Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 134: Her Trial and Those Nerves….

Wednesday, August 17 – Indianapolis, Indiana

Chase thins out the creases in his shirt once again, as he lets out a sigh. He wished he was in Bristol right now, but instead he had this to deal with.

“Thanks for coming,” he comments with a glance at his parents as they walk towards the court room doors.

“We’ve always got your back,” Cindy says as she follows him inside. “We would’ve been here whether you asked or not.” Chase smiles, knowing that was true. He just wished Sarina was there too, but she was in Bristol getting ready for practice.

“My phone is turned on silent. I told Sarina I’d text her updates, as long as she let me know how practice went. Hopefully, we’re out of here quickly…” He had already planned to fly to Bristol that night and be there for the truck race, no matter what. He wanted to be there to support his girl.

He heard from her the discussion with Kyle, followed by the extended meeting at Kyle Busch Motorsports on Monday. Everybody knew her short track pedigree and how she could master any track just like that – it was why she was so good behind the wheel of a late model. She also already had laps at Bristol with a late model and ran well. Now knowing the pressure to make the playoffs was picking up, it was now or never to win – and this was the best opportunity looking at the stretch of races.

He had comforted her as much as he could, assuring her that she had the ability to get the job done, but also to relax and just do her thing and it’d pan out right. He also texted Kyle that it may be a good idea to calm off a little as pressure wasn’t needed necessary right now with everything else going on.

Though now being in Indiana set for the first day of another trial spell, he wished with all of his might that he was in Bristol right now by her side, supporting her. Why couldn’t they done this a day before or a day later?

“There he is….” Chase hears, recognizing the voice – Eddie D’Hondt – as he enters the court room, instantly glancing over with a surprise as he sees the whole team sitting there.

“What are you guys doing here?” He questions as the team looks towards the boss. Alan was supposed to mention that they were going to be attending.

“She set up a bomb to blow all of our asses up,” Alan starts. “We’re in this as much as you, so we wanted to make sure and be here. We have to make sure she pays for what she did.” Chase admired the crew’s reasoning, but still felt bad for taking them away from focusing on things in the shop. He knew things were crazy right now at Hendrick with making sure he qualified for the playoffs, and were ready when they started.

“You guys are already working crazy hours, and now you’re putting in flight time and time away from your families, the team that you don’t need to be doing.”

“This is coming from the same guy that said we stick together no matter what and have each other’s back, right?” Jared Seate questions. “No matter what you say, Chase, we felt the need and right to be here. What if – Never mind, I don’t want to picture that happening. But still…” Chase lets out a sigh, knowing that Jared was right in his words – seeing the bit of fear the guys felt in the moment. It was another byproduct of the decision he made….

“Well, I appreciate you being here regardless, and don’t worry – she’s not getting away with this.” Chase then takes his seat, with his parents sitting on either side of him, as he quickly sends a good luck text to Sarina, knowing practice is about to start.

“All rise!” The clerk then states, causing Chase to focus his attention forward as he stands up. “The honorable Judge Mansions preceding!” The female judge walks in, taking her seat on the podium as Chase focuses his eyes on her. He wanted to read her, see whether she was someone that had sympathy or would lay down every ounce of the law in a second.

“You may be seated,” she states, as everyone in the room sits down. “Except for Ms. Alison Stevenson…” Alison remains standing, glancing over at Chase with a wink and smile, before looking back forward. Chase could only roll his eyes, and feel a bit of vomit rising at that thought. “We’re simply here to see how you plead to the charges, which seems to be a decent list. I am going to go through them and you will simply say guilty or not guilty, understood?”

“Yes ma’am,” Allison replies as Chase keeps his eyes locked forward, not wanting to take another glance at her.

“On the charge of attempted murder in a public place including over 100 people, how do you plead?” Everybody knew that charge surrounded the bomb that went off in the garage, as some of the crew guys still shivered at the thought. Jared couldn’t stop himself from asking the what if question, either.

“Guilty.” A series of gasps in surprise can be heard throughout the room in response to the charge as Chase glances back at the crew guys surprised. Perhaps this was going to be easier than expected….

“On the charge of poisoning Mr. Chase Elliott, how do you plead?” Chase sits back, closing his eyes as he wishes he could forget how sick he felt that afternoon, and continued to question why he let her play him and not do something sooner.

“Guilty.” Chase was once again surprised, but not willing to argue. It was nice to see everything going to plan.

“On the charge of kidnapping Mr. Elliott, how do you plead?” It was intriguing to hear those words used, given that Chase had voluntarily followed her helper to that location. However, he also did recall being held there against will with the door locked. There was also the fact the state attorney promised she was going to try and catch Allison on every charge possible.

“Not guilty – he came voluntarily.” Chase lets out a sigh, having expected an answer of that magnitude. However, he wasn’t going to worry about it. There was enough years with the other two charges combined.

“Your honor, my client has pled guilty to both charges due to being forced to follow orders from another female in this equation,” Allison’s lawyer speaks up, catching Chase’s attention as a smile forms. There was no question who that other party was, either.

“A plea deal was offered for the informatio-” The attorney starts, which Chase recalled the phone call conversation.

“My client should not serve any time for her wrongdoings simply due to how she was forced by another individual!” Laughter escaped people in the room in response to that, casing the judge to hit her hammer to quiet them down.

“Your honor, she caused Mr. Elliott to be hospitalized almost for a full week, knocked out for almost a whole day. She also caused fear among any person standing in the garage that weekend, which reached the 100s, but more specifically the entire team that works with Mr. Elliott. Just because someone was forced, she shouldn’t be allowed to escape every charge.” There were people who were almost set to cheer at the rebuttal, though stopped themselves as they saw the hammer being raised again.

“Any outbursts from here on out and you will be kicked out of my court room, possibly held in contempt of court,” Judge Mansions says, causing a frozen appearance to go over the room. “A trial will be held to determine whether a sentence should be levied against, and to what extent. We will begin with Allison Stevenson stating what she did, and why, before going from that point with whatever else is felt necessary. Jury or no jury? Media block or none?”

“We would like to keep the media out of this due to being a high profile case,” the attorney states, which Chase had his fingers crossed for. There was going to be enough for a mess caused by the Chris trial in Florida.

“Once again – special treatment for celebrity status?” The lawyer questions. “And we would like a jury, please.”

“The request for a media block has been denied as being high profile, the public does deserve re-assurance,” Judge Mansions says, as Chase lets out a sigh. It was going to be a media mess in the garage for a good bit. “Jury selection will be done, and then we will begin as stated. Has the individual responsible for the threats been arrested?”

