Mayday #9 – Chapters 11 Thru 15

Chapter 11: Spilling Emotions Con’t

“I think the biggest thing is just being honest with yourself, whether you like it or not. There may be days where you have to be honest with yourself and in the back of your mind you know you didn’t do something right or know that you could have done a better job. And I think you just have to face those issue.” – Chase Elliott, November 2014
Whether he liked it or not, he had to face that day. He had to face the events and be honest with himself about what happened. If he was ever to move on, he had to recall each event and see what happened. He had to recall each feeling he felt and why. It would be the only way to move forward.

Beyond that, if mistakes were made in his mind, he had to face those and learn from those moving forward to continue growing. It was why he had been disecting each moment clearly with Regan to make himself feel better.

He had already made one mistake – letting this tear him apart. He had perhaps made another mistake in letting his guard down.

Now sitting there recounting details, he knew this is what he had to do to even begin to move forward.

“So after you got over the initial shock, what happened?” Regan questions, snapping Chase out of his thoughts.

After what had been said, Regan was intrigued as to what the young man before him had to say. He wanted to know so that way he could help Chase through whatever he was dealing with from what had happened. Though the story also had his interest as he wanted to know how things were put in place with the events that happened that fateful weekend.

“Randy told us to hurry up and for me to hand over my suit,” Chase recalls as he sits, thinking about standing in the trailer hearing those comments. “He then closed the door and took his role, standing guard. I was so confused that I didn’t know what to do. I was in shock as to what was happening, confused as to what was going to happen.

“The initial shock still there….” Regan thinks out loud as he awaits for Chase to continue.

“Dale snapped me out of my thoughts, though….”

“Pull the suit off, and the shoes, and give them to me,” Dale instructs as Chase sits down beside him, beginning to do so, confusion clearly written over his face.

“What’s going on Dale?” Chase wonders. “Why am I changing out of my stuff?” Dale then looks down, taking a deep breath.

“They’re forcing me to run the 500 today and if I don’t win, Mariela is going to kill Marie.” Chase’s jaw drops immediately as he hands his stuff over, watching Dale get into the suit. “Little tight but oh well.”

“You can’t run this race.” Dale then looks over at the young man.

“I hav-”

“You can’t run this race, Dale. I can tell by looking at you how sore you still are from what happened earlier this week and this latter half while you have been kidnapped. You may think that you’re some kind of superman, but you can’t run this race.”

“I hav-”

“You can’t humanly do it!” Dale fixes the suit once again as he looks in the mirror at himself. He could see what Chase was saying by how he felt at the current moment. He knew that it was going to be hell trying to complete this, but what choice did he have?

“I have to – I have no choice. If I don’t go out there, she has Marie – she’ll kill her now.” Chase shakes his head in disbelief as he sits back in the lounge area.

“There I was, standing shock and confused not knowing what to do, but yet he sounded so confident,” Chase comments as he thinks back. “It stunned me. I couldn’t believe how confident he sounded in what was set to happen. It was like he was certain that he could do it no matter what, despite how he was feeling.”

“He had been through dealing with Mariela before and Marie’s father so it was probably just programmed memory,” Regan shares. “They also say that when you’re put in a tough situation that you’ll do anything for those you love. That what he was doing. He didn’t know what else to do. He did what he had to do, just like you had, too.” Chase knew those words seemed to be true, but he wondered how much truth was laced in them. What if he could’ve changed fate?

“I knew that arguing with him wasn’t going to get us anywhere. So I just told him that I hoped it turned out. I then shared the regrets in not saying anything earlier when Randy had confronted me.” Regan then crosses his arms, already knowing the answer that Chase probably recieved.

“And what did Dale say?” Chase looks over, knowing that the answer was easy.

“The same thing that you told me earlier. He also told me to be careful with Mariela and that everything would work out. He also promised me that mom and dad would find me.” Regan snickers, knowing that everybody knew Bill and Cindy really well. There was no way that anybody should go messing with momma bear’s cub. She may be quiet, but she’ll defend him top to bottom.

“They were right mad when they found out about you missing, let me tell you. They promised to do whatever it took to find you, also.” Chase smiles.

“That doesn’t surprise me.” Chase then takes a deep breath, as he goes back through his thoughts once again. “So then Dale left, simple as that. He left, confident, set to go about the business at hand. Meanwhile, I sat on the couch with Mariela, curious about my future…..”

“Well well, look at you cutie,” Mariela comments, her eyes immediately darting over to Chase. “Aren’t you just adorable?”

“Hurt him and I can promise you that you haven’t seen nothing yet from any of us,” Dale starts as he walks towards the door. “He isn’t part of this at all. Once I’m in the car, let him go and don’t hurt him, please. He doesn’t deserve it.”

“Oh don’t you worry about a thing dear.”

“Good luck Dale,” Chase states. “I believe in you.” Dale gives him the thumbs up before leaving with Randy, helmet in hand. Mariela then closes the door and flops down on the couch beside him, turning on the race.

“I guess we can sit here and watch this together to learn how fate goes,” she comments as Chase curls up in the corner, fear starting to enter more and more based on what he had heard about Mariela’s past stunts with Dale and Marie.

“I guess….”

“Oh don’t worry. I won’t touch you. Like he said, you’re not involved. There’s only one dear that really matters to me at the end of the day, and she has a good view of what’s going on as well.”

