Beautiful Nightmare – Chapter 6: Tired @ Work

I gave you love

Gave you everything you asked for

And this is what I get

The silence only fills my head with noise

 

 

Denny lets out a yawn as he walks through the shop to where he had to be, set for another day of commercials. With hardly any sleep the night before, he was ready to get done as soon as possible so he could go back home.

“Hey, you don’t look like someone who got sleep after I left last night,” he hears and rolls his eyes as he looks over at Kyle.

“Maybe it’s cause I didn’t get that much sleep,” Denny comments as Kyle lets out a sigh.

“I told you that you should’ve come back to my place, or we should’ve talked longer.” Denny continued to ignore him, but figured he was probably right. “So, what was on your mind so much last night?”

“More nightmares of her, obviously. From not recognizing the first signs, to one of our initial fights at the track, to the deal at Bristol last year. It just seems everything keeps revolving around in my head.” Kyle could see that, based on Denny’s actions. He then stopped him as he reached where he was supposed to be.

“Have you thought about what I said in talking to someone?” Denny lets out a sigh, wishing to avoid the discussion. He didn’t feel there should be any need to talk to someone, whether he knew them or a stranger, about some girl. Break-ups happened every day.

“I’m fin-”

“Not sleeping and drinking your pain away is not fine, Hamlin.” Denny lets out another sigh, focusing his eyes elsewhere.

“Listen, we can deal with this later. I have a job to do today.” He then takes a deep breath, heading into the room and set for the list of commercial productions on the docket for the day.

He got through each of them with ease, followed by some on-phone interviews, not saying a single complaint. His focus was kept on them, getting through it as quickly as possible, not letting the thoughts of Diane fill any voids in his mind. He just had to stop thinking about her and all the pain, and everything would be okay.

“That’s all for today,” his PR rep says after awhile and he lets out a sigh. “Thanks for your patience and coming in today.”

“Thank you,” he simply replies as he watches the door to his office close.

He then stands up, glancing at himself in the mirror as he snatches his t-shirt and jeans off the back of a chair. With everything in the books, he could change out of his firesuit back into something comfortable, relax, and work towards getting some sleep that night.

He slips the firesuit off easily, followed by slipping on the jeans accordingly. He then looks up at himself in the mirror, eyes setting in on the scar that remained on his shoulder.

Denny walks into the house, taking a deep breath as he leans back against the door. He walks into the front room, eyes setting on Diane.

“We need to talk,” he tells her as she looks over, confused.

“About?” She questions as he glances down towards the floor.

“Us, and this relationship.” He then walks further into the room, sitting down on the couch. “Listen, I love you, probably will always love you as there are certain things that make me amazed by you. But, I can’t do this anymore. I can’t handle the pain anymore. I can’t handle the late nights, the bruises, trying to pretend nothing is wrong. I can’t handle the lies, and I can’t handle you. I’m through, Diane. You need to move out.” She then gives him a surprised look.

“So you’re breaking up with me, Denny? Haven’t you forgot about our deal?” He shakes his head no with a sigh. He knew it wasn’t going to be pretty if she revealed the truth, but what was he supposed to do? He couldn’t do this any longer.

“Go ahead. Tell everybody. Show everybody. I don’t care. I can’t do this, Diane. We’re done.” He then stands up and goes to leave the room, unable to face her any longer. As much as he hated her faults, he still loved her. It made this extra tough to do. “You can leave now.”

“You’re not getting rid of me that easy, Hamlin.” She then stands up and walks over to him, wrapping her arms around him. He grabs them, placing them off of her as he turns to face her. He had to make sure she knew the truth – it was over.

“I am, Diane. I’m through. Leave or else I’ll call the cops for trespassing.” She then leans in for a kiss, but he backs up at the last minute. She then reaches out, brushing his cheek.

“What about the kisses? What about the love? What about the sex?” He knew he’d miss the kisses and the amazing sex, but it was worth it.

“We’re don-”

“I’ll change, I’ll be better. I told you that I’m going to work at it.” He shakes his head no with a sigh.

“You’ve been saying that for six months. Diane, I can’t do this anymore so leave!”

“You bitch!” She then pushes him when he’s least expecting it, forcing him down on his back as he lets out a groan. “I can’t believe you’d do this to me!” She then gets down to his level, set to pin him on the ground, using the weakness she knew of his knee to her advantage as she went to pin that first. He then pushes her back before she can though, catching a look of surprise. “Oh so that’s how it’s going to be?”

“I told you we were done.” He then goes to reach for his phone, wishing he had of called sooner. Just as his fingers clasp the plastic, he feels a smack, sending the phone sliding across the floor.

“And I told you that we could work it out.” He then lets out a sigh as he sits up.

“We’re far beyond that point, Diane. I can’t keep lying for your sake.” She lets out an aggravated sigh as she stands up, walking towards the front door. “Goodby-”

“You’re not getting rid of me that easy.” She then turns on her heels, picking up a photo from the sideboard and bringing it over to him, where he still sat on the floor. “What about these happy moments? What about this time in victory lane just a month ago? What about the smiles here at Daytona?” He lets out a sigh as he hated the thought of her connected to his lone Daytona 500 win.

“Those aren’t directed to you, but rather the happiness of finally accomplishing my dream to win the biggest race of them all. I forced that smile with you to keep everybody off our case. Now, like I said, go ahead and tell everyone.”