“The paperwork is currently being processed as we speak,” the attorney reveals as Chase could only shakes his head. He knew that Bethany would be going into hiding with the thought of being captured – that or expediting whatever plan she had been cooking up in her meetings with Chris. Either way, he immediately found his fingers typing away on his phone quietly to Sarina with an update, including a fair stern warning.

“Thank you. Court adjourned!”

Everybody immediately files out of the court room as Chase glances at the time, figuring out in his head when they’d land in Bristol. Perhaps he’d actually get there in time for qualifying now.

“Surprised by her confession?” Bill questions, catching Chase’s attention as they walk out of the court room.

“Not one bit – Sarina and I figured there was a connection,” Chase answers, remembering their conversation. He also remembered another conversation with Sarina in the timing of the photo being sent, along with a comment traded. “She’s been dropping hints to Sarina for awhile now. It was how Sarina got her hands on the photo that weekend…”

“So she was going to use Allison to break you two up?” Chase nods his head, remembering the comment that Sarina mentioned from Bethany.

“On the first day of Chris’ trial when I wasn’t able to be there, Bethany mentioned something about how I may get bored or annoyed, and stray from her. That very same day was when I first encountered Allison at the Hooter’s Pageant.” Bill shakes his head in disbelief as they reach the car.

“At least Sarina was smart and listened to you and trusted you….” Chase nods his head as he climbs in the car. Though letting out a sigh, he couldn’t let it escape him that it took some convincing from a third party as she was almost set to run away.  “Did she do well in practice?” Chase glances at the results, knowing right away that his dad was trying to get his mind off of what happened.

“Fourth quickest. The boss was first with Bell third. They’ve got some quick trucks…..”

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

With both practices in the books, Sarina found herself leaning against the truck, awaiting for qualifying to begin. She kept glancing at her watch, checking the time, remembering the latest text from Chase – he was supposed to be on his way. She couldn’t help but glance towards the gates to see whether he was walking through them. She knew within five minutes of the session, the gates would close and he would be stuck on the outside until the session was over.

Crossing her fingers, she wanted to see her man before then.

She was trying not to be nervous, but she couldn’t help but remember the words chance to win, playoffs, short track queen, your wheel house that had been repeated by crew members, Marcus, Kyle, and the media entering the day. It was like everybody expected her to come in, run well, and battle Kyle for the win – just like her late model short track days.

Nobody understood the difference between the trucks and late models, it seemed. Nobody understood that she was a rookie still trying to learn. Nobody understood that pressure would drive her insane.

“Surprise!” She hears as a pair of arms wrap around her waist, instantly pulling her close. She immediately smiles as she recognized the voice and feeling right away. It was like every bit of anxiety she was feeling escaped immediately, too.

“Thank you….” She then spins around, facing him, wrapping her arms around him.

“Did you really need me that badly?” She nods her head as he keeps her held close.

“You wouldn’t believe the questions in the media center….” He then steps back, looking at her surprised. He could only connect those questions to everything going on with Chris and Allison. “Everybody just assumes that I’m going to be in contention to win because I know short tracks, and it’s Kyle Busch Motorsports equipment. Like, I didn’t need to hear that. I can do that enough myself!” Chase then pulls her back close, running his hands up and down her back.

“Take a deep breath, relax….” He then pauses, looking into her eyes. “What did we talk about this week? What have we talked about every time something like this comes up?” She closes her eyes, remembering their conversations.

“Take a deep breath, relax, be calm, forget the outside world, focus on myself, and just do my thing because no matter what, it’ll play out how it is supposed to.” He nods his head as he pulls her back close, rubbing her back once again.

“Don’t let it eat at you. Your belief in yourself is all you need. Just focus on that, Marcus and everything will work out. You’ve had a great rookie season, showing improvement every week. Just keep doing that, and you’ll eventually get to where everybody thinks you should be. They keep forgetting that you’re just fresh out of late models, and it’s not just going to come to you. Not everybody is a William Byron.”  She then glances at him.

“….or a Chase Elliot-”

“Hey now, I made some costly mistakes when I first moved up, too, and tore up some equipment. I wasn’t no angel by any means.” She shrugs her shoulders, not too sure about that, as she remembered always hearing amazing things. “Look at Joey Logano, though. Look at Truex. Look at Keselowski. Heck, look at your car owner or even Bell. Those guys took time to come into their own. Bell had a bunch of horrendous moments last year, but came into his own as the year closed. Kyle got sent from one team to another due to how he was. It’ll come…”

“I hope you’re rig-”

“I know I’m right. Just believe, okay?” She nods her head as she lays it on his shoulder. “So, we were right about Allison….” She smiles immediately.

“I’m just glad that she had the courage to say something. But to not want any jail time at all?” She then stands straight up, staring at Chase in the eyes. “Are you sure she’s not actually insane?” Chase laughs.

“Hey now, I never said that she wasn’t, either. We saw what she did….” Sarina nods her head. “Regardless, it feels good that we’ve got them on all angles. See, things are starting to work out…”

“It’s a start, I guess…” He then rubs her shoulders once again.

“Believe in yourself – you’re going to have a great night, and the rest of stuff will fall into place. If it makes you feel better, think about the vacation coming up….” She smiles, remembering that discussion. She wasn’t absolutely certain about doing a vacation alongside Ryan, given the fear with what pranks may come, but she was ready to get away and have some fun for a couple weeks.

“What are you most excited for – Amsterdam, Germany, or the Belgium Grand Prix?” Chase thinks it over, remembering the planning that he and Ryan broke down earlier in the week together in places to hit up. It had already been an almost disaster trying to get passes to go to the Formula 1 event, but it paid off to have connections – thanks Jeff!

“Amsterdam looks like it’s going to be amazing with all the places that Ryan has figured out.” Sarina just shakes her head.

“You boys are just excited to try the different beers…” He then chuckles, shrugging his shoulders. He couldn’t deny it…

“It’s going to be a good time regardless, right?” She then rolls her eyes, already figuring she’d be babysitting them at one point. “What about you?”

“I actually can’t wait to go to the Belgium Grand Prix, to be honest. I’m always for exploring different forms of racing, and I’ve never been to a Formula 1 event. I’m ready to get up close and personal for a change.” Chase then thinks things over, pondering some thoughts…

“Maybe we can get the chance for you to sit in a car.” Her eyes open wide immediately and Chase makes a mental note to get a hold of Jeff or maybe Tony to see if he could pull that favor off, too. “I said maybe…strong maybe. I mean, I don’t know them. It’s going to take some convincing…”

“Have I told you today that you’re perfect and amazing?” He just rolls his eyes as she kisses his lips. “I got to go qualify. We’ll get back to these plans later, okay?” He nods his head as she heads off. He could only smile seeing the hop in her step, knowing their conversation had been perfect.

