Continuing Tales

All I Want for Christmas

A Power Rangers Story
by Cheryl Reynolds

Part 5 of 7

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All I Want for Christmas

Tommy took a right and headed down Airport Road; it was a shortcut to the speedway.

I wonder what Uncle John wants, he mused. Tommy was looking forward to seeing his uncle again. He hadn't visited the track since before Kim and Olivia moved in with him. He cast a quick glance at the binder sitting in the seat next to him--the one Kim had given him for his birthday. Uncle John is going to flip when he sees these!

Kim's gift wasn't the only reason Tommy was anxious to see his mom's brother-in-law; Tommy hoped that maybe his uncle needed someone to drive for him. Nothing that required a road trip --he couldn't leave the dojo-- something local. It was still something of a surprise that he had taken to racing as well as he had. He liked fast cars as much as the next guy, but he had never dreamed of racing professionally. When his uncle made his invitation, Tommy had accepted because he needed a distraction to get his mind off his problems. From there, it had evolved into a means of paying for his karate school. He had learned to love the sport--just not enough to make it a full time career.

The municipal airport was just ahead; it was a busy place in spite of all the traffic at AG International. Tommy noticed a sign along the side of the road: Angle Grove Air Charters. Wasn't that the name of Kim's Uncle Steve's business?

That got Tommy to thinking about his conversation with Kim about finding her family. He had been wanting to do something to help her get in touch with her folks even before they'd had their talk, but he hadn't been certain how she felt about it. He didn't want to do anything if she wasn't ready to face them. That she made the effort --albeit an unsuccessful one-- to call told him that it was something she really did want. However, he had absolutely no clue how to go about finding any of them.

He could have started by writing Kim's mother; she was most likely still in Paris, but that probably wasn't the best idea. After all, according to Aisha and Kim, Mrs. Dumas believed that he was the one who had gotten Kimberly pregnant. She wasn't likely to listen to him if she still felt that way, and it might destroy any chance of getting her and Kim back together. He also wasn't so sure about Mr. Hart --or more specifically, his second wife. Kim had been pretty certain that Cynthia despised her; she wouldn't be happy about having Kim in her father's life again. Kenny seemed to be the most approachable member of the family. Tommy tried to recall what Kim had told him about her uncle. He was her mother's brother (there was also a sister--Kelly's mom); surely he would still be in contact with Kenny.

It wasn't a conscious decision on his part, but Tommy turned onto the lane leading to the charter service. He still hadn't figured out what he was going to say when he pulled into the parking lot.

"May I help you?" the woman behind the counter queried.

"Is Mr. Wright in?" Tommy asked. He had spent five minutes in the car racking his brain trying to recall Mrs. Dumas' maiden name.

"He is; however, if you wish to book a charter, I can help you with that."

"No, thank you. I was wondering if I could speak to him for a moment about his niece Kimberly . . . ."

"Hold on just a moment!" the woman interrupted excitedly as she jumped up from her chair and hurried into the back office.

A short while later a man --forty-ish with wavy, caramel colored hair peppered with gray and fawn-brown eyes-- emerged from the office.

"I'm Steve Wright," the man introduced himself.

"Tommy Oliver," Tommy said as he shook the offered hand.

"Tommy . . . my niece dated a fella named Tommy."

"That's me."

"Millicent said you wanted to talk to me about Kimberly."

"Yes, I was wondering if you knew whatever happened to her," Tommy said, deciding to play it discreet until he had some idea of what Steve knew.

"I was hoping you could tell me," Steve sighed sadly. "After she went to Florida with that coach, it was as if she vanished off the face of the earth. She stopped writing, stopped calling; no one has seen or heard from her since."

"Not even her mom?"

"I think Caroline has some idea, but she refuses to talk about it. When Kenny last asked her about Kim, Caroline told him to mind his own business." Steve shook his head. "I think she's sniffed too much of Adrian's brush cleaner!"

That wasn't encouraging news. "Do you guys have any idea . . . ?" Tommy prompted.

"Not really. My guess is that Kim and Caroline got in a fight --it was bound to happen sooner or later. Kim had always done whatever Caroline asked of her, until Caroline decided to get married and move to Paris. Caroline could be so blind and stubborn sometimes; she was always saying she wanted Kim to make something of herself even if she had to take care of all the details herself."

Tommy had never realized that Mrs. Dumas had been so controlling. He wondered if Kim even realized it. She had never said that her mother was forcing her to do anything she didn't want to --except when it came to refusing the abortion. Tommy knew every parent wanted his or her child to do well in life, but he couldn't imagine planning things out for the child and not allowing the child to have any say in the matter. There had to be more going on between Mrs. Dumas and Kim than what Steve was saying, but that was neither here nor there at the moment. At least he had gotten something useful out of Kim's uncle: her mother had not told anyone else in the family about what happened. Probably too embarrassed.

"I take it you're looking for Kim," Steve remarked, interrupting Tommy's thoughts.

"Yes. I know it's been a while, but I really feel this is something I have to do," Tommy answered evasively. "I was wondering if you knew where I could find Kenny or Mr. Hart. I tried the phone numbers I had for them, but I guess they've moved."

"I'm not sure about Ken; I think he's still in Seattle, but Kenny moved to Colorado last year--to be closer to his girlfriend. He'd know where to find his father, but I doubt he knows anymore about Kim than I do."

"That's okay; I'd still like to talk to him."

"Sure." Steve pulled a laminated card out of his wallet and copied down one of the phone numbers for Tommy. "There."

"Thanks, Mr. Wright," Tommy murmured distractedly, reading over the number.

"No problem. Just one thing, if you learn anything . . . ."

"If that's what Kim wants," Tommy agreed, and he hoped Steve hadn't picked up on his slip. He glanced at his watch. "Would you mind if I borrowed your phone? I've gotta call my uncle and let him know I'm going to be late."

"Of course."

Tommy was going to be very late; he had to make a phone call to Colorado first.

"So, how was your afternoon at the race track?" Kim queried as Olivia shouldered her way past Tommy to get through the door first. Tommy had been helping his uncle break in a new car and had been spending all his free time at the track. Olivia had complained about missing him, so he decided to take her with him--giving Kim a much-appreciated day off. The two had been gone since before breakfast.

"We had a great time, didn't we, Princess?" Tommy said; though he was dirty and tired, his smile was bright and his eyes positively shone with his happiness. Kim hadn't realized how much he had enjoyed racing or that he missed it so much. "I'm gonna go get cleaned up."

"Okay, Tommy." Kim looked to Olivia to hear her opinion of the day.

"It was noisy," Olivia said once Tommy was gone. "I had to wear these funny things on my ears and over my eyes. To protect me, Tommy said."

"Was it exciting?"

"The cars were neat . . . ."

Kim sensed a "but" coming. She covered her smile as Olivia looked around--presumably to make sure Tommy wasn't around. Not finding him, she continued more softly, ". . . it was kind of boring. All Tommy did was drive 'round and 'round in circles, and there was nothing for me to play with."

"Don't worry, Sweetie; I don't understand what he sees in it either," Kim said confidentially, and Olivia smiled with relief.