“So that’s all that I mean to you?” She then takes the photo frame, smashing it on the ground. “After everything I’ve done for you, that’s all I mean?” She then stands up, whacking the other photo frames off in one swift motion as he lets out a sigh.

“I’m sorry you’re hurt, but I told you, I can’t do thi-”

“Let me guess – Kristy came back into your life? Or was it Janessa this time, Hamlin?” He then lets out a sigh, wishing he could be with one of them rather than Diane right now.

“There was no other girl that affected this decisi-”

“Oh, so it was Larissa?” She then walks back over. “Or how about Franchesca? I heard she called the other day looking for her favourite lover. Gonna go give her a booty call after I leave?” Denny shakes his head no, knowing he was going to probably be stuck in his own sadness for awhile. “Well, there’s no way that it’s happening on my watch just like that.” She then picks up a piece of the broken glass, chucking it at him as it digs into his shoulder.

“Seriously?”

“When I get back, get your mind off this trip and know that you belong to me, Denny.” She then grabs her purse, leaving the house as he places his hand over the cut, feeling the blood seep out as pain filled him everywhere.

“Denny?” He snaps out of his thoughts as he looks back towards the door. “Woah man, are you okay?” He then lets out a sigh as he goes back to putting his shirt on as he was.

“I’m fine Wheels,” he tells his crew chief, before turning around to face him. “What’s up?”

“I was wanting to talk a bit about this upcoming weekend at Martinsville if you had some time before leaving.” Denny then shakes his head yes as he walks over to the desk, sitting down in the chair.

“I’m all ears, bud.” Mike keeps walking over, eyes focused on Denny as he sits in the chair before him.

“Are you sure? I mean, you seemed pretty spaced out when I came in here. Everything alright?” Denny shakes his head yes as he fumbles around with some papers on his desk, hoping to get him off the case. “Denny, everybody knows what happened. If there’s something going on, you can ta-”

“There’s nothing going on, Wheels. So let’s just focus on what you want to talk about.” Mike takes a deep breath, knowing there was no way of getting through to Denny. He just hoped that whatever was going on, his driver started to handle it properly sooner than later.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 75: Easter Bunny 150

Sarina stands at the top of the grandstands, watching the modifieds as they take to the track for their practice ahead of her qualifying session. She never was one for watching sessions, till Chase got her in the habit with mentioning the advantages.

“Sarina, you wanted to talk?” She hears and glances to the left, seeing Kyle as he reaches the top of the stands with her. She easily shakes her head yes, remembering how she asked about a conversation earlier in the day.

“I want to talk to someone about this, not sure who, so I figured I’d give you a shot,” she starts as Kyle shakes his head, understanding.

“What’s up?” She then takes a deep breath as she sits down, debating where to start.

“Chase’s practice crash last weekend at Texas was nothing big or heavy, basically. I mean, those types of deals happen all the time. Look at Erik’s wreck right after. I’ve seen those before and I know they’re no big deal. I’ve just always brushed them off, focused on the next thing. But yet that day, it didn’t feel like that.”  Kyle then smiles a little, knowing where she was going. He had remembered the same type of reaction from Samantha.

“Instead, you felt this additional level of fear and worry immediately, and it bugged you till you got to hug him, and hear from him that he was okay?” Sarina shakes her head yes. “Don’t be alarmed, Sarina. Samantha had the same deal with me a couple times.”

“It just felt odd, especially since I’m a racecar driver myself and should damn well know these things. I get Sam because she doesn’t come from a racing background, but I do Kyle. It just felt odd as I thought about it later.” Kyle knew that she was right in her concerns, but still didn’t feel alarmed.

“It’s adrenaline, sweetheart. The adrenaline pushes you to worry so badly because you’re caught up in that moment and thought. On the bright side, the worry means something – it shows you just how much you love and care for that boy. It shows how much you couldn’t stand to lose what you have, why you guys can fight back to each other despite all that’s happened, the second chance, and that love. I think you’re caught on that moment because it’s the first time you’ve realized just how much you care abou-”

“I damn well worried about him when we crashed the plane together-”

“But that wasn’t the same or as intense. You also didn’t have all this life experience, history, turmoil – reasons to make you thankful for what you’re able to have with him, Sarina. Everything that’s happened is why you were so concerned. You know what it’s like to lose that now having spent times at odds and the lies. Your heart was scared of being broken, separated and torn apart again.” She shakes her head, getting to understand where Kyle was coming from with his words.

“So how do I make that stop? I mean, I can’t damn well be worrying about him like that when I’m racing for you across the bloody country from where you guys are.” Kyle knew that, and couldn’t help but wonder whether it could become a distraction down the road.

“You have to remind yourself that he’s smart, these cars are safe, and there’s nothing to worry about. You also have to have the right measures in place – phone calls, text messages, radio traffic – so that way you have those instant answers. As you work yourself and teach yourself again, it’ll be fine.” She smiles, actually glad that she had chosen Kyle as her person to speak to.

“So you’re not calling me some crazed whacko racecar driver because I can’t handle a simple crash?” Kyle laughs and shakes his head no.

“Instead, I’m thankful that you and Chase are realizing just how much you love each other, and making it work. Keep working at it, don’t lie, and know that you guys can overcome anything.” She smiles as she gives Kyle a hug.

“I don’t plan on lying to him ever again – even about the smallest stupidest things.”

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

Sarina lets out a sigh as she leans back against the car. So much for a fun weekend. While Kyle experienced mechanical issues, she had gotten wrecked in the early stages as a result of people driving over their heads. She could only shake her head as she looked over the mangled racecar.

