Back to Square One – Chapter 19: Concerns….

Jimmie walks into the conference room, knowing the meeting that morning was not going to go smoothly. Based on the fact that they’d struggled, Chad was going to come in grumpier than ever, demanding answers and change. Taking a deep breath, he just hoped the headache wasn’t that bad afterwards.

He glances down the row of chairs, noticing he wasn’t the first to arrive with Ron already sitting in his usual spot. Jimmie couldn’t shake the conversation the other day in how things were still affecting him, nor really get rid of the fact that it was all his fault. He was the one that went down that road even after Ron and Chad had warned him not too, and got themselves in that mess. Now six months later, they were still dealing with the after effects.

“Hey,” Ron notices Jimmie as he looks down the line.

“Hey,” Jimmie replies as he takes his usual seat. “Where’s Greenlee?”

“She’s typing up the notes for Chad right now.” Jimmie simply nods his head, not surprised by that. It seemed since taking the job, she was handling it very seriously and on point in getting things done. He knew that’d keep Chad somewhat happy, even if the rest of them were blowing up his world.

“I’m surprised to see you here early….” Ron glances over, slightly surprised, though only a sigh escapes his lips afterwards.

“I couldn’t sleep last night so I figured a quiet change of scenery would help me relax a little.” Jimmie nods his head, feeling his worries creep back in.

“You still haven’t talked to anyone, have you?” Ron shakes his head no. “You need to do something. You can’t keep doing this.” Ron knew that, but also didn’t know what the first step he should take contained. “I mean, you can talk to me, you can talk to Greenlee, or even a specialist. But Ron, you need to talk to someone.”

“I know…” Ron glances down at his feet, thinking it over as Jimmie keeps his eyes locked on his best friend.

“I want my carefree buddy back that would have tons of fun with me doing whatever the future held. I want that car nut, the jokes – I want our friendship back to where it was, buddy. I care about you. That’s why I keep bugging you.” Ron appreciated the generosity, but in some cases, it was better to just ignore it. He wanted all that back, too. He didn’t want to be relieving what happened in his mind over and over. He didn’t want to be pondering what could’ve happened instead. But how to get that back was a whole other ball game.

“I’ll deal with it when I’m ready, alright? I’m just not….” Ron takes a deep breath as his eyes remain focused on the floor. “I just don’t know how to describe it to someone. I mean, all they did was take me away, tie me down, insert some drugs, and hit with some belts in the process. On paper, it just seems so simple. But yet, my mind just twists it into something.”

“You’re not giving it enough benefit, Ron. Anybody that would go through something like that would be feeling what you are. There’s fear, anger, panic, worry – so many emotions tied in that moment. I bet your thoughts were going a mile a minute in how to get out of it, but also fear and worry that it was the end. They say it’s the emotions that make it hard to move forward because you can’t warp your thoughts around those.” Ron nods his head, understanding that. He saw when Greenlee was explaining her past to him, as well.

“I just wish sometimes I could make it like it never happened, you know?” Jimmie nods his head, as he lets out his own sigh.

“I do, too. I wish that I could go back in time, see where things were heading among all the warnings thrown at me by you and Marshall, listen to them, and back away from it sooner than I did. But I was stubborn, didn’t think it was possible.” Ron looks over at Jimmie.

“Because that damn near was a once and a million deal, Jimmie. That’s not something that happens in our world, and you know that. We’ve travelled around and met thousands of people. That group right there was just the couple of bad seeds in the batch, and we were the lucky ones to become their target.” Jimmie knew that, and he knew the reason why they were the target.

“Kick their ass, and it torments their minds. Find out that I have a celebrity connection, and boom – here’s a way to extort it. I should’ve known that was possible because of who I was, but yet I kept forgetting that. I thought I could keep it hidden on some stupid name. Like I said, I should’ve listened….”

“There’s no going back and changing it now, though. We can’t think about those regrets – we can only focus on the future.” Ron lets out a sigh as he watches the door open. “And that future is us focusing on moving forward, and doing what we need to do. I’ll be fine, I promise. It’s just taking time to wrap my arms around it.”