"Can I watch a movie, Mommy?" Olivia requested.

"Sure, honey."

A short time later, after Olivia was thoroughly engrossed in her cartoon, Tommy emerged from the bathroom.

"How did it go today?" Kim asked when Tommy plodded into the kitchen.

"Fantastic!" he declared enthusiastically as he grabbed a soda from the 'fridge. "This new car of Uncle John's is pretty awesome. She handles like a dream! Man, all that power . . . ."

"Do you ever wish you were still racing?" Kim wondered.

"Sometimes --but only for about five minutes," he answered. "I love driving, but I never cared for Uncle John's nomadic lifestyle. I guess it reminds me of when I was growing up and Dad was transferred a lot. I definitely don't miss the road; helping out here is enough for me. So, what'd you do with your day?"

"Maggie met me for breakfast at the coffee shop and then we went to do some serious window shopping."

Actually, they had done considerably more than that. Their day to goof off had turned into one of Kim's therapy sessions. At their first meeting, both women had agreed that a doctor/ patient relationship wasn't going to work for them. Though not exactly friends, they were too close for Maggie to keep a professional distance. However, Maggie couldn't turn her away either. In the end, Maggie had offered Kim a sympathetic ear, a shoulder to cry on whenever she felt the need, and a lot of good advice. They continued to meet casually --at the laundromat, at the market-- and they didn't always talk about Kim's problems; they covered everything from parenting to pop music. Kim realized Maggie was indeed a friend --one she could confide in and trust.

"What did you think about the infamous coffee shop?" Tommy wondered.

"It was really nice," Kim said. It was a little place not far from the laundromat, a long time fixture of the neighborhood. The quaint little restaurant didn't have a large clientele, just a loyal one. She had been very curious to see this place since Maggie had mentioned it a few weeks back, but she and Tommy couldn't seem to find the time to go. Well, Olivia had a little something to do with that.

Although it had been the first time she had ever set foot in the place, she had felt like everyone had known her and accepted her. It was as if she had really belonged. Of course, Maggie had warned her that she was probably already well known to the coffee counter gossips and had laughingly said that it was a wonder that the regulars hadn't known Kim was moving in prior to Tommy's return. The busybodies missed very little; however, they weren't a spiteful lot. They were loyal to their neighbors but were usually willing to give newcomers the benefit of the doubt. Kim had to admit that they had been colorful: Matt, the owner and Betty, the head waitress --she had taken an instant liking to them-- and they had made her feel welcome. They all had, except for Joe. By the end of breakfast, Kim had wanted to punch that loudmouthed idiot in the nose! The nerve of him suggesting that Tommy was making up now for abandoning me five years ago!

"There are some really great people in this area; it's why I like it so much," Tommy said. "Although I've only lived here a little over a year, I really feel like this place is home."

Kim had to admit to feeling that way, too.

". . . and I'm really glad you and Maggie are getting along so well," Tommy continued.

"I hadn't realized how much I missed the stuff I used to do with Trini and Aisha," she replied. "Sometimes, it's like Maggie's the older sister I always wished Kenny had been."

"By the way, do you have any plans for the seventeenth?"

The abrupt change in topic caught her off guard. "Just the usual: work that morning, spend the afternoon with Olivia, and then catch up on things around here after she goes to bed." She found his demeanor puzzling; Tommy sounded as if he was nervous about something.

"Would you like to go do something?" He ran his hand around the back of his neck and couldn't seem to maintain eye contact with her. "Just the two of us?"

Kim blinked in amazement. In the three months since she had moved in, the two of them had never done anything without Olivia. Rarely had they spent more than an hour or so without her around period. It suddenly felt as if butterflies were doing kamikaze runs in her stomach, and she stammered as she asked, "A-are you asking me out on a date?"

"Um . . . yeah. I guess I am."

For a moment, it was as if her brain had ceased to function; she felt paralyzed. Alone on a date with Tommy? She couldn't . . . could she? She hadn't been alone with a guy since the attack! However, part of her desperately wanted to say yes, but then the other voices surfaced--the voices of fear and confusion and doubt.

But this is Tommy! the voice clamoring to accept shouted above the din of indecision. This is the man you love! This is the one person in all the world you still trust.

Trust . . . she hadn't realized exactly how much she trusted Tommy until Maggie pointed it out to her: "Who was it you instinctively turned to in times of trouble? When you were in Florida and so frightened you didn't know what to do, you called Tommy. When your nightmares were too much to bear any longer, you opened yourself up to him. You even trust him with your daughter! Right now, you probably trust Tommy more than you do yourself."

If she trusted Tommy so much, then why was she so scared of going out with him? "What did you have in mind?" she asked cautiously.

"A friend of Uncle John's sent him two tickets to a charity dinner in Hollywood; however, he can't use them because he has to be in Las Vegas that weekend," Tommy explained; he retrieved his jacket and removed an envelope from his pocket. "He thought we might like to go."

Her instincts were telling her to say yes, but . . . .

"You're thinking too much, Kim," Maggie had told her during one conversation. "For once, don't think; trust your instincts."

She was just so afraid . . . .

In the past, she had always been able to use her fear in a positive fashion --to motivate her and get her over the obstacles in her way. "I'm tired of being afraid!" she had told Tommy a few short weeks ago, and she had meant it. She had cowered in the shadows for almost six years, and the one thing she had dreamed of during that time was within her grasp if she was willing to take a risk and reach for it.

Trust your instincts . . . .

Kim glanced up into Tommy's face; he looked as anxious as she felt, and she realized that he was probably just as afraid as she was. "Sure, it sounds like it might be fun," she said at last, more than a little surprised that her voice was so steady.

"Really? You'd like to? That's great!"

Tommy looked so happy . . . he was almost as giddy as a kid at Christmas, and Kim had to smile. For a moment, the two could do nothing but stare at one another with silly grins on their faces, and Kim felt almost the way she had when she was sixteen and Tommy had first asked her out. Had she been this bad then? However, practicality reared its ugly head.

"Who will watch Olivia, though? We'll be out much too late for Kelly to babysit."

"My folks," Tommy replied, demonstrating that he had thought this through. "Mom's been wanting to have Olivia for a weekend, and both she and Dad will be off."

"Don't they have plans?" Kim knew Jan and Thomas weren't the type to just stay at home when they had time together.

"I wanted to wait to say anything to them until I talked with you. I'll call them right now."

Tommy tossed the invitation onto the table en route to the phone. Kim snatched up the envelope and looked at the enclosed card and tickets. She let out a low whistle when she saw where the event was being held.

"All set," Tommy announced upon his return to the kitchen. "Mom was thrilled, and before you ask, Olivia thought the idea of having a slumber party with Nanna Jan was cool."

"Tommy, how can we go to this thing?" Kim queried. "The invitation says black tie . . . neither of us has a thing to wear, and showing up in your truck would be really . . . ."

"Between my dad and my uncle, I'll find something to wear."

"What about me? Neither your mom nor your aunt are my size."

"Maybe Tanya has something you can borrow."

"We may be the same height but hardly the same build."

