Chapter 1: The Runaway
Running his hands through his hair, Chase Elliott glances at the reflection in the mirror before him. No doubt a long year was over with the banquet in the books. That was something that he could be very thankful for as he was ready to escape everything that had happened.
Letting out a sigh, he walks over to the bed and has a seat, glancing around in his suite. Though it wasn’t as if he was paying attention to anything as if he was off in his own little world, again.
In the past year, he had been through two traumatic attacks, the first attack being the worst mentally and the second attack being the worst physically. Both took him to wits ends in what he felt were his limits. He could picture back to June in an instant, remembering when he broke down in front of Regan and spent a entire four hours, going through every detail in hopes that it’d make things easier.
In a way, it had accomplished what he hoped as the days that followed, even past the second attack, were easier dealt with. But yet, still, there was an after effect there. At least once each week he’d wake up in a cold sweat due to the dream that he was having, as a result of flashbacks to what happened – either time. Sometimes he pictured what exactly happened, but worse – he sometimes pictured things going worse.
Slipping his dress pants off, his eyes immediately gaze down at the scar that lines his thigh. The doctor told him back in July that the scar would never disappear and always be there as a reminder. He wished that he could wipe it away as he didn’t want any reminders, but oh well – he could deal with it. The doctor had also talked about some after effects in regards to pain, but thankfully that hadn’t been a problem so far. Besides being weak in strength for the first month following the stabbing, he couldn’t complain.
Changing into his jeans, he actually wished that he would’ve had the physical aspect versus the mental aspect. The physical aspect he could at least take a couple pain killers and deal with, where as the mental aspect was always there at the back of his mind. He had gone back to Regan on a couple occasions, and even spoke with his parents, but yet nothing could remove that last little percent of the effect that was there.
His mom had pushed him to possibly go see a specialist, citing that it could be along the lines of Post Traumatic Stress, but he refused to do that. Perhaps it was the right thing, but how can you face a stranger about what is going on in your life when you barely tell your own friends? He knew it drove his mom nuts and she over-worried about him, but he reminded himself to keep assuring her that things were fine and that kept her at bay.
Slipping out of his dress shirt, things for the most part were okay. Randy had thankfully disappeared out of existence with his jail time and never re-appeared again. No other person showed up to continue the torture and everybody was able to finally continue on with their lives.
A smile graced his face as he watched how close Dale and Marie had gotten, with another baby girl expected to be born in two months, joining Alyssa. Alyssa was also growing up quicker than he could’ve imagined, but she was still cute as ever. If he ever needed a smile, he knew who to turn to.
Slipping a t-shirt over his face, he glances back in the mirror once again as he tries to put the past year in perspective. No doubt a lot happened, some of it for the better and some of it not so positive. He couldn’t complain about winning the championship again as that was a moment of disbelief. How he was able to make up the points he lost by missing a race was beyond him, but somehow he and the team were able to make it happen.
Though beyond the success in racing – and the fun times that Ryan and Darrell made sure to offer, which he couldn’t argue with as they were great stress relievers, he was brought back to what happened. Would there ever be a day that he didn’t have to deal with that? Would there ever be a day where he could look towards the past, present, and future without a thought of what happened?
Glancing back at the bed, he saw the note that he had written earlier. He knew that he was making the right decision. He had to do this for himself. He needed some time to get away from everything and everybody to set himself free, and find that perspective that his mind so badly craved. He knew that they’d worry more than anything and as soon as they found out his phone would light up majorly, but he was willing to accept that. If he told them of the idea before hand, they’d either want to come or bug him to stay back and discuss things there. Both of those, by the way, weren’t an option as he was set to do this for himself.
Grabbing his wallet and phone off of the table, he heads for the door, shutting it carefully, before making his way downstairs. He peaks in the reception room, seeing everyone dancing and caring away for the night, no doubt celebrating the accomplishment.
Though a peak was all the party got as he turned on his heals and headed out the front door of the hotel without another word.
Chapter 2: Chase’s Escape
Chase walked into the bar. He didn’t know why he was there or what led him there. It seemed just like the spot, though.
Being there, he figured he might as well take a seat and get a load off of his feet. It had been a long walk from the airport.
Maybe that explained the stop. He needed a break. Maybe even a little drink to freshen him up.
“Are you old enough?” A blond snapped him out of his thoughts. He felt his stomach flop, but realized he was safe. North of the border, 19 was legal.
“19.” He states.
