Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 92: “There’s something about you, and blue….”

Friday, June 9

Chase walked into the garage, smiling as he saw the crew guys all hanging around ready for a busy day of practice and qualifying. With the speed they’d shown lately, and a good run last week, it was time to keep the momentum rolling.

“Ready to go, superstar?” Jared Seate questions and Chase shakes his head yes. “Not missing the girl at all?”

“I’m confident that she’ll do well this weekend,” Chase answers, having followed the live updates from Kyle Busch Motorsports all-day Thursday on practice. While she wasn’t at the top of the time sheet, the fact that she felt comfortable and knew they’d be good in race trim was a good feeling. Now if they just borrowed a bit of Bell’s qualifying set-up, perhaps it’d be a stellar night for her.

“And let me guess – she’ll be here tomorrow?” Chase shakes his head no, remembering her plans.

“She’s going to stay back to watch the Stadium Super Trucks and the IndyCars. She’ll be here on Sunday, though.”

“I thought she’d be traveling back to be with you as soon as possible.” Chase laughs and shakes his head no, though partially wishing that a bit himself. He had to admit he missed her sometimes on weekends like this. Though, it was part of the schedule and he knew the summer brought that a lot with how the trucks did a lot of stand-alone events.

“We have our own lives, and our own desires. We both want to make this work. I respect hers just as much as she respects mine, so therefore we give each other space.” Jared crosses his arms as he couldn’t help but admire that.

“Then why is it your mother still has a problem with her? I mean, we’re four months removed and you guys have only grown more closer together. I mean, it’s the talk of the garage…well, besides Bubba getting a chance to drive for Petty. But still, it baffles me.” Chase knew the answer without saying much as he sat down beside the crew member.

“She still doesn’t trust her and fully grasp what happened there. She gets the reasons why she did it, and yes, she has a heart and understands. But I’m her baby and as she described to me, she’s supposed to protect me no matter what. It’s an underlying worry that she has still till she’s fully proven otherwise. It’ll take time, but it will happen. Besides, she admitted that she’s starting to grow on her….” Jared smiles, remembering that small detail amongst everything.

“I heard that comment at Dover, too – till she mentioned Sarina’s brother. It seems with her brother in the picture, it may not ever come though.” Chase knew that was a good possibility, having pondered that a bunch of times himself. It wasn’t like it was something he could brush aside either, recalling a couple recent conversations with Alan.

“I don’t blame her, honestly. I mean, look at what happened between us, right? I’ve told Alan straight out, too, that I don’t fully trust him either.” Jared watched Chase curiously, as he thought over his next question.

“Alan mentioned a worry about the poison deal being connected to him. Are you worried about that?” Chase wanted to straight out say no, however he couldn’t do that. He heard about Chris’ brief ‘fan zone’ disappearance, and seemed odd on the timing of the incidents. “I see some hesitation….”

“Let’s just say that I know what he said to me that day, and it has stuck ever since. Now, we have a job to do, right?” Jared shakes his head yes as he watches Chase stand up. “Let’s focus and do what we got to do.”

“Yes boss.” Jared then brushes his legs off, before heading the other direction as Chase lets out a sigh. Glancing at the car, he knew it was time to focus on the day at hand.

The team was able to put together a solid practice, with Chase ‘alright’ about the car after the session full of race trim runs. As they got ready to switch over for qualifying trim, he could only hope that it went accordingly to plan.

With some time to kill between the session, he made his way back to the trailer, snagging some lunch before relaxing in the lounge part of the hauler. Just as he was set to bite into his sub, his phone rang and an immediate smile formed on his face.

“Hey princess,” he says as he hit answers on the FaceTime request, instantly earning an eye roll from her.

“Oh, so you think that you can try that line on me since it worked so well for Christopher?” She questions as he laughs.

“But you’re my princess as I’d do anything to make you feel good.” She couldn’t help but giggle in response.

“Okay, that earns you a point Mr. Elliott. The only thing is I don’t know how I feel about you in orange yet. There’s something about you and blue…” He just rolls his eyes.

“Well, white definitely works for you, sweetie, as it shows off every curve – just don’t let people stare at that butt of yours.” She takes another round of chuckling.

“You’ll just have to win me over with that lovely orange….” He looks on intrigued. However, he couldn’t deny that he was loving the chat as it was nice to get in some quality flirting.

“Maybe when you’re here on Sunday I can do that. Better yet, you can show up a day early and make my weekend that much sweeter.” She then sighs. It was a big toss-up for her. One of the reasons she loved the trucks racing at Texas was the fact IndyCar and SST ran the same weekend. She loved watching both, and it was nice to get a chance to see them live for a change. However, she understood the pain of being separated for a couple days.

“You know I’m just a ring-a-ling a way if you’re that desperate for company, Chase. But anyways, I thought you could take care of yourself.” Chase chuckles.

“Oh I’m not worried about myself, dear. I know I can handle cooking and all that day. It’s you that I worry about.” She had to laugh, knowing that her cooking was questionable at times. There were also times that she forgot to eat totally when she got busy.

“Does it make you happy that I’m eating while talking to you right now?” He shakes his head yes. “Good. So see, I can take care of myself.”

“Just make sure you have a good safe, fun, clean night. I want to see what a cowboy hat looks like on that sweet head of yours.” She smiles, wishing for the same result.

“I’m going to try, buddy. Alright – I better go as Marcus wants to chit chat soon. Talk later?” He shakes his head yes. “Love you.”

“Love you, more. Bye Sarina.” He then hangs up as he kicks his feet up, eating the rest of his sub as he watched XFINITY practice. That phone call was exactly what he needed.

The relaxation lasted for a good hour before a knock at the door, and he knew it was time for qualifying. Making his way out of the trailer, he grabs one of the markers off the counter and heads out. Taking his time along the way, he signs some autographs for the fans as he heads out to pit road.

He makes his way out to pit road and the walk down to his stall for the session, set to lay down the best lap that he could imagine.

“I was wondering where you were,” he hears a male voice as he reaches there, surprised to see his parents. They had told him they were coming, but weren’t sure if they’d get there for Friday or not.

“I was taking my time, but knew I’d be here with time to spare,” he answers as he fixes his shoes.

“Any updates from Texas?” He shakes his head no, knowing the truck series qualifying session was scheduled around the same time that he was supposed to go out for his session.

“She’s supposed to text me when she’s done, just as I am supposed to do for her.” Bill shakes his head, understanding. It was the same agreement that they had in place when she was racing a late model for him.

“Her brother and that supposed cousin with her?” Cindy asks and Chase shakes his head yes, only imagining what his mom would say next.

“Well, Bethany actually isn’t with them since Sarina told her off this week after the family comment stunt,” he starts. “Bethany stopped by and made some other comment about that reunion. Sarina told her to fly a kite because she wasn’t doing family drama anymore.” Cindy rolls her eyes.

“But yet she still hangs around with her brother?” Chase lets out a sigh, having a feeling that was coming.

“We’ve talked about this, and that’s all I’m going to say. I’ve told you what she’s said about her brother. I’ve also told you that I’m being cautious and careful. Now, can we drop it, please?” Cindy shakes her head, knowing there were bigger fish to fry. Besides, as long as he aware, that was all that mattered.  “It is nice to see you both, though.” Chase then walks away, heading over to Alan as Cindy watches on.

“You need to relax a little,” Bill comments as he rubs her shoulders.

“But I’m Mama Bear and it’s my job to prote-” Cindy starts.

“But your cub is growing up, and learning to handle things for himself. Besides, you both are just going around in circles. You see how much he loves her. Respect that, embrace that. Give her a chance.” She then looks back at Bill.

“You’re just worried that he’s going to be mad at me and not talk to me, aren’t you? You don’t want to lose that…” Bill just pulls her back close. “Don’t worry – I won’t let it come to that. But I will not back down when it comes to protecting him.”