"Don't worry; we'll think of something. As far as transportation goes, that's already taken care of. Uncle John said that if we decided to go, we could borrow his new Mustang."

"Ah, now I get it," Kim murmured, a teasing grin tugging at her lips.

"Get what?"

"Your real motive for asking me out. You just needed an excuse to drive a cool car!"

With a laugh, Kim dodged the dishtowel Tommy flung at her.

"Tommy, phone call!" Leslie called above the clamor of "ki-yais."

Tommy nodded to Kurt, indicating he should take over the lesson, and hurried over to the office. He wondered who it was; Leslie generally didn't interrupt a class unless it was important. Was it his mother? Kim? Kelly having a problem with Olivia . . . ?

"Who is it?" he queried.

"Ken Hart."

Kenny! Tommy bolted for his chair and released the hold button. His heart was pounding in his chest with excitement as he answered, " Tommy Oliver speaking."

"Tommy? This is Ken Hart --Kim's brother. I just got your message off my answering machine; I've been out of town on business . . . . You said you wanted to talk to me about my sister?"

Tommy had thought long and hard on what he'd say to Kim's brother and father. He wasn't certain it was his place to tell them about the rape; however, Kim was operating under the assumption that they already knew about it, and he ultimately decided to spare her the pain of having to recount her ordeal yet again.

"I do," Tommy said at last.

"Do you know where she is? No one's seen or heard from her in so long . . . ."

"She's back in Angel Grove . . . ."

"Thank God! Have you seen her? Is she all right?"

"She is --now. Ken, can you get a hold of your father?"

"Since it's about Kim, I could probably get him out of a courtroom right now."

"We don't need to do that, but I would like to set up a conference call with the two of you."

"Not a problem; I'll call Dad as soon as we're done, but why . . . ?"

"A lot of things happened to your sister while she was in Florida, and it'd be easier if I could tell you both about them at the same time."

"Hey, Jan, what's up?" Kim queried, checking the number in the I.D. box as she caught the phone just before the answering machine kicked in. She had thought Tommy was about, so she hadn't particularly rushed through drying off after her shower.

"Hello, Kim. Have you found a dress for Saturday yet?" Tommy's mom queried.

"No." She'd tried Tanya as Tommy suggested, but Tanya didn't have anything in black, and Kim looked awful in yellow. She had checked a couple of second hand stores, but most of what they had were old prom dresses or gaudily beaded monstrosities.

"I think I have one for you."


"I checked with some of my other siblings and found a niece who's your size. She had bought a little black dress for a dance then got stood up. Her exact words were, 'if you want it, you can have it! I don't want to be reminded about that stupid dance --ever!'"

"Oh, the poor thing!"

"If you're interested, I'll stop by and pick it up on my way home from work. Then you can come over some morning to try it on."

"Jan, that's wonderful! Thank you so much --for everything," Kim gushed.

"Not a problem. I'm glad to help out. I remember what it's like to have a little one and not be able to do things because you had no sitter or family to help out."

Jan wasn't kidding. This would be the first time in five years that Kim was actually going to do something without her daughter tagging along. She couldn't believe how excited she was getting about the whole affair.

"I'm working the afternoon shift on Wednesday; how about that morning?"

"That'd be perfect; see you then."

Kim's mind was already working on what to do for shoes and accessories before she put the receiver back in the cradle; it rang again almost instantly. Kim didn't recognize the number. "Hello?"

"May I speak with Tommy please?" the person on the other end requested. He sounded like an older gentleman, and Kim couldn't place the slight accent.

"He's not in at the moment, may I take a message?"

"Is this Kimberly?"

"Yes . . . ."

"It is a pleasure to speak with you. I am Sam Trueheart."

"Oh, David's father!"

"Yes, if you would, please tell Tommy that David and I happily accept his annual invitation. We're both looking forward to meeting you and your daughter."

"As we are you, Mr. Trueheart. Tommy will be thrilled with the news." However, as Kim bid Sam good-bye and hung up the phone, she realized that she had no idea what he had been talking about.

"Tommy, did you invite David and his father over for dinner or something?" Kim queried as soon as Tommy got home.

"No, why?"

"Mr. Trueheart called earlier to say that he accepted your invitation."

"He did? They're coming this year? That's awesome!" Tommy exclaimed in absolute delight.

Even more befuddled than before, Kim asked, "What are we talking about here?"

"Thanksgiving dinner."

"Thanksgiv . . . Tommy!"

"What?" he wondered, puzzled by her chiding tone.

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't imagine too many Native Americans celebrate Thanksgiving."

"Why not?"

"Think about it," she urged, exasperated. Tommy wasn't normally this dense. "You know the story about the first Thanksgiving --about the Indians and the Pilgrims. The European settlers may have been celebrating their survival in the new world, but the Pilgrim's survival marked the downfall of the native peoples. I can understand why some people might not want to have anything to do with a holiday that celebrated that."

"I'm of Native American descent, and I celebrate Thanksgiving," Tommy pointed out.

"You weren't raised Native American."

"Why does it have to be about Pilgrims and Indians anyway?" he wondered, perplexed by the argument. "Thanksgiving is all about giving thanks for the good things in your life; it's just a day set aside for doing that --that's all. For me, Thanksgiving has always been about family and friends and how grateful I am for all the people I care about in my life. White, Red, Black --we're all just people no matter what we believe."

"Some folks just can't look at it the way you do," Kim sighed.

"I know. David and I have discussed this many times. He respects my viewpoint and doesn't take offense when I invite him, and I respect his views and don't get bent out of shape when he says no."

However, Kim could see the years of disappointment at being turned down in Tommy's eyes. "Well, whatever their feelings, Sam and David will be there this year," she reminded him, and Tommy's expression brightened.

"I can hardly wait," he cheered. He was so excited, he reminded Kim of Olivia; all that was missing was the bouncing. "I have to call mom and tell her. She'll flip!"

"You'll have to call Sam back to let him know where and when," Kim suggested.

"I can't wait for them to meet you! Boy, will David be surprised," Tommy rambled on, seeming not to have heard her. "I'd been wanting to tell him about you and Olivia . . . ."

"You mean you haven't?" Kim sputtered.

"I keep meaning to write or call --I haven't spoken to David since he left for school this past July-- but I'll think of it at the oddest times then forget when I'm by the phone . . . . And David is just as bad as me sometimes . . . ."

"I don't understand . . . ."


"When Sam called, he addressed me by name and said that he and David couldn't wait to meet me and my daughter. If you haven't told them, then how . . . ."

Tommy laughed at her confusion. "It can be a little spooky until you get used to it, but Sam has this way of knowing about people and things. You'll understand better when you meet him. Oh man! This is going to be the best Thanksgiving ever!"

"Tommy, this was such a great evening; I haven't had so much fun in forever!" Kim gushed as Tommy maneuvered the Mustang onto the highway. The two had spent the evening drinking, dancing, and dining with some of the most well-known people in the entertainment business. Tommy recalled how tightly Kim had clung to his arm when they first arrived at the club; they had both felt very out of place. He knew he had felt like he was staring whenever he spotted someone he recognized from the movies; however, they had managed to relax sometime during the pre-dinner reception and had wound up enjoying themselves.

