine novel is in the planning stage at the moment.

WP_20181120_11_51_39_ProSince Jasmine came into existence there have been quite a few changes.  The 2004 Gender Recognition Act was passed, the  2010 Equality Act aided those with a Gender Recognition Certificate and single-sex marriage is now legal (it wasn’t at the time that Monochrome is set (2008). I feel that there is greater acceptance of trans people of all varieties but there has been the backlash from radical feminists and right-wingers which threatens our future safety. In my own case I have moved from trying to “pass” as female with wig and boobs and what have you, to declaring myself gender-fluid and, where-ever possible, non-binary.

Jasmine Frame has lagged a little behind the real world. Molly’s Boudoir takes place in 2013, not that there are many references to the actual period.  The lag will increase as the fifth novel is set to take place in 2014 but it will be a couple of years, I expect, before it goes to press. How much longer I can carry on writing episodes for this blog remains to be seen.

Talking of which, here is the fifth episode of Monochrome.

Monochrome: Part 5

He tried to come down from the loft bedroom without making the wooden steps creak, but without success. The girl looked to be asleep on the sofa wrapped in blankets, but she stirred as James passed her on his way to the shower room.
‘You eyeing me up?’ she said, sitting up but holding the blanket tight around her.
‘No, Natasha, I’m not but I didn’t want to disturb you. I thought you were still asleep.’
‘I’m not. I heard you on the stairs. I usually know if there’s a guy near me. Unless I’m out of it.’
‘The men drugged you?’ They’d talked about her experiences last evening over supper and afterwards, but James still wanted to further information to show that her story was consistent.
‘Sometimes,’ she said. ‘Something in the cider, made me sleepy. I suppose they wanted me easy to lay, not struggle like.’
‘Did you struggle?’
Nat shrugged. ‘Sometimes, recently.’
‘Why? Didn’t that make the men more violent?’
‘Yeah, course it did. But I wanted them to hit me and hold me down to fuck me so it didn’t feel as though I was giving in to them.’
‘You were brave.’
‘Huh, I just wanted it to end, one way or ‘nother.’
‘Well, your out of it now, Nat. Go back to sleep. We’re not getting up yet. I just need a pee.’ He pottered off to the toilet. When he returned Nat was still sitting up. She looked at him.
‘You’re a good-looking guy.’
James found he was flattered, but Nat hadn’t finished. ‘Why do you make yourself look like a girl, with the wig and tits and stuff?’
James pulled his dressing gown tight around himself and crouched down on the mat beside the sofa. He sat cross-legged.
‘I don’t know why. Perhaps its genes or something to do with hormones before I was born or growing up. The thing is, I’ve always been unsure about whether I’m male or female. When I’m Jasmine I feel comfortable.’
‘You mean horny?’
‘No, definitely not that. Just comfortable.’
‘But you’ve got a woman. You fuck. You get horny then don’t you?’
‘Well, yes,’ James felt a flush rising up his neck, ‘But that’s Angela and me. When we’re together it’s like we’re, er, one. We love each other, and we have fun making love, but it isn’t that I’m a bloke using a woman to get relief.’
Nat sniggered. ‘Is Angela the only woman you’ve fucked? It sounds like it.’
James nodded. ‘Yeah she is, and I don’t think there is another woman I’d want to make love to.’
‘That sounds weird but actually rather nice.’
‘I’m sorry for you, Nat,’ James said, and he found he really did feel a sense of remorse for the girl. ‘You’ve had sex spoiled for you. It should be a pleasure you discover with the right person when you are old enough. Instead it’s been forced on you.’
Nat looked away from him and James thought he saw a tear trickle down her cheek. He reached out a hand to touch her shoulder. She flinched and moved away.
‘No! Don’t touch me.’
James removed his hand. ‘I’m sorry.’
She turned to face him. ‘No, it’s not your fault. It’s just that, they would grab me, paw me. I don’t like being touched.’
James was still learning how this young woman, no, girl, had been damaged.
‘We’ll get you put back together again,’ he said.
Nat shrugged. ‘Perhaps I don’t want to be put back as I was.’
James frowned. ‘What do you mean?’
‘Perhaps I can be like you and be someone different when I want to.’
‘You mean, be a boy?’
‘Yeah.’
‘Why?’
She stared at him. ‘Why do you want to be a girl? Guys have everything much better than girls.’
‘Do you really think that?’
‘Yeah, course I do. Guys have the money, the girls. They get what they want, any time.’
James nodded. ‘Okay, in general men get paid more than women. Women get put down a lot by men, get pushed out of jobs by men. But there’s the other side. Boys get into trouble; more die when they’re young. There are far more men in prison.’
Nat shrugged, but didn’t say anything.
‘Look Nat. Do you really feel that you’re a boy or is it just that you want to get out of being abused as a girl?’
‘Do you really feel that you’re a woman?’
James felt a bit staggered by having the question thrown back at him. He thought for a moment before answering. ‘Well yes, I do. It’s difficult to explain, but I feel that I’m acting a part when I’m a man while being Jasmine seems natural.’
‘So why aren’t you Jasmine all the time?’
He took a deep breath. He hadn’t had to put an answer to this question into words even though it was always on his mind. ‘Well, it’s complicated.’
‘Really? Why?’
‘Well, there’s Angela.’
‘You said she’s happy with you dressing up.’
‘Yes, she’s wonderful. We’ve always had fun together whether I’ve been James or Jasmine. But she wouldn’t want to be with Jasmine all the time. We couldn’t stay married for a start.’
‘Why not?’
‘Because same sex marriage isn’t allowed in the UK. I can’t see it ever being allowed.’
Nat shrugged. ‘What’s so special about being married? Is that all?’
‘No. There’s my job.’
‘You could be a police woman.’
‘Yes, but. . .’ He wasn’t sure what to say.
‘You’re just not sure, are you?’
The young girl had summed up all his doubts. ‘No, I suppose I’m not. Transitioning, that’s what it’s called when you change genders, is complicated. There’s all the legal stuff, telling everyone, getting medication and then having the surgery.’
‘When they chop off your cock.’
‘Yes, well, it’s a bit more than that. The surgeons construct a vagina and a clitoris.’
‘Does that mean you can “come” when you’re turned into a woman?’
James nodded, ‘Usually, yes.’
‘Well then, I think you should do it. You look good as a woman, almost as good as you look as a guy.’
‘Thank you. And what about you?’ James desperately tried to turn the conversation back to Nat.
She shrugged. ‘I don’t suppose I really feel like a boy, but I don’t want to be used as a guy’s cheap fuck anymore.’
‘And we will make sure you’re not. I’d better get back to Ange. She thought I was just slipping down for a pee not a prolonged discussion.’