“ID?” He looks on surprised to not be recognized. He pulls out his drivers license and hands it over. “Georgia. Long way from home, boy.” She hands it back. “What should I get you?” He wasn’t sure what to order as he’d never drank before. Beer? Maybe. Or should he stay away from alcohol? Nah, not at a bar.
“Budweiser.” She shakes her head as she walks away
She returns in a couple minutes, placing the glass on the table.
“Thanks,” he tells her as he hands her a bill.
“I’ll make a note on your tab,” she informs before leaving.
He pulls the glass closer, sniffing. It smelt good.
“This is a bad idea,” he tells himself with a sigh. He should’ve got a plain coke but the temptation was too strong. “Well, I am the champ.” Calling it a treat for himself, he took a sip. It had a rich flavor, something he had to get used to, but he liked it.
Over the next couple of hours, he drank a couple more, enjoying each glass that much more.
“First time?” He heard as he looks across the table. She had returned once again.
“How’d you know?” He questions.
“The pause when I asked your age, how you ordered and watching your first sip.” He lets out a sigh as he finishes the glass off.
“Busted.” She then smiles.
“Sorry – been here too long. Say, you should mix it up and try something new.”
“Like what?” He knew accepting strange drinks in public was risky as the other person may have a motive. What if she knew who he was?
“Oh….a jack and coke? Sex on the beach? Pina Colada? There are so many options.”
“Tell ya what – surprise me. Bring me a couple of choices.” It had to be the alcohol talking for him to pull this risk. Maybe he should leave.
“You’re on.” She then leaves the table.
The whole thing felt wrong. He’d never normally do this
He couldn’t be thinking straight to trust a stranger at a bar, let alone drink.
He couldn’t deny the alcohol or the flavor or better yet the feeling it gave him. With each sip, he felt further away from reality. He slipped further away from Daytona. Each memory of Mariela melted to each drink sipped. He felt no pain in thinking of a hotel room. The silvery object didn’t seem piercing in his mind, ready to deliver a new nightmare.
He wanted to forget. He knew this was wrong, but for one night he needed an escape. He needed to sleep without fear. He needed to celebrate, and here was a way.
He swore to never do this again, but for that night, he was going to be free.
Before we move forward, this isn’t going to become one of those classic alcohol addiction stories. We all know that Chase is smarter than that. I just needed this as an intro to what’s to come….
Chapter 3: The Note
“Have you seen Chase?” Cindy questions as she walks over to Bill after getting a drink. He shakes his head no as he looks over at her.
“I haven’t seen him since we shared the initial toast,” Bill answers, referencing the initial toast of the reception.
Following the banquet, the entire JR Motorsports outfit was instructed to go to a reception hall that had been rented out for them to party, just as they had the year before. The reception had started off with a simple toast, with Chase and Regan each sharing a couple comments on their seasons, followed by some comments from Dale and Kelley.
“Chase said he wanted to get out of his dress shirt and pants so he was going to change,” Travis then shares as he overhears the pair while grabbing another drink. “I offered to get his ass on the dance floor, and that’s what he told me. I haven’t seen him since. I wanted to see if he’d do the wobble.” Cindy rolls her eyes, having seen the result of that last year.
“Thanks Travis,” she comments as the car chief shakes his head and walks away. “I don’t want to sound paranoid bu-”
“Let’s go check for him,” Bill stops her before she can finish her sentence. The pair then left the room together, heading to the elevators. “Besides, I wouldn’t mind taking this shirt off.”
“Like father, like son.” They then enter the elevator, pressing the floor and going up.
She knew that she had to be overreacting. She knew that everything was probably fine. Perhaps he just wanted some quiet time, perhaps he was at the other end of the reception room and she hadn’t seen him.
But, based on everything that had happened lately, she knew that she had to be sure.
She knew it was wrong to be paranoid, but could you blame her? The past year had seen so many things happen to her baby that it would cause any mother to be paranoid. She still worried about him at night and whether he was taking care of himself, and getting enough sleep. Perhaps he was grabbing a quick nap.
The pair get off the elevator and walk down the hallway as they reach the rooms. Cindy goes to his door, and knocks, hoping he answers.
“Chase?” She questions out loud as Bill walks over to his and Cindy’s door.
“I’m going to get changed…” Bill offers as she simply shakes her head, not really caring. She was more focused on finding her baby.
Bill slips the key card in the door, opening the door to his room. He then walks in, losing the tie around his neck. He glances in the closet, grabbing a t-shirt before returning to face the far wall. He then glances a touch to the right, noticing the adjoining door between the rooms was left open.
“Chase?” He questions out loud, getting suspicious. Why would the door be left open?