“Marie….” Regan lets out as Chase shakes his head yes. “That isn’t a surprise. They had her locked in a trailer, with her television to watch.” Chase had figured on that originally, and was pretty sure that it wasn’t far from where he was either. “I’m glad that she told you that she wouldn’t touch you.”

“Yeah…” Chase lets out as he tries to stay as relaxed as possible on the couch. “It didn’t give me any comfort at that moment. I mean, why would I feel comfortable with a person who knew how to poison someone and torture them? Have you ever seen anybody comfortable with a psychopath?” Regan shakes his head no as he knew that for himself. “But, she did stick by her word for awhile. We sat there watching the pre-race show. They showed Dale and Randy walking to the car. They showed him climbing in and Randy helping him. It felt right but yet so surreal at the same time.”

“What do you mean?”

“That’s his car so it should feel right. But he was in my firesuit and he was hurting. He shouldn’t be driving. He shouldn’t be doing this. He shouldn’t be able to walk by that group of people without anybody noticing or say anything.” Regan understood that feeling, having watched from the motorcoach. He hadn’t noticed it, himself, but he blamed that on being sick. However, if he had noticed it, he wondered whether he would’ve done anything to stop or change things with what was on the line.

“Steve said that he noticed it right away, but didn’t want to say anything out of fear. He knew if Dale was on the car, that meant that there was some plan up with you and Marie. He said that he said nothing out of fear that one of you, or both, would be hurt.” Chase shakes his head, understanding. It was the same reason that Chase had bit his tongue while speaking to Randy. It was the same reason why Dale had acted as if nothing was going wrong in the moment. How could they act different? There were lives at stake!

“That explains it, I guess.”

“But Steve didn’t keep quiet that long, though. He went to the one person that could help Dale – Jason. He told Jason because I noticed a change in Jason’s behavior once he found out. It was what gave me the tick off to come out to pit road and see what was going on….”

“Is it true that Dale is in the car?” Steve hears a voice, catching him off-guard.

“Aren’t you supposed to be on bed rest and not moving an inch out of your motorhome?” Steve questions as he looks towards Regan.

“I escaped Megan’s hold when I heard that Dale was in the car. Now, is it true?” Steve shakes his head yes as Regan lets out a long sigh. “So that means that Mariela has Chase. Great, that’s my fault. I should’ve been the lined back-up driver. I should’ve been standing there. I could’ve done something to stop it. I could’ve possibly caught everything in the act!”

“Regan, you don’t need to beat yourself up as I told you already,” Chase breaks into Regan’s story as Regan looks up.

“I know that now – it was just in the moment,” Regan states as he turns his eyes away from Chase. “I still feel terrible, though. You don’t deserve what happened. If I had been in the car, we wouldn’t been having this discussion tonight. Everything could’ve worked out differently….” Chase then reaches out and puts his hand on Regan’s shoulder, catching the older driver’s attention.

“I don’t want to hear another word of it. Things happened for whatever reason that they did and we can’t change them. We can only deal with it and move forward. You’re helping me do that by being here. By being a friend and helping me, it makes up for everything as I could never be mad at you.” Regan smiles slightly, reaching over to hug Chase.

“Alright….” Regan then take another sip of his hot chocolate before getting set for what he knew was to come. “Keep going. We’ve come so far that we can’t stop now.” Chase takes a deep breath, knowing that Regan was right. While it was hard to talk about any of this, he knew that he had to continue. It was already easier on the heart with what he had already said and this was the easy stuff. What would it feel like to get everything out there?

“So we stayed quiet watching the race as it kept going on and on. Not a single word was spoken. That was till 50 to go when she finally piped up when he fell back a bit…..

“This is going to be interesting,” Mariela comments from her perch as she glances over at Chase.

“He can still do it,” Chase says.

“You sound so very confident, but we all know that you’re just a sweet little boy who is naïve of reality and admiring a hero.” Chase looks over at her as if she’s crazy.

“I’d have you know that it’s more like watching my boss and knowing how much that he has helped me and what he has done in his career to date. Beyond that, I’m not a sweet little boy as incase you forgot, I’m 19.”

“16, 17, 18, 19…..you’re still in your teens and that means sweet little boy.”

“Wait….doesn’t she know a thing about plate racing?” Regan questions, breaking Chase’s concentration. “Doesn’t she know to never question an Earnhardt?” Chase laughs and shakes his head no.

“Guess not because she was doubting that he’d able to do it,” Chase comments as Regan shakes his head in disbelief.

“She should’ve known already not to cross paths with him or question his ability to do what is needed to be done. Gosh, what a girl. Not only was she crazy but also delusional.” Chase laughs as it did bring some light to the situation as Regan clears his throat. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have interrupted your story. You may continue…”

“I was focused on watching the race and keeping her away from me. Then I heard noises outside – and I wondered if it was you guys. Maybe I rescue was ready for me….hopefully. She then also noticed them as well, and asked me who it was…”

“I didn’t hear anything…” Chase comments.

“Oh bullshit!” Mariella yells. “You wish that’s how I treat it!” She then grabs him by a piece of his hair to pull him over to her and force him to look out the window. “Recognize those people?” A smile came to be on Chase’s inside as he certainly recognized the group immediately – Steve LeTarte, Regan Smith and his parents.

“No….no clue who they are. Do you know who they are?” He wasn’t about to give in that it was them in fear that she’d pull some drastic measure in knowing that there was a chance of her being caught soon.