The debates of the afternoon were all put aside through the next couple of hours with the focus being on qualifying. Still fighting a loose condition, Chase was unable to lay down the lap he wanted and barely missed out on making it to the second round, qualifying 25th.

“I should’ve went further on that adjustment,” Alan comments after the session is over. “I’m sorry.” Chase shrugs his shoulders.

“There’s a lot of ways to get to the front, strategy or passing,” Chase says. “We’ll work on the car a little tomorrow and be fine for Sunday. Don’t worry.” Alan smiles, liking the confidence from his driver.

“I believe you’re right as we know what we need to do now.” Chase shakes his head yes as he grabs his phone off the pit cart. “Any update?” He shakes his head no as he lets out a sigh.

“Pole!!!!” Jared Seate lets out, causing everyone to look over confused.

“Um, none of our cars on the pole,” Alan states the obvious as Jared laughs, shaking his head.

“Truck Series live timing and scoring – I have it loaded on my phone from NASCAR’s website. Someone is going to love-a-dub his update from his girl.” Chase then looks over at Jared with a face of amazement.

“Seriously?” He questions and Jared shakes his head yes, walking over as he shows Chase the scoring monitor.

“Read it and weep, baby. Sarina Ott just got her first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series pole at Texas Motor Speedway. How does that feel?” Chase immediately smiles as he lets out a small woohoo.

“That’s awesome!” He then grabs his phone, texting her immediately to say congratulations, knowing she’d get it once done with all the photos and such.

“So, where are you watching this truck race tonight?” Chase looks over at Jared, intrigued. “We were stealing Alan’s suite at the hotel tonight because he’s got the 70 inch screen in there. That’d allow you to see her full screen…”

“Do you really want a panicking boyfriend ruining our viewing experience?” Chad Avrit questions as Chase laughs.

“Me? Panicking?” He asks and Chad shakes his head yes.

“I saw you at Talladega. You’re nervous watching her.” Chase chuckles, though knew that the crew guys were right.

“Regardless, I think it’d be fun if you join us…” Jared continues as Chase thinks it over, figuring company was perhaps a good idea since Ryan and Darrell had ditched him.

“Fine, just so I can drive Chad crazy,” he comments.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 90: AAA 400 Drive for Autism

Christopher Bell leans back against a post, watching Chase and Sarina walk through the garage together. He could only let out a sigh as Todd Gilliland walked up to join him.

“You seem a little disheartened watching them,” Todd comments, catching a glance from Christopher. “If I didn’t know you had a girlfriend, I’d say you were crushing on her.” Christopher chuckles as he lets out a sigh.

“She’s not that bad looking bud, but you’re right – no crushing,” Christopher says. “I’m just thinking about what she said to me.”  Todd then glances over surprised.

“When she called you a jackass?” Christopher laughs and shakes his head no.

“We talked on Friday, actually. She asked me to get off her back and stop annoying her about Chase. I said I guess I could, but I had my reasons. I mean, you know – oh wait, you probably don’t know much about the fight they had after what happened at the Winter Meltdown, do you?” Todd shakes his head no. “Anyways, I have my doubts and concerns of their fight and what happened with her brother. I’m worried about her, you know? So she accepted that they were reasonable concerns in response, and told me her reasons as to why they weren’t bothering her. I accepted.”

“So that should mean this is all over and you staring is nothing, right?” Christopher glances at his teammate and shrugs his shoulders.

“It should, but I asked her why it meant a lot to her. Let’s just say that her response was interesting as to her background, and how she hasn’t had that person for stability or trust in her life – till she got the chance to run a late model down here, and till she met Chase. He’s only the second person, per her, to give her a true chance. It made me think…”

“You’re starting to realize that you were a jackass?” Christopher turns his head sharply as Todd smiles. “Hey, it’s okay to admit it. We’ve all done that before.”

“I guess…..”

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

Chase stood by the car on pit road, leaning against it as he lets out a sigh. If it was up to him, he’d just snap his fingers and it would be race time. Instead, he had to wait impatiently for opening ceremonies to commence.

“I’m surprised you don’t got a body guard or something hanging around,” He hears and glances over at his mom. He takes off his sunglasses, giving her a surprised glance.

“Why do you say that?” He questions, waiting for some reference to Sarina’s brother.

“Between Jared being poisoned, to that driver at Bristol, and then now Jake this weekend, I thought security would’ve been increased.” He couldn’t blame her as he had wondered the same after the events experienced. However, instead, they each go briefed on the happenings and that was all.

“We were just warned about the usual protocol of watch where you get stuff from, and make sure nobody is slipping something in your cup. That’s why this is being held close…” His mom walks over, giving him the once over as she glances at the bottle of Gatorade.

“Have they done any proper investigating?” Bill wonders. “Any leads?” Chase shrugs his shoulders, knowing the authorities were giving little details as possible.

“I know Jared went through a good questioning session with them as they wondered what he remembered and who was around him. Alan, Greg and a couple of the guys also got questioned as to how much he was around them and away from them, and also background checked due to possible reasoning – who knows why. I had a quick round of questions with them being my crew member, and Sarina spent a good round with them due to Jake.”

“Any update on Jake?” Sarina smiles as she walks over, wrapping an arm around Chase.

“I went and saw him yesterday actually,” she states. “He’s doing pretty good. They said that he is in the clear so he should be released soon and back to work. Didn’t Jared go back to work this week?” Chase shakes his head yes, pointing to him as he sat on the wall with the other guys.

“That’s good to hear.”

“Oh yes, because everybody needs Jared picking on them,” Chase comments as Jared perks up.

“Did you say something over there, Mr. Elliott?” Jared questions as Chase looks back.

“You’re hearing things…” Jared then stands up and walks over.

“I don’t think so….” He then wraps an arm around Sarina and leads her away. “Listen, that boy there, he’s trouble. You got to watch that one. I tell you he’s going to play games with you.” She then laughs as she looks back over at Chase.

“I don’t think I have anything to worry about man,” she comments as she sneaks out of his grasp and back over to Chase.

“Find your own girl; this sweetpea is all mine,” Chase says as he gives her a quick kiss.

“Sweetpea?” Bethany questions as she walks over. “That’s an interesting nickname that I’d never hear said in reference to Sarina.” Sarina then looks over at her cousin and brother.

“And that’s a nickname that you’ll never ever damn well repeat,” Sarina states as Bethany just smirks at her.

“Wait till the family reunion. Sarina Sweetpea Ott.” Sarina glances down at the comment, shaking her head.

“We’re having one of those?” Bethany shakes her head yes. “Lovely. Count me out.”

“Why is that?” Sarina looks over at her cousin.

“Because I told you damn well what I thought of the family. Wasn’t that made clear already? Been through enough shit to do that.”

“Easy,” Chase comments as he rubs her shoulders. “Bethany, why don’t you can the topic for now and we talk about it later, okay?” She then rolls her eyes as she glances at Chris.

“Want to go find our seat?” She question and he shakes his head yes. They then head off together as Chase lets out a sigh.

“Family ties that bad?” Bill questions as they walk away and Sarina shakes her head yes.

“I’d rather not talk about it, but yeah,” she answers as she glances into Chase’s eyes. He knew her reasons as he kept his arms tightly wrapped around her.

“Hence why I said that I couldn’t trust them,” Cindy says, earning a stern glance from both Bill and Chase. “Don’t give me that look. You boys know what I said.” Sarina remembered her thoughts when speaking with Bell as she takes a deep breath. If she was going to earn Cindy’s trust, that started now.

“Cindy, I know I have a questionable past and certainly I know that has caused issues – I apologize continually over and over for what happened. But I can assure you and promise you that I will never, ever hurt your son again or your family. I love you both and you’re both sweet as ever, and that’s not my intention here. I love Chase, I can’t wait for what’s to come in the future, and there’s really no words to describe what I feel. I just hope that over time you can give me the respect and maybe a little love that I’ve got for you.” Cindy crosses her arms, eyes focused on the young lady in her son’s arms.