They were driving through the outskirts of the town. Nat was sitting tensely in the back seat. Jasmine looked round to check on her while Angela drove.
‘You feeling OK, Nat?’
‘No.’
‘We can go back to the cottage. Leave it a day perhaps.’
‘No. Let’s get it done.’
Angela stopped at a T junction. ‘Which way now, Nat?’
‘Left. Ffion lives just up the road.’
‘You still think she’ll be at home?’ James said. ‘It’s nearly noon.’
‘Yeah, she’ll be there. Nowhere else to go unless they decide they want her, but that probably won’t be till later.’
‘She should be at school,’ Angela said for the umpteenth time. Jasmine didn’t answer because they’d commented before on the illogicality of excluding a girl from school to be left home alone as a target for the child molesters.
‘Stop here,’ Nat said. ‘We don’t want to park outside the house.’
‘No, of course not. Let’s have a look then shall we, Nat.’ Jasmine glanced in the vanity mirror. She’d made herself up more than usual, and picked out the shortest skirt, one of Angela’s actually. The objective was to look like an appropriate companion for Nat in her boyish jeans and jumper, newly washed and dried, almost. She wasn’t sure it was a completely successful disguise, but so long it got her into the company of Nat’s fellow abusee that was all that mattered.
They walked the forty yards up the road, Jasmine trying to look nonchalant and ignoring the torn rubbish bags and the boarded-up windows in the terraced houses.
‘This is it,’ Nat said, striding up to a door devoid of paint and tapping on it.
Jasmine heard movement inside.

…………………………to be continued.

 

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Jasmine in her own words

WP_20181018_15_35_38_ProYesterday (Friday 20th Oct.) was the closing day of the consultation on changes to the Gender Recognition Act.  When the GRA became law in 2004 it was hailed as a huge advance for transsexual people.  For the first time transsexual people were recognised in law and they acquired the right to change their birth certificates to match the gender they identified with and lived as. The rights of holders of a Gender Recognition Certificate were given further confirmation by the Equality Act of 2010 which included gender reassignment (i.e. those people holding a GRC) as a protected minority.

However to acquire those rights transgendered people have to submit themselves to medical examination. A diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria is the first hurdle. This is followed by at least two years of living full-time in the gender they identify with and the intention to take the medication and undergo the surgery at some point.  When the last occurs depends for most people on the length of the NHS waiting list for gender reassignment (or confirmation) surgery. Further surgery e.g. breast enhancement, facial feminisation, etc. is rarely carried out on the NHS. Thanks to the complexity (and cost) of applying for a GRC it is estimated that only about 5,000 people (transmen and women) have actually received it in the last 14 years.  The total number of transgendered people in the UK is probably somewhere between 500,000 and 1 million. For some time there has been pressure to update the Act and make it easier for transsexual people to achieve their aims.

Many transgender people do not wish to be medicalised and wish to self-declare their gender, if indeed they identify with a binary gender at all. Some transsexual people do not feel it necessary to surgically or medically alter their bodies but wish to have their gender identity recognised in law. Unfortunately, it is not just transgendered people who are involved in this consultation. Women (with some male supporters) have objected to loosening the medical constraints on transitioning and in fact, many women in this group, deny the right of transwomen to declare themselves as women. Most of these opponents to change want the law kept as it is while some, I am sure, would like to see the Act repealed and transsexual people returned to the limbo they existed in before 2004. Their reasons for this position is a perceived threat to women from allowing transwomen to enter their “safe” spaces such as ladies’ loos. I don’t think there has ever been a case, anywhere in the world, of a transwoman raping a woman in a female washroom. If indeed such a case ever occurred it would be ridiculous to tar all transwomen with the same rapist brush. Whatever the state of the GRA there is nothing to stop a man putting on a female disguise in order to attack women anywhere.  A transwoman is not a man in a frock.

The silly thing is that transwomen are on the same side as women in general in wanting to feel safe from attack and in wanting equality in all fields of life. The anger with which some women have attacked transgender people is startling and terrifying.  Some transgender activists have responded in kind and have campaigned to stop the women’s arguments being aired. I do not support that. Freedom of speech means just that, but there is no freedom to hate. All people should have the opportunity to express their opinion and explain their position. They should only be silenced if they threaten another person.

I hope the GRA is simplified and I hope that the women opposing transpeople do not get their way. In fact I hope that women will recognise transpeople as their supporters. I am not transsexual so not affected by changes to the GRA and am not likely to have my wishes answered – i.e. the ability to declare myself of neither gender, or both. Jasmine, however is.  Here is what she has to say.

“Hi, I’m Jasmine Frame. I’m a woman and I can prove it. I have a Gender Recognition Certificate and a vagina. But it hasn’t always been so clear-cut. 

I started feeling that my concept of gender was different to my classmates just before I became a teenager, when puberty was firing off all around me. Prior to that I hadn’t really thought about what I was. I had an older sister, Holly, so I quite happily played girly games like dressing up with her. I wasn’t interested in boy’s sports like football or cricket but I got into athletics at quite an early age. I had friends that were boys and girls who accepted me for being me, but gender rarely seemed to come into it. Then as the boys and girls around me started to change and things began happening to my body It came to me that I was going to be a man and I wasn’t sure I wanted that.  I learned pretty quickly that wearing feminine clothes wasn’t acceptable in a teenage boy so began to do it secretly. Holly was the first one to discover that and she helped me develop my dual persona of James and Jasmine. I realised I was transgender but was I transsexual or a transvestite? I didn’t know.

Meeting Angela at university was a liberation but also, perhaps, allowed me to put off a decision. Angela loved me as James and as Jasmine and was happy to be seen with either. I was happy having sex as a man although with the desire to experience it as a woman. Deciding to join the police in 2004 seemed, at the time, to be a decision time. I would be a man who liked cross-dressing in my spare time. But I was wrong. The need to be female didn’t go away. Angela recognised it as much as I did, probably sooner than me.  So in 2010 I decided to transition and Angela and I parted regretfully. The police, in theory, were obliging but I met obstacles from some of my colleagues. I resigned in 2012 having started on the process of becoming the woman I felt myself to be and set out to earn a living as a private investigator. Now every experience, every medical and surgical treatment, strengthened my identity as a woman (well, there were some cases that forced me to think about my position). Now that I have completed all the surgery I need and want (I have to take the hormones for the rest of my life) I am certain that I am a woman. I can’t say exactly what a woman is, after all, we are all different with various characteristics, personalities and emotions. I can’t give birth and that Y chromosome still lurks in every cell of my body but the X chromosome is there. 

