Chapter 61: Battles Left Ahead
As suggested by the doctor the day before, Angelica was expected to go see Caroline about her anorexic issues. They stemmed from the chemotherapy and marked the last step to truthfully having everything behind her. As a result, she sat in the office along with Kyle and Dale. She had asked both of them to come so they could hear what was said and make points of their own. Tony was going to come, but got tied up with some business over at SHR.
“That’s correct,” Angelica answers as she sits there. She wanted to finish up and do what it took as she knew that in seven months, she’d be in Daytona testing and getting ready for the new season ahead. She wanted to get this done as quickly as possible so she could get a jump start maybe on testing and preparing for the year ahead.
“That’s normal so don’t be worried about it,” Caroline explains. “It’s one of those symptoms and frankly, it’s one of the worst. Obviously you know the fatigue issues which in time with strength that’ll get back to where you need to be.” Angelica shakes her head as she knew that she had to get her strength back up to par where it was before through working out and letting her body heal from the battle it had faced. She had already spoken to the pit crew coach at Hendrick Motorsports about some ideas. “You also had the hair loss experience, right?” Angelica shakes her head yes as she pulls at the red long-haired wig a little. “And then there’s this issue. Now this issue is one of the hardest just because of what it has done.”
“But it can be dealt with, right?” Dale wonders and Caroline shakes her head yes. Dale was worried about how the next seven months would play out based on the announcements made and what needed to be done.
“It’s going to take commitment and hard work but we can do it.”
“I have faith that she can kick the world’s ass without any problems,” Kyle comments as he squeezes Angelica’s hand.
“If she can kick that cancer’s ass, this is going to seem like child’s play,” Caroline adds as Angelica smiles. “Now the simplest thing I can tell you is this – go home and eat. Get into eating those three meals – or even six small meals – a day. Get yourself in the habit and just start doing it. Don’t hold back.
“I wish it was that easy,” Angelica muses outloud as she looks down.
“It’s not that easy and that’s why we’re meeting. The plan that I have for you is simple. We’ll meet once a week, whether with these two or not, and discuss things. We’ll look at the improvement and maybe why there’s struggles. If each week you can eat a little more and bring yourself to getting to where you need to be, that’s all I ask. If you’re not able to, then bring forth possible reasons and maybe we can figure what is needed. If one of them is that you’re not feeling hungry, then maybe we have to look at ways to bring back those taste buds and want to eat.” Caroline goes into the drawer and pulls outta piece of paper, handing to Angelica. “Read this and try to in cooperate these things into your life. Are there any of those that stand out to you?” Angelica shake her head yes. “Such as?”
“This one looks right,” Kyle comments as he looks over the list. “Staying active. You’re doing that by spending time with the rugrats in building the team. Getting involved in that as much as you can as you get stronger will help as those kids smiles are so easy to pick up.”
“Yeah that’ll be part of it for sure,” Angelica says as Kyle smiles.
“Plus, I’ll help you with that in encouraging you and working out with you as you need to get stronger.”
“Right here, this combination of you helping her Kyle, is perfect,” Caroline interrupts. “This is exactly what she needs. Doing that as you said and having you there to encourage is perfect. That’s a huge step. Having a good support system helps and I know you have a lot of people that love you.” Angelica shakes her head yes a smile forms on her face. “You can muse over that list when you feel that you’re having an issue and want some help in the confidence department. Given your outfit, I think you’re following the need to be comfortable factor.”
“Tesla has beautiful clothes that I am falling in love with,” Angelica comments as she looks over her outfit again.
“It looks amazing on you,” Dale says as he looks to Caroline. “Will this get better over time easily?” Caroline shakes her head yes. “So basically it’s just like working through a slow process?”
“As she said dad, it’s going to be one that will involve working hard and working through the issues that arise. But as long as I stick to my guns, get stronger, keep things happy – baby, we’re going to be fine.” Angelica then looks down as a smile forms on her face. “The more I think about it, the more I feel like lunch.”
“You’re already starting,” Kyle comments as Caroline shakes her head. “Shall we go for a salad once we get out of here?”
“I say whatever she feels like,” Dale adds as Caroline sits back in her chair listening. “Any ideas princess?”
“What about sushi?”
“Mmmm….haven’t had that in a while,” Angelica comments as she licks her lips. “That sounds so good.”
“This is beautiful,” Caroline interrupts. “Just beautiful. I don’t need to say much more except for the fact that you’re doing what’s required. I can see the effect of the news and then your future plans are having a great effect on you.”
“Is there anything else that we should know?” Dale wonders and Caroline shakes her head yes.
“Please take a vitamin pill each day as that’ll help with regaining strength and ability to do all of your big plans. I also would like to make sure each time you come see me that stop in Carl’s office and just get a quick physical look over to know we’re on the right track.” Angelica shakes her head accepting. “Beyond that sweetie, it’s all up to you and the process that we take. Given the success of this meeting and rumbling stomachs, I think you better head off to that sushi restaurant.”
