Cabin Fears – Chapter 76: Chase’s Confession

Friday – Chicagoland Speedway

Dale sits there, listening intently as Chase detailed everything.

He was proud of the pair for breaking down what happened and sharing their feelings with each other. He was shocked to see how much the simple image had affected Chase, but understood where he was coming from with that. He felt himself twirl with emotions, from good to bad, as he just sat there listening.

He was surprised when Chase recounted the tale about the shower. He was in shock over the trail of events – how could that just happen without memory? He was glad the pair had connected, but also understood the continued concern from Alyssa right now. In truth, he was as equally concerned about Chase himself, too.

“Certainly, this is something that I should’ve addressed before we flew out here to Chicago – I know that now,” Chase continues. “From advice from Jeff to seeing the way it’s affecting Alyssa, I should’ve said or done something. But I just couldn’t bring myself to speak about it. I also apologize for causing the rif-”

“You don’t need to apologize,” Dale cuts him off as he glances up, finally. “I only went off on you because of how much I worry about my little girl. I know better than to do that because you always are looking out for her. It just came out of anger, okay? And while I understand your concern for my well-being in not wanting to bring up certain subjects to me, don’t ever think that. I can handle anything if it makes you both feel better. I’ve been there, remember?” It also didn’t hurt that no matter what, Dale always had a tinge of blame on him for what happened to Chase no matter what was said.

“I get it. I just felt bad about opening old wou-”

“Don’t ever!” Chase simply freezes, nodding his head in acceptance. There was no way around it. “Now, obviously I can get why you were off your game since you were worried about him, from emotions to a re-occurrence, no matter what he told you. In exchange, he was trying to give you leeway to focus solely on your game while handling things his typical way – which he is slowly realizing, like always, is a complete failure.” The couple couldn’t argue with Dale, simply nodding their heads in acceptance.

“Like I told Alyssa, she doesn’t need to worr-”

“I can’t help it, Chase! I love you – damn it, and I’m sorry but that comes with love. Whether you like it or not, you’re going to have to handle it.” Dale glances over at Chase, intrigued to see his reaction to Alyssa’s words.

“I understand; it’s the same way that I keep worrying about you, too.  But, really, I’m being honest here. There’s a reason why we put in certain precautions about where I go and who is around me – like always making sure someone I can really trust is there, because we know this is possible.” He then glances into her blue eyes. “I have everything under control here, and to be honest – being at the track, cheering for you is when I feel my best without a worry. It allows me to forget everything for a couple days. If you can keep telling yourself that, and understand that I am going to handle this in which way I need to, then I ask it gives you some comfort. I don’t want you to throw away this year because of me.” Alyssa nods her head, accepting.

“I can try, okay?” She questions and he nods his head, accepting. “And Dad, can I ask that both you and Kevin cut some slack to me and Chase? Obviously you get it now having heard everything…” Dale nods his head, knowing that a talk was probably in order with Kevin. He would understand anyway, having been there when the photos were dropped off.

“As long as you give Kevin and the focus they deserve, I can request that for you,” Dale offers and Alyssa nods her head, accepting. Some compromise was better than none. “And Chase, I know it’s hard and difficult.  But you have to know that you’ll work it out, okay?” Chase nods his head.

“Well, I’m going to go check on that back-up car. Thank you for understanding…” Dale and Chase both give her a quick hug before she leaves. Chase then glances back at Dale, knowing there was more to be said.

“Go on…” Chase instructs as Dale lets out a sigh, leaning back against the wall.

“Please tell me that you haven’t thought of running from this….” Dale pleads as Chase looks down immediately. “Damn it, Chase!”

“But I haven’t, right? Isn’t that the key?” Dale watches him closely as Chase looks back up at him. “I thought about it that morning. I’ve thought it about it a couple times since. But I could never, ever do that. We’ve talked about that. There’s no way I could just leave her.” Dale nods his head, remembering the discussion.

“I just don’t want a repeat of what happ-”

“That’s not going to hap-”

“It’d be 10 times worse because you’d break her heart into piec-”

“I promise you – that’s not happening!” Dale simply accepts the words from Chase, trusting the young man before him as always. It gave his heart some comfort in trying to work out the pieces moving forward. “Is that all?”

“Are you trying to avoid discussing this, like always?” Chase sighs, and shakes his head no. He knew he couldn’t do that…..

“I just didn’t know whether you were done or not.” Dale crosses his arms, having a couple other thoughts on the mind. He couldn’t erase his own discussion with Regan and Tony now.

“What about just giving up? Is that become a thought?” Chase was surprised by the question, but understood the reasoning. Dale had heard the previous rant and knew where the mind could go at times like these from experience.

“Once or twice….” Dale shakes his head as he could hear the warnings from Tony on repeat.

“You can’t be doing that, because it just takes that one thought for the rug to be dropped out from underneath you. In no way whatsoever, you can’t ever give up.” Chase knew that, remembering the couple of times he had spoken to Tony. It was all about baby steps.

“Those thoughts don’t last for long – and to be honest, I have a safe word to go with that. If I feel that down to the point of almost hitting rock bottom, Regan and I agreed that all I have to text him is “bubbalicious” and he’ll be right there to have my back, and figure it out.” Dale couldn’t help but smile. It was no wonder why Regan was confident in Chase’s future based on steps being taken he hadn’t seen himself.

“Well, if you can’t get a hold of Regan, please, text me.” Chase nods his head, accepting. It was why he had texted Dale that morning at the house. “And I meant what I said. You’re going to figure this out…”

“So how do I train my mind to just forget that image and stop having those thoughts?” Dale remembered the image clearly himself, as he takes a deep breath.

“Every time it begins to pop in your head, repeat what actually happened. Repeat that she was just laying there, tied down, restricted from doing anything, not tormented in anyway. You just have to keep reminding yourself till it’s stuck in your mind. It’s like they told you and Alyssa for nightmare and retraining yourselves; give that nightmare another story attached to it.”  Chase nods his head, accepting.

“I’ll give it a try….” Dale then pulls him into a hug.

“I meant what I said – every word.” Chase nods his head. “I got to go take care of business, but you know where to find me.” Chase nods his head once again as Dale heads out on his way.

Chase sat back on the couch, letting everything soak in as he tried to process the advice while focusing on the future ahead. He knew he could do this – he had done it before. He just needed to keep taking it one step at a time. This conversation was a step in that direction. He just needed to get through the weekend smoothly, followed by the meeting with Eric this week – that’d be another couple steps. Then focus on the rest of the things going on around him, and maybe he would figure it out over time.

Maybe he’d get back in a racecar before the year was done yet after all.

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

Regan worked his way through the garage area, having finished his work with MRN Radio for the day as he double checked his text messages. He smiled as he had found the meeting spot, seeing Dale leaning against one of the JR Motorsports trailers.

Dale gives Regan a finger nod to follow, and the pair immediately head inside with the door slipped closed behind them. Dale didn’t need Chase knowing that he had gone to seek out Regan after the conversation.

“You said this was important?” Regan questions and Dale nods his head.

“When did you and Chase come up with bubbalicious?” Dale questions as Regan looks on surprised.

“Is everything oka-”

“You don’t need to worry – too much. I mean, he’s fine and she’s fine, but there are some concerns. Just please answer…” Regan takes a deep breath, thinking back.

“It was probably the second time that we talked about things in how it could be tough at times and he was still battling with these emotions and brain tricks they were causing. It was probably a couple days after I met up with you and Tony. Like I said then, I knew he could get a hold of somebody if it came right down to it and start doing the right thing.” Dale nods his head, remembering. It was a little therapy in knowing Chase had actually followed those details.

“I just gave him the same offer, too, in case you’re busy. Let’s just say that you may be getting it sooner than later…” Regan then looks on concerned.

“I asked if everything was okay, Dale…” Dale takes a deep breath, knowing there was no other way to explain this than to break down all the details of what had happened since Wednesday. “Oh my….”

“Yeah…” Regan leans back against the counter, trying to figure out something to say.

“But he said that he’s going to take the right steps, correct?” Dale nods his head, remembering Chase’s words.

“He has an appointment scheduled with Eric on Monday I believe, and he asked me for advice on what to do about that photo thought.” Regan could respect that as at least there was the right steps being taken.

“But you still called me….” Dale crosses his arms, glancing outside as he watched Chase and Alyssa walk by together.

“Let’s just say that I don’t fully believe he has the grip on it that he wants us to believe. There’s more than just that image, and you know that yourself. Besides, he’s thought about running again and the thought of giving up…” Regan wanted to curse out loud immediately, but knew that wouldn’t help the situation. He needed to give reassurance to a rough situation.