He glanced over at Kim, smiling as he noticed that she was still positively glowing from the excitement of the evening. She looked magnificent! He had never seen her look so elegant. The strapless black gown (from a jilted cousin --ha! Tommy knew he didn't have any cousins Kim's size, and even if he had, none of them lived close enough for his mother just to drive over and pick up the dress) fit her perfectly; he especially liked the slit-up-to-there in the side of the skirt. His mother had loaned her some jewelry and helped her with her hair. Kim had looked as good as any of the women there, and she had carried herself with such aplomb that no one would have guessed that she had been absolutely terrified.

"I got such a kick out of people looking at us and trying to figure out if they knew us or not," Kim chatted away. The way her eyes shone made it difficult for Tommy to concentrate on the road. "How about that blonde who latched onto you?"

"Which one?" Tommy wondered; embarrassingly, there had been several who had been flirting with him--at least, that's what Kim said they were doing.

"The one who acted like she'd fried her brains when she'd fried her hair with the peroxide. 'Hey, handsome, are you anybody --important, I mean?'" Kim mimicked. Tommy had to admit it was an excellent imitation. "I couldn't believe her! I didn't think people like that really existed; she was something out of a cheesy movie."

Tommy remembered now --how could he have forgotten the way Kim proprietarily slipped her arm through his and said, "Of course he's someone important; he's my husband." He knew she had done it simply to extricate him from a very persistent woman, but the way she had said it --the love and pride in her voice-- had sounded so real that it had given him chills. "By the way, I never did thank you for the save. It was very convincing."

Kim blushed and looked away shyly. "I guess I should be glad she didn't look for a wedding ring," she fumbled. "I hope you didn't mind."

"Not at all." Into the awkward pause that followed, Tommy asked, "Who was that you were talking to before dinner?"

"For the life of me I can't remember her name --she was some sort of journalist, I think. She must have been someone pretty important because she snagged Mel Gibson as he was walking past and asked him to get us a couple more drinks. Can you believe that? I got to meet Mel Gibson, and he got me a drink!"

Tommy bit back a smile as Kim bounced with the excitement that she had refrained from displaying at the time. "What did you guys talk about? You were at it for quite a while."

"Would you believe gymnastics? She swore she'd seen me somewhere before, and when I mentioned the Pan Globals and Coach Schmidt, she was so genuinely interested . . . . Actually, it was kind of weird, but she did ask some pretty insightful questions. How about you? Who was the guy with the beard you were talking with for most of the reception?"

"Mack Davies, a stunt director."

"You guys seemed pretty friendly; how do you know a stunt director?"

"He's an old friend of Uncle John's --the one who sent him the tickets to the fund raiser. I met him once while I was still racing for my uncle; Mack had consulted him about something or another. I was just surprised that he remembered me --by name, not just 'Rush's nephew.' At the time, he had teased Uncle John about trying to steal me away to drive for his crew."

"Was he trying to recruit you again?"

"He was wondering where Uncle John was; I think he was wanting to talk to him. He's working on a new project that requires racing scenes. Mack did say he was sorry to hear I wasn't driving any more and seemed pleasantly surprised that I was into martial arts."

"Why's that?"

"Because of the film's star."

"Let me guess; Mr. Davies was there with him."

"Uh huh."

"And judging by the light in your eyes, it was someone you've always wanted to meet," Kim mused. She pondered the choices. "I'd say Bruce Lee, but he's dead."

"Very funny," he snorted as she laughed. "It was Jackie Chan."

Kim made suitably impressed noises. "I take it you got introduced. So, did you discuss martial arts with him?"

"No, he was more interested in discussing racing," Tommy replied, unable to hide his chagrin. However, Kim's tinkling laughter chased his frown away.

Eventually, the excitement of the evening caught up with Kim, and the hum of the Mustang speeding along lulled her to sleep. Tommy spared her a glance, a tender smile warming his expression. Kim was curled up in the bucket seat, her legs tucked up under her, and her head drooping to the left as if she wanted to rest it against his shoulder. However, the thing that both astonished and pleased Tommy was that her hand rested lightly on his thigh --just like she used to do on late night drives once upon a time.

. . . I don't know what other proof I can send you to make you see that Kimberly had told you the truth about what happened to her, but please believe me when I say it is the truth, and your daughter needs you. But not the way you think. She doesn't need you to raise her daughter --she's done an awesome job of that on her own. She needs you because you're her mother . . . .

Tommy read over the last paragraph he had written, chewing absently on the end of his pen. This was proving to be tougher than he thought.

"Am I doing the right thing?" he asked of Tommi Bear who was at the table finishing her breakfast --or so he'd been told. He may have been successful in reaching Kim's father, but her mother was an entirely different matter. Sighing, Tommy slipped the note back into his folder. He'd already spent an hour agonizing over what he'd written thus far, and his brain felt a little numb.

He thumbed through the other papers he had collected --his "proof." He had spent some time in the microfiche room at the university library searching through microfilm rolls of Miami newspapers from five-and-a-half years ago. Kim hadn't been kidding when she'd said that the incident had been down played to prevent negative publicity, but he had managed to find a small article hidden away among some ads. He had gone ahead and made copies of the article. He also had a copy of the last letter Kim had sent him; for some reason, he'd been unable to throw it away. At least now it'd help establish his bona fides. There was one more piece of evidence he wanted to send Mrs. Dumas: something in Kim's own words.

Tommy recalled that Kim used to keep a journal; he figured that she definitely would have recorded her feelings about the rape and her pregnancy in one, seeing as how she had had no other outlet for her emotions at the time. The problem was trying to find her old notebooks. He was still reluctant to invade Kim's privacy and search through her things, but he also didn't want to ask her outright because he didn't want to get her hopes up in case his appeal to her mother failed.

Emerging from the kitchen, he peered into the living room. Kim was out taking care of some errands, and Olivia's attention was glued to a TV show. Satisfied that he was unobserved, Tommy headed down to the girls' room.

Okay, where would Kim keep her old diaries? He eyed the nightstand speculatively; while he thought it was a likely place for her current record, he doubted her old ones would be stored there. Probably in a box in the closet.

He had to keep reminding himself that he was doing this for a good cause as he rifled through Kim's meager belongings. The boxes weren't labeled, so he was going to have to go through everything, and Tommy got caught up in examining the items in the very first carton he came to. In it were mementos of Olivia's early years. He found himself getting a little misty-eyed as he examined the clothing and photos, drawings and old toys. There was even a baby book with all the milestones meticulously recorded. He found himself wishing he could have been there to see them instead of just reading about them.

Tommy had to force himself to shake off the spell of vicariously watching Olivia grow up. If he spent too much time dawdling, he was going to get caught. He repacked the box, careful to replace the items exactly how he had taken them out and turned to the next cardboard container. However, it had proven just as distracting. In it were stored Kim's mementos of Angel Grove, the Power Rangers, and all their friends.

"Whatcha doing, Tommy?" Olivia queried, coming up behind him.

