Still on a high from her victory, Alyssa walked through the garage area the next morning with a smile on her face. It had been a great night of racing, followed by a fun night of jokes with Ryan, Karsyn and Chase at the Waffle House.
Now she just needed to complete the weekend with a victory by Chase or her dad to end to be perfect ahead of her birthday on Sunday.
Ahead of the Cup race, both Chase and her dad were busy with VIP guests and sponsor obligations, so it left her some time for herself. She was fine with that, spending some quiet time sitting at a picnic bench working on some of her homework.
“Shouldn’t you be relaxing today given your birthday is tomorrow?” She then glances up at Leo and lets out a small laugh as she looks back down at her homework.
“You know that Ms. Holden will kick my ass, birthday or not, if I don’t get this done,” she comments, referencing her book report for English class. She hated the book that they were forced to read so it was even more painful now to write some character analysis book report based on it.
“This is true. If there’s any teacher that we can say is officially a pain in the butt, and shows no mercy, it’s her.” Alyssa smiles and shakes her head in agreement as Leo takes a seat across from her.
“I’m surprised that you’re still here.” Leo then looks at her surprised, caught off-guard as she glances up. “I mean, your mom normally makes you stay quietly hidden, focused on your homework, till Ella’s race time.” He then lets out a sigh, relaxing in realizing the basis of her comment now. He thought that she was implying he wasn’t wanted.
“I actually got this damn report done last night so I’m free for the rest of the weekend to do as I please.” Alyssa glances up surprised as Leo wasn’t normally the type to have his assignments done early.
“That’s a damn first, and lucky for your ass.” He then smiles as he watches her focus back on her notes for the report.
“I actually wanted to make sure I saw you today incase I didn’t see you tomorrow. I wanted to wish you an early Happy Birthday.” She then looks up with a smile. It was nice to hear that from him as it meant that perhaps there was truly hope for that friendship. “Oh, and I got you a gift.” He then hands her the bag that he had made sure to keep hidden. It wasn’t that big – one of those small gift bags – with some fluff paper on top to hide its contents.
“You didn’t have to do thi-”
“You deserve gifts for your birthday, and besides, I owe you this.” She then looks at him slightly confused as she sets her pen down. Perhaps she could take a small break. She then accepted the bag, pulling out the fluff to reveal an envelope and a small box. “Skip the card – it’s one of those corny cards just so there’s one there.”
“Fine – but I will look at it later to see what you decided on.” She then pulls out the box, popping the top of it. An immediate smile forms on her face as she glances up at him before back at the box. “Leo…”
“We were playing that day, joking around with each other, as well as others. I caught it by accident and broke it. I figured that it was only fair that I got you another one.” She pulls the necklace out of box, smiling. It was a simple silver chain, with a pair of dolphins kissing in the center of it. She had always loved dolphins as a child, and had a necklace just like this prior that she’d wear….till it got broke that day.
“It’s perfect. This is awesome.” She then looks up at him. “Thank you.” He shakes his head, accepting, as he takes a deep breath.
“We’ve both figured that being together doesn’t work, but we know that we have a good relationship as friends. Heck, we had some real fun times together and I don’t want to lose those. I want to still talk to you. I still want to hang out at times with you and others, going to Carowinds and joking around all day. I figured this was a good step in that direction to accepting things, like we talked about.” She smiles, as she wanted to be able to have that, as well. She knew that her and Chase were right for each other by their relationship and how it’d grown and how comfortable it was together, but wanted to still have her friends.
“Trust me – we won’t lose that, and I really do appreciate this.”
They spent a bit more time chatting, but Leo knew that she had work to do and didn’t want to disturb her so he headed on his way, leaving her to finish up that boring book report. She managed to get it finish before it was time for pre-race ceremonies, smiling to herself proud. She put everything away before switching into her outfit for that night, and sliding the necklace around her neck.
She then headed out to pit road, still smiling as she signed a couple autographs for fans who recognized her and received congratulatory messages from crew members who passed her by.