“Let me know if you need anything or want to talk, though, okay?” Ron nods his head as they watch some crew members make their way in.

“Surprised to see you both here early,” Chad comments as he walks past the pair, taking his usual seat. He knew Jimmie never usually showed up until they were about to begin, and he thought Ron would be dwelling somewhere with everything going on.

“Got to the shop early and figured I better not be late,” Jimmie states as he glances over at Ron.

“And I didn’t have anything to do so I thought I’d just wait in here,” Ron adds as Chad opens up his notebook.

“There’s cars that could’ve been looked over instead,” he comments and Ron knew the boss was right.

“Sorry. Next time I’ll do that instead…” Chad simply accepts as he watches the group sit down around the table.

“Good.” He then finds the page he wants, before looking across the table and waiting for everyone’s attention. “Alright. It’s no secret that we’ve ran like shit lately over the past month. There’s no excuse for this, either. We have every resource and we are coming in after such a high to close out last year. We need to stop making dumb mistakes, get focused, and do what we do. Now, rather than playing on your phones or worrying about who you’re going to get laid off of, let’s focus today, okay?” A bunch of approvals come out around the room.

The meeting goes smoothly, with different topics coming about throughout. The team was confident by the end that they had everything in place to turn things around heading into the next race. For everybody’s sanity, they hoped it was a good enough run to calm Chad down.

Once the meeting was complete, everybody begins to leave the office with ease, with only Chad and Jimmie remaining right at the tail end.

“Chad?” Jimmie questions, catching Chad’s attention. “Just lay off Ron a bit, please? I know you’re frustrated, but you know that he’s got a lot going on, too.” Chad crosses his arms as he looks over at Jimmie.

“How do you expect us to turn around this shit hole streak if we’re just letting people get out of doing their job?” Chad asks as Jimmie lets out a sigh. While he knew Chad could show sympathy, today was obviously not that day.

“I know it doesn’t help things. But you know as much as I do what he’s going through right now. We talked about this. He’s still dealing with stuff from what happened. I actually got a chance to talk to him before everybody showed up today. There’s a lot there, Chad. I got him to touch the surface, but there’s so much on his mind. Besides, you know he’s not sleeping the greatest because of it, too, right?” Chad lets out a sigh, nodding his head. “I’m not saying forget everything and treat him like a baby, or something. But just give him a small break, okay?”

“Ever since we got into this mess, I’ve been the understanding one. I held back in launching off on you both after what happened. I let go the fact that you guys put everything in jeopardy. But yet, you don’t think I get it? Jimmie, I know what he’s going through and I get what you’re saying. But tiptoeing around him isn’t going to help. The only way to make things begin to move forward is to get back to where things were, and find ways to move past it. Hence why I’m not lagging back on it. If he’d come to me and say he wanted to talk, I’d be willing to listen. If he asked for some time because he needed it, I’d be willing to play ball. But you don’t need to worry about this whole hard-ass not understanding crap. I may be pissed as hell right now at whatever this streak is, but you don’t need to question that. Got it?” Jimmie simply nods his head.

“I know you care, and I know we’re all friends. I just wanted to cover the base, incase.” Chad picks up his notebook, closing it as he walks over to Jimmie.

“I get that because he’s your best friend and you care. But remember what I said, too.” Chad then leaves the office as Jimmie glances at the table, placing his hands on it, before taking a deep breath.

Somehow, everything was going to work out….

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Back to Square One – Chapter 18: AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway

May 2016 – Race #12

Greenlee walks into the garage, smile on her face, clipboard held tightly close to her. She walks by some of the guys, taking a seat in what had become her usual spot already in just a couple weeks as she opened up the board.

She was getting herself in a good habit.

She would bring the notes from the last meeting containing the set-up they planned to start the weekend with, along with some details on the current weather conditions. That way through morning conversation in the hauler, she’d just have to make notes about small adjustments made to the plan.