Guiltily, he set aside the scrapbook he'd been flipping through, his fingertips lingering a moment longer on the stub of a ticket from a dance --their first date. "I'm . . . looking for something," he confessed, trying to think up a plausible fib. The thing was, Olivia had a way of knowing when she was being out-and-out lied to.

"What is it? Maybe I can help," Olivia offered.

Tommy considered that. Olivia could be surprisingly close-mouthed when it came to surprises, and if she was in on the surprise, she wouldn't go telling Kim he'd been in her stuff. How often had his dad done the same thing to him when he'd been a kid? Besides, he'd always liked being in on the secret. And, if Olivia helped him, it wouldn't be like he was totally going behind Kim's back; as long as it wasn't something she had forbidden Olivia to get into . . . .

"Maybe you can," Tommy agreed, "but this is top secret. It's a surprise for your mom, so you have to promise not to tell."

"I'm very good at keeping secrets," the girl asserted.

"I know you are, Princess. What I'm needing to find is one of your mom's old notebooks that she wrote in a lot. There's some information in it that I need to help with the surprise."

"You mean her journals?"


"I know where she keeps those," Olivia declared and made a beeline for the nightstand.

"Not her current one, an older one," Tommy elaborated.

"She keeps all her writing books in here," Olivia explained as she began pulling out the small, bound volumes.

"Easy does it; we don't want your mom knowing we were getting into her stuff. We have to put them back exactly like she had them." Fortunately it appeared that Kim had arranged her journals chronologically, the dates emblazoned on the covers. Tommy quickly located the one covering January and February of '96. He flipped to the day of the attack.

. . . oh God, I can't believe this really happened to me! Please let me wake up in the morning and find out this was all just some horrible nightmare . . . .

It was all there in excruciating detail --the actual attack and her struggle to deal with it alone. Here and there his skimming eyes caught references to her struggle with whether or not to tell him what happened --her fear of what he'd say or do . . . to her, to the rapists . . . . Tommy finally turned to the day Kim had found out she was pregnant, the ill-fated phone call, and the day she decided to cut him out of her life.

If reading any of this won't open Mrs. Dumas' eyes and heart, then there's no way she even has a heart to be opened! Tommy mused.

"Is that what you're looking for?" Olivia asked.

"Sure is. Let's head down to my office so I can make copies and put this back before your mom gets home," Tommy instructed. "And remember, this is a secret."


"Thomas William, get your fingers out of there!" Jan scolded.

Thanksgiving morning, the Oliver household was filled with bustling activity, the sumptuous aroma of cooking food, and the raucous sounds of marching bands playing as the Macy's parade filled the TV screen in the living room.

"I was just trying to help . . . ." Thomas protested.

"Help --ha! Olivia is more of a help than you!" Jan snorted. "Go on; get out of here!"

As Tommy emerged from the basement with a load of folding chairs, his father passed him and winked.

"Works every time," Thomas chuckled conspiratorially.

"Dad . . . ." Tommy chided.

"I'll be in the garage if anyone needs me."

Tommy entered the kitchen in time to hear his mother confide to Kim, "He's not fooling anyone; he's been pulling this for years. I let him get away with it because he really is more of a nuisance in the kitchen than a help."

"Here are the chairs; where do you want them?" Tommy queried, stifling a smile.

"Clean them off first, then put them in the dining room --where else?" Jan directed. "I'm going to see if I can find the good table cloth Aunt Elsa gave us."

Tommy watched his mom bustle out of the kitchen, shaking his head and laughing. Then he appreciatively sniffed the air. "Mm, smells good in here. Man, I've missed this. We haven't had a big Thanksgiving dinner in years --since grandpa died. Usually, it's just the three of us."

"My last big Thanksgiving with my family was before Mom met Adrian," Kim confessed, her heavy heart audible in her voice. "Kenny was there, and Mom actually invited dad --this was before he was really serious about Cynthia. That was the last time we were all together."

Tommy gave her shoulders a squeeze, having no comforting words.

"In Florida, if Olivia and I didn't go to some restaurant, we wound up having that pressed-turkey-dormfood-stuff in the center's cafeteria," she continued.

"Well, this year, you have the real thing with all the trimmings, even if you do have to help cook it and clean up afterwards," he said with a cheery grin.

"It wouldn't be a real Thanksgiving without the clean up," Kim laughed. "Actually, I don't mind. I'm enjoying myself, and I know Olivia is really excited. I think she's been in here every five minutes wondering when it'll be 'turkey' yet or demanding I come see a balloon or float or something."

"Well, now that Dad's been officially exiled from the kitchen, we can assign him to Olivia detail," Tommy chuckled.

"Tommy, haven't you finished with those chairs yet?" Jan demanded as she returned with the table cloth. "I need you to get down the good china."

"Mommy, come see!" came Olivia's squeal of delight. Tommy and Kim traded grins and set about their appointed tasks.

"Time to turn off the parade, Olivia," Kim called as she carried a stack of plates into the dining room. "Come help me set the table."

"The parade's all done," Olivia said. "Dumb ol' football is on." She hit the power button on the remote and scampered over to Kim. "Ooh, Mommy, the table looks fancy!"

"It sure does," Kim agreed. Jan had told her that she'd been waiting for a good excuse to get "the good stuff" out. It wasn't worth the hassle for just the three of them.

"These dishes are very pretty," Olivia gushed as she held up a plate.

"Careful," Kim cautioned. It wasn't as if Jan could run out and buy replacement pieces. She had purchased the dinnerware when she had visited Tokyo on leave. Kim found the simple black and grey brush-stroke painting that curved along the bottom and side of the dishes very elegant.

Just then the doorbell rang.

"I'll get it!" Olivia chirped and sped off. Kim set the china aside, knowing Olivia probably couldn't budge the front door. To her surprise, she found the door open and Olivia gaping at the men standing on the porch.

Kim made a quick study of the pair (lest she seem rude). The shorter of the two was an older gentleman--well, older in that the hair at his temples was grey and silvery strands shot through the braids touching his shoulders. Though he leaned on a walking stick, he was solidly built and did not seem at all infirm. His sun-weathered face was set in an amicable expression, but there was something about his eyes . . . . It was as if when he looked at her, he could see into her soul. The adjectives "patient" and "wise" came to mind as she regarded him, and she knew that he had to be Sam Trueheart.

"Hello," he said, nodding in greeting, as if he knew she had been taking his measure.

His younger companion caused Kim to gasp in surprise. He was the spitting image of Tommy: tall with mahogany colored hair cascading down his shoulders in long thick locks, deep brown eyes . . . although, he was of stockier build and had more rounded features. Also, he didn't have the lush, almost feminine lashes or as full a mouth. Still, the resemblance was uncanny; there could be no doubt that David Trueheart and Tommy Oliver were kin.

"You look like Tommy!" Olivia piped up, recalling Kimberly to her duties as hostess.

"Who else would he look like?" Sam wondered.

"Olivia, why don't you go find Tommy and tell him that David and Mr. Trueheart are here," Kim suggested as she ushered the two in. "Hello, I'm Kimberly Hart."

"Tommy! Unca David is here!" Olivia shouted as she hurried from the room.

