Flight 88 – Chapter 36 Thru 40

Chapter 36: Daytona Practice

“Do you want to go relax in the trailer or stand up top with Steve and Jason?” Marie asks as she and Dale head towards the 88 hauler with Alyssa. Dale simply points up top, not wanting to miss the action on track. If he was going to drive tomorrow night, he wanted to know exactly what was going on. besides, it meant a good distraction to everything else.

Is that okay?

“That’s fine baby,” Marie assures him as she holds her phone in her hand. “I’m sure Alyssa and I can relax in the hauler together, right?” Alyssa shakes her head yes as she swings between them. “I think being down here is a good distraction for her. Maybe it’ll wash away those dreams…”

I hope. Poor girl barely slept the other night.

Marie shakes her head in agreement as they reach the hauler. Dale climbs up the steps as she heads inside with Alyssa.

The transition to home life hadn’t been easy as Alyssa was still having nightmares of what happened to her. She worried about someone snatching her up, she worried about drinking more ‘ucky uice’ and being away from her parents. Both Marie and Dale had worked at comforting her, and it was slowly getting better – but not as quickly as they would’ve hoped.

“I play wif Leo?” Alyssa asks as they head inside the trailer. Over last season, she got used to spending time with Jeff’s son Leo, Jimmie’s daughter Genieve and Kevin’s son Keelan. They were quickly being known as the ‘mini pack’ in the garage as they enjoyed playing together.

“Maybe later, okay?” Marie offers as she sits back on the couch in lounge, flipping the television to practice. “I’ll have to ask Ingrid and see if it’s okay.”

“Ok!” Alyssa then sits on the floor and gathers her purple stuffed animal, as well as some other toys. She had a bunch of miniature cars and enjoyed sending them flying across the floor, and then fetching them to do it again.

There was no doubt that she loved racing and had picked up the bug from Dale. Each weekend at the track, she wanted to be around the cars. She loved sitting in them and pretending to steer the wheel by herself. Everybody who saw her were already discussing the possibility of her driving like her daddy.

In previous thoughts about the idea, Marie had been fine with it. She knew that racing was safe and felt confident that her daughter would be safe. No doubt she’d be nervous, but she’d be able to handle it. She felt comfortable in the times that Dale took out in the go-kart with her sitting in his lap, and kept wondering when she’d start driving by herself.

However, those thoughts were quickly changing. It was like everything was changed now. With the feelings of the past month buried in her, it was like fear was the new token. She worried about what could happen if Alyssa went racing, and worried that she’d lose her daughter. She didn’t ever want to feel that feeling in her stomach ever again. It was the worst feeling.

Even worse, she had feelings of fear connected to Dale racing, now. Before, there’d be butterflies, but she’d be excited and ready for it. They had met at the race track, after a race. It was natural for them to be at the track together. Though immediately when discussions surrounded him driving in the trailer earlier, her stomach leapt to a whole new level. What if something happened? What if he got caught up in a wreck? What if history repeated herself? It was a thought that she was finding harder and harder to push away.

“You got to get it together….” She told herself as she kept one eye on Alyssa and one eye on practice. “Saturday will be here before you know it. You can’t let him know….”

***************

“Uh oh, here comes the mime,” Jimmie comments, causing Jeff and Kasey to laugh as Dale and Regan head over to them. “No voice yet?” Dale shakes his head no. “Whisper?” Dale shakes his head no.

“So this meeting will be brought to you by text messages and surrades,” Jeff teases as Dale rolls his eyes. Dale then gives him a light quick in the butt before hiding behind Jimmie.

“And regardless, you still can’t pick on him because he will get you,” Kasey comments.

“He’ll leave you hanging tomorrow night,” Regan adds as Jeff looks over surprised. He, along with the others, had heard of Dale’s plan to run the Bud Shootout. He wasn’t confident in the plan, however he knew that in the same situation, a driver does what a driver has to do.

“Are you sure about this?” Jeff questions, having already asked four times previously.

“You’re walking on thin ice…” Kasey teases as Jeff holds his hands up.

“I’m just making sure because I care about him, but hey, smack me if you don’t think that’s right. With it not being a points event, perhaps you should relax and let yourself get set for the big show. The Bud Shootout is just for bragging rights; everything comes down to next Sunday.”

“It’s Dale – he doesn’t miss a chance to race at Daytona,” Jimmie reasons. “We all know how much he loves racing here.” Dale then pokes Regan as Regan looks at him confused. He then sends a text message as Regan pulls out his phone.