“With all due respect Ms. Chelsy Dryer, I can’t just turn a leaf and pretend that nothing happ-”

“I understan-”

“So don’t expect me to just bend over and say everything is fine till I damn well see what you’re saying. Based on your questionable family history and given your brother’s past, I think I have a very reasonable concern as to why I’m not comfortable with Bethany or Chris hanging around Chase and everybody. I think there’s reasons for me to double check safety at times. You probably get that, don’t you? Perhaps if you would’ve taken the whole deal seriously from the start, ousted your brother, solved this problem and then kept distance, you could’ve got what you wanted.” Sarina felt taken back by the comments – even more surprised in the usage of her real name. However, it was understandable given Cindy’s feelings on the situation.

“I understand what you’re saying, fully. All I can do is say my peace and try and show you, and hopefully it comes over time. There’s nothing else to say. And as far as my brother, we went through that in what happened with the brain surgery and such.” Cindy rolls her eyes, remembering.

“Don’t need a reminder. Chase, good luck today sweetheart. I hope you have a good run and we’ll talk after.” Chase rolls his eyes, knowing the discussion will be again whether he should trust Sarina or not. A glance at his dad hopefully meant that he’d have a talk with her first.

“Thanks,” he replies. “I love you.” He lets go of Sarina, walking over to give his parents each a hug, before returning to her as they make their way down pit road.

“I’m sorry….” Sarina says quietly as he pulls her back close.

“You don’t have to a single thing to say sorry about. Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody has a questionable decisions of their past. It’s not your fault what your family did. I know you feel bad for your mistakes and yes they hurt, but it’s okay. I’ve forgiven you because of the effort that you’ve put forth to fix the situation and just by how much you love me.” He turns her around in his arms, looking into her eyes. “I love you….”

“But I started that deal with Betha-”

“You have every right to skip that family reunion and tell her that straight up. I was fine with that. I just got her to cool off for now because we don’t need to do that here.” Sarina then glances down.

“But your mother….” He then puts his hand under her chin, tilting her head back up so their eyes were locked together.

“Remember – I told you that it’d take time with my mom. She’s going to test and twist you every way that she can imagine. That’s because I’m her baby bear, and she’s going to do whatever she can to protect me – she’s always been that way. Don’t let what she says get to you and trust that over time, she’ll see why I love you so much and love you just the same. She did let you in her house, right?” Sarina chuckles and shakes her head yes. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.” She then gives him a kiss as they hear the cue for opening ceremonies.

Letting out a sigh as he grabs her hand firmly, he couldn’t wait for the race to start and leave this all in the rearview. There was some nagging part of him that agreed with his mom’s concerns over Chris. Bethany – that was an unsolvable interest.

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

Sarina walks up to him after the race, wrapping both arms around him as she reaches up and kisses his lips.

“I’m so damn proud of you!” She tells him. “You drove your butt off on that last restart to get up there and snag a top-five. That’s how you do it.” He then smiles as he spins her around his arms.

“It’s nice to break the curse, as we say,” he replies as he sets her back down. “And thank you.”

“You’re amazing. I can’t wait for your first win…”

“You’re going to get one, too.” He then takes her hand, giving the pit crew a quick wave before they head off together.

“What are we going to do about this week?” He lets out a sigh and shakes his head. Beyond Monday, the pair weren’t going to get a lot of time together. he was off to Chicago to test on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed her heading off to Texas on Thursday for practice. She was then racing in Texas on Friday while he was at Pocono for practice and qualifying. With her plans to stay in Texas on Saturday for the IndyCar race, that meant the pair wouldn’t see each other till Sunday – and that was only if she made the trip from Texas to Pocono for the Cup race.

“Promise me that you’ll text me and face time as much as you can?” She shakes her head yes.

“Of course. Promise me that you’ll kick ass?” He then laughs.

“As long as you do the same.” He then lets out a sigh as he looks towards her. “We better get used to this as we have a long summer ahead of us.” She shakes her head, knowing there were going to be plenty of weekends apart.

“As long as we both run well and remind each other of how much we love each other, I say we’ll be okay.” He smiles as he gives her a hand a squeeze.

“I hope you’re right…”

Cabin Fears – Chapter 48: Morning

Wednesday morning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I love you too, kiddo.”

Cabin Fears – Chapter 45: Reconnecting

Tuesday Night

The sliding door opens and Chase comes in, followed by Bill. The pair take in the view of Cindy sitting at the table as Alyssa leans back against the wall, dabbing the last bit of tears from her eyes.

“Everything okay?” Bill asks as he glances between them and both girls simply shake their heads yes. In the process, though, Chase’s eyes don’t leave Alyssa.

“I’m fine now – honestly,” she answers as she throws the Kleenex aside. “What about you guys?” Bill then trades a glance with Chase, who just gives a simple nod.

“We’re good. We had a good conversation, actually. I wasn’t against Cindy originally making me fly her up here, but it’s been worth it.”

“I’m glad you guys came too, honestly. It allowed me to break down some barriers I didn’t realize were there.” Chase looks between them confused, intrigued by what they discussed while he was outside with Bill. He just thought they were discussing usual girl things, but this seemed more serious.

“A mother always know when her baby needs them, and if she can help her baby’s best friend then it’s a bonus,” Cindy comments with a smile. Chase felt his curiosity building as he continued watching them.

“I don’t mean to intrude, but what did you guys talk about?” He wonders as Alyssa takes a deep breath. She didn’t know if it was best to reveal the discussion topic to Chase, but she figured he’d find out eventually from Cindy.

“We talked about what happened while Randy had us,” Alyssa starts. “I just had it on my mind and the opportunity just presented itself – perfectly and strange, but glad I took advantage as it felt nice to get it off my chest.” Chase was relieved to see Alyssa was taking the steps she needed to take. However, a glance at his mom and his mind could only wander as to what she was thinking. He knew the details would probably hit deeper than the original news.

“Well, Chase and I reflected back to what happened at Daytona with Randy actually,” Bill says, catching everyone’s attention. “It seemed that both of these children had something on their mind and needed someone to listen.”

“Everything okay now?” Cindy wonders as her eyes remain focused on Chase, who could only let out a sigh.

“They’re better,” he starts. “It felt good to get that off my chest, but certainly there’s still a lot there- that I don’t want to touch at this exact moment. There’s other events, and other emotions that I still need to sort through piece by piece.” He knew his mom would have more to say about that, knowing that she’d want to push the button with him – as she always did. Sometimes it helped, but sometimes that backfired. He also knew the details from Alyssa would probably push the issue more, depending how much detail she gave.

“It’s a start, and that’s better than where you were before,” Alyssa comments as she walks over, patting him on the shoulder. “As long as we’re taking the steps slowly, it’s going to be okay, right?” He shakes his head yes. “I know it’s getting late – and I don’t want to intrude or cut short purposely, but I need to go grab a shower and get ready for bed. Is that okay?” The group shakes their head yes. “I’ll see you after, okay?” Chase then gives her a light kiss as she leaves the room.

“Are you sure you’re okay by yourself?” Chase asks as she leaves the kitchen and she looks back, shaking her head yes. She then gives Bill a glance, knowing already that it’d probably be best to leave Chase and Cindy alone for a bit.

“Since you came to see him, I’ll give you both some time to speak – alone,” Bill states, having caught the glance from Alyssa. He then leaves the room, going to the next room as the pair face each other.

“Well, they weren’t subtle in the fact that we should have some alone time, were they?” Cindy stands up and shakes her head no.

“It’s ‘cause Alyssa knows what I’m feeling based on what was said, and your father knows me quite well,” she says. “Besides, you knew a conversation with just us two was coming, right?” Chase lets out a sigh as he shakes his head yes.

“Did she tell you….everything?” He questions and Cindy shakes her head yes, making her way over to where Chase was standing.