“While none of that is good, let’s take a couple steps of faith here. He at least spoke to you about it and broke down what happened – even if it took some interesting circumstances. He also admitted both of those facts to you, while stating strategies to be taken. The first step is admitting you have a problem – he’s done that. Therefore, I don’t know if I’m as panicked as you are.” Dale wondered if maybe he was worrying more than he should – which was nothing new. He was glad that Regan was always understanding about that, though, and willing to explain things.

“But you’ll be on alert for something in case?” Regan nods his head.

“You don’t have to ever question that, Dale. I’d do anything for him….”

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Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 146: Belgium Grand Prix

Sunday, August 27

“Is this really happening?” Sarina asks as she spins around in excitement as they walk up to the admission gates.

“Are you going to be this crazy all day?” Ryan wonders, having heard her excitement all morning as Chase laughs.

“Do you have a problem with that, Mr. Blaney?” Ryan shakes his head as she spins around once again. Ryan then glances over at Chase, wondering if he worked out the bonus piece. Chase just nods his head as he goes into the package for the credentials.

“So according to Jeff, we have to keep these in our precious hands all day,” Chase starts as he pulls out everybody’s card. “This one gets you in the grounds, this one gives you garage access, this one gives you pre-race pit road access, and this one gives you access to certain roped off watching areas.” Ryan and Sarina shift through the credentials as they put on their lanyards.

“Crazy how many they have,” Ryan comments as he adjusts the lanyard.

“What’s this silver thing?” Sarina questions, noticing it on the one card.

“Beats me,” Chase answers as they keep walking towards the admission gates. They all soon realized just how tight security was as each of them was checked throughout, before the ‘silver thing’ was scanned before entry.

“That was unique, different, and almost surreal…” Chase and Ryan both nod in agreement.

“Could you imagine if we dealt with that every week?” Ryan rolls his eyes as he knew he’d grow annoyed quickly.

“Admit it, though. It’d stop people like Aliso-”

“Just stop it right there. We are not mentioning her name, or any other negative name we can think of. We’re going to have as much fun as possible today.” As they walked into the grounds, they all glance around in amazement, intrigued by the layout, along with the different activities and how hospitalities were put together.

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

“Alright, we need to head this way and now…” Chase randomly perks up after a couple hours of random exploring, catching his playmate’s attention. “Like now…”

“Why?” Sarina wonders, as Ryan smiles as he could only think of one reason for Chase’s random anticipation.

“Because if we don’t do this, we’re going to miss something important.” Sarina rushes behind the boys as she glances at the schedule for the day.

“There’s nothing for another coup-”

“This isn’t on the schedule! Come on!” She then lets out a sigh, glad she wore running shoes, as she follows the boys through the busy pit road. They hurry along, before stopping at the Haas F1 garage stall. “Wait here…” Chase steps forward, feeling a series of nerves as he taps the shoulder of the first crew member he could see.

“You’re not supposed to be behind the white line, sir,” the crew member sternly states, almost set to call security as Chase searches for his voice.

“I’m here to see Mike Arning,” Chase spits out. “He told me to meet him here precisely at this time.” The crew member initially looks confused, before Mike is sifting his way through the sea of members.

“This young man says he is supposed to see you…” Mike nods his head, as he looks at him with a smile.

“Yes, he is,” Mike states before walking up to Chase, shaking his head. “My oh my, you’ve grown up quite a bit since I last saw you walking around in the NASCAR garage with your dad. It’s almost shocking. How are you, though?”

“Who is that?” Sarina whispers as Ryan smiles, knowing exactly what was going on.

“Mike Arning,” Ryan answers, still leaving a puzzled look on Sarina’s face. “He did Stewart’s PR for a number of years. With his knowhow, it’s no wonder why he’s working the F1 team now.”

“I was surprised when Tony texted me that you guys would be here,” Mike starts and Chase nods his head.

“I’ve wanted to see an F1 race for a long time,” Chase starts. “So when Ryan and I were planning our trip to Amsterdam, followed by Germany, it just worked out nice with the schedule to cap off the week here.” Mike nods his head, seeing how that’d work out perfectly.

“And I’m betting it’s been an amazing trip?” Chase nods his head, having no complaints from the whole week. “So Tony says you have a special guest that has always dreamed of sitting in a F1 car, but never thought they’d get the chance. Now, please tell me that isn’t you since you know you could just stop by Tony’s shop.” Chase chuckles, having heard the option a couple times in discussion with him. It was why when Sarina spit the wish outloud, he immediately sent Tony the message. Although a stop by the shop would’ve worked later on, he knew being able to do it at the race would make it extra special.

“I’m good, actually. The offer more so goes for my girlfriend, Sarina.” Mike glances over at Chase’s shoulder at Sarina and Ryan standing together, before glancing back at the young man before him.

“Considering how shy and quiet you are, I’m surprised you got a girlfriend, but very happy for you as she seems like a great girl from what I’ve seen. So this is a surprise for her, right?” Chase nods his head. “Well, Romain Grosjean has a bit of love for you NASCAR boys so he said he wouldn’t mind. Besides, it may bring him some luck….”

“That means the world, honestly.” Chase then motions for Ryan and Sarina to join them over with Mike. “Guys, this is Mike Arning. He does all the public relations for Haas F1 after spending years with Tony.”

“Nice to meet you both…” Mike shakes their hands, before focusing his eyes on Sarina. “So unannounced to you, your sweet boyfriend here sent a casual text message to my boss, who then messaged me to see if I could be a dream maker. Luckily for you, the stars have aligned today. How would you like to sit in Romain’s car before the race?” Sarina’s jaw dropped almost immediately as she looked between the pair in utter shock.

“Seriously?!?” Mike and Chase both nod their heads yes. “Absolutely!!”

Like a kid in a candy store, a big smile was planted on her face the entire walk back to the car, along with climbing behind the wheel. The smile didn’t leave as she sat in the car, feeling the steering wheel and checking out the sights around her. The boys took a couple snapshots for her, before she had to climb out.

She gave Mike a big thanks, before they had to separate and head on down the road for the next stop of the day.

“Thank you!!” She squeals as she grabs Chase, pulling him into a big hug. He just smiles as she gives him a kiss. “That was amazing!”

“You’re welcome,” he replies, his smile matching hers. “As soon as you mentioned it, I had to give it a shot…”

“You’re just too good for words. I mean, I never expected that…”

“Want to drive one someday?” Ryan wonders as she thinks it over, before shaking her head.

“Too technical for my liking,” she answers with a smile as the boys nod their heads in agreement. “I think I’m set to stick to stock cars for the rest of my life.”

“She’s like a female you in some ways….” Chase flips the bird at him as Ryan just laughs. “Hey, it’s a good thing. At least you don’t have to apologize or make up for a weekend short track trip.”

“More than likely, it’d be me accompanying her to watch her kick some ass,” Chase adds as Ryan nods his head in agreement.

After some more exploring during pre-race festivities, the race started and it went by faster than they could’ve imagined. They tried out a couple different spots, amazed by how the speed felt in real time versus watching on the television screen.

The group in return got to witness history as they watched Lewis Hamilton dominate in his 200th career start. Sarina also proved to be lucky for Romain as Mike suggested, as he was able to come home with a strong seventh-place finish – which a top-10 at times had been a struggle this season for Haas.

As they left the track and headed to the airport to fly back to the United States, the group traded numerous stories the entire time about their favorite moments from the trip. It was also agreed that they’d do this again sometime, picking another area to explore for a change.

Though while they had fun, they all had to admit they couldn’t wait to return home back to the United States. There were certain things that they each missed – from food, to friends, to simple things of home – and couldn’t wait to experience all in one.

There was also a nice reception on twitter as they landed in the US, too, as Hendrick Motorsports let the cat out of the bag regarding the famous No. 9. Chase smiled as he read through numerous tweets of approval, before sending out a quick message of his own.

Driving up to the house and glancing over at Sarina, he knew that they both couldn’t wait to sleep in their own bed after a whirlwind of a trip.

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

Tuesday, August 29

The next morning, the pair wake up, tangled in the blanket together after cuddling through the night. Chase glances over at Sarina, seeing a puzzled look on her face that he wasn’t used to when they woke up.

“Hey, are you okay?” He immediately questions as she lets out a sigh.

“I don’t know; I just feel off,” she comments, causing Chase to roll over concerned. “I guess jetlag maybe…I mean, we traveled from US to Amstedam to Germany to Belgium, and back. I think my mental clock is just messed up.” Chase nodded his head, understandably. It wasn’t like they relaxed much while away, either, with so many great places visited.

“That’s understandable…..” She then looks over at him, seeing as if everything was perfectly fine without an issue.

“It doesn’t look to be bothering you, though….” Chase shrugged his shoulders.