"Uncle David?" David queried, his tone laced with amusement.

Kim flushed crimson. "Sorry about that. When Thomas and Jan let Olivia call them Grandpa and Nanna, she decided that since you were Tommy's brother, you were to be 'Uncle David.'"

"I've been called worse," David chuckled. He was more reserved than Tommy but possessed the same warmth and personableness.

"I'm so happy you both could come," Kim continued, not really knowing what else to say. "I've been wanting to meet you; when Tommy told me he had a brother, I couldn't believe it."

"You couldn't have been more surprised than the two of us," David concurred.

"I guess not." In the following lull, Kim cast about in search of Tommy. "Where is he? For someone who was so excited that you we're going to be here . . . ."

As if on cue, Tommy came bounding in from the kitchen, Olivia hot on his heels.

"Sam! David!" Tommy wrapped his brother in an effusive hug. "Oh man, bro, it's good to see you. It's been too long; we've got a lot of catching up to do."

"Obviously," David remarked, glancing pointedly in Kim's direction.

"Have you guys met Kim and Olivia?" Tommy babbled on as he swept Olivia --who squealed happily-- into his arms. "Man, I'm so glad you guys came this year!"

"We had to come," Sam replied. "For as long as I've known you, Tommy, I have seen the shadows which clouded your soul. I wished to meet and thank the one who brought the light back to your spirit . . . the shining crane who taught the mighty falcon to soar once again."

Kim blinked in amazement and shot Tommy a searching look; he looked almost as flustered as she did at Sam's words, but she had the feeling that his surprise had nothing to do with the reference to their spirit animals. Sam has this way of knowing . . . . Still, Kim felt the heat in her cheeks grow.

"What's a crane, Mommy?" Olivia wondered.

"It is a very beautiful, graceful bird," Sam explained.

"If Mommy is a crane, and Tommy's a falcon, am I anything?" Olivia asked with unsettling insight.

"You, little one, are the river dancing through the desert," Sam explained patiently. "A precious spark of life in a barren wasteland. Always moving, always babbling, always going wherever curiosity takes you."

Kim smiled fondly; the description fit Olivia to a "t."

"But someday, Dancing River, you shall fly above the desert on the wings of a rare and wonderful bird --a golden eagle . . . ."

"Like Marahute in Rescuers Down Under!" Olivia cheered, enchanted by the notion.

"And you shall soar with all the beauty and grace of your mother and the strength and courage of the father-of-your-spirit," Sam concluded, and his last pronouncement shook both Kim and Tommy.

"Father of her spirit?" Tommy echoed.

"You have claimed her as your daughter as surely as your parents claim you as their son."

"I think . . . maybe . . . I should leave you guys to do your catching up," Kim murmured, thoroughly unsettled by the discussion. "Come on, Olivia; we have to finish setting the table."

"Look, Mommy; I'm an eagle," Olivia declared as she rushed about the living room, her arms spread as unfurled wings.

Kim watched as Tommy interrupted his conversation with David to capture the eagle-in-flight and spin her around, provoking peals of laughter. She sighed longingly as she saw the happiness shining in Tommy's face. She envied him his joy at being surrounded by his family, thinking about her own scattered to the winds.

"Just one more thing, Kimberly," Sam began, placing a comforting hand on her arm. His words were softly spoken so that no one else but she could hear them. "As you have brought light to Tommy's darkness, so too will he bring light to yours --if you will let him."

With a reassuring pat, he took his leave of her and joined Tommy and David. Olivia, bored, finally scampered over. Kim collected her daughter's hand and absently wandered back into the dining room.

"I like Mr. Trueheart," Olivia announced as she skipped along. "Do you think you could braid my hair just like his?"

"Ooh, it looks just like in all the pictures!" Olivia exclaimed as Thomas set the turkey on the dining room table. Her eyes were wide and her face practically glowing.

"One cannot truly appreciate the joys of life until one has viewed them in the shining eyes of a child," Sam said sagely as the adult began to take their seats.

"There's so much food here," Olivia continued to gush, turning to Kim. "I don't think we'll be able to eat all this, Mommy."

"Tommy and Thomas will put a serious dent in it," Jan laughed.

"Don't worry, Princess; we'll be eating leftovers for a month of Sundays," Tommy assured her.

"What's that?" the tot jabbered on as another dish was added to the table. She wrinkled her nose at the yellow-brown squares. "I don't think I like that."

"How would you know? You haven't even tried it," Kim said reasonably. "It's corn casserole, and Mr. Trueheart brought it."

"Really? Can I have some?"

Kim and Sam shared conspiratorial smiles.

"What's that red stuff? Jell-O?"

"Jellied cranberry sauce," Thomas explained.

"It's time to settle down, Sweetheart," Kim said even as Olivia eyed the sweet potatoes dubiously.

However, as everyone was seated, there was an awkward moment of silence. At her family's Thanksgivings, Kim's folks used to start the meal by saying Grace. With Sam and David there, she wasn't quite sure what was the proper thing to do.

"Would anyone like to say a few words?" Thomas asked at last.

Olivia's hand went up as if she was in class.

"All right, Olivia."

"You know, Mommy, we're all just like a real family here," she observed. "You're the mommy, and I'm the daughter. Tommy is like the dad . . . ."

Kim blushed as she shot Tommy a surreptitious glance. He looked startled, sheepish and pleased all at once.

". . . Gran'pa Thomas and Nana Jan are the grandpa and grandma," Olivia continued, heedless of Kim's discomfiture. "David's the uncle, and Mr. Trueheart is . . . ." She paused, momentarily stumped for a role for Sam. "Well, there can be two grandpas, can't there?"

"Sure there can, Honey," Thomas assured her.

"See!" Olivia declared brightly.

"Of course we're a real family, Olivia," Tommy said. Kim's head snapped around to look at him. He usually only addressed Olivia by name when he was being very serious. "A family is more than something you're born into. It's more than just the people you're tied to by blood; it's the people you're tied to by love. That's why everyone is here at this table today; we're all family."

"Mommy and me, too?"

"Definitely. No matter what happens --no matter how many other families you may have-- you will always be a part of this family. Your mom, too."

Kim felt her eyes brimming as she felt Tommy's hand close around hers under the table. She had no words to respond, so she simply squeezed his hand.

"Wow . . . a real family!" Olivia intoned in awe. Then, she flashed Kim her brightest smile. "In school the other day, Mrs. Blackman asked us what we were most thankful for."

"And what did you tell her?" Kim asked, her voice unsteady with her emotions.

"That I was thankful we moved to Angel Grove."

Kim pulled her daughter into a hug as her eyes scanned the gathering. Hers weren't the only ones suspiciously moist.

"You know what, Sweetie? So is Mommy."

"Oh my," Sam sighed as the meal wound down.

"Ditto," Thomas echoed. "I think dessert will have to wait."

"Everything was wonderful, Jan," David said. "If Tommy had told us what a great cook you were, we'd have accepted the invitation to dinner long ago."

"Flattery will not get you out of cleaning up," Jan responded with a knowing grin.

"I told you, bro," Tommy laughed. "You're 'family' not 'company.'"