“From the moment you got there till you guys were rescued, and her emotions. It was tough to hear it, but I understood. She needed to get it out because it was hurting her, and I was willing to listen if she felt comfortable. I’m not going to lie – it was tough to listen to what he did to both of you, and it tore my heart apart at times. I felt the fear, the heartbreak, the worry, the pain, the helplessness, panic – all those emotions, again.” She then reaches out to him, pulling him into a hug before he could figure it out. “I love you so much Chase, and I hate that you have to go through this.”

“I love you, too.” He easily wraps his arms back around her in return, not denying the feeling anymore. He knew those emotions that she was feeling – having felt them every day. He knew how much she cared about him and fretted over the smallest thing, and knew the hug was the most comfort he could offer everything that she heard. It was also comforting in return for him to have the hug, letting some of his emotions calm themselves with her support. He was never going to be too old for a hug from mommy.

“Be thankful that you’re okay, always remember how strong you are, and know that you can get past this. It could’ve been worse, but I know you guys can pick up the pieces.” She then steps back a bit, looking into his eyes. “And know nothing is your fault – whether what happened to her, or the feelings connected. You didn’t cause any of it, Chase. It was all Randy and his devious plan.” Chase shakes his head yes, accepting, knowing that she was right – no matter the amount of times his mind tried to flip it otherwise.

“I try to tell myself that every day and it helps, slowly. But you also realize that you don’t need to worry about me 10 times over. I am a big boy, I can handle this.” She then smiles, brushing a piece of hair out of his eyes.

“Chase, no matter how old you get, you’re my baby and I’m going to take care of you.” Chase lets out a sigh, knowing that was probably true – and knowing he wouldn’t ever get too annoyed. “I just can’t believe that she almost did that, and made Alyssa believe it.”

“That’s the psychological war fare that is Randy, though. Think about how many times he played me over. The hotel incident with the key and the fight. The deal with Demi, and how he tried to flip that game in the water. He knew that Alyssa being hurt would hurt me so he used that to his advantage in controlling my moves. He then got Kassandra to flip the cards and play that on Alyssa. That’s half the battle with them – psychological and physical. It’s why it’s hard for any of us to get over because we realize we were controlled, manipulated, deceived, and that hurts more than anything.” Cindy then looks at him surprised, intrigued by the advice that he was throwing back at her in return. Perhaps he had grown even more than she realized.

“How did you become so smart?” He smiles as he knew he couldn’t take all the credit.

“Dad may have helped with that with his advice, actually. We talked about that a little as it came up in my thoughts in how Randy controlled my moves at Daytona with the photos of Marie and Dale kidnapped.” Cindy shakes her head, understanding.

“And this advice is helping, I bargin?” Chase shrugs his shoulders with a sigh.

“A little, actually. I haven’t fully managed to convince myself that Randy pushed me this way and I truly couldn’t get out of the traps, but it’s happening slowly. It’s all part of recovering, right? Forgetting the pain of blame and manipulation, realizing that you can trust people, letting things go – that’s all part of what I need to do.” Cindy lets him go, walking back to the table as she lets out a sigh.

“I just hate that you have to do this again!” Chase couldn’t help but agree with her as he hated the feelings, too.

“I hate it, too, but at least I know from previous experience that I can overcome this and everything will be fine.” Cindy looks over with a slight smile. She liked the glimmer of hope he threw in – once again, different than the past. The growth was shining through with each moment.

“You also have an amazing young lady to help you through it, too, and I know you can help her as well.” Cindy glances down at the table, before looking back up at Chase. “Based on my conversation with her, besides my own worries, the advice I can offer is be patient. She’s got a lot of pain based on everything, and it’s going to take time, but she’s coming around slowly. Let her express it as she can, and be patient with her in certain circumstances. I don’t need to say much but you know where I’m headed.” Chase shakes his head yes, understanding.

“I wouldn’t push her or make her do something that she didn’t want to. I’d make sure that she’s fully comfortable and ready before even thinking about that. I know what it feels like to regret it later and I don’t need that for her. It’s why I’m also taking my time in waiting till I’m absolutely sure, too.” Cindy knew it was odd to touching on this type of subject with him, but it was worth it based on everything.

“I know I didn’t even have to say anything, because I know I raised you well. I just wish-”

“No regrets, no looking back, no trying to redo things, no placing blame. That’s what you always told me.” He then walks over. “Mom, everything will be fine – I promise.”  He then gives her another hug as she holds him tight, finally letting him go.

“You should go check on Alyssa. It’s late so I should get going.” Chase glanced at the time, before looking at her.

“There’s no sense in you both flying home now. Stay over the night in the spare bedsroom. You’ve done it before, you can do it again. Besides, I think you guys left some stuff there.” Cindy was caught off-guard by the offer, expecting Chase to want sole privacy with Alyssa in their house.

“Are you sure?” Chase shakes his head yes.

“I wouldn’t feel comfortable with you guys going home this late. You can sleep over tonight, stay for breakfast, see some people tomorrow and then head home.” She shakes her head, accepting, knowing that she wasn’t changing his mind.

“Thank you – but I still say that you should go see your girl. So go on, and I’ll worry about getting Bill and I settled.” He then smiles as he gives her one final hug before heading off.

Cindy lets out a sigh as she stands there for a couple minutes, letting herself process everything, feeling someone come up behind her after awhile.

“You made the right decision to come see them,” Bill starts. “But you know, they’re going to be okay…” Cindy shakes her head yes, knowing Bill was right. However, she couldn’t escape the thoughts in her mind.

“I just can’t imagine them going through that…” Cindy comments as Bill rubs her shoulders.

“I know, I can’t either.”

Cabin Fears – Chapter 43: Mom’s Surprise Check-In

Wednesday

Chase relaxed on the couch, arm wrapped around Alyssa with a smile on his face.

He had to admit the chance to talk to Tony last night had paid off. He was able to get a lot off his chest in regards to his feelings about Alyssa and what happened. The conversation allowed him to erase some of his fears, and anxiety – allowing him to be more relaxed now. It gave him comfort in factoids about Alyssa from what Tony offered, as well as advice moving forward with questions he had.

The first step of recovery was complete. Now it was just figuring out how to handle the rest of the factors at play.

“I love you,” he tells her, as he rubs her shoulder. “When do we have to leave for Road America?” She then sits up and looks back at him puzzled.

“We?” She asks and he shakes his head yes.

“I’m coming to support you.” She knew there was no way to talk him out of it, even though she believed relaxation was the best medicine for him.

“Friday morning.” He makes a note in his mind, knowing to have everything put together the night before.

The pair hear a knock at the door, glancing at each other as Chase lets out a sigh, getting up off the couch. He had to wonder if it was one of her siblings, her parents, or perhaps Regan or Tony looking for him. Regardless, he would’ve preferred for their quiet time to continue.

Chase opens the door, jaw dropping in surprise as he wasn’t expecting to see his mom.

“Well this is a surprise,” he comments as she walks into the house, followed by his dad. He closes the door, leaning back against as he faces his parents. “No warning?”

“I was worried about you after what happened at Bristol,” Cindy starts as she faces him. “I kept telling myself that it was fine, phone conversation was enough, you had people with eyes on you – but I couldn’t take it any longer. I asked Bill to fly us down so I could see you.” Chase then looks over at his dad, who simply shrugs his shoulders.

“With all due respect, I’m perfectly fine – as I said on the phone over and over, Mom. I’m also 35. I can take care of myself.” She then crosses her arms with an annoyed look.

“What do you call Brist-”

“That was a lapse in judgment, that I have taken the right steps to make sure to not repeat again. I’m already talking to people anyway – Regan, Tony, Ella. You can ask Alyssa.” Cindy then walks into the front room, eyes settling on Alyssa who looks at her with surprise.

“And are you taking care of yourself, too?” Alyssa shakes her head yes.

“I’m taking the steps that I need to in regards of taking care of my emotions and feelings,” she starts. In truth, she hadn’t talked to many people that week – focused on getting ready for Road America and the high of winning Bristol. However, she knew it wasn’t driving her crazy and those talks would come when the time was right. “You don’t need to worry about us, Cindy.”