“It affects some people, and doesn’t affect others. That’s just a fact of life. Look, we have nothing that we have to do today – well, besides dinner later with my parents – so how about we just relax? And if you’re not feeling up to din-”

“I’ll be fine, trust me. I mean, your mom is starting to come around. I actually am beginning to like her now.” Chase looks at her, partially surprised. Considering how things started off, he didn’t think that was possible.

“Really?” Sarina nods her head, remembering the last conversation with Cindy and how well it went as she actually offered some nice advice.

“Absolutely…….” Sarina couldn’t help but let out a sigh, though, which Chase immediately caught.

“But?” Sarina bit her tongue, not wanting to get into this topic right now.

“There’s no bu-”

“You just let out the most dreadful sigh.” She knew she couldn’t lie to him, and perhaps hitting the nail on the head would cover all conversational basis so she could focus back on sleep, relaxing, whatever she needed to kill the jetlag.

“I wish things were different, though.” Chase nodded his head, understanding, as he felt the same way in many aspects. It was never fun seeing the two most important woman in his life fight.

“Listen, it’ll come with tim-”

“I’m not talking about Cindy. I just mean things in general. I mean, I see how much you love your family. I see how much you care about them. There’s always looking forward to meeting them, too. I mean, I can’t wait to meet your sister – even if you say things aren’t perfect between you guys. I can’t wait to meet your uncle Ernie, either. But I wish I could you could know my family. I mean, you know Chris and Bethany – but come on! That’s not no swell memory. I wish you could’ve met my dad. I wish you could’ve met my uncles, cousins, and friends that I had then.” Chase could only barely wonder what it was like to be in her shoes right now, knowing being away from family is something he couldn’t handle. It was one of the reasons why he couldn’t wait to get home from their trip.

“Do you miss them, sometimes? I mean, besides your dad, which we’ve already talked about.” Sarina couldn’t deny it, as she nodded her head. It would’ve also been nice to get to know some of them better, and see if sanity ran in the family.

“Sometimes, yeah, I do. That’s why I guess I wanted to make sure I wasn’t affecting your relationship with your mom. I didn’t want to ruin what you had….” Chase nodded his head, understanding and appreciating the compassion. It also made him wonder….

“Do you know where any of your family is now-a-days?” Sarina shakes her head, remembering the rules given to her when everything started in the name of protection.

“Nope. That’s how you had to do it, though. No traces left behind, right?” Chase couldn’t even begin to comprehend that thought. There was no way he could travel across the country without telling everybody who was close to him.

“See, I don’t think I could ever, under any circumstance, do what you did. I would miss my parents so much. I would even miss my friends, too – yes, including Ryan. How did you do it?” Sarina shrugs her shoulder, remembering what went through her mind back then. It seemed like nothing, almost.

“It’s what my life was accustom to – mystery and secrets. I was brought up in the house where you don’t talk about certain things. Dad couldn’t talk about work because what if that compromised an investigation? Or what if I was friends with someone’s kid at school and word got out? My brother also had his secrets about who he hung out with – until that day, of course. Myself? My mom would’ve screamed if she knew how much I love racecars, the fact that I was going to tracks with my cousin, and how the thrill of a go-kart turned everything on for me. So I had to be secretive about plans to her. So when it happened, it just came natural. That’s part of my environment – I just need to do this and put emotion aside. Bad advice, though, as we’re seeing….” Chase nods his head, knowing she knew the next set of words without them being spoken.

“If you hold something in too long, you’re going to burst.” Sarina nods her head, remembering her series of breakdowns that she’s had since. There was probably more to come now, thanks to her brother.

“Exactly. Why do you think I turned into an emotional mess that night?” Chase nods his head, remembering that first night together. He wasn’t through with his curiosity, though.

“So if you had to keep all these secrets, how did you build that relationship with your dad?” Sarina smiles, knowing a question like that had to be coming. It was strange how her family worked sometimes….

“See, just because we couldn’t talk about work, it didn’t mean we didn’t talk at all, Chase. Heck, we talked about everything else under the sun. If I had a problem, I took it to my daddy and someway he’d know how to solve it – whether advice, scolding, or doing something himself. You know that bond you have with your dad in how you can just tell him anything? My father and I had that. In a chaotic sense, that was my rock.” Chase could only image just how broken she was in hearing about her father being shot if that was the case.

“And when it was gone?” She immediately swallows the lump in her throat, as she shakes her head.

“Admittedly, I was lost. But see, it made moving away from Michigan to California, easier. When I lost him, I felt so much pain, heartache – I can’t even describe how I felt, Chase. I thought by moving away, I could escape those feelings – maybe even forget it. If I didn’t see reminders everyday, it would not be brought up. Maybe I’d focus on this new life in Hollywood glamour and sun, forgetting what was.” Chase could only imagine her in that world – actually not seeing that clash together considering how rough she was behind the edges. Then again, she had a love for fashion….

“Did it work?” He knew it was useless question, but it at least kept the conversation going, something he knew she needed to get off of her chest to someone finally.

“To be honest? No, because nothing can erase that pain. I still feel some of that pain today…” Chase immediately reaches over, wrapping both arms around her and pulling her close, still knowing he could never imagine what she went through.

“Well, just know if you need to talk about it, or want to cry – anything, you just tell me and I’ll be there for you.” She nods her head, easily accepting, and thankful for what they had together.

“Thank you – and that goes both ways. I mean, you’ve been lucky and had things go as you wanted. But if you get that moment where you need to drop it all and confess a series of emotions, you know where to find me.” Chase smiles, as he keeps her held tightly.

“Right beside me, obviously.” She smiles as she glances into his eyes.

“I would hope so.”

Moving Forward – Chapter 49: Second Thoughts

Dale made his way into the shop, taking a glance over the cars. It wasn’t something he did usually, but he needed space to think.

In just a couple of days, he was going to be back behind the wheel of a racecar, making laps at full speed around one of the toughest tracks on the circuit. Was he truly ready for this?

On a physical side, there was no questioning it. Through the process, he had kept his conditioning up within the standards they should be to handle the demands of the job. He had to admit – he couldn’t go back to his unhealthy ways of those yester-years as it felt good to be fit.

On a mental side, it was a whole other question. The exercises had been going flawlessly as he was able to complete everything. He also completed Mickey’s tests within the range of numbers expected. Mickey had also given his full go-ahead based on his examination.

Now, it was all about confidence and believing in himself.

Admittedly, that had been a challenge through the years as he had struggled with making sure to do that as expected. He was always the first to get down on himself when things weren’t going his way and that always bred more issues as things wouldn’t be on point.

Through conversations with others, like those with Chase and Marie recently, he questioned whether he had the confidence in himself based on his answers. That came across in his words to Chase, but for Marie, he wondered. From the not knowing if he was ready until that moment, to questioning the steps – maybe it was because she was worried and understandably so.

He knew if he wanted, he could simply take the easy road and not return. He had other projects on the go, and a pair of lovely daughters to raise. What if it was time now? What if it wasn’t meant to be time in a year, or down the road?

But he knew why he needed to do this – there was unfinished business. Admittedly, despite the success, he had a couple other things he wanted to complete on the wish list before finally walking away.

Running his hand over the car that he knew the team was loading for Darlington in the coming days, he felt the confidence coming back in the desire to chase those goals.  He felt that need for adrenaline, and the fuel for the fire. Why had he been so worried this past month?

Glancing in the car, he knew as soon as he slipped in that seat it would be home again. Each bit of the padding would fit the curves of his body, and he’d be snuggly tight and set for destiny. There was also that grip on the steering wheel that nothing else could replace, or the smile that your face had when you missed a big wreck or saved a car that was outta control. Sliding sideways, riding the top, and having fun was the name of the game.

Leaning his head on the roof, he smiled. Darlington could come anytime now as he was ready. It was time to make a comeback, and do everybody proud.

“Well well, I didn’t expect to see you here,” Dale hears, glancing up with a smile as the boss walks down the stairs. “I thought you’d be off planning your wedding…” Dale chuckles, knowing everybody was talking about what was to come in December.

“Actually, Marie and I are just about done all the planning,” Dale offers, causing Rick to look at him surprised.

“Really?  Because with ladies, they never seem satisfied with the perfect details until the day of.” Dale had heard that from plenty of people, but he also remembered the jokes with Marie about what was left to do. “Considering you’re not doing any work and the fact Jordan (Allen) isn’t around, what are you doing here?”

“Thinking…” Dale knew he couldn’t lie to the boss. Rick was as close to him as anybody else in his life.

“About the test? If you’re not ready, we can call it of-”

“Oh no, not at all. Actually, stopping by today, I think I’m ready more than ever. It allowed me to get my thoughts in order.” Rick nodded his head, but kept his eyes locked on the man before him. He wasn’t afraid to admit that he was nervous for the future.

