Moving Forward – Chapter 41: Groomsmen

TJ Majors walks into the saloon, glancing around as he notices Chase sitting on one of the stools.

He was surprised when he gotten the message from Marie to meet at the saloon that evening. He knew there was a lot going on, and wondered whether it pertained to Dale’s healing from the concussion. There was also thoughts and speculation in regards to the wedding, too. Regardless, he simply accepted the message and went to the saloon.

“What are you doing here?” He asks and as he walks to Chase, grabbing the stool beside him. Chase shrugs his shoulders as he looks around.

“I dropped the girls off at the house and Dale asked if I’d go down to the saloon, and he’d meet me in a couple minutes,” Chase answers as TJ looks on puzzled. Did Dale know of the request from Marie? Had he asked Marie to pass along the message? “What’s your excuse?”

“Do I need an excuse?” Chase shrugs his shoulders, once again. “Actually, Marie told me to come down here.”

“Really?” TJ shakes his head yes, taking out his phone to show the text message. “Don’t worry – I believe you. What’s up with that?” TJ couldn’t answer the question as he had no clue, either.

“If Dale shows up and I’m not supposed to be here, I guess I’ll text Marie and tell her that we can talk elsewhere, or whatever.”

“Well this is a surprise,” the pair hears as they look behind them and see Steve LeTarte standing there. “Ingrid tells me that Dale wants to talk to me, says to meet at the saloon, and I find you two.”

“I was told by Marie and he was told by Dale,” TJ states as Steve takes a seat on the couch in the corner.

“So we’ve all been pulled here one way or another, and there’s a wedding set to take place here in a couple months,” Steve starts. “Coincidence huh?”

“Well, that’s one way to ruin my surprise,” Dale starts as he stands up from his spot behind the bar. “Jeff here, yet?” Jeff puts his hand up as he walks in through the front door. “Glad to see you’re all here.”

“Can we ask first how you are?” Jeff asks as Dale lets out a sigh. He knew the question was coming. After all, he had spent the last month and a half in hiding without any contact with hardly anybody.

“I can happily say that I’ve seen a lot of improvement over the past while. It’s pretty much almost cleared up from what I can tell, except for a couple lagging deals in some exercises and the simulator. If everything plans out right, I’ll be testing next month.” The group look on with surprise and smiles as it was great news to hear. It was perfect news to be hearing as they started November.

“So you got a month and a half till you marry a Queen, and yet you’re somehow squeezing a test and Christmas in before that?” TJ questions as Dale shrugs his shoulders.

“Welcome to my life – where we balance everything wild all at once,” he states. “That brings me to why you all are here. As you know, Marie told the bridesmaids that they were going to be part of the wedding – Kelley, Ingrid and Sherry, with Stacey as the maid of honor. Alyssa and Elsa are set to be the flower girls, surprise surprise, while Wyatt is the ring barrier.” Everybody could only smile as it sounded like the perfect combination for the wedding. “Since someone spoiled my surpris-”

“I’m sorry,” Steve quickly apologies as Dale rolls his eyes.

“This is the meeting of the groomsmen,” he states as the group trade glances. “Chase, you’ve been there amazingly for my family, especially Alyssa, over the past year more than I could ever ask. It’s only fitting that you’re part of the wedding.” He then looks over at Jeff. “And I’ve known you for a long time, and you’ve always been a close friend and someone to lean on. We made a pair of killer teammates, have a friendship for a life time, and I think it’d be fitting for you to be there in January.”

“It’d be an honor,” Jeff comments as he could only smile. Part of him was still in disbelief that Dale was getting married in just a couple months.

“TJ, I don’t think I need to explain why you’re here. We’ve known each other way too long, and you’ve always been my righthand man. There’s no question about you being part of the wedding, and I expect to see Madelynn there as I know Wyatt wants a dance.” TJ chuckles as he had gotten to see how close Wyatt was growing with his daughter.

“I’ll see if her schedule is open,” TJ teases as Dale gives him a smack. “Hey! I’m paying you back with the bachelor par-”

“There’s going to be no wild party before the wedding,” Dale sets the record straight as TJ looks on surprised. “There’s so much other important stuff going on that I just want to focus on what’s ahead, okay?” TJ lets out a sigh.

“I’m sure you can find another reason to plan a party,” Chase tells him as TJ just rolls his eyes.

“Of course, I’ve stated that everybody is in the wedding except for one important detail. Steve, I would like you to be my best man.” Steve looks on, partially surprised. “You’ve done so much for me, personally. You helped me grow as a person and change into the man I am now. You were also there through all the turmoil with Marie, whether it was flying cross the country or listening to my crazy ran-”

“Hey, you were right about that resemblance though,” Steve says, reminding him of the discussion about the Mariela and Marie scrapbook photo.

“Don’t remind me of that,” Dale comments as Chase shakes his head in agreement. “But you did everything you could during that time to be there for me. Then you also were there for Marie, helping her when I couldn’t. I mean, without you, sometimes I wonder just how that would’ve went down. Of course, I don’t even need to think about that anymore than the plane crash. My daughter is here today because you risked your life, and did what you had to do save her. I told you that day there was no way I could repay you for what you did, and I still don’t know how I could. I could go on for days as to my reasons, but please, be my best man.” Steve smiles and shakes his head yes.

“I’d be glad to stand there with you.”

“So what do us boys have to do to get ready for dream wedding?” Jeff asks, remembering protocol for groomsmen from other weddings.

“Buy tuxedos, white dress t-shirts, and please carry the light blue hankerchief to match the design and dress,” Dale states as Chase’s eyes open in surprise.

“Please tell me you haven’t seen her wedding dress,” Chase comments and Dale shakes his head no. “You know it’s bad luck to see the dress before the wedding, right? Like, please, no taking peeks. You don’t need to tempt fate.”