Now they just needed the bubbly attitude to carry them through the night….

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

Chase cautiously walks back to the garage area, seeing Sarina climb out of the truck, throwing her gloves back in frustrated. She then takes her helmet off, setting it down lightly – she never threw that no matter her anger due to how she cherished it – before letting out a sigh. She grabbed the bottle of water left on the truck by Marcus, downing the entire bottle, before chucking it across the pit area.

The race had started out well as she had started fourth, running up front right there with Kyle and Christopher. However, near the end of the second stage, she suffered a pit road penalty – crew member over the wall too soon – which set her back in the field. She pushed as hard as she could to make up the lost ground, ending up 15th.

Chase cautiously walks over, slowly wrapping his arms around her, as he lays her head on her shoulder. If it had been anybody except him, he knew she would’ve snapped around and chopped their head off. But being that it was him, she actually laid back into his arms a little.

“You did what you had to do,” he starts. “It’s not your fault that you got the penalty. It’s not your fault that you finished where you did. You did what you needed to do, and that’s all you can ask as a driver.” She sighs, knowing that he was right – no matter how angry she was.

“How could they not get that they jumped over the wall too soon?” She questions as Chase had to shrug his shoulders. He remembered instantly cursing on the pit box when he heard the call.

“They’re always trying to get that advantage of being as quick as possible. The one guy just timed it a little wrong…” She wanted to scream, possibly snap the head off of that crew member, but she knew that wouldn’t solve anything.

“I so badly wanted to do well. I so badly wanted to be up there in the top-five. I so badly wanted to win…”

“I know, and you did exactly what you needed to do. It sucks, but that’s racing and shit happens. These guys have done a great job all year. I bet that crew member feels worse than you do right now. You guys have a couple more races – you can make the playoffs. Just take a deep breath, and put your best foot forward as you can do this.” He then kisses her cheek.

“Thank you…” He nods his head as he lets her go, letting her walk up into the hauler to change as he lets out a sigh.

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Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 132: “I debated telling you….”

Friday, August 11

Chase climbs from the car in the garage, looking over at Alan with a smile as Alan nods his head in agreement. If things went as good as they felt this first practice for the rest of the weekend, it was going to be an amazing time.

“A happy driver is something that I have no problem with,” Alan comments as he walks over.

“It felt really good that run – even better than the first run,” Chase replies as Alan looks on surprised. “Like, I could run the top no problem, and then slip down to the bottom and just keep same pace. It’s everything I could ask for.” Alan crosses his arms, as he glances over their notes.

“I just don’t about qualifying….” Chase leans back against the car as he thinks it over.

“We’re not right there with immediate speed that Martin and Kyle have. I don’t think we have pole quality right there. But, I think we’ll qualify in the top-10 without a doubt, maybe top-five if I push it a bit more.” Alan nods his head, accepting.

“Just don’t cross the edge of no return.” Chase nods his head in agreement.

“I’m going to find my dad as we were going to talk about something. If you need me, text me, okay?” Alan nods his head as he watches Chase head off.

Chase takes a deep breath as he remembers the short conversation with his dad that morning, and the agreement to meet on top of the hauler. They were going to watch truck practice while having their serious chat.

As Chase makes his way through the garage, signing a couple autographs along the way, he debated whether this was a good idea. Was this something that he should keep to himself based on what happened? What it supposed to be kept to himself as a private moment between them?

However, something felt right in saying something to his dad at least about it. It was like the perfect assurance, comfort feeling in what happened. Maybe he was supposed to say something as a sign.

Letting out a sigh, he knew there was no turning back now and it felt it right in his heart then it probably right. He climbs the steps, joining his father up top as he glances at the speed chart quickly.

“She hasn’t made any laps yet,” Bill informs him, knowing what Chase was checking.

“Bell is fast so she should be good,” Chase comments as he looks back out towards the track. His dad walks over, leaning over the same railing as him.

“So you wanted to talk?” Chase nods his head. “It sounded pretty serious, to be honest.”

“It is, actually. It’s probably one of our most serious discussions, I guess.” Bill then looks at Chase intrigued. “And before you ask, don’t worry – it’s not like I’m danger, trouble, worrisome, or something is wrong. This is something that’s already happened – not the worst thing either, but enough that I wanted to tell you.” Bill nods his head, trying to piece the puzzle together as he felt confused in Chase’s words. Normally, Chase just came out and said something.

“Well, the rule has always been if you want to talk, I’ll listen. So, I’m listening…” Chase takes a deep breath, once again debating saying something.

“I debated telling you, to be honest. I’m still debating whether I should tell you.” Bill crosses his arms.

“If it’s that important that you’re debating it, then I think it’s worthy. Besides, you normally don’t stall like thi-”

“You’ve heard about near death experiences, right?” Bill freezes as he slowly nods his head. “You’ve heard the stories about how people have seen or felt something in that moment. They’re transferred to a separate place sometimes…”

“I’ve heard plenty of those, Chase. I mean, you’ve even heard them, too. Remember what Dale told you about his wreck at Sonoma?” Chase nods his head, remembering how Dale felt it was his dad who pulled him from the wreck.

“I can honestly say that I didn’t believe in that stuff originally when I’ve heard the stories. But, after the second poisoning incident at Indianapolis, I have a different appreciation.” Bill was then even more confused as he kept his eyes locked on Chase. “When I was lying in the hospital room, totally out of it, mom was crying waiting for me to wak-”

“You knew she was crying?” Chase nods his head as he looks over at his dad.

“Even though I couldn’t say a thing, I saw everything and heard all the discussion. I know how worried you both were.” Bill nods his head as he takes a deep breath.

“Can you blame me, though?” Chase shakes his head.

“I still feel awful for the decisions that I made and how I went abou-”

“You can’t take back what happened now. You can just learn from that and never do that again – got it?” Chase hears the sternness in his father’s voice, catching his attention, and nods his head. “Good, because I don’t know if I can handle that again.”

“I don’t want to go through that again, anyway.”

“So while you were lying there, hearing everything….” Chase takes a deep breath, remembering where he left off.

“I had one of those experiences. I was transferred off to almost like a peaceful perfect garden away from everybody – felt almost too peaceful.” Chase then looks up and looks over at his dad. “I saw Casey…” Bill’s expression immediately freezes as he keeps his eyes locked on Chase.