“That’s great as I’m happy for you – as long as you’re happy. It’s amazing watching how you have everything together. Two beautiful young daughters, a fiancé who loves you dearly, and the fact you’re getting to do what you love again. You’ve grown up to be an amazing man.” Dale smiles, feeling pride in those words as Rick’s approval always meant a lot to him.

“Thank you, si-”

“What have I said about that?” Dale lets out a sigh, remembering the conversation. “And I do hope your wedding day goes off without a hitch. Both you and Marie and deserve that after everything.” Dale nods his head, easily accepting that.

“I just want to make Marie happy. I mean, she’s been through a lot and I don’t want to see her heartbroken or upset, again.”

“You both have been through a lot, Dale, along with Chase. All three of you went through hell at the hands of Mariella and Randy – none of which any of you deserved. I want to see all three of you happy, moving on with your lives, enjoying every minute, and putting all that pain behind you. There’s no way you can ever forget what happened or how it felt. But if you can move forward each day with that much more happiness, it makes the pain worthwhile. In a way, the pain makes you appreciate what you have even more when it’s good. Don’t let go of that…” Dale nods his head, accepting the advice easily. He understood where Rick was coming from.

“You have my word, trust me.” Dale takes a deep breath as he glances across the garage area. “And you’re right about Chase, too, as he deserves it as much as everybody here. I mean, he never should’ve been apar-”

“None of you should’ve been invol-”

“It was just between Marie, myself, and her family, though. Chase wasn’t even connected to that. He just got wrapped up in it because he was replacing me that day and boom – he got the worse out of us all. I mean, Randy should’ve came and saw me – not him.” Rick walks over, placing a hand on Dale’s shoulder.

“You can’t keep blaming yourself and let it eat at you. It’s not your fault at all that Chase got tied up in this. It’s not your fault any of this happened. And damn, it’s not your fault that man created a crazy obsession.  You need to let it go…” Dale nods his head, knowing that the boss was right. However, the odd time, it was harder than he could describe.

“I just want the best for him so he doesn’t ever have to live through that pain, again. I mean, the odd nightmare – he shouldn’t be dealing with that. I just wish I could take that pain, put it in a ball and throw it away.” Rick couldn’t help but agree.

“We all do, Dale. But trust me – Chase has the world ahead of him. He’ll find that happiness he needs in life. He’ll be successful as a racecar driver, and he’ll find a special someone, too. I don’t think you have a thing to worry about. You just need to focus on you, finding that inner peace for you, and letting this go.” Dale knew that Rick was right as he let out a sigh.

“I’m trying, man….” Rick nodded as he gave Dale a pat on the shoulder.

“You’ll figure it out – and you know, my office door is always open.” Dale nodded his head, remembering the rule applied no matter what. “I’ll see you later. Remember what I said.”

“Yes, Mr. H.” Rick then walked away as Dale glanced back down at the car, letting his mind process everything through, and figure out the next plan of attack.

Where would he go from here?

Back to Square One – Chapter 20: “You’re asking me to spy for you?”

Friday – Charlotte Motor Speedway

Jimmie lets out a sigh as he stands back, watching the furious sea of activity around the 48 car.

His eyes then drifted towards the blond in their stall, watching as she furiously typed away on the computer. He knew she had a new batch of notes from Chad, Ron, and the engineers after practice and the debrief, which meant she was going to busy for awhile.

Crossing his arms, he so badly wanted to believe in her. He wanted to trust her fully, and make her one of the team. He also had a good feeling about her based on Ron’s reaction, Chad’s reaction, and what he’d seen so far. However, he still had to wonder.

What if she was up to something? It wasn’t like she had a princess past, and it wasn’t like she didn’t know how to mess with someone. Knowing how vulnerable Ron was right now, he wondered if she was her next victim and the team was going to be a by-product.

“You look like you’re in your own little world,” Candiss says as she walks up behind him, wrapping her arms around. “How was the car?”

“Not bad, I guess,” Jimmie answers. In truthfulness, it had been better than the past couple of weeks – but still not where he believed the 48 team should be.

“You guys are going to be fine. You, Ron, and Chad always figure it out…” Jimmie knew that as he nodded his head in response. It didn’t make the down times any easier, though. Glancing back at her, he got an idea.

“Say, you don’t have a lot of friends around the tracks….” Candiss was caught off-guard by the comment, but felt the need to go with it.

“Amy, Ingrid, Jordan, Sherry, Delana, Krissie – I get along with some of the girls.” Jimmie knew that, but still figured this would work to his advantage.

“Greenlee is new to the area and doesn’t know anybody. I figure you girls could get close with the team always being together. You may even have some things in common…” Candiss then looks at Jimmie, questionably. He never pointed out friends for her, knowing that she wasn’t one to let down her guard easily.

“Something is up, am I right?” Jimmie laughs as he looks back towards her.

“She’s getting awfully cuddly with Ron.” Candiss could only roll her eyes.

“And being his best friend, you want to watch out for him and don’t trust her?” Jimmie nods his head. “What about her instincts at Tallad-”

“Past experience could easily make that look good.” Jimmie takes a deep breath as he goes to face Candiss. “Look, Ron is vulnerable right now. I would usually trust his choices, but I’m fully sold on Greenlee. All I’m saying is hang out with her some, get to know her, see what she’s like, and give me the lowdown.”

“So in reality, you’re asking me to spy for you?” Jimmie wished she wouldn’t had figured out the plan.

“Maybe I am. But she could also be a great addition to the group…” Candiss glances over, before returning her eyes to Jimmie. This wasn’t going to be easy.

“I can’t do that, Jimmie. I’m not the type to spy on people and play gam-”

“Oh really? That seems strange considering how we met.” Candiss sighs, knowing she had set a double standard. However, that was a different situation.

“We’ve all changed from then, remember? Live, learn and move forward.” Jimmie knew that, but it didn’t change his nerves.

“I just don’t want to be blindsided by something again; hence keeping an eye on her.” Candiss looks back over at Greenlee, before turning back to Jimmie.

“I can’t, Jimmie…” Jimmie nods his head, accepting. He wasn’t going to make her feel uncomfortable.

“Alright, no problem at all. I just thought I’d ask and consider.” Candiss then pulls Jimmie close, as she keeps her eyes on Greenlee.

“Take a deep breath, and relax. Not everybody is out to do you harm. Sometimes second, third chances are what people need as sometimes they’re dealt a bad hand. Take the good out of her, and cross your fingers. Also, believe in your best friend. Ron is a good judge of character. He’ll read her like a book.” Jimmie wanted to believe those words, but couldn’t help but think back to the recent office conversation.

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

Following all of the racing that day, Greenlee retreated back to one of her first spots that she found in town and enjoyed – Lake Norman.

Sitting on the rocks, it reminded her of those strolls along the water with Ryan. It also reminded her of the time they hid out together, along with the park. Her memory continued to flash back through a series of thoughts.

Taking a deep breath, she glances down at the wedding band on her finger, rubbing it gently, before looking out to the water once again.

“I miss you more than I realize sometimes,” she lets out quietly as a couple tears come down her eyes. She then feels an arm wrap around her, almost flashing back to how Ryan would hold her, but then noticed immediately it was Ron.

“I figured when you didn’t come home you were here,” Ron comments as she nods her head.

“I just can’t let go…” He understood that as he kept her held close.

“You never will let go, Greenlee. He’ll always be a part of you no matter what.” She knew he was right, having been through that with Leo. Even though she moved on with Ryan, Leo never left her heart ever.

“Why does it hurt so bad?” Ron shook his head, not knowing why. “It comes and goes, too. It just hit me when I was leaving the track and I just automatically brought myself here. Other days, I can just cruise through without a single thought.” Ron understood that, dealing with his own emotions.

“Maybe something reminded you of him. But hey, it’s okay to have these thoughts. It just shows how he’s apart of you, how you cared, how you loved him, and how special it was. Don’t ever be ashamed, either, and don’t be afraid to speak up. I’m always willing to listen to a story or hold you.” She looked over, giving him a slight smile. His words reminded her of something, too.

“And what about you? The same goes from me to you, too, as I know you’re still dealing with a lot. I hear you when you get up at night, Ron.” Ron nods his head, knowing he wasn’t the quietest in his trips out of the kitchen for a glass of water or milk.

“I appreciate that, really.” He then takes a deep breath as he looks out to the water. “I just don’t know where to begin, or how to describe it.” She could understand that, having been there before. It was why one time David Hayward hypnotized her.

“Sometimes it helps to start at the beginning, or with the first emotion you feel. Sometimes people start with the weakest because they feel it’s the easiest and then build up. Others go straight in so that way they can get the toughest part out of the way.”  Ron could see all of those theories working, but still didn’t know of a direction for himself – but a question did come to mind.