“I wouldn’t think of it, Chase. I want this day to go off without a hitch just as much as you do.”

Marie smiled as she looked on from outside watching the boys interact together, knowing her thoughts were along the same lines as Dale’s.

As she heads back up to the house – Elsa in hand, Alyssa running up the hill, her mind was stuck on the words that Dale had shared about the past and why he made the choice he did.

She thought about the words that Kelley had told her. She didn’t need someone to walk her down the aisle, but if she wanted someone, then she could ask someone that meant a lot to her to do so –as Kelley had asked her brother.

She knew that Steve made perfect sense as the best man, but what if she needed someone for the walk to the alter?

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Cabin Fears – Chapter 38: Hendrick Motorsports

Chase Elliott takes a deep breath, before he walks down the long familiar walkway that he’d grown used to in the big complex. Each area was sectioned off in a certain way  with executives one way, accounting another,  marketing in their corner, followed by drivers and crew chiefs with their own office area.

While normally a Monday morning consisted of heading to his own office, followed by meeting up with Alan somewhere, he instead had another spot to head to.

Since the discussion with Regan and Tony over the weekend, he had been doing some thinking as to what he wanted to do in the following days. He had sent a text message to Jeff with his initial thoughts on Sunday while they were fresh on his mind, with the promise to stop-in Monday to discuss further as needed.

The decision he came to wasn’t easy, as he fought the back and forth argument Tony had discussed. When do the needs for yourself and your brain outweigh your heart and desires to be behind the wheel? How do you balance that all together, knowing everything else filling your thoughts?

It was worth noting as he walked down the hall the last time he stepped in these halls was when he followed Jeff to the conference room, the note he found secured firmly in his fingers. That was not a thought lost on him, either.

Stopping as he reached the end of the hall, he knocks on the door, taking another deep breath. This didn’t seem so difficult last night when he sent the message, but he couldn’t help but be nervous. What if everybody wasn’t as accepting as he hoped?

“Come on in,” he hears, opening the door and walking inside. It was still surreal to think one of the drivers that he looked up to, and a partial initial coach for his move up to Cup, was now his day-to-day boss. “Hey Chase.”

“Hey,” was all Chase could muster with the nerves flowing through his mind as he walked up to the desk. He slowly sits down in the chair, not sure what he was preparing himself for. “Did you get my text last night?”

“Yeah, I read it this morning.” Chase shakes his head, knowing that by the quick response Jeff sent in when he’d be available to talk within his schedule.

“I didn’t mean to send it so late last night, or tell you that way. It’s just everything was on my mind, and I figured I’d get it out while I could.” Jeff shakes his head, understanding.

“Chase, you don’t need to explain things to me. I was there when Tony, Regan and your dad discussed things. I heard what was going on. I was also at the hospital for that week, too. I’ve known about the whole situation since the beginning. Do you remember what I told you at the very beginning in the conference room?” Chase shakes his head yes, remembering those words.

“Focus on yourself and Alyssa, and don’t worry about anything else right now as that’s priority.” Jeff knew the reaction from Marshall wasn’t pleasant – the guy thought of the business side too much, but it didn’t matter to him. He knew he was doing the right thing for his friend, and knew Rick would easily side with him.

“That’s still priority. You’ve won us championships and races. You’ll always damn well have a ride with this team no matter what, whether it takes a couple months or the rest of the year. I don’t care. I will work it out some way or another, whether it’s Jimmie in the car or Leo filling in. You don’t need to come and explain yourself to me, Chase. I get it.” Chase felt all the nerves escape him in a minute, glad that he wasn’t getting the lecture he had originally anticipated.

“Are you sure?” Jeff shakes his head yes, knowing he couldn’t convince himself otherwise. “Like I said, I think it’ll be a couple months based on everything I’m thinking and feeling. However, it may be the rest of the year. I’ll probably give you a better update in October.” Jeff didn’t care about the exact deadlines.

“You don’t have to feel the need to update me and inform me. Just do what you need to do for yourself and when you’re ready, even if it’s just a week before, let me know. We will make it work regardless.” Chase smiled as it helped to have understanding amongst the mess. “I’ll handle talking to Marshall and working things out; you just focus on yourself. However, since you’re here, someone stopped in for the day and requested that you go see him.”

“Rick?” Jeff shakes his head yes. With Jeff on his side, he wasn’t too worried about that discussion. “That’s fine. I can deal.”

“Good. Now, if you have nothing else to say, I better go see Marshall before he goes insane.” Chase chuckles a little as he stands up.

“I’ll go see Rick, and then check in with the guys.”

“Sounds good.” Jeff then walks around, giving Chase a hug. “I meant what I said and Chase, it’ll be okay – just like I told you.”

“I’ve got my girl, that’s all that matters.” Chase then turns around and heads out. Jeff walks back behind his desk, dialing Marshall’s number to get him to come down.

Jeff glanced at the files on the desk, wishing Marshall would’ve kept them in his office as they didn’t matter to him. He knew how NAPA and the other sponsors worked –they’d be fine with Jimmie driving, and have Chase’s back till he was ready.

“I just saw Chase go walking down the hall,” Marshall says as he enters the office, before glancing back outside. “Isn’t he supposed to be her-”

“He doesn’t need to be,” Jeff cuts off Marshall, catching the fellow gentleman’s attention. “That boy has enough on his plate right now with everything that he’s going through. I told him I have it handled.” Marshall then walks up to the desk, a look of surprise on his face.

“So in other words, everything that I’ve flown here on your desk isn’t supposed to matter?” Jeff then sits back and crosses his arms.