“As in your cousin?” Chase nods his head. Bill found himself lost for words in what to say in hearing the revelation. Part of him wanted to yell out that it was a hallucination and not real, but he couldn’t find the ability to do that as he heard about these moments. In exchange, there were a series of questions running rapt through his mind.

“We had a short conversation. It was first surprise in being there, followed by making sure that it was not perma-”

“I would hope not!” Chase puts his hands up, defensively.

“Trust me – as soon as I realized where I was, I was looking for the door out of there. That’s when he assured me that it was going to be okay.” Chase reaches over, placing his hand on his dad’s. “Dad, I’m not making this up. I would never do that, especially with something like this. I’m telling you the truth. It felt almost too rea-”

“I believe you, Chase.” Bill then takes a deep breath, composing his emotions. “I believe you completely. It’s just a shock to hear….” Chase nods his head as he glances back out towards the track.

“That’s why I debated even saying something because it was a total complete shock.” Bill felt the questions growing even more as he kept his eyes focused on Chase.

“You mentioned a conversation….” Chase nods his head as he takes his eyes off Sarina’s truck on track to look at his dad.

“I expressed regret in not getting a chance to get to know him, meet him, spend time with him based on everything that you, mom and Uncle Ernie have said. He then told me he remembered when I was born, getting to see me a brief little bit, and assured me that he’s never far. He always has my back.” Bill felt his eyes growing a little wet, as he reaches up immediately and brushes away the tears.

“There was someone in the family who mentioned that he’d probably be your guardian angel, and you’d always be blessed. I can’t remember who said it, but it’s like perfect…” Chase nods his head as he glances up for a second, before looking back over at his dad.

“He assured me I wasn’t staying there, but it was a reminder that no matter what, he’s always watching over me. No matter what happens, it’s going to be okay – whether Sarina, myself, or whatever. I then gave me the instructions to get home so that way we could make mom stop crying.” Bill chuckles.

“That sounds like Casey, really. He never liked to see anybody upset. He was the perfect upbeat kind of guy, and always wanted to transfer that positive energy on everybody.” Chase nods his head, having heard that a couple of times.

“I then asked him a quick question – is it okay to be afraid? He assured me that it was okay because of everything, but to know that Sarina was the perfect gal for me and it was worth it if I believed.” Bill smiles as he wraps an arm around Chase.

“And recall that the second day you were home, Cindy seemed to be starting to like Sarina some more…” Chase smiles as he remembers the conversation that night.

“The conversation that night with Sarina about how to make sure she didn’t lose the memory of her father – through conversation, stories, scrapbook, whatever it took – it really set in that night. You guys have always done that with Casey, and others for me, so I know my family closely. I didn’t appreciate that before, but I do now.” Bill smiles as he keeps Chase held close.

“We just wanted you to know that you’re a special guy from a great family.” Chase nods his head.

“Can we just keep this between us?” Bill nods his head. He knew it’d be assuring to Cindy and Ernie to hear this, too, but understood Chase’s want to keep it quiet.

“Your secret is safe with me. I do appreciate you telling me, though. It’s nice to hear you have a guardian angel.” Chase smiles as he glances back out to the track.

“So wanna tell me a story?” Bill laughs as he thinks through everything over the years.

“What’s the best story that I could tell you about Casey?” Bill thinks it over, before beginning, as Chase listened intently.

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

Chase walks into the motorcoach, smile on his face, as Sarina follows in behind him. She sits down on the couch as he slips the firesuit off.

“You said that you’d probably end up in the top-five but not quick enough for pole,” she comments as he nods his head. “Fifth isn’t too shabby at all.”

“I’m not complaining,” he replies as he walks back to the bedsroom. He then slips off the firesuit, grabbing a pair of shorts and t-shirt before returning. “I told Alan that’s where we’d end up, and I’m happy. As long as the car feels that good on Sunday, I’ll be fine.”

“Are you trying to say that you’re ready to call your shot?” Chase laughs as he plops down on the couch beside her.

“I’m not that brave, to be honest. I mean, I know how quick Kyle and Martin are, and I know it’s going to take perfection on Sunday. I know the car is good, but maybe not perfect yet. So I’m just confident in a really good day, being in contention probably, but I won’t pull the Hamlin in calling my shot and look like an ass.” She then laughs as she leans against him.

“You could never look like an ass. Even if you did, you’d be cute doing it.” Chase then looks down at her.

“Ms. Ott, are you trying to flirt with me for any particular reason?” She laughs and shakes her head. “I don’t know if I believe that….”

“Maybe I have a motive…” Chase then laughs.

“I knew it! So what is it?” She then sits up and glances towards the kitchen.

“Dinner is my favourite tonight…and I don’t know if you’re up for that.” Chase thinks it over. He had to admit the first time she made it, it wasn’t too bad.

“I can accept your chicken and rice tonight, as long as it turns into you having a good day tomorrow.” She then lets out a laugh as she walks to the small kitchen.

“That’s nothing like pressure…” He then puts his feet up as he watches her.

“Let’s just say that I believe in your talent, like always, and know you can get the job done. Relax, have fun, and just drive the snot out of that truck tomorrow.” She then gives him a thumbs up as he takes a deep breath. He couldn’t help but think to the conversation with his dad, and a couple stories shared. “Say after dinner, I have an idea for tonight.”

“Uh oh….”

“It’s going to be a nice clear night. What if we go out, find a nice spot and lay under the stars together? We can share some stories together. You can tell me about your father and family, and I’ll tell you about my family.” She then looks over, intrigued.

“Really?” He nods his head.

“I told you that I was willing to listen to stories from you if that helped you remember all the good times and made everything else easier. I figure a nice night, clear sky, nothing for us to do, it’s the perfect opportunity to start.” He then gets up and walks over to her, wrapping his arms around her as she cuts the chicken. “Besides, I know how special Michigan is to you. It’s home no matter what, right?” She nods her head.

“It’ll always be home – even if there’s things that I wish I could forget.” He then takes the knife out of her hand, spinning her around to face him.

“As much as those things hurt, they made you who you are. They pushed you and made you stronger, and brought you down the journey you took. Rather than forget them and run, be thankful that you got through that and use it as motivation for a stronger future. Then in process, try and think about the good times. Like, those positive memories with your dad and the times you spent together.” She smiles as she nods her head.

“Sometimes it’s not that easy….”

“I know, I can see that on your face when we talk about it. That’s why I want to be here for you, holding you up when you need it, offering you that shoulder, and ready to listen to those positives.” She then looks up into his eyes.

“How did you know that this is what I needed tonight?” Chase smiles.