“Have you ever felt like the walls are closing in and there’s nothing you can do to stop it?” She nods her head, remembering a couple experiences.

“I was stuck in a mind shaft with my life threatened by a crazed brother so certainly I know that feeling.” Ron nods his head, remembering that story. He could only wonder about the strength she had.

“How do you look past everything and just move forward?” She takes a deep breath, trying to conjure up the best advice possible.

“I went through therapy a couple different times. I also leaned on those closest to me – Leo, David Hayward, Ryan, Kendall, my father. I talked about it, figured out how to handle it, and then moved forward.” He thinks it over, wondering if there was a single person he could do that with – like Jimmie or Chad, as they had offered. Perhaps therapy was a good option, too.

“I want to be able to sleep at night without a thought – I just don’t know to get there…” Greenlee nods her head, understanding.

“It takes time, Ron. It’s not going to happen overnight. You first need to find a strategy that works and then commit to it. You can’t just half-ass this. You have to treat it like you do work – go all in.” Ron had to chuckle, knowing that wasn’t possible. He couldn’t let up on his team commitment at all or else Chad may have a fit.

“Yeah, okay….”

“I’m serious, Malec!” He looks on surprised to hear her reference him by his last name. “And for the record, Chad would understand. Recall how he reacted to everything at Dega…”

“You don’t know Chad that well ye-”

“I know him well enough that he has a heart underneath it all. He could’ve shot your ass out of a cannon last year, remember.” Ron nods his head, remembering how nervous he was about his future. He didn’t know what he’d do if Chad and Rick would’ve fired him.

“There would’ve been questions that he couldn’t answ-”

“That’s why you guys have public relations staff, and I’m sure Amy could’ve come up with something quickly as she’s trained. Don’t try and pretend this is nothing.” Ron should know better, based on how close he was with Chad. Chad had also stopped in the shop to check on him that day, too.

“Fine – you win.” She then smiles. “And I will take your thoughts into consideration…”

“Sooner than later, and know – I am always here like you have been for me…” Ron smiles as he holds her hand tightly.

Cabin Fears – Chapter 75: Race Weekend

Chicagoland Speedway – Friday

Despite the turn of events on Wednesday, the pair remained quiet.

They spent all day just relaxing in each other’s company, playing a couple games and amusing themselves, followed by relaxing together watching some movies.

When they got to Thursday, it was like business as usual. Alyssa stopped by the shop to check in with the guys, while Chase handled some e-mails and tried to plan out the next steps.

Although both carried forward as if it didn’t happen, it was on their minds. Alyssa worried about whether they’d get to a point where they’d be past everything, while Chase worried that he’d never find what he wanted. He also contemplated running and hiding once again, though watching her caused the thought to disappear immediately.

It was why despite his own skeptical questionable thoughts, he was there that weekend with her at Chicagoland Speedway.

“Welp, last weekend before I go crazy…” Alyssa thinks out loud, before covering her mouth immediately, looking over at Chase. “I’m sorry! That just slipped out!”

“It’s fine,” Chase assures her. “Trust me – I get it. I know how the playoffs can be nerve-whacking, drive you insane, everything you can think of.” She then nods her head, accepting, but she still felt bad under the circumstances.

“Are you sure you’re going to be fine this weekend?” Chase nods his head as he wraps an arm around her, trying to reassure her.

“I get it, Alyssa. I mean, I’d be nervous after what happened. But, remember the rules put in place following Bristol. Besides, I wouldn’t want to miss being here for you.” While Alyssa appreciated that, she didn’t want to push him beyond his limits.

“I’d get it if you weren-”

“Alyssa, it’s fine.” She then stops, and nods her head, accepting.

“We do need to talk about what happened and what to do moving forward, though.” He lets out a sigh, knowing that she was telling the truth. Admittedly, he had probably avoided the topic purposely not wanting to discuss it again.  Hence his thoughts of wanting to just run away….

“We will, and I will handle it accordingly.  Now, stop worrying about me. You have a racecar to focus on today so that way you can be your best tomorrow.” She lets out a sigh as she looks into the mirror.

“Yeah, okay…” They both then head out to the garage together, set to start off the busy day that included a pair of practices for her.

The first practice went decently as she would time in 12th quickest on the speed chart, decently satisfied with how the car was handling. She knew a couple more adjustments before the next session and they’d be much better.

Her eyes found their way to Chase, seeing him catching up with Ryan and Darrell. She knew some time spent with friends was good therapy as it’d give him a break from everything that he was going through right now. She could only imagine the emotions, and found herself worried about a re-occurrence of Wednesday. It almost brought her to the point of saying something to someone….

“Alyssa?!?” Kevin’s questioning voice, catches her attention as she looks towards the crew chief. She hadn’t even realized that she had dazed off. How long was he calling her name?

“Sorry,” she apologizes, immediately facing him. “What were you saying?” Kevin crosses his arms, glancing in the direction she had been looking.

“What’s going on with Chase?” She immediately gives him back a puzzled reaction as he looks towards her. “You went off into your own little world staring at him. Something has to be going on….” While she had thought about talking to someone, Kevin wasn’t that person.

“Can we just not talk about it, please?” Kevin lets out a sigh, knowing that wasn’t good therapy.

“Promise me you’ll say something to either him, or someone else, though?” She nods her head, accepting. She knew it was coming to the point of not being able to avoid doing that. “Thank you. I was asking you whether the loose in was more annoying or the tight off.”

“Tight off. I want to be able to have that maneuverability off of the corner…” Kevin nods his head, looking over his notes.

“First adjustment we’ll aim to fix that. Second adjustment I want to try fixing the other half because it may fix it all. Then you can tell me what you like best. Deal?” She nods her head, accepting. “Alright. You got an hour until the next session…”

“Gotcha.” She then grabs her sunglasses, walking out of the stall as she takes a deep breath. She had to focus more. She had to keep her eyes on the car, and knock out the outside distractions. She couldn’t let Kevin see her off her game anymore this weekend. But Chase….

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

As usual per his race weekends, Chase made a stop at the 24 hauler catching up with the guys for a little bit. They were all polite in asking how he was, and telling him that they had his back. He assured them things were coming together – despite his own reservations, while assuring them he’d  be back before long.

With the conversation covered, he headed out of the trailer, wanting to catch XFINITY practice to see how Alyssa was making out during the second session.

“Did you mean what you said?” A voice causes him to freeze as he looks towards the source. Instantly catching Jeff’s eyes, he knew there was no way to lie.

“I’m trying to work through this,” Chase tells him. “Slowly, but certainly trying.” Jeff crosses his arms, knowing that from conversation. He wasn’t certain about the other part.

“I meant how you’re feeling…” Chase lets out a sigh as he glances down.

“I could be better, really. It’s been a rough week.” Jeff nods, accepting. He already figured that after Chase texted saying he wasn’t going to check in on Wednesday as normal, changing to Thursday.

“You’re going to have those. Some days are going easier than others. I mean, it’s all about facing what you need to face and handling it, right?” Chase nods his head. “Look, I’m not trying to pry or anything. I could just tell something was off based on that, and how Alyssa has an extra eye on yo-”

“I told her not to worry and focus on her racing this weekend.” Jeff shakes his head, smiling. There were things both were missing about love.

“She loves you, Chase. She cares about you more than a lot of people in her life. That drives her to make sure you’re okay more than anything, and how you’re doing matters more than just a simple racecar.” Chase knew that, but it still didn’t make it easier. After all, he was certain that he’d find his way through his funk – he always did.

“I know….” Jeff walks over, placing a hand on Chase’s shoulder.

“Don’t hold it in. Talk to someone. Figure it out. It’s just going to eat at you. You know that…” Chase nods his head, having been through that before. It was why the thought of running was there – escape the pain before it ate at him.

“I’m working at that, Jeff. I told you that alrea-”

“I’m not questioning that, Chase, but you also can’t just stall out and not continue working at it. Progress is only made by choi-”

“You don’t realize how hard that is some days!” Jeff pauses, eyes focused on his driver. “There are times where I want to work through it, do the right steps, talk to the right people. Then there are times where I just want to run away and not look back. I mean, there are things I don’t even know how to tackle or bring up or handle.”

“That’s why it’s important to tell someone…” Chase shakes his head, knowing that he couldn’t do that with this topic at hand. Nobody should know the feelings of those photos, and how was he supposed to explain what his brain had been doing lately? Letting out a sigh, it had to be done, though. Maybe like Alyssa said – Eric would be his best bet.

“I know it is, Jeff.  That’s why I told you that day after we tried to test that I needed some more time, so I could work this out, and do the right thing.” Jeff nods his head, accepting. He was actually glad that the test played out as it did – perhaps a wake-up call was in order.