Laying the t-shirt on the bed that he had picked out, he makes his way through the room and through the adjoining door. He enters the empty room on the other side, feeling even more worried.
Perhaps Cindy’s paranoid state was washing off on him.
He then notices the folded piece of paper on the bed, picking it up as he walks further in the room. His eyes immediately fell on the writing, recognizing it immediately.
Bill felt a big wave of worry come across him, thinking that perhaps Chase had been kidnapped or something had seriously happened.
He then unfolds the note, quickly reading it over, letting out a comforting sigh. The note was written in a relaxed state. He could tell by how the words were written comfortably that Chase had taken the time to write this note, seriously contemplating his actions. While he may not agree with the contents, he was relaxed by what he read.
Now if only he could make Cindy feel the same way.
He then walks through the room, opening the door, receiving a shocked glance in response.
“Bill?” She questions, having expected Chase to open the door.
“He’s not here…but come in….” He says quietly as she looks at him slightly confused. She does as instructed as he closes the door behind her.
“Bill, please tell me…”
“He’s fine so stop worrying. There’s no kidnapping, no harm done. You can stop being paranoid.” She then turns around to face him, growing confused. She didn’t see any signs of him being there, and oddly saw no clothes hanging in the closet.
“Bill, what’s going on?” Bill takes a deep breath as he hands over the note that he had read only moments earlier.
“The adjoining door to our rooms had been left open. He left the note on the bed, addressed to us. Why don’t you have a seat and read it?” She then gives him a cautious glance, though sits down on the edge of the bed and unfolds the piece of paper.
I know you probably came upstairs looking for me, wondering why I’m not at the party. I have my reasons, so please don’t be mad and bare with me.
This past year, a lot of things have happened. Let’s face it – it hasn’t been easy for any of us. I have been through more than I could’ve imagined, and am still dealing with some of that today. No matter how I try to play it off as though it doesn’t bug me, it does. It’s something that’s always there, lingering at the back of my mind, pressing into my thoughts.
I appreciate the love and comfort and everything that you continue to do for me, but I need to do this for me. I’ve made the decision to take some time away for myself. I want to go just go away and have time to think about things. I want to think over everything that happened, and try to put it into perspective. I want to be able to do it without any distractions or anybody hovering over, asking me. I just want this time for me.
I know you’re going to worry about where I am and how I am doing, but trust me – I can take care of myself. I’m a grown adult now. I also promise to keep myself safe, and not do anything that I’d regret later on. You have raised me well so trust my decisions will be responsible.
When I feel the time is right, don’t worry – I will return home. I promise to be home for Christmas as I couldn’t miss that holiday with you and the family. I know you’re going to worry no matter what I say, so I have my cell phone. Feel free to call me, but give me some space and let me have this time.
I love you both so much, and hate to do this….but I have to, for me.
Cindy folds the note up and reaches for her phone in her pocket. She then unlocks it, as Bill places his hand over hers. She glances up, giving him a look.
“He said to call-“ She starts as he takes the phone out of her hand.
“He also asked nicely if we’d give him some space,” Bill tells her as he puts the phone in his pocket. “Cindy, we can trust him. We raised him to be responsible, and he is. He will be fine.
“I know you’re worried, but you need to trust him, please. He needs this time to himself to grow and move forward. You know everything that happened.” She lets out a sigh as she knew that Bill was right. But yet, that didn’t erase the worry that she had right now.
“Let me just call him and see how he is, once, please.” Bill glances away, as he wanted to do the exact same thing. However, he also knew that he could trust Chase.
“Why don’t we just relax tonight and we’ll give him a call in the morning? Besides, what if he is sleeping? Do you want to wake him up?” That meant at least 10 hours without any contact. It was something that she didn’t know if she could handle right. But, she didn’t have much of a choice with Bill standing before her as he was.
“Fine. I’ll wait till morning.”
Chapter 4: The Phone Call
“Hello?” Chase answers the phone, half asleep. He wanted to know why his phone was ringing, and annoying him.
“Hey, it’s Dad,” Bill says as Chase lets out a sigh, glancing over at the clock. How was it 10am already?
“Hey,” was all Chase could muster. He didn’t want a lecture as his head was already pounding. Besides, he was an adult
“How are you?” Bill asks, genuinely concerned.
“I’m fine Dad. You don’t need to worry.” Bill then lets out a sigh.
“I’m your father; it’s my job to worry. Where are you?” Chase knew he couldn’t tell those details. That’d result in a pair of parents at his doorstep, and that wasn’t the deal of this trip.
“I can’t tell you.” Bill hated that response, but could see why Chase wanted to keep it hidden.
