Disclaimer: Power Rangers and related material belong to Saban
Productions, as far as I know. No profit is being made off this.
Note: Warning! This is rather sentimental and sad, so if the season is making you mushy, consider yourself warned! DB, December 2001
It hit Jason in the mall, of all places.
He'd braved the crowds on this next-to-last weekend before Christmas ostensibly to buy a present for his brand-new fiancée, but as he passed the curio shops in the East wing on his way to a jewelry store, his attention was caught by a colorful display case at one crossing.
"Man," he groaned, pain filling him afresh. He really didn't want to be reminded, but found to his dismay that he couldn't just walk away. Reluctantly, he stepped closer and peered inside. On a layered stand, about a dozen dolls were set up in various poses - most of them roughly the size of a generic Barbie doll. However, there were no garish pink accessories or bespangled ballgowns; instead, each doll was made up and dressed in national costumes from around the world.
As Jason's eyes swept around the case, he mentally catalogued and identified the dolls' origins as best he could. *Russia. Austria. The Netherlands. Spain. Egypt. Turkey. India.* There were a couple he didn't know, but his heart clenched when he looked at the top layer. In exquisite detail, the three figurines were dressed in Asian outfits - a temple dancer from Siam, a Japanese geisha in an elaborate kimono, and an exquisite doll wearing a yellow silk cheong-sam - the traditional Chinese dress Trini had loved to wear to official functions at the Peace Conference.
The dark eyes closed as memories of his gentle friend assailed him. He stood there for a full minute until he came to a decision. Searching for and finding the name of the shop selling these dolls, he unhesitatingly made his way to the next mall directory.
Kimberly found the ceramic lantern as she was clearing her parents' garden shed; the house was up for sale, and she was helping her mother sort through things. She turned the lamp over in her hands several times, liking the feel of the smooth white glazing while she wondered what to do with it. The glass panes were clearly in need of washing, but there were no cracks that she could find, and it really looked kind of pretty, with its pagoda-like top. Impulsively, she abandoned her task and went in search of her mother.
"In here, honey," Mrs Hart-Leroux answered from the back bedroom. "Is there a problem?"
"Not really. I was just wondering ... what is this?" The young woman held up the lantern.
"Good God, I forgot we had this," her mother murmured, touching it with careful fingertips. "It's a patio lampyour father's aunt gave it to us as a wedding present. We used to put a candle inside and have it on the terrace before we installed the garden lights."
"It's lovely," Kim said, thinking privately that this lantern seemed far more nice to her than the hidden light fixtures.
"Well, I don't need it anymore," Mrs Leroux decided briskly. "It can go to goodwill with the rest. Maybe they can find a use for it. Or make a dollar off it at a charity sale."
"Mmm." Somehow, the thought disturbed Kim. She turned the lantern over once more, reluctant to let go of it. The stoneware was almost delicate enough to pass as china, and it did have a kind of Asian flair to it ... suddenly, the petite brunette knew exactly what to do with it.
"Mom ... can I have it?" she asked as casually as possible, masking the hurt she still felt. "Please?"
"Sure," the taller woman shrugged, her mind already back on the closet she was cleaning.
"Thanks." With a small, sad smile Kimberly wandered back, the lantern cradled securely against her chest. Now where did I leave that yellow candle ...?
Zack Taylor ended his magic show with a grandiose flair as he pulled a bouquet of paper flowers apparently out of thin air and presented it to his aunt with a smile. His audience laughed and cheered as the birthday girl blushed prettily, and he accepted the generous applause with a wink and yet another joke before rushing into the bathroom to get rid of his 'stage costume'. Once he was done, he wandered back into the main part of his uncle's house and helped himself to the laden buffet.
"Aunt Sheree, you've outdone yourself," he moaned blissfully after his first bite of pasta salad. "This is even better than last year!"
"Oh, Zack, you say that every year," his great-aunt laughed, but Zack could see how pleased she was at the compliment. "Now you go out in the garden and eat in peace," the older woman ordered. "There's no-one but the kids, and they're playing; that way, you can eat your fill without your mother giving you a hard time about calories and cholesterol!"
They both laughed; Mrs Taylor was notorious in the family for her well-meant lectures on proper nutrition.
"I'm sure Mom would convince more people if she didn't grab hold of Granny Ruth's double chocolate layer cake as soon as she's within twenty paces of one," Zack grinned impudently, nibbling on a perfectly-grilled chicken leg.