“Precisely, yes. I care about hi-”

“Perhaps letting that affect your judgem-”

“And what would your father-in-law say to this, Marshall?” Marshall then lets out a sigh, already knowing Rick’s answer. “That’s what I thought.” Jeff then takes a deep breath, not exactly liking that he had to pull that card. He knew that Marshall was about the business side – and that was a good perspective to always have, but sometimes he crossed the line. “Listen, Chase has just gotten done healing from the physical injuries; however, he’s got a lot of other stuff going on. He’s dealing with nightmares, panic attacks, moments he can’t remember what he did – I could say more but I don’t think I need to, right?”

“No, I supposed not. I get what you’re coming from. So, what’s your plan with this?” Jeff looks at the files, immediately closing them as he hands them back over. “Really?”

“Each of the sponsors has been called personally by me. I called them before Chase got here this morning. They assured me that they are willing to back him and the team through this, no matter what, and be patient with his recovery. Besides, they’re pleased with how Jimmie has been running so there are no complaints. You had nothing to worry about on that side, Marshall.” Marshall then takes a deep breath, knowing that’d calm the marketing and accounting departments in hearing that news. He had them working on extra plans, just in case.

“So how much longer is Chase going to be out?” Jeff shrugged his shoulders, remembering Chase’s answer. “Okay, that’s fair. How much longer does Jimmie want to fill in, and how much longer do we hold the seat open?”

“Jimmie has said that he’s willing to do the rest of this year, except maybe a couple events. I’ve already looked at other options, whether fellow drivers not racing right now or XFINITY, to take over the seat if need be. As far as holding his seat open, I told him that it’ll be there no matter how long it tak-”

“Your caring side is getting in the wa-”

“The sponsors are fine with that, too, if it makes you happy. I told them that Chase may be out a couple months, maybe the rest of the year. They easily accepted. If we get to next year and he’s still not ready, I’ll revisit with him and then touch base with the sponsors. I have this under control, Marshall.” Marshall shakes his head as he picks up the files.

“Glad to see that you’re handling it. But Jeff, just keep in mind to not mix too much personal and business.” Jeff knew where Marshall was coming from, but he also knew the philosophy they’d followed for years.

“This isn’t a business. This isn’t just a race team. This is a family, everybody here in this complex, and a family looks after each other. Remember that when you’re thinking about things. I know Rick put you in charge because you do a helluva job with the business end, but sometimes you need to relax a little.” Marshall knew that Jeff was right, but was too proud to admit it as he turned and left the office with another word.

Down the hall, Chase found Rick busy at first so he went to see the guys, before returning to the boss’ office.

“You wanted to see me, sir?” Chase asks as he walks in the office, feeling the nerves that were there earlier with Jeff.

“I wanted to see how you were doing,” Rick answers as he takes in the young man’s appearance before him.

“I’m doing better, sir. Everything is healing accordingly for the doctors that they feel the stitches should be nothing to worry about soon. As far as everything else, that’s another story.” Rick motions for Chase to sit beside him on the couch, which Chase easily does.

“A little bit of the same before?” Chase didn’t want to divulge into details, but he felt he owed Rick the honesty.

“Nightmares and flashbacks are there once again. I’m also having panic attacks, and they’re worse than what we dealt with before. I completely panic, go about a series of actions without a single thought, and then snap out of it wondering why I did it. It was how I ended up in Canada with $2 million trying to save Alyssa myself, and how I ran into Tony this past weekend.” Rick had seen the series of events with Chase, previously. He was surprised to see how far they’d gotten this time.

“Have you spoken to anybody about this?” Chase wished he had a better answer at this time.

“Regan and Tony, a little – and Alyssa about some of her concerns. I haven’t divulged to anybody totally.” Chase then takes a deep breath. “It’s hard. I know I got to deal with it, but I don’t want to. I don’t want to remember or relive that. I don’t want to believe it happened. That’s been how I’ve dealt with things, you know? That’s why I ran before and why I got myself so sick that weekend. I know it’s wrong, but it’s what my subconscious keeps telling me.” Rick wraps an arm around Chase’s shoulders.

“Listen, I think you’re just being too hard on yourself right now. You’re right that you’re not taking the right steps initially, but anybody would understand why you haven’t followed through with the according steps. Look at everything you’ve been through. You don’t need to sit here and eat at yourself for not doing the right thing.” Chase knew Rick was probably right in those words, but it still didn’t seem to change his ways.

“I’ve always been the one to say that you take experiences, look back on them, find what you did wrong, and damn well do it right the next time. I’ve told myself that numerous times. Here I am knowing what I’m doing wrong, and I can’t follow throu-”

“Chase, it’s okay, though. Everybody understands, and you should yourself too, that it’s difficult because it’s tough right now on you to do so. It’s tough to face those moments and go through that. At least you’re realizing what you’re doing and in the right time, you’re going to do the right thing and handle it. The first step is recognition. The second step is determining your strategy – which I can see you’re doing now. You’re feeling out who you can talk to, whether that’s Regan, Tony or someone else. Once you’re certain, you’ll go through with it and do the right thing. I know that.” Chase hoped that Rick was right in those words, but the uncertainty he told Regan about still remained at times.

“I suppose….”

“Everything is going to be okay, no matter what. I can promise you that.” Once again, Chase hoped those words were true as he heard everybody saying them around him. Perhaps he just needed to push himself to believe more like everyone else. “And remember – like I told you previously, my door is always open. We’re all here for you.”

“Thank you, sir.” Rick then shook his head as he glanced around the room.

“It’s crazy that you’ve been driving for me for like 14 years now and you still haven’t dropped the sir.” Chase chuckles a little.

“I was brought up to give respect, and sir, you still deserve that respect.” Rick just smiles as he looks over at him.

“I remember I met you as a little rascal teenager, and signed you to a development deal. I knew you’d turn into a great racecar driver by what I’d seen, and had faith that you’d turn out alright. I can tell you now that you’ve turned into quite the young man and done your fair share of things right – even with everything against you. Don’t ever change.”

