Saturday, July 1
Chase glances at the ground, twirling his fingers together, before glancing up as he looks around the small waiting room.
After reading the text message, he had rushed over to the hospital to check on his friend. Thankfully, the poison had been caught early enough so it hadn’t gotten Ryan badly. Erin told him that the doctors assured them that they would be able to catch it all before it got worse, despite Ryan probably feeling pretty sick for the next couple of days.
He had been in to see him briefly, letting him know he was there if need be, though took residence in the waiting room to allow his parents and sisters to be with him instead. He debated going back to the track, but knew he wouldn’t sleep with his mind worried about his friend. So instead, he had curled up in the chair and caught a couple hours of rest through the night.
“Do you want anything?” Sarina asks quietly and Chase shakes his head no. “You need to eat or drink something, breakfast wise. You need to take care of yourself.” She then rubs his back, knowing how worried he was despite assurance that everything would be fine. “Especially if you’re racing tonight on top of this.”
“I’m fine,” he answers as he feels his stomach flip flop once again, letting out a sigh. He knew that she was probably right with her concerns, but how could he stomach something with his worry on edge?
“Did they figure anything out from the previous incidents?” Brad Keselowski comments from his spot in the room. He and Joey had shown up that morning concerned about their teammate, along with a couple members from the Wood Brothers. Chase had given them the same spell that he heard from Erin, with the pair spending a bit of time in the room, before retreating to same spot as Chase.
“They couldn’t pick up any finger prints or anything on what they found. They had some suspect ideas, but never really got to narrowing them down based on evidence.” Chase knew one of those suspects was pretty close to the person sitting beside him, and almost felt like revisiting that topic as thoughts ramped through his mind. He could only wonder where Chris was right now.
“Do you have any idea who is on their short list?” Chase shakes his head no. “Well, I guess that’s for good reason as don’t need people walking around getting falsely accused over random suspicions.”
“There’s already enough of that happening without a true list being released,” Sarina comments as Chase shoots her a look as Brad just looks on curiously.
“Oh really?” Brad questions and Sarina shakes her head yes. Chase could only roll his eyes, knowing this wouldn’t be a good discussion to get into.
“Well, just because someone has a past doesn’t mean that they should be countered by people unfairly.” Chase lets out a sigh as he glances away, only wondering what possible response Brad could have to the comment. Although, admittedly, he was curious as to where this would go based his own perspective.
“Something going on between you two that we missed?” Darrell questions, causing Chase to look over immediately. “I saw the look on your face…”
“There’s nothing going on,” Chase comments as he stands up and heads to the vending machine. Perhaps a snack would be a good idea right now.
“I can go get you something…” Sarina says and Chase just shakes his head no as he inserts a bit of change, letting it disperse a hot chocolate before turning around to face the group. Sipping on the liquid could serve as a good distraction.
“So who was the person wrongfully accused, Sarina?” Brad questions as Chase focuses on the marshmallows in his cup. Darrell hadn’t taken his eyes off Chase the whole time, seeing the quietness forming.
“Your brother, right?” Darrell asks, having picked up on the unease from Chase and Sarina’s definite perspective. He knew how things went the last time these two but heads on the topic of Chris, and could only imagine if it happened again.
“Got your own thoughts to share, Darrell?” She questions, causing Darrell to look on surprised.
“You don’t need to get defensive,” Joey comments quietly from his spot in the room.
“I’m sorry but I don’t appreciate my brother being pinned for something that he didn’t do by people who don’t know anything.” Chase rolls his eyes, knowing that wasn’t fully true, having heard from the comment that Jared made about her brother being around.
“We were just asking based on your comment – that’s all,” Brad states. “Now, let’s just forget the topic came up if it is so touchy for you. Besides, we should be focused on Ryan…” Brad then glances down the hall towards the room that Ryan was in, as Chase glances up from his cup at Sarina.
“Do you want to talk?” Darrell whispers as he walks over, grabbing his own drink from the vending machine. He didn’t want a drink, but figured it was good cover for the offer.
“Nah, I’m good,” Chase replies as he takes another sip of his drink, eyes locked on Sarina.
“Issues in paradise?” Chase shakes his head no. “You’re a liar.” Chase then takes his eyes off Sarina and looks over at Darrell.
“Things are fine between Sarina and I. When it comes to her brother, that’s a different story that I’d rather not talk about right now.” Darrell watches his drink disperse, before grabbing the cup and looking back at Chase.