“I’m glad that you’re doing what you need to do for you, and I will always have your back no matter what. Besides, Jimmie isn’t too upset about filling in…” Chase laughs as he watches Jimmie come out of the trailer with the guys.

“He still can get the job done. I wish I can be his age and say the same.” Jeff nods his head, agreeing.

“Besides, he doesn’t mind the chance to race on a weekend that his daughter is, too.”

“Could you see if a race came down between him and Lydia?” Jeff shakes his head, knowing that’d be interesting.

“It’d be entertaining, but more importantly, I can’t wait until you’re back with the team and kicking ass.” Chase smiles, agreeing.

“I know I can get the job done behind the wheel. I just have to get there…” Jeff nods his head. He never questioned Chase’s talent, ever.

“Do what you got to do, okay?” Chase nods his head as he watches Jeff walk off.

Thinking it over, he pulls out his phone and calls Eric’s office. It was time to set up that appointment for early in the week.

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

Alyssa leans against the post in the garage, shaking her head in disgust as she watches the crew work on the car. She couldn’t believe it happened. She thought she had it under control, but just like that, the car slipped out from underneath her and she backed in the wall.

Chase was the first person at her side after getting out of the medical center, in which she assured him he was okay. They then separated as he headed to meet up with Ryan for another chit chat, while she went to see the guys. She hated to see them having to put this extra work in, and also knew entering tomorrow without any laps on the back-up was going to suck.

“Hey,” Dale says as he walks up to her. “Are you okay?” She nods her head as she keeps her eyes focused on the crew.

“Just hate that it happened,” she answers as he stands there, accepting. “We were trying something and went just over that edge. I thought I had it, but obviously not…”

“Sometimes there’s spins that you can’t save no matter how hard you try.” She nods her head, accepting, having heard that advice plenty of times before. It didn’t make it easier, though. “I’m glad you’re okay, and truthfully, I know you can drive the wheels off of anything so I’m not concerned about that. I could actually see you working your way through the field tomorrow – if your head is in the right place.” She then glances over at him, curiously. “Kevin mentioned that you’ve been a little distracted today….”

“Really Kevin?!?” She shouts out, causing the crew chief to look over. He drops the tool in his hand, walking over to Alyssa and Dale. He didn’t want to yell it back as he knew there were probably cameras and reporters ready to pick up anything they could for a story.

“I only mentioned it out of concern and it was before the incident,” he comments as Alyssa just rolls her eyes. “I figured if there was anyone you could talk to, it’d be your dad.”

“Alyssa?” Dale questions as she just glances away from them both.

“Like I told Kevin earlier – I’m fine,” she starts. “And I will talk about it with someone when I’m ready to do so. I don’t need you both hounding my ass. Besides, we have something else to be focusing on, right?”

“Your well-being is more important than a damn racecar and this championship.” She knew that as she glances back down at the ground. It also wasn’t pleasant hearing that tone in her father’s voice, either. She wasn’t someone to get lectured a lot.

“If there’s something on your mind, take the time now…” Kevin comments as she eyes her father carefully. She didn’t want to say anything, per Chase’s words to her. It wouldn’t be fair to go against his word.

“I can’t…” She lets out quietly, holding back the tears that threatened to fall.

“Why not?” Dale wonders as she focuses her eyes back to the ground.

“Chase…” Dale crosses his arms, almost tempted to go find him that very second.

“He cares about you. You make up his entire world, Alyssa. If there’s something bothering you, he would want you to tell me so I can help you and you can feel better.” She knew those words in general would be the right advice, but this wasn’t one of those cases.

“This isn’t one of those times…” Dale really wanted to go find him and kick his ass now.

“Why not?” She bit her tongue to stop herself from spitting it out as the tears trickled down her face. Kevin immediately stepped in, wrapping an arm around her and leading her out of the stall. He held her the entire way to the trailer, before leading her inside and closing the doors behind them.

“What the heck is going on?” Dale hears Chase’s voice, as obviously the scene had got his attention.

“Alyssa has some feelings or something, but says she can’t tell me because of you,” Dale starts in on him immediately. “Even though I told I could help her, make her feel better, and you would want that – she wouldn’t say it because of you. So you want to tell me what the hell is going on?” Chase takes a deep breath, knowing the answer immediately. He admittedly though was caught off-guard by Dale’s attitude.

“Let’s go inside, and I’ll explain….” Dale nods his head, accepting. The pair then go up to the lounge where Kevin sat with Alyssa. “Kevin, can you leave please?” Kevin nods his head, accepting.

“Chase, you don’t have to say anything….” Alyssa comments as Chase takes over where Kevin was sitting, wrapping an arm around her.

“Yes, I do. No matter how hard it is, I need to say something, talk to people, figure out what I need to do so I can continue moving forward. I can’t just sit in this funk and try and wish it all away. I’ll just be stuck here forever. Besides, I should’ve said something sooner. It’s not fair to let this eat at you, too.”

He then takes a deep breath, before recounting the tale of the past week.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 145: “I am blessed…”

Saturday, August 24 – Germany

Chase slowly wakes up, stretching, as he casually looks at the time. He knew they were having another relaxing day as their vacation was slowly coming to a close. He rolls over, set to cuddle Sarina back close for at least a little while, and is surprised when he notices she’s not there.

He then feels a breeze, glancing towards the balcony of the room and seeing the door open. Throwing the blanket off of himself, he grabs a t-shirt and slips it on before walking out to the doorway. He notices her glancing over the edge, taking in the city.

Before startling her, he snaps a photo for his vacation collection.

chaseelliott24: Having an amazing time in Germany with @ryanblaney10 and @sarina18. Perfect time to get away and relax before business picks up.

He then puts his phone in his pocket, before walking out on to the balcony.

“Hey,” she says quietly as she notices him, glancing over with a smile. That glance confirmed everything that was on her mind immediately.

“Hey,” he replies as he walks up to the edge with her. “Whatcha doing?” She glances back out towards the view as you could see everything from their room on the sixth floor.

“Just taking it in….” He smiles as he puts his hand on hers.

“You seemed a little lost for thought…” She smiles, knowing that wasn’t a lie. She had walked out there for a reason that morning.

“I just sometimes can’t believe where I am in my life right now. You always dream of getting that opportunity to race in NASCAR, the opportunity to do something in your life, and make something of it when it seems nothing is going right. I mean, I never could’ve imagined driving in the truck series full-time for Kyle Busch. I never could’ve imagined traveling to Amsterdam, Germany, and heck Belgium tomorrow. It’s almost surreal….” Chase smiles as he glances out at the view, as well.

“I understand, totally. I never thought I’d travel the world, either. Do you need me to pinch you, though?” She lets out a laugh.

“And then there’s you. I never thought I could find someone that would love me truthfully, and honestly. I mean, you accept my faults. You accept everything that has happened. You’ve also dealt with my crazy family. I never thought someone would have my back like you do.” He gives her a hand a squeeze, glancing over with a smile.

“You never have to question that, Sarina. Really, I’m lucky to have you, too…” She rolls her eyes with a laugh. “What?”

“You’re Chase Elliott. You’re perfecti-”

“What have I told you about that?” She lets out a sigh, remembering the discussion.

“You’re sweet, kind – everybody’s sweetheart. Do you know how many girls would kill at the chance to be with you? But yet, you’ve chosen me…” Chase nods his head as he wraps an arm around her.

“You accept the faults that other people don’t see. You also don’t treat me like someone special because of who I am. I mean, you actually didn’t quite surrender yourself immediately to me. While I may doubt other people due to thinking they just want me because of who they think I am, or because of the name and stardom, I know that what we have is real. I thank you for loving me for who I really am.” She smiles as she lies her head on his shoulder.

“It’s easy to do that, Chase. Well, wait….” He gives her a puzzled look. “It wasn’t easy at first, okay? I mean, you’re right – it took some convincing. But I thank you for every bit of that patience because look at this…”

“Just think – we’ve been together two yea-”

“We didn’t get together that weekend in Michigan!” Chase laughs, as he remembered the night spent in the motorcoach.

“You slept in my be-”

“It was late and you didn’t want me lea-”

“Still, you slept there that night. You also confessed a lot of things that weekend, too. It was from there that we really began to get a hold of each other and hang out more. That’s why I say it was the start of the relationship.” Sarina shakes her head. “Okay – when is the anniversary then?”

“Snowball Derby weekend. You offered me a ride after the weekend was over and then I kissed you for the first time, truly admitting how much I loved you after your persuasion.” Chase couldn’t deny that…

“So you’re saying beginning of December instead of August? That’s a four month difference!” Sarina nods her head.

“We only hung out a mere couple of times between then, and it took till then for me to see the light. I then agreed to officially date you, and also drive for your late model team.” Chase smiles as she did have a point. Besides, it’d be a great way to celebrate their anniversary each year.