“You’re probably wishing you were in England with Blaney right now,” she comments with a glance over at Chase. He immediately shakes his head no.

“I’d take a rough day with you over doing something with anybody else, any day,” he says as he wraps an arm around her shoulders. “Don’t worry, Ricky will get her fixed up.”

“I still feel terrible….”

“It wasn’t your fault. You can’t help idiots.” He then gives her a kiss. “Besides, I got something to cheer you up. Happy Easter.” He then pulls a chocolate bunny out from behind his back, handing it over to her. She immediately smiles, giving him a kiss back in return.

“To be honest, I didn’t get you anything for Easter and I feel terrible. It’s just I got caught up in my emotions, my brother and this late model rac-”

“It’s  fine. You can get me something later on. Look at it this way – you’ll get a discount on your gift now as everything will be on sale.” She then chuckles as she pulls him close to her.

“Maybe I don’t need to go to the store to give you a gift.” She then kisses his lips, as she wraps her arms around him.

“Sarina….” She then spins them around, pinning him against the wrecked car as she runs her hands underneath his shirt. “Sarina….”

“What?” He places his hands on top of hers, locking eyes with her.

“I love you, but no.” He then slides her hands back out. “We’re not at that trusting stage yet with everything that happened, and I’m not one to just drop and go – you should know that. I mean, that takes time in making sure the moment is right, and I’ve got the perfect girl for that.” She shakes her head, understanding, as she lets out a small laugh. “What?”

“If you thought I was damn well stripping your ass out here and having sex with you in front of everybody, you’re wrong boy. I don’t do that, either. I want that moment to perfect and intimate with that right person. I just was going for the light massage and relaxation technique knowing that you have to fork out the cash to fix this thing.” Chase glances back at the car, letting out a sigh knowing that wasn’t going to be cheap, as he looks back at her.

“You swear?” She shakes her head yes.”Well, let’s save that for later anyway. Besides, Ricky could probably use some help loading the car.”

Cabin Fears – Chapter 48: Morning

Wednesday morning

Bill walks into the kitchen, stopping for a minute as he takes a sniff and looks around. He then looks on surprised as he sees Chase at the stove.

“My son is a cook?” He questions out loud as Chase glances back at him, smiling before focusing back to the food.

“I’m no gourmet chef, but I know how to cook a couple things dad – like breakfast,” he answers as Bill takes a seat at the table.

“I’m impressed.” Chase rolls his eyes as he flips the bacon over. “So Cindy said you woke up last night with a nightmare.” Chase glances back as he lets out a sigh.

“And of course mommy would continue to be overly concerned with me and tell you that, huh?” Bill just shrugs his shoulders. “Look, I told her the truth. I’ve had a couple nightmares, but I’m fine. I’m dealing with them slowly, finding ways to get back to sleep quickly. Give me a bit more time and you won’t hear about it.” Bill sat there impressed as it didn’t sound like the same young man who avoided stuff like this always. However, he understood the change based on their conversation the night before.

“I trust you. Hence why I’m calmed her worries, but assured her I’d ask incase.” Chase smiles as he focuses back to breakfast.

“So what’s your plan today?” Bill glances around, not having thought it through as they weren’t  supposed to have been in North Carolina at this time. However, it was welcome right now.

“I was going to stop by and say hi to Dale and Marie as we haven’t seen them in awhile, and then probably go see Jeff and Rick as you can’t stop by without saying hi or else they both kick our asses. I know there are a couple others that Cindy wants to see, and I have some more – so we’re basically making our rounds today and then heading out tonight. Why?” Chase really didn’t have a real reason for asking, except curiosity.

“I was just curious, that’s all.” Chase keeps himself focused on the breakfast as he watches the ladies both enter the kitchen, giving them a quick smile.

“You raised the boy right, Cindy,” Alyssa comments as she gives Chase a quick kiss before walking over to the cupboard and getting some glasses out.

“I didn’t teach him how to cook breakfast,” Cindy says as she sits down at the table.

“That was Ryan’s doing, actually, after annoyance on his part in how I’d never help out,” Chase states, catching everybody off-guard. “His lessons have paid off – just ask Alyssa.”

“You can trust his cooking,” Alyssa assures them. “He hasn’t poisoned me yet.”

The group went through breakfast easily – and without issue as yes, Chase’s cooking was good. Everybody then got ready for the day as Alyssa headed to the shop to check in with the guys, while Bill & Cindy kicked off their trip around town. Chase had thought about going with Alyssa, but had another idea instead.

Once they had left, he makes the short walk across Dale’s property to Dale’s house, walking up the steps and knocking on the door.

“Hey Chase,” he hears as Dale opens the door with a smile. He moves back, easily allowing Chase to enter without a problem. It was common for Chase to come over and visit often.

“Is Marie around by chance?” Chase asks as Dale looks on confused. It was normally him that Chase would look for, or else Robby for some crazy fun in the backyard with him and Alyssa.

“She’s actually out on a couple errands right now because we forgot to grab some things.” Chase lets out a sigh at that busted his plan. He knew he had to keep making headway on his emotions, and talking about certain aspects of what his mind was thinking as he could.  He had made the decision to tackle the idea of blame and figured Marie would be the perfect person, considering she blamed herself for months as it started with her family.  “What’s up Chase?”