After trading goodbye and thanks, the three of them head out and go to the sushi place.
Later that afternoon, Angelica walks into SHR and goes to Tony’s office, sitting a plate on his desk.
“Eat,” she instructs as Tony looks up surprised. “I can’t have you wasting away on me. I already had some with Kyle and Dale.” She then leaves as Tony sits there smiling. It was fun to have the sparkling personality that they were used to back.
Though as they hit the two mark month, a difference was noticed by those around her.
She was eating, but not as much as you would hope for. She was eating enough to keep them at bay, but not the meals that they would really be happy with.
She was also starting to distance herself from them rather than being right there alongside them.
Each person was starting to notice it, though kept quiet as they didn’t know what to say. Finally, Kyle couldn’t take it anymore as he made his way through the doors at JR Motorsports and straight to Dale’s office.
“We need to talk,” he said as he entered the office, surprising Dale.
“What’s going on?” Dale asked, concerned as he hadn’t seen Kyle this jumpy for a long time. “And you could’ve knocked.”
“That’s not really important right now. We need to talk about Angelica.” Dale looks up at the young man before him, even more concerned.
“What about my daughter? You better tell me what is going on, Kyle. This is ridicu-”
“Have you noticed a change in her attitude lately? Have you noticed that the progress we were making has stopped suddenly?” Kyle plops down in the chair as Dale relaxes.
“I want to why. I want to know what’s going on inside of her head.”
“Have you asked her?” Kyle shakes his head as Dale lets out a sigh. “I’ve asked her as well, but she keeps insisting things are fine. I wasn’t worried about it till I spoke to Kelley and Karsyn the other day.” Kyle sits up, intrigued. What conversation was this?
“What happened? What’d she say to trigger your thoughts?”
“That if she isn’t ready for next year, she wants Karsyn to drive the car.” Kyle’s jaw drops as he shakes his head.
“What happened to all the confidence in the world about being ready for next year? It’s only July! She’s still got time!” Kyle sits back as he takes a deep breath. What was going on in Angelica’s head? “You don’t think….”
“She would’ve openly told us and Caroline would’ve mentioned it. The appointments with Caroline would’ve ceased to exist if that was true. There’s something else that we’re missing.”
“I don’t know!” Dale looks out the window thinking as Kyle thinks it over. What was Angelica thinking about? What were they missing to help her?
“Maybe we should talk to Caroli-”
“I already have.” Kyle looks at Dale, surprised. He wasn’t expecting that already.
“What’d she say?”
“She told me to confront Angelica about it and I told her that I have done that already. She then said she’d question to the topic with her and see if she can help. I’m right now hoping that does it because I don’t know what to do.” Kyle watches as Dale keeps his eyes turned away, tears begin to creep down. “She’s my baby girl. I hate to see her like this. I just wish I could make it like it never happened.” Kyle walks over and puts both hands on Dale’s shoulders.
“They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and if that’s the case, then we’ll find a way to get her through this.”
“I hope you’re right. She’s lucky to have found someone who cares about her like you do.”
“She’s lucky to have a dad that will do anything for her.”
She couldn’t pin point the reasoning behind it but somewhere between May and July, the hope that was there after hearing the news disappeared. It vanished into thin air as if someone had simply picked it up and walked away with it. Why? Nobody knew but her.
“Thanks for the memories,” she whispers as she runs her hand down the side of her old racecar. When she wanted to think, this was where she would come. She’d come and see her first racecar. It was this car that gave her the first piece of true hope and happiness that she had known in her life. In search for something, this is where she would come.
“You made a lot of special memories with that car,” she hears, catching her off-guard as she recognizes the voice immediately. She lets out a sigh as she would’ve rather been left alone. She continues her walk along the side of the short racecar, smiling as the stars still sparkle in the paint job. It was Rick’s idea to put the stars there as they were supposed to sparkle just as she did.
“So you’ve probably heard. It’s not like you were there to watch it.” Her voice catches the person off-guard as he enters the garage, closing the door behind him.
“What’s going on Ang? What are you thinking about?” She freezes and looks over her shoulder at the person that stands there. “Ang?”
“There’s no need to worry about what I’m thinking about. It doesn’t matter anyway.”
“Why not? It matters to me.” She looks down as she takes a deep breath, knowing where she wants to go with this considering her current attitude.
“If it matters so much to you, then why weren’t you there?”
“I’ve been here for you…”
“Yeah, for the last half of my life. Where were you when I was a little girl? Where were you before I turned into that sweet teenager?” Dale looks down as he thinks about her words. There was no secret that there were regrets over what happened in Angelica’s past. He regretted not wanting to think of having a child. He regretted keeping it hidden even after he welcomed her into his life. There was nothing to replace that regret, ever.