"Exactly. You shoo, now!" With a friendly swat, Aunt Sheree chased him outside.
Zack sat down on the low wall bordering one flower bed and watched his younger cousins at play while he munched his way through his heaped plate. When he was done, he was about to walk back inside when a commotion between Joey and his sister caught his attention.
"Give it back! It's MINE!" Joey yelled, tugging at a toy.
"Wanna!" Patty wailed, trying to hold on to whatever it was, but was no match for her older brother. Before the little girl could dissolve into noisy tears, Zack was there with a spoonful of sherbet and a small joke.
"Hey, none of this; this is a party, remember? No fighting allowed. And no tears," he mock-growled, making a face at Patty. She gave him a watery giggle.
"Wanna!" she repeated then, angling around the young man to Joey, who was trying to pack up his belongingsa collection of prehistoric animals, Zack saw now. It gave him a small pang as he recognized a T-Rex, a Triceratops ... he even thought he could recognize the long tusk of a mastodon in one corner. Of course, the colors were all wrong, but ...
"Where'd you get these?" he asked Joey as he persuaded him to lend his sister at least one of the plastic animals.
"Momma ordered them from a catalogue," the boy explained seriously, rummaging around for his favorite piece. "They have all kind of neat dinosaur stuff." The flash of yellow and glimpse of a ferocious muzzle made Zack catch his breath as he identified a saber-tooth tiger.
Trying to appear nonchalant despite the sudden sorrow engulfing him, he picked up the toy. "Do you know which catalogue?"
"No, but Momma does," Joey answered, losing interest in his older cousin again.
"Hmm. Thanks, kid." Filled with new purpose, Zack strode off in search of his aunt.
Christmas Eve 2001
Kimberly was the first to arrive at Angel Grove Cemetery; she chose to leave her car outside the gate and walked up to the plain white headstone.
"Hello Trini," she whispered as she knelt down and placed her salvaged lantern on the narrow grave. "I- I brought you a present." Feeling slightly foolish, Kim nonetheless took a fat yellow candle out of her purse and put it inside the lantern. "I hope you like it." Her hands trembled as she tried to light the candle.
"I'm sure she will," a deep voice murmured behind her. Kim knew she should have felt startled, but couldn'tsomehow, she had known that she wouldn't be the only visitor here today.
"Jase," she acknowledged her old friend with a wobbly smile, at last managing to strike a match and hold it to the wick. It caught, and the small flame grew bright in the afternoon sun. Kim's smile widened as she took in the lovely doll Jason unpackeda girl wearing a black peasant suit with yellow trimmings. It looked almost like Trini herself during kung fu practice.
"One more for your collection, Trini," Jason said softly as he carefully tied the tiny straw hat onto the doll's head, completing the outfit. He remembered numerous shopping trips for similar dolls all over Europe with his almond-eyed friend.
"Looks much better than Mr. Ticklesneezer," a third voice commented. Both Jason and Kimberly glanced around and saw Zack exit from his car, something yellow clutched firmly in his hand.
"I'll say," Kim giggled almost despite herself. "Remember that weird dream she had about that troll once?"
"Yeah," Zack grinned, too, then knelt down and gently placed a kitten-sized fuzzy toy next to the lantern, which cast a warm glow over their offerings. Jason took a closer look and had to chuckle.
"Her Zord never looked quite that cute, though," he snickered, touching a finger to a slightly crooked fang. The yellow-and-black-striped fur probably wasn't truly authentic, either, but that didn't matter at all.
"Not to you maybe, but to another Zord?" Zack replied, and all three had to laugh at the absurdity. Then suddenly, Kimberly's eyes filled with tears.
"Oh God, I can't believe she's really gone," she sobbed.
Jason briefly closed his eyes in pain, then hugged Kim close.
"Neither can I," he muttered roughly. "Damn, why did it have to happen like this?" he asked rhetorically. It was a question all of them had wondered about since Septemberthe day Trini died in a car crash.
"We'll probably never know," Zack sighed. "What I don't get iswhy wasn't she wearing her seat belt? She used to be so careful about these things ..."
"Nobody can say," Kim sniffled, leaning against Jason's broad chest. "Not even the person she was driving with. It makes no sense!"
"Like so many things," a new presence remarked, and the three friends turned to see Tommy standing just a few feet away, a bouquet of yellow tulips in his hand. Silently, they opened a path and he bent down, laying the flowers next to the others' gifts.