She also was already developing her own short hand to use in the book so she could write things quicker, catching everything mentioned by the guys. Then later on, she’d expand it into long form so when reading back the notes were understandable by everybody.

Seeing how close competition was in the garage, there were times she wondered whether it’d be a good idea to actually teach the team the short hand so that way if anybody snagged a peak they’d never understand what was there. Shaking her head, she had to let out a small laugh as she was already turning into one of them looking for an advantage.

She used to trying to find advantages, though. She did with her business in always being on the cutting edge in fragrance and make-up so they’d remain on top. She continued that form when she did street race, keeping the second bottle of NOS hidden to where it couldn’t be seen if somebody peaked in the car.

“Already here working?” She hears, glancing up at Chad with a smile.

“I wanted to make sure everything was in perfect order,” she answers as he simply smiles in return. It seemed with each passing week, he was removing more reservations about her.

“I like your thinking. Maybe we can turn things around this week and actually have a good finish.” He then was about to walk away, but stopped and looked back towards her. “Has Ron mentioned anything since his panic episode at Dega?” She shakes her head no.

“He told me he’d talk when he was good and ready. I’ve been just offering comfort and steadiness, while reminding him that everything will be okay no matter the thoughts.” Chad shakes his head, accepting.

“I told him he could come to me whenever he felt right about doing so, if needed to. I just worry sometimes…” Greenlee smiles, seeing the concerning side of Chad that Ron had mentioned last week.

“When you go through something traumatic, some people just get over it easy while others it takes time. Some people can talk to somebody about it immediately, while others just need to do so in due time. I’m sure he’ll come around and handle it like we both want him to. Patience. All you can do right now is just assure him that everything is okay.” He shakes his head, accepting. He knew her advice was worth listening to after what he had learned from Dom.

“What did you do? Did you always talk about it, or avoid it?” She then looks on puzzled. “Look, I’m always super conscious about this team and everybody. I may have ran a background on you and found out everything that I could know about your past to make sure things were legit.”

“I can understand that based on how I entered the picture, and Ron’s past himself. But to answer your question, I always could talk to Ryan no matter what. We just had that special connection that I can’t even begin to describe, Chad.  It’s why it hurts so much knowing he’s gone. However, I admit there were times that I held it in and even tried running from it. That never did me any good, as you probably learned.” He shakes his head in agreement, having heard a couple of those tales from Dom.

“Well I appreciate what you’re doing for us, and I appreciate you being there for Ron. It means a lot. I hope this second, third chance works out for you.” She could only smile. It was nice to hear a bit of positivity from someone other than just Ron and Jimmie.

“Thanks Chad. That means a lot coming from you. Hopefully this weekend works out.”

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

The crew could only stand there shaking their heads.

They had done everything right. They gave Jimmie a quick car. They had run up front throughout the race. They were even second as the race was in the second half. Then it happened. The transmission messed up on the restart, causing a stack up and a crash, taking out Jimmie and a bunch of his fellow competitors.

Rather than celebrating or at least standing on pit road with a top-five, they had a wrecked car and a 25th place finish.

“We’re going to turn this around, eventually,” Chad states as they finish packing up. “We can’t  do this forever. We’ve been too quick for this to happen all year.”

“It’s a long season bud; we’ll be fine,” Jimmie replied.

Ron and Greenlee just looked at each other, knowing that it’d be another long week in dealing with Chad’s short temper once again. Greenlee was fine with that, as she understood the reasons why and had gotten to see the nicer side of him.

Back to Square One – Chapter 16: The Answers

Chad retreats back to his office, surprised when he sees a bald individual sitting at the desk.

“Who let you in my office?” He questions as he walks into the room.

“Why I let myself in,” Chad hears in response, watching the chair spin around and the person face him. Chad immediately shakes his head as he realizes it’s Dom.

“Why is it whenever you come around, you can’t just do things like everybody else?”  Dom shrugs his shoulders as Chad walks over, and sits behind his desk. “I hope the hell you have answers for me.”