“I was hoping I could talk to her about something, actually.” Dale found himself even more caught off-guard, wondering if it had to do with what happened or his daughter. Perhaps even a bit of worry drifted into the picture.

“Everything is okay, right? I mean, there’s nothing that I need to worr-”

“It’s fine, Dale – trust me. If something was going on with Alyssa, myself or somebody else, I’d tell you straight up. You know I don’t keep secrets like that, right?” Dale shakes his head yes, feeling relief inside. While he knew Chase wouldn’t keep secrets, the spoken relief felt better. “I’m trying to work through everything that happened by talking to different people that I feel it relates to and can speak up to about. I’ve talked to Tony, Regan, my parents, Alyssa. I just felt this would best be discussed with Marie.”

“What exactly do you mean? Perhaps I could help you out…” Chase thought about it, and understood how Dale could perhaps offer some perspective. He remembered how Dale blamed himself for months over what happened to him, and how that played a role in things down the road.

“I appreciate the offer, but this is something I’d rather save and talk to Marie about, actually. I mean, it just feels right.” Dale wanted to push the issue, knowing how Chase held things in and knowing the re-cautions that produced. However, he wanted to give him respect – just in case Chase needed to turn to him later on.

“That’s fine as I understand. Listen, just know if you do want to talk about something, you just have to let me know and I can hear you out – as always.” Chase shakes his head, accepting. That thought hadn’t waved from his mind, ever. “By the way, how is my daughter handling things, if you can elaborate?”

“She’s starting to talk to people, Dale. I’ve talked with her a bit, but I know she’s talked to a couple people actually. Just last night she had a long conversation with my mom.” Dale shook his head, having seen the car pull up last night.

“I thought I saw Bill and Cindy….” Chase smiles.

“Yeah, mom was worried about me and my emotions so they made a surprise trip to see how I was doing. Actually, I’m thankful they did as I had a good conversation with my dad about some things, and then had one with my mom after Alyssa and her talked. To be honest, Dale, I think my mom helped her more than anything as she got a lot out on the table.” Dale was surprised as he didn’t know of Alyssa and Cindy being close, and remembered Cindy’s initial reservations about Alyssa and Chase together. However, he could see how Alyssa may find Cindy as someone to confide in.

“Your mother may be tough as nails at times, but she has this really sweet caring side and I think that’s what Alyssa reached out for there. I’m glad that she was able to help her, though.”

“So am I. Listen, I’m going to get going as I’ve got some places to be today. When Marie gets in, let her know I stopped by.”  Dale shakes his head, accepting.

“Will do. Remember – door is always open.” Chase smiles as he gives a wave, heading out as Dale leans back against the door way.

“Dad, is everything okay?” Dale hears, and glances towards Elsa. He shakes his head yes as he watches her eyes focus on him. “It’s just I heard Chase wanted to talk to mom about something, and then you guys mentioned Alyssa and…..You’re not lying, are you?”  Dale shakes his head no.

“I can assure you that nothing is going to happen and they’re okay,” Dale starts as he looks her in the eyes. “However, with what they went through, it was very traumatic and it brings up a lot of emotions.  They’ve got some things that are bothering them right now – from the pain, to the fear, to everything that comes with it. When you’re going through that, it helps to talk to someone. That’s why Chase wanted to see Marie, and that’s why he was mentioning how Alyssa has been taking steps, including a conversation with Cindy.”  Elsa shakes her head, accepting, as she looks out the doorway with her dad.

“I just want my sister back that I grew up loving. I don’t want things to change….” Dale puts an arm on her shoulder.

“Alyssa hasn’t changed one bit in regards to the relationship you have, or how she is, sweetheart. She’s just a little more aware of things, and having to change her daily routine a little.  Don’t worry – she’ll still annoy you as much as ever.” Elsa rolls her eyes as she looks at her dad.

“And I can annoy her, too?” Dale shakes his head yes.

“You can give her the same crap as always that she’d shoot you for, but just know to balance it with everything, okay?” Elsa shakes her head yes as she wraps her arm around Dale. “I love you, Daddy.”

“I love you too, kiddo.”

Love & Work: A Combo of Madness – Chapter 33: The Photograph

Kevin walks into the garage, with Travis in toe. Travis could only roll his eyes as he followed, not believing they had actually pulled this off. He also wasn’t sure if he wanted to see William wearing a coconut bra and hula skirt later that day.

“I have a gift for a certain Mr. Harrell,” Kevin states, catching the attention of the crew.

“Do I trust you?” William asks as Kevin laughs, setting the envelope down before him.

“Look at those and then get sized for your new costume.” William looks back surprised as he opens the envelope, spreading the photos on the table. The crew then gathers around, snatching up one each to look at themselves. “That was last night. As I predicted, those two couldn’t keep off the chemistry for long as they were quite close last night, couple kisses, and a sweet go-karting date night. Any questions, sir?”

“Unbelievable.” William then shoves the photos across the table as Kevin can only sit down and laugh at his fellow crew member. “It’s only March and they’re back together. Why did I even think of giving you to July?”

“You just don’t know our driver as well as you thought you did.”

“They surprised me, if it’s worth anything to you William,” Nick Covey comments as he shakes his head in disagreement.

“Want to take my place in the outfit then?” William questions as Nick laughs and shakes his head no.

“I just wonder if they’re doing the right thing. Like you said, they had a rocky past with what happened previously when she first started working here. I mean, Cameron said they dated five or six months and something what happened – but what? Did she cheat on him with Hamlin? Did they have a fight?”

