Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 98: The Highs and Lows

Through the whole week, Sarina was quieter than normal – something that bugged Chase.

He knew that she wasn’t one to talk about her feelings much and guarded at times, so it wasn’t a surprise. He just wished on some occasions that she’d open up to him.

“Everything okay?” He questions as they’re packing for the weekend. She just shakes her head yes, double checking her bag. “If something is on your mind, you can talk to me.”

“I know; I trust you – completely,” she tells him as she looks across the room at him. “It’s just a couple different thoughts on my mind. Do you ever get the thought that you left something in the rearview and it wouldn’t bother you again, but it does?” Chase looks at her puzzled, thinking it over. Based on life experiences, it was hard to relate as he could see where she was going.

“I thought I could be completely over what happened with your brother, but that plagues my paranoia at times. Does that count?” She thinks it over, though rolling her eyes at the same time. Chase’s comment proved her point thoroughly and that her brother was right.

“Chris and I got into a discussion about me ignoring the idea of the family reunion and pissing off Bethany a couple weeks ago. He told me that I could change my name and runaway, but it would never leave me.” She then sits down on the bed as Chase makes his way around to her side. “I get that you can’t choose your parents and what happens around you. I get that decisions were made by my brother and my father that I cannot control. But regardless, they affected me and changed me. I just wish some days that I could look forward without that single thought in the rearview.” Chase sits beside her, grabbing her hand with his.

“We all wish that there are things we could just make disappear or change. I wish some days that I could’ve met my cousin Casey. I never got the chance to get to know him, but the stories that I hear from my mom, dad and Ernie are just crazy. There’s also some decisions that I’ve made through the years that I wish I could change – like completely going off on you that nigh-”

“I deserved that, Chase. I wasn’t truthful and in the end, you’re the one that got hurt.” Chase knew that she was right, however he could still never blame her for what happened.

“You were afraid, scared; you had lots of emotions and reasons for what you did. Remember, I don’t fault you for that. Besides all that, listen, I know your past affects you – it’s why you wouldn’t let me in at first.” She chuckles, remembering how much she forced him to push before a first date.

“You were a good help getting ready for Berlin, though.” He chuckles, remembering the couple of long nights in her garage helping her with the late model.

“As I recall, you had a decent finish that weekend, too.” She shakes her head yes as a smile forms on her face. “We’ve both heard the saying – what doesn’t kill you just makes you stronger. I know you want to pretend some days as if nothing happened and you’re all powerful and invincible. However, remember that you’re human and you have feelings. It’s okay to have regrets, anger, sadness, and whatever else you’re feeling. Just know that you can always talk to me about it. And by the way, your past doesn’t affect how I see you. I still see you as the wonderful girl that I fell for, despite the desire to beat you so badly. But I also have more respect for you, who you are, and the strength that you have.” She smiles as she wraps her arms around, kissing her lips.

“You just know what to say at the right time. Thank you.” He gives her a kiss in response before standing up, and going back over to packing.

“Just think – this time next week, we will be headed to Florida together.” She smiles, knowing that was a good idea. “I still say you should fly out to California on Saturday with Amy.” Sarina knew the offer was very tempting, and considering that her mood was brightened, maybe it was a good idea.

“I will think about it, okay?” He crosses his fingers as he picks up his bag and leaves the room.

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

“So, did you talk to her?” Bethany asks as she meets up with Chris at Iowa Speedway. She was surprised that she was still on the list for available VIP passes for Sarina after their fight. She could only muster that she had forgotten to remove her name.

“She isn’t budging on going to the family reunion, or any thought of that matter,” Chris answers as Bethany rolls her eyes. “It’s like she doesn’t give a shit about anybody in the family.”

“She has to care about you to stand up for you in front of Chase.” Chris knew that was true as he looked out to the track, watching her practice.

