Jasmine socialises

20170930_153501 (2)The news continues to be mind-chillingly awful but a number of items this week made me wonder what kind of life our children and young people are going to experience.  One was about the swarms of paedophiles who descend on any young girl (I think it’s particularly girls) who decide to post photos on certain social media apps. The reporter talked of girls receiving thousands of responses to any picture of themselves followed by requests to “show a bit more”. Are children learning to discriminate between genuine friendships and the creepy, wheedling, grooming by older men? I hope so but I’m not sure how.

The second item concerned “fake news”, previously known as lies. Not many young people sit down to watch the News at 6 or any other time and I doubt whether many use the newspaper apps on their smart phones. The only “news” they pick up are the posts on social media apps like Snapchat.  These share lies, gossip, conspiracy theories, and extremist propaganda tarted up as reasonable viewpoints which swamp the truth and informed opinions.  How do young people, or any of us for that matter, sort the truth from the lies? It is very difficult and I think we all fall for misplaced blaring indignation from time to time.

The point about both of these news items was that the internet providers and social media services are doing nothing to correct it. Google, Facebook, Instagram and all the others are turning over huge sums of money (largely from advertising), mutter about protecting people, but actually do very little. I think something will (must) happen in the not too distant future which will change the situation but not necessarily return us to a state of internet innocence.

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Let’s get back to contemplating the approaching festive season – there’s still plenty of time to purchase your copies of my Jasmine Frame  and September Weekes books, either on Kindle or as paperbacks (from paintedladiesnovel@btinternet.com).  And here is the next episode of the novella, Reflex, set in 2006 (before all that social media stuff really got started).  Jasmine is having an evening off. . .

Reflex: Part 7

Jasmine parked the Fiesta alongside a few other cars on the gravel beside the low brick building. It was the village hall but was some distance outside the village and surrounded only by trees and fields. A little light filtered through curtains but otherwise it was dark. She and Angela got out and approached the door. Jasmine found herself surprisingly apprehensive. She had been going out as Jasmine for years and had visited clubs on straight and LGBT nights with and without Angela many times. This, however, was her first time at a social meeting for transgendered people.
Angela pulled on the heavy door and a waft of slightly warmer air, a buzz of conversation and the music of the Beegees emerged. Jasmine wondered if there would be dancing. They stepped inside the hall. It was brightly lit with six tables set out around the edge. About a dozen people turned as one and looked at them. They all appeared to be women, although a couple were wearing trousers. A rather buxom lady with dark hair approached them. She wore a flowery dress.
‘Ah, you must be Angela and Jasmine. I’m Belinda,’ she said in a deep male voice, holding out her hand. Jasmine and Angela shook it in turn. ‘Come and meet everyone.’ Belinda ushered them towards the little groups of ladies. The conversation, that had stopped, picked up again.
In a whirl of name exchanging, Belinda introduced Jasmine and Angela to all the other members of the Butterflies Club. There were a pair of married couples but all the rest were single “ladies”; Jasmine was unsure who was a transsexual living full-time as a woman, or a transvestite spending the evening in their alternative femme persona. She thought though that she would be able to work it out after a few minutes observation and chat.
‘Now there’s one last person to meet,’ Belinda said, guiding them to the hatch in the middle of the side wall. There, smiling from behind a counter, was a small lady in an apron, cutting up portions of Tesco quiche. ‘This is Susan, my darling wife,’ Belinda announced.
Susan greeted them and was soon chatting to Angela about Butterflies, her life with Belinda and gossip about the other members. Belinda asked what Jasmine would like to drink. She opted for an orange juice while Angela accepted a large white wine. That means I’m driving home, Jasmine thought, but wasn’t too disappointed.
She went off to chat with the other Butterflies. Most appeared to be in late middle-age, with a taste in fashion that, except for one or two, may have been gleaned from their mothers. The exceptions favoured short dresses with stockings and high heels and shoulder-length hair. There were all sorts of professions represented from road hauliers to doctors with a sprinkling of telecoms engineers. There was one member who Jasmine found herself gravitating to. She appeared younger than the others and was dressed more like herself – a skirt over opaque tights with, in her case, a loose jumper on top. Also, her brown hair, cut in a bob, appeared to be her own. She had been introduced as Rachel. She admired Jasmine’s embellished and more fitted top. They were soon chatting about mundane matters and commenting on the other members’ tastes.
Soon food was served and the Butterflies descended on the buffet more like another species of insect. Rachel however took a small plate of food.
‘It’s the oestrogen,’ she said. ‘It makes me put on weight when I just glance at a currant bun.’
‘You’re transitioning,’ Jasmine said, then regretted blurting it out.
‘All done,’ Rachel said with obvious pride, ‘I had my surgery last year.’
‘I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have assumed. . .’
Rachel shook her head, ‘No, it’s OK. I don’t mind talking about it, and if you can’t here,’ she waved at the other ladies, ‘where can you talk about being trans.’
Jasmine nodded in agreement. ‘When did you start?’
‘Oh, years ago, in my twenties. It took ages to reach the top of the list.’
‘Did you always know you were a woman?’
‘As far back as I can remember. Although I didn’t know what transitioning would involve until I was in my late teens. It’s easy for kids today, with the internet to tell them all about trannies.’
‘You were dressing as a girl when you were a teenager?’
‘Oh, yes. Every opportunity I had.’
Jasmine nodded. She had done the same although she had never decided to transition.
‘Did your parents know?’
Rachel snorted. ‘Oh yes, they knew alright.’
‘And supported you?’
‘Ah, that’s more complicated. My mother did, my father didn’t. He couldn’t bear me looking like a girl. I think it offended his own masculinity.’
‘What happened?’
‘My parents divorced when I was fifteen.’
‘Did they blame it on you being trans?’
Rachel shrugged. ‘My father may have done but I haven’t seen him since. My mother has never mentioned it, but she’s always been on my side. If we were out together and someone had a go at me she would tear into them. Nearly got us into trouble with the cops a couple of times.’
‘Really, how?’
Rachel thought for a moment. ‘Once we were out shopping. A couple of lads barged into us and pushed me around a bit. My Mum launched into them whirling her handbag like an offensive weapon. There happened to be a cop nearby and he waded in to separate them.’
‘Mothers can be fierce at times,’ Jasmine said. Rachel asked about Jasmine’s experience and relationship with Angela.
They were putting the tables away when Jasmine realised that the evening had passed. Rachel said farewell and Jasmine was left with Angela, Belinda and a few of the other ladies finishing the washing-up. Belinda bent down to turn off the small CD player sitting on the stage then straightened up.
‘Well, that’s it until next month,’ she said. ‘I hope we see you again, Jasmine, Angela.’
‘Yes, I hope so,’ Jasmine replied, ‘but it can be difficult. I’m on shifts you see, and sometimes don’t get off when I should.’
‘Oh, what do you do?’ Susan asked while folding the tea-towels.
‘I’m a police officer,’ Jasmine replied then wondered whether it was wise to reveal her career, ‘Oh, please don’t spread that around.’
Belinda nodded. ‘Don’t worry, we won’t. All personal details are confidential in Butterflies. Actually, some of the girls are a bit wary of the police.’
‘Why?’ Jasmine asked.
‘They remember times when the police weren’t too supportive of trans girls.’
‘Not now, surely.’ Jasmine thought of the diversity training she had received.
‘No, I’m talking about the eighties and earlier. Some of us have been around that long,’ Belinda winked. ‘It wasn’t unknown for police to arrest men dressed as women, give them a beating and then put them in front of a magistrate for disturbing the peace.’
Jasmine shivered. ‘Things have changed.’
‘I know,’ Belinda smiled, ‘and the Gender Recognition Act has been a help to all of us.’
Jasmine and Angela said their goodbyes and left the hall. They were driving along the country lanes towards Reading and bed before Angela spoke.
‘Well, what do you think?’
‘About what?’
‘The Butterflies. Do you want to come again?’
‘Yes, I think so. Doesn’t have to be every month. It’s not the most exciting of evenings and most of them are pretty old.’
Angela laughed. ‘Yes, and look like men in drag.’
‘I think it’s difficult for some. Perhaps they don’t have someone like you to support them. They’re a bit out of date.’
‘Nevertheless, you found someone to talk to.’
‘Yes, Rachel. She’s a post-op.’
‘Really. Gave you ideas, did she?’
Jasmine took his eyes off the road to look at Angela. Her face was in the dark but he knew she was examining him closely.
‘Yes, well no. If you mean do I think I want to be like her, then no I don’t.’ She wanted to convince herself as much as Angela and wasn’t sure she had. ‘She took a long time to complete her transition and her parents divorced, probably because of it, but her mother was really supportive.’
‘Like your friend, Melissa’s mother.’
‘Hmm, yes,’ Jasmine thought about what Rachel had said and about Melissa. She realised that she was dressed almost the same as Melissa had been when they met earlier in the day. Had she copied the young girl’s style unconsciously this evening? The trans-girl was certainly on her mind.