“Why are you so desperate?”  Chad really didn’t have time to answer questions. He had a small crisis on his hands with Ron right now, and didn’t need Greenlee becoming an added distraction.

“Why does that matter?” Dom sits back in the chair, leaving the files tucked in the bag beside him.

“Everybody has a reason for what they want. Everybody has a price they will pay, and a code to follow. What is your reason, Mr. Knaus?” Chad knew from previous dealings with Dom that he wasn’t going to get anywhere without answering the question.

“I have my doubts about Ms. Smythe, and her connection to Ron. There’s also the factor that Ron is still dealing with some effects from what happened.” Dom lets out a sigh, having expected that to possibly be the case.

“You do realize that you forced a lot down his throat at that time, right? Torture, combined with what he loves being ripped away is a lethal combination. I don’t know what I’d do if someone took away my ability to drag race.” Chad had heard how it was a drug, addition, and a way of life. However, he didn’t mean he was set to support illegal activities.

“What about doing it legally?” Dom shakes his head no, having tried that previously and it failing miserably.

“It’s not the same as the bare open road, and that perfect grudge match. It’s a scene that you don’t understand unless you’ve been there and felt that rush.” Chad rolls his eyes, wishing to have avoided this discussion all together. He didn’t want to discuss the thought of street racing ever again, considering the annoyance he felt before in its regard.

“Can we just get to the information, please?” Dom reaches into the bag, pulling out the folder and flipping it open. Chad found himself trying to peer over the desk into the contents upon his friend’s hands.

“She has a past, but nothing that’s been convicted of criminally. Needless to say, everything in my hands had to be found through other means.” Chad rolls his eyes, only fearing what could come. Why couldn’t things be simple in their lives? “She spent her childhood growing up in Pine Valley, before moving to California – which obviously is how she met Ron and Jimmie, and yes, she street raced with them during her time there.”

“Ron admitted that to me on the day of the interview. She hasn’t supposedly touched the streets since then, but has a bit of a shady past in Pine Valley that she wants to leave in the rearview.” Dom shakes his head, understanding, having heard about the past through some people.

“Yeah, you could say that again as this isn’t no tales of roses. Shortly after moving back, she did connect with the police – helping an individual named Ryan Lavery steal money, cover for him, but  had a change of conscious and turned him into the police.” Chad looks on surprised, as it gave the explanation of a clear conscious – not what he had expected.

“If that’s all she has for a shady past, then I’m wil-”

“I didn’t say I was done yet, did I?” Chad lets out a sigh and shakes his head no. “Her name comes up once again later on in regards to a murder investigation. A lady by the name of Vanessa kidnapped her, with her husband at the time Leo de Pris set to save her, however that didn’t go as planned for Leo.”  Chad could sense the direction that Dom was going, in figuring what had happened to Leo. Greenlee had a past, but  that of a sad one – being a widow. He could understand how she could help Ron as she knew what was it was it like to be kidnapped, with sadness. It was why she had noticed the signs immediately. Perhaps this was a match made in heaven and he had nothing to worry about.

“Damn. Was that long ago?” Dom shakes his head yes.

“I still have more as that’s not probably why she ran away recently.” Chad felt a breath hiccup at that thought, wondering if the presumed assumptions that things would be alright were wrong. “She owns a cosmetic company with some other ladies named Simone, Kendall, Liza and Mia.  Currently, Kendall and Mia are handling daily duties with her just having a stake in the company.”  Chad shakes his head, approving, feeling the confidence returning.

“Business owner. Impressive.” Dom could only shake his head in agreement, but worried about what was on page two.

“Remember Ryan Lavery as previously mentioned? She ended up marrying him.” Chad could only wonder what that would entail, considering the money scheming. “Ryan actually turned out to be quite a wonderful guy in town there, according to many of the locals. One of the sweetest guys, great business leader, basically left his shady past in the rearview.”

