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February 2016 – Thursday Night
Dale comes out of the bathroom, having dried off after a shower and changed into a pair of boxers and t-shirt, and sits down on the couch beside Marie. It had grown late in the night, with Alyssa tucked in for the night in her bed. Elsa was sleeping at the current time, set to wake up a couple hours later for another feeding.
“You’re quiet this evening and tonight,” Dale comments as he wraps his arms around Marie’s shoulders and lays his head on her shoulder. “Is something wrong?”
There was nothing wrong, persay, unless you considered the flood of thoughts that would not circulate off of her mind. She thought returning to Daytona would be easy and it’d only be tough on the men with what they went through. However, while it seemed it was going with ease for Dale and Chase, here she was stuck with the thoughts.
“I just have a lot on my mind,” she offers as she tries to focus on the movie that was on to get her mind off of the thoughts.
“Do you want to talk about it?” She truly wondered if talking about it would help. However, she didn’t know what she would say or how to express the thoughts on her mind aloud. Besides, she didn’t want to ruin the good vibe that Dale had about the weekend thus far.
“No, I’m okay.” She then looks back at him into his blue eyes, knowing he wouldn’t accept the simple answer easily. “Honestly, I’m fine Dale. You don’t need to worry.”
“I love you. I’m going to worry no matter what you say if there’s something bothering you. Besides, it’d help to talk about it. Perhaps voicing your concerns would make it easier to handle.” She shakes her head no as she returns her eyes back to the television. She didn’t seem to be able to find a way to shake the feelings that were on her mind.
“I’m fine. You don’t need to worry about it.” He then rubs her shoulders, knowing otherwise. It was always her way to avoid facing issues head on, just like making the initial first phone call to her mom after everything. It was just like how she avoided discussing her fears of taking over the reigns of Pitronia originally, but yet they fell apart the night before the crowning ceremony.
“I remember when we came down here last year. We had just gotten down dealing with your father and sister in Pitronia. I was sore in all the odd spots, and couldn’t talk to save my life thanks to that lovely drink I was forced. I remember being thankful to have you and Alyssa in my life, that we had made it through that and were a complete family again. I remember the pain that I felt physically from everything, but also mentally in thinking I’d lost you, to worry over my daughter, to finding you once again. I was mentally drained, but yet I was trying to put the pieces together to focus on Daytona. In my mind, if I could get to Daytona and start Speedweeks, I could move forward and put everything in the rearview mirror.” She glances down at the couch, remembering those exact feelings going through her mind. There was nothing that could describe the anger, pain, worry, and a bit of heartbreak that all coursed through her at the same time then.
“I remember how everything left me. I was so scared of losing you that it made me extra worried about something happening down here. I was a mess during the races. I remember Steve consoling me, and then us having that discussion in the motorcoach with you assuring me not to worry. I didn’t want to chance feeling that lost, again.” Dale then shifts so that way they’re facing each other. It was obviously hard to discuss their feelings, neither wanting to relive what they went through. However, if it helped her deal with everything on her mind, he was willing to do this step by step tonight.
“I remember telling you that you had nothing to worry about. I assured you that the car was safe, I was going to do my job correctly but stay safe for you, and that we’d never be apart.” He then takes her hands with his own, causing her to look up from the couch. “I meant those words. There is nothing that is going to tear us apart, Marie. I love you, I want to raise these kids with you, and I want to grow old with you.”
“I love you, too. At least this year, I trust that you’re going to do your job accordingly and kick ass on Sunday, right?” He shakes his head yes, knowing that was the plan. There was something special about Amelia and he believed that she’d be able to get the job done. There was nothing that he wanted more than to win a pair of Daytona 500s back-to-back. Though right now, he knew that there were bigger fish to fry when it came to his fiancé’s emotions.
“So, what’s on your mind?” She then lets out a sigh, still not knowing the way to describe it. How would you describe a mess of crazed feelings on your mind at once?
“Just everything. I find myself reflecting more on what happened last year than I want to. I’m thinking about how disappointed I am in my family for what they di-”
“It’s not your fault, and we’ve talked about this. There was nothing that you could do about what your father and Mariela did. You handled it the best way that you could, and we’ve been able to move forward past that. Rather than focus on that, focus on the family that you have now. You’re an amazing mother to two absolutely adorable, wonderful children.” She smiles as she glances over at Elsa sleeping in her basinet, before looking back over at Dale. After worrying through her teens that she’d be stuck into a life that her father forced and not happy, she had made it pretty far.
“I’ve had a great daddy to help me along the way. It seems he has a special niche when it comes to that sweet daughter of his.” Dale couldn’t help but smile in that regard, having really enjoyed the relationship that he had formed with Alyssa. That was something that he hoped to continue moving forward, and perhaps building on.
“She’s quite the kid, and I’m sure Elsa will be just as amazing.” He then rubs the back of her hands lightly, knowing that they had probably just touched the surface with regards to her thoughts.
“What else are you thinking about?” She then closes her eyes, taking a deep breath, as she tried to keep herself calm in relation to the flashbacks.
“I keep reminding myself of how worried and how much pain there was last year in watching you go through everything with Mariela. I remember being worried when she stabbed you and that pain. I remember being worried when she kidnapped you. I remember sitting in the trailer, tied up, watching you do what you do at Daytona in amazement, but yet worried because the pain that she had put you through.” She then pauses, taking another careful deep breath as she focuses on Dale.
“Everything that we’ve been through, it reminds me how much that I can’t take any moment for granted with you. It also reminds me of all the pain that we’ve been through to get to this moment. It makes me that much more thankful that we’re sitting here in Daytona tonight with our pair of daughters after a successful, fun race day. It makes me appreciate the small moments even more.”
“We’ve been through a lot, but we’ve gotten through it together. We’ve proven that we can weather whatever storm that they throw our way. What’s stopping us now?” She smiles a little as she knew that he was right.
“I don’t want to think about what danger could loom ahead. I don’t want to think about something else happ-”
“Then don’t. Focus on the present. Focus on raising your children. Focus on our love. Focus on things that make you happ-”
“I am, but there’s always that reminder over my shoulder of what happened. It creeps into my mind here and there, and I just want to get away from that.” He shakes his head, understanding, having dealt with the same emotions himself. It was why he spent quite a bit of time talking with Rick following Daytona last year. It was why he spent the time that he did in December trying to do whatever he could for Chase, to try and move forward without much thought.
“It’s always going to linger there. It’s changed us forever – we can’t deny that. But, we don’t have to let it bug us forever.” He then lightly traces the outline of the back of her hand with one of his finger tips as he tries to put it all in perspective. “This weekend represents more than the start of the season. It also represents the start of moving forward. If we can get through this weekend with ease, then it proves to us each personally, and together, that we’re ready to move past what happened and focus on our lives. There will always be the little reminders, but we can take solace in knowing that we can move to the next step in our lives.”