“What are you getting at?” David Mayo questions as Nick shrugs his shoulders.

“I am wondering whether there’s going to be issues down the road that we’re going to have to separate, and perhaps cause other problems on-track,” Nick comments. “I mean, what if something happens?”

“They’re both professionals,” Travis starts. “They’ll keep it separate from what happens on track. I don’t think we have to worry about that, anyway. They seemed pretty chummy last night.”

“Anybody want to take a bet how long till she’s pregnant?” Kevin questions, as the crew looks on surprised. “I’m barging on this while my luck is hot. I never get anything good around here.”

“I say let’s just be thankful we didn’t get caught this time and leave things alone,” David comments.

“What is this discussion about?” A new voice chimes in, catching the crew members off-guard. They glance up to see Dale standing there. Normally he didn’t come by the garage much till it was closer to practice. It was a surprise for them to see him, but they figured he was there to see Angelica. He then snatches one of the photos off the table. “Where did this come from?”

“It seems you had a pair of spies last night,” William answers, catching a glare from Kevin. “What? If I have to wear a coconut bra and hula skirt, I’m getting you in shi-”

“Coconut bra and hula skirt? Sneaky photos of my night out with Angelica?” Dale then snatches all the photos up as he looks among the guys. “Seriously, what the fuck is going on?”

“We had a bet that you and Angelica wouldn’t get together before July,” Kevin gives in, knowing there was no way around this. “I bet you would, and he bet you wouldn’t. I may have spied last night to get proof for him.”

“Are you fuc-”

“Look, I’m sorry, okay? I know I was wrong and it’s the worst thing to do. I apologize, sincerely.” Dale shakes his head as he looks through the photos.

“And to think that I liked you guys,” he starts. “But yet here everybody is gossiping about me and our crew chief behind the backs of us all. On top of that, you’re spying on us, too. This is high school bullshit and one of the damn reasons Angelica held back, among others. Do me a favor and can this bullshit before I make Rick can every one of you. Now, get to work!” He then walks away with photos in hand as the crew members trade glances.

“I told you he’d be pissed off,” Travis comments as he stands up first.

“You still have to wear the outfit,” Kevin states as William rolls his eyes.

“I’ve never seen him that protective over someone…” Nick says as he walks away from the table, set to focus on some job, any job to get out of the dog house.

“I told you they care a lot about each other.” Nick shakes his head in agreement. “Just wait till he tells Angelica. I might as well start packing now.”

“Was she already mad at you for the questions?” Kevin shakes his head yes with a sigh. “Listen, maybe Dale won’t say anything. I mean, he didn’t seem pleased that he found out about it and I don’t think he’ll want to say something to her.” Kevin hoped that Nick was right, but knew he couldn’t be certain till some time passed.

Meanwhile, Dale stashed the photos away, actually smiling at a couple in seeing how happy they both looked together. As a smile formed on his face, he just hoped the positive vibes continued moving forward – both on-track and off the track.

Back to Square One – Chapter 15: Chad’s Concerns

Chad let out a sigh as he tried to focus on his notes for that weekend.

Normally, he could retreat back to his office mid-week, pull out his notes and concentrate on them with ease and a single worry. However, he found himself stuck on Ron during that moment as he set the notepad down.

While everybody said he was a hard ass, he actually had a real deep caring side to him that he showed to few people – Jimmie had seen it, previously.

He found himself thinking back to Candiss’ reveal of what happened, to the discussion with Ron and his own admission. He dissected the discussion in his mind multiple times – recalling the confidence, fear, and avoidance of topic at hand.

He also thought back to what happened last year, the attack, and the series of events which followed. He remembered the nerves of fear he felt when he heard what was going on, followed by the worry in the injuries sustained. He could only imagine how multiplied they were for Ron.

His fingers also found themselves to his cell phone, wondering why Dom hadn’t texted or called him yet with anything. What was so hard to find about Greenlee? Something seemed off – just look at Jimmie’s concerns, but yet there was no information yet. He wondered whether she was actually helping Ron’s anxiety over things, or adding to it with her own issues whatever they may be. What if she wasn’t the perfect fit as they envisioned?

Knowing he couldn’t focus on his notes, he stands up and makes his way out of the small office. He knew where to find the car chief immediately, and figured it was worth another approach towards him. Perhaps if he showed being serious in dealing with things, he could push Ron to deal with it accordingly.

He walks into the shop, seeing Ron going over something with a couple of the crew members ahead of that weekend’s race at Kansas Speedway. Their actions were right in line with the crew chief’s instructions after the plan they devised for that weekend.

He stands back, observing carefully, noticing nothing different than normal. Maybe he was worrying about Ron for no reason as he thought about returning to his office and the notes. For once, perhaps his worry was actually overwarranted. Maybe the desire for success and heart worry combined together to cause a crazed over-reaction.

Though as he watches the crew members walk away, he takes a deep breath and heads over. He might as well make the trip down the stairs worth it.

“Hey Ron,” he says as he walks over, catching the car chief’s attention.

“Hey,” Ron replies back as he picks up the clipboard from the toolbox. “Listen, we went through everything discussed and they’re going to make sure it’s put in place before we load the car up. To be honest, I think we came up with a great idea.” Chad smiles as the progress was nice – however, it didn’t put him at ease.