“I know how you get at times. I saw how this weekend was already playing on you. Also, let’s just say that a conversation with my dad helped, too.” She then looks on surprised. “We talked about Casey a little….”

“I wouldn’t mind hearing a couple of those stories based on what your mom had to say already.”

“Then we have a deal after dinner?” She nods her head as he lets her go. “I’m going to grab a shower, and then I look forward to enjoying your lovely cooking.”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 127: Pocono

Friday, July 28

Sarina emerges from the bathroom, brushing her hair, before pulling it up in a pony tail as she glances at herself in the mirror.

“Sarina…” She hears from the bed, noticing a pair of eyes watching her. She silently curses to herself as she walks over.

“Hey babes,” she says as she leans over to him. “How are you feeling?” He shrugs his shoulders before lying back in the bed.

“Sick to my stomach…” She then reaches over rubbing his leg.

“It’ll get better, Chase. You took the gravol, right?” He nods his head.

“Where are you headed?” She knew the discussion was set to come.

“First practice starts in a half hour.” He then flings the blanket off of him and sits up, but she places his hand on his chest. “And where do you think you’re going?”

“I’m coming to support you…” She shakes her head. “That’s why I’m here this weeke-”

“You’re feeling sick to your stomach, and can barely right now. It’s just a practice, Chase. I’ll be back right after Marcus and I am done debriefing about the truck. You need to get your rest and work at feeling better.” He lets out a sigh, knowing that she was right, as he didn’t feel like moving out of the bed. “Besides, your parents will right outsid-”

“What about you? You’re going to walk through the garage area alone?” She shakes her head as she knew that there was no way he’d let that happen, already called in a favor.

“Christopher and I are going to walk there together, and then he’s going to walk back with me – just for peace of mind, okay? I knew you’d be worried about something happening…” He was almost set to put up a fight about staying there, but didn’t have the energy. So he instead sat up, leaned in and kissed her.

“I’ll see you later then. Be careful, but be fast.” She smiles, nodding her head.

“Just take it easy, okay? Maybe if you’re feeling better this afternoon you can come out for the second practice and see your guys, okay?” He nods his head as she puts the blanket back over him. She makes sure he’s all tucked in before leaving the room. “He’s going back to sleep. I’ll see you both after.”

“Good luck,” Bill comments as she simply gives him a quick nod. “Watch the tunnel turn. It seems like it’s the easiest turn, but it’s got some corkiness. Then you’ve got the slipperiness of turn three.”

“Thanks for the tips, Bill,” she replies as she puts her shoes on. She then hears a knock on the door, grabbing her phone off the table and heading out.

“Ready to go?” Christopher questions and Sarina nods her head. The pair then head out towards the garage together. “Is Chase feeling any better?”

“A little bit, but still feeling pretty sick.” Christopher just shook his head.

“That sucks, big time. Hopefully everything subsides quickly for him.” Sarina nods her head in agreement. “You know, I’m glad that you texted and asked me actually. I was worried about you…” Sarina rolls her eyes immediately.

“Not again, Bell-”

“No no, please, don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not meaning to start that crap again. Like I said – you and Chase are meant for each other, and everything is right there if you’re happy. I’m going to burst your love bubble.” Sarina smiles, glad that they were over that as she didn’t want to kick his ass today. Admittedly, she was more tired than she thought with all of her energy exhausted on worrying this week. “I just get what Chase is saying. What if something else happens? What if there’s more to the plans here? I feel the safety concerns….”

“I can’t deny that, Christopher. I mean, they haven’t located Allison yet anywhere, and Bethany is playing completely dumb. So with both at large, I can understand the nerves. I mean, Allison could be anywhere.” Christopher then stops dead in his tracks, catching Sarina off-guard.

“There’s a posting that won’t allow her anywhere near the garage area, right?” Sarina nods her head.

“NASCAR talked to track security and made it clear that she isn’t allowed on property and to be arrested immediately if spotted. There’s an arrest warrant out for her.” Christopher then lets out a sigh of relief, before continuing the walk. “You think the hell I’d let that what she did to him go easily?” Christopher shakes his head. “Actually, he could’ve avoided getting the needle.”

“How do you mean?” Sarina takes a deep breath, remembering the conversation.

“No needle, and she would’ve blown the garage up that afternoon on Saturday.” Christopher looks over in shock.

“The crew guys. That’s why he did what he did.” Sarina nods her head.

“Their family, just like our guys are for us. We’d all do anything for each other, right?” Christopher couldn’t help but agree, having grown close to the guys over the past couple years. “The other option was that he sleep with her.”

“So instead of cheating on you and sleeping with her, he accepted a poisonous drug to be inserted into his system?” Sarina nods her head. “Holy, that’s the next level of commitment right there. Have I told you lately that you have a really special guy in him?” It was now Sarina’s turn to look at him in shock.

“I never thought I’d hear those words, Christopher…” He then shrugs his shoulders.

“It’s like everybody says – it’s hard to hate that guy as he’s the perfect sweetheart. Don’t ruin it, okay?” Sarina nods her head as they reach the garage area, going their separate directions.

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

Sarina begins the walk back to the motorcoach, feeling a little out of place as she glanced around side-to-side. She was supposed to head back with Christopher after just completing their second practice, but he was stuck longer due to media. Not wanting to wait around 15 minutes to see Chase, she made the trip herself.

She then hears her phone go off, pulling it out of her pocket and rolling her eyes as she read the number. She knew that she shouldn’t answer the call, but she wanted answers about Allison.

“Bethany?” She questions in a stern voice as she keeps walking.

“Hey sweetheart,” Bethany replies, causing Sarina to roll her eyes. “So I get when you phone about your brother – of course, put that on my shoulders because you can’t accept responsibility for actions, ever. But why the hell are you sending cops to my ass about this random chick, Ally or whatever?” Sarina chuckles, knowing the name mistake was supposed to be the perfect cover.

“Because I know the way you are, Bethany, and the games that you play. Besides, it’s odd that she shows up right after you make that comment to me about someone set to implode my life.” She couldn’t help but feel anger as soon as she thought about that day leaving the court room.

“Well news flash – I’m not behind her actions at all. She’s just some jealous girl who seems to have the hots for your boyfriend. Good luck with her.” Sarina rolls her eyes, knowing that Allison would be dead if they crossed paths.

“Sure, and if you do speak to her – tell her she’s dead to me. See your ass in court.” Sarina then hangs up as she reaches the motorcoach.

She then took the recording of the phone call, sending it over to the investigating officer, with questions about the timing of the call, and whether purposely done as a cover-up.

