Cabin Fears – Chapter 20: The Surprise

For those who were trying to figure it out last chapter – Elladee Crafton. That should answer the questions J

Sunday – First Week of August

Alyssa takes a deep breath, before continuing her walk with Steve.

As expected, she was officially released from the hospital, with strict instructions to focus on getting rest and regularly changing the bandages on the burns. If anything, per the doctors, they should mostly be healed within 2 to 3 weeks.

Despite being released, she hadn’t traveled far from the hospital, spending all of her time with Chase as she focused on also helping him with her recovery. Despite some persistence from Marie, she told her mother that she wasn’t going to leave till he was also released, too.

While everybody agreed, Steve and Jeff pushed for her to head outside, knowing the surprise that lied there. Jeff suggested that she could go get herself and Chase a treat, or perhaps get him a surprise. He even used the classic ‘do some shopping, mix up your outfit’ line with her. After continued persistence – including Chase suggesting that some fresh air would do her well, she agreed to head out for a small trip with Steve.

“Why didn’t you head home?” She asks as they continued walking. On Friday, the drivers of the group – Regan, Ryan and Darrell – all left to make the trip to Indianapolis. Her and Chase had watched the race on TV, impressed Darrell’s domination en route to winning. It resulted in a very happy FaceTime chat afterwards.

“I’m not working with anybody, and I asked NBC to give me some time because I wanted to be there for those I care about,” he tells her with a smile. He remembered making the phone call to NBC, and their disappointment as it was their first race of the schedule. However, they accepted, noting that they could get a replacement till everything sorted out. Steve wondered whether the producer was truly accepting, or hoping that it resulted in the network getting an exclusive once Chase and Alyssa were ready to get back racing.  Either way, he wasn’t going to worry right now.

“You didn’t have to do that for me, Steve. I would’ve totally understood you heading back.” Steve smiles as he wraps an arm around her shoulders.

“I know that you would, but it wouldn’t feel right to me. Besides, I know your parents are going through a lot with this and Kelley & Jeff can’t always handle helping them. I did it just as much to help them, your parents, Chase, and his parents.”  She smiles as they continue to make their way through the parking lot. “Are you okay?” She shakes her head yes. “You’re not too sor-”

“I’m fine, Steve. So where the heck did you park?” Steve hated to make her walk this far, but he had hid the car in a tight corner because he didn’t want somebody else to recognize it.  He had even pondered covering the custom plate that she had on it.

“Right here…” He watches as she stops there, frozen, eyes locking on the car ahead of her. She then takes a deep breath, as she looks over at Steve. He knew the look that he was receiving well – the Earnhardt stare.

“You drove my car up here? You drove my car without asking me? No wonder your damn well sucking up to me! Like really, Stev-”

“I didn’t drive it up here, Alyssa. I got it sent up here – for you.” The frozen stare seemed to darken with his comment. She almost felt like she had been slapped in the face with the comment. Didn’t he realize something?

“So how am I supposed to drive and shift in my condition? You really thought this through, Steve.” So far, it seemed the surprise was blowing up in flames in his face. Perhaps he should’ve explained things differently to her, rather than doing it this way.

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that, actually. Take a closer look and then see what you have to say to me.” She then looks at him confused, though slowly makes her way closer to the car, glancing in at the steering wheel, before glancing back at him.

“Paddle shift?” He shakes his head yes, slowly closing the gap so he was standing right behind her. It seemed safe to approach now.

“The disappointment that I knew you had to be feeling about everything got me thinking. Jeff also said, ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way,’ which really trigged the thought process. How could you shift and drive with ease with just your right hand? Then after talking to some people and realizing the technology out there, it came to me – paddle shift.  You can keep your right hand on the steering wheel, slightly reaching a finger over to shift either up or down – like you see in open-wheel but with a twist. Given that you’ve tested an Indy Lights car, I figured you’d get it.” She didn’t know whether to turn around and hug him, cry, or what emotions to feel as she felt a bunch of emotions go through her in that very moment.

“Steve…..” She then runs her hand along the steering wheel, before looking back at him. “You thought of all this for me?”  He shakes his head yes.