“I appreciate that, really. But that’s not why I came to see you actually. Listen, I meant what I said yesterday. I know I may seem like I’m a crisis and pushing everybody to their breaking point and state of emergency. But, if you need some time off to deal with lingering effects, you can take the time. I won’t be mad and I can assure you won’t be replaced either.” Ron shakes his head, understanding. It was why he wished Candiss hadn’t said anything as he knew everyone would be on his case.

“Chad, I appreciate that but I can assure you that I can do my job perfectly fine while handling this accordingly. I’ve got this, man.” Chad wanted to believe those words, however knew from hearing about traumatic issues that it wasn’t how things worked.

“Have you talked to anyone about this, and I mean in depth beyond just simple discussion?” Ron lets out a sigh, knowing Chad wouldn’t like the answer.

“Not yet.” Chad rolls his eyes as he leans back against the tool box.

“See, this is what I’m talking about in handling this accordingly and doing what you need to. I’m not asking you for the team, or frankly for my own benefit as your friend. I’m asking for you. I know it’s eating at you and affecting you – hence why for your own good, I damn well hope that you can handle accordingly and move forward. You may say you’re mister tough guy, but you need to talk to someone – whether that’s Greenlee, Jimmie, myself, or someone else. That was a traumatic experience that you we-”

“You don’t need to drill that through me, Chad. Obviously I know it was traumatic because I damn well experienced it. I experienced the fear, anxiety, pain, worry, anger – full slew of emotions in those hours more than anyone else. I also dealt with the blame for my part in everything through the years. I also dealt with the reprecaution of my actions. You can also count the comments from my parents. I also shouldered Jimmie’s feelings in the hospital, too, not wanting it to eat at him. Damn Chad, you don’t need to remind me.” Inside, Chad was proud to see he was breaking down barriers with his concerns in getting Ron to openly state the emotions. It was progress, whether the right way or not. Now it was just continuing to do that.

“Well since you know what I’m talking about and all those emotions that you’ve got bottled up inside of you, you know what you need to do about it, right? The only way to let things go is by talking to someone to get them out of you. My door is always open, and my offer remains on the table no matter what.” Chad gives him a pat on the shoulder, before walking away.

The crew chief had originally wanted to stand there and continue to drill at his car chief and push the boundaries further. However, he knew that wasn’t right at that moment. He had to let Ron do it his own way, with who he wanted, on his own terms for the best affect. There was also the fact of eyes being peered on the two, wondering what they were discussing.

It didn’t mean that Chad was going to totally leave the topic be, though, as he had planned to keep an extra eye on Ron through the process.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 74: Texas

Recall Kristen Gibbons from “Catfished,” which set up the premises of this story at first with a reference to Sarina there. The England talk is then based on post-race comments from Ryan on how Chase cancelled their off-weekend plans (hehe)

Chase glances over at Sarina as they walk through the pits together.

“I’m surprised that you’re here,” Chase comments as she looks at him, now more surprised than he could’ve been with his comment.

“Umm, what girlfriend doesn’t come support your boyfriend?” She questions as he just shakes his head, wrapping an arm around her.

“I meant with everything going on with your brother. You told me that our time would be delicate due to concerns there, remember?” She shakes her head yes, remembering the conversation now from when she surprised him at his parents.

“After seeing how happy we were together at Auto Club Speedway, he decided that it’d be a good idea to give us space and time to spend together. He says he’s comfortable with Bethany, the couple others around and the nurses. As long as I come see him at least once a week, he’s not complaining. I told him I’m spending Monday thru Thursday with him, and then giving my weekends to you.”

“I like the sounds of that.” Chase then gives her a quick kiss as they reach the stall.

“Well well, someone is in a great mood,” Alan comments with a smile. “Let’s hope that carries over to practice now.” Chase shakes his head in agreement. “Being new pavement, a lot of people are saying to be careful and easy for the first couple runs till we see how the grip level is.”

“Saving the qualifying run till the last 15 minutes then?” Alan shakes his head yes as Chase leans back against the car. “That works. I’ll be careful and just push it further slowly. Jimmie said it may be an issue especially with the goo that they laid down. He says normally it makes it grippy there, but evil everywhere else.”

“I don’t know why we need to have these pre-practice conversations anymore as you’re already talking to the right people.” He then glances at Sarina. “Just make sure you don’t distract my boy, okay?”

“Trust me –  I know there’s nothing that can distract him from the task at hand,” she smiles with a wink. “I tried that tactic plenty times before.”

“It just earned her a bump and run for the win,” he comments as she rolls her eyes.

“And yet you still persist to never let that go?” He shrugs his shoulders.

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

Sarina stood on top of the trailer with Alan and the guys, watching over practice. The concerns were warranted as there had been cars slipping throughout the session, including Kyle Busch hitting the wall with the rear of his car for some damage. She also watched Denny Hamlin spin around, slightly thankful the trucks were off this weekend as the track just seemed evil – if that was possible.

She listened as Alan discussed this being their first qualifying run of the session, that only increasing her nerves. With a qualifying run, it meant that Chase would be pushing the car that much harder, making that edge of control even smaller. She just hoped that the boundary between disaster and things being fine was respected.

She feels her nerves clutch in her throat as her breath clutches her throat, watching the No. 24 NAPA Chevrolet slap the backstretch wall, before turning sideways and catching the inside wall. She then takes a deep breath, reminding herself how safe the cars were and the reasons not to worry. Normally, wrecks wouldn’t cause her to worry.

However, that was her boyfriend – and that presented a new worry that she hadn’t ever felt before.

“I’m okay,” she hears over the radio immediately from Chase. “Car is killed. Sorry guys.”