“I don’t plan on it. It’s worked for me so far.”

Back to Square One – Chapter 12: Their Discussion

After reaching the garage area, Greenlee glanced around, trying to figure out the right spot to chat.

“Where can we get some time alone?” She asks as Ron looks at her slightly confused. “We need to talk about what happ-”

“I’m fine,” he answers, wanting to totally avoid the discussion. “Can we just forget about it?” She then lets out a sigh and shakes her head no.

“That just lets it manifest into something bigger. Do you want to do that?” He then lets out a sigh, knowing that wouldn’t be a good idea. However, he still wanted to avoid the discussion. “Now, are you going to give us a spot to talk, or should I question the guys?” He didn’t want the guys knowing something was up, so he grabbed her by the hand, took her across the area away from the trailers, over by the garage stalls. He then walked into where they were parked for the weekend, standing in the middle with his arms crossed.

“Well?” She then lets out a sigh, knowing that this was going to be more difficult then she imagined. It seemed Ron had lost his caring side that he used to have when they were running around together before.

“Well it’s obvious by your little flashback there that you haven’t totally gotten over what happened. So, is that the case? Has that happened before?” Ron rolled his eyes, really hoping to avoid the discussion totally. He knew he’d be hearing about it from Chad and Jimmie anyway once Candiss spoke.

“It hasn’t happened before, okay? As for what happened, it was clear in my mind what was pulled over my head. Hence why I sat that night and told you everything – simply – and you saw where I stood. If this was some big deal on my mind, why would I have sat that night and told you the story?” She knew that she could use that fact to her advantage – he trusted her, and would open to her if not anyone else.

“If it’s happening – even just this once, that means that there’s something ther-”

“People jump out of their skins when they’re surprised, even if nothing has happened to them. Heck, we’re told to have our guard up because of crazy fans wandering these garages. So it transfixed me to another world for a minute – whatever.” She then rolls her eyes, wishing that he’d be more forthcoming.

“I know you’re trying to brush it off like it’s nothing, and be the macho man. I can promise you that it’s not a good fit for you. You’re just going to dig yourself a hole with that because it’s going to manifest into something that you can’t control. It’s better for your own sanity if you handle it.” He knew that she was right, but there was no way to know which direction to go first.

“So maybe I’ve thought about it some. Maybe there’s a couple nights I couldn’t sleep because of it. Maybe it lingers in my mind. What else would you expect having gone through that?” She shakes her head, understanding. It was nice to be making progress.

“Ron, I know exactly what you’re saying because trust me, been through it. You heard my story and know what I’ve been through. I may look like Ms. Confidence now, but I wasn’t always that way. I spent time breaking apart, wondering how I could process everything, for months at a time. But here I am, proof that you can get over those thoughts and return to the normalcy that you know. How did I do it? I talked to those who I was closest with, I confided in them, faced my fears and worked my way through it.” He knew what she meant. It was what Jimmie had already suggested to him before.

“I get the steps. I get the process. It’s just….I don’t know what step to take. I don’t know if there’s that person, or whether that’s what I need to do.” She could understand that, but also saw the excuse mechanism having done that herself.

“You know who your friends are, you know the resources around you. It’s time to figure it out and take the first step or else you’ll be driving yourself in circles for months on end, Ron. I took my step by talking to Ryan, Kendall and my dad. It turned out that those slowly worked. It takes time, it takes hard work – but I know that you can do it.” She then reaches out and grabs his hand. “If I can do it, then you can do it because you’re stronger than me.”

“I don’t know about that. I don’t know if I could’ve gone through everything that you’ve been through.” She knew that there was a lot in her story, but there was a constant.

“I don’t know how I did it sometimes. Truthfully, I think the real reason I did it was for Ryan. There’s nothing that I could say that could describe what we had together. It was magic.” He then smiles as he looks into her eyes. There were times he wondered about a future with her, but there were times like this where he held back. He wondered whether that’d even be possible for her with everything she’d been through.

“You mentioned his ex and what happened to him. How long did it take you to move forward from that?” She then glances down, a couple tears forming in her eyes.

“To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten over his death. I think that’s why I truly screwed up any relationship afterwards, and why I ran away from Pine Valley – trying to escape the ghost, if you will.” Ron then reaches out, rubbing her shoulder.

“For what it’s worth, I think you’ve moved on just fine. I think you’ve taken everything that happened with stride. Look at where your life is now and the wonderful woman you’ve become. I know you say that you’re not totally over what happened to Ryan, but that’s understandable. He was your everything, your world, the man you could only dream about. I don’t think anybody could get over something like that. However, I can tell that you’ve done a tremendous job moving forward. For what it’s worth, if you need someone ever to talk about things or whatever, you’ve got a friend in me.” She then smiles.

“Well, for what it’s worth, you’ve also got a friend in me. If you want to talk about things and why you’ve got all these feelings Ron, you just have to say something and I’ll listen. And Ronnie, it will work out for you – I promise.” He smiles as she pulls him into a hug, rubbing his back. The pair remained like that for awhile before heading back towards the trailer, jumping the rest of the team as they finished packing things up.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 71: “I just care about you”

Sabrina makes her way through the shop, trading smiles with a couple employees, and perhaps some hugs. She then makes her way over to the truck for the weekend, leaning on the tailgate.

“Well well, it’s nice to see your pretty face,” her crew chief Marcus Richmond says as he turns around to face her. “I was wondering whether you got lost in California.”

“You know I’ve been busy Marcus,” she comments as he simply gives her a nod. Normally, he’d hate having a young driver run off without giving the crew chief much of the discussion warranted. However, he understood the unique circumstances with her.

“How is your brother, anyway?” She smiles as she was liking the answer she could give now.