“Are  you sure he’s not  keeping it tucked under a rug or something?” Dom shakes his head no, knowing once he got to the truth of Ryan that the questions from Chad would seem pointless. “That’s intriguing.”

“His brother is another story, though. She spent time in the hospital going through a pretty psychotic deal after he poisoned her. Ryan ended up shooting his own brother at that time, but got off with no conviction due to self defense. It resulted in a whole sale of events that saw him go a little nuts, make it look like he committed suicide but go take care of his brother who survived with his sister, followed by coming back and Grenlee being pissed off and divorcing him.” Chad could only shake his head in disbelief as he heard the tale.

“Do you blame her? I mean, that’s ridiculous!” Dom glanced away, remembering a time he betrayed his own family.

“Sometimes you got to do what you got to do in order to protect those who you love. He thought he was doing it to protect her from his insane ways, according to Aiden. She ran away from town for a time being, though returned a couple years later – but  found out that Ryan  was remarried, now in love with this person named Annie. You could say that was another tipping point in her life as she kidnapped Spike, which was Kendall and Ryan’s child. She believed in doing so because Kendall betraying her when Kendall was supposed to be a surrogate mother.” Chad could only shake his head as now it was beginning to become clear as to why he was worried.

“So right now Ron is hanging out with a child kidnapper, and maybe crazed woman? That just sounds great considering that what he’s going through and the fact that I hired her.” Dom looks up from the piece of paper, intrigued by the crew chief’s reaction.

“To be honest, I don’t think she’s crazed anymore and the kidnapping thing – Kendall and Ryan never pressed charges. They understood why she did it, from the confused anger and everything that happened. I actually believe, from what I still have left to tell you about her, that she’s moved forward from all of this and no different than you and me. Actually, that’s why she may be best for Ron due to being able to help him move forward with her own experience.” Chad thought about it for a second, wondering if Dom was right in his words. He trusted the man’s judgment, based on everything, so was willing to give the theory a chance.

“Continue….”

“Her and Ryan supposedly crossed paths later as she helped him get off attempted murder charges. Aiden said that she took the fall – mostly due to annoyance, with him helping her escape town. However, that resulted in her getting trapped in a bomb shelter with Kendall’s husband Zach. Needless to say, the trail of events led to everybody coming to a truce and realizing that they could be friends, again.” Chad was ready to either sing a tune, or pop a bag of popcorn.

“And they lived happily, ever after….” Dom laughs and shakes his head no. “And damn it, I thought you were telling me a fairy tale.”

“Ryan divorced Annie, and got together with Greenlee as they got engaged.  However, there was no wedding as she fell in creek, with this supposed doctor who can’t keep himself out of medical legal proceedings named David Hayward taking her away to be healed – set to give her a fresh start, per his reasoning. However, that didn’t work as she did marry Ryan.” Chad then looks at Dom in confusion.

“If she’s married to Ryan, why is she down here and he not with her? Furthermore, she’s been flirting with Malec.” Dom smiles as he turns the page once again. “Why did I ask?”

“Because you’re intrigued, like any good mystery novel.” Chad rolls his eyes, wishing this was a novel that would end immediately. “The ex-wife Annie resurfaced into the fold – gone psychotic which I don’t blame considering the way this town flies, and she killed him – five years ago. Aiden said Greenlee has spent time trying to move forward in town, but that wasn’t working so she hit the road with no destination in mind.” Dom then takes the folder and sets it on Chad’s desk. “I take it that North Carolina is where she landed, thanks to finally finding a familiar face that wouldn’t look at all this straight in her eyes.”

“I guess….” Chad’s eyes focused on the yellow folder, letting out a sigh. It certainly a lot to take in and he didn’t know whether he wanted to crucify her, hug her, comfort her, or applaud her.

“Aiden says that she has a good heart, and that she’s a wonderful sweet girl who has been misunderstood by so many people through the years. But given the chance, she can blossom into the right situation.”  Chad then looks up, eyes on Dom as he thinks over those words.