Getting the GRC was a long drawn out process. Living as a woman while still retaining most of my male characteristics was difficult. We are always on edge, wondering if this or that stranger is going to take offence at our existence. Even now when a simple examination  of my lower region would convince most people that I am a woman, I am still wary of the person who looks closely at my broad shoulders, narrow pelvis (only slightly broadened by the fat the hormones move around the body) and somewhat masculine nose and jaw line. Nevertheless, I will stand shoulder to shoulder with women, for women’s rights and equality with men in all fields. I am a woman.”

Read about Jasmine’s transition and life as a woman in the Jasmine Frame novels and novellas.

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg…………………………

Jasmine bides her time

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“Meet the Author” at Wellington (Shrops) Library.

I’ve been reading Grayson Perry’s book Descent of Man. Some people may wonder at a transvestite commenting on the crisis in masculinity. He does, in fact, refer to his lifetime of dressing in female clothes and how this gives him a perspective on the life of a male. I agree with a lot of his points. With the suicide epidemic and mental health issues among men, the poor educational performance of boys, the rise of gang culture and its associated violence, it is obvious that men are in crisis. Perry rightly explains the problems as being due to the change in employment opportunities for men – the loss of physically demanding manual work – and the changes in society as a result of progress in equality (of all minority groups).  He is also correct that men are disadvantaged by their failure to accept equality of women and by sticking to old stereotypes; a world of equality would be, if not a utopia, at least an improvement on today’s environment.  However I lack Perry’s optimism that men are changing and that the adjustments necessary are happening.

Yes, there are more men who share child-rearing, household chores and other “feminine” roles. Yes, many men accept women as their equal, and transgender/non-binary people as “normal”. But, and this is the big barrier to entry to that wonderful fantasyland of equality, a sizeable number, majority or minority I’m not sure, of men do not accept those things even if they make a pretence of doing so. Misogyny, homophobia and transphobia (to ignore, for now, other prejudices) lurk just below the surface and can leap out to bite you given the slightest excuse.

I think it is clear that all the so-called “populists”gaining power around the world at present are unreconstructed cavemen at heart. They want a return to the “golden days” where “real” men controlled everything and everyone, when women knew their place and spent all their lives in child-rearing and drudgery. They’d like to see weirdoes like gays, trannies and people of different races confined to ghettoes or not suffered to live.

The fact that so many authoritarian males have seized power recently, the USA, Russia, China, Hungary, Turkey to name just a few, should be a warning to us that the gains in acceptance and equality of the last seventy years are not secure. The backlash starts with little things e.g. The US government refusing visas for unmarried partners of embassy workers when gay marriage is still not permitted in many states; in the UK it is now permissable for shopkeepers to refuse to serve you if they don’t like your message even if it is not abusive or threatening; increasing arguments about the use of gendered toilets by trans people, and so on.

To oppose the rollback of equal rights, minorities must show solidarity with each other. In this situation women are a minority as much as the transgendered.

………………………………..

A reminder, that Molly’s Boudoir will be published soon. To get a free pre-publication e-book copy in return for a launch day review, write to me here.

This week I was asked if all the Jasmine Frame stories involved a murder of a transperson. Well, yes and no. When I began writing Jasmine stories I realised that she needed an emotional involvement in her cases.  That means that each plot, each murder, should have some gender identity component. But gender questioning covers a whole lot of different issues and  I have tried to make each of the Jasmine stories quite different. Here is a brief (and not comprehensive) guide to different “flavours” of gender identity issues.  Can you guess which stories each is found in?

transgender – a general term for everyone who has gender identity questions.

transsexual (transwoman, transman) – a person who feels that their gender identity is different to the sex assigned to them at birth.  They may or may not transition to live in the gender they identify with and may or may not proceed with medical and/or surgical treatment.

transvestite – a person who enjoys wearing female clothes either privately (sometimes secretly) or in public but does not live permanently as a woman. Originally the term implied a fetish for female clothes. Cross-dresser is a synonym which lacks this psychological definition. Some transvestites have an attraction for particular items of female clothing such as corsets, wedding dresses, high heel shoes.

draq queens – people (mainly men) who dress in an exaggerated form of female attire usually for entertainment purposes. They may be gay or straight, but are not often transgender.

she-males – men who dress in female clothes and may live as women but retain their male genitals to have sexual intercourse with men or women. Some may have breast enhancement to give themselves a female figure.

sissy – men who are forced (usually willingly) to wear certain forms of female dress e.g. French maids, tarts, little girls.

gender fluid/gender queer/non-binary/androgynous – a person who does not accept the binary nature of gender, rejects male and female stereotypes, and may adopt an appearance that is both male and female or neither.

…………………………..

 

 

Jasmine takes a leap

WP_20180803_14_21_17_Pro (2)This weekend I am at the annual NAWGfest – that is the National Association of Writers’ Groups Writing Festival at Warwick University.  It is a great opportunity to join in several workshops which are always stimulating and thought-provoking as well as meeting and socialising with people that I have got to know over the last few years. NAWG however has something of a split personality. Is it, as its title suggests, a sort of umbrella organisation for writing groups or is it an association for authors published or not.  If the latter then it overlaps somewhat with the Society of Authors, but that organisation is only for published writers. I have been a member of a number of writers’ groups but to my knowledge only one has been a member of NAWG and that one didn’t really participate in the association’s activities.  That was why I became an individual or “associate” member. There are possibly millions of people across the country who are writing, many thousands taking part in on-line or face to face writing groups but not many who take advantage of what NAWG offers, perhaps because of the cost. I find the encouragement I get from meeting other authors, engaging in activities which might not be directly related to my particular writing tasks but nevertheless develop my skills, and just talking about writing, very rewarding. I hope NAWG and its annual festival goes from strength to strength.

You may have noticed I haven’t commented on this week’s news. I am trying to blank it from my consciousness as if I think about it too much I could become very agitated and worried. I really do wonder where we will be in one year, five years, time.

So, let’s get back to fiction. We’ve reached the final episode of Negative. I hope you like the conclusion of this short story.  It fits in the small temporal gap between Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design and I doubt I will be able fit another plot into this period of Jasmine’s life. Next week I’ll say a bit more about Molly’s Boudoir, the fourth novel, and where I’m going with this blog. In the meantime, enjoy.