“Great, I’m the messenger this meeting,” Regan starts, earning a stare from Dale. “The mime wants to know what the game plan for tomorrow night is. Run the front or ride the rear?” Kasey immediately cracks up as Regan rolls his eyes. “Immaturity strikes again.”

“Ride the rear…..come on Regan!” Kasey repeats as Regan rolls his eyes, then reading the next text message. He then laughs before reading.

“Dale says no wonder you get mistaken for a teenager.”

“Hey – no puns in text messages!” Dale then snickers as Kasey leans back. “I’m thinking with shortened field and hard to get through at times, we run the front.”

“Kasey is saying that because he can’t say ride the rear with a straight face,” Jeff teases.

“I honestly agree with the idea as we got bit at Talladega by playing it late,” Jimmie comments as Regan looks at his phone.

“Dale says you all know how he plays – the front or go home,” Regan reads out loud. “I think we know the game plan for tomorrow.”

“And for sure you’re driving?” Jeff questions once again as Dale crosses his arms, growing frustrated. He then shakes his head yes.

“I suggest you listen to his answer before he kicks your ass again.”

 

Chapter 37: Pre-Bud Shootout

“So are you sure that you’re set to race tomorrow night?” Marie asks as she looks over at Dale. She didn’t want to let on the worry that she truly held, however she knew that she could touch the surface without him being suspicious. He shakes his head yes as he cuddles up with her. “I just have to agree with the concerns that others have expressed, babe. What if this plan doesn’t work?” Dale then rolls his eyes as he moves away and lies on his back, annoyed. “I know it’s frustrating to hear, but you have to think about it. It’s a question that you should think over a couple times.”

Dale then looks over at her confused. Normally, she was the queen of being supportive. She had always been super supportive. Even when there was the concussion deal, she was there by his side being supportive without a tinge of fear. Why were all these questions now being asked?

“Well?” Marie questions again, studying him closely. She wondered if he was on to her. “Remember, the Shootout is not for points either.” She then moves a little closer to him. “If I was you, I’d sit it out and hope that this little frog as Alyssa calls it hops out of your throat before Thursday’s Duels.” She didn’t even want to think about that, however getting him not to run the Shootout tomorrow night would give her some space for some comfort. Perhaps the couple added days without him behind the wheel could help bring that comfort back that she had before.
She then reaches over to the table, grabbing her phone as it goes off.

I’ll be fine tomorrow night so stop questioning.

She then shoots him a smile as the butterflies flutter in her stomach more than they were before. He then leans over and kisses her lips, hoping that was the last of the discussion.

“Just promise me you’ll be careful?” She questions as he shakes his head yes. “Okay. I love you. Hopefully I can hear you whisper the words that I want to hear back soon. They said it was getting better, right?” He shakes his head yes – and then freezes as he hears crying in the other room.

I got her tonight. Get your sleep. Love you.

He then puts his phone up on the table and heads out to the main area of the motorcoach where she lays on the pull-out couch. He lays down beside her, wrapping both arms around her to ‘protect her’ as her crying slowly decreases.

“Dada….I ‘cared….” She then turns to face him, a couple tears still trickling down her cheeks as she buries her head against his chest. He rubs her back, feeling his own heart falling apart with each tear that falls from her eyes.

He hated to see her like this. It had been like this since what had took place. There was nothing that they seemed to do before bed that seemed to help, either. It seemed every time that she closed her eyes, fear crept into her mind.
He knew what thoughts surrounded her dreams every night. She told him one night when he had asked her. She described being on a plane, being alone and scared that she’d never see her parents again.

Shaking the thought from his mind, he continues to rub her back as she lies her head against his chest, her hands tightly wrapped around her teddy bear. Each night when she’d wake up, this is what they would do together. Sometimes Marie would be the one, but most times it was him that went to see her. When they went to see her, they’d either stay for a couple hours, or sometimes the whole night. For Dale, he most times chose the majority of the night as he hated to see his little girl upset based on what had happened.

“I need to wash this bear,” he thought to himself as his eyes fixed on the bear that she held in her hands. The bear had been a fixture with her since she was a little kid. She got it when she born and from the moment that she could hold things and stick them in her mouth, the bear had been a constant fixture. She took it everywhere with her. The bear went on the plane with her, to bed with her, to other people’s houses with her and out to the pit box on race days.