“Don’t play dumb with me.”

“I honestly don’t….” She then gives him a slap across the cheek, cutting off his words.

“I know one of those people is Steve LeTarte, sweetheart, so why don’t you just spill who the other three are?” Chase takes a nervous deep breath as he quickly evaluated his own options.

“Regan Smith and my parents – Bill and Cindy – are the other two. Happy?” Mariela just shakes her head in disgust as they both hear doors open, knowing that the group is coming close

 

Chapter 12: Diving into the Middle

I can’t stand the pain and I can’t make it go away. How could this happen to me? I made my mistakes, I’ve got no where to run. The night goes on as I’m fading away. I’m sick of this; I just wanna scream. – Simple Plan

As the February night crept into his mind once again, it brought an unbearable pain. It was a pain that could tear any person to shreds. There was no physical pain, but yet it felt worst. It tore at him from the inside out, bringing forth a tinge of tears to his eyes as he sat there on the couch with Regan.

It was a pain that had haunted him for nights on an end, bringing forth night of no sleep. It was a pain that he felt could never go away….or could it? it was why he had called his best friend.

In spending time recounting the fateful day, he kept asking him – why? Why was he involved? How could he be going through this? It didn’t seem fair. Perhaps he made mistakes along the way, but did he deserve all of this?

The pain brought forth the feeling of not being able to escape it, with the night sky fading away as the sun was trying to come up. He was annoyed and wanted it gone. Hence why Regan was joining him on the couch that day.

Taking a deep breath, he brings himself back to the day and continues to account the events….

“Chase?” A female voice calls out as Mariela keeps her eyes on Chase.

“That’d be my mother,” Chase assures her. “Ever wondered what happens when you kidnap someone’s baby?”

“Chase?” Chase just smirks at Mariela, knowing that his captive time was coming to an end in a matter of moments.

“I guess in the minute of having faith, all the fear that I had disappeared,” Chase comments as he looks over at Regan. “I thought that I was safe. I thought in a moment that it’d be over. They’d open the door, somehow grab a hold of her and it’d be over. Call myself cocky, but that’s how I pictured it in my mind.”

“You weren’t cocky – you were thinking of the best situation for yourself,” Regan comments as he thinks back to standing outside. “We thought that it’d be just being her in there that we could just break in, as you say grab her and then you’re free. You weren’t the only one.”

“Guess we were both wrong?”

“It seems like it. So….take a deep breath…continue….” Chase does as requested, looking towards the ground as he thinks it over.

“Thinking that she couldn’t stop me now, I immediately darted for the door. I figured that I could get it open, I could easily escape and you guys would be right there. Plus, the door was probably locked on the outside….or though I thought…so I wanted to get it open.” Regan knew where they were going, having remembered the position that the young man was in when they had reached the door.

“But…”

“As my hand touched the door handle, she placed her hand on my shoulder and pulled me back – suddenly, forcely, surprisingly – and I flung back into the couch, back first. I caught the edge of my back on the couch and it stunned me for a second. My easy plan was thrown away.” Chase then glances up at Regan. “What if I hadn’t reached for the door?”

“What if it was locked and we couldn’t have gotten in? What if you would’ve reached the handle? You can’t fault yourself for trying. When we’re stuck in a situation that we can’t control, we try to take control.” Chase shakes his head yes as he returns his eyes to the floor. “Take your time….” Regan reaches over and rubs Chase’s back, knowing that each word spoken was becoming harder and harder.

“My mom heard it so she yelled for Steve and Dad. She knew that I needed help. Mariela then started walking towards me saying that ‘them being here is going to make things worse’. I thought she was just playing cocky. I thought that she was trying to be her all powerful self. I figured that she would try and make me hurt more, but it wouldn’t last because you guys were right there. I knew that the longer I could keep her back, the less pain would be caused…or so I thought.” Chase then takes a deep breath, feeling a couple tears trickle down his face. “I twisted her words on themselves, starting to get up, surprised how much my back hurt…”

“…..I remember the bruises. Those were awful.”

“They felt worse than they looked, honestly.” Chase wipes the first couple tears away, keeping his eyes focused on the floor as Regan continues to rub his back.

“Take your time. You can do it. You can tell me what happened…it’s okay…” Chase takes a couple deep breathes, ignoring the panicking thoughts that are entering his mind as he thinks back to the panic that went through him that day.

“As I focused on getting up and trying to keep her busy with a couple jabs back and forth, I watched her hand reach into her pocket. My mind immediately flashed as to what could possibly be there, as it could’ve been anything. The first thing you think of is a gun because hey, you see that in every horror mov-”

“Thankfully, she wasn’t that nuts, or armed and dangerous.” Chase then looks over at Regan.

“She was still, dangerous.” He then focuses his eyes down. “As I tried to focus on that, I noticed a bit of a silver shine and knew that it was a knife. I couldn’t find a word to say or anything that I could do. All I saw, in my mind, was an object that was ready to bring me misery. I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t know what to say. I immediately began to back up from her, wanting to get as far as possible, but yet unable. The wall, the couch – I had nowhere to run. That brought forth a state of panic because I didn’t know what to do and while I was dealing what, she grabbed a hold of me…and….well….you know….” Regan shakes his head, remembering the thoughts that went through his mind when he entered the room that day.