“10-4 We have a good back-up car, we’ll be fine,” Alan says as he climbs down the steps.

Sarina watches the guys go into a fury of motion, already beginning to unload the back-up car and put their plan in action to switch over for qualifying later on that day. She then lets out a sigh, opening the door to the trailer and going inside. She walks through, going into the lounge and sitting back on the couch.

She shakes her head, trying to shake the feeling that had come over her. She was never nervous at the track as everything just seemed natural there – it was always her escape from everything in her life.

However right now, she felt more shaken up by the feelings experienced in the past 10 minutes than ever. Why had she gotten nervous? It was just a small wreck, not a big hit to cringe over. She knew how safe the cars were, she heard his voice. Why was she feeling the nerves? Was that what love did to you, and was she ready to handle this every single week when they were racing at different tracks? Why had this come over her now and not at anytime last year, including his wreck in the 500?

She sits there quietly, lost in her thoughts, till she hears the door open, looking up to see Chase standing there with the arms of his firesuit tied around his waist.

“I was looking for you….” He says quietly as he walks over to her, sitting beside her. “Alan said you came in here.”

“I figured I’d just wait here for you till you got through medical and everything,” she lies, not wanting to reveal just how nervous she felt in that moment.

“You could’ve come over and met me there.” She had thought about that, but knew her shaken up emotions wouldn’t allowed her to easily make the trip over there. “You were worried, weren’t you?” She then looks up at him, intrigued by his comment. Was it that obvious? “I can read it on your face, in your eyes, the fact that you’re so quiet. That’s not like you, so I figure you were scared.”

“I shouldn’t be scared, though. I never get scared when someone wrecks at a race track, Chase. I know how well built these cars are and the types of hits drivers can get away with escaping any injuries. I’ve never felt that before.” She then glances away, trying to put her thoughts in perspective. “For the first time, I think I damn well realize just how much I bloody care about you and worry about you and everything.” She then looks back at him. “I really do love you.”

“I love you, too.” He then leans in and kisses her lips, lightly. “Listen, it’s okay to worry – that just means you care. Besides, weird things can happen. But I’m okay, perfectly fine, ready to go later today for quail-”

“Are you absolutely certain?” The double questioning caught him off-guard, but he easily accepted it. He knew that it was just nerves talking.

“I’ve been cleared to drive without any issues. I have no headache, or anything. I have no pain…”

“What about your ribs?” She then rubs his side as she scoots closer to him. “You just broke those about two months ago. What about the lingering effects or chance of re-injury that Greg mentio-”

“They don’t even hurt at all, Sarina. They haven’t hurt for a couple weeks. I’m fine.” He then wraps both arms around her, and pulls her close, holding her in a hug. “You can stop worrying about me. I’m fine.”

“I know…” She then lies her head against him, thankful more than ever that he had given her a second chance after everything.

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

Chase glances up as he watches Ryan walk over post-race, smile planted on his face. He had heard about the strong run Ryan had put in, dominating through the first half of the race before pit stop issues set him back late.

“So, are you ready for our English adventure?” Ryan questions as Chase freezes immediately. He had totally forgotten about their trip to England. “Oh no. You forgot about the trip, right? Gosh Chase, we spent months planning this.” Chase lets out a sigh as he glances around. “I mean, it was our perfect off-weekend adventure plan. So you get a girlfriend and boom, you forget about your plans with the boy?”

“You also realize that a lot has happened in the past couple of months with Sarina, right?” Chase asks and Ryan shakes his head with a sigh. “I mean, I thought we had totally lost each other, and then the process of rekindling. To be honest, I’ve been ignoring a lot of things outside of us. It’s been mind focused on racing, or her, right now. I know it’s wrong because yes, you’re my best friend and I love spending time with you. But you have to understand with what’s going on.” Ryan lets out a sigh, knowing he couldn’t hold it against Chase that badly.

“So what am I supposed to do now?” Chase thinks it over, smiling as he gets an idea.

“What about going with Bubba?” Ryan shakes his head no, having spoken to Darrell lately.

“He has plans already, Chase.” Chase thinks it over, getting another idea.

“What about Kristen Gibbons? After the whole deal came out, her father has finally laid back and let you both talk about things candidly without issues.” Ryan knew it was a good thought, but saw immediate red flags.

“Dude – she’s 14. Can you imagine if I go ask her father to take her around the world and what he’ll think? Heck, what about everybody els-”

“Who cares what they think, Ryan? Do their thoughts really matter? Besides, her father would understand that you just want to give her a fun time away. It’d be a good way to get her outside of all the chaos and crap that she deals with. I don’t see how this would be an issue.” Ryan knew that Chase was probably right, but still didn’t feel right about going to England with this girl.

“You know I’m probably going to wait till the next off-weekend and then damn well make you promise that you’ll come with me. Deal?” Chase lets out a sigh as he thinks it over. That’d give him a couple months to make sure things with Sarina were on even footing, and they’d be at the point of needing some time away from each other of their own. Besides, she could spend the weekend with her brother and Bethany without a worry.

“Deal.”

Moving Forward – Chapter 44: “Best Man”

Marie opens the door and smiles, as she motions for TJ to enter the house.

“So I’m not allowed here for like a month and a half, and then now I’ve been here twice in two days,” he starts as Marie rolls her eyes. She hadn’t planned on calling TJ, but Dale wanted to talk to him after the conversation with Steve.