“For what it’s worth, I regret every minute that I missed than and I will continue to apologize for that. I’m sorry, Angelica.” He then takes a couple steps closer to her. “But why does that matter right now?” She then moves away so they’re standing in the garage, either side of the car, staring at each other. He moves slightly, wanting to close the gap and find out what’s on her mind, though just finds himself switching sides with her.
“Don’t think that a hug will ease it all right now.” He then freezes as the words escape her lips, feeling so cold as she keeps her eyes focused on him. “It’s not that simple. A hug gives instant comfort, but doesn’t erase the pain that is buried underneath. It doesn’t erase the heartbreak of learning that a father is ashamed to tell his own mother and sister. It doesn’t ease the heartbreak of being away from that father. It doesn’t erase the heartbreak of knowing that father didn’t want anything to do with her in the beginning. Sure, time eases those wounds and they get pushed deeper and deeper down, but they never go away.” She then looks down as she feels a set of tears coming to her eyes. “They say time is supposed to ease pain but fuck, I don’t get how they say that is the case.”
“I don’t want to hear it, Dad.” She then moves back slightly, leaning against the wall.
“I’m so sorry for the pain that I caused you but just like it hurts you, it hurts me as well. I know the pain that you’re feeling.” He had no idea why this was a topic at this point or why she was saying what she was saying, but could he really stand there and deny it? “I kn-”
“Just stop!” He freezes at her outburst as she pushes herself off of the wall and walks around to the other side of the garage. He keeps his eyes focused on her as he moves himself from where he is standing against the Legend towards the direction that she went. “You should leave…honestly….” She then reaches into pocket, remembering her purpose for what she was doing there. “Just leave, please. I don’t want to do this right now.”
“Then why are we talking about it if you don’t want to touch the topic?”
“Because that’s what happens! Old pain always resurfaces and reminds of what happened before. Old pain is always there to tell you what heartbreak is. Old pain is there to remind you that the fight you’re fighting is not worth it because pain is there – always.”
“Angelica, what are you getting at?” He then takes a couple steps, hoping to close the gap without startling her again as she keeps her hands firmly grasped on the object in her pocket. “Angelica, tell me what’s on your mind. Let me help you.”
“I’m done fighting for everything that I have.”
“What do you mean by that?” He then moves around the Camaro, standing right in front of her. “The fight is over – we both have said that multiple times.”
“This fight may be over, but what does the next chapter hold?” Dale reaches for her hand, though she immediately pulls back away from him.
“We get through one battle and another battle is right there making us continue to fight. From my childhood to you and Jeff to Ashton and I to the cancer – I’m sick of fighting and crawling to try and have the life that I want. Sure, you’ll say that everything is fine now, right? Well that’s where you’re wrong as there’s probably another thing out there ready to ruin our lives once again.”
“That’s not true and even if there is, we’ll make it through it together.”
“But when do you realize that you can’t fight it all and surrender?” She pulls her hand out of her pocket, object firmly grasped in hand. “When do you realize that it isn’t worth it?” As she pops the top off the bottle, he reaches for it, though misses as she backs away from him.
“Angelica, whatever you’re thinking, it’s not worth it.” He then reaches for the bottle, grabbing it out of her hand and throwing it across the garage. “You never stop fighting because when it does work out, it will be worth every bit of it.”
“I…can’t….do….this…” The tears finally fall from her eyes and as she stands there shaking, Dale uses the opportunity to pull her close to him and hold her. “I can’t do it anymore, Dad.” He rubs her back as her sobs soak his shirt.
“You can, Angelica. There is no more battles left to fight. Everything is perfect now. You beat the cancer, both Ashton and Jeff are rotting in some jail, you have Kyle to love you, I have Tony and Lindsay, we both have little Chelsea chasing our asses and nothing is going to break that. From here on out, it’s time for us to live our happy ever after. I’m not letting you go and you’re damn well not giving up. You’ve come way too far to give up.” He then kisses her forehead as he continues to hold her against him, tears continuing to fall from her eyes as she buries her head in his chest.
“Dad…” she lets out.
“What Ang?” He asks as she lays her head back against his chest.
“How do you do it?”
“I don’t know. I just hope for the best and take each day in stride, hoping it’s better than the day before. It’ll get better for you. You just need to believe.” She shakes her head as he leads her out of the garage, shutting the lights off before returning to the house.
“I don’t know if I can.”
“You will. Trust me.”
“I don’t….” Her voice trails off as they walk inside, eyes glancing over at them from the group sitting at the kitchen table. They can see the tears on Angelica’s face as Dale keeps her held close to him.