“I understand. I would’ve been scared as well. I mean, everybody knows that knives hurt, knives pierce body parts and result in major injury or death. It’s okay to admit that you were afraid and you panicked. Anybody would’ve in that situation.” Chase shakes his head as he knew that it was logical. It was also probably why it was the one moment that had haunted him the most since the day of the attack and was present in most of his dreams.

“No matter what I do, I can’t forget that moment or erase it from my mind. It’s the most haunting thing that I have ever seen – worse than any scary movie that you forced me to watch.” Regan could only chuckle as he thought of all the scary movies that he made Chase sit through, and how many times the popcorn had gone flying. “That’s the moment that stands out for me, in my dreams, in my thoughts.”

“It was the biggest moment that happened.” Regan takes a deep breath, as he knew that he was ready for what was to come. “The only way you’re going to move forward is if you face that day and talk about it. tell me about that day. Give me more details about what happened. Tell me the emotions that you felt that day, and the emotions that you feel as you look back.” Chase closes his eyes and feels the tears trickle down his cheek, emotions boiling over inside of him as he knew there were a lot of different things that he could – each resulting in him being more upset than ever.

“Sometimes in my dreams I am in my own body, going through the emotions. Sometimes I’m a third party watching the person that is being held. I feel as though I’m watching to try and see if there was something that I could’ve done anything different.” Chase looks up at Regan. “You know I’m a perfectionist – always looking back at every situation and seeing what I could’ve done better. I look back at each race and find every single mistake that I make and find out how I could make sure I don’t make it in the future. The same goes here. I keep wondering what mistakes I made, and whether I could’ve changed what happened.” Regan shakes his head, understanding, as he had gotten to know that side of his teammate. Through their time together last year, Regan helped Chase look at each situation easier, understanding that mistakes happen as a rookie and that rather than focus on those, focus on the positives of the race as well. Through the coaching by Regan, Greg and Dale, Chase had gotten better as the year went on leading to the championship. However, the element was still there and part of him.

“We talked about the initial push….” Chase shakes his head.

“I know, and I get that. But, Regan, what would you have done?” Chase keeps his eyes locked on his teammate, intriguingly. “When she approached with the knife, reached to grab – I want to know if there was anything that I could’ve done to prevent it!” Regan takes a deep breath as he thinks over the best words to say in response. No doubt he had been put in a tough situation.

“As she pulled out the knife, I probably would’ve been shocked – but if not totally panicked, I may have tried to push her back or kick my foot out to trip her. Anything that I could to throw her off her game so I could buy time, knowing people were there to rescue me. If she had gotten as far as pulling the knife out and reaching, I would’ve done anything to try and get away – as you did. However, there’s only so much that you could do in a small place and you don’t want to do too much because you don’t want that thing sticking in you.” Chase focuses his eyes back on the ground, thinking over Regan’s words as to the situation.

“So in other words, there was nothing else to do?”

“You took perfect advantage of the situation. Sometimes you are dealt situations that you can’t do anything about. That’s life – she’s a bitch sometimes.” Chase rolls his eyes as no doubt that statement was true.

“I just…..Can I make it disappear?” Regan shakes his head no.

“You tried that before and did it work?” Chase shakes his head no. “Why won’t it disappear? Tell me….”

“The fact that I wish I could’ve done something – the fear that creeps into my min-”

“She’s dead and gone. She can’t hurt you ever again.” Chase shakes his head as he had reminded himself of that fact each night.

“But there’s others in the world that could do the same….”

“Those are rare people as most people are sane and know that it’s wrong to do that. You don’t need to be afraid. You’ve got people around you who have your back no matter what. You’ve got people who will protect you if for some reason someone of that nature steps into our lives again. Look at the weekend as you always have your crew with you. Look at living here at the pool house. The best security is here, thanks to the boss, and you’ve got others right around here that would stop anything. Actually, nobody would try anything as Brad would shoot them with his bloody tank.” Chase chuckles as he could picture Brad doing that. “Your panic and wanting to change the situation – you got to face it and understand that you did what you could. Anybody would’ve done what you did….”

Chase would continue to dish bits and pieces of the emotions for the next hour with Regan responding to each, finding anyway to comfort the young man. the result would be tears shed, hugs shared and emotions lied on the couch that night.

Feeling confident that everything was out on the table and set to move on with no problems, the issue was put to bed – with Chase promising that anything did come up, he would contact Regan once again.

“Thanks for coming, by the way,” Chase says before glancing towards the clock. “I’m sorry I called you at like 4…”

“It’s fine,” Regan assures him again. “You needed to talk to someone and I’m fine with being that person for you, if it helps you.” Chase then glances back at Regan.

“Even if it means that we talked for three hours?” Regan looks over at the clock, surprised that it was like 7.

“Even if it means that it’s morning.” Regan then turns to the young man, knowing what needs to be done. “Now that we’ve talked about everything, you can go to sleep and Chase, you need sleep.”

“Bu-” Regan shakes his head no, not wanting to hear it.

“I don’t want to hear it. Go up to and go to bed. I won’t go anywhere; I promise. I’m going to put my feet up down here and get some sleep myself.” Chase knew that Regan was right. He was needing sleep due to lack of sleep the last while, and no doubt felt more wore out than normal with divulging everything. However, he couldn’t bring himself to do it.