“He’s doing a lot better, actually. Everything is coming together how the doctors want, and he’s on-track to be fully released by month’s end. We actually had him out at Auto Club this past weekend, and he’s got plans already set to join us for Charlotte.” Marcus smiled as he was glad to hear the news. It’d also mean that she’d be around more come May and beyond – good for learning.

“I’m glad to hear. Now, everything is ready to go accordingly with the truck. You do remember what we talked about on the phone, right?” Sabrina shakes her head yes, remembering the twice a week discussion they’d have while she was at her apartment in California. “So the reason I dragged you down here a couple days early is you’re wanted at the track tomorrow for a media appearance, but also wanted to make sure the truck is how you wanted inside prior to getting to the track.”

“That sounds fair.” She then stands up, and glances in the window with a look around. She had planned on staying with Chris till Thursday morning, but ended up flying out on Wednesday with the landing in Charlotte early Wednesday evening so she could stop by KBM. She figured she’d spend the night with Chase, before heading out to Martinsville.

“The guys followed specs from what we figured pre-season, but you know how precise measurements can go sometimes. Besides, as you get more used to driving these, you may want to adjust the mirrors.” She shakes her head, understandingly, before climbing into the truck.

“It feels pretty good, actually.” She then snaps the steering wheel around, pretending to drive for a bit before taking a glance around. “I just want to adjust this mirror slightly, and then making the shifter come up like half an inch for easier grabbing.” Marcus walks over, couple wrenches in hand as he passes them to her.

“Like I said, you drivers get picky and want slight adjustments always.” She then looks over at him.

“Am I too needy?” He shakes his head no.

“A comfortable driver will always do better than one that’s uncomfortable, Sabrina. Never forget that. I’ll see you later.” He then walks away, heading to the offices as she takes a deep breath, before going to work on what she wanted changed.

Once she was done the changes, she climbs from the truck and puts the wrenches back. She then leans back on the tool box, eyes scanning over her No. 18 Toyota Tundra as she couldn’t help but smile.

“You’re one lucky girl Sabrina,” she tells herself. “You’ve got the boy of your short track dreams, everything has worked out with Chris, and you’re accomplishing your dreams. What more could you want?”

She then pulls her phone from her pocket, taking a quick selfie with the truck before sending out on the various social channels. She then forwards it to her brother with the caption, “Spending time with my other baby. Miss you.” She then puts her phone back in her pocket.

She then makes her way down the shop, checking out the other trucks that were getting prepared for future races. She saw the truck she had at Atlanta, all the sheet metal pulled off as the crew had worked to fix any damage underneath from her quick spin. Her eyes also glanced through the rest of the trucks, as she shook her head in amazement.

“I didn’t expect to see you here,” She hears and glances out of her daze to see Christopher Bell standing before her.

“Marcus wanted me to make sure everything was comfortable before the weekend and I have to be at Martinsville tomorrow,” she tells him. He hadn’t bothered to even think about the schedule that she had. “I figured I’d fly in tonight and follow what Marcus wanted, before checking in with Chase and heading out.”

“How are things with you and Chase, anyway?” A smile immediately formed on her face as she thought about him.

“It’s great, Christopher. It’s actually amazing. It’s almost like nothing happened. We’re pretty much back to where we were.” Christopher shakes his head, understanding. He wasn’t quite sure if she was telling the truth, though.

“Are you absolutely certain about that? I mean, you have to think there’s some hesitation on Chase’s part.” She then crosses her arms, not feeling all too hot about being accused in regards to her relationship.

“Why are you so concerned anyway?” He then lets out a sigh as he shoves his hands in his pocket.

“I remember what you were like at Kern County. I remember the heartbreak that was on your face as you looked down from your stall at where he was with Ricky. I remember hearing about the heartbreak, pain, frustration, anger – everything about your little fight. Considering that, and the fact that it was your brother who hurt him, that’d cause issues in my world.” She then lets out a sigh as there was no doubt there had been some rough weeks. Who could forget the fight that her and Chase had? However, that was fair – she had lied to him and deserved that.

“Listen, I know there was a lot that happened there in the span of like three days. But Christopher, he had a reason – I lied to him about something that dealt with his safety. I lied to him for months on that and it wasn’t fair. He had a reason. Looking back, I understand that reason and give him the benefit of the doubt – the same way he gives me the benefit of the doubt, knowing that I did it out of fear once he thought about it calmly.” Perhaps his nerves were over nothing in regards to her relationship. Maybe being the extra caring friend wasn’t needed here.

“So just like that, he trusts you and everything is back to lovey dovey?” She then lets out a sigh, remembering the conversation last night. “That’s what I thought.”

“Okay, so there’s some unease in regards to certain things. There’s a bit of him that probably is thinking about that. We had that conversation last night, actually. He reminded me to keep the promise of being honest with him and everything would be fine. I then told him how much I felt bad for what happened, and the mistake that I made and how I wouldn’t repeat it. The conversation then continued without a hitch. Is there an underlying concern? Yeah, he worries about it a little and I worry that he may not see I’m telling the tru-”

“What’s a relationship if you both can’t totally trust each other throu-”

“We love each other, we can’t stand to be apart, and we’d do anything for each other. In both our eyes, we have a reason for what we have together. Sure, there are issues – but we’re working on them one at a time. As scenarios come up where that question may lie, I’m certain that together we’ll work it out and things will continue to be fine.” She then rolls her eyes as she looks away from him. “I don’t know why I’m having to explain my relatio-”

“It’s because you care about him, and you’re willing to do whatever it takes to prove that. You’re fighting for what you love.” She then looks back at him. “And I appreciate the fire and desire that you’re showing, Sabrina. That’s part of what makes love work – being able to fight to make it work together.” Christopher then takes a deep breath as he thinks over his thoughts. “I may have been wrong questi-”

“Ya think?” He then takes another deep breath, realizing he was facing the angry side of Sabrina, which he heard from short track peeps to avoid.