“Well then you better walk away with the snowball this year as a present.” She laughs as she tangles her fingers in his hair.

“Can you please not cut your hair?” He lets out a sigh, knowing that both Ryan and Sarina wanted him to keep it beyond Darlington.

“It’s starting to bug me….” She knew there was no way of convincing him otherwise.

“Can you at least wait until like Wednesday or Thursday?” Chase then glances at her, slightly confused, before remembering.

“That’s right as you won’t be at Darlington due to going to Canada…” She nods her head, dreading the truck series schedule right now. She would’ve loved to be at Darlington for throwback weekend.

“So, do we have a deal?” Chase nods his head. “Now, do you have any tips, previous race winner?”

“I can give you some tips, too,” a new voice joins the discussion as they glance behind them to see Ryan was awake. “Are we gonna flirt all day or are we set for some traveling?” As much as the pair were enjoying the quiet time, they knew they should get going.

“Give me 15 minutes,” Chase requests before heading inside, beginning to get ready.

“I’m a girl and I only need like 5,” Sarina adds as she follows him inside. “What’s going to take you so long?” Chase grabs a pair of jeans and another shirt, before heading into the bathroom. “Of course, a shower….”

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

As planned from the beginning, the group began their trip for the day going to the Neuschwanstein Castle. It looked like it was right out of a fairy tale with the glances from the outside and construction.

The group took a full tour of the inside, amazed by the decorations in the different rooms and secret hallways that led you to different sections. As they toured around, someone else took a photo of the three of them together in the great hall, before Ryan took a snapshot of Chase and Sarina together at the top.

“I would make sure to rescue you if you were stuck in the tower,” he assures her as they head down the long staircase.

“I wouldn’t need rescuing as I’d kick their asses!” She lets out, causing him to laugh. Although admittedly, he couldn’t deny that with how she was.

“We may need to rescue Blaney then….” She then laughs, as Ryan looks back at the pair.

“I’m a Jedi master; I can get out of trouble like a flash,” Ryan offers as Chase rolls his eyes. He always enjoyed picking on Ryan for his Star Wars obsession.

“You should challenge him to a light saver duel,” Chase comments. “I bet he’d lose…”  Ryan just flips the bird quickly as Chase laughs.

“He only wants you to do that because he can’t beat me!” Chase rolls his eyes once again, remembering that fun night at the house.

“Let’s just say that he should’ve explained the rules and what’s illegal first.” Ryan shrugs his shoulders as he glances back once again.

“You should have watched the movie with me as I suggested….”

The group then made the trip to the city of Cologne as originally discussed the day before, and immediately headed to the chocolate museum. Their mouths watered as they walked through, taking in the history of how chocolate came to be, along with the creations of different flavors. They admittedly laughed at some of the creations through the years, while wishing they could take bets on trying others.

After they finished the walk through the museum, they came about the large liquid fountain that  overlooked the mighty Dom cathedra.

“I have never seen chocolate look so pretty enchanting and pretty at the same time,” Sarina comments as she dips a strawberry in the fountain. She immediately licked her lips upon tasting it. “Oh my gosh…”

“Heavenly?” Chase questions and Sarina nods her head. He follows suit – with a marshmallow instead, but had the exact same reaction. “I never thought chocolate could taste better than M&Ms….”

“You should dip a peanut in the fountain,” Ryan suggests, handing him one after his own experience. Chase followed the request, immediately falling in love.

“Can we just stay here and not move for the rest of the day?” Ryan and Sarina both laugh.

“What about the precious keeping ourselves healthy, Mr. Workout Nut?” Chase looks over, surprised.

“Just because I bike and jot a lot doesn’t mean a Workout Nut. My name is not Jimmie Johnson or Carl Edwards.”

“Besides, he has a secret obsession with candy to the point he has to sneak it from my trailer due to Alan yelling at him,” Sarina adds, causing Ryan to look at Chase surprised. Chase just nods his head in acceptance.

“I found your weakness….” Ryan teases as Chase rolls his eyes.

“I don’t care,” he replies, as he takes another marshmallow. “You’re not spoiling my date with the fountain.”

After several dips into the fountain, followed by a trip to the gift shop as there was no way Chase was leaving without any chocolate, they made their way further into the city.

They stopped at one of the well-known bars, taking their seats. The waiter immediately brought a beer for each of the boys, along with a soda for Sarina, before handing them a menu. They each ordered something light for dinner.

“So what is this that you’re drinking?” Sarina asks, taking a sniff of Chase’s drink.

“Kolsch,” Chase answers. “It’s the city’s known beer. Light in color, but packed in flavor…” She nods her head, setting the glass down.

“And these mats?” Chase smiles, remembering the details as he and Ryan explained while planning this portion of the trip. They both wanted to try the different beer flavors, and caught intrigued by how the bars in the city do this.

“It’s called a beer mat. When your glass is empty, the waiter automatically will bring you a new one and make a mark on the mat. You declare you’re done for the night by placing the mat over your glass. She then counts up the amount of marks, knowing the price of your bill.” It seemed like a simple enough policy, but Sarina had to wonder.

“See, that’s a little puzzling because what about those who just keep drinking and drinking and drinking?” Ryan and Chase hadn’t done that amount of research.

“I’m sure they’d find your limit and stop you – but relax, I’m not going to cause trouble….” Sarina smiles, having full faith in him.

“Just sing a song and dance?” Ryan questions as Chase smiles. He had no doubt that’d probably happen if they followed Ryan’s idea of being there for awhile.

Sure enough, after eating their meal, the stories started and the drinks continued. It took a couple hours, but both boys were feeling the buzz. Of course, that welcomed some singing from Ryan and Chase, which Sarina could only sit back and smile over.

“I got a special one for you,” Chase says as he comes over to Sarina, grabbing her hand and pulling her off the stool.

“Oh really?”  She questions and he nods his head. They were playing a mix of hip hop, country – basically whatever people were asking for. It was in the moment that Chase couldn’t pass it up after their discussion that morning.

“Ryan has gone up to request it, too.” She looks on surprised, but could only wonder what he was up to.

“Are you sure he’s going to listen?” Chase nods his head as he twirls her around.

“You said you like the singing and dancing. Last night officially as a bunch of crazy tourists, and I owe it to you…”

Immediately hearing the song, a smile came to her face as it was one of her favorites to listen to while traveling. Though listening to the words roll of his tongue and emphasis behind the lyrics, she was immediately captivated into the moment as he swayed her back and forth.

There was nothing better than this exact moment right here. She wanted to make sure she never forgot it, either.

You say what if I hurt you, what if I leave you

What if I find somebody else and I don’t need you

What if this goes south, what if I mess you up

You say what if I break your heart in two then what

 

Well I hear you girl, I feel you girl but not so fast

Before you make your mind up I gotta ask

 

What if I was made for you and you were made for me

What if this is it, what if it’s meant to be

What if I ain’t one of them fools just playin’ some game

What if I just pulled you close, what if I leaned in

And the stars line up and it’s our last first kiss

What if one of these days baby I’d go and change your name

What if I loved all these what ifs away

 

What if the sky falls (sky falls) or the sun stops burnin’

We could worry about them what ifs ’til the world stops turnin’

Or I could kiss you (you should kiss me), what if you liked it (bet I’d like it)

Well we ain’t never gonna know unless we try it

 

What if I was made for you and you were made for me

What if this is it, what if it’s meant to be

What if I ain’t one of them fools just playin’ some game

What if I just pulled you close, what if I leaned in

And the stars line up and it’s our last first kiss

What if one of these days baby I’d go and change your name

What if I loved all these what ifs away

 

Awe yea

C’mon

 

You say what if I hurt you, what if I leave you

What if I find somebody else and I don’t need you

 

Damn

 

What if I was made for you and you were made for me

What if this is it, what if it’s meant to be

What if I ain’t one of them fools just playin’ some game

What if I just pulled you close, what if I leaned in

And the stars line up and it’s our last first kiss

What if one of these days baby I’d go and change your name

What if I loved all these what ifs away

Away (away)

 

What if?

 

Upon the song finishing, she immediately reaches in for the kiss, as she keeps her arms firmly wrapped around you.

“I’m glad everyday that I took the chance – honestly,” she tells him. “I love you so much, Chase…”

Cabin Fears – Chapter 74: The Shower….

Wednesday morning….

Letting out a yawn, Alyssa stretches as her eyes open for the first time that morning. She didn’t even bother to glance at the clock – she didn’t care what time it was.