……………………. to be continued

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Jasmine faces a dilemma

cover mediumToday, viz. Saturday 2nd December, I am spending two hours at the Castle Bookshop in the fine Shropshire town of Ludlow. The idea is to sign copies of Cold Fire that visitors to the shop purchase.  The difficult bit is persuading them to buy.  I like meeting potential readers but I am not the best salesman.  I could talk about September Weekes, Cold Fire, the settings and the plot for hours but making that vital sale, well, it doesn’t come naturally. Still, I’m looking forward to the session and it is very kind of the bookshop owner, Stanton, to allow a relatively unknown, if local, author the opportunity to take over (a little bit of) the shop for a couple of hours.

One boost is the delightful review published on the Rising Shadow website  (read it here).  It is very gratifying to find someone who has enjoyed my previous September Weekes books (Evil Above the Stars vol, 1, 2 & 3) and who appreciates the features I included in Cold Fire.  I do hope the review gets read widely and spurs many people, of all ages, to buy and read it.  Here is the “headline” quote.

“This is . . .a well-told fantasy story that will intrigue adult and young adults readers alike.”

Of course I will also have my other books with me – Evil Above the Stars and the three Jasmine Frame novels (Painted Ladies, Bodies By Design and The Brides’ Club Murder).  You don’t have to travel to Ludlow to buy them – just email your order (with the delivery address) to  paintedladiesnovel@btinternet.com.

They are £9.99 each except for Painted Ladies which is £8.99 (including postage).  In fact I am giving Painted Ladies away free with either (or both) of the other Jasmine novels.

Oh, and they are all on Kindle.

And so to the freebie – the next episode of Reflex, the Jasmine Frame prequel.

Reflex: Part 6

‘Are you sure about that Mrs Chapman?’ DS Sharma said, glaring at the woman. He pushed his chair back and stood up. ‘Come on Frame. We’re done here.’ He took the few steps to the door, turned and spoke to the sobbing woman. ‘You can go Mrs Chapman but we’ll have more questions for you.’
James followed him from the room. He wanted to comfort the woman, tell her he understood a little about how Melissa felt, how she felt. But he didn’t. In the corridor, Sharma faced him.
‘Any thoughts, Frame?’
‘She’s overwrought, Sir. She’s lost her husband and her child’s been taken away.’
‘You’re right. We’re not going to get much from her until she’s settled a bit. Perhaps if we let her see the boy, she’ll be less emotional. Thank you for your assistance, Frame.’
‘Is that all?’ James felt as though he was being cast off.
‘For now. I’ll call you in when we interview the boy again. You can go back to your duties.’
He walked away. James went in search of PC Ward, his partner, but she had gone out in the car. He sighed and settled at a desk to deal with paperwork until she returned.