“I know you really well. I know the instant that they said you couldn’t do anything with your left hand or arm, the first thought would be not being able to drive, or race. I mean, that’s all you’ve ever known or wanted to do. You also didn’t say anything, but rather focused on Chase and everything. I knew that was actually, just like your dad, avoiding the obvious thought on your mind. I wanted to help you out as I know you’re both going through a lot right now.” She felt a couple tears trickle down her face as she felt the sadness she’d hidden since learning the news begin to surface, as well as the gratefulness in knowing someone all of her life that cared this much.

“I don’t know what to say, Steve. I know that I owe my life to you in a way, and now this definitely puts me forever in debt to you because this is beyond what I could’ve imagined.” He smiled as it made the fury, along with the debates through the process, worth it in seeing her reaction.

“I know it’ll take some getting used to, but I have a feeling once you do it’ll be natural as ever and you’ll be cruising just like you were before. Heck, we could even take it for a bit of a spin today.” A smile formed her face on the thought as she looked back, shaking her head yes.  Perhaps getting back behind the wheel would allow her to get more at ease with everything.

It was a rough start as there were some ill-timed shifts, untimed turns and comfort issues – but she was able to overcome those in the first 15 minutes of the drive. As they hit the 15 minute mark, it seemed that she had mastered the art of driving while using the paddle shift as Steve had set-up. He could only look over and smile as she guided them through the streets.

Feeling some pain up her left side, she pulls back into the parking lot, parking the car back in the spot that Steve had it as she looks over with a smile on her face. The smile he saw made everything worth it, for sure, as it was the first true smile that he’d seen since showing up there.

“I didn’t realize how much I missed this…” She lets out as she reaches up, flipping the key off. “I mean, I knew that there’d be issues – from writing, to doing some daily chores – but I never let it hit me on the surface, so to speak. However, as soon as I sat here and got into the first five minutes, it made me realize just how much I was missing this feeling, and worried that I’d never get to feel it again. There’s nothing that could replace the feeling of sitting in this seat, being able to drive, going for a simple crui-”

“What about tackling the high banks of Daytona?” Steve asks her, catching her gaze of surprise. “What about finding the right groove at a track like Michigan? What about the right timed bump-and-run at Bristol? I bet being behind the wheel of a racecar would be even better.”  She couldn’t disagree with him. However, seeing the technology implemented, she knew her possibilities were limited now.

“Unless it’s in a sportscar, I don’t see Daytona being in the future. Heck, I may even go for the open-wheel drea-”

“What about the NASCAR dream and following in your da-”

“Do you honestly see this happening in NASCAR, Steve?” Steve knew it was a tall order, but he had sold Jeff on the idea so perhaps he was good enough to keep it going.  He also knew a couple salesmen tips from Rick couldn’t hurt before visiting with NASCAR.

“I think before you give up on that entirely, especially since that’s the core of your racing dreams, we should set up this same technology in a stock car, go to a test and see if we could get NASCAR to come out and approve it. It’s not a performance advantage and they can monitor the system fully to make sure it doesn’t come one. It’d also open doors in their marketing department in being able to showcase any driver, no matter what, can come and race on their stage and win.” She still wasn’t sold on the idea, though, wondering if this was just a thought of false hopes. Besides, if she focused towards the open-wheel side, she could work at getting that right ride for next season now while recovering from her injuries.

“I don’t know, Steve…” Perhaps he wasn’t the best salesman after all.

“Listen, I know it may seem like a long shot, but what do we have to lose? I say we give it a shot and see where it goes. Then that way you’re not left wondering what was because you know you gave it a shot.” Perhaps he was right; perhaps it was worth a shot. There was nothing that could replace her love for stock cars and the want to win the Daytona 500 one day. Anyways, she could contact those open-wheel teams while Steve was putting this in order and develop the back-up plan if needed.

“You have my permission to go forth in putting the pieces together, Steve.”  Steve smiles as he knew it was a great step.

“I just have to also convince your parents, especially your dad since he’s your boss. Can’t prepare the car without his permission.” Alyssa didn’t know what to think on that topic. She knew her mother would throw a fit, wanting to put her in a bubble and protect her after everything. However, with her dad, she couldn’t decide. She knew he’d understand her desires, but wondered if the worries over everything would overcome that thought.

“I’ve got your back the whole way, but we better have some luck on our side.”

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