"Can I go play now?" Olivia asked.

"I'm surprised you can even move with as much as you ate," Kim remarked.

"It was all so good," Olivia replied in her defense.

"Let's take your plate to the counter, and you may be excused," Kim agreed. Very carefully, the girl carried her plate and silverware into the kitchen.

"Tommy, are you done with this?" Kim asked, collecting plates for her trip to the kitchen.

"Oh man, I am going to have to do a few extra katas to burn all this off," he said as he vacated his chair. "Let me get those; you and Mom have done enough already."

Both Jan and Kim stared after him in amazement as he vanished into the kitchen.

"I don't know what you've done to that boy of mine, but I wish you'd do it to my husband, too," Jan chuckled, and Thomas flashed her a wounded puppy look.

"Tommy's right," David agreed, rising and collecting dishes also. "We'll take care of cleaning up."

"Does that mean I'm off the hook?" Thomas asked hopefully.

"No," Jan countered. "It's sweet of you to offer, David, but I'm not sure I trust you and Tommy alone in my kitchen."

"All done, Mommy; can I go outside now?" Olivia queried.

"Can she, Mommy?" Thomas quipped in a little girl voice that had Olivia giggling. "I have a surprise for her out in the garage.

Both turned hopeful puppy-eyes at her, and Kim stifled a smile as she looked over at Jan who nodded imperceptibly. "Oh, all right. Why don't all the 'grandparents' go, and I'll keep Tommy and David in line."

"That's okay, Kim . . . ." Jan protested.

"Come on, Jan," Thomas urged. "When was the last time you were excused from cleaning up the carnage?"

"Only a fool wastes such an opportunity, and you, Janice, are no fool," Sam added.

Shaking her head with amusement, Kim watched as Olivia took Sam by the hand and tugged him towards the front door. Gathering up an armload of dishes, she headed to the kitchen where Tommy and David were loading the dishwasher.

"You are scraping the plates off before you put them in there, aren't you?" she queried.

"Yes, Mother," Tommy muttered good-naturedly. "Don't worry; Mom trained me better than she thinks."

"I don't know about that," Kim snickered, noting the water he had gotten all over his shirt. "Here." With an impish grin, she looped the bib of Jan's frilly apron around his neck, and she laughed as Tommy eyed it dubiously.

"It suits you," David teased.

"Watch it; I'm sure Mom has another one around here just your size."

"I'm not the one making a mess with the water," David remarked. Tommy reached for the spray nozzle with mischief in his eyes.

"Thomas Oliver! See, your mom was right about not trusting you two in here alone," Kim scolded. "I'll take over the sink; you go clean the table." With hand on hip, she pointed towards the dining room for added emphasis.

"Yes, ma'am," Tommy said, saluting as he marched off.

Kim turned to the sink and found David regarding her with amusement.

"What?" she wondered, handing him a plate.

"You two remind me of Jan and Thomas," he said, and his comment so startled Kim that she nearly dropped the glass she was rinsing. "I've never seen my brother so happy or so at peace. I, too, am thankful you and your daughter moved to Angel Grove."

"Thanks, David," Kim murmured, not knowing what else to say. After all, Tommy was the one who had done her the favor, not the other way around.

"Tommy told us some of what happened," David continued hesitantly.

"I thought he might," she said quietly. She had known Tommy would have to give some explanation; however, she found she didn't mind so much since David and Sam were family.

"When my father was telling Olivia about soaring as an eagle, he made one mistake; he should have said she'll soar with the courage of her mother."

David's words left Kim speechless, and she was very relieved when Tommy shouted from the other room, "Kim, David, come see this!" She gratefully turned off the water and wiped her hands.

Tommy stood in the doorway and glanced back to see if Kim had heard him. She and David hurried out to join him. He stood back to let Kim in front so she could see.

"Mommy! Mommy! Look at me!" Olivia shouted as she madly pedaled down the sidewalk on a pint-sized bicycle with training wheels.

"Hey, that's my first bike!" Tommy realized.

"I knew your father hated to get rid of things, but . . . ." Kim began. Tommy opened the door, and the clean-up crew stepped out onto the porch.

"Look at her go," David murmured.

"A regular lil' daredevil," Tommy added.

"I don't believe it; she's never been on a bike before," Kim said quietly.

"Dad's done good this time," Tommy agreed.

Olivia's happy laughter and excited chatter filled the air. Tommy glanced down at Kim; her eyes shone as brightly as her daughter's, and the gentle smile that curved her lips made Tommy's heart flutter. It always made him feel good to see her so happy. He rested a hand on her shoulder; when she didn't flinch, he gave it a small squeeze. To his surprise and delight, Kim covered his hand with her own.

"Hm, looks like somebody's lost," David remarked, gesturing toward the street. Tommy looked up and saw a blue Buick. "It's driven past here two or three times since we've been outside.

David's words made Tommy want to get a closer look. Squinting, he tried to see if he could make out the driver. Then, his face lit up. "It's them! They made it!" he declared.

"Who?" David wondered.

Tommy ignored him; stripping off the apron and tossing it to his brother, he bounded across the front lawn.

"I guess it's a good thing we haven't put all the food away yet," he heard Kim sigh. Racing to the end of the driveway, he waved his arms, trying to flag the car down.

"You look silly," Olivia giggled.

"Are those the other guests you mentioned?" Jan queried.

"Uh huh!"

The blue sedan pulled up, and Tommy could hardly stand still long enough for the driver to turn off the engine.

"Oh man, am I so glad you could make it," Tommy said breathlessly, opening the car door and extending his hand in greeting.

"Tommy, let them get out of the car first," his mother admonished.

"I wouldn't have missed this for the world," the driver said. "Where's . . . ?"

"On the porch."

Tommy stepped back to let the man out. He tried to keep his composure as he turned to face the house, but it was impossible. He could see Kim's puzzled frown clearly, then her wide-eyed expression of astonishment and recognition. David had to help steady her as her knees buckled.

"Hello, Kim."


Kenneth Hart hurried forward as Kim broke away from David. Her brother dashed around his side of the car to join them.

"Daddy!" Kim sobbed as she flung her arms around her father's neck.

"Oh my baby!"

Tommy blinked several times to clear his eyes and became aware of a tiny hand slipping into his.

"Tommy, who are those people?" Olivia asked nervously.

"That's your Grandpa Ken and Uncle Kenny."

"My real grandpa?"

"Yes. Is something wrong, Princess?" Tommy thought that Olivia would be as excited as Kim, but she looked scared, almost as if she wanted to cry.

"Does this mean I don't get to be in your family anymore?"

"Of course not! You'll always be a part of my family; I promise," he said, giving her a reassuring hug. "Now, why don't you go say hello; your mom is looking for you.

As Olivia rushed to her mother's arms, Tommy drifted over to his parents, letting the Harts have a moment of privacy. His mom offered him a hug and his dad a pat on his back. There was no need for words. Kim's happy tears said it all.