“Now if I didn’t worry about you guys, you’d both think something was wrong with me.” Chase thinks it over, knowing she was right based on some of the phone calls he had given her in return through the years.

“Well the visit was unexpected and a surprise, it’s nice to see you both,” Chase comments as he sits back down on the couch beside Alyssa. The pair trade a glance, before facing his parents.

“Did we interrupt something?” Chase shakes his head no. “William Clyde Elliott, what have you been told you?” He then glances at Alyssa.

“Remember – you’re never too old for your parents to use your full name.” She then chuckles as he looks back towards his mom. “We were just sitting here watching a movie together, enjoying some quiet time and light conversation. I wasn’t aware that was a crime.”

“Chase….” Bill warns as Chase shrugs his shoulders.

“I just answered the question, dad,” he states. “Besides, you both know me better than that. I respect her boundaries. Do you really think that we’d  be doing the hanky panky on the couch right here in the open?”

“Is that what you were thinking, Cindy?” Alyssa questions as Cindy lets out a sigh.

“You never know with kids these days, but Chase is right – he knows his boundaries well,” she states as Chase shakes his head in agreement.

“Considering it’s like 5, what about we go out for dinner and then we can talk some?” The parents both shake their head in agreement. “I’ll be back down in five.” She then stands up and heads upstairs to get changed.

“Were you telling the truth earlier about things being okay?” Bill wonders and Chase shakes his head yes. “If you want to talk after dinner, we can.”

“I may take you up on that offer,” Chase comments, catching Cindy’s attention. “Not cause things aren’t okay right now, but because I may want to talk about something.”

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

Chase glances in the window, smiling as he watches Alyssa and Cindy sit at the table, talking about a couple different things between them. He knew it was light conversation – some fashion, some traveling things, some racing – their usual. Letting out a sigh, he turns back around and walks over, sitting beside his dad on the back porch bench.

“Do you remember what I was like after the first incident with Randy?” Chase questions, catching Bill’s attention.

“Daytona?” Bill questions and Chase shakes his head yes. “You were scared, frightened. I remember there was a couple weeks you couldn’t sleep without mom or I being there. I remember Dale came over and you guys had a discussion about things, followed by Dale and I having a discussion. Everybody was just an emotional mess. I remember you went through a whole whack of nights without any sleep, and made yourself so sick at Charlotte. I still can’t believe you ran that whole race and won.” Bill then thinks it over as he watches Chase, carefully. “Going through that again?”

“Not as bad, to be honest. I’m getting some sleep but not as much as I would hope, just because everything is going through my mind – still.” Chase takes a deep breath, thinking about the weekend that Bill referenced. “That weekend was the first time Regan and I truly connected as friends, and he showed that I could use for him advice if I needed, or wanted. I took him up on the offer a month later, and it paid off better than I could’ve imagined. I was able to get everything out there, and move forward – till July, of course.” Bill shivers at the thought of the blood and knife sticking out of Chase’s leg that day.

“Why are you bringing it up, if I can be curious?” Chase takes a deep breath, wondering if he should push the issue then and there. However, he knew he had to do it. He wasn’t going to move forward without saying anything and he wanted to move forward – again.

“I thought I was over what happened, and never would have to think about that day again. However, I can’t get that 500 out of mind lately. I remember the driver’s meeting, driver introductions – the discussion on pit road with you in nothing feeling right. It feels just like yesterday in my mind. I even remember jinxing myself with my words that it wouldn’t work out because nothing has so far. I remember Randy coming up with the plan, showing me the photos, leading me away from the car. I can’t get the thought out of my mind in how he controll-”

“What else were you supposed to do in that situation?” Bill cuts him off. “If you say something, then there’s a good chance that both Dale and Marie end up dead because he said that in his threat. If there’s also the chance that he would hurt you worse than you did that day. Chase, I thought we got over that.” Chase lets out a sigh as he looks out towards the backyard.

“I thought I had gotten over that, but this whole situation has brought those doubts back to my mind, Dad. I mean, he didn’t just control me there. He set-up everything in the hotel room. He put the plan in motion for my kidnapping despite all the warning signs. He easily drew me up there out of fear for Alyssa and placed me right there in that spot to be poisoned. He’s a sick son of a bitch who knew what made me tick, controlled me, hurt me, and I hate that feeling.” Bill then reaches over, placing his hand on Chase’s leg, causing Chase to look over at him.

“They say the worst feeling a person can have is helplessness. I know that because of how I felt when you were attacked, wishing I could’ve done something to help you. I get the pain you’re feeling and expressing right now, Chase. But on the bright side, look at this – you don’t have to face that again as he’s dead.” Chase couldn’t help but smile as it seemed like the perfect fitting punishment after all the hell they’d been through.

“I know he’s dead – but that doesn’t mean he can’t haunt my nightmares. Look at what Mariela did to my nightmares for months even though she was dead right there in my view.” Bill lets out a sigh.

“Isn’t that why we’re talking about things?” Chase shakes his head yes. “Besides, what happened there drove me crazy for a couple days, too. Steve was the only one who noticed it was Dale climbing in the car – not you. I’m your father and yet I can’t realize that it’s not you? It just didn’t make sense in my mind or Cindy’s. I remember when Steve explained it – total disbelief that was quickly turned into anger.”

“It was a well thought out plan and without having a second thought, partially distracted with the events, it’s understandable if you miss the small details. Besides, he pulled off my firesuit pretty good that day.” Chase then smiles a little as he thinks back. “I remember Mariela thinking that she had everything under control. My words to her were simple when I saw you guys outside – that’s my parents, and now you’re in trouble. I knew you’d do whatever it took to save me.” Bill scoots a bit closer and wraps an arm around him.

“You’re damn straight about that as I wouldn’t risk anything happening to you. We were both ready to strangle her ass, but were instead stuck trying to reason with her. Felt so guilty for that.” Chase shakes his head no.

“You did the right thing. Touch her and I’m dead, right? You did the right course in trying to calm her.” Bill closes his eyes, as he thinks back to standing in the trailer, face-to-face with her.

“I knew your mom would panic immediately – that’s just her nature when it comes to you. She panics, takes names, kicks ass, but I knew we couldn’t do that. I also wasn’t sure how Regan would react. Steve, meanwhile, seems to be a calming guy so I figured he’d back me up easily. My calm nature just took over immediately as I knew taking charge and calmness were the best possibility with the police being en route and being professional, knowing the better way to handle things. They always say to leave it to the professionals, right?” Chase shakes his head, having heard that advice many times. Why didn’t he leave saving Alyssa to the professionals, too?

“When they snuck in through the back and shot her, it totally shocked me. The minute I heard the gun go off, it was like the world froze for a second and I wondered whether there was a future out there. I guess you could say instincts took over in pushing her out of the way as I was still overly concerned with the fact I couldn’t breathe.” He then stands up, walking over to the railing. “I was in such a panic. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think, fear on my mind, total mess.” He then takes a deep breath.

“Chase?” His eyes focus down on the railing.

“I kept trying to catch my breath, and couldn’t figure out a way to do so. I think that panic scared me more than anything.” He then turns to face his father. “I think that’s why I’m forcing myself to do everything against my own wishes here, and talk to people about what happened, get these thoughts in the open. I don’t want to go through that again. I don’t want another panic attack like that one, or the one at Bristol.” He then turns back away. “It’s just so hard….”

“I know.” Bill stands up and walks over, wrapping an arm around Chase’s shoulders. “I know it hurts. But you’re amazing. You’ve fought through so much and come out strong as ever. Heck, you’re standing here today divulging your deepest thoughts to me. That has to say something, right? It’s going to be okay, Chase….”