“Let’s go upstairs.” He then leads her out of the kitchen, looking back at the group with a reassuring glance. He knew they wanted to know what was up and he wanted to tell them so they knew. But now wasn’t the time. Now was the time to take care of his daughter. He leads her up the stairs and to her bedsroom door. “Go get some sleep and we’ll talk about this in the morning.” She shakes her head, not wanting to face the topic with him any longer as she enters her room. She flops down on the bed and he walks over, grabbing the blanket and throwing it over her as her dog jumps up and lies beside her. “You take care of her, Winnie.” The dog lets out a small bark as Dale smiles. “Good boy.” He then glances back at Angelica. “No trying anything stupid. I love you.” He then kneels down and kisses her cheek.
“Love you, too.”
“See you in the morning.”
“Yeah, sure.” She then buries her head in the pillow as he lets out a sigh, leaving the room. Taking one last glance in the room, he closes the door and then leans against the wall, shaking his head.
“I take it you got through to her?” A voice cuts his thoughts off and he opens his eyes, seeing Kyle standing there before him.
“Easy Kyle…” Tony warns as he joins Kyle at the top of the stairs.
“Yeah, I found out what was on her mind,” Dale comments as he closes his eyes, wanting to erase the words he heard in the garage out of his mind.
“And what did she have to say? What’s been going on?”
“Everything has gotten to be too much for her. She doesn’t want to keep working at it because she says there’s no reason to when things always keep falling apart.” He then opens his eyes, facing the pair of people before him. “It’s a good thing that I went there.” He then throws the bottle that he had put in his pocket after dumping it at the pair of them and Tony catches it, eyes opening in shock.
“Yeah, she was going to.”
“I’m calling Caroline in the morning. We need to do something about this. She can’t be doing this, Dale.” Dale shakes his head understanding as he already had plans himself to take care of it.
“I’ll stay with her and take care of her,” Kyle tells them before entering the bedsroom.
“Are you okay?” Tony asks Dale and Dale shakes his head yes.
“It just hurt seeing her like that, Tony,” he tells him honestly.
“I understand.” Tony then closes the gap between them, holding Dale close to him. “But she’ll be okay.”
“I know she’ll be okay. I’m not letting her give-up. I’m going to do whatever it takes. She’s come too far to give up.”
“We’re both going to do whatever it takes.” The pair of them then walk down the hall to their room.
“I called Caroline,” Dale starts as he takes a deep breath. “I told her what happened last night and she said she wants to see Angelica this morning.”
“Did she say anything else?” Tony asks as he sets a plate with bacon and eggs down in front of Dale, before sitting beside him.
“She’s concerned as we are and has some ideas.” Lindsay then sits down, curious.
“What ideas?” Lindsay questions as Dale starts to eat. “How do you convince someone that is willing to give up to change? How do you make them feel better?” Tony shrugs his shoulders.
“You just got to be hopeful around them, I guess,” Tony comments as he looks up from his plate at Dale. “Are you okay?” Dale shakes his head yes.
“She scared the bloody crap out of me last night,” Dale starts. “I couldn’t believe what she was saying or doing. I didn’t know what to do. She’s always been the strong person, ready to take down whatever. To see her cave like that, it was surprising and it scared me.” He then lets out a sigh as he starts to eat. “Caroline says there’s some options and things to try. We can try to work with her to convince her otherwise or she may have to go in for psychiatric treatment. That’s why Caroline wants to see her this morning and talk to me more about what happened.”
“Do you want us to go with you?” Lindsay asks and Dale shakes his head yes. “Okay, we’ll go with you.”
“Are you sure it’s okay with your schedule, Tony? If you can’t take the day off, I’d understa-”
“It’s fine,” Tony cuts him off. “This matters more than anything else. I’ll call Zippy and Gene and let them know that something came up. That’s all.”
“Okay,” Dale says quietly as he continues eating.
“Has she come down yet?” Lindsay wonders and Dale shakes his head no.
“Kyle’s with her so she’s alright.”
“What happened to all those positive thoughts that she had of being in love with Kyle and racing next year and a family?” Tony asks. “I can’t grasp all this. It’s not like her at all.”
“Guess it finally became too much for her,” Dale comments. “Everybody can only handle so much.”
“And you’re sure you’re okay?” Lindsay asks as she puts a hand on top of Dale’s.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” Dale then stands up and puts his plate in the sink. “Thanks for breakfast.”
“No problem,” Tony comments as he keeps his eyes focused on Dale. Lindsay watches Dale leave the room before plopping down in front of Tony.
“What do you think?” Lindsay questions, surprising Tony. “What’s going through his mind? You could always read him better than I could. Should we be worried?” Tony shakes his head no as he watches Dale walk down the hall and head upstairs.
“He’ll be fine once his daughter is okay. They’ve both been through a lot but as long as she’s okay, they’ll both be fine. Trust me, Linds.” Lindsay shakes her head as she walks away.