He smiled to himself as he remembered one race in particular. Marie and Alyssa didn’t end up flying out with him due to going to see Marie’s mom that weekend. Alyssa hated to leave her daddy alone so for that reason she told him to take the bear with him. Each night, they face timed each other and he was sure to show her the bear was with him. Before the race, he and Steve tied the bear to one of the posts in the car, and sent a photo to Marie to show Alyssa so she knew that the bear was with him. Sadly, the race didn’t go as planned as Dale ended up getting into a wreck. Alyssa was upset about it, but Dale comforted her when he told that everything was okay as he was okay since ‘Lola’ was there to protect him.

He then looks down at her face, seeing her eyes closed and feels her breathing even out as she’s got her eyes closed, back asleep. He rubs her back and stays there, covering them both with the blanket before falling asleep himself.

*************************

Marie peaks out the window and sees Jason walking over towards the motorcoach and quickly heads to the door, opening it before he has a chance to knock.

“Sssh,” she tells him as she slowly closes the door behind her. “Dale and Alyssa are still sleeping.”

“Rough night?” Jason questions, having heard about Alyssa’s nightmares.

“She woke up twice last night so he stayed with her the whole night on the pull-out. I thought they were getting better – till last night.”

“Maybe you guys should talk to someone about it. You have to understand that she went throu-”

“Jason, you don’t need to explain to me.” She did, though, agree with the suggestion of talking to someone about it as she also hated to see Alyssa keep having these nightmares. Jason lets out as sigh, knowing that he had touched a tender spot.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything by that.”

“It’s fine – don’t worry.”

“500 qual practice is at 1. If you could make sure that he’s at the trailer by noon, that’d be great so we can talk.” Marie glanced at her watch, noticing that it was only 9 – so he had a good three hours to get some more sleep before getting ready. “Besides that, there’s nothing else that I have to say as I was just coming to see how he and Alyssa were.”

“And what about me, mister?” He then shrugs his shoulders as she looks at him with a surprised face. “I see how it is. I don’t matter. They only matter because one is extremely cute and the other drives. Nice to see you, too. I’ll remember that when you ask about stealing Dale for a night to go out.” Jason chuckles slightly, knowing the kidding that they always had together. He then wraps an arm around her and pulls her close.

“You know that I love you ma’am; I just can’t have your dear fiancé all jealous.” When he heard that she and Dale were engaged, it had certainly got him off-guard but he was happy to see it as the pair belonged together. It was something that he noticed immediately, but saw as they
spent more time together.

“Oh what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him right?” She then kisses Jason on the cheek with a laugh before heading towards the door. “I’ll see you later. I’m going to get back to breakfast so I feed the monkey when she wakes up.”

“Don’t you mean monkeys?” She then laughs as she heads inside and lets out a sigh. No doubt it was hard to keep the smiling and joking going when inside, she wasn’t sure about this whole ‘racing’ thing – but that was something that the boys on the team couldn’t figure out, either.

 

Chapter 38: Bud Shootout

Noted – there may be some concerns towards the comments between Jason and Marie at the end of the previous chapter. Don’t let those fear you. There’s no cheating going on, I promise. Jason just likes to pick on Marie and that was part of their picking on back and forth. Being around the guys all the time, you had to know it’d be coming 😉

As far as what’s to come with the chapters in this story, talk to the muses. I’ve played out a couple different scenarios in my head and some are really good, some aren’t. Depending which route I take, depends on what will happen.

The day seemed to fly by and before they all knew it, they were standing by the car set for the race later that night. Confidence was in the air based on previous restrictor plate success and how strong Regan said the car felt in practice. It’d be one helluva story if they could come out of the gate with a win.

“No pressure tonight and if at any time you just don’t want to finish this deal tonight due to how you’re feeling or whatever, it’s fine,” Steve assures Dale as Dale looks over with a smile. There was something in the smile that instantly told him that there was no way that Dale would be getting out of that car tonight.

“Daddy!” Alyssa yells, pulling at his leg, grabbing his attention. He then picks her up, immediately knowing what she wants as he puts her in the car. “Vroom!”

“So, do you think you’d make a better driver than your daddy?” Jason questions as he peers in to look at her. She then looks at him and shakes her head yes, causing a shocked expression on Dale’s face. “Don’t worry – I agree.” Dale then smacks him as Jason sticks his tongue out. Jason then wraps an arm around Marie and pulls her close as Dale rolls his eyes.