“Look at it this way – it means Dale is healing nicely, right?” She questions and TJ smiles, shaking his head yes. While he enjoyed working with Alex, he couldn’t wait to have Dale back in the car. He also wanted to see his friend get better, for his own good.

“So do I want to know the reason for the call?” Marie shrugs her shoulders. “You know, don’t you?”

“Of course because he told me to expect you.” TJ then crosses his arms as he looks back at her.

“Well, do I get any warning?” She shakes her head no, knowing Dale deserved full rights on telling him. “Can I play clue?” She shakes her head no. “You’re no fun.”

“Just go see him. He’s downstairs.” She then continues to the kitchen as TJ makes his way down the steps to the basement.

He remembered coming down this very set stairs just a few years back and entering a personal night club, named Club E, featuring a dance floor and bar. It was their hang out spot for years with the Dirty Mo Posse and where the craziest chaos happened among the fans.

Though, he remembered a couple years ago when Dale changed everything around, fitting his grown up mode. While the bar and pool table remained for a small hang out, the majority was turned into a gym for Dale to work out as need be.

TJ smiles as he stands up, watching Dale take a couple shots on the basket, making a couple while missing others. He remains quiet, watching him go through the familiar drills that he had been put through for the therapy process as set in by Mickey. TJ found himself impressed by how some went, however cringed a couple other parts. No doubt they were right close back to where he needed to be, but small bits were still off.

He watches as Dale walks over towards his direction, catching his attention.

“How long have you been standing there?” Dale asks as TJ shrugs his shoulder.

“Enough to see that you’re making great progress,” he answers with a smile. “What’s next?” Dale points to the light switch, knowing the process that he’d go through.

“Shut the lights off, and let me turn on the strobe lights. I need to walk around, certain steps, and not let myself get thrown off.”

“So the party lights finally came in handy for something good?” Dale rolls his eyes as he watches TJ’s hand reach for the switch.

“You know what? Let’s talk, and then I can finish what I need to do.” TJ then looks over, surprised.

“Scared of me watching you now?” Dale shakes his head no as he grabs a bottle of water out of the fridge.

“It’s more like I want to have the discussion while it’s on the mind.” TJ looks on confused as he walks over, climbing up on one of the bar stools. There were few times that he saw Dale get this serious before him.

“Should I be nervous?” Dale shakes his head no as he climbs up on the stool beside TJ.

“How would you like to be my best man for the wedding?” TJ looks over shocked. He hadn’t expected anything like that, especially since he heard Dale’s reasons for Steve just yesterday.

“What about Steve?” Dale knew it was fitting to have Steve, but knew how much the change in plans meant to Marie and made sense.

“Marie didn’t want to walk down the aisle by herself, and she asked Steve to walk her down. It makes sense for all he did for us, how he saved Alyssa, and….just everything, TJ. It made sense more than I could explain as Marie put it perfectly.” TJ shakes his head, accepting. He could understand the reasoning seeing how close the three were.

“And you’re okay with this?” Dale shakes his head yes.

“It makes perfect sense, honestly. Besides, how long have we known each other? I have few best friends that I am as close to as I am to you, and we even joked about this a couple years ago that when I eventually got married you’d be the best man. Well, forget about joking – it’s a fact. You’re my best friend, and I’d be glad if you’re standing with me there that day.” TJ smiles as he wraps an arm around Dale. He wasn’t expecting that offer, but he was easily able to accept.

“I’d be my honor. Besides, someone has to make sure you go through with this fully and don’t get cold feet.” Dale chuckles as he looks over at TJ.

“I don’t think that’d ever happen, to be honest. I love her so much and can’t wait to be married.” TJ shakes his head in disbelief as he looks around the basement.

“It’s strange hearing you say that after all the times we came down here, both single, and you kept telling me you’d settle for no girl. Plus, there’s also the crazy antics that we got into. Now look at us. I’m married with a daughter, and you’re set to be married with two girls. I don’t think I could’ve ever imagined that happening.” Dale knew he was right, remembering those crazy parties, too.

“You don’t know what love means till you’re touched by the right person and they change your life forever. As soon as I laid eyes on her, I knew there was something special with her. I know she’s flipped my world every which way over the past year and a half, but I wouldn’t change a single thing.” TJ reaches over to one of the books on the counter and picks it up.

“Even learning all this official marital announcement bullshit and orders?” Dale laughs. “You do realize that she named you king and you can dump this out. I could burn it for you.”

“I do realize that, but I also respect her request for tradition and some things to not change.” Dale then snatches the book from TJ and opens it to where he left off. “Hence why I’ve been reading it when I need a break, and so far, it’s not too bad.” TJ looks on surprised as he reads over the page opened before him.

“I still can’t believe you’re fitting a test at Darlington, Christmas, a wedding and this in before the season. Do you plan to sleep?” Dale chuckles as he snatches the book from TJ.

“Will you stop making it out to be more than it is? We’ve got this. It just takes balance and time.” TJ smiles as he watches Dale stand up and put the book back where he had it.

“As long as you’re taking care of yourself and doing what you need to do, it doesn’t matter to me. Now, how about that exercise?” Dale then looks over at him.

“You really want to see me do that?” TJ crosses his arms as he looks around the room, before back at Dale.

“I say $20 you don’t want me to see it because you’re going to mess up and hate for that to happen in front of my eyes.” Dale looks on surprised as he walks over to the light switch.

“$20, huh?” TJ shakes his head yes. “You’re on.”