“So you think that things are okay for her down here?” Dom shakes his head yes.

“I think she’ll be the best thing for Ron, ever. Based on her experience, she can help him find the best way to move forward. Plus, he can help her finally feel at ease and give her the second – well, third chance that she rightfully deserves for what she’s been through. In my opinion, by you and Jimmie giving her a chance here, you’re doing the right thing.” Chad glances at the batch of notes that she had printed off for him, seeing how they were solidly done correctly.

“Maybe you’re right…..”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to Square One – Chapter 14: Our Discussion

Jimmie and Chad were glad that Candiss had told them what happened. They also knew that Ron would be waiting for their discussion, and didn’t want to do it with everybody else hearing or involved. It was why the pair agreed to remain quiet till Monday morning.

“Ready for this?” Chad asks and Jimmie shakes his head yes as the pair take a glance at each other. Chad then buzzes Ron’s office, asking the car chief to come over for a meeting between just the three of them. They had planned to go down to Ron’s office, but Greenlee was there beginning her job as note taker, typing up the weekend’s notes.

“Do you think we’re doing the right thing, like this intervention style?” Jimmie wonders and Chad shrugs his shoulders.

“You know him best, right? What do you think?” Jimmie lets out a sigh as he glances around, avoiding topic.

“I don’t know, honestly. This whole deal just has me stumped.” Chad then sits up in his chair, reading the emotions on Jimmie’s face.

“Don’t be blaming yourself again, Jimmie. We went through that at the hospital and thereafter. It was a combination of both you guys going down that roa-”

“He wanted me to get out of it, and I didn’t listen, and look what happe-”

“It’s not your fault some damn terrorist decided to get in the middle of some innocent street racin-”

“Play the game, chance the ris-”

“You guys met the one and a millionth guy that anybody would meet and go that far. The danger that Ron was probably worrying was either you getting yourself hurt, or getting caught illegally and going to jail.” Jimmie lets out a sigh, knowing that Chad was probably right in those words.

He was able to say something in response, when he heard the door open, his eyes immediately taking to the sight before him. The pair glanced at each other, before Chad motioned to the seat beside Jimmie.

“What’s up with this meeting?” Ron asks as he looks around, before sitting down. “It’s a lot earlier than our normal Monday morning meetings.” Jimmie and Chad knew that, and had planned it that way. They didn’t need other people barging in on the conversation.

“Because this isn’t your typical Monday morning meeting,” Jimmie starts as Ron looks over, surprised. “We both wanted to talk to you about something, actually. How are you feeling?” Ron lets out a sigh as he glances away from the pair.

“I’m guessing this conversation is about my little freeze up in front of Candiss on Sunday, right?” The pair shake their heads yes. “Okay, I told her the explanation incase she didn’t tell you both. I was just caught off-guard, okay? Besides, I talked with Greenlee after about what happened and ideas to move forward.  You guys don’t have to worry about me, honestly.” Jimmie knew that wasn’t possible as he’d always worry and care about his best friend. It was just in his nature with how close they were.

“I caught you sleeping in your office a couple times. Is that connected?” Ron shakes his head no, knowing he was telling a lie immediately. However, the sooner he avoided conversation, the better. He wasn’t in the mood to talk about what happened.

“Ron…..”

“Look, we’re just trying to help you so at least be honest with us, please,” Chad adds as Ron just glances away from the pair, wishing this conversation never had happened. He could kill Candiss right now.

“So maybe I didn’t sleep a couple nights due to what happened,” Ron starts. “And maybe it’s been on my mind. What the hell else do you expect when something that flipping crazy happens to you?” Chad and Jimmie trade a quick glance, before looking towards Ron.

“We understand, we get it – you don’t need to flip on us, okay? That’s why we’re having this conversation, because we want to help you. Considering the thoughts at night combined with what happened, we know something is up.  We were hoping by talking with you that we could start the road of helping you. Would you be willing to talk with us about things?” Ron looks back towards the pair, urging himself to spill out details but unable to find the words at that time.