Ever since he started dating Marie back in May of 2010, Jason and the guys had been pests about it. They’d bug him constantly after them dating, and then especially when Marie got pregnant in July. They also kept playfully flirting with her just to get under his skin.

Dale then pulls Marie close to him after getting her out of Jason’s arms and kisses her lips, showing Jason a smirk afterwards before looking back into Marie’s eyes. There was something that he could tell was off about her behavior. He had noticed it the beginning of the weekend and noticed it multiple times since, but didn’t want to say anything and bug. No doubt things would be rocky for a bit.

He then reaches for his phone, which was an automatic cue for Marie to pull hers out. She had gotten very used to this.

“Are you okay?” He sends her as he keeps his eyes locked on her. She then looks up after reading and locks her eyes with his and shakes her head yes. She didn’t want to fill his mind with skepticism only moments before the race.

“I’m just ready for this season to get started so we can put everything behind us,” she answers matter-a-factly before kissing his lips. Truthfully, she hoped with each race that they got under their belt that she’d be okay.

Dale shakes his head totally understanding as he pulls her close and simply holds her. He looks over her shoulder and catches Alyssa’s eyes. The sparkle in her eyes only meant one thing – she was taking after him with each day that passed by.

As they got closer to opening ceremonies, he picked her up and held close as he and Marie stood together by the car. Following ceremonies, Marie and Dale shared a kiss before Dale handed Alyssa over to Marie.

“Love you,” she states before walking away with Alyssa in her arms.

“Ready?” Jordan asks and Dale shakes his head yes before climbing in the car.

After heading back to the pit box, Marie gets Alyssa to climb up on the pit box first, before following her as they both take their seats.

“Who said you could sit here?” Jason asks as he sits down beside Alyssa. She then looks at him with a smile.

“Uncle Stevie!” She answers as Steve sits behind her and shows a smile. Since she was old enough to sit up on the pit box, Steve had always let her sit beside him as he didn’t mind having a sweet little girl beside him for a calming effect sometimes. Though today marked the first day of change. Today was the day that Jason would officially take over as crew chief and become truthfully in charge. For that reason, Steve was going to sit back and simply watch over things, letting Jason run the show. If something happened that stood out to him, he’d step in. “I stay?” Jason shakes his head yes with a big smile on his face, which turns to huge surprise as little arms wrap around him. “’Hank you!”

“If she becomes a pain in the butt, I’ll be sure to get her to move so you can do your job,” Marie advises as Jason glances her way.

“I trust you on that,” he states before putting his headset on, ready for the race that night.

************

As more laps were put on the board that night, it became very clear – they had a car that could win that night. The plan had been working so far as Jason could hear the distinct taps cleared than expected – credit to Jordan – and they had been able to run upfront all race long. With only 15 laps to go and currently sitting in second, the pieces were falling together quite nicely.

“Keep calm….” Steve coached as he rubbed Marie’s shoulders. He had picked up on her nervousness earlier in the race and had since been being the comforting one to her, pleased with how Jason was running things being in charge. All of the worries that had filled his mind pre-season were being erased with each bit of discussion on the radio. Perhaps there was nothing to worry about. “He’s got this…”

Another five laps were put in the books as Matt Kenseth continued to lead the field while Dale ran second with Jimmie in third. It was working into their favor with 10 laps to go as there was no question that the Hendrick teammates would be able to hook up and take the win.

“I can’t watch…” Marie lets out in a frustrated sigh. Normally, she was calm on the pit box and enjoying the action that was taking place before her. However, that was not possible with the nervous butterflies that fluttered in her stomach. She thought that they would’ve improved with each lap, but they had actually gotten worse as she knew with these plate races that at the end, all heck usually broke loose.

“Daddy gonna win!” Alyssa cheered as she was mesmerized in watching how fast the cars went by each time that they went by on the frontstretch. When they were in the turns or down the back, she would focus on the book that in her lap.

“I hope you’re right sweetpea,” Steve commented as he
continued to rub Marie’s shoulders, trying to calm her down.

Discussion amongst the spotters had the move being planned as the teammates wanted to make it at the right time, but not too early. Another five laps went in the books to make it five to go as discussion settled on a decision of timing.