James parked outside the secure unit for young offenders on the edge of Abingdon. He should have been heading home to Angela. She would be waiting for him as it was a Saturday afternoon. Having just completed a morning shift following his afternoon shift yesterday he was feeling quite tired. Nevertheless, he felt he had to make this call. He pulled his anorak around him and got out of the Fiesta. There was a cold, northerly wind blowing leaves into the drab vestibule of the building. James pushed the door open and entered a small foyer with a bored looking man in a uniform sitting at a reception desk.
‘I wonder if it is possible to see Matthew Chapman?’ he asked.
‘Are you family?’ the security guard/receptionist asked.
‘No, but I have an interest in his case. I’m a police officer, PC James Frame.’ James showed his warrant card.
‘A bit irregular,’ the man muttered but lifted a phone. He spoke into it, listened, then looked at James. ‘Someone will come out to see you.’
James thanked him and stepped away from the desk. A few minutes passed then the automatic security doors leading to the interior of the building swung open. A woman emerged. James recognised her as the person who had accompanied Matthew/Melissa at the interview the day before. He hadn’t looked at her much then but now he noticed that she was probably just a few years older than himself, was dressed in a casual pair of trousers and jumper and had a smiley, welcoming face.
She held out a hand. ‘PC Frame, we met yesterday. I’m Karen Finlay.’ James shook her hand. ‘Are you on duty?’ she added.
James looked down at his civilian clothes. ‘No, I’ve left my gear at the station. This is a personal call. I wanted to see how Melissa, er, Matthew is.’
Karen gazed at him, her head cocked to one side, as she considered. ‘Um, I’m not sure. . . but you said you knew someone who was transsexual?’ James nodded. She paused again. Finally, she spoke. ‘OK. It might do some good to see someone who understands. Come through.’ She lead James through the double set of doors into the building. They entered a communal area with brightly coloured chairs and a soft carpet.
‘Stay here,’ Karen said and left him. James examined the pictures of superheroes on the walls. A few minutes later Karen returned accompanied by a girl. James did a double-take before he recognised Melissa. She was wearing a short denim skirt with a sparkly top showing a hint of breasts, and her hair had been back combed into a mass of curls with tiny bows placed randomly. She wore eye liner and lipstick and her nails were painted bright purple.
‘Melissa!’ James cried. ‘How are you feeling?’
The girl stood in front of him, smiling, with Karen at her side.
‘They’ve let me be me,’ she said, grinning.
‘So I see. I like your hair.’
‘That was Jude.’
‘Jude?’
Karen answered. ‘One of the girls who is, um, resident here.’ James nodded understanding that Karen meant that she was one of the young offenders.
‘Yeah, she says she wants to be a hairdresser when she gets out,’ Melissa said.
‘I’m pleased for you,’ James said.
‘Do you really know someone who has transitioned?’ the girl asked.
James thought about the question. While at university he had met a few trans women at various stages in their transition, but Tamsin was supposed to be a reflection of himself and transitioning to live fulltime as a woman was a fantasy he toyed with.
‘Yes,’ he said.
‘Were they happy?’
There wasn’t a simple answer. ‘Transitioning is hard,’ he replied, ‘harder for some than others, but I think all transgender people want to be themselves, just like you do. You look as though you’re happy.’
The girl beamed at him, ‘I am. I will be if I can stay like this always.’
He addressed Karen, ‘Will the court let her be herself.’
‘We’re looking into that,’ Karen said. ‘Early days yet, but it was felt that Melissa needed the opportunity to express herself while she comes to terms with what has happened.’
‘She’s been charged,’ James stated.
‘Yes, manslaughter. Her defence lawyer will be hoping to change that. I don’t think we can discuss that here, PC Frame.’
‘Call me James. Yes, I understand.’ He looked at the girl, ‘You look fantastic, Melissa. I’m sorry you have to go to court.’
The girl’s face darkened. ‘I didn’t mean to hurt him.’
James shook his head. ‘I know. You were defending yourself. If that knife hadn’t been there. . .’
‘That’s what I don’t understand,’ Melissa said,
James was confused, ‘What do you mean?’
Melissa shrugged. ‘Why was the knife there? I’ve been thinking about it ever since that Asian guy asked me those questions about it.’
‘Wasn’t it just left on the worktop?’
‘Mum wouldn’t do that.’
‘No?’
‘She’s a bit OCD about keeping the kitchen tidy, and she was manic about knives.’
‘Well, I suppose just once. . .’
‘No really manic. She was always going on about how easy it is to cut yourself on a knife.’ ‘Oh.’ James wondered what it meant.
‘She was right, wasn’t she,’ Melissa went on, her smiles gone. ‘If it hadn’t been there just by my hand, I wouldn’t have picked it up and, and . . .’ She covered her face with her hands.
‘But god knows what might have happened to you and your mother, if you hadn’t stopped your father. Discovering your mother helping you, he could have killed her.’
Melissa shook her head. ‘But he shouldn’t have found us. Mum said he was doing overtime and wouldn’t be back till late.’
‘Maybe his plans changed. It’s a terrible tragedy, Melissa.’
The girl clung to Karen with tears running down her cheeks. James felt that he’d made things worse by stirring her feelings up again.
‘I’m sorry Melissa. I shouldn’t have come. There’s nothing you can do now, but we’ve got to make sure that the charges are dropped and it’s recognised that you were defending yourself, and your mother for that matter.’
Karen looked questioningly. ‘Do you think that’s likely?’
James shrugged. ‘I don’t know. DS Sharma was talking about a charge of murder. Look, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be talking about it.’
The woman wrapped her arms around the girl. ‘Of course. Look perhaps it wasn’t a good idea letting you see Melissa; not this soon. Perhaps when we know a bit more.’
‘Yes. I’d better go.’
‘I’ll let you out.’ Karen released Melissa and told her to return to her room, then she unlocked the doors and let James out. He hurried from the building, distraught at the upset his presence had caused. He got into the car and sat gripping the steering wheel. The things Melissa had said bounced around in his head. Why had that knife been lying around waiting to be picked up and why had Eric Chapman been able to surprise his wife and child?

James put his key in the lock and opened the door. Angela came running and flung her arms around him.
‘At last! I thought you were caught up in some incident or other.’
He kissed her on her lips, then paused for breath. ‘No, I stopped off to see Melissa at the centre. That’s why I’m late.’
‘Melissa?’
‘The transgirl. Matthew. Killed her father when he attacked her. Remember?’
‘Yes, of course. Should you have done that? Gone to see her.’
‘Not really, but I wanted to see how she was. They’re letting her dress as a girl. She’s happy – when she forgets what has happened.’
‘Good, but you mustn’t get too involved.’ Angela showed her concern. ‘Unless you want them to find out about Jasmine.’
‘No, of course not. Now where’s that cup of tea?’
‘What cup of tea?’ Angela grinned.
‘The one you were going to offer me when I walked in.’
‘Of course, Sir.’ Angela walked into the kitchen while James slumped on to the sofa. ‘You have remembered, haven’t you?’ she called out.
‘Remembered what?’
‘That group, Butterflies, meets tonight. You do still want to try it out, don’t you?’
Things clicked into place in James’ mind. It was Saturday afternoon, which explained why Angela was at home, and she had discovered that a trans group met somewhere near on this Saturday evening. Jasmine was going to have an evening out.

…………………..to be continued.

 

Jasmine takes sides

Last Sunday’s Observer newspaper was quite a bumper edition for transgender articles (hardly a week passes without something on the topic).  There was a full page profile of Grayson Perry and a full page article about the work of the Tavistock and Portman clinic which advises young people with gender issues and has seen a huge rise in demand for its services in recent years, particularly from girls transitioning to boys.

There was also an article by Catherine Bennett on bullying and the terms of abuse used by bullies.  It began with comments on the Daily Telegraph attack on the “Brexit Mutineers” with its front page pictures of all the Conservative MPs who rebelled against the government over Brexit.  Strangely though, the article segued into a discussion  of the bullying tactics used by transgender activists against women who do not see transwomen as women.  Bennett’s language in the article was very convoluted but I got the impression that she actually sides with the people who think that those who have transitioned according to the rules of the 2004 Gender Recognition Act (GRA) should not enjoy the rights of the gender they identify with.  She seems to think that the transgender lobby is the stronger and more successful at getting its way. The amount of publicity about transgender people these days may suggest that but I think she is wrong.

WP_20170824_11_55_17_ProI have to say that I disagree with the belligerence shown by some trans-activists.  I don’t agree with preventing someone speak on any subject, provided there is provision for the other side’s views to be given at the same event.  I also don’t agree with calling people names.  Bennett refers to the acronym TERF being used as a term of abuse.  It actually stands for Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist  i.e. those vocal feminists who do not embrace transwomen into their movement, such as Germaine Greer.  Is calling someone a “terf” or a “yuppie” a statement of fact or abuse?  Bennett seems to include trans anger at the views espoused by such women as being an example of the misogyny women experience in other areas of their lives. The suggestion that “transphobe” be used as a more readily understood term of abuse for these people is treated ironically.  Bennett makes a lot of the attacks by the trans-activists on those that speak against transgender and non-binary reforms but seems to ignore the reverse – the attacks on trans-people and the lack of rights for those that are gender-fluid or agender.

It is clear that the interaction between some trans-activists and some feminists has become violent and out of control. I think, however, that both sides have lost sight of the issue – that gender equality is still a long way off and that society has yet to understand that gender identity is not simply male or female with medical intervention for those who don’t fit.  In my imagined genderless utopia, all people have equal rights and opportunities and can adopt whatever personal style and appearance they wish. Those people who want to have babies and bring up children can do so with assistance from society (with the caveat that populations growth is discouraged). Nobody should impose their sexual desires on another without their consent and no person should be singled out for abusive “banter”.