Negative: Part 11

Alun took a few faltering steps towards his mother who beckoned him with her hands and warm, encouraging words. Jasmine crawled along the cliff edge keeping her head down. The sirens grew louder and then blue lights appeared over the crest of the moorland. Alun froze, took a step back, then another.
Jasmine rose into a crouch, sprang. She intended a low rugby tackle but her shoulders hit Alun’s legs above his knees. He staggered. She closed her arms around his thighs as she toppled to the ground. He flexed his leg. His heel struck Jasmine’s breast. She held on. He slumped.
And rolled. Her arms were trapped under him. Her feet and ankles swung free. She could feel that there was nothing beneath them but air. Now she was holding onto Alun to save herself not to pull him down.
Hands grabbed her clothes, tugged on her, dragged her away from the edge. She spat tough grass from her mouth and looked up. Ceri’s mother was looking down at her and Alun, a uniformed police officer beside her.
‘I thought you both were going over for a moment there,’ the PC said. He dragged the passive Alun off Jasmine and helped him to his feet. Jasmine panted and pushed herself into a sitting position. To her side, inches away, was the drop, the road below out of sight, and the sea. The PC pulled Alun further from danger.
Another police officer offered a hand. Jasmine used it to pull herself up. Alun was already being taken away with his mother tagging along, crying and asking nonsense questions.
‘You okay?’ the officer that had helped Jasmine said.
‘Yeah, I think so.’ Jasmine rubbed her chest. Her false boobs had taken the brunt of Alun’s involuntary kick; her knees were a little sore from being dragged through the tough grass and bare rock; her heart was still thumping from the exertion and the terror.
‘Let me help get you back to the car,’ the officer said. Jasmine nodded and he took her arm allowing her to put some of her weight on him as they walked away from the cliff.

A few minutes later Jasmine found herself sitting on a hard, plastic seat in an interview room at the town police station. She had barely noticed where the police car was taking her when she had been shown into the rear seat and they had set off down the hill. Her thoughts had been going over those last few moments; her fear that Alun was about to throw himself off the cliff, her own narrow escape from falling; she wondered if the police understood what had happened, the reason for Alun’s flight; did they realise that Ceri had nothing to do with Tegan’s death.
The door opened and a detective walked in, a short, thin woman with lank hair. She carried a mug which she put down on the table in front of Jasmine.
‘This is for you. Sweet tea. I believe you’ve had a bit of a shock. What’s your name?’
‘Jasmine Frame.’ She looked at the pale beige liquid in the mug. A coffee perhaps was desirable but not this sugared water. ‘Thanks,’ she said, nevertheless.
The detective sat down opposite her. ‘I’m DS Huws, Glynys Huws. Sorry to put you in here. It’s not very comfy, but we need to ask you some questions. Like what was going on up there on the cliff?’
‘I thought Alun might jump,’ Jasmine said.
‘You know him then?’
‘No. I know his sister, Ceri.’
‘Ah, yes, Ceri Powell. Mrs Powell says she found you alone at her house.’
Jasmine took a deep breath and began her story. ‘I’d gone to see her, find out what was happening to Ceri. Only Alun was at home. We had a talk but he became agitated. I got knocked over as he ran out.’
‘Knocked over?’
‘Well, knocked out I think. He didn’t mean it. I cracked my head against the door. That’s how his mother, Mrs Powell found me.’
DS Huws showed concern. ‘How’s your head now?’
Jasmine felt her skull. The headache had dulled; she was hardly conscious of it amongst the other scrapes and bruises of her contribution to saving or arresting Alun.
‘OK,’ she said, ‘I don’t feel concussed.’
The detective smiled. ‘Why did Mr Powell become, er, agitated?’
‘I had got him to tell me what he did with Tegan Jones.’
‘What he did?’ The detective’s eyes widened.
‘Ceri had nothing to do with Tegan’s death.’ Jasmine explained about Tegan’s transphobic treatment of Ceri and Alun’s brotherly response. The detective listened.
‘So, Alun Powell confessed to you that he abducted Miss Jones, knocked her unconscious, took her to the top of the headland and dropped her off the cliff.’
‘No, not the last,’ Jasmine shook her head vigorously. ‘He left her on the edge. Her fall was an accident.’
‘I’m not sure the death of Tegan Jones can be called an accident.’
Jasmine shrugged. She reluctantly had to agree with the detective on that point. ‘No, not an accident, but not a deliberate act.’
‘If we corroborate your story then perhaps it will be manslaughter not murder. But how did you get involved. You’re not a local. Is it because you and Ceri Powell are both . . .’
‘Transsexual women. That’s not why I came here,’ Jasmine explained, reluctant to talk about herself. ‘We recognised what we are and became friends, but I’ve only known Ceri a few days since I met her at the hotel where she works. I came for a rest.’
‘A rest? A holiday? On your own?’
‘Yes, on my own. It was more recuperation than holiday.’
The detective examined her. ‘What do you do, Miss Frame?’
‘I’m a detective.’

Jasmine sat on the slightly more comfortable seat in the waiting area, a mug of cooling black coffee resting on her knee. Mrs Powell sat a metre from her, but they weren’t conversing. She was deep in her thoughts no doubt contemplating the future with Alun in custody, facing an appearance in court and perhaps, probably was more likely, a sentence in prison. The DI in charge of the case had allowed her to sit in while Alun was interviewed, his “learning difficulties” recognised.
Jasmine was waiting to hear that she was not required for any more questioning, but she was reluctant to leave the older woman alone, even if they weren’t talking.
A door opened and a sergeant in shirt sleeves emerged followed by Ceri. Mrs Powell leapt to her feet and embraced her daughter. Jasmine stood up and waited for an opportunity to greet her friend.
‘The DI says you can all go now,’ the sergeant said, ‘We’ll keep Mr Powell in the cells over night and give you a call in the morning when he is going to be interviewed again. Do you need a taxi?’
Ceri parted from her mother and spoke first. ‘No, I want to walk in the fresh air. It’s not far.’
The custody officer said good bye and retreated through the locked door.
Ceri stepped towards Jasmine. ‘Thank you for what you did.’
‘What did I do?’
‘Saving my brother.’
Jasmine frowned. ‘I’m afraid I haven’t saved him from the responsibility for Tegan’s death.’
‘I know, but you saved him from falling from the cliff, and he didn’t mean for Tegan to die. You said that.’
‘That’s true. I knew it wasn’t you, but I didn’t know what had happened until Alun told me.’
‘He didn’t know what he was doing,’ Ceri said.
‘He’s a child really,’ Mrs Powell added. ‘They won’t put him in prison with criminals, will they?’
‘The police will treat him as kindly as they can,’ Jasmine explained, ‘but there is the matter of justice for Tegan.’
Ceri bowed her head and looked at the floor. ‘I know. I hated the things she said to me. When they were questioning me, accusing me of killing her, I felt at first that she deserved it, but then it came to me that she was just mixed up. No one deserves to die. I wish I hadn’t complained so much about her to Alun.’ She sniffed and her mother put an arm around her.
Jasmine revealed her thoughts. ‘I don’t know why Tegan was transphobic and I don’t think her partner, Bob, understands either.’
Ceri looked at her. ‘You spoke to her? Bob?’
‘Yes, she and Tegan were obviously very much in love.’
‘She’ll want Alun put away for life,’ Ceri snivelled.
Jasmine shrugged. ‘That’s why we have courts and judges. A jury will probably conclude that Alun is guilty of manslaughter, but the judge will decide how responsible he was and what a fitting punishment really is. It’s not up to the victim’s family or supporters. Alun will be protected.’ Jasmine hoped that what she said was true.
‘Let’s go home,’ Mrs Powell said, taking Ceri in her arms. The three of them walked out of the entrance of the Police Station and commenced the short walk back to their house. The streets were empty now and the sky was dark. Jasmine looked at her watch surprised at how late it was. It was gone midnight. She said farewell to Ceri and her mother and continued towards the hotel. She got her mobile out of her bag relieved that it hadn’t been lost on the hillside and also that it was still working. There was a text she hadn’t read earlier. The Benefits Agency wanted her to start an investigation. She had a job to go home to. Her holiday was over.