She then takes a deep breath, calming herself down, trying to forget every second of the conversation, as she heads inside the motorcoach, planting a smile on her face immediately.

“Hey!” She says as she sees Bill lying on the couch, with Chase sitting up on the other, sipping on some soup. “Chicken noodle?”

“Mother’s special homemade,” he replies with a smile as she slips her shoes off. “Nice job out there. Not bad for a rookie.” She then smiles, as she walks by, grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge.

“There’s enough if you want some, too,” Cindy says from the kitchen table, catching Sarina off-guard. It was odd seeing the woman who seemed to completely despise her at one time now being this kind.

“Thanks,” she replies. “I’m not hungry right now, but I may warm some up after.”

“I’ll make sure to save you some then.” She then sits down on the couch by Chase as he finishes up his bowl.

“So I take it the advice to get a little more sleep helped?” Chase nods his head.

“Mama’s soup always does the trick when I’m sick, too,” he adds, as Cindy just smiles from the table.

“My dad would always make a special hot chocolate with extra whip topping when I was feeling down to cheer me up,” Sarina offers, as she leans back. “I bet it was just the same usual hot chocolate, but the fact that he said it was ‘special’ made it feel even better.”

“You were close with your dad, right?” Bill questions and Sarina nods her head as she looks over. “Is that where your love for racing came from?” Sarina shakes her head.

“That was my cousin Lindsay, actually. I was so annoyed with the drama at home between my parents and my brother, that she offered to take me away for a weekend to escape it all. That trip took me to Bristol, actually, and I fell in love immediately.”

“That’ll do it,” Chase comments, remembering some of his early trips there with his parents.

“Did you ever get close with your mom?” Bill wonders and Sarina shakes her head. “Bad relationship?”

“Me and my dad just connected immediately it seemed,” she starts. “No matter the topic, I just felt that I could go to him. Whatever was going on, he always knew what to do or say. With my mom, she was a good mother and good on the girly advice. But, I just didn’t have the same comfort with her to really grow close.”

“And you were close with your brother, right?” Cindy asks, causing Sarina to look over and nod her head. “So that’s why you could never get what everybody was saying….”

“Exactly. I mean, I got it and taking a step back, I could see what Chase was saying, Ryan was saying, everybody else was saying. But being close to him, I was blinded by that love and that connection that we had when we were younger. I guess I was longing that I could go back to that…”

“Are you okay?” Chase asks as he wraps an arm around her, and Sarina nods her head.

“If you don’t want to talk about it, you can just tell us,” Cindy offers as Sarina shakes her head.

“I have no issue speaking about it at all, Mrs. Ellio-”

“Just call me Cindy.” Both Sarina and Chase felt surprise wash over them in hearing that comment as they looked over. It wasn’t much, but it was a simple step that she was opening up a little to Sarina more.

“My brother was the last connection that I had to my life the way it was before. I’m not proud of everything that happened then, but I don’t want to forget. I want to remember the memorable moments of my childhood. I want to remember the fun times. I want to remember playing with my brother and my friends. I want to remember my father. I fear that I am going to lose that.”

“I can give you the same piece of advice that I gave Ernie.” Chase pipes up at the mention of the name, remembering the whole surreal experience he had. He hadn’t told anybody about what happened before he woke up. Not because he was afraid they wouldn’t believe him, but because he hadn’t come to full grips with it either. “He lost his son when Casey was only 21 due to cancer. He was worried that people would forget who Casey was. I told him that’ll never happen. Keep telling the stories of those moments, keep telling people what he was like. Go back to those photos and see where they take you back. Maybe even do yourself a little scrapbook. I can tell you that he’s never been forgotten, either.”

“Mom is right,” Chase speaks up, quietly. “I never got to know him, but I’ve heard so many stories from Uncle Ernie, my parents, and other family members. It’s all about telling people…” Sarina nods her head as Chase pulls her close. “If you want, tell me a story a day. If you want, I can help you with a scrapbook. But know, you’ll never lose that, ever. Your daddy is always with you.” He gives the top of her head as he takes a deep breath, remembering the conversation more clearly than ever. If only he had gotten to know Casey, and if only they’d gotten more time together.

“Thank you – both of you,” Sarina says as she stays cuddled with Chase.

Perhaps everything would work out – and maybe, like her father told her, she’d find her happily ever after right here.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 126: “Where am I?”

Monday, July 24

 

Chase sits up, glancing around as confusion immediately appears on his face.

The green grass surrounding him was the purest form of green you could imagine. The blue sky above him was perfectly balanced between shine, and perfectly white clouds. There was nothing for what seemed for miles, though.

Where was he?

He closes his eyes, trying to remember the last place that he was. He was at the race track. He had just purposely blown a motor – but why? He remembered climbing out of the car. Oh yes, that’s right – poisoned the day before due to stupid Alison. He remembered feeling very sick – absolutely sick at that. He remembered being surrounded by both Alan and Josh, and being led to the care center – he hoped.

Then everything just went black…..and now he was here? It just didn’t make sense! He expected to wake up in a hospital room.

He then stands up, looking around the open space, feeling more confused than ever. It was like there was no ending to the grass or sky, and nothing in-between but him. Why did nothing make sense?

“Chase?” He hears, instantly grabbing his attention as he watches someone appear about 20 steps from his current location.

He didn’t want to move – worry filling him. How he could he here, and where was he here? Though as he began to take a step forward, it was like everything fell in place. He was able to move as if nothing was wrong, feeling even better than what he would consider 100%.

“Chase?” The voice repeats itself once again as he walks closer to the figure, glancing up and down the person. He had seen this person before –he couldn’t place him exactly, but he recognized the figure. “Holy shit, it is you….”

“Who are you?” He questions, feeling frustrated that he couldn’t place the person somewhere. “And where am I?”

“You shouldn’t be here….” Chase could figure that out himself, feeling as lost as ever. “No, you shouldn’t be here. It’s not time for you to be her-”

“Where am I?” Chase was growing more frustrated in not having any answers.

“This is heaven….well, not really. This is sort of that in-between world, I guess.” Chase glances around, feeling even more confused than ever, before glancing back at the person. Was this what it felt like to be in limbo as the movies put it?

“So why are you here?” He figured an explanation from the person could explain the reason he was there.

“I was told to come here by a messenger and see someone, but I didn’t expect it to be you. I mean, I expected anybody but you. No, it’s too soon….this can’t be happening. I mean, I expected my dad Ern-” Chase’s jaw dropped immediately as he took a couple steps back.

“Ernie Elliott?” The figure before him nods his head. “Casey?” The figure once again nods his head.