“I don’t want to be stuck in this warp forever, but it’s hard to talk about it. It’s hard to come out with the right words after everything that I went through to describe it to you. It’s hard to go through the events that happened because I don’t want to relive in my mind. Heck, it was hard enough giving Greenlee the brief details of what happened so she’d understand where I was coming from.” Chad remembered some words from Jimmie in their private conversation, and considered the thought of using them here now. Perhaps it’d help in getting more details about Greenlee, considering the concerns he and Jimmie both had.

“You mentioned that you talked with Greenlee after your little freeze up, and Candiss mentioned that Greenlee knew how to help you through that. It’s clear that she has a dark past, too – hence why you said she was looking for some redemption in moving away from Pine Valley. Given that you both understand each other in that light, and you’re close friends, have you spoken to her at depth, or thought about it?” Ron shakes his head yes, remembering his thoughts when he woke up one morning.

“I thought about asking for her advice, and thoughts on it one morning when I woke up after very little sleep. I thought it’d be useful. However, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it again. Like I said, I’m trying to avoid this crap.” Chad shakes his head, understanding as Jimmie just sits there in silence, disbelief that they’re still stuck at what happened.

“I understand, totally.  Listen, I don’t want to sound like we’re coming down on you or make you feel bad. We just wanted to see where you stood on the subject, and suggest helping you. Just know that we’re both here for you, willing to talk to you, willing to hear you out and help you, care for you. Also, if you need time off, we can give you some time off. We just want you, to be okay.”  Ron shook his head, understanding. Perhaps it’d be worth letting his guard down and hearing his buddies out.

“I appreciate the support. Thank you, both of you.” Chad then glanced down at his notes, letting out a sigh. He knew any morning after a wreck-filled weekend was never a fun one, even if that wreck was Talladega and out of control. There was just something in his nature that didn’t put wrecks and Monday happiness together.

“Alright. Now with that out in the open, let’s get down to business. We need a good run this weekend, badly.” Ron then looks on surprised.

“I wouldn’t say we’re that desperate, Chad. I mean, Talladega is either good or bad – but that’s dependent on itself. I mean, we finished third the week before at Richmo-”

“Let me remind you of our last five finishes, Malec – 9, 4, 23, 3, and now 22nd. Consistency is what wins championships, and what does that look like?” Ron rolls his eyes, knowing the sympathy he felt earlier was clearly thrown out the window by Chad’s frustration.

“In fairness, the 23rd at Bristol was a pit road speeding penalty and I put that on my shoulders,” Jimmie reminds the crew chief. “We’ve had fast cars every weekend, that’s all we can ask for. We’ve got our win so now the focus is on keeping this program top-notch so we can get that championship.” Jimmie then glances at the schedule. “We’re at Kansas Speedway this weekend. We’ve been good on intermediates this year so we should be fine. It’s a Chase track, though, so a good run would bode well looking towards September. We could use this weekend to see where we stand.”

“We could also try something since we’re locked in anyway and with no testing, research could be warranted,” Ron adds as Chad sighs as he glances at the paperwork before him. He knew both his partners had valid points, despite his rant on numbers. Perhaps the pressure and knowing everybody’s eyes were on their backs even more so than usual after last year’s incident was playing with his emotions.

“Well, let’s hear your thoughts – what matters most to you going into this weekend and coming out, with the options of consistency or trial on the table?” Chad asks the pair, trying to get his head into the game.

Back to Square One – Chapter 13: Candiss’ Truth

Candiss glances over towards Greenlee and Ron, intrigued by their conversation. He wondered whether Ron was listening to her, and whether she was going to be able to help him.

Shaking her head, she couldn’t get the moment out of her mind and knew no matter what she needed to tell the boys.

“We’re ready to go,” Chad caught her attention as she glanced between them. Taking a deep breath, it’d be better if they found out now rather than later.