“Please, tell me something. I need to know that you’re safe.” Chase then lets out a sigh. Why wouldn’t this conversation end?
“Trust me, I’m safe and I’m fine. I just need this time away.” He also knew that while the alcohol had erased his thoughts the night before, the morning after sucked majorly. Why did people get drunk again?
“I know you’re going through a lot. I understand you want some time to yourself, but we are worried about you. Cindy wanted me to call last night but I held off. Give me some comfort, Chase.” Chase let out a sigh, somewhat wishing they’d called last night as it may have saved the trip that he made. Though now, there was no going back.
“No, I can’t. Mom will come looking as soon as I do. Dad, you and mom raised me well to make good decisions and take care of myself. I’m an adult now and I hope that you can trust me that I am doing the right thing. Just give me a couple weeks, please. I love you. Bye.” Chase then hung up the phone as he let out a sigh, rolling over in the bed.
He needed a shower. He needed a change of clothes. Perhaps he also needed a bucket, too.
“Where’s the Tylenol?” He questions as he slowly sits up in the bed. He immediately places his hand on his head, as the world felt like it was spinning by the simple movement.
“Oh shit!” He lets out before leaning over into the small garbage pail placed by the bed, feeling his guts simply empty out into the plastic container. He then lies back in the bed, letting out a sigh.
He quickly understood why hangovers sucked…and so badly wished that he knew where the Tylenol was.
Sitting up, trying to get his bearings straight and this time perhaps make it out of the bed without any problems, he slowly looks around. As his head turns towards the nightstand, his eyes catches the glimpse of a red bottle, along with a small white cup.
“Thank you!” He lets out as he reaches over, snatching up both. He quickly opens the bottle, letting a pair of capsules drop into his hand before depositing them in his mouth, followed by the water. Hopefully they would work quicker than other times as he needed relief, and instantly.
His eyes then return to the table as he looks over, a piece of paper catching his attention. He didn’t remember putting the bottle or the cup there. Who would’ve done that? He picks up the piece of paper, lying back in the bed.
While he wanted to escape the smell of his clothes and body, the bed felt comforting. It made him not want to move an inch away from it as it captivated his body. It was also the only position to be in that didn’t felt sickening.
He unfolds the piece of paper, reading the note inside with a slight smile.
Hangovers suck majorly. Been there, done that and don’t want to do it again.
After you had a bunch of drinks, incase you don’t remember, I noticed the key card in your pocket. I then took it and led you back to your room, glad that your bags had been dropped off already. Once you were in bed, I left figuring that it’d be best to let you sleep it off.
Tylenol will be your friend. Oh, and drink lots of fluids. Gatorade is usually the normal bet so check the mini fridge as I stuck a couple bottles in there.
Good luck and hope you’re feeling better soon.
The bartender had been the one to get him mixed in the drinks, and he wanted to blame her for everything. But, in reality, it was his decision to accept her offer as she was only doing her job. He could’ve said no at any time. Based on the note, at least she’d been nice when the pieces fell.
He then sets the note down and while the bed was comfy, he knew that she was probably right about getting some Gatorade in him. he had heard from his friends about dehydration and alcohol. He then slips out of the bed, slowly, and makes his way to the mini fridge, snatching the purple bottle.
He then sits on the floor, leaning against it, sipping on the liquid. He just wanted the pounding, aching headache to disappear. Beyond that, he wished his stomach would stop turning as it was.
After a while of sitting there and letting both the Gatorade and Tylenol work some magic, he slowly gets up and grabs a pair of jeans and t-shirts before heading to the bathroom. A good shower – actually, scratch that. A good bath and soaking in the tub would probably do wonders in helping him with the situation that he was dealt. A soak in the tub would always help him feel better in any other situation, so he was bound to give it a try here.
Slipping his body into the hot liquid, he stretches his legs out and with a couple deep breathes, he relaxes.
He knew that he screwed up majorly last night. he knew that the morning after sucked. But, he couldn’t blame himself. He needed something to get away from what he was feeling, especially on a night where he should’ve been celebrating his accomplishments.
Why was it that the painful thoughts of the year past always clouded over the parts that he enjoyed?
He knew that he needed to find a way to cope – certainly, last night wasn’t a good attempt or answer at all. He needed that somewhere in these couple of weeks to himself that there had to be something that would work. But what?
Chapter 5: Thanks
Following his soak in the tub and getting himself cleaned up, he got changed into a fresh pair of jeans and a sweater. Glancing over at the note again, he knew that she’d be at the bar getting ready for another night of work – if she was working. Given what she had done for him, he owed her a thank you.