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That’s all for now on that.  Let’s get on with the fiction.  Here’s part 5 of the Jasmine Frame novella, Reflex. Just a reminder that the events described in this story take place in 2006, not long after the passing of the GRA when police forces were still coming to terms with diversity in all its forms. It is a prequel to Painted Ladies (set six years later).

Reflex: Part 5

James followed DS Sharma into the staff rest room. The DS filled a kettle, switched it on then turned to glare at James.
‘Don’t ever correct me in an interview again, PC Frame.’
Again, James thought, there will be an again? He wanted that opportunity, although not necessarily with the detective. Nevertheless, he needed to mollify Sharma.
‘I’m sorry. It just came out. I think of Melissa as a girl.’
‘Do you think he looks like a girl?’
James thought of the young person slouched in the chair in the interview room, wearing jeans, sweat shirt and trainers. Although small and slight for a fourteen-year-old, with a long and thick head of hair, the lack of any hint of breasts presented a boyish figure.
‘Not particularly,’ he answered after a pause, ‘but it’s what’s in her head that matters. Melissa thinks she’s a girl.’
Sharma scowled, ‘But legally he’s a boy and that’s how he’ll be when he goes to court, so that is how we will address him. Got it?’
‘Yes, Sir.’ James wondered when or if he would have an opportunity to speak to Matthew/Melissa again. The DS dropped a teabag into a mug.
‘You seem to have been quite affected by this trans person you knew. Tamsin was it?’
‘Er, yes, Sir.’
‘The urge that these people have, it’s strong.’
‘Yes, Sir.’ James nodded.
‘Strong enough that it persisted even through the beatings his father meted out?’
‘Yes, Sir. Nothing makes the feeling that you’re in the wrong body go away.’ James felt that himself and empathised with Melissa’s wish to be female, but he had never experienced the abuse she had, nor had he felt so much pressure to transition. ‘Perhaps being isolated so that only her, sorry his, mother knew and supported him made the desire even stronger.’
‘Hmm.’ The kettle clicked off and Sharma turned to pour water over the teabag. ‘Strong enough to murder your father?’
James was shocked. When a police officer used the word “murder” it had a particular meaning.
‘I don’t think Matthew planned or intended to kill his father, Sir.’
‘Don’t you? You’ve told me how strong this need to be female is. He’s been denied it by his father for ten years. He’s growing up, going through puberty, as you said. We know what effect those hormones can have; all that testosterone churning around his body. Young bull, old bull. He decides to fight back. Keeps the knife handy for when his father returns.’
‘But he wasn’t expecting his father to come back when he did. Matthew said so.’
The DS shrugged. ‘So, what do you think happened, Frame?’ He hooked the teabag out of his mug and dropped in the sink.
‘I think it was an accident or self-defence, Sir. In the surprise of being attacked by his father Matthew just picked up whatever was to hand to defend himself. Unfortunately, it happened to be a knife which ended up in Mr Chapman’s chest.’
‘Through his heart, Frame. He was dead in moments.’
‘Yes, Sir, and we know that Matthew was very upset by that.’
Sharma took a sip of his tea. ‘So, it’s murder versus appropriate use of force in self-defence.’
‘His father was a lot bigger than him, Sir.’
Sharma ignored James’ comment. ‘To decide which it was we need evidence or a confession.’
James was confused. ‘What evidence, Sir? It happened in the heat of the moment.’
‘The knife, Frame. Why was it there just where the boy could grab it?’
‘It was the kitchen, Sir. Things get left lying around in kitchens, even knives.’
‘Did you look at that kitchen, Constable?’
James stared. Had he looked around the kitchen? He couldn’t recall anything of it at all except for the bloody body of the man on the floor and the sobbing mother.
‘Er, no, Sir.’
‘Spotless, it was, except for the blood of course. Nothing out of place. Apart from the brush, comb and hairdressing bits and pieces that Mrs Chapman had been using on the boy, the only thing not in a drawer or cupboard was that knife. Just that knife out of all the kitchen utensils happened to be on the worktop when the boy needed it. Don’t you think that is suspicious?’
James thought that Sharma was being a bit pernickety about the tidiness of the Chapman household.
‘Perhaps Mrs Chapman had been going to use it or put it away when Matthew interrupted her to have his hair styled.’
Sharma nodded. ‘A valid point, Frame. We’ll have to put it to Mrs Chapman when we question her.’
‘We, sir?’
‘Yes, you and me. You seem to have some empathy with her son, so she might open up to you. She’s waiting for us in the other interview room.’ He put the empty mug down. ‘Come on.’
Once again, James followed the DS along the corridor to another small, sparsely furnished room. Mrs Chapman sat alone at the table.
‘Good afternoon, Mrs Chapman. Thanks for coming in to see us. No, don’t get up.’
The woman sank back into the plastic chair. James looked at her, seeing her properly for the first time. With the dark eyes revealing loss of sleep she bore a close likeness to her son or daughter. Matthew/Melissa shared her build and facial characteristics.
‘When can I see. . .?’ she asked. Sharma and James sat down facing her.
‘Your son? Very soon, Mrs Chapman. I can understand your wish to see him. He is in the care of Children’s Services. I’m afraid you won’t be able to be alone with him as he is suspected of a serious offence.’
The woman opened her mouth in horror. ‘Serious offence? What do you mean?’
‘Your son killed your husband, Mrs Chapman.’ Sharma’s tone suggested that it was an everyday occurrence.
‘But that was an accident,’ the mother cried.
Sharma leaned forward. ‘He thrust the point of knife though his father’s chest and pierced his heart. Was that an accident?’
The woman sat with her mouth open. She closed it, shook her head. ‘But, it wasn’t meant. Eric was swinging his fists.’
‘Did you see what your husband was doing, Mrs Chapman? I understood that he had hit you to the floor.’
‘Yes, yes, that’s right, but I saw him hitting Melissa around the head, before she grabbed the knife.’
The DS sat back in his chair and stretched. ‘Ah, you said Melissa. So, you believe your child is a girl.’
Mrs Chapman was startled, surprised by the Detective Sergeant’s change of tone and topic. She mumbled.
Sharma cocked his head, ‘Sorry, Mrs Chapman. I missed what you said.’
The woman looked directly at him. ‘I’ve known she was really a girl since she was a toddler. As soon as she started to talk she insisted that she was a girl not a boy. I don’t know where she heard the name Melissa, but she couldn’t have been much older than four when she told me that was her name not Matthew.’
‘But your husband didn’t accept that did he?’
‘No, he couldn’t bear the idea that he had a daughter not a son.’
‘He used violence on you and your child?’
Mrs Chapman nodded, and James noticed tears form in her eyes and sobs vibrate her chest.
DS Sharma pointed to James. ‘PC Frame, here, apparently has experience with people like your son. Transsexuals. He has some questions for you.’
Do I, James asked himself. What questions? The woman looked at him with an appeal in her eyes.
‘Um, yes,’ he began, ‘As DS Sharma says, I knew a transgirl. She had transitioned when she left home after finishing school. Do you know that that is what Melissa wanted?’
The mother nodded. ‘Yes, we were just waiting for her to reach sixteen.’
James felt sympathy for the mother, but he knew he should ask some other questions. ‘The two or three years when a boy is going through puberty feels like a long time to them, an eternity in which they can see their bodies changing, making it more difficult to pass as a woman. How did it affect her?’
‘Melissa hated what was happening to her.’
‘Couldn’t you have got her help, despite her father?’
The woman froze. ‘I couldn’t do anything that Eric disapproved of. He wouldn’t let me take Melissa to the doctor.’
Sharma butted in. ‘You say you wouldn’t disobey your husband but time after time you helped your son make himself look like a girl – doing his hair and make-up. That was against Mr Chapman’s express wishes wasn’t it.’
The woman broke down into a sob. ‘I know, but Melissa so much wanted to look like a girl. I couldn’t refuse her.’
‘You encouraged him in his wish to be a girl,’ the DS accused.
Mrs Chapman looked confused. ‘Yes, but I had too.’
‘You encouraged him,’ Sharma continued, ‘until he so hated his father that he decided to kill him when the opportunity arose.’ Melissa’s mother shook her head violently. ‘He got the knife out of the kitchen drawer and kept it with him for when his father returned and predictably lost his temper because you were pandering to his girly urges. Your son planned to kill his father because he thought that was the only way he could become the girl her thought he was.’
’No, no,’ The woman cried, ‘She didn’t mean to kill him.’