“But Sabrina, I was only asking you how things were and pushing the issue because I care about you. I just care about you, as a friend, and want to see the best for you. I don’t want to see you get hurt. I don’t want to be picking up the pieces of a heartbroken teammate in a couple months.” She felt her guard relax a little, understanding where Christopher was coming with his comments. However, it didn’t mean she was pleased with the discussion.

“I appreciate your concern, but I can promise you – things are fine, and you won’t be picking up the pieces or anything later on. I’ll see you this weekend.” She then heads out of the shop without saying another word as he stands there, letting out a sigh.

He just hoped that she was right with her observations.

Cabin Fears – Chapter 37: Food City 500

Despite the fact that he wasn’t racing and should’ve been home taking care of himself, Chase made the decision to stick around for the Cup Series event on Saturday night. Alyssa had easily agreed to join him, knowing that a night race at Bristol Motor Speedway was always fun to watch.

The pair hung out for the most of the day, before heading out as pre-race ceremonies kicked off to pit road. They stopped by and saw each of their friends, giving them well wishes while accepting their ‘take care’ ‘feel better’ messages in return. Alyssa also got the honor of hearing tons of congratulations messages in return.

The pair continued to make their way down pit road, knowing their final stop was going to be at Chase’s car. He wanted to see the guys again to say hi and wish them the best. The conversations all started off smoothly, with positive messages back and forth. Chase eventually made his way through the group, before setting eyes on the driver that night.

“You know, your fitness routine may have paid off after all,” Chase starts as Jimmie simply smiles in return. “You’re still in as good as shape as ever.”

“Still biking everyday like usual,” Jimmie replies. “When you start feeling better, I have some trails that you should check out.” Chase simply shook his head, accepting, knowing the spots Jimmie normally sent him were always fun. Some of them were a challenge, while some produced breath taking views.

“Triathlons as well?” Alyssa asks and Jimmie shakes his head yes.

“And by the way, Chani still says I’m as competitive as ever as I wasn’t too pleased with coming second the other week. But, it was good day regardless as I had fun.”

“Is it fun being back behind the wheel?” Chase wonders and Jimmie couldn’t help but smile in response with a nod of the head.

“It’s weird not working with Chad or Ron, but it’s still been awesome,” Jimmie comments. “You don’t realize how much you miss it till you make these odd appearances.”

“And it seems you still got it,” Alyssa adds, referencing last week’s third place finish.

“So how much longer till our favorite superstar is back?” Chase hated hearing the question over and over. It was annoying as it seemed 80% of people asked it, but it also felt like a load of bricks with the pressure amounting. Everybody wanted to know for sponsorship, contractual, and a sort of other reasons – not connected to himself, personally. He knew it was different with Jimmie – he was a friend and probably asked for those reasons. However, what if it was wondering how much longer he’d be racing himself?

“I don’t know, to be honest,” Chase answers, repeating the statutory answer he had been giving. “I got stuff to work through before I come back and I don’t know how long that’ll take.”

“Hey, I totally get it,” Jimmie starts. “No worries on that. I’ll keep your seat warm as long as you need me too, but I can promise these guys can’t wait for you to get back and will welcome you back immediately. Besides, it’s kind of neat getting to race against the girls.” Jimmie then glances down pit road where he sees Genieve with her team. “I never thought my girls would race – either of them. It just didn’t seem like it was in the cards. But when she turned eight, my gosh I couldn’t slow her down no matter what we did.”

“So where’s Lydia this week?” Alyssa wonders, as she had seen Chandra down by Genieve, but hadn’t seen the youngest Johnson.

“She is off in Paris doing a fashion show for one of the big designers that she’s working for. I actually was facetiming her before I came out to the grid.”

“So in other words, she’s totally like her momma?” Jimmie laughs and shakes his head yes. “Hey, she’s got the looks and she pulls off those dresses like I could only dream of.”

“I don’t think you’re giving yourself enough credit,” Chase comments as he wraps his arms around her. “I think you’re certainly beautiful.” He then kisses her cheek.

The rest of the pre-race festivities went off smoothly, with Chase and Alyssa remaining by the 24 car the innovation and national anthem. After a quick fist pump for Jimmie afterwards, the pair headed off towards pit road. Following pre-race discussions with Alan, it was agreed that they’d both sit on Chase’s pit box for the race.

“Chase!” Chase hears his name called, almost set to roll his eyes till he notices the source.

“I’ll catch up with you,” he says as Alyssa heads towards the pit stall while he turns and heads down pit road. He meets up partway with Tony. “What’s up?”

“I’m surprised you’re here.” Chase shrugs his shoulders as he looks around.

“It’s Bristol. Would you ever miss a fun night at Bristol, Mr. Stewart?” Tony laughs and shakes his head no. “Besides, I’m taking it easy so like everybody else, you don’t got to worry about me tonight.”

“I know you can take care of yourself, Chase. I just wanted to see how you were after what happened yesterday.” Tony takes a deep breath, debating his words. “To be honest, that scared me more than I let you know in what you told me. I was worried more than I let on, and why I called the immediate meeting with those closest to you. I don’t know what it was about that, but it just got me thinking and worr-”

“Tony, it’s fine. Listen, I’m glad that you told them so that way they know and understand. It also opened the door for Alyssa and I to begin discussing things. It also put it right in my face that I need to start doing something, whether then making up excuses to avoid it. It’s why I talked to Regan a bit last night. I appreciate what you did, so thank you.” Tony smiles as he glances over Chase’s shoulder towards Johnson.