“Sure, I supposed. But what about you? What about Uncle James? What about Uncle Nick? I mean, I get her reasons against Leon, but come on. There may have been some ruffled feathers at times, but no family is perfect.”  He then spins around. “I’ve always wished we could go back to when we were little kids and having everything just right.”

“Sometimes you don’t get what you wish for, Chris.” Chris then turned around as a smile formed on his face.

“No, but there’s other things that you can do so it works out as you want. It’s just working up to the master plan.” Bethany then looks over at him confused as he simply continues to smile.

“Chris Dryer, do I want to know what you got in mind?” Chris shakes his head no.

“Let’s just say that the world as she knows it is going to have some fun, and she will learn that you don’t turn your back on family.” He then heads for the stairs, as Bethany places her hand on his shoulder.

“What are you planning? Because whatever it is, I want in…” He then smiles as he turns back to face her.

“The past couple weeks and those accidents that have been happening to those around them is nothing out of surprise. It’s just working up to the top hits…..”

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

Sarina climbs out of the truck, pumping her fist in the air, before walking over and wrapping both arms around Marcus.

“Way to go!” Marcus tells her as they take a look at the top of the scoreboard to double check. Sure enough, she had scored herself the pole for that night’s race.

“Thank you for an awesome truck,” she replies. “I had a good feeling coming here, and damn, it just feels even better. I can’t believe it.”

“Just make sure to remember it’s a long night, and not to over jump the gun.” She shakes her head, knowing that.

She then makes her way through the crew members, giving them high-fives, before giving her post-qualifying interview. Once she was done the interview, she went through the usual routine of post-qualifying media center, followed by taking photos as the pole sitter. She easily accepted the accolades, glad that everything had come together perfectly after practicing well and knowing she had a good Toyota Tundra under her.

With some time to spare once she was done, she took her phone out of her pocket. She knew at about the same time as she was qualifying, Chase would be on track in Sonoma for their second practice session. Oh the fun of handling a time difference between their events. She smiled as she read his quick text message of congratulations, obviously sent between practice ones. She replied back, flipping through a couple others.

She then goes into the mobile internet, set to load the leaderboard on NASCAR.com. As she watches the main page load, her jaw drops in seeing an image of the No. 24 Chevrolet with the entire front end ripped off. She takes a deep breath, reminding herself to stay calm. If Chase was hurt in anyway, Alan or one of the guys would have texted her already.

She loads the video, watching as he gets loose through turn 10, spinning around and making contact with the outside concrete barrier. She notices the edge of the bumper catch the wall, ripping away from the car. She then sits down on the bench she had come across in her walk, telling herself repeatedly that the car looked worse than the hit actually was based on the video.

“Hey sis, are you okay?” She hears in the midst of her thoughts, glancing up to see her brother standing there.

“Yeah,” she answers as she flips screens, sending a quick text message to Alan, Chase, and a couple crew members at once. She kept telling herself not to worry, but she couldn’t help but send the message.

“What’s wrong?” Chris then sits down beside her as he watches her furiously send the message.

“Chase wrecked in final practice at Sonoma.” She sits back, hoping that she heard a ping back in response soon.

“Is he okay?” She holds her phone up, rolling her eyes, before clutching it back close to her. “I’m sure he’s fine. You know, you worry too much.”

“Well I’m sorry I damn well care about how he is doing. That’s part of loving someone, in case you didn’t realize that.” She then hears the phone ping, chuckling as she looks at the video that Jared sent her of Chase giving her a quick wave & dance. She sends back a thank you message, letting out a sigh of relief.

“What’d I tell you?” She just rolls her eyes as she sits back.

“It’s better to know and be safe, rather than regret it later. It’s a little comfort in having received or seen something. At least the boys get that.” She then stands up, taking a quick glance back at Chris. “Oh, and you can tell Bethany that as of Kentucky, she’s off the VIP list. Yeah, I saw you talking with her and my answer hasn’t changed. Now, I have a driver’s meeting to go to.” She then heads off as Chris just smiles.