THE END

Jasmine has a headache

No, I’m not going to comment on the government’s No-Deal-Brexit plans, or the guilty pleas by Trump’s former henchmen, or other news from around the world – it’s all too awful to contemplate.  Nor am I going to comment on the A level or GCSE results other than to say I am glad I no longer have to explain that the miniscule rises and falls in “pass” rates is of no significance when the goal-posts of exam systems and standards are altered at the whim of the Secretary of Education. I’d prefer to reflect on what was perhaps the first week of our new normal life in our new home.

I swung a tennis racquet for the first time in many years, didn’t feel utterly knackered afterwards and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Lou joined a gym and did some exercise classes, and I did some writing and some group talks/discussions about transgendered people. All good. So life can go on while the world seems to be in turmoil.

Oh and it’s rained a bit.

WP_20180516_13_29_08_ProSo let’s get on with Jasmine’s latest adventure. Actually, first I’ll comment that the next novel, Molly’s Boudoir, is getting close to going to press. I now have a cover (thanks Scott), which I will reveal shortly, and some favourable and helpful comments (thanks Barbara). Now I have to dig into my pocket and purse to find the coppers to pay for copyediting, formatting and the print setup. Ideas about how to market this fourth Jasmine Frame novel would be much appreciated.

We’ve reached episode 10 of Negative. The mystery has been revealed but the jeopardy isn’t over.

Negative: Part 10

‘Who are you? How did you get in here?’
The female voice penetrated Jasmine’s stupor. A hammer was banging at the inside of her skull and there was an ache in her shoulder. She shifted her position and found she was wedged against a wall. She opened her eyes. The light made her blink and squint at the woman standing over her.
She moaned. ‘Er, you must be Ceri’s mother.’
‘That’s who I am. I asked who you were.’
Jasmine shuffled so that she was sitting on the tiled floor looking up at the woman, who was dark haired and appeared to be in her forties.
‘I’m Jasmine Frame. I’m a friend of Ceri’s.’
Ceri’s mother straightened up. ‘Oh, I know. Ceri mentioned you. You’re staying at the hotel.’
Jasmine nodded but wished she hadn’t. She felt her head. There didn’t seem to be any blood or noticeable lumps.
‘That’s right. I heard that the police had taken her in and came round to see if I could help.’
‘What happened to you?’
‘It was Alun.’ Jasmine got on to her knees and using the door jamb hauled herself to her feet.
‘Alun!’ the woman raised a hand to her mouth. ‘He didn’t attack you, did he? Alun wouldn’t do that.’
Jasmine wasn’t as certain as the young man’s mother, but she wasn’t going to accuse him.
‘No, I don’t think he meant to hurt me. He was rushing out and knocked me over. I banged my head.’
The woman’s mood changed. ‘Oh, I’m sorry. Look. Do want to sit down. I’ll get you a glass of water.’ She took Jasmine’s arm and guided her into the lounge and into the chair. She went away and came back moments later with a glass of water.
‘Alun doesn’t know his own strength, and when he gets something into his head he doesn’t think.’
Jasmine took the glass from her and had a sip. The ache in her head and shoulder was subsiding now that she was sitting comfortably.
‘Why did he leave you in a hurry? Where’s he gone?’
That question was on Jasmine’s mind. She sipped the water.
‘We’d been talking about Tegan Jones.’
The mother drew in a breath. ‘The police are questioning Ceri about her. They think she had something to do with how she died.’
‘Not Ceri,’ Jasmine said, ‘But Alun did.’
‘What!’ The woman rocked on her feet as if she was going to faint. She sat down heavily on the sofa. ‘Alun wouldn’t hurt anyone. He can’t have killed that woman.’
‘Perhaps not deliberately, but as you said, he doesn’t think things through.’ Jasmine was sure that Alun’s mother was correct and not just protecting him as any mother would do. ‘He did know that Tegan had been persecuting Ceri for being transsexual and he decided to do something for his sister.’
‘What?’ she whispered.
‘He met Tegan at the hotel last night when she finished work and took her onto the headland.’
‘Took her?’
‘Well, abducted her. Knocked her out when she struggled, I think, and carried her to the cliff.’
‘No! He didn’t throw her off. Don’t say he did that.’
Jasmine stretched a hand across to the upset woman. ‘No, I don’t think he did that but he did leave her on the edge, unconscious, in the dark.’
The mother cupped her mouth and let out an anguished sob. ‘He doesn’t understand.’ She stared at Jasmine. ‘But where is he? Where did he dash off to?’
‘I don’t know. We’d been talking. He told me what he had done. I probably said that he might have caused Tegan’s death. He rushed out and knocked me over.’
‘You put the responsibility on Alun.’
‘Well, yes. I was trying to make him understand what he had done, even if he hadn’t actually killed her.’
‘You blamed him. He can’t take that. He gets worked up if he’s told off – for anything. He runs away. He can’t help it. In the past we would have said he was simple. Now they say Alun has learning difficulties. He’s just a child in many ways.’
‘I realise that,’ Jasmine felt she was being accused of driving Alun into some kind of fit.
‘He always goes up the headland when he runs out.’
‘He mentioned Tud’s Leap.’
The woman stood up. ‘That’s where he’s gone then. Oh, I do hope he’s safe.’ She rushed from the room. Jasmine followed, hurrying to keep up though the ache in her head was like a cricket ball rattling around an iron bucket.
Alun’s mother dashed through the front doorway and opened the door to the car parked at the kerb. Jasmine ran around the car and tugged at the passenger door.
‘What are you doing?’ the woman cried.
‘I’m coming too,’ Jasmine answered falling into the passenger seat. The engine started and they lurched forward. Jasmine reached for the seat belt and struggled to fit it into its slot as the car swayed around bends. The engine screamed as they started to climb the steep hill.
Jasmine dug into her bag which, miraculously, had remained around her neck. She pulled out her phone and dialled three nines.
‘What are you doing?’ the steering-wheel gripping woman asked.
‘The police. We may need them to help find Alun and they need to know that Ceri didn’t kill Tegan.’ The control centre replied and Jasmine recited the situation in as few words as she could manage.
The car turned abruptly, leaving the metalled road and joining a stony track that headed across moorland towards the open sky. Jasmine’s head hit the headlining as the car bounced and the phone flew out of her hand. The suspension complained. They came to a sudden halt and the woman dived out of the driver’s seat leaving the door open.
Jasmine unclipped herself, scrabbled around on the floor for her phone, found it and got out of the car. She staggered across the rough ground trying to catch up with the woman. Her feet caught in rabbit holes and struck outcrops of rock. She could only glance up every few paces to see where the woman was going. She paused for breath, lifted her head and saw anther figure illuminated by the setting sun behind them. It was easy to identify the figure as Alun. He as facing the sea. His mother rushed towards him.
‘Stop,’ Jasmine called, ‘don’t surprise him.’
The woman took a few more steps and stopped. She turned around as Jasmine caught her up.
‘Look, I know you know him better than I do,’ Jasmine said, ‘but if he’s upset and unsettled at realising what he might have done to Tegan he could do anything. Approach him calmly as if this is normal evening walk on the clifftops.’
The woman looked at her, considered, then turned back and slowly walked towards the standing figure.
‘Alun,’ she called in a light and jolly voice, ‘It’s getting a bit late for being up here isn’t it? Time for supper.’
Jasmine hung back. Her presence may spook the young man into another ill-considered action. She didn’t want to feel responsible for him falling to his death as Tegan had presumably done.
Alun turned to face his mother. Jasmine was close enough to see that he was standing on the very edge of the cliff. She moved sideways intending to circle around the young man and get to the clifftop herself.
‘I didn’t mean to hurt her, Mummy,’ Alun said, in the voice of a small, contrite child but with the pitch of an adult male. ‘She’d been horrid to Ceri but I didn’t want to hurt her.’
His mother stepped towards the cliff on the other side of the young man. ‘I know, love. You couldn’t help it. You thought you were helping Ceri. There’s no point being here now. Let’s go home.’
‘I put her down here,’ Alun said, facing his mother but looking down at the ground. ‘She was sleeping. I went home.’
‘Yes, love. . .’
Sirens pierced the still, evening air. Jasmine saw Alun jerk. She was alongside him now, both within a metre of the sheer drop, twenty metres between them. Jasmine dropped to her hands and knees and crept towards Alun.