Chase could only take a deep breath, and try to find every bit of composure he had.

He remembered his cousin’s story, as told to him by his parents when he asked about why there was a memorial race run in Casey’s honor at Lanier. His dad explained that Casey was Ernie’s son, and like every Elliott, he found himself involved the world of racing. He was a great racer, too, having started to make his way up the ranks with some success at the late model level. Unfortunately, cancer resulted in his cousin dying when Chase just a young lad – 1.

He could think about the stories that he had heard from his dad, mom, Ernie, other family friends, along with those involved in racing. Casey was the perfect sweetheart, as they described – maybe even sweeter than he was himself.

Taking another deep breath, he could only remember the stories and how his dad told him from that experience to never take anything for granted because it could all just be changed in the blink of an eye.

“Chase, say something….” Casey instructs as Chase looks at him, lost for words.

“I’ve heard so much about you, and a part of me wished that I got to know you,” Chase starts. “Now you’re standing here….” Casey reaches out and puts his hand on Chase’s shoulder.

“And for the record, I’ve never been far from you. I’ve had my eyes on you, always. I still remember the day you were born, and the happiness on your parent’s faces. I remember holding you when you were a little guy. I remember how your dad talked about all those first moments. And then of course, it happened… and I wished we could’ve gotten that time.” Chase could only nod his head, and accept those words.

“I wish things were different, too. I mean, you were the coolest guy according to everybody. It would’ve been fun to get to know you.” Chase then glances around, before looking back at Casey. “I don’t want to here, either.”

“Don’t worry kid, you’re not staying here. I’ve got that good authority.” Chase then looks at him with intrigue. “The big guy gave me a little sign. Relax….” Casey then pulls him into a hug, before letting him go. “This was just a chance for us to see each other quick, and for me to remind you of this – I’m always watching over you, kid. Whatever happens with Sarina, Chris – you’re going to be okay.” Chase nods his head, as it was nice to have that assurance – even despite the place. “Now all you gotta do is close your eyes, and you can go back to that bed, and then wake up and give a smile to your parents. I don’t think I can stand seeing Cindy crying an-”

“Casey, can I ask you a question first, please?” The man before him freezes, nodding his head.

“Of course…” Chase glances down, thinking it over, before looking up.

“Is it okay to be afraid?” Casey then crosses his arms. “I mean, everything that’s going on – it has me worried. I’m wondering what else could happen, whether Sarina and I can get through it, and when it will end. Is it okay to be afraid and worried?”

“Listen, you’ve been through a lot the past two years with that girl – and trust me, it’s worth it. She’s the perfect gal for you as I can see you both being together for a long, long time. So yes, it’s okay to be afraid. It’s okay to worry. But through that, you got to believe. Believe in yourself, believe in Sarina, believe in those around you. Like I said, it will be okay.” Chase nods his head.

“Thanks Casey.” Chase then gives him one final hug, before taking a couple steps back.

He then closes his eyes as instructed, feeling as though he is falling for a minute….

His breath almost caught in his throat as he felt everything in-gulfing him. There was the familiar sickness feeling – thankfully subsided slightly with whatever was going through his body. He also felt the familiar pain and clamminess, but it felt good to be back in his own body.

He then remembered Casey’s comment about his mom crying, and he knew he couldn’t let that to go on any longer. He then forces himself through whatever strength he has left to open his eyes, clinching the hand that laid in his on the bed as he glances to the left and sees everyone.

He wanted to say something, anything – but he fought the urge to do so. He had been here before with the tube down his throat, and knew the protocol. He wasn’t supposed to move or say anything until it was removed at the right time. Depending on how things were, he hoped that was sooner than later.

“It’s nice to see those eyes….” Josh speaks first in the room as Sarina simply claps his hand tighter back with her own, glancing back at him with a smile. “I’ll get the doctor.” Chase was fine with the car chief leaving to do that, as long as he didn’t see his girl leave the room. But he made a note to thank Josh later.

“I love you so much…” Sarina then spoke next, before standing up and kissing his forehead. He knew he was in for a slew of tender loving from Nurse Ott, and that didn’t bother him one bit. “Thank God that you’re okay…” Chase closed his eyes for a brief second, before re-opening them, saying a thank you himself to someone else.

The doctor then enters the room, going through the initial evaluation steps that they usually took.

He remembered the blinding light – and immediately shed away from it.

He shook his head no to the question of pain, not feeling anything that was out of question.

He nodded his head to the question of sickness, but wanted to make note that it wasn’t as bad as before, thankfully.

He then felt his leg move involuntarily, and wanted to scream. He knew that was the effect of the poison inside of him, and wanted to curse up a storm. Why did he wait so long?

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

Thursday, July 27

 

For much of Monday, he was left to lie in the bed quietly, with the ventilator still there as concerns were raised about his condition. However, with things looking steady, it was removed on Tuesday. It was a welcome sight for him as he was allowed to at least engage in conversation while stuck in the bed.

Throughout Tuesday and Wednesday, the doctors continue to administer different drugs to counteract the effects. Slowly but surely, everything was taking effect. The sickness was disappearing, the twitching was becoming less and less, and he was feeling more like himself.

Though when the doctor came in on Thursday and told him that pending a series of tests, he could be released later on that day, surprise still formed on his face.

“Are you sure about that?” He questions as he looks over at the doctor.

“Yes, I am,” Dr. Manning answers. “If the CAT scan comes back clean in regards to brain activity, and your movement is where we feel not being affected, then I see no issue as to why you need to stay here longer. That said, I will have you taking the antidote for another two weeks, along with slowly taking less of the anti-epileptic over the next five days until the twitching is gone immediately. I would also recommend taking the Gravol as long as you’re feeling the sickness, too.” Chase nods his head, accepting.

“And a strict regimen of bed rest?” Cindy questions with a glance between the pair.

“Of course, because healing is at the most importance. However, with that stated, I feel that you’d be in the clear enough to return to all normal duties – so yes, racing – next weekend.” Chase couldn’t help but smile a little. At least he wasn’t going to miss a bunch of racing because of this. “I’ll be back in 10 minutes to take you for the tests.” Chase nods his head as he watches her leave.

“Guess that means you’re coming home with us and not movin-”

“I’m still going to Pocono.” The response causes a series of shocked glances throughout the room. “I want to be there to support Sarina and my guys.”

“Chase, you don’t need to worry about me,” Sarina starts as she places her hand on his arm. “You need to focus on yourself, and maybe being at home is the best opti-”

“I’ll go crazy without you,” he interrupts her. “Anytime that we can be in the same state together, we’re taking full advantage of it. I love like you crazy and I want to be with you at all times.” He then looks over at his parents. “So if you’re going to be watching over me – since I figure you won’t let me just be myself, you are welcome to come, too.”