“Don’t stress yourself,” Steve comments quietly as he leans over Marie’s shoulder. “No matter what happens, you’ll get to hold him later tonight. But I have a feeling that they’ll be something else in your arms if this plan works.” He then kept an eye on Alyssa to make sure that she stayed behaved, knowing that she was getting tired and cranky with how late it was past her bedtime. Though he also kept an eye on the monitor to watch Dale, while being the comforting one for Marie.

Four to go.

Three to go.

Two to go.

Final lap.

Down the backstretch, Dale and Jimmie pulled out as discussed and made their move on Kneseth. Through corners three and four, Dale and Matt remained side-by-side for the lead as Marie buried her head in her legs, scared and nervous all at the same time as to what was going to happen.

Coming to the tri-oval, they pair continud to run side-by-side….and then, it happened. Hamlin got sideways behind Kenseth, catching the right rear quarter panel on Dale, setting off a chain reaction wreck that collected most of the field while Kenseth grabbed the win.

As the dust settled, TJ Majors was the first one to come across the radio, “If I hear a tap on the steering wheel or that window net goes down, I know you’re okay. Give us one or the other buddy.”

“Daddy?” Alyssa asks in a worried tone as she looks towards the front stretch. Immediately, Steve gives Jason a knowing glance and Jason shakes his head as he looks over at Jordan. In the past if wrecks happened, Steve would go to comforting Marie while Jason would handle Alyssa. With the changes for this weekend, Steve was going to handle Marie while Jason had put Jordan in charge of Alyssa.

“He’s okay guys…” Jason lets out as he sits back against his seat, letting out a sigh of relief, hearing the familiar tap that they had gotten used to over the course of the race.

“Daddy okay?” Jason shakes his head yes as Jordan sneaks up behind Alyssa.

“Why don’t you go with Jordan and get an ice cream?” Steve suggested as he keeps his arms wrapped fully around Marie. When the wreck happened, she immediately turned back to him, and buried her head in his chest, all of her worries hitting the surface immediately. “Perhaps Jordan will make sure there’s some special sprinkles on it.” Alyssa’s face lights up immediately as she heads off with Jordan.
“Marie? Are you okay?” Marie then looks up at him and shakes her head yes. “He’s okay. Jason said that. Let’s go see him.” Steve then helps her down the steps as they head towards the care center.

“Good effort everyone,” Jason tells the whole team. “We had the car and the strategy. Daytona – this shit happens.”

 

Chapter 39: Post-Shootout

After climbing down and leaving the pit box, Steve walks through the garage area with an arm wrapped around Marie while holding her hand with the other one. The entire race, he could tell there was something different with how she was acting. There were more nerves, no comfort in watching the race. That was something that threw him for a total loop as he never had experienced with her in the past.

“Let yourself breathe and relax,” he tells her as they continue to walk. “He’s fine. Don’t get yourself worked up, please.” He then leads her around a bend, trying to find the easiest path to the care center. “You’re a bucket of nerves, Marie. That’s not like you.” He wasn’t going to bring it up originally, though felt it was necessary as he wasn’t prepared to go through verse two of this on Thursday.

As they round a corner, he pulls her in a quiet spot, turning her to face him.

“Want to tell me something?” He questions, hoping that she opens up. “Everybody on the team noticed that something was up. Jason noticed it as he texted me during the caution.”

“Can we just go see him, please?” Marie asks, turning her gaze away from Steve. She didn’t want to open up about her feelings to him. It wasn’t a comfortable subject on her radar. “You don’t need to worry about me, LeTarte.” Steve then looks at her surprised, not used to her calling him by his last name. That usually meant that she was mad and/or frustrated at him. “I can handle this. I’ve been through this before.” Steve takes a careful deep breath, debating on continuing.

“Right. So that’s why you were a completely nervous wreck the last 20 laps?” She then looks away, knowing that he had figured her out more than she was giving him credit for.

“It’s Daytona – shit can happen.” She then turns and walks away from him, knowing if she stood there any longer that she would open the can of worms.

“So why weren’t you like that last year for the 500? Or the Pepsi 400?” She then stops for a second, debating which route to take. Perhaps it would help to explain everything to Steve as that way it would be out on the table. Maybe he could give her some advice, or maybe that’d make it easier to discuss with Dale and deal with.

“I guess….I just felt different about the situation in those races. Are you done?” Steve slowly shakes his head yes, giving up. There was no way that he could get her talk. He would either have to leave it alone and hope for the best on Thursday, or tell Dale so he could talk to her about it.

“Let’s go see him.”