Last night on the back porch was probably one of the latest nights ever and more emotional than expected – but she knew it was necessary. It was the release they both needed for things that they had held back for months, twirling around with emotions. Maybe now they could truly begin to move forward…

Upon finishing the conversation together, they had both gone inside, made their way slowly up the stairs, before laying in the bed wrapped in each other’s arms. It was that moment she made sure to shut off the alarm and send a quick text to Kevin Meendering that she was taking the day for herself. After a release like that, she needed some time to decompress and relax. Besides, a quiet day with Chase was nothing to ever complain about.

Speaking of Chase, she rolls over, expecting him to be right there beside her, but she finds a furry warm animal instead. An immediate confusion began to wash over her, followed by her senses finally getting in tune that morning.

It was then she heard the running water in the bathroom –  summarizing that he’d woke up before her, set for a shower. Though there was something else mixed with the sound of the water….

In a flash, she kicks the blanket off, rising from the bed and rushing to the bathroom. She didn’t care whether her fears were not founded, she opens the door and rushes instead. She then walks far enough to see him curled up in the corner, tears running down his cheeks, as the water continues to run.

“Chase?” She questions, catching his attention. “Chase….” She goes to reach for the tap, but he pulls the blind closed.

“What are you doing here?” He questions, not expecting this morning intrusion.

“I heard you crying….” That was nothing new, as he’d been in the same position for a good 15, 20 minutes now probably. But, there was no way to escape those emotions. Though that wasn’t his concern on his mind, seeing her there.

“But….” She rolls her eyes, immediately catching what he was trying to do.

“You’re worried about me seeing you? Well, I just came in because I cared, but if you don’t want me to see-”

“I don’t want  you doing something you’re not ready for…..” She then laughs, really believing this conversation was pointless. They had bigger fish to fry right now.

“What? Seeing a dick? Chase, I’ve watched movies rated NC17 and R. I know what one looks like. It doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is you, being upset. Are you okay?” Chase lets out a sigh as he lets the curtain go, allowing her a glimpse in. He couldn’t very well say he was fine despite not wanting to discuss this with her after she had seen the tears.

“I don’t know….” Alyssa felt her heart fall to her stomach in hearing the quietness in his voice. The hope they had made progress last night was fading with each passing second.

“Talk to me….” Chase didn’t want to repeat the reasoning once again. There was no way he could forget that if he kept referencing it over and over – if forgetting was even possible.

“You know what it’s about….” Alyssa freezes, knowing there was only one other time his voice had cracked as much as it was right now.

“The image?” Chase nods his head, focusing his eyes straight on the wall.

“The image, the thought…..” Alyssa felt her heart tear apart in hearing how much it continued to tear him apart. She wished she could just rip the image into pieces and make it disappear.

“How long have you been in here for?” Chase just shrugs his shoulders. It wasn’t like he had tracked the time when he came in, nor counted the minutes that the tears had continued to fall. “You don’t know?”

“No…..”  Letting out a sigh, he wondered whether his earlier estimate was close or not. Of course, time had been lost in his mind, and like always – he couldn’t lie to her. “I remember going to bed with you, cuddling, just ready for a good night sleep after laying it all down on the line. Then next thing I’m here in the shower, emotions just erupting every which way at what coul-”

“But that didn’t happ-”

“My mind, though, keeps saying what if? Betrayal, dirty. I mean, she did touch me in one way, right? But also the thought of what could’ve been for you…” Alyssa wanted to focus on those emotions, knowing they needed to find a solution to have any hope moving forward. However, there was something else more concerning her mind right now.

“But you don’t remember coming in here?” No matter how much he thought it through, he couldn’t remember leaving the bedsroom.

“No….” Alyssa felt the lump growing in her throat, feeling fear growing among other things.

“So it’s just like what happened before? One minute there, next minute you’re here?” Chase nods his head as he looks over at her. Maybe she was starting to understand what he was describing last night.

“Scary, huh?” Those words didn’t even begin to describe it for Alyssa.

“I suppose in a way….” Chase takes a deep breath, knowing she deserved some sort of explanation. It wouldn’t be much, but it was better than nothing – and he didn’t need  her to be over worrying about him.

“That’s what I was trying to tell you last night. It’s a feeling that I hate. It’s something that I wish wouldn’t happen. I mean, I guess talking about everything brought it to the surface. But, it just…. I wish I could find myself again, and not do this – but I don’t know how, or if it’s possible….” Alyssa hated to hear the thought of giving up, or questioning the future. She thought they were beyond that in other discussions. It almost felt like they were going around in circles.

“Chase, we’ll work our way through this. We always do. It just takes some patience, time. Like I said, I’ll be the one to be there for you, assure you, comfort you, fill in the blanks.” He wanted to believe her, but it wasn’t easy. How could he escape daily reminders?

“But what if this just keeps happening forever?” Alyssa takes a deep breath, resisting the urge to break down crying before him, knowing that he needed the strength from her right now.

“I don’t see that happening, though. I see you moving forward. Remember – one step at a time. You took a bunch of steps opening up last night and pouring every emotion to me. Sure, I guess you could say this is one or two steps back. But every fight and journey has that. You’ll figure it out.” Taking a deep breath, he knew he had to believe her – even if for her sake in knowing that she needed him, even with his faults.

“I guess…..” Alyssa could only think back to the last time a similar conversation happened, followed by texting her dad and a visit to Eric for Chase. She wondered if maybe she should get her father over, and maybe more importantly book an emergency appointment for Chase. It wasn’t like this was healthy by any means.

“Did you take the pill yesterday that Eric gave you?” Chase looks over, caught off-guard by the question. it just seemed to come out of left field.

“Yeah, of course…..” Seeing a puzzled glance on her face, he could only think that there was a lack of belief there. Besides, the pills were supposed to take the edge off and stop this. What did it say that they weren’t doing enough? “What’s that look for?”

“What look?” Chase knew there was a glance of disbelief – distrust was something that wasn’t needed right now at all.

“It’s like you don’t believe me. it’s like you think this happened because of that.” Alyssa couldn’t lie that it was a thought initially – hence the question. But she also trusted his word.

“I’m not trying to give you a loo-”

“I can see it in your eyes, and that’s why you asked the question.” Alyssa knew there was no avoiding the forth coming discussion.

“I just wanted to cover all basis….” Chase takes a deep breath, understanding that, considering the situation they were in.

“Well, I can promise you that I took the pill. I took it yesterday morning, like I always do in the morning. I’m going to take the one today. I’ve been following orders on that regard.” Alyssa nods her head, easily accepting. It didn’t take much for her to believe him.

“Okay, I believe you – really.” Chase felt comforted in those words.

“Okay.” Alyssa knew they couldn’t stay there all day – what was a day worth spent in the bathroom? She also knew that they should eat something, even if not feeling up to it, simply to take care of themselves. Besides, she didn’t need Chase catching a cold on top of this. She reaches the tap, shutting it off as she grabs a towel off of the rack.

“Come on – why don’t we get you dried off, have some breakfast, and then relax for the rest of the day together? Maybe we can do something fun to give you a release….” He was supposed to be taking care of her. Instead, she was set to throw away any plans of  her own – like focusing on her racing and the upcoming championship battle – to take care of him. he knew he couldn’t let her do that as he wouldn’t be the reason she lost the title.

“Don’t you have some place to be? I mean, I don’t want to mess up your pla-“

“Chase, you need someone to be her-”

“I can call someone else, or even come with you. You’re not screwing shit up because of me, Alyssa.” Alyssa lets out a sigh, understanding where he was coming from – it was that push for perfection and not wanting to see her accept less. However, she already had her mind made up.

“For the record, I was going to take today to relax anyway. While yesterday was a long emotional night for you, it was for me too. I mean, I didn’t think it was going to be like that – but it turned into that. It let release a lot of things that maybe I hadn’t done someone else. I need this day to just find relaxation and normal mode again…” In the midst of his own emotions, he had totally forgot about how much she unloaded last night, as he reaches out, clutching her hand with his.

“Well, know as much as you’re here for me, I’m here for you.” She nods her head, accepting. At least she was making progress.

“I know that. So, ready to get dried off or are you going to sit here freezing all day?” He laughs as he stands up, snatching the towel from her. Admittedly, he was probably colder than he had realized before their discussion.

“Give me five minutes. I’ll dry off and come join you.” She nods her head, accepting. She didn’t want to leave him alone, but she knew he needed his space as well.

“Okay.” Alyssa then leaves the bathroom, leaning back against the door, tracing the outline of her phone, debating what she should do next. Inside the bathroom, Chase dries himself off, slipping on a pair of jeans and t-shirt, before looking at his reflection in the mirror. There was the tiniest part that hated what he saw back, and just wanted to run without stopping.

“You can’t run away. You can’t just try and hide from it all. You need to stay here. She needs you as much as you don’t realize you need her…..” Taking a deep breath, he exits the bathroom, looking into her eyes, pulling her into a hug. “I love you. Thank you…”

“I love you, too…..”