 

Cabin Fears – Chapter 29: The Meeting

Tony Stewart walks outside, turning the corner and making the quick work down to the next hauler, meeting face-to-face with Kevin Harvick. He was surprised to still see him racing, but had to chuckle as it reminded him a lot of himself. For some, there was no way to get the racing out of them.

“You  know, it’s a lot harder than you may think to wrangle up that group and get them to stay in a room calm without many details,”  Kevin starts as Tony crosses his arms. “Between the questions to the worry to the demanding of answers, to what the heck is going on – I give up with them. Why did you put me in charge?”

“Because I knew you could handle it as best as anybody here, and thank you,” Tony tells him. “Besides, I couldn’t say much or else they’d be stomping down the doors till they found him.” Kevin then looks at Tony curiously, stopping Tony as he goes to walk inside.

“Is he alright?” Tony stops, looking at Kevin with a sincere smile.

“He’s good right now, let me put it that way. It’s just going to take time working through everything, and I want to make sure that these people know what’s going on.” Kevin shakes his head yes as he understands, allowing Tony to enter.

Tony walks through the trailer, up the small set of stairs and opening the door. He glances around the room, seeing the group – including a face he didn’t text message – before stepping inside and closing the door.

“What the hell is going on, Tony?” Alyssa demands first, catching Tony’s attention.

“Where’s my son?” Cindy asks as she crosses her arms, giving Tony the equivalent to a stare down.

“Why haven’t you told us much of anything?” Dale questions as Tony sits back in the one open seat, spinning around the chair before looking at the group.

“Any other questions that you have?” He asks as he glances around. “No? Okay, then maybe I’ll start talking. For the record, Alyssa, I am going to explain what’s going on. Cindy, your son is currently having a well-needed in one of the other haulers in the lounge, at my request. He kind of appeared to look to need it. And Dale, that’s because I wanted to do it this way rather than in pieces over text message and make you go looking for him. Happy? Okay! Now that I’ve answered those, I will say what I called you here for.” He then looks over at Regan. “But wait, why are you here?”

“Dale told me to come,” Regan states with a glance towards Dale.

“When Chase is going through something and needs someone to talk to, most of the time he goes Regan,” Dale starts. “I figured it’d be fitting that he heard this.” Tony shakes his head, completely understanding. He figured the kid had a support system and tried to message those he knew were probably part of it, but figured he’d miss one or two. He was glad that Dale picked up on the fact to call Regan.

“Quite fitting indeed,” Tony comments as he takes a deep breath. Where was he supposed to begin? “So I was making my way back to the hauler after having met with some of the team in the garage to discuss things and I heard someone let out a sound, so I looked with curiosity – and it was Chase. He had tripped over a rock, causing him to let out a curse of word of his choi-”

“Was it fuck or shit?” Ryan questions, catching Tony’s attention. “That boy doesn’t say a lot of bad words. Cindy and Bill raised him really well.” Tony had expected a remark of question in that regard from Darrell, not Ryan.

“It was fuck, but who cares on that small detail, okay? Anyways, I called out his name, simply looking to ask if he was okay. I got an odd reaction, as he jumped back surprised, perhaps even worried. Anyways, I stood my ground and just simply said for him to look at me and got his attention. Seeing how startled he was –not by just me, but perhaps everything going on, I figured it’d be best to give him space to relax so I brought him in the hauler and got him a bottle of water, wanting to calm him down.”

“Anxiety, fear, worry – it’s common with him after something,” Regan starts, remembering some of their conversations. “There was one night he made me stay there over night to be with him because he was worried, I guess you could even say scared. We dealt with a good bit of that when Randy originally attacked him. You could also say that Alyssa being missing resparked that as I noticed it in a couple conversations we had before he got kidnapped. Tony, if that’s why you called us all figuring we didn’t kno-”

“I figured that you guys knew something, but you probably don’t know everything that I’m going to say,” Tony starts. “That’s why I called you guys – because of the unknown facts that I know. However, it’s great to see that you’ve recognized what’s going on and have spoken with him. I just hope that continues, and big time.” The comment throws a curveball through the room, as minds began to wander as to everything that Chase either said or did to spark this conversation out of Tony.1

“Why do you say that?” Jeff Gordon asks curiously from his perspective. Tony then takes a deep breath, figuring it was worth continuing with what else he sad to say.

“As he was drinking the bottle of water, you could tell that he was in pain – his stomach –just by his motions and expressions. I offered to go get someone, or do something, and he told me that he left his pain pills in the 24 hauler when he was there earlier today seeing the gu-”

“That’s why he probably didn’t come up for practice, because he went to get the pills and ran into you?” Marie questions and Tony shakes his head yes. “Yeah, he told Kevin (Meendering) that he had to do something and then was coming back. It caught Dale and Kevin off-guard when he didn’t, but we figured maybe he got tied up talking to someone.” Tony could understand that explanation. However, he knew that wasn’t a fitting reaction based on what he had seen out of Chase. It was why he knew this conversation was necessary.

“Totally easy assumption to make in figuring nothing is wrong,” Tony starts. “But to be honest, I think for the next bit everybody should be a bit more careful, know where he is and who he with and everything. Why? Trust me, you’ll understand if you let me finish saying what happened.”

“And you said that he was fine now, so we don’t have to worry at this very moment, right?” Bill questions and Tony shakes his head yes.

“He’s calmed right down, enough to grab some sleep in the trailer. I have a crew member there and as soon as he wakes up, the crew member will text me so I can go back and make sure he’s fine. Trust me, I took care of all angles.” Bill shakes his head in approval, glad that it was Tony who had found Chase and gone through the motions. He wasn’t sure if the same type of reaction would’ve happened with just any fellow driver or owner in the garage. “Anyways, I offered to go get them but he didn’t want to be left alone – sort of what you were talking about, Regan. So I sent a crew member, easily got them, and he was able to take one, which started working instantly. I waited quietly, just seeing where his reaction would go and what to do next as I wasn’t sure how to handle this. He then told me that he thought he could simply go get the pills, take one, return back to the trailer to watch Alyssa with ease. However, he then goes ‘then it happened, again.’” The group looks at each other, slight confusion entering the spectrum as Regan glances at Dale, remembering the discussion they had shortly after Chase had gone missing with the airplane.

“Can I guess?” Regan asks, catching Tony by surprise. “I’m guessing that he had a total panic alarm set off in his mind, blanking out logical thinking, just going through the wheel of motions till everything caught up together without clearly knowing what he was doing.” Tony was surprised that he heard the right guess made, as it made him question even more why Chase was left alone.

“Yeah, that’s what happened,” Tony answers as Regan lets out a sigh. Perhaps he should’ve moved forward on his original thoughts then. “If you guys knew of this happening, why did you leave him alon-”

“We didn’t know of it being an actual occurrence; it was a random mind guess after he went missing looking for Alyssa. It was a theory that I had put together, but quickly dismissed due to nothing said by him in the days that followed.” Tony felt anger boiling as he just thought nobody had any idea. However, how could you avoid thought when you had an idea?

“Well, since you know of it, I guess why I’ve called you all here. Listen, the kid is got a TON going on emotionally, on a variety of scales. I just wanted to warn you based on what I saw so that way those closest to him to make sure to be there with him, and perhaps – as I said earlier – make sure someone was with him at all times – just so that way they can handle when these happen, till he figures it out.”

“Maybe I did come back racing too soon….” Alyssa thinks out loud, as she thought back to Chase’s thoughts on her return over the past several days. She had been selfish, stuck on her own goals of racing and dealing with her feelings. However, was part of the apprehension actually due to his feelings and needing her to deal with them?

“Alyssa, you can go back racing and we can still handle this,” Darrell starts. “We’ve got a bunch of us here that are tied up and available at different times so we can help when we’ve got time. This doesn’t fall on your shoulders and don’t think your decision has bought this on more.” Tony was glad to hear Darrell giving that piece of advice to Alyssa, especially with what he had to come. He had debated not saying what was said between him and Chase about Alyssa, but knew it was worth her knowing so everybody knew just where Chase was mentally.