Adorned in his jeans, sweater and a heavy winter coat, he steps out into the bitter coldness and makes his way down a couple blocks o the familiar bar that he had found himself in the night before. He then makes his way inside, seeing her as she is cleaning some glasses behind the counter.
“Hey,” he says as he takes a seat on one of the stools.
“Hey,” she replies, instantly recognizing the voice. She then glances over her shoulder with a smile. He didn’t look too bad for his first hangover. “Back for more?” Chase shake his head no. after the morning that he had experienced, he was staying away from alcohol.
“Nah, just wanted to say thank you for helping me back last night.” She then smiles as she walks over, leaning over the edge.
“Partially my fault.” He then chuckles, knowing that was true.
“Yeah, I guess.”
“How ya feeling?” He then lets out a sigh, having wanted to avoid thoughts about that. He figured if he kept his mind off of it, he could just get through the rest with ease.
“Headache, sick…just crummy….” She shakes her head, having expected that.
“Got a tylenol?” He shakes his head yes.
“Yeah.” She smiles as that meant he found where she left the bottle. She then noticed the almost empty Gatorade bottle in his hand that he had walked in with.
“Drink lots of Gatorade, too. It’ll help. I’ll get ya another one.” She then turns to the fridge, snatching out a blue bottle, and setting it down in front of him.
“Thanks.” He takes the bottle, and takes the lid off with a sip as she keeps her eyes on him, just watching. There were so many questions that she could ask.
“So, what’s a Georgia boy doing in Canada?” Chase had expected that question sooner or later. Why would someone escape to this freezing cold?
“Needed to get away.” She then looks at him with a raised eyebrow. It seemed like many people showed up at a bar with that explanation for one reason.
“Girl?” He shakes his head no, wishing that it was that. It’d be much simpler than what he was going through.
“Nah, life.” She felt even more intrigued by that comment as it left a lot of open doors. He didn’t seem like the bad boy type, so something had happened to him.
“Wanna talk?” Chase shakes his head no, as he was hoping that this time would bring an escape from talking or reflecting back on what happened.
“Not really.” She shakes her head, understanding.
“So you’re here for an escape?” He shakes his head yes.
“Yeah. Time to myself to think and just….get away from it all.” She then goes back to cleaning glasses, finding herself more intrigued by him with each passing second.
“What’s your plan?” He shrugs his shoulders, wishing that he had one. It’d make things much easier.
“Don’t really have one.” She then got a bit of an idea based on that answer.
“Oh….what do you like to do?” He then thinks it over.
“Play sports, goof around, have fun with friends…” He seemed like the typical 19 year old to her based on that. It had her idea fitting even more.
“Gotcha. Ski? Snowboard?” Chase shakes his head yes, knowing that he had to get a hold of Ryan and Darrell. They were supposed to be planning another trip to Vail this winter.
“Some, yeah.” She then sets the glass down and comes back over to the counter edge. It was worth a shot.
“I’m taking off a week to Blue Mountain. Maybe you should come.” Chase had heard this line before. Get caught up in going away with someone because they have a love interest in you. That wasn’t something that he felt the need to get mixed up in right now.
“Why?” She was hoping that he would’ve simply said yes.
“I’ll be lonely. We can talk about our problems and have some fun on the slopes. I don’t know you so I won’t be someone that would judge you based on what you have to say. I’d be an ear to air out those problems.” The more he thought it over, the more her offer sounded enticing. He’d get some time on the slopes, while having someone to talk to if he wanted that.
“That’s not a bad offer really.” She then smiles, glad that she had warmed him up a little.
“Consider it. If interested, call me by 10 tomorrow. I leave then.” She then slips him her phone number. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got work to do if I want to be outta here.” He then slowly gets out of his seat.
“I’ll let you do that.” He then leaves the bar, glancing his eyes towards the number.
The thought of running off with a stranger scared him. What if something went wrong? What if she wasn’t as innocent as she seemed? What if….He had so many thoughts running through his mind, all based on the fears that had been implanted there based on recent events.
However, it also sounded like a great idea. He wouldn’t mind some time skiing and snowboarding as it’d give him an opportunity to escape the thoughts that clouded his mind. Perhaps some time up in the Snow Mountains would clear up the thoughts that he had. he also liked the idea of going up with someone as she was right, she could be ear if he wanted one. While that hadn’t worked with Regan or his friends, perhaps a stranger was what he needed to crack the barrier.
Whatever he was going to do, he knew that he only had the rest of the day to make his mind up based on her offer.