“I have to go to the sho-”

“You’re not doing them, today. You’re tired and you need sleep. If you don’t get your ass some sleep, you’re going to get sick again. chase, take care of yourself and go get some sleep. Dale will understand when I explain things to him and be fine with it. I’ll handle him and keeping him off of your ass, if you’re so worried. But trust me when I say that he will understand and things will be fine. Go.” Chase then slowly gets off the couch and heads for the stairs, walking up them to head to bed. As he reaches the halfway mark, he stops and looks into the living room.

“Regan, you’re truly an angel.” Regan laughs as he looks over at him.

“Riiight….”

“I mean it. Thanks for being here.”

“No – thank you for doing the right thing and handling the situation. Now go!” Chase then focuses his eyes back on the stairs and takes a couple more steps, though freezes.

“Regan?” Regan rolls his eyes as he wishes that Chase would simply listen. He looks over, though, catching the eyes looking back at him. “Promise you won’t leave?” Regan shakes his head yes.

“I promise.” Chase then continues the walk to his room, flopping on the bed.

Pulling the blanket over himself, he takes a deep breath and closes his eyes. for the first time in a longtime, he felt a peaceful feeling in knowing that he had released everything that was buried inside. As he closes his eyes, there was no way that any negative thought could cross his mind.

 

Chapter 13: Post Discussion

A knock startles Regan as he jumps, rolling off the couch on the floor.

“Shit!” He yells as he then turns and goes to get up, hearing another knock. “I’m coming. Stop knocking!” He then makes his way over to the door, opening it, not surprised when he sees Dale standing at the other side. He figured it was probably Dale based on Chase’s comments before heading upstairs.

“Regan?” Dale asks confused as Regan motions for him to come in.

“Just keep your voice down, please.” Dale shakes his head as he follows Regan into the front room, where Regan flops back down on the couch.

“Where’s Chase?” Regan points upstairs as Dale looks on. He then goes to leave the room when Regan grabs his hand.

“Don’t go disturbing him, please.” Dale then stops and looks towards Regan, confused. “Listen, the kid couldn’t sleep last night. He called me at 3am, crying, unable to sleep. He wanted to talk about what happened and get it out of his system. I came over right away.” Dale then walks back towards the couch, sitting in the chair by it.

“Meg-”

“I left her a note, okay? I got here about 3:45 we’ll see and we talked all the way till sunrise through the night about what happened. He got it out of his system – which he needed to do a long time ago.” Dale shakes his head in agreement as he takes a glance towards the stairs.

“So he’s sleeping?” Regan shakes his head yes.

“I sent him upstairs and told him to get some rest because he obviously needs it with not being able to sleep and all that emotional baggage that he was carrying. He complained, saying that he needed to go to the shop, but I made him go upstairs and told him that I’d handle you.”

“You did the right thing. He needs to take care of himself and then we can worry about everything else. I’m sure all the meetings can be done tomorrow. Regan, thank you for coming over and helping him.”

“Just like I told him – I don’t need to be thanked. I did it as a friend because I care about him. When everything went down back in February, I was so worried about him and scared for him. I’m just glad that he’s okay, and I’ll do whatever it necessary to help him move forward.” The pair glance at each other as they knew the next step was getting through the trial that was set to happen next month. “When’s the trial?”

“Right after Daytona.” Regan rolls his eyes as he knew that was just great timing as they’d be going back to Daytona for the first time since February, and then have that followed by the beginning of the trial immediately.

“I have confidence that he’ll be fine now we talked about it and went through his emotions. I’ve always said that’s what he needed to do.” Dale looks down, remembering the discussion that he had with Chase after what happened.

“I came over here that night and told him that he needed to talk to someone, eventually, when he was ready. I didn’t realize that it’d take till June.” Regan looks over at Dale and watches him curiously. While Chase’s emotions were their own separate discussion, Dale had his own layers with what happened on the plane, in Pitronia and then in Daytona.

“For some people, it’s a lot harder than others – or so they say. He also needed to find the right comfort in the perfect person to talk to. What matters is that he did finally speak.” Dale shakes his head, understandingly, as he knew that it helped him in the same respect after he had got down talking to Rick about things. While he had talked to Bill the night of, he wentt to Rick a couple weeks later and sat down with him to get his feelings out. Between that and discussions with Marie, the events were becoming more distant.

“Like I said, thank yo-”

“I don’t want to hear it. Just like I don’t want to hear nay blame passed around, either.” Dale looks up, surprised.

“Do you get cranky when you don’t sleep?” Regan lies back on the couch and shakes his head no.

“I just don’t want to hear it. That’s all.” Dale then stands up and grabs a blanket, throwing it over Regan.

“Yeah, whatever. Get some sleep. I’ll tell the boys that you’re both not coming in today. Even if he wakes up around noon and tries to come in, don’t let him. Tell him to take the day to himself.”

“Yes boss.” Dale then leaves, quietly shutting the door behind him as Regan falls back asleep.

The rest of the morning and part of the afternoon went by smoothly.

Chase was able to catch up on some much needed sleep with ease, as he found no thoughts crossing his mind. Sure, there was a slight attempt at disruption of sleep, but the young man was able to erase the thought immediately and go back to positive dreams.

After grabbing a quick shower and a bite to eat, Chase leaves Regan a note on the table before heading outside. He could hear a familiar engine sound in the backyard and knew that someone was there and up to something. It was a sound that he enjoyed hearing as he knew that laughter and a sweet voice came with it.