…..to be continued.

Jasmine asks the questions

I know it is wrong to judge people on their appearance, but is it wrong to judge them on their thoughts and actions? I find I am doing it more and more and it’s scary.  It began, of course, with that confounded referendum. Since then, when I meet someone for the first time and get a hint that they were/are a “Leaver”, various thoughts go through my mind: They succumbed to the lying propaganda of the Leave brigade once; do they still follow what is said in certain, unmentionable, newspapers and other media sources? Is their reasoning so faulty that they cannot see the harm that leaving the EU will bring? They voted to remove immigrants, so are they racist? What is their opinion on other minorities?

I don’t necessarily know or learn the answers to these questions but my suspicions remain and I find that I don’t want to be associated with the person if I can help it. Am I being stupid or is my fear shared by others?  I didn’t used to care too much what people voted in elections (although UKIP supporters stretched my goodwill somewhat) but this referendum has caused or highlighted divisions that were suppressed before.  As we stumble ever closer to leaving the EU the strains are growing stronger and I really do fear for the future.  And that’s before even considering the situation elsewhere in the world.

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Let’s get away from such issues and get back to my fictional world where Jasmine Frame is a living, breathing transsexual detective.  Here is the next part of the latest prequel to Painted Ladies and its sequels.

 

Reflex: Part 4

DS Sharma lead James into the interview room. Matthew, or Melissa as James was sure he preferred, was slouched in a chair pushed back from the table. His eyes were dark hollows and his skin was pasty. He appeared exhausted but looked up as they walked in. A glint of recognition came into his eyes and he shuffled into a more upright position. The woman sitting in the chair next to Matthew also looked at James, scanning up and down his uniform as if deciding whether he was a proper police officer.
Sharma sat down and beckoned James to sit beside him, opposite Matthew. The DS flicked the switch on the recording unit.
‘Resuming interview at. . . two-twenty p.m. PC Frame has joined us.’ He nodded to James.
What do I say, James thought. The boy was looking at him, an appeal in his eyes.
‘Hello, Melissa. Is that what you’d like to be called?’
She nodded.
‘I’m James. Do you remember that we met last night?’
Another nod.
James searched for a question that would draw some words from the young person.
‘Do you remember when you first realised you were a girl.’
Melissa frowned and shook her head.
‘You don’t remember?’ James expressed a little surprise.
With a voice that croaked, the girl replied, ‘No. I mean it’s not that I don’t remember it’s just that I’ve always known I was a girl.’
‘You weren’t confused?’ James asked.
Melissa leaned forward, dragged her chair closer to the table, her eyes focussed on James. She was suddenly animated.
‘I was confused because people kept on talking about me as if I was a boy, but I knew I was girl. I can remember that from when I was about four I think.’
‘I see,’ James said, wondering what effect that had on the young child. His own experience wasn’t quite as marked. He could recall wondering why he was treated like a boy while uncertain as to what he was. That confusion was still with him almost every minute of the day. ‘So how did you learn that you were supposed to behave like a boy.’
Melissa’s face sagged. ‘My father. . . my father made me.’
‘How?’
‘He hit me, shut me in my bedroom, took my dresses away.’
‘You had dresses?’
Melissa shrugged. ‘One or two. Mum bought them for me when I asked her. She let me wear them when my father was out.’
‘Oh, so your mother knew about Melissa. Has she always known?’
Another shrug, ‘I guess so.’
‘Did she do anything to stop your father hitting you and locking you up?’
‘Now and again, but he hit her too.’
James nodded. He was beginning to get a picture of family life in the Chapman household.
‘For how long has this been going on – your father beating you and your mother.’
‘As long as I can remember. Anytime he thought I wasn’t behaving like a boy.’
‘You’re fourteen aren’t you Melissa, so it’s been ten years or more?’
Melissa nodded.
‘Did anyone else know that you were really a girl.’
The trans-girl shook her head, ‘Mum made me promise not to tell anyone. She said my father would be really angry if he found out that someone else knew.’
‘You never played dressing up games with friends?’
‘I never had friends. I didn’t want to play with boys and I was afraid what would happen if I got friendly with girls.’
James felt a weight of sadness on his chest. He had kept Jasmine secret for years and it had been a huge relief when she was revealed to his sister, Holly. When he went to university, the freedom to be who he wanted to be was a joyous relief. How had Melissa survived for so long with just the support of her mother?
‘I can’t imagine how difficult it was for you, Melissa,’ he said, looking into the girl’s eyes. She seemed to absorb his sympathy. ‘Had things been getting better or worse?’
‘Worse.’
‘In what way?’
Melissa dropped her head and muttered. ‘I was afraid.’
‘Afraid? Of your father?’
‘Yes, but not just him.’
‘What else?’
‘Becoming a man.’
Mellissa’s meaning dawned on James. ‘You mean puberty.’ Melissa nodded. James recalled the same horror when he found changes happening in his body, changes that made it more difficult for him to pretend to himself that he was a girl.
Melissa lifted her head up to reveal tears running down her cheeks. ‘I knew what was going on. They told us at school. But I didn’t believe it. I dreamt of my breasts growing, my dick dropping off. Of course, it didn’t happen. Instead I started to get hairs on my chin and hard-ons. My body isn’t me anymore.’
‘You could have got help,’ James said thinking about the agencies that helped young transsexuals to transition in their teens, but he realised as he said it that it was nonsense. There was no help available to Melissa.
‘I know,’ Melissa gave an ironic laugh, ‘I use the internet you know. I know about Mermaids and the Portman Clinic. I’ve read about other trans kids, boys and girls. I thought of sending an email, asking for help, but I knew that they couldn’t do anything for me until I was sixteen without my parents’ – my father’s – consent.’
‘You felt trapped?’
‘I s’pose that was it.’
‘Did you do anything?’
Melissa glared at James, ‘I bought girl’s clothes and make up and hid them. I dressed up whenever my father was out.’
‘Did your mother know?’
‘Of course she did. She helped me put on eye shadow and stuff.’
‘Did your father find out?’
The girl shrank in on herself. She whispered, ‘A couple of times.’
‘What did he do?’
‘He beat me and Mum; threw my girl’s stuff out. Said he’d do me in if it happened again.’
DS Sharma had been listening to the conversation, taking notes, but now he leaned forward.
‘So, what was different about last night?’
Melissa jerked upright in her chair. ‘I. . . I don’t know. He should have gone to work for the evening, but he came back.’
Sharma pressed on, ‘What were you wearing when he came in?’
‘Jeans and a t-shirt.’ That wasn’t the answer James expected.
‘What happened?’ Sharma asked
Melissa trembled. ‘He went mad. He ran at us, knocked Mum over and slapped me.’
The DS frowned. ‘Why did he do that? You weren’t wearing girl’s clothes.’
‘Mum was brushing my hair and putting grips in.’
‘What?’ Sharma said.
James answered instead. ‘He realised that your mother was giving you a feminine hairstyle. That was enough for him to lose his temper.’
‘Don’t put words in his mouth, Frame,’ Sharma said, glaring at James.
‘Sorry.’
Sharma turned back to Melissa. ‘Is PC Frame correct?’
‘Yeah. He was always going on to me to get my hair cut. He cut it himself once. He wanted me to have a buzzcut but Mum stopped him.’
The DS eased himself back on his chair. ‘Okay so your father realised that you and your mother intended having a girly evening while he was at work. That might have made him angry. What happened next?’
Melissa shook her head. ‘I don’t know. One moment he was slapping me around the kitchen and the next he stopped and looked down at his chest. There was blood. . .’
‘You stabbed him with the kitchen knife.’
The girl shook, not with denial but with fear. ‘’I don’t know, I must have.’
Sharma pressed on. ‘Where did the knife come from? Did you get it out of the drawer?’
, ‘No, no. It was just there.’
‘On the table or the worktop?’
‘I suppose so.’
‘You picked it up and stabbed your father?’
Melissa covered her face with her hands. ‘I don’t know. Maybe I did.’
James asked, ‘Where was your mother, Melissa?’
The girl looked at him, confusion in her eyes. ‘Um, I don’t. . .on the floor?’
DS Sharma leaned forward. ‘It was you, Matthew Chapman, that thrust the knife into Eric Chapman, your father.’ He spoke as if pronouncing a verdict.
Melissa looked at him, her face blank. ‘Er, no, yes, I think, I’m not sure.’
The children’s support officer spoke. ‘I think that’s enough Detective Sergeant. Matthew is distraught.’
‘Thank you.’ DS Sharma stopped the recording. ‘We’ve got what we needed. You can take the boy back to the secure unit now.’
‘Girl,’ James said. ‘Her name is Melissa.’
‘It says, Matthew on the birth certificate,’ Sharma growled, ‘He’s a boy.’
Melissa was being helped out of the chair.
‘We’ll talk again, Melissa,’ James said, ‘You can tell me how you feel.’
‘Yes, we will interview you again,’ Sharma said, ‘but not today. Come on Frame. I want a word with you.’ He strode out of the interview room.