“Chase was only giving you those warnings based on his own experience of coming back early, not because of this,” Dale adds. “However, if you felt that you handled it enough to come back racing, and handle the rest while racing, then don’t hold a single thought back on coming back.” Alyssa lets out a sigh as that was a thought she had continued to toss back and forth over the past couple of weeks, as well as during the day with what was said earlier at the press conference.

“Beyond that comment, I think you have word from the rest of us that we’ll be there and help him, and I appreciate you letting us know,” Ryan states, figuring they were near the conclusion of Tony’s discussion period. Besides, there was another XFINITY practice coming up that some of them had to get to.

“I know that I have your word because I know that you guys love him and will do what it takes,” Tony states cleanly, and that wasn’t a question in his mind. “I just have one other thing I think you guys should know, and I hope it doesn’t cause another issue.” He then takes a deep breath, remembering the discussion. “Chase blames himself for what happened. He says because of letting his fear control him, he wasn’t there for Alyssa. He wasn’t able to save her, prevent it from happening, or be there for her today. it’s a ton of guilt that just seemed to pour out of him unexpectedly. I spent a good bit convincing him otherwise in telling him that he was an amazing guy, great for Alyssa, and the fact his attempt to come out this weekend despite everything going on was beyond brave. I told him that he did a great job at the press conference, that he’s proven the odds surrounding the relationship, and mistakes are bound to happe-”

“He’s a ultra perfectionist,” Bill cuts off Tony, catching his attention. “He doesn’t believe in mistakes. To him, mistakes are the cause of things that he could’ve changed or done better to change what happened. He’s always been that way. It’s why he kept playing the previous attacks in his mind over and over, trying to see what he could’ve done differently. It’s why this is eating at him, again, and perhaps more because of how much he loves and cares about her.” Tony shakes his head, having picked up on his own theory around that.

“I also told him that he could bounce back from this, in which he didn’t believe me at first. However, I reminded him how he was able to before, followed by everybody who is here to support him, including Alyssa. I reminded him of the strength that we know he has, and there’s always a way to move forward. I told him it’d be okay, and to be honest, I think I got somewhere as we had a good session of tears before I let him go to sleep for awhile.” Tony then takes a deep breath. “I’ve been in those darkest moments and I know it takes a lot of work. However, with this group, I know you guys will help him.”

“It’s going to work out,” Ryan comments. “It’ll take time, it’ll take each of being patient with him and helping – but it’ll work out. I hate to go through this again with him, but I’d do a 100 times over because of how much I like my best friend.”

“I have no doubt,” Tony states as he reaches for his phone, seeing a text message. “That’s Chase…” The group goes to move, but Alyssa holds her arms out as she stands up.

“I want to go see him before any of you, please,” Alyssa starts. “He blames himself for what happened to me. As Tony said, the first round of feelings that poured out was all about me. Let me go see him. Let me have a heart-to-heart with him, show him I love him, show him it’ll be okay. Maybe with that out of the way, we can work through the rest.”

She then makes her way towards the door, glancing at Tony for directions as to where to go. She knew that she had practice coming up, but she in no way could think about the car or the race later on that night. There was only one thought on her mind, just as he had been in the hospital.

She had to make sure he was okay before she could take her own next step forward that weekend.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 64: Surprise

Sarina couldn’t believe that she was standing where she was right now. She couldn’t believe that between her own emotions and her brother’s vote of confidence that she was standing in Georgia.

Was she doing the right thing, or was this too soon? Letting out a sigh, she took the familiar drive that she had done a couple previous times.

She was going to originally fly to North Carolina, but seeing Chase’s twitter, she knew that he was home in Georgia with the race in Atlanta this weekend. It was why she made a quick call to Ricky to get Bill’s number, followed by a phone call to Bill.

She explained that she wanted to talk to Chase and make it a surprise, hoping the father would hand over details. Thankfully, he was on their side and proudly gave her all that she needed to know.

Pulling into the driveway, turning the ignition off, glancing out the house, she knew there was no turning back. She then got out of the car, throwing her keys in her pocket before walking up to the door. Taking one final deep breath, she knocks on the door.

“Hello Sarina,” she hears after Bill opens the door. She could only smile back in return.

“Hello Bill,” she replies. “I just want to say thank you for telling me the details. I wanted to surprise him as I heard from a certain crew member that it’s hit him harder than he’s told me.” Bill lets out a sigh, knowing that was an understatement probably for how well he knew his son. He also was curious as to who called and why, wanting to smack them while hugging them at the same time.

“Listen, it’s been on his mind and he’s been upset about it. We’ve talked a couple times, and I’ve noticed it’s one of the harder things in his life. While I may not agree with everything that happened, I’m willing to give you a chance because I know you do care about him, and perhaps you guys can make it work.” Sarina didn’t know what to say in return. How was she supposed to apologize for everything? Frankly, the same question surrounded her mind when she thought about Chase.

“I totally understand, and for what it’s worth, I am sorry for what happened. I know that I handled everything totally wrong.” Bill didn’t know what to say in return, as how was he supposed to react. There was still a mix of acceptance and anger happening.

“He just got done an interview while relaxing out back so why don’t you head out there and surprise him?” Sarina shakes her head yes as she makes her way into the house, letting Bill lead the way.

As the pair walk through the house, Cindy gives them a funny glance of curiosity, with Bill giving a glance in return as if to say that he’d explain later. Once she could see out to the back porch and see him on the swing, Bill stopped and let her go the rest of her way herself, knowing the pair needed alone time.

Sarina takes another deep breath, sliding the glass door open, before slowly sliding it shut. She noticed that Chase didn’t even look up from his phone, probably thinking that it was one of his parents. Taking another deep breath, hoping it’d clam her nerves some, she continues walking forward, slowly sitting down beside him, which catches his attention as he looks over at her surprised.

“Am I seeing things, or is that really you?” He questions as she lets out a small laugh.

“It’s really me,” she answers with a smile. “Surprise!” A smile immediately formed on Chase’s face as he wanted to reach out and hug her, though felt himself holding back with everything that happened.

“It’s great to see you and everything, but really? You’re here? How did you know? And why?”  Sarina couldn’t blame him for the questions, only hoping there were good intentions behind them.

“I noticed on your twitter that you weren’t in North Carolina so I gave Ricky a call. Ricky gladly handed over Bill’s number so I could find out the rest and see that you were staying with your parents for the week ahead of the race. Your father easily gave me the address, and here we are. As for why, I think you know why. I told you that I’d come see you when I was ready to talk and hash things out. With how much you’ve been on my mind this week boy, here I am.” Chase didn’t know whether to be excited or intrigued in return. He wasn’t looking forward to the discussion, but knew there were apologies needed from his side.

“What about your brother?” She smiles as she had been pleased with the most recent update.

“He’s been getting better each day, honestly, and he insisted that I take the trip to come see you because he had others to keep an eye on him while I was gone.” Chase then looks at her, now beyond surprised.

“What happened to the brother that wanted to kill me because I was spending time with you?” She knew there was a slight chuckle to come with that, however the severity of the situation didn’t bring it.

“Let’s just say that he apologized for that, and wants us to find a way to be together because he actually believes in us. Getting rid of that tumor has really honestly helped so much with him.” Chase couldn’t help but be happy for Chris, hoping the rest of the recovery went according to plan. He also hoped that his ribs would heal up as soon as possible, too.

“Well, the rest of my afternoon is free so we have time to have the talk that we’ve both been trying to arrange since California.” She shakes her head yes, taking a deep breath as she didn’t know what to expect next. “I think that it’s only fair that I start off because I lashed out on yo-”

“Chase, it was well deserved. I should’ve been honest with you. I should’ve told everything. I shouldn’t have hid a single thing.  That was brought on by my lies.” There was no denying that, however he knew that he could’ve been a little fairer.