“So does it feel weird watching someone else drive your baby?” Chase looks back towards the car and shakes his head yes. “It’ll feel even stranger as the day goes on, and especially since you’re sitting on your pit box. I went through those feelings when I was healing from injures, and then when I totally gave this up. I thought I was totally ready to walk away from NASCAR, and in the most part I was. But there was a touch of me that remained there, reaching out, for a good bit in the first couple months.” Chase knew those feelings all too well, having experienced them already.

“There’s part of me when Alyssa went testing and then watching Jimmie run the car that is doing that. There’s part of me that’s wishing, and wanting to drive as soon as possible. It’s all I’ve known, Tony. I want that need for speed that we all crave. Admittingly, though, that is just a small piece right now because in my heart and brain I know I’m not ready till I handle things.” Tony shook his head, understanding.

“There’s always the balance of trying to come back when you’re ready, but not too soon. As long as you’re keeping both sides of the coin in mind, you’re doing the right thing. Just make sure to remember that. You may be in your 30s but you’re still young, Chase. You got a lot of years of driving in, and you got lots to go. Make sure you fully do what you got to do before you come back so you take advantage of that.” Chase knew that Tony was right in those words. It was why he had made the personal promise to himself, already.

“I know, and thank you.” Tony then wraps an arm around him.

“You’ll always be the little rugrat that was running around the garage when I showed up to drive in this series so know that you can always look to me if you need someone else.” Chase smiles.

“Alright. I’ll remember that.”

“Hope Jimmie has a good race for you.” Tony then puts his headset on, heading off to one of his team’s pit boxes. Meanwhile, Chase heads back the direction he was going originally, climbing up on top of his pit box to watch Jimmie.

This was going to be one strange night.

In the end, though, it didn’t end with them celebrating. Jimmie ended up crossing the line second, at the hand of a well-timed bump-and-run from Cole Custer (SHR) for the win.

Beautiful Nightmare – Chapter 5: Continued Nightmares

You’re a beautiful nightmare

And nothing can wake me up from you

 

April 2016

Unable to sleep, he flipped through the DVR and settled on re-watching a replay of the 2016 Daytona 500.

Amidst the chaos of his personal life, he had walked away with the biggest win of his career – the Daytona 500. He had been able to enjoy the week surrounding that with peace. He remembered the fun he had with the team in victory lane, followed by the partying afterwards. He remembered the week’s worth of interviews, trips throughout the United States, and how much fun it turned into.

He couldn’t think of possibly wiping that smile off his face. It was that week he felt free, confident, and set to tackle the year ahead with the ease.

Closing his eyes, he wondered if he could get back to that thought now a couple months later.

 

April 2015

Denny climbed out of the car under the red flag for rain, biting his tongue as he went to turn his head.

“Denny, are you okay?”  He hears from his teammate, as he goes to turn his head in the voice’s direction. He then lets out another moan as he changes his mind on that.

“My neck is hurting,” he answers simply. “I think I pulled something.” He then walks away from the car with Kyle, heading over to the team’s pit box. “I’m going to go get some ice, some Tylenol, and hopefully it’ll chill out.”

“Hope it works out.”  He then walks away from Kyle, letting out a sigh.

He knew why his neck was hurting. It was obvious based on the past couple of nights. He had thought about telling someone about the deal he made with Diane, and reached out to an old female friend. Well, it turned out that Diane was watching at all times and caught the interaction. She made sure to restate her claim that night, throwing the blackmail back at him. She followed it up by demanding sex, among other things.

He threatened to tell someone, but she said to him, ‘And who is going to believe you?’ The thought rang in his mind so he kept quiet, not stating a single word about what happened. However, thanks to her grabbing him and pulling him back by the shoulder, it was obvious that she had done something based on the amount of pain he was feeling.

Throughout the rain delay, he spent time with the trainers at Joe Gibbs Racing, getting a massage among other things on his neck, trying to cool down the pain. However, nothing worked.

With already having a win a couple weeks later, Joe Gibbs suggested putting Erik Jones in the car for the rest of the event.  Denny, knowing he couldn’t stand the pain much longer, simply accepted.  Perhaps some nice relaxation would heal it, while clearing his mind. Maybe he could then do the right thing with Diane.

“You better not say anything as to why you’re sitting out,” she whispers in his ear as she runs her nail roughly across his neck. He then glances at her, almost like a child frightened by the punishment they could receive.

“I’ve got this under control,” he answers. “I’ll simply tell them that I pulled a muscle or something.”

“Good boy. Then we can get back to our business.” She then gives him a kiss on the cheek  before watching him walk off with the team.

********************

“So you pulled something in the car?” Kyle asks post-race as Denny lets out a sigh.

“TV excuse,” he answers, truthfully. “Diane and I had a fight, and she pulled me back and it’s been bugging me since then.” Kyle then looked at Denny with surprise.

“Dude, really?” Denny lets out a sigh. “So what are you going to do?” Denny thought about spitting out the details right then and there. However, a glance from her in the distance told him otherwise.

“It was a stupid disagreement. We’ve already talked it over. I don’t see anymore issues.”

“That’s fine, but if for some reason you need a place to stay or someone to talk to, come find me.  I’m here if you need a friend.” Denny accepted that, putting that in the memory bank. He knew when he grew enough courage he’d take him up on the offer.

 

“Ugh!!!” He lets out a frustrated sigh as he sits up in the bed for the third time that night. “Why didn’t you say something that night? Why didn’t you just spill it? Why did you have to let that witch scare you? Why did you have to think you could change her ways? Why did you have to care, or create that damn book anyway?”

He then gets out of the bed, walking to the dresser. He rips it open, taking out the familiar book as he lets out a sigh. He was glad that the police had been quick to find her before she could release the book – he had to admit even speaking with Kyle that he was worried about that being released.