…………………..to be continued.

 

Jasmine on the spot

There have been so many bits of news this week that have annoyed me and increased my anxiety about the world but they are political and I don’t want to fill this blog with my diatribes. Still, it is worrying times.

20170930_130251 (2)There was one thing that amused me.  I was out in the street and was approached by a fellow that I never expected to speak to me nor I to him. He told me that we need to “do our own thing” and “hold our heads high” and that he thought I was great for doing what I do. I realised that he was referring to my gender fluidity.  At the time he spoke, I was in typical male garb but I had seen him out and about when I was dressed in a skirt and boots. Since I gave up wearing a wig and merely have my hair done in a more feminine style, a little make up and change of clothes is not going to disguise me. It was proof that I am out as my bi-gendered self and pleasant to be complimented on it. Perhaps society isn’t going down the pan.

Anyway, to Jasmine.  The next episode of the prequel to Painted Ladies is below. In Reflex, Jasmine spends most of her time as James and is not sure what her/his future holds. It is interesting to be writing this novella length story at the same time as writing Molly’s Boudoir which takes place much later in Jasmine’s transition.  Don’t forget that the other two novels, Bodies By Design and The Brides’ Club Murder are available as e-books and paperbacks.

 

Reflex: Part 3

Daylight was still a few hours away when James slid into bed beside Angela. She stirred and murmured but he didn’t want to wake her up. He lay there, feeling her warmth, while thinking about his night’s shift, his first active service on a response team and he had had a murder. Or was it manslaughter. Surely, Matthew had not intended to kill his father. In fact, James wondered whether the boy, or girl, should be charged at all. Could it be proved that he was defending himself from the larger man? James wondered what trauma the young transgirl had been through in her life – discovering herself while meeting opposition from one of the people who should be protecting her.
He had drifted into a light sleep when Angela got up to start her day. He turned over.
‘Morning love,’ he muttered.
Angela was apologetic. ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you up. You must be knackered.’
‘Mmm.’
‘How did it go, your first night on patrol?’
James pushed himself up his pillow and told her the story of the night. She sat down beside him and wrapped her arms around him as he described finding Matthew/Melissa, her arrest and then taking her to the police station before being handed to the children’s services while the investigation proceeded.
‘What will happen to her?’ Angela asked.
‘For a start it will be “him” as far as the investigating officer and the CPS are concerned. Melissa hadn’t begun to transition because I think, only she and her mother knew the truth about her gender identity.’
‘Okay, but he’ll have to go to court?’
‘I expect so. The charge will depend on whether they think he was defending himself or intended to harm or kill his father.’
‘What’s the evidence against him?’
‘I’m not sure, but that knife being so handy is a problem. Did Matthew have it with the intention of causing injury to the father who he disliked? He had the opportunity and they will dig around to find the motive for wanting to kill his father.’
‘But they will understand that he is really Melissa; that she is trans.’
‘I’m not sure Ange. She’ll be traumatised by what has happened and she may not be in a state to describe how she feels.’
‘What about the mother? Won’t she support her child?’
‘I don’t know. She’s lost a husband. I don’t know how close they were.’
‘Oh, James, what a mess.’
James bowed his head. ‘Yes. I really feel for the kid. How would I have felt if my father had found out about me when I was that age, and took against it.’
‘Your father never did know about Jasmine.’
‘I know, and because he’s dead now I will never know if he could understand why I have to be Jasmine now and then.’
‘Your mother knows.’
‘Yes, but she can’t accept that part of me wants to be a woman.’
‘She can’t let go of the boy she raised.’
James shrugged, ‘Which is why I wonder how much Melissa’s mother is on her side.’
Angela stood up. ‘I’d better get ready for work. What are you going to do about Melissa?’
James lay back. ‘What can I do? It’s in the hands of the investigating officer from the Violent and Serious Crime unit. He’ll interview Matthew and his mother and anyone else they think of, then pass the case to the CPS. I’ve written up my report with Sarah. That’s the end of my involvement.’