He smiles as he reaches the go-kart track, watching as she pilots the mini sprint around, sliding the corner with perfect precision, picking up the throttle just past the center to get the right drive down the straightaway. She may only be four, but she was picking up on driving technique immediately.

Chase smiles as he watches over, joining Kasey Kahne by the edge of the track as the older driver – car owner in this case – keeps his eyes on her. He watches as she makes lap after lap, clicking off the stop watch, watching as she continues to dive in harder.

With approval in what he’s seen, Kasey grabs the checkered flag and waves it as she immediately slows. She goes for a slow lap around before stopping the sprint infront of Kasey and Chase. Slipping the helmet off and climbing out the top, she instantly lays her eyes on Chase.

“Did you see how fast I was going?” She asks and Chase shakes his head yes.

“You looked really good,” he comments as Kasey smiles.

“Her lap times are just beyond impressive,” Kasey says as he checks the chart over. “Best run of the afternoon.”

“Practice makes perfect – and she’s got the corners down.”

“I didn’t even have to teach her. I just told her to slide it a little and after a couple spins, she mastered the right turning.”

“Am I good racecar driver?” Alyssa interrupts the pair of adults. They both stop talking and look towards her and shake their heads yes.

“I think you’re going to do awesome on Wednesday!” Kasey comments as Chase looks over. “Oh, you haven’t heard?” Chase shakes his head no confused as Kasey looks back at Alyssa. “Alyssa, want to tell Chase?”

“We going racing!!” Chase smiles as that definitely was great news. “Kasey taking me to ‘illbridge with Anutie Kelley, Karsyn, Kennedy and Wyatt.”

“Millbridge,” Kasey states as he looks back towards Chase. “Figured I’d let her get started as she looks great.”

“Chasey, you come?” Alyssa questions as she sets her eyes on Chase. Chase then looks over at Alyssa as a big smile forms on his face.

“Of course,” Chase comments. “I’ll come cheer you on.”

“Yay!” Alyssa then hurries over and wraps both arms around his legs. “I lub mah buddy.”

“I love you too, Alyssa.”

 

Chapter 14: Millbridge

“Are you sure you’re alright?” Chase hears and immediately rolls his eyes as he glances over towards his left. It was a question that he had been asked a bunch of times since Monday and was ready to punch the source in the head if he didn’t stop.

“Dale – I’m fine,” Chase assures the boss. “I got caught up on my sleep on Monday, and I have slept well both Monday night and Tuesday night. You don’t need to worry about me. I can come out and have some fun tonight.” Dale lets out a sigh as he knew that he was being too pesky about it. However, given how serious things had gotten, he wasn’t about to take chances.

“Just making sure, man.” The pair then keep walking, knowing the direction of where they were headed.

Dale had been there before to watch his nieces and per Kasey’s explanation, Alyssa would be parked right near them. So for that reason, they considered it rather easy to find where their munskin would be.

“Chasey!!” Alyssa yells as she looks their direction, taking off running towards the pair. She immediately wraps her arms around Chase’s leg and hugs him before looking up with a smile. “You came!”

“I promised, didn’t I?” Chase asks and Alyssa shakes her head yes.

“I so glad you here.” She then hurries to the truck, grabbing a shirt before returning to see him again. “You wear this.” Chase then looks over at Dale, who shrugs his shoulders, before laying his eyes back on the shirt. Chase then unfolds the shirt, smiling as he sees her number and name written on it, with a small car. He then flips it over, glancing at the back to let a bigger smile form on his face as he recognizes the drawing. “I made for you. Mommy help. Mommy do front, me do back.”

“It’s beautiful sweetheart.” He then slips it over his head, letting it cover the black t-shirt that he had chosen to wear with his jeans that night. Twirling around, no doubt there were people making comments around them about how it looked – but he didn’t care, for he was there to have fun with his buddy that night. Seeing the smile on her face at him wearing the shirt made it all worthwhile. “Do I look good?”

“You look grrrreeaaat!”

“Where’s daddy’s loving?” Dale interrupts the pair as Alyssa looks over at her dad, still smiling away.

“I love daddy,” she tells him before giving him a hug and reaching up for a kiss. He kneels down to her level and she kisses his cheek. “But Chasey specal. He need feel better. I make him better.” Dale smiles as he looks between the pair, seeing that she was having a good effect on Chase as the smile on his face was the biggest that had been there all week so far.

“That’s very sweet of you, princess.” Alyssa then stands up straight and tall with a smile.

“I Princess Alyssa. I help everybody.”

“And look super cute while doing it,” Chase adds as she takes a bow before hurrying back over to Kasey. “She’s the most adorable princess that I know. Those Disney princesses have nothing on her.”

“That’s my amazing daughter,” Dale comments as they walk over to where Kasey is working on the car as Alyssa sits on a tire, sipping a juice box. “How’s the car, crew chief?” Kasey looks up and over at the pair with a smile.

“It’s perfect – just double checking tire pressures and stuff,” Kasey says as he leans back and takes a small break. “She looked good during practice. Couple more laps and she’ll have this place figured out.”

“Already?” Kasey shakes his head yes.

“She’s so good that she has impressed the senior regulars already.”

“I a natural,” Alyssa states with her brows fused together. “They say that. I don’t know but it sound….good?” Chase shakes his head yes as he takes a seat on the tire beside her.