It was growing dark outside. David and Sam had left a couple of hours ago, and Kimberly had spent the better part of the day getting reacquainted with her father and brother. Tommy hadn't wanted to intrude on their reunion (although he couldn't help overhearing that Ken and Cynthia had never gotten married!), so he occupied himself with watching football and snoozing. However, now that Kim had taken a break to put Olivia down to bed in his old room, he wandered into the dining room to join Ken and Kenny at the table.

"Pumpkin pie and coffee," Jan said as she brought out a tray with the pie and the coffee pot. "Help yourselves."

"Thanks, Mom," Tommy said, dishing out the dessert.

"Thank you so much for bringing us back together," Ken said for what had to be the millionth time that day.

"I didn't do anything that Kim didn't want to do herself," Tommy demurred. "I just had the time and opportunity, that's all."

"She's lucky to have a friend like you," Kenny said.

"Too bad your mom doesn't see it like that," Tommy sighed. "I've been trying to think of a way to get in touch with her, but according to Kim, your mom thinks I got Kim pregnant and abandoned her."

"Mom would," Kenny muttered.

"She's not likely to listen to me."

"It won't be easy to convince Caroline of the truth; it'll mean making her admit she was wrong and having her face her guilt," Ken pointed out.


"For abandoning Kim and probably for urging Kim to go to Florida in the first place."

"She didn't force Kim to go, did she?" Tommy asked.

"She didn't --but only because Kim had already decided she wanted to go for herself."

"I don't understand," Tommy confessed. "I haven't understood anything about what happened between Kim and her mom. I always thought they were so close; how could she turn her back on her own daughter when she needed her the most?"

"I've always wondered that, too," Kim said softly, having returned as Tommy asked his question. She took a seat next to Tommy.

Ken sighed. "Your mom had such hopes and dreams for you, Kim. She wanted you to have every opportunity to achieve your goals no matter what they were. She didn't want you to have any regrets --like she did."

"What do you mean?" Kenny asked.

"I was a Senior in college when I met your mother," Ken began. "Caroline was a Freshman. I was headed to law school, and she was an aspiring artist. She was going to school on an art scholarship; she was quite talented."

"I never knew that," Kim murmured, and judging by the look on Kenny's face, Tommy surmised that he hadn't known either.

"Caroline always dreamed of going to Paris to study art," Ken continued. "She was always talking about it. After we got together and started talking seriously about marriage, I promised her that our honeymoon would be in Paris, which wasn't unreasonable considering we weren't getting married until Caroline was finished with school.

"However, it was right after my graduation and I had been accepted to law school that we found out Caroline was pregnant. We thought we'd been careful . . . . Caroline was a wreck. Back then, it was a much bigger deal to be pregnant out of wedlock and abortion much more scandalous. Her mother told her that she had to get married and have the baby, but getting married meant losing her scholarship. I was willing to support whatever decision Caroline made, and although we knew it would be a struggle with me being in school, we got married."

"So I wasn't a honeymoon baby like Grandma always said," Kenny joked weakly.

Tommy was beginning to see where this was headed. "Caroline lost her chance of pursing her dream to be an artist because she had gotten pregnant," Tommy surmised.

"Yes, or so she believed," Ken confirmed. "After Kenny was born, I talked her into taking some evening art classes. She was also working at that point. She couldn't handle school, work and the baby, so she gave up school. Once Kenny was in first grade and Caroline really didn't need to work anymore, she tried once again to go back to school. Then, she became pregnant with Kimberly. One of the things that she kept bringing up during our divorce were her feelings that I sabotaged her dreams to try and control her life."

"So, when I told mom I'd been raped and was pregnant . . . ."

". . . it was like what she'd been through all over again. No doubt that's why she told you to get the abortion. She didn't want you to sacrifice your dreams as she had. In a lot of ways, your dreams became her dreams, too. She wouldn't have forced you to do something you didn't want to, but she wanted to do everything she could to ensure that you had your chance. That's why she didn't object too strenuously when you told her you wanted to go to Florida to train for the Pan Globals. When your dream died, so did hers."

"That explains why she kept talking about her sacrifices and everything, but why did she say she didn't want to have anything to do with me if I didn't do what she said? And why did she insist on blaming Tommy?" Kim asked.

"I think she assumed that you'd do the same thing she did --give in to her mother."

"You mean Grandma Alice . . . ."

". . . told her that if she didn't marry me and have the baby, she would have nothing to do with her. Instead of doing what she wanted, your mother did as her mother wanted. It probably never occurred to Caroline that you wouldn't obey her because you never challenged her before.

"As for blaming Tommy . . . it was easier than accepting the horrible truth and the possibility that she had failed you by letting you go to Florida alone and not being there to protect you."

"Do you think Mom would ever want to talk to me again even though I went against her wishes?" Kim wondered forlornly.

"Yes, Sweetie, I think she would. Your mother loves you; she probably never meant to do what she did, but it'll be hard for her to get over her pride --because you didn't blindly obey her-- and her guilt for not being there when you needed her most. Parents don't like to think that they've failed their children."

Tommy and Kim stood on the porch and waved as Kim's dad and brother drove off to their motel. They were planning on being in town for the rest of the long weekend.

"Hey, are you okay?" Tommy queried, hearing her sniffle.

"I'm fine," she murmured, wiping her eyes. "I still can't believe it. My dad and my brother . . . it's been so long . . . . They even understood and didn't think I was a horrible person or . . . ." Her emotions got in the way of her words.

"I knew they wouldn't; they're your family, and they love you," Tommy said quietly. "Even your mother will come around eventually." If Kenny is successful!

"You know, I'm beginning to believe that," Kim sighed, and Tommy could hear her smile in her voice. "I want to forgive my mom, and I think it'll be a lot easier now that I understand why she acted the way she did."

"She wanted you to do what she hadn't the courage to do --be true to your dream."

"Maybe, but our situations were so very different. She had just begun to experience life when she got pregnant; she wasn't ready to settle down with a family. Maybe I wasn't exactly ready to be a mom at seventeen, but I'd also seen and done more in my life that most people could ever imagine." Kim's thoughts trailed off, and the two stood staring off into the moonlit sky.

"You've done so much for me, Tommy," Kim said at last, turning to face him. "You brought me home. You helped me find my family again . . . ."

"Hey, what are friends for?" Tommy murmured.

"I don't know how to even begin to thank you . . . ."

Quite unexpectedly, Kim stood on tiptoes and brushed her lips against Tommy's cheek. When she drew back, the two stared at each other in absolute amazement. In fact, Tommy nearly forgot to breathe. Kim had just kissed him! He couldn't believe it!

"Kim?" he gulped, his eyes wide with unspoken questions. Kim raised her eyes to him shyly, nibbling all the while on her lower lip --an old nervous habit. Tommy read uncertainty in those eyes but no fear.

Then, very gently, he took her hands. "That's all the thanks I'll ever need," he said quietly.

Without a word, Kim stepped closer, threading her arms around his waist, and, resting her cheek against his chest, hugged him. Tommy carefully wrapped his arms around her, returning the embrace, and it was with great joy that he realized that she wasn't trembling in the slightest.

All I Want for Christmas

A Power Rangers Story
by Cheryl Reynolds

Part 5 of 7

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