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

Chase smiles as he keeps his eyes on the clock, watching the minutes tick by. He had promised himself not to dial her number for 20 minutes after the race. He knew that she’d be doing interviews, debriefing with the guys, and getting changed out of her driver’s suit. He figured if he gave her enough time to go through all that, she’d be ready to chit chat for awhile before flying out with the team.

18 minutes….19 minutes….19 minutes and 15 seconds….19 minutes and 30 seconds….19 minutes and 45 sec…

“Screw it!” He lets out as he hits dial on her number, lying back in the hotel room. Being out in California, he had forgone the motorhome route and instead split a hotel with Ryan Blaney.

“Hey!” She immediately answers the phone call, full of happiness.

“Nice job tonight, rookie. I’d say that laps led with a nice sixth-place finish is a great step in the right direction. You are finding your groove, and Marcus is giving you something to work with.” She smiles as she walks through the hauler, slipping the door closed to the lounge as she enters.

“Why, thank you sir. I appreciate the compliments from a Cup Series driver who has a lot of talent.” He then chuckles.

“I mean it. You did great out there. I think I could give you a couple restart tips, but not too shabby.” She then flops back, letting out a sigh. She knew the last restart could’ve gone a little better as there was a chance that she could’ve had a top-three finish if the others didn’t get the run on her.

“I’d appreciate those tips, Mr. Elliott. Actually, I have to say that tonight was just purely amazing. Can we race here every week? I mean, Iowa is beyond anything that I’ve done before.  I can’t explain how much fun I had tonight going three, four-wide at times and trying every groove. It has to be the funnest race of the year – besides racing you at Atlanta.” He smiles, knowing both truck races that he had gotten to run this year had been fun. He was wondering if possibly GMS would let him run another two later on this year.

“I always liked going to Iowa, too. Kentucky is just as much fun as that, but on a bigger scale. You’re set to find out why guys like Matt Crafton never want to leave the truck series.” She knew that she couldn’t wait for that, as a fun summer of racing would be a great way to put the past couple of weeks behind her. “So, are you coming out to California?”

“Maybe, maybe not. I still haven’t quite decided yet.” He lets out an aggravated sigh. He thought it’d be an instant yes, hence the text messages to Amy already.

“Oh come on. You know you want to see me.” She then chuckles as there was no way to lie about that.

“Hm, but I could hang around North Carolina this weekend. I could spend some time on the lake, work on my tan a little. I could even go to Hickory for a nice short track night out. You’re cutting into my fun time.” He couldn’t argue with her suggestions for a fun weekend, but that didn’t mean he was giving up yet.

“I still say coming and hanging out with me would be more fun. Besides, I miss our cuddles. I could use some tonight.” She then lets out a sigh, knowing that he was using the sympathy card on her for the qualifying wreck.

“Chase, good try but you’re fine and you’re going to do well tomorrow in qualifying, and race well on Sunday. I believe in you.”

“You should still come….” She then smiles as she finishes getting changed.

“I guess I should. Someone needs to keep your butt in line.” He smiles, letting out a fist pump.

“Oh hell no – I never agreed to sharing a hotel room with the both of you,” Ryan lets out from his side of the room as Chase looks over. “Oh no. I’m not listening to kissy sounds and cuddles each night. No way. That’s not what I agreed to.”

“Think of it this as a bonus – you can torment Blaney,” Chase teases as Ryan flips the finger at him.

“I’m sure there’s plenty of sounds that I can make to give him nightmares,” Sarina comments, followed by making some sexual noises over the phone. Chase breaks out laughing as he sees the look on Ryan’s face.

“I think I’m going to be sick,” Ryan says as he throws a pillow across the room at Chase, making him laugh even harder.

“Suddenly, this weekend got a whole lot more entertaining. See you soon, boys!” Chase then hangs up as he looks over at Ryan with a smile, with Ryan just rolling his eyes.

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