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Following the discussion with Alan, Chase headed back to the hauler and got changed into his firesuit. He then sat down and glanced around, taking a deep breath.
The discussion with Alan was the truth. So far, he had been alright. He had been using the strategies of keeping himself focused on everything except what happened, and if a thought came up, he worked at getting through it. he had also managed to avoid the nightmares that had plagued him before, thankful that those strategies were in place. As long as he kept at that, it was going to be fine.
Standing up off of the couch, he walks over to the mini-fridge, grabbing a bottle of Gatorade before sitting back down. He then glances up at the TV, tuning into the last bit of the ARCA race that was happening on track. Hopefully, for once, this would have a decent size ending to it.
As he sat there, watching the cars lap the speedway in a single-file line for the top-six, it was beginning to bore the heck out of him. His mind then began to drift elsewhere, flashback to the last time that he sat in the trailer in Daytona watching television……
“This is going to be interesting,” Mariela comments from her perch as she glances over at Chase.
“He can still do it,” Chase says as he knew there was enough time for Dale to get to the front.
“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 18.”
“16, 17, 18, 19…..you’re still in your teens and that means sweet little boy.” Chase rolls his eyes, which was then followed by a noise outside. “What was that?” Chase then looks around confused as he watches Mariela stand up and glance out the window.
“I didn’t hear anything…”
Mariela then grabs him, pulling him close to her as the door busted open with the mad foursome standing there. She brought the knife to neck level as Chase closed his eyes, predicting pain coming in his future as his breaths got even quicker.
“Okay….everybody….remain….calm…” Bill tells the group as he holds them behind him as he focuses his eyes on Mariela and his son. “You must be Mariela, I assume, right?” Mariela slowly shakes her head yes. “That’s nice. I’m Bill, his father. Listen, I know that you have some crazy strange plan with Dale and Marie, so how about you just let Chase go and be done with what you have going on here?”
“That cannot happen sir as your son is now part of this mess,” Mariela informs them as Regan takes a couple steps out from behind Bill and closer to the pair.
“You’ve got Dale in the car and you have Marie hidden somewhere – why do you need Chase now?” Regan wonders as he and Bill trade glances, thinking what to do.
“Please……let…..me….go…,” Chase slowly lets out as he tries to keep himself calm in her grasp, though feeling every breath come quicker than the previous.
“If you let the kid go, we’ll let you go as well without doing anything to stop you,” Steve adds as he keeps his arms wrapped around Cindy, trying to give her comfort. “You just have to let him go before the authorities get here.”
Chase opens his eyes, taking a deep breath as he glances around the room.
“You’re by yourself, it’s just you here,” he tells himself quietly. “Remember – she’s dead, gone and can’t hurt you anymore. I’m by myself. It was just a flashback.”
He then twists the top once again off of the Gatorade bottle, taking a big swig of the cold liquid as it goes down, snapping him out of any thoughts of what had happened. Though his mind is instantly flashed into thoughts when he hears a knock on the door.
“It’s okay,” he tells himself as he stands up and walks over. “It’s probably just one of the guys…” He opens the door, smiling as he sees rear-tire changer Jarred Erspamer standing there. “Hey Jarred.”
“Hey,” Jarred starts. “Alan wanted me to come see if you wanted to join us to watch the Shootout.” Jarred then takes another curious glance at Chase. “Are you alright, man? You look like you saw a ghost.”
“Yeah…I’m….I’m fine. It’s just…” He then takes a deep breath, trying to coin up some sort of lie. “I was just caught off-guard by your knock, that’s all. Where are you guys going to watch the race from?”
“We were going to go stand on top of the hauler together and spread some jokes, eat some food and quality time. What do you say?” Chase knew that he didn’t want to spend much longer by himself as he shakes his head yes. “Alright let’s go.”
The pair of them head over to the trailer, climbing up the stairs together as they join the rest of the rowdy bunch. Chase immediately smiles, shading away anything of what had happened as he shakes hands with the guys and greets them.