“Before we head off, I have something to tell you,” she starts, as Chad focuses his eyes on Jimmie.

“Sounds like she’s about to drop the baby bomb. So you stop street racing and decide to have fun somewhere else instead?” Candiss then looks at Chad with surprise as Jimmie crosses his arms.

“This should be fun…” Jimmie comments as Chad takes a couple steps back.

“I’m sorry, but that’s what it sounded like,” Chad pleads as she rolls her eyes.

“This is much more serious,” she counters, catching both of their attention. Jimmie immediately began to wonder if they were in danger once again. “It deals with Ron, actually, and something that happe-”

“Is he okay?” They both immediately ask together. Chad was royally confused now, having just seen Ron moments earlier.

“He’s fine – don’t worry.” She then takes a deep breath. “It’s just he had a panic attack on the way back here.” Jimmie felt his curiosity growing, having heard that Ron was having some thoughts from what happened.

“What happened?” Jimmie asks as she glances over at him calmly.

“I saw him and Greenlee walking back to the garage. I was frantic looking for you both so I grabbed his hand, saying his name, just ready to ask the question as to where you were. He immediately froze, letting out an involuntary shiver. It was why he was transfixed on something. I managed to snap him out of it by yelling his name, which caused the folder of papers to fall out of his hand.  I then calmed down, explaining why I had got his attention.” Before, Jimmie was worried as he wondered how much Ron was sleeping and thinking about it. However, he didn’t fixate on it knowing that was natural after a traumatic event and knowing Ron was strong, could find his way through. However, now he felt his worry intensifying and wondering if he should’ve said something sooner.

“Did he say anything else?”

“He didn’t say anything – except Greenlee answered, saying he had a flashback and was stuck in a tren-”

“Is she some psychologist or something?” Chad questions, still not sure about Greenlee’s involvement in their lives.

“She’s had a rough go at it through the years,” Jimmie answers, remembering the discussion he had with Ron about her. “From being kidnapped, believed to be dead, losing two husbands – I could go on for awhile. Let’s just say that she can relate to traumatic experiences.” Chad shakes his head, understanding. It was certainly a life far from normal, and he wondered what could be the cause of the turmoil.  What if she wasn’t as clean cut as everybody said?

“And you’re certain she’s a good girl and won’t cause us any problems?” Jimmie lets out a sigh, knowing he couldn’t answer with certainty.  However, he trusted Ron’s judgment.

`”Everything that happened – it was mostly not her fault. Sure, she made some mistakes but hey, Ron and I have also. She moved forward from those, still faced some turmoil not of her own making. Hence why she left Pine Valley and moved down here for a fresh start. Ron thought by offering her a job it’d help land her feet.” Chad still wasn’t satisfied, but wasn’t set to argue the issue till he heard more about her background. “What else happened, Candiss?”

“Ron apologized, saying when I grabbed his hand that it placed him back to that time,” she continued. “He then assured us he was fine now, and Greenlee made suggestion that they talk about it later – to work through it, I guess. I then told him that he could also call me if needed, and we separated.” Jimmie lets out a sigh as he leans back against the wall.

“I knew that he wasn’t over what happened,” he starts. “I mean, you don’t just get over that quickly. He also mentioned some nights of lack of sleep, too. I thought he had a handle on it. Given this information, obviously it doesn’t seem like it.”

“What are you going to do?” Chad wonders as Jimmie lets out another sigh. He wasn’t looking forward to the next step.

“I’m going to confront him and see how he’s doing. I’m going to see if he will open up, see if I can help him, and figure where he stands. Once I know that information, then I’ll know how to proceed forward. Maybe we’re making this a bigger deal than it is.”

“It’s a big deal when you freeze up like that, Jimmie.” Jimmie shakes his head, knowing that Chad was right. He just wasn’t ready to face something being wrong with his friend. After all, he was still partially to blame for everything that happened.

“Let’s just handle it one step at a time, okay?” Chad shakes his head in agreement.

Back to Square One – Chapter 12: Their Discussion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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