"For you, Trini. I miss you," he said softly.
"We all do," Kim whispered, trying to dry her cheeks. She knew the guys wouldn't rag her about crying, not today or about this, but she'd shed her tears at Trini's funeral already; her gentle friend wouldn't want her to mourn the rest of her life.
Zack and Jason murmured their agreement, and the foursome stood mutely at the narrow grave, lost in memories of the young woman so recently buried there. When they finally came back to the present one after the other, Tommy cleared his throat.
"You know ... there's one thing I'm kinda glad about in this whole mess," he remarked.
"Oh? What's that?" Zack wondered. Tommy grinned a bit wryly.
"This is going to sound majorly weird, but ... I'm glad Billy wasn't here to see this happen."
"Lord, yes," Jason concurred. "Given how he's felt about Trini for so long ..."
"He'd be crushed," Kim said with a shudder. "Although ... he really ought to be here with us."
"Yes. But what he doesn't know can't hurt him. Let's be glad that he's alive and happy on Aquitar instead." Jason wished he was as convinced of that fact as he was trying to appear, but Billy was beyond their reach nowin his own way as much as Trini.
The four were silent again, lost in their own thoughts. At last, Kimberly spoke up in a hushed voice.
"You know what I'm glad about? That at least we still have each other."
"Yeah," Zack agreed thoughtfully. "I mean ... we may have lost touch a little, but I always knew you guys were out there somewhere, you know? There was always this certainty that if I really needed or wanted any of you guys, you were just a phone call or a letter away. Even Billy ... who knows, maybe he will come back one day. Anything's possible, rightwasn't that what you used to say, Jase?"
Both Jason and Tommy nodded.
"Uh huh. Only Trini is gone too far away even for that," the first Red Ranger murmured, sorrow shading his voice. "Man, I miss her. I find myself seeing something on the news, and my first thought is, 'Trini's gonna get so excited about this!' ... only ..."
"Only then you realize that she'll never get excited about anything again," Tommy finished the thought, far too familiar with the feeling. "That sucks." Which summed up the friends' emotions completely.
After a while, Kimberly touched the white marble headstone once more.
"What would you say to this, I wonder?" she whispered. The three young men looked startled, then began to think.
"She'd tell us that life goes onthat grief has its time and purpose, but that we shouldn't let it consume us," Jason finally ventured.
"And that we should mourn her, but remember her life, not her death," Zack added.
"This is like a cliché, but ... she won't be really gone as long as we remember her." Tommy's comment came a bit hesitantly, but he relaxed as the others didn't laugh but simply nodded in agreement. Then they turned to Kimberly, who smiled through her tears.
"You'd tell us to hang on to each other now that you're no longer with us," she sniffled. "And I want that very much," she said, looking beseechingly at her friends. "We've lost Trini and Billy; don't let's lose each other, too. Please?"
"Never," Jason vowed, hugging the petite girl. "Right, guys?"
"Right," Zack agreed unhesitatingly, adding himself to the hug.
"Absolutely," Tommy consented, making it unanimous.
All four stood huddled close for a long while, taking comfort in their friendship, then turned as one towards the grave marker. It glowed gently in the light of Kim's lantern, and the inscription stood out clearly.
"I guess it's time to go," Kim sighed reluctantly.
"Mm. Our folks are waiting." Zack didn't sound all that eager to leave.
"Yeah, but I just had to come here. They'll understand." Jason was sure of that.
"We should come here again. Meet here, I mean, whenever we're in town. That way, Trini will always be a part of us," Tommy suggested, and was rewarded with smiles and nods of assent all around. The four friends prepared to go, but suddenly Kimberly remembered something she'd almost forgotten.
"What's up, Kim?" Zack asked, startled.
"I nearly forgot why I came here today, and not last weekend," she explained. "It was too soon, before ..."
Jason, Zack and Tommy exchanged a surprised glance which gradually made way for a smile. Seemed they'd had the exact same idea as Kimberly.
"Of course," Jason murmured, and walked back to the grave. Solemnly, he held out his right hand over the tombstone. In silent understanding, the other three put their hands on top of his in a gesture that was as familiar to them as it had been years ago, when they'd used it to affirm their closeness in other circumstances. The words were different, but as then, they spoke in heartfelt unison.
"Merry Christmas, Trini."
In Memoriam Thuy Trang
died on September 3, 2001