“That’s a great complement to receive,” Chase assures her. “That means that you are easily becoming a great racecar driver since you’re so good already. That’s because you’re picking up on the knowhow from your daddy.” Alysas smiles as she catches her dad’s eyes before looking at Chase.

“And you!” Chase shakes his head yes, figuring that it’d be easy to let her think that for now, since understanding family genes wouldn’t come for a couple more years in her life. “And Gramps.” They each shake their head yes, once again, knowing that she was right. Her fierceness and tackling the track without any fear was something that Dale had immediately attributed to her getting from his dad. No doubt she had a touch of each Earnhardt in her – with some Elliott teaching – and it was making her a very talented young, princess, racecar driver.

“Listen, sweets, you’re just the perfect mix of everything together.” Kasey wipes his hands off before looking at Alyssa and motioning for her to come over.

“Bu-”

“Come here for a minute, please,” Kasey requests as Alyssa lets out a sigh. She hops off the tire and walks over to Kasey, sitting on his knee. “We need to talk about something, don’t we?” Alyssa shakes her head yes, slowly.

“Kasey…”

“I don’t want to hear any explanations or excuses. I told you earlier that you can’t go running off without telling me where you’re going and letting me come with you if its far. You can’t go to the bathroom by yours-”

“But I had to go!” Kasey knew that was coming.

“Then you tell me.”

“But you’re a boy.” Dale and Chase chuckle as they watch Kasey with her.

“Right, but I can still walk you to the bathroom and wait for you outside, right?” Alyssa shakes her head yes. “You also can’t go see Karsyn, or Kennedy, or Wyatt unless you tell me first.” Alyssa shakes her head, understating. “I told you that twice earlier and then you ran off with Chase and Daddy got here.” Dale crosses his arms, knowing where this was going.

“Alyssa, what were you told?” Dale questions as Alyssa looks towards her daddy.

“’isten to Kasey,” Alyssa states before turning her eyes to Kasey. “I sorry Kasey. I be good. I ‘ell you now on.”

“Thank you sweetheart,” Kasey says before giving her a quick kiss on the cheek. “I just don’t want you running off and losing you, okay?” Alyssa shakes her head yes. “Now go get your helmet and gloves because it’s almost time for you to race.”

“Okay!” Alyssa then hurries off in the trailer as Dale smiles, glancing between Kasey and Alyssa.

“You need to have kids, you’re so good with her,” Dale comments as Kasey shrugs his shoulders.

“I want to have kids but why does it have to be so hard to find Mrs. Right?” Kasey questions as Dale pats him on the shoulder.

“Give it time, give it time. She’ll come along with the time is right.” Dale then lets his eyes go back to Alyssa as he watches her find her gloves and helmet before returning. He keeps his eyes on her as she gets ready – with Kasey’s help – in getting her helmet and gloves on, and getting belted in the car.

“Okay – you’re ready. Go lien up behind that green kart with the big number 55.” Alyssa shakes her head yes as Kasey starts up the midget and sends her off to get lined up for her first big race.

With her set to head out, the three of them walk towards the grandstands, ready to meet up with the rest of the clan to watch her race. The whole walk there, both Chase and Kasey could tell that the mind of the person between them were clouded with thoughts. Kasey pondered as to what they could pertain, narrowing it down to one little girl. He wondered whether Dale’s fears of her being safe were there, or whether something else.

“She’s going to be fine, Dad,” Kasey assures him as he gives Dale a pat on the back.

“I know – I know that she’s safe,” Dale replies as they reach the grandstands. Dale pauses for a second as he glances over to where she’s lined up, before laying his eyes back on Kasey. “It’s just – you don’t realize how much you love your little girl till the worst possible thing happens. Hearing you talk about her not leaving you and stuff, stirred up memories.” Kasey shakes his head, understnaidng, as he wraps an arm around Dale.

“I’m sorry – honestly. I didn’t mean to do that.” Dale shakes his head as he knew that wasn’t the point.

“No, no, you did the right thing. She had to know that so she behaves. I’m glad that you did that with her as I want her to know stuff like that.” Dale lets out a sigh before he continues walking, the pair in toe. “It’s just – flashback, that’s all. Just let’s forget about it and focus on tonight. Tonight is about having fun, right?”

“Isn’t that why I’m wearing a pink and purple shirt with a design on it?” Chase questions as Dale looks over with a grin on his face.

“You do look cute, honestly,” Dale comments as Kasey shakes his head in agreement.

“Pink is such your color that I think you should maybe color your hair purple with pink highlights,” Kasey adds with a laugh.

“Oh you’re both jealous that she made me a special gift and didn’t share with you boys,” Chase says before heading up the stairs and sitting down behind Marie as Dale sits beside her.

“Nice shirt,” Marie comments with a smile as she looks back at Chase.

“Thanks. Did you have to choose this color?” Marie chuckles as she glances back towards the track.

“Her choice – not mine. It suits you, though.” Marie then takes a deep breath as they watch the quarter midgets come on the track. “Here we go. Let the nerves begin….”

 

Chapter 15: Millbridge Part 2

“Why did I let you both convince me that this was a good idea?” Marie comments as she sits in the grandstands, watching her daughter race around the track against other children her age and a couple years older.

“Because you knew that you couldn’t deny her a shot at her dream?” Dale questions as Marie glances over at him, with her eyebrows raised.