Later, James reported for duty. He met up with PC Ward in the briefing room and they chatted about the previous night’s events. The Sergeant came in and gave them and the other response teams an update on the present situation and issued orders for the shift.
‘What about us?’ Sarah said when she and James weren’t given any instructions.
The Sergeant replied, ‘I want you to hold on here for a while. DS Sharma wants to speak to you.’
‘He’s the SIO in last night’s case,’ James said.
‘That’s right. He’ll be along shortly.’ The Sergeant went out and the other teams set off leaving James and Sarah alone.
‘Why does he need to speak to us?’ Sarah said to the wall as much as to James. ‘Our report was okay.’
‘I think so,’ James said.
‘It’s a simple case, isn’t it? Manslaughter. The kid will get a few years in a youth offender institution.’
James shrugged, ‘I suppose so.’
The door opened, and the Detective Sergeant who had appeared at the scene of the crime the previous evening entered. He looked from Sarah to James.
‘PC James Frame?’ James nodded. ‘You picked up Matthew Chapman, last night.’
‘We found him,’ James agreed.
The DS shook his head. ‘No, I mean it was you, PC Frame, that spoke to him, stopped him from jumping in the river and persuaded him to come into custody.’
‘Er, yes,’ James replied.
‘Well, I have a request to make,’ DS Bhanu Sharma said. ‘The boy is refusing to talk to me or my colleagues. Either he’s too choked up by what he’s done or he’s blocking us. We need to get him to admit to what he did, but he says he’ll only speak to you, PC Frame.’
‘Oh,’ James muttered feeling confused.
‘Why?’ PC Ward said, ‘We were both there. I read him his rights and we brought him in in the car.’
‘All he says is that PC Frame understands. I think he means about this wanting to be a girl thing his mother’s mentioned. What do you know about it Frame?’
James felt ice spread from his chest to the top of his head. His principal horror was his colleagues discovering about Jasmine, laughing about his desire to wear female clothes and act like a girl. He couldn’t imagine being able to survive the nightmare of his other life being talked about. His career in the police would be over.
‘Um,’ was all he managed.
‘What is it man? Do you know anything about this transvestism thing this boy’s got?’
The words came out slowly. ‘Uh, I think the term is transsexual, Sir.’
‘Isn’t it the same thing?’ the DS said.
‘No, a transsexual wants to live their life in the gender they identify with which isn’t their biological gender.’
‘What does that mean?’
‘Matthew said he’s really a girl and that he wants to be called Melissa.’
Sarah stared at James with her mouth open. ‘Did he tell you that last night?’
James nodded.
‘But you didn’t put it in the report,’ PC Ward said
‘I didn’t think it was factually relevant to us finding him and arresting him.’
‘Anything the suspect says is important,’ DS Sharma said, ‘As a police officer you should know that. You’d better revise your report, but first tell me what you know about this trans stuff.’
‘Um,’ James searched for an answer, ‘It was at university.’ He began.
‘What was? Come on, man,’ Sharma said.
‘I knew someone who was transgender.’
‘Transgender. What’s that?’ the DS asked.
‘It’s a sort of general term for people who have questions about their gender. It includes transvestites and transsexuals.’
‘Questions about their gender! Pah! Okay, so did you know this guy well?’
‘Yes, I got to know her pretty much,’ James relaxed a bit. Perhaps this imaginary friend could take the pressure off him. She could be an amalgam of Jasmine and other TG people he and Angela had met. ‘She was called Tamsin,’ he concluded, the name having popped into his mind.
‘This Tamsin was a bloke?’ Sharma asked.
‘She’d been born a boy and had the body of a man, but she lived as a woman and wanted to have gender reassignment surgery.’
‘What’s that?’
‘A sex change. That’s what the papers call it.’
‘But he’d still be a guy.’
‘When we were at uni, but now, since 2004. . .’
‘2004?’
‘The Gender Recognition Act. She could apply for a certificate now, recognising her change of gender and get a new birth certificate.’
The DS stroked his chin. ‘You think that is what Chapman wants?’
James shrugged. ‘I don’t know, Sir. We only exchanged a few words, but I got the impression that Melissa is pretty certain that she is a girl and that her father didn’t approve.’
‘Hmm, well, we’d better get you into the interview room. Perhaps he’ll open up to you and spill the beans on his relationship with his father and whether he intended to kill him.’
Sarah stepped in, ‘Jim, are you sure you knew this Tamsin well enough to cope with Matthew or Melissa or whoever?’
James faced Sarah, ‘I think so, Sarah. I’d like to have a go with Melissa.’
‘Come on then, PC Frame,’ the DS said heading for the door, ‘Time is money and my boss won’t want to have to spend too much on this case. See what you can get out of the kid.’

………………….to be continued

 

Jasmine searches

Let’s get the advertising out of the way.

From today until Tuesday 8th you can get Discovering Jasmine for Kindle Free.  Go here to get your copy.

Discovering Jasmine introduces Jasmine when she is the seventeen years old James, just learning what his need to be feminine means. It leads to her first case, defending an older transsexual. Discovering Jasmine is a novella length story.

discovering jasmine final cover

Right, that’s done.

So what has caught my eye this week.  Well, I suppose it’s the resignation  of Defence Secretary Michael Fallon for “inappropriate behaviour”.  He wasn’t, perhaps, the most obvious candidate to be the first to fall in the Westminster sex-pest scandal but I thought his attempts to wriggle were contemptuous.  First, he seemed to think that there has been a huge change in morals in the fifteen years since he groped a journalist – not in my mind there hasn’t.  It is approaching a hundred years since women got the vote and more than thirty since they achieved (if that is the right word) equality in law. I think treating women as objects to maul and grope was wrong fifteen, thirty, more years ago. Secondly he made his apology only to the servicemen which he oversaw in his cabinet post. There was no real apology to women in general for his attitude to them or to men for again bringing masculinity into disrepute.  Who knows who else will be revealed as a perpetrator of this misogyny.  What I find interesting is that the aftershocks of the Weinstein affair, in the UK at least, have caught up politicians more than any other group.

……………………..

Now to return to Jasmine Frame and the second episode of the new prequel story, Reflex.