They all then gathered together as they watched the last bit of opening ceremonies, followed by the beginning stretch of the race. Thus far, it was pretty good as compared to the ARCA event, this was an actual race happening. There were passes back and forth, with all three lines working at all ends of the surface. They all then cringed a little as they watched the big wreck happen, but thankfully everyone was okay and their teammates had escaped without damage.
“Hey,” Alan says as he walks over to where Chase was standing during the clean-up of the wreck. When they had gotten up there, Jarred had come over and mentioned that Chase seemed a little shook up when he went to get him. He didn’t know whether to be concerned or not, but thought he’d pass word to the crew chief. Alan said thanks, and made a note to check with Chase afterwards. Even if it was nothing, it wouldn’t help to check with the young man. “Jarred mentioned you were a little shook up when he came to get you. Is everything okay?”
Chase, whom had his focus on the backstretch, immediately lets his gaze look towards the ground. He wanted to simply say that it was nothing, but knew that he couldn’t lie to Alan. They had an agreement to talk about everything, and he didn’t want to risk breaking their trust on the first day.
“I was watching the tail end of the ARCA race,” he starts quietly as Alan stands beside him, intently listening. “It was boring so I started to relax back. Being in the trailer, on the couch, it triggered a flashback to exactly a year ago from when I was sitting there with Mariela watching Dale, discussing whether he’d be able to do it. The flashback then went on to contain everything to when she held the knife to my neck.” Chase then looks up and over at Alan. “I’m fine.”
“Are you sure?” Alan didn’t seem 100% confident in Chase’s answer, as he wanted to make sure there were no drawbacks.
“Absolutely. I talked myself through it afterwards, calmed myself back down and made myself realize that it’s not going to happen, it was just a flashback and time to focus on something else. I followed the strategies. I’m fine, Alan.” The crew chief was almost set to walk away without another word, but wondered more about the flashbacks considering that he heard of one happening during the media event last month.
“These flashbacks – that’s the second one that I know you’ve had. I’m not trying to panic or whatever, but what if these happen at the wrong tim-”
“It won’t, I promise you.” Chase cut him off immediately, having grown use to the pattern that they came and went. It was that pattern that had allowed him to form the strategies that he was now trying to implant in his everyday life. “When my mind is focused on something – say the weekend, the car, a discussion – I’m totally fine without a thought because I have something to think about. However, when it’s brought up or I find myself dazed in my thoughts, that’s when they have a chance to strike.” Chase then looks over at the crew chief. “Alan, I can promise you that this will not affect me in the garage or behind the wheel. I will not have any issues. You don’t need worry, if that’s why you’re asking.”
“I’m sorry if I pushed your buttons by asking, but I just had to make sure.” Alan then wraps an arm around his shoulder. “I want the best for you. I want you to the best that you can be on the track, but also be the best that you can be off the track. I want to help you in every way that I can to do that, whether talking with you like this or coaching you or whatever. I’m here for you, Chase.” Alan then pulls him into a hug and pats his back.
“Thanks.” The pair then separate and trade a small smile before their eyes return back to the race track as the action was set to begin once again. “Right now, the only time I’m concerned is when I go to bed at night because that’s a time where I could have a nightmare or something with not much else going on. Is it alright if I call you in the middle of the night?” Chase had grown use to calling Dale or Regan when these happened – more so Regan. However, with Dale expecting his second baby soon, he didn’t want to bug his boss a lot. On the flip side, Regan tried to be there as much as he could – like 90% of the time – but there was an odd-time where they’d catch each other oddly.
“I have no problem with that. I keep my phone beside my bed at night. Besides, us crew chiefs have weird sleeping schedules anyway. We tend to get the strangest ideas for car set-ups at night when we’re sleeping and need to get up and write them down immediately.” Chase smiles upon hearing the story as he takes a deep breath.
Perhaps it was a good idea that he had gone with his gut and chose to open up to Alan, more than he had originally planned.