“Because the midget is prepared by my team and you know that it’s safe should something happen,” Kasey added as Marie lets out a sigh, turning her eyes back down to her feet.

“I can’t watch this!” She lets out as she covers her eyes, bouncing her knees up and down as she feels nerves take over her.

“Will you relax? She’s fine,” Chase comments as he keeps tabs on how she’s doing.

“Forget fine – she’s awesome!” Kasey compliments as he continues jotting down lap times.

“She’s leading with an advantage,” Dale starts as he looks over at Kasey’s notes. “Why?” Kasey looks up.

“Even if you’re winning, you still have to look for places to improve. That’s why I’m keeping track. Plus, ask Karsyn…”

“The western US has a stronger midget racing background with stronger drivers,” Karsyn starts. “To win there you have to be even better than you do here. That’s why you need to strive for improvement to do better out there. Remember my first trip?” Chase grins as he remembers Karsyn’s comment from when she got back from going out west.

“What did you tell Mike for the thing that you learned how to do?” Chase asks as Karsyn rolls her eyes.

“Of course you’d remember that. I learned how to lose, graciously, in accepting defeat and looking at how I could become better. It was a good learning experience.”

“How many more laps?” Marie questions, still not watching the action on the track.

“Only a couple more till you’re out of your misery,” Karsyn answers as she rubs her aunt’s back.

The race so far had gone perfectly for Alyssa. She started mid-pack and easily worked her way to the front of the field. Now leading with a healthy advantage, it was all about no mistakes over the next five laps and keeping the lead till the checkered flag was dropped.

As Kasey continued to watch her ride the high line, sliding the back end perfectly, no fear in being close to the wall, he knew that she was definitely, really good. It sort of reminded him of a couple other young drivers who had gone on to do big things.

The laps quickly ticked away – anticipation for the end building more and more for the crowd in the stands. And before Marie knew it, the checkered flag was dropped and Alyssa had done it. She may had been a rookie, she may had been making her first start – but she was officially a winner.

Excitement took over the group as they hurried to victory lane set to meet up with their winner and celebrate the job that she had done.

“Way to go!” Kasey screams as he was the first person to reach the car, helping her take her helmet and gloves off. “Way to go!”

“I go fast?” Alyssa questions as she looks up at Kasey and all he could do was smile.

“Sweetheart, you went super fast! Faster than anybody else has ever gone here. Can you believe that?”

“I super fast! I number one!” Kasey shakes his head yes as he sets the helmet aside.

“Now are you ready to climb out and celebrate?” Alyssa shakes her head yes as she climbs out and stands by the midget, looking around, looking slightly lost. “What’s wrong, princess?”

“Where my flag?” Kasey smiles as he knew that she wanted the checkered flag to wave around, just like she had watched everybody else do in the NASCAR ranks.

“Here you go, sweetheart,” Marie says as she hands her the flag, having collected it from the flag stand on the way to victory lane. Marie wanted to keep it as a keepsake to remember the night. Her plan was to put the flag and trophy in a very special place, still in disbelief.

“Thank you!” Alyssa replies before grabbing the flag and waving it back and forth with a big smile on her face.

“Can we see you do that with the crown?” One of the photographers asked from the crowd. Alyssa then looked towards her mom, and all Marie could do was smile.

“Do you want your crown?” Marie asks and Alyssa shakes her head yes. Marie then walks away, quickly returning with the crown and placing it on her head. “Wow. Just wow. I can’t believe it. My Princess is a winning racecar driver.”

“I can believe it – she’s an Earnhardt,” Kasey comments as he takes a quick snap shot of his own on his phone. “Way to go, Princess Alyssa.”

“Thank you Kasey,” Alyssa says as she continues to wave the flag back and forth.

“I love you sweetheart. Congratulations!” Marie tells her before wrapping both arms around her for a hug. “You’re amazing. Way to go!”

“I lub you too.” Alyssa then kisses her mom on the cheek as she watches the announcer walk over.

“Go ahead, sweetheart. Tell the gentleman how much fun you’re having and why you love winning.”

“Okay!” Alyssa then walks over to the announcer and does as instructed, as the group stands back and watches with a big smiles on their faces.

“She’s adorable,” Kasey comments as he takes another photo on his phone.

“Make sure you send those to me later,” Dale says and Kasey shakes his head yes. There was no doubt that he was going to make sure they had plenty of photos from this night.

“Who do you want to thank for helping you?” They hear the announcer ask her, as they watch closely as Alyssa thinks it over.

“Um, mommy and daddy – I lub ‘em and they special,” Alyssa starts as Dale and Marie smile. “Kasey – he help me. He build car. Kasey special, too.” Alyssa then looks over at the group and smiles as she notices that Chase is still wearing the shirt. “But my buddy is specialist. Chasey came and wear shirt. Chasey is good luck. I lub my buddy.” Alyssa then runs off rom the announcer and over to Chase, wrapping her arms around him. He smiles as he picks her up in his arms. “You special. You wear shirt. You ‘ucky charm.”

“You’re special, too, sweetheart,” Chase replies. “You’re an amazing kid, and you’re a great racecar driver. Way to go, princess.” Alyssa then takes the crown off of her head and puts it on Chase.

“You no dirty rascle. You’re a prince – my prince.” Chase then looks at her, surprised, as he glances towards Dale and Marie.

“I don’t mind being your prince, at all. You’re my little princess – always.”

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