She eventually made her way over to where her dad was set to start that night, knowing that she owned him a good luck wish before heading down to spend rest of pre-race ceremonies with Chase.
“Hope you have a good run tonight – no pressure,” she says as she gives him a hug.
“Thanks,” he replies with a quick kiss on her cheek. “Tell loverboy that he better get used to my back bumper tonight.” She then chuckles, shaking her head.
“Oooo someone got a gift for her birthday already,” Elsa lets out, noticing the necklace around Alyssa’s neck. The necklace catches all of their attention then as everyone smiles. “Chasey spoiling you already?” Alyssa shakes her head no, wishing that Chase would reveal his plans for tomorrow already.
“It was actually a gift from Leo,” she states, catching her family by surprise. “He got it for me to apologize for breaking it last summer. He also said it was a way to show we can truly remain friends.”
“That was nice of him,” Dale comments as Marie crosses her arms. Jewelry was something that was normally reserved for couples to give to each other.
“Are you sure that it didn’t mean more?” Marie questions and Alyssa lets out a sigh. Leave it to her mom to worry about it. Hence why she normally took all her worries to her dad as at least he was more relaxed on these things.
“I’m absolutely positive as we’ve talked on multiple occasions as to where we stand with each other,” she answers, set to leave and find Chase. She wasn’t up to a pre-race discussion with her mom.
“And are you sure that you are truly fine with how things stand?” She then stops, spinning around sharply on the heels of her running shoes.
“Trust me, Mom. Just like I was certain about my feelings for Chase back in February when you doubted them, I’m certain about my feelings now. I’m also certain about how I feel about Leo, and have made that perfectly clear to him. In exchange, he has made it clear that he’s fine with that, but wants to remain friends. That’s it. No more. Stop fussing.” Alyssa then makes her way down pit road without another word as Marie glances at Dale with a look of surprise.
“Did you hear the tone of her voic-”
“You deserved it,” Dale cuts her off as he crosses his arms. “You questioned her feelings and judgment, and had no place to do that. We’ve seen it already through the past two months just how much her and Chase care for each other. Why do you keep asking about it? I thought we were over that. Beyond that, why can’t she simply be friends with Leo? Friends give each other gifts.” Marie lets out a sigh as perhaps she was worrying for no reason, and perhaps needed to lay off.
The race got started soon afterwards, and as expected, Alyssa spent the race on his pit box.
Just like he had been nervous about the final laps for her the night before, she was nervous for him. Just like he had been pulling her with every bit, she was doing the same for him. Just like he found himself nervous over the final laps, hoping that she had pulled the edge off for the victory, she found herself in those same shoes now.
Just like she had edged Blaney for the win the night before, he managed to edge Cameron Hayley in the same fashion tonight to score the victory.
The result matched last night, just in reverse, once Chase got to victory lane as she was right there offering the victory lane hug and kiss, just like he had given her.
“I can win them in a better fash-” he starts as she shakes her head no.
“My finish was closer so stick it!” She cuts him off as he laughs, keeping his arms wrapped around her. “Thank you for the perfect weekend to celebrate my birthday. Hopefully you can live up to this tomorrow.”
“We’ll just have to see.” He then reaches over, grabbing one of the hats as he places it on her head. “See, I had to win tonight so that way I could see you with this look once again.”
“Think it fits better than the crown?” He shakes his head yes as he spins her around.
“You’re more of a country girl anyway, rather than some preppy over the top princess.” He then pulls her back close. “You’re my country princess, and I have no plans on letting that change.” He then places another kiss on her lips.
“And you’re always my dirty little rascal.” He then laughs, catching the reference from when she was younger. She was the princess, Steve was her knight in shining armor, which left Chase to be the dirty little rascal.
“Nah, I’m your prince charming now – charm and all.” She then looks at him with a glance as she smiles.
“Keep telling yourself that if it makes you feel good. We’ll see if you have that charm tomorrow.”