………………………….to be continued.

 

Jasmine asks questions

WP_20180803_14_21_17_Pro (2)For the last week we have been settling into our new home. There’s been a lot to do – unpacking, setting up new pieces of furniture, even some decorating (not my favourite job).  I was appalled by the amount of cardboard waste we generated but at least we have delivered it all to the recycling centre.  The polystyrene and polythene sheet was another matter – surely they can be recycled, the polythene especially, but apparently not.

We know no-one here although we have said hello to some of our neighbours but it has been pleasant just getting on with our own thing. Political issues have not been at the forefront of my mind although the pieces I have read have not eased my fears for the future. Nevertheless we are looking forward to getting familiar with our new home and meeting people.

Next weekend I will be at the 9Worlds convention in London otherwise known as the London Geekfest. It’s turned out I’m doing two talks, the first on creating positive trans figures in fiction, i.e. Jasmine, although I hope to widen out my talk into a discussion with the audience.  My second talk is about alchemy and chemistry in SF and fantasy or “Cavorite to Coaxium – super-materials in SF&F” which will, of course, include a plug for my September Weekes books. I seem to have drawn the short straw with the timings though – 5 p.m. on Friday for the former and 9 a.m. on Saturday for the latter. We’ll have to see if there is an audience.

Thanks to getting our home somewhat straight, I have at last been able to get back to some writing and have written the next episode of Negative, the Jasmine Frame prequel/sequel that fits in the short period of time between Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design. We’ve reached episode 7 and Jasmine is, at last, starting to investigate. . .