“Finally!” They then finish the walk the rest of the way, heading inside the care center. They walk up to the desk, causing the assistant to look up. “I’m looking for Dale Earnhardt Jr., please.” The assistant looks over the notes on her desk before looking up.

“Have a seat,” she instructs. “Due to the amount of drivers, we aren’t allowing anybody to go in the back right now. They’ve been slowly been released one-by-one so patience and you’ll see him shortly.”

“But I’m his fianc-” Marie starts as the assistant crosses her arms.

“No wives, fiancés, girlfriends, parents, kids, car owners…..got it?”

“Please, I need to see him…”

“You heard what I said ma’am. Keep it up and I will call security.”

“Come on,” Steve comments quietly as he slowly pulls her back and they take a seat.

“Why won’t she let me through?” Marie questions as she looks over at Steve. “They’ve never stopped us before. Even when they’ve wrecked like 20 cars here! What makes this different?”

“They may have changed their policies. Just sit back and relax and like she said, he’ll be out soon.” Steve’s concerns were certainly answered for sure now by her behavior.

“I hate waiting. I have no patience.”

“Well they say patience is a virtue and use it wisely. This is a good example of that.” She then rolls her eyes as she sits back, her legs tapping nervously.

“Well, I have none. I just haven’t felt comfortable about anything so far this weekend.” Steve then looks at her curiously, intrigued to hear what she has to say as it starts to come out.

“Oh really? What gave you the first clue? So now are you going to tell me about how you acted earlier?” She lets out a sigh as she looks down at the tile floor, noticing that it wasn’t actually white for once but an off-white.

“I’ve just felt nervous and scared, Steve. I don’t know how to describe it. I’ve kept worrying that something is going to happen and……I don’t know if it’s because of what happened, or just my senses are haywire. I’ve had a fear that something is going to happen and I’m going to lose him. I can’t stand the thought of even losing either him or Alyssa. It hurt too much before….” Steve lets out a sigh, letting himself relax as he keeps his eyes on her.

“Marie, you know that’s not going to happen, right?” She then looks over at him.

“You can’t guarantee that and if it can’t be guaranteed, then it doesn’t give me comfort. I can’t push the thought out of my mind because I know what can happen. I know the dangers. I know the past here.” She then sits back in the chair. “What if history repeats itself? What if something happens? I can’t lose him, Stevie. I just can’t. I don’t know what I’d do. I need them both in my life more than anything else.” She then shakes her head as she lets out a shaky breath as Steve pulls her close, simply holding her. “I’m a royal mess.”

“No, you’re not as it’s common to have these thoughts after what happened. You both went through a lot in January with what happened in being separated and what Mariela and Owen had planned for you both. Seeing how strong you’ve both been in handling it, finding your way back to each other and being here, it’s amazing. It’s truly inspiring. Sure, Alyssa is still having some nightmares – but she’s only three so it’s expected with what Mariela put that poor girl through. These thoughts, this fear that you feel and the fact that you just want to be close to him – I don’t fault you for that. I totally understand it and get it after what I saw you both go through.”

“Yeah, it’s understandable. But could you see Dale’s reaction if he heard all that?”

“I don’t know how he’d react, but I know how much racing means to him and I know how much he loves you. I’m sure that he’d understand it as well, while comforting you and assuring you that these fears that you have are just that – fears.”

“I’ve been scared to say something to him as I didn’t want to throw his game off or get him all upset with me. That’s why I’ve tried to avoid telling anybody.” She then looks up at Steve. “What should I do, Stevie?”

“You want my advice? I’d tell him so that way it’s out in the open and perhaps he can help chase those fears away with a good conversation. However, in the meantime, I can promise you that I’ll be here for you all week so that way you have someone to confide in.”

“Thanks Steve.” She then sits back in the chair, slightly relaxed by his calm words. It felt good to get it off her chest. Now where was her fiancé?

 

Chapter 40: Post Shootout Part 2

So this chapter of events is taking the place at the same time that the previous chapter is taking place with Steve and Marie’s discussion post-race. We’ll all meet in time and space at the same time for chapter 41.
“So you still can’t drive huh, Austin?” Denny yells across the rooms as he sits waiting to be checking out by the doctor so he could leave the room. The wreck started when Denny got sideways while running third, causing him to get into Dale (who was 2nd on the outside of Matt). Though the only reason that Denny got sideways was from contact from Austin.

“Now now Denny, be nice to the kid!” Tony chimes in as the doctor gives him a quick look over.