“Guess we’re going to Pocono….” Bill summarizes, knowing that Cindy wouldn’t let go easily.

“Besides, my guys deserve to hav-”

“They’d want you to focus on getting better,” Cindy comments as Chase nods, knowing that would be their answer for him.

“They put their lives on the line this past weekend,” Chase says. “If that bomb goes off any minutes sooner, we could’ve been looking at a bigger issue. Those guys would do anything for me, including dealing with weekends like that. Josh and Alan did everything they could in their power to make sure that I got attention immediately, and take care of me. It’s the least that I can do. Besides, I will make sure to take it easy, not do much of anything. I’ll just observe over the weekend, and get sleep amongst all that.”

“Promise?” Chase nods his head as he holds out his pinky with a smile.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 125: “Did you see that?”

Sunday, July 23 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

“Did you see that?” Jared Erspamer asks as he glances back from the car. “Did you see what the stall looks like? We were just standing there….” The other crew members glance around confused, as they continue pushing.

“Where’s Josh?” Jordan Allen questions, noticing the car chief was missing.

“He went with Chase and Alan,” Chad Avrit informs them. “Chase didn’t look good….” Jordan then stops pushing as they reach the hauler, looking back at the guys.

“You know, something didn’t seem right pre-race, either. I mean, he was quieter than normal and a glance in his eyes seemed off, too. Plus, Josh stayed by the car when normally it’s just myself and Chase.”

“Are you saying that Josh and Alan knew something was up?” Jordan shrugs his shoulders.

“Regardless, it just all seems odd – especially after that.”

“We’re just supposed to load up, right?” Jared Seate questions and Jordan nods his head, remembering Josh’s words. “Okay….” Jordan then goes to head inside the hauler, when he stops and glances back.

“This is even more odd,” he summarizes, catching the crew’s attention. “Why aren’t the engineers looking over the notes?” Jared shrugs his shoulders. “Guess they will at the shop. Alright, not my responsibility…” He then continues into the trailer, set to go upstairs and open the door.

“Jordan?” Jordan then stops and turns around. “Text message from the boss…” Jordan then walks back to Jared, taking his phone as he opens the message. He then shakes his head in disbelief.

“Of course….” He then types a message quickly, before looking over the guys. “Load up quickly, please. We got somewhe-”

“Poisoned again?” Jared Erspamer questions, having that fear based on his own experience prior. Jordan just nods his head before going back into the hauler. “Ah shit…”

“Why do I have a feeling that was meant for us truly?” Jared Seate asks as he glances back at the garage once again, thanking his lucky stars.

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

The trip to the care center did not last long as they were immediately transferred to Methodist Hospital of Indiana. Alan and Josh could only feel their hearts pounding harder with worry.

Once at the hospital, the pair found themselves in a waiting room with six sets of eyes staring them down – Sarina and Chase’s parents. Alan takes a couple deep breath, and explained everything. He told them Chase’s original confession, followed by the plan, and followed by how things played out.

“I should’ve done something,” Sarina says quietly as she looks at the floor. “I knew something was off….”

“But you did nothing?” Cindy questions as she looks over. “Seriously, Sarina?”

“Cindy…” Bill warns as Cindy keeps her eyes focused on Sarina.

“I asked him if he was alright and he told me he was fine,” Sarina answers. “I asked him more than once, Cindy. It wasn’t like I just stood there and let this happen. I literally asked him last night, along with a couple times today. I thought maybe I was just off on radar, or something – I don’t know. Maybe I should’ve pus-”

“Oh now you think of that…” Cindy comments as she sits back in the seat.

“To be honest, I noticed something too,” Bill admits, causing Cindy to look his way. “And to be honest, I asked and he said he was a little sick. I suggested that he tells the guys, and have a stand-by driver. I just thought it was a stomach bug. I could’ve never predicted this.” Bill then looks straight at Cindy. “So before you chew up Sarina’s ass for no reason, think about that. Besides, that’s not what’s important right now…” Cindy then sits back in the chair, crossing her arms.

“I just can’t believe that we’re sitting in a hospital once again not even a month later and he’s fighting for everything that he’s got….” A stray tear falls down her face and she quickly wipes it away. “I just want my baby to be okay…” Bill wraps an arm around her, pulling her close.

“He will be, Cindy. No matter what…”

“Do you want anything?” Josh asks as he looks at Sarina and she shakes her head no.

“I just can’t believe this….” She comments with a sigh. “We knew shit was still possible with her and Bethany running around, but yet we let it happen. I should’ve went with him to qualifying.”

“It’s not your fault,” Alan assures her as he pats her shoulder. “To be honest, I screwed up, too, probably worse than any of you. I could see the symptoms right before me. I even suggested that we just throw the race totally and get him help. I should’ve done that. I should’ve never let him go through with this plan – no matter how clever Josh was in thinking it.”

“He’s right,” Josh adds. “I mean, there’s two hours there that we let it eat at him and make it worse. As they say, time is the most important in these situations – and we fucked up. We should’ve convinced him to tell the authorities, or to go about it another way.”

“Are the guys okay?” Bill wonders, having heard about the bomb going off.

“Everybody accounted for and safe. I had them moving away from there pushing the car to the trailer.” Josh then glances at the latest text from Jordan. “They’re curious already, by the way.”

“As expected,” Alan summarizes. “We’ll have to explain it to them and why we kept it a secret, even though it sounds so stupid now.” Alan then runs his hands through his thin hair, letting out a sigh. “I’m sorry Bill, Cindy, Sarina….”

“You did what you thought was right and what he’d allow you within the window he gave you,” Bill comments as he looks over at the crew chief. “Stop beating yourself up. It’s not going to help. Just focus on him. Focus on making sure he gets better.” Alan nods his head, knowing he wasn’t taking any more chances.

The group then glances up as they watch door open and see a female walk through, followed by calling over to them. She then takes a seat in the chair before the group, which could only add to the concerns that they were having. Alan knew that if the doctor was taking this careful measure entering, she’d have a lot to say and it wouldn’t be pretty.

“My name is Demetra Manning,” she states as she looks at each of the individuals. “I’m the toxicology expert for the hospital, and in charge of poison control. I can tell you everything that you need to know, and answer any questions that you may hav-”

“Just tell me how my son is!” Cindy snaps, just wanting an update as soon as possible.

“I understand that you guys have been in a situation like this before and actually, just a couple weeks ago.” Cindy rolls her eyes as she hated