Negative: Part 7

‘You were close to her,’ Jasmine said as empathically as she could manage, ‘I’m sorry.’
The woman looked at her. ‘Thank you.’ There was a hint of a sob in her voice.
‘Do you know what happened here?’ Jasmine persisted. ‘Was she in a car accident?’
The woman shook her head. ‘I don’t know. The police won’t say; not yet.’ She turned and glanced up at the mist-shrouded cliff. ‘They say she could have fallen instead of being hit by a car. They’re waiting for the pathologist to tell them how she died.’
‘Oh, that’s awful.’ Jasmine was trying to think of comforting things to say but struggling. The eagerness to find out the facts, whatever they were, overrode her feelings of sympathy. ‘It was last night wasn’t it? What was she doing out here then?’
The woman looked at her with a face filled with anguish. ‘I’ve no idea. There was no reason for her to be here. She should have been home with me after work.’
‘After work?’ Jasmine said innocently. Of course, she knew Tegan’s work, or presumed she did.
‘Tegan worked in a hotel. Head waiter. She should have come home when dinner was finished. She usually got in by nine-thirty. She didn’t last night.’
‘You must have been worried.’
Her face creased up. Jasmine was afraid she was going to burst into tears. ‘When it got past ten, I was worried. I waited another hour then rang the police.’
‘Oh, did they start looking for her?’ Jasmine thought she knew what the answer would be.
‘No. They said some things which were supposed to reassure me and told me to ring again later if she hadn’t turned up. As if Tegan would go off for a night without telling me!’
‘They might have started searching sooner if they thought that your partner was suicidal.’
‘Suicide!’ The woman looked horrified.
Jasmine shrugged. ‘She wasn’t then?’
‘No, no, not Tegan. Okay, she wasn’t really happy at work, but it wasn’t so bad that she wanted to end her life. I’m sure of it.’
The mention of work increased Jasmine’s interest. ‘What was wrong at work?’
‘A new waitress. Tegan didn’t get on with her.’
She must mean Ceri, Jasmine thought. Apart from the bubbly Myfanwy who only worked two days, there was only Ceri working with Tegan.
‘Did she tell you why they didn’t get on?’
There was a small shake of her head. ‘Tegan said she was rude to her and didn’t do what she was asked to do. It was strange because she usually got along with everyone.’
That wasn’t Jasmine’s impression, but perhaps Tegan’s issues with Ceri affected her manner with guests. Or perhaps it was simply that Tegan didn’t get on with trans women.
Jasmine backpedalled in the tale. ‘So, did the police find her here?’
The woman shook her head vigorously. ‘No, that was a jogger. I don’t know who it was but they called the police and ambulance. It was too late to save her though. She was already dead. Someone at the police station remembered my call and they got me to look at . . . her.’ This time there was a sob. Jasmine reached out a hand and touched the woman’s arm gently.
‘I really am sorry. I shouldn’t have disturbed you. It’s a very sad time for you.’
‘No, no, talking about her, Tegan, about what’s happened, helps. It seemed unreal, a dream but now I know it’s something I have to deal with.’ The woman looked into Jasmine’s face. ‘Who are you?’
‘My name’s Jasmine, Jasmine Frame.’
‘I haven’t seen you before. Do you live here?’
‘No, I’m a visitor. I was out for a walk. Fresh air with added water.’ Jasmine was lying; she was out in the rain because she was eager to find out what had happened to Tegan.
‘Ah, I see. Well, thank you for stopping to talk.’
‘What’s your name? You told me your partner was Tegan.’
‘I’m sorry, I should have said. You told me your name. I’m Bob, short for Roberta.’
The rain became harder. Both women shrank into their jackets.
‘Look, I’d better go,’ Bob said, ‘that policeman has been waiting patiently for me to finish.’
Jasmine looked at the police car. Through the rain-spattered windows she could see the police officer watching them.
‘He brought you here, did he?’ Jasmine asked.
‘I wanted to see where she’d been, er, found. He offered to drive me up here. It’s such a lonely spot. Thank you again.’ Bob crossed the road to the police car. The officer leaned over and pushed the passenger door open. Bob got in and they drove off towards the town.
Jasmine pulled her jacket tight around her, not that it was stopping her getting soaked. The police car was out of sight almost as soon as it set off. Jasmine crossed the road to the cordoned off area, stepped over the tape and crouched down to the look at the bouquet. There was a sodden card stapled to the clear plastic. The ink was running but the words were still just legible. They read, “For my love, Bob”.
Jasmine surveyed the tarmac and the narrow strip of gravel between the road and the cliff. There was nothing to draw her attention, but she didn’t expect to find anything. Forensics would have done a thorough investigation and taken away any objects of interest. What was missing was interesting though. Even though the rain had washed away blood and other water-soluble bodily fluids spilled onto the roadway, some marks might have been expected to remain since the time of Tegan’s death. Tyre marks for instance. Jasmine paced up and down the crime scene, then stepped over the tape and walked in both directions along the road. There were no traces of any skidmarks. It wasn’t conclusive. The water on the road could have washed away the greasy rubber if it had been there, but surely some would remain to be observed by a detective’s practised eye.
So, Tegan wasn’t hit by a vehicle slamming on its brakes. Either it was a hit-and-run where the driver didn’t pause or slow at all, or Tegan wasn’t killed by the impact with a vehicle. Perhaps she had fallen from the cliff above. Jasmine gazed upwards. The rain was easing and the cloud breaking up. Visibility was improving. She couldn’t see the clifftop, but it was a long way up. A fall from that height would most likely be fatal. Tegan’s injuries would confirm whether she was killed by a fall or collision.
She began to retrace her steps back into the town. Tegan’s death was a mystery. Why hadn’t she returned home to her partner, Bob, when her shift at dinner ended? What was she doing either here on the road or up above, if indeed she got here under her own volition? And why was her relationship with Ceri so fraught if Bob’s opinion of her being a warm, loving person was correct?
Jasmine pondered as she trudged along the road, the sun beginning to warm her and dry her sodden clothes.

……………………to be continued

Jasmine surprises herself

Hardly a day goes by without something else to worry about. Perhaps I shouldn’t read the papers or watch the TV news.  There was Turkey, with a chance to democratically overthrow a dictator, but no, the majority apparently voted for Erdogan and more restriction on free speech and more power for the religious zealots.  Then there was Airbus, BMW, Nissan, the CBI etc. saying they needed some certainty about the future and what do they get from the brexiteers? “We don’t need to be friends with business. They can fxxx off.”  They probably will or at least freeze their investment so that employment will decline. Since most of the big business in the UK is multinational or foreign owned, (Conservative governments encouraged  foreign takeovers) there is no such thing as “taking control”.  What will happen? Who knows? The government certainly don’t. My worries are selfish – what will happen to my pensions when the country goes broke?

20180621_185126I have another worry, a lesser one and perhaps it isn’t a worry at all, more of a release. I have to cull some of my books. With the move to a smaller property maybe imminent (I’ll believe it when it happens, actually) I need to fit my books into less room. I’ve got well over a thousand SF books, purchased over the last 55 years. Which ones will I get rid of? Probably the more recent ones actually. I don’t think I can part with my ancient Aldiss, Anderson, Asimov, Ballard, Blish, Brunner, Cherryh, Clarke, Heinlein, McAuley, McCaffrey, Niven, Simak, Wells, Wyndham, to name just a few of my favourite authors. That’s not mentioning my complete collection of Banks (with and without the M).  There’s also a lot of history of science books including several biographies.  Surely I can make space. . .

……………………………

And so to my writing. Just a fortnight to go now to the Southport Bookfair (BLISS) and a chance to sell a few Jasmine and September books, I hope.  With the move beginning to take precedence, I haven’t got any further with the novels but at l am still ticking over with Jasmine’s prequels (and sequel) so here is the third episode of Negative.  As I promised it is more reflective than action-packed, but I hope still readable.