“I didn’t mean it – I’m sorry,” Austin adds as he lies back on the bed, bored.

Dale shakes his head as he listens to them while waiting for his turn. He knew that Austin didn’t mean it probably as sometimes it happened at Daytona. Still, maybe the kid could learn a couple of lessons. If anybody thought back to the 2014 Daytona 500, he had some incidents that he got caught in – which were blamed on ‘rookie’.

“Sorry isn’t going to keep your ass from getting a beating if this shit continues,” Kyle Busch comments. “You’re lucky that this was the Shootout, kid.”

“How did Matt make it out of there in one piece?” Denny wonders as Kyle peaks around the curtain at him.

“Per the replay that I saw, he got sideways but was able to save it.”

Dale closes his eyes as he thinks back to that moment. He felt the contact, got sideways himself and got into Matt a little – but Kyle was right as the door contact caused Matt to get squirrely but not that bad. However, the contact from behind from Jimmie when Dale was sideways was what sent him up towards the outside wall.

Letting out a sigh, he knew that he’d be stiff and sore tomorrow a little based on how hard he hit the frontstretch wall. However, beyond that, he felt totally fine and just wanted to get out of there. Why were they being so slow?

“Woohoo I can flee from the coop!” Denny cheers as he gets the okay to leave along with Tony, catching Dale’s attention.

“Where’s the mime?” Tony questions as Dale rolls his eyes. He was getting annoyed o being called hat by his teammates and a couple others, including Tony. Tony peeks through the sets of curtains – including a surprised shriek from Jimmie just for laughs – before finding him. Tony walks into the small room as the doctor is down with someone else. “Are you okay?”

“Can I just go?” Austin whines as Tony rolls his eyes while sitting up beside Dale.

“I asked you a question, did I not? Are you okay?” Dale shakes his head yes as he sits there waiting patiently.

“Can I punch Austin for whining?” Kyle questions. “I’ll give him a reason to whine! He’s giving me a headache!”

“You give us all a headache!” Jimmie yells, gaining some laughs.

“Oh shush it Mr. Perfect!”

“Kyle, do you want to be allowed out tonight or do you want a free trip to the hospital?” Tony chimes in as he glances over towards Dale. Dale just shakes his head in disbelief at the behavior that is happening around him, though knows that normally he’d chime right in.

“I’m free so kiss my ass!” Kyle chants as he runs by the room as Tony just rolls his eyes.

“Dillon – you’re free,” the doctor announces as Austin also heads out. Dale then looks at Tony curiously as Tony tries to figure out what he means.

“Who’s left?” Tony guesses and Dale shakes his head. “Johnson and you. I was free’d first. I just wanted to make sure that you were okay since you were quiet.” Dale gives him a knowing look before flopping back. Truth be told, it was getting annoying not being able to talk as it made everything hard. He thought that he’d have his voice back by this time based on the fact that it’d been a week.

“Last one for the nigh….Stewart, you were told that you could go,” the doctor says as he enters the room.

“I was just seeing how he was,” Tony comments before hopping down. “I’ll leave. See you after.” Tony then leaves without argument as the doctor walks over.

“Are you okay?” Dale shakes his head yes. “Sore at all?” Dale shakes his head no. “Fine. Open your mouth.” Dale then opens his mouth as instructed as the doctor checks his throat. “It’s improving, slowly. I can defiantly tell that they are returning to normal size.” The doctor then moves back, leaning against the wall and making a note as Dale closes his mouth, watching. “I want to try something. I want you to whisper something to me. Whatever word you want but keep it one syllable.” Dale thinks it over before looking back up at the doctor.

“Fuck…” Dale whispers quietly before putting his fingers by his neck. “It hurts. A little. Not bad though.” The doctor smiles slightly as he writes another note down as Dale relaxes.

“You’re definitely improving and that’s good to see. If you feel comfortable with it, you can start whispering to people. Like you mentioned it hurt a little but if you can put up with it, feel free to start. However, no long answers or long conversations till further notice. Got it?” Dale shakes his head yes. “No actual voice till further notice. If you even try now, it’s going to hurt a ton.”

“No thank you. I’ll accept whispering for now. It feels good. Can I go please go? I have a three-year-old that wants her daddy.” He knew that Alyssa would be a little worried given what happened.

“You may go – but don’t be afraid to come back if you start to feel some pain.” Dale shakes his head yes before leaving the room, ready to make his escape.

 

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