He then walks downstairs, walking out on to the back porch, chucking it as far as he could over the railing. He then turned around, leaning back against it, let his legs give out and sat right there against it.

“Nobody said this was going to be easy,” he starts. “You’ll figure it out, somehow. You just need to forget about her so you can sleep tonight.”

He then yawns, glancing in through the sliding door at the stove. It was already 5 in the morning, which meant he was supposed to getting up in three hours and beginning to get ready for the day.

How was he supposed to make it through everything he had to do?

“Why can’t I think of anything else when I close my eyes?” He questions as he stands up and heads inside. He thought about reaching for where the bottle was stored in the cabinet, but stopped himself a he remembered the conversation with Kyle. “No, I can’t let her win this battle. I can’t let her take over me. I can’t do that.”

He then walks back through the house, returning back to his room as he flopped back in the bed once again. Closing his eyes, he hoped that being dead-tired resulted in finally being able to sleep without a thought of her.

Though he knew that was going to be near to impossible as no matter how much she hurt him, he admitted that he loved her dearly and wished they could’ve had a future together.

Moving Forward – Chapter 40: Therapy

Marie took a deep breath.

They were a week into their quiet time and thus far, things had been going alright. There’d be no instant improvement, or return to normality, but she knew what the doctor said – it’s going to take time. It was why she was stuck on sticking to the goals. She knew there had to be some sort of improvement as some moments were easier than others. She just hoped they continued and by the end of next week, she could compare the pair and see differences.

She makes her way into the living room, sitting down beside Dale on the couch with a glance towards him. They both knew why she was there as it was the same routine every morning. The idea of keeping the routine the same was to keep things at the easiest understanding.

“Can we do them later on today?” Dale asks and she knew the question was in reference to the exercises he was supposed to do. She had gotten used to the question as he’d asked the same thing a couple times in the past couple of weeks. However, her answer was the same every time.

“If you’re going to get better, you need to do the exercises so that way you retrain your brain,” she answers.  She wasn’t trying to be mean by going against him, but it was part of what the doctor had said. Mickey reminded her that there’d be moments of doubt with Dale feeling like he was stuck in a rut, unable to get better, and not willing to continue pushing the boundaries. There was also the comfortably of not doing anything, either. However, he told her that pushing him was the best thing for him so he’d start the process accordingly.

“Like I said, what about later on today?” She shakes her head no. “Fine, let’s get this over with.” He then stands up and they head downstairs to the gym in the house, set to begin with the first set of exercises.

“You know, I’d expect to see you more focused on doing these and having a more positive attitude.” He then stops at the bottom of stairs, taking a pause to get himself set to move forward, though his eyes focus on her.

“Look, I know you hate it when I get like that. It’s just not encouraging when there’s no progress being seen.” He then picks up the basketball, bouncing it a couple times, before throwing it in the net. “I mean, how the hell does this help me?”

“Eye coordination training. Part of your brain being off had your eyesight off target. This is an exercise focused on getting those eyes and hands to coordinate together on a target, and hitting that target.” She then picks up the ball, throwing it back to him. “When we started, you maybe only scored one basket out of like 50. Now you’re scoring one out of five, and you’re able to catch the ball better when I throw it to you. That’s progress. I know it’s not instant or making everyday life go back to normal quickly, but  it’s progress and that’s something. Keep it going and we’ll be ready to go.”

“I guess…” He then throws the ball, watching it bounce off the side of the net. “So since I can’t get that in, I guess my coordination sucks?” She then grabs the ball and holds it in her hands for a second.

“Right now, yeah it does mean that’s it off. But with practice and re-training of the brain, it’ll be right on target. Just take a deep breath, calm down, and focus. I believe in you.”  She then bounces the ball to him, letting him take the shot.

Once they were done the basketball shots, they moved onto the next series of exercises.

He hated walking back and forth, reading an eye chart card. It made him feel like a little kid, and it was even more frustrating when he couldn’t pick up all the letters as quickly as he should.

He hated when she turned off the main lights and turned on the strobe lights, hating how they affected his eyes as he tried to navigate through the room, including a section of walking back and forth.

“Done!” He yells, grabbing onto her hand as he feels himself losing his balance. She then catches him, before walking over to the switch, and turning the lights back on. “Damn it!” He then takes a couple deep breaths, calming himself down before looking over to her. “Sorry.”

“There’s no need to apologize,” she starts. “That’s further then when we started and you’re at least putting the effort in.” He knew that she was right as he made his way over to her.

“It’s just frustrating.” She shakes her head, understanding.

“But you’re making progress, taking your time, and doing what you’re told. We’ll keep it going and I’m sure it’ll be fine.” She then pulls him close into a hug. “I love you and I’m by your side no matter what. I know your frustrated, irritated and drive me insane sometimes with this, but it’ll be fine. You’re making progress and that’ll continue with everything working out.”

“I just want our wedding to go off perfectly, and I can’t wait to call you Mrs. Earnhardt.” She then smiles as she looks into his blue eyes.

“That’s Queen Mrs. Earnhardt to you, mister.” He then looks at her surprised as she just simply laughs. “I wouldn’t mind calling you my king, officially.”

“I was crowned. Doesn’t that make it official?” She then shrugs her shoulders as she walks away. “Well?”

“You’re crowned and accepted, but you’re truly not set to rule till we’re married – royal stipu-”

“You’re the Queen. You can have that changed.” She then turns around to face him.

“Why have it changed when it won’t matter in just a couple months?” He knew he couldn’t argue with that. “Alright. Time for you to relax and chill. We’ll have lunch and then head out.”

“Where are we going today?” She then thought it over as they walked up the stairs.

“Elsa is growing and we need to get her some new clothes before everything I have is too small.” Dale thought it over.

“Clothes shopping as a form of therapy? That’s something new, but I’ll take it.”