Negative: Part 3

Jasmine looked at the young woman. Ceri’s fresh face and that gorgeous, long blonde hair gave her a feeling she did not expect. She wanted to hug her, kiss her on the dark red lips, feel her hair run through her fingers. What did it mean? She’d always loved Angela but thought that becoming a woman, taking the hormones, meant that she’d be attracted to men. That hadn’t happened yet, not really. Was she lesbian then? She put the question on hold. Ceri was still talking.
‘There were a few kids at school, boys and girls who didn’t get it, but I had some good friends who looked after me. So, it was some positive some negative. I also had my brother.’
‘You had a brother that supported you?’ Jasmine had Holly, her older sister, but even she hadn’t found out about Jasmine until she left home.
‘Yeah. Alun’s four years older than me. He’s a sweetie really but he always defended me, from back when I was a little cissy boy. He had a bit of a reputation at school, so after I transitioned one dark look from Alun and the bullies went to find someone else to torment.’
‘Is he still around?’
‘Yeah. Works in one of the huts along the front selling buckets and spades. He’s still there if I need him.’
‘But he can’t be with you everywhere. Are you planning on staying here too?’
‘God no! I wanted to get away from people who knew me as a boy. When I was sixteen I left school and went to college. I didn’t know anyone there, so I could start my transition seriously.’
‘How’s it gone?’
Ceri shrugged again. ‘College was ok. I’m waiting for the results now. Then I can get away full-time.’
‘Waitressing is a holiday job then.’
‘God, yes! I wouldn’t want to spend my life doing it like Tegan, the old cow.’
‘She doesn’t like you?’
‘I don’t whether it’s me, because I am who am I am or whether she just doesn’t like young people, or any people for that matter.’
‘Does she know you’re trans?’
‘Of course. Everyone does in this town. Tegan knows my Mum.’
‘I can see why you want to go somewhere else.’
Ceri looked a bit sheepish. ‘I can’t wait, but. . .it’s a bit scary too. Starting in a new place. College was the same, but I came home every day.’
‘Your mother. . .’
‘I’ll miss her. I’m not sure if I could have done this without her.’
Jasmine felt the same about Angela, but they had to part too. ‘How’s your transition going.’
Ceri nodded her head from side to side. ‘It takes so long. I was already on the list before I turned sixteen, so I thought I’d be there with my prescription on my birthday. But, no, it took six months before I got my first supply. Now I’m waiting for the surgery.’
‘Like me,’ Jasmine agreed. ‘You should get priority, being so young. You’re looking good though; the hormones are working.’
‘Yeah. I’ve even got tits.’ Ceri drained her cup of coffee.
‘They’re all yours?’ Jasmine said gazing longingly at Ceri’s curves.
“Well, no. I’m still using fillers, but I’m up to a B.’
Jasmine snorted. ‘Lucky you. I had problems getting my antiandrogens balanced. The nausea and the moods. . . Well, you don’t need to hear about all that. Let’s just say I’m sorry I’m not ten years younger, like you.’
They chattered on about Jasmine’s life, Ceri’s plans for uni., what there was to do in the area. At last Ceri got up.
‘Sorry, I’ve got to go, Jas. I said I’d meet my mate, Gwen at lunchtime. We’ve got some clothes to swap. She’s not as tall as me but we can share some things.’
Jasmine felt awkward. ‘I’m sorry I’ve kept you talking Ceri.’
‘No, it’s been great. It’s lovely to share with someone like me. Look, I have a day off on Thursday. Perhaps I can show you around this place. There’s some gorgeous scenery. Unless you’ve got your own plans.’
‘No. No plans at all. That would be great. Thanks Ceri.’
‘See you at dinner then. Unless Tegan the witch stops me serving you.’
‘Would she?’
‘Oh, yes she would. Bye.’
Ceri skipped off. Jasmine watched her go, admiring the way her short dress swayed from side to side as she swung her hips. She walked like a girl, with grace and sexiness.’

Jasmine enjoyed a walk on the headland recommended by Ceri. It was some weeks since she had been running so she felt out of condition. The steep climb got her breathing deeply again and made her conscious of her leg muscles. She paused in various places to enjoy the views across the sea and the mountains. She especially enjoyed the solitude. Despite the fine weather she met no-one on her walk until she reached a small shop and café at the summit. She joined the tourists who had arrived by cable-car but after a refreshing drink she set off alone again.
As she wandered, taking paths almost at random, she thought about Ceri, comparing her tales of transition with her own story. Both had had a steady and secure home life while commencing the changes that would lead to them presenting as well as identifying as female. They were the lucky ones, Jasmine knew. There were many who struggled against prejudice and without support, but Jasmine was also aware that Ceri had faced problems and would have more to confront in the future. Her boss, Tegan, was just one amongst many.
It was late afternoon when Jasmine finally returned to the metalled roads of the town and arrived, footsore and tired back at her hotel. She relished a long bath before making herself ready for the evening meal.
Ceri served her but was subdued and barely said a word. Jasmine tried to engage her in conversation but noticed her casting worried glances to where Tegan was serving other guests. After dinner Jasmine retired to her room to read and watch TV before finding herself getting sleepy.

The grumpy waitress was not to be seen at breakfast. Ceri skipped around the dining room with a broad smile on her face. She was assisted by an older, plump woman who also had a cheerful demeanour. Jasmine was interested by how the atmosphere of the dining room was different this morning. The weather outside was sunny again and now it seemed to have spread inside as well. As Ceri cleared the last of Jasmine’s plates, Jasmine decided to ask a question.
‘Would you like to meet for coffee again?’ She hoped she hadn’t read too much into their pleasant encounter the previous morning.
‘I’d love to,’ Ceri replied with a smile.
‘Same place and time?’ Jasmine asked.
‘Super.’ Ceri staggered away with am armful of dirty crockery.

Jasmine decided to wait outside the café. The incoming tide was again providing an interesting pattern of waves on the wide beach. Ceri approached after just a few minutes, her golden hair again released from the elastic bands that held it captive in the dining room.
They sat with their coffees at the same table as the previous day.
‘You were happier this morning than you were last evening,’ Jasmine observed.
‘You can guess why,’ Ceri replied with her lips covered in foamy milk.
‘No Tegan?’
The girl nodded.
’Is it her day off?’
Ceri put her mug down. ‘Yes. The one day of the week when I can get on with the job without her grumbling. Myfanwy is lovely to work with. I wish she’d do more than the two days.’
‘Two days?’
‘She covers my day off too. She’s retired really. Says she doesn’t want to do more than two days a week.’
‘I could see the difference in you. You weren’t a happy bunny last evening.’
Ceri frowned. ‘I wasn’t. Tegan had a go at me.’
‘What about?’
‘Us.’
‘Us?’ Jasmine didn’t know what Ceri meant.
‘You and me. Meeting like this. Apparently, she was hanging round the pier when we met yesterday and saw us come in here together.’
Jasmine shrugged, ‘So what?’
‘Tegan says staff should not fraternise with the guests. She thinks I’m trying to get a better tip from you or something.’
‘It’s none of her business.’ Jasmine was annoyed that another person should have an opinion on her relationship with her new friend.
‘It isn’t, but she is my boss, so she thinks she can have a go at me for anything. She’s glad she’s found something else other than just my work to go on about; as well as being trans of course.’
‘Does she know I am too?’
‘Oh, yes. She used some words for both of us.’
Jasmine felt herself stiffen at Ceri’s statement. ‘You do know that if she is intimidating you and using derogatory trans terms that could be a hate-crime. You could report her.’
Ceri looked horrified. ‘I don’t want to go to the police.’
‘They are on our side.’ Well, most of them are, Jasmine thought. There were a few of her ex-colleagues who couldn’t see past their own gender certainty.
‘Yeah, perhaps. I can sort it. I won’t have to work with Tegan for much longer.’

………………….to be continued.