Reflex: Part 2

They drove slowly through the estate.
‘Have we got a description?’ James asked.
‘Sort of,’ Sarah replied. ‘Matthew is a little small for his age and slight. He’s got long dark hair and he’s wearing skinny jeans and a jumper.’ James thought the boy sounded like many others of his age but since the dark streets were deserted there wasn’t anyone to check.
They carried on along estate roads, but James noticed that although Sarah was driving slowly they were moving away from the scene of the crime.
‘Are we headed somewhere?’ James asked.
‘I have an idea. Not sure if it’s right,’ the PC answered.
‘What is it?’
‘Well, if you’d done something really bad. . .’
‘Like kill your father?’
‘Yes, so you had to get away. Where would you go?’
James considered. ‘I don’t know. A dark hole where I couldn’t be found?’
Sarah shrugged. ‘OK, that’s a possibility, anywhere else.’
‘I don’t know Abingdon, I don’t know where I’d go.’
‘If you were at home in Reading?’
‘Uh. I’m not sure. Down by the river. The river path is deserted at night and you can get right out of town.’ And you can jump in and drown yourself, James thought.
‘That’s it. We’re headed for the river. I’m taking the shortest route. Matthew hasn’t had that long, so he might still be heading this way.’
‘Well, it’s a long shot I suppose, but apart from searching every side street I can’t think of any other idea.’
Now they were driving along a straight road with playing fields and park on either side. Then there was water.
‘Where are we?’ James asked.
‘The Marina.’
The road became a track with moored boats to the left. They reached a car park. Sarah stopped and turned off the engine.
‘Come on. We’re on foot now. Get the torches.’
James reached into the glove box and pulled out a couple of LED torches. They got out and James followed Sarah along an unlit path that headed into woodland. They turned the torches on.
‘This path does a circuit of a peninsula,’ Sarah explained, ‘Alternatively there’s another that heads down the riverbank.’
‘A quick round trip can’t hurt,’ James said, ‘It’s pretty secluded.’ The trees provided plenty of cover for a boy that wanted to hide himself with just brief glimpses of the moonbeam-dappled surface of the river beyond. James thought their task was pretty hopeless but couldn’t think of a better idea. He almost couldn’t believe it when a cast of the torch light illuminated a figure between the trees. Was it a person or were his eyes confused by an oddly shaped tree stump?
‘There,’ he said pointing and starting to trample through the undergrowth towards the silhouette. His guess was confirmed when the figure moved.
‘Matthew, stop!’ Sarah called but the boy went on towards the river. James stumbled over a tree root, regained his balance, ran on. He saw Matthew stop.
‘Don’t come any closer. I’ll jump in,’ the boy said. James froze. He was twenty feet from the boy, with just grass and small shrubs between them. Matthew stood on the ends of a muddy bank that shelved into the water. James could see the river was flowing quite rapidly.
‘Alright,’ he said shining his torch on the lad. ‘We want to help you. It’s no point staying out here.’
‘You can’t help me,’ the boy sobbed, ‘After what I did.’
James couldn’t say things weren’t so bad because there were fewer things worse than killing your father. The boy probably didn’t even know his father was dead. Telling him now wouldn’t help matters. He took a few steps forward. Matthew didn’t move.
‘You can get through this. We’re not going to hurt you,’ James want on. Sarah stayed in the trees while James edged forward keeping the light on the boy.
‘I didn’t mean it,’ the boy’s voice broke. ‘He came at me. The knife was just there.’
The boy was facing him, his back to the river. James was just a few steps away. He shone the torch on Matthew, not directly in his eyes but illuminating his head and body. His face was streaked. Tears or sweat? There was something not quite right. James examined the boy’s face. There was a bruise on his left cheek bone but there was colouration around his eyes and his lips. James saw his own face in mirror. He recognised what he saw. The boy was wearing make-up.
James reached out to him. Matthew flinched, stepped back, overbalanced, was falling. James leapt forward and grabbed him. He hugged the boy to his body. Matthew went limp and cried.
‘I didn’t mean to. . .’ he said through sobs. ‘I just picked it up and held it. He came forward and . . . and. . .’
‘It was a reflex,’ James said, ‘self-defence.’ He wasn’t sure that was an excuse which would stand up in court.
The boy nodded his head. James looked down at him. There really was a sizeable bruise on the lad’s left cheek. The skin was grazed.
‘Why did your father hit you?’
‘He wasn’t supposed to see me. He was early. I was showing Mum.’
‘What were you showing her?’
‘My new eye-shadow.’
‘Do you often wear make-up, Matthew?’
‘I’m not Matthew, not really. I’m Melissa.’
James hugged him/her tighter. What a mess. How was he supposed to react? Say, “Yes, I understand, I’m trans too”. That would reveal Jasmine to his colleagues and his superiors. He wasn’t ready for that.
‘You’re trans?’ He said. Melissa nodded.
‘That is why your father attacked you?’ Another nod.
‘Your mother knows?’ And another.
‘Anyone else?’ A shake of his head.
‘Okay, I’m Jim Frame. I’ll help you.’
PC Ward was at his side.
‘Well done, Jim. Let’s get him back to the car.’
They walked back through the trees, The boy, or rather girl, at James’ side clinging to him. They got back to the police car and put Matthew/Melissa on the back seat. James sat beside him. Sarah got in the driving seat.
She let out a long, slow sigh. ‘Okay. We’re heading for the police station, Matthew. This is going to be hard for you, but you’ll be looked after. No-one’s going to hurt you.’ She turned the ignition.
No-one but yourself, James thought, and put an arm around the trans-girl.

……………………………. to be continued

 

Jasmine and September

WP_20170826_14_01_13_ProAnother weekend, another Bookfair (or author-signing-event as they are sometimes called).  Today it is Wellington in Shropshire – almost local.  Let’s hope this event actually attracts keen readers who want to browse the books on offer and even buy some.  It will be my first opportunity to offer Cold Fire for sale, in advance of my official launch next week (Leominster Library 2.00 – 6.30 p.m. Thursday 19th Oct.).

Last Saturday I was in the position of reader at Crickhowell Literary Festival. A very pleasant event in venues scattered across the town. One talk, or rather discussion, featured two ex-policemen who had (or are) retiring having fallen to PTSD. They had turned to writing to express their feelings and ended up publishing books, one fiction (supposedly, although it reads more like an autobiography with added action) and the other an non-fiction account of his career and illness.  I don’t know how good the books are (I’m reading one and am not impressed) but both picked up publishing contracts with apparent ease. Why – because of their jobs (senior Met officers); because of their undoubtedly exciting life-stories; or, because they are good writers? I wonder.

I finally got round to watching the Horizon programme on transitioning by transsexual men and women. It followed half a dozen, mainly trans-women, as they embarked on the medical aspects of transitioning, not just gender-confirmation-surgery, but also vocal chord surgery, testosterone injections for transmen, et al. All the subjects made the point that social transitioning i.e. coming out to family, friends and colleagues, was the most difficult part however painful and difficult the surgery.  It was a good, straightforward account of what transsexuals have to go through to achieve the bodies they want (need?), with enough bloody detail to make you want to look away from time to time.  All the subjects seemed well-balanced and cheerful even if they had had difficult times earlier in their transition, but the programme did not attempt to make judgements or bang a drum for more gender clinics or increased availability of surgery.

20170930_130307I was interested, but not for myself.  It is Jasmine that is a transwoman seeking to achieve the body of a woman and prepared to accept the pain and discomfort that involves.  The fourth Jasmine Frame novel, Molly’s Boudoir, which I am writing in fits and starts at the moment, takes place as, and just after, Jasmine has her GCS, but even that won’t be the end of her transition.  Although in law a woman and now with a vagina she still seeks that alteration that makes her appear more feminine and thereby matches her self-image.  I am not the same.  For many years I have been uncertain of where I stood.  While I feel a degree of femininity, I have never wanted to go through everything that Jasmine wants. Now, I think I have found my place in the spectrum.  I’m gender-fluid; I am comfortable wearing feminine clothes, jewellery, make-up, but I oppose any sort of gender stereotyping, detest exceptional macho-male behaviour but do not see in  myself a girly or motherly woman.

As I mentioned, the 4th Jasmine novel is taking some time to write partly because of other things happening round here, and the time taken to promote Cold Fire along with my other novels. There is also a hint of a demand for another September Weekes novel (the fifth!) while I have ideas for other novels in different settings with different lead characters. Perhaps soon I’ll have more time to think and write. . . How many times has that been said.  Watch this space.

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