“Is he behind what happened to Ryan, though?” Chase shrugs his shoulders as he wasn’t sure, quite yet. He hadn’t found the knick of evidence that he knew was needed first.
“If he is, you’ll be one of the first to know about it.” Darrell shakes his head, accepting, before returning to his seat. Chase then drinks the last mouthful before making his way to where Sarina was sitting, returning back to his previous seat.
“We okay?” She questions and Chase shakes his head yes. “I know you’re worried about Ryan, but remember what Erin said. He’s going to be okay….” Chase knew to believe in those words, but it still wasn’t easy seeing one of his close friends in this position. “Now, do you want me to go grab you a bagel or something from the cafeteria?” Chase shakes his head no.
“I told you – I’m fine,” he replies quietly as he takes his phone out of his pocket.
“Well I’m going to grab myself something so text me if you change your mind.” She then gives him a quick kiss before heading out of the room. Considering the curious glances from Darrell and stare from Brad, she didn’t want to stick around in the room any longer.
“Anything to say now that she’s gone?” Brad wonders and Chase looks up, shaking his head no.
“I sympathize with her position as I get how it can be tough to hear people accuse Chris,” Chase starts. “But, I get the reason why after what happened. She’ll be fine…” He then returns his eyes back to his phone, hoping a quick game of something would distract his thoughts.
“Will you be fine?” Chase looks up, caught off-guard by Brad’s concern, though simply shakes his head yes.
“How are we supposed to race tonight as if nothing happened?” Darrell wonders from his corner.
“We just believe that he’ll be alright as Erin assured us, and try to win it for him,” Brad comments. “Have you heard anything about who is driving the car, Joey?”
“You’re really worried about that right now?” Brad shrugs his shoulders.
“Just trying to make light conversation, honestly. The silence was driving me crazy.” Chase actually wished they’d return to that, considering how many emotions the conversation had stirred already.
“I think I heard Ryan Reed is driving the car tonight,” Joey comments as Darrell just rolls his eyes. “Sore subject?”
“Because a guy has a sponsor that’ll kiss his ass and he figured out how to win at Daytona twice means that I’m out of a ride when I’ve beat him everywhere else,” Darrell comments. “But no, I’m fine.”
“It is a little unfair….”
“I still can’t believe you couldn’t find a sponsor,” Brad says as Darrell could only shrug his shoulders.
“It’ll work out bud; don’t worry,” Chase assures him as he gives him a pat on the shoulder.
“I hope you’re right,” Darrell says. “I mean, I’m trying to do what I can in the opportunity that I have till Aric comes back, but I can only do so much.”
“You’re not doing too bad so far,” Brad offers. “Just don’t get caught up in the fact that you’re trying to prove yourself, and overdrive the equipment. It’s better to take that so-so finish rather than a wrecked car.” Darrell shakes his head, knowing that fact already. It was why he was so pissed a couple weeks ago.
“Appreciate the advice.”
“And if all else fails, you could always become a rockstar,” Chase jokes, based on the videos that Ryan and Darrell constantly were sharing of them singing and playing instruments. Darrell could only roll his eyes at the comment, but chuckled.
“Would you attend the concert?” Darrell asks and Chase shrugs his shoulders. “Really?”
“I don’t want a headache….” Darrell rolls his eyes, knowing how Chase wasn’t the biggest fan of scream-o music, but rather a country fan himself.
“I will say that I listened to the Chris Rice CD that you left at the house, and it’s actually pretty good.” Chase smiles as it was certainly some progress.
“Chase?” Erin asks, causing Chase to look up from his seat. “We told Ryan that we were going to grab a quick bite to eat – had to pull dad and mom away but they finally agreed. Anyways, he said he wanted to talk to you alone first before the rest of the group came in.” Chase could only look on confused as he wondered what the topic would be. However, standing up and beginning the walk, he couldn’t deny his best friend a visit.
“I’ll let ya know when we’re done,” he tells the others as he heads down the hall. He crosses paths with Sarina, who stops to face him.
“I’ll com-” She starts and Chase shakes his head no.
“Ryan wants to see me alone before we call everyone else in.” She then looks on confused.
“Why?” Chase couldn’t place the reason no matter what he thought of.
“I don’t know, but I’m listening. I’ll come see you when I’m done.” He gives her a quick kiss before continuing the walk down the hall, giving a hug to both Erin and Emma, before taking a deep breath and heading into the room.