“I know that it was brought on your lies and for that you are to blame, but I’m also to blame. I get the right to be angry, but I shouldn’t have flipped that harshly on you to the point where I probably scared the crap out of you. I should’ve understood where  you were coming from. I should’ve understood your reasons for hiding it, even if they weren’t right. I should’ve understood the fear that you were experiencing and heard you out, fairly. When I thought it over later on, trust me, I realized your reasons and the fact that I was wron-”

“Chase, like I said, the yelling was well deserved and you don’t need to apologize for it. No matter my damn reasons, it wasn’t right what I did as looked what happened as a result. I gave him the opportunity to go after you not once, but three times. Like I said, it was fully deserved and there’s no need to apologize any longer.” Chase knew that she meant good by her words, and was glad there was understanding in what happened. However, he knew that to give himself peace of mind, she deserved an explanation.

“Still, I want to say sorry because there may have been 20 million right reasons but I still feel bad for it now and I want to you know I’m sorry. I also want you to know that’ll never happen again because that’s not me, that’s not how I act. It’s just everything that happened and my own fear as to what could happen drove me to that. I let my fear and my emotions control me, and being scared out of my mind for my life for the first time ever, it scared me more than I could process and unfortunately made my actions go over the edge as you witnessed. So I apologize and say sorry.” She nodded her head, simply accepting. If it made him feel better and they got closer to being done this discussion with a return to before, it was fine by her.

“Apology accepted as trust me, I understand that fear. I know that with everything that I’ve been through virtue of my parents and my brother. I know what it can make you do. I mean, it made me keep that hidden for a big assortment of reasons – and for that I apologize, once again. I know I apologized that day at the house, but I want to say it again now that you have a level head on your shoulders. I am so sorry for not telling you about everything.  I know it was driven by fear and worry, but I feel terrible and am deeply sorr-”

“You don’t need to drill it in any longer, Sarina. Once I calmed down, the apology set in and I was able to accept it without much hesitation, understanding. I guess you could say in the span of a couple months we let our emotions drive us.” He then takes a deep breath, knowing that he hadn’t gotten his full apology out there yet, either. “Oh, and I apologize for how I basically ripped our contractual  deal in your face, too. Whether we had issues personally or not, it shouldn’t have affected the business relationship as both of those should rema-”

“Chase, it’s fine. Don’t worry. Like I said, I got why you acted the way you did that night and totally understood your reasons. You don’t need to worry about that factor. Besides, me working with Ricky with us two fighting wouldn’t have been pretty, anyway.”

“Well just so you know, Ricky has assured me that he still loves the heck out of you and wants to work with you once again. So if you ever want to jump back in one of my late models, you have my full permission.” She smiles as she knew that she’d take him up on that offer with having a list of other races she still wanted to win on her bucket list. “Oh, and I also want to apologize for throwing everything back in your face that night in the kitchen, too. You didn’t deserve all those ‘thank yous’ that I gave you for the danger comments, as if anybody should know that, it’s you and what you’ve been through.”

“Chase, it’s okay – like I said, I understand your reasons. Just like I told you that night, you were frustrated, angry and felt threatened. You didn’t mean what you were saying as it was just the emotions of fear and everything speaking for you, just like they made me do some things that I should’ve done myself, too. If anybody gets what you’re feeling, it’s me because I damn well have made the same mistakes, too.” He smiled as he had to admit their discussion was going better than expected, with a lot of agreements across the board. Perhaps they did have the future he envisioned.

“Remember when I said that I didn’t think there was a way to come back from a lie or a danger threat? I’m going to bite my words on that topic right now because I can see a future for us.” She then looks at him surprised, not expecting those words so soon. “I’m serious! We both realize how wrong we were, we both realize that mess that we caused and we both miss each other more than we can express in a series of text messages. I know it may take some time to build the level of trust that we had then, but I think there’s something for us – as long as you do, too.”

“If I didn’t think there was a future, do you think I would’ve checked on you that night? Do you think that I would’ve sent those text messages? Do you think that I would’ve flown across the bloody damn country on a crappy flight scaring the shit out of myself to surprise you?” He had to chuckle a little, knowing her fear of flying.

“Was it that bad?” She then lets out a long sigh, wishing she could forget the details.

“Let’s just say that I’m never using that service again.” He couldn’t help but chuckle once again.

“If it makes you feel better, I’ll make sure to be your pilot from now on.” She couldn’t help but feel her cheeks turn red at the comment, combined with a smile forming on her face.  “Sarina, I know I said that we have trust issues to still work through and all, but can I ask you a personal question? Did your brother have something to do with your mother’s death?” He could tell by her eyes glancing away from him that he touched a nerve with the question, whether answering his suspicions or not. “If you don’t want to say anything, you don’t hav-”

“He was beyond angry at my mother for making us move across country, trying to change his ways and keep going with what father started. They had long fights and such. However, my brother managed to keep himself getting into trouble and ended up owing a whole lot of money. Let’s just say that he never had the money to pay them back, and they thought that they’d send him a message in a personal way.” Chase shakes his head in total disbelief. He had suspected a connection based on his interaction with Chris, but wasn’t sure on the exact details – especially anything like that. “So when I tell people, I just say that it was someone coming looking for information, something in relation to my father’s gang connections, not wanting to think about it.”

“To be honest, I don’t blame you as that’s…..damn, I’m sorry to hear. I really don’t know to react.” She understood the reaction, having heard that from others who knew the truth.

“May I ask why you were curious, though?” He then glances at her as he thinks back to the night in the hospital.

“Something your brother said in that he knew he’d be caught, but he’d been caught before and they’d ‘just take me to the hospital and try to fix me, failing like they have every other time’. I assumed that something must’ve happened, perhaps connected to your mother, by those words.” She shakes her head, remembering the experience fondly.

“Before we were shipped away cross country, they admitted him to a mental hospital to get help, realizing that something was going on.  That’s why he and I lost track of each other for a long time there because I didn’t know where he ended up getting released and he didn’t know where I traveled to. I was so mad at him at that time that I didn’t bother to check in to see if he got the help, or what was going on.” Chase shakes his head, understanding. He couldn’t blame the anger that she had, nor why she had chosen the actions she had taken now.

“Anybody would be furious at their brother and wanting nothing to do with them if that happened to their mother. But I guess that’s why you feel you owe your brother now for everything from those days, right?” She shakes her head yes. “As much as you want to blame yourself, you can’t do that, though. You were doing what you needed to survive then, and finding a way to move forward. It’s really the system that failed him in not recognizing everything sooner.” She knew that in her brain, but it was another thing to convince her heart of that.

“Given the experience that you had with my brother, I’d totally understand if I have to keep family separate if we were to make things work down the roa-”

“Sarina, by accepting you and your apology, I accept the whole package. I accept your brother being in your life and around that. Sure, he hurt me a couple times, but I’ve healed and it wasn’t his fault that he had something else going on. I’ve fully let go what happened and hold nothing against Chris, if we were to cross paths any day. Heck, that night when Ricky and I were by ourselves I told him that, ‘As angry as I am at him and as much as I wish he’d pay for everything that he’s done this past year, I want to see him get the proper help that he needs’ and that it wasn’t his fault for those reasons. Trust me, I’ve let it go.” Sarina couldn’t help but smile as that was one less wrinkle she had to work out moving forward. She knew that she was totally spoiled having someone this understanding in her life.

“About that night in the hospital, I want to apologize for the behavior of the muskatee-”

“Erik and Christopher?” She then smiles and shakes her head yes. “You don’t need to apologize for them. They were just being their highly caring, opinionated selves. I haven’t held a grudge at all towards that, either.”

“Have I mentioned how much I love you lately?” Chase laughs and shakes his head no.

“I’ve been missing that, you know.” She then scoots a little closer.

“Well, how about I remind you how much I love you?” She then leans in, kissing the corner of his lips lightly before pulling away with a smile.

“It’s a start, and it’s better than before. Thank you, thank you.” He then pulls her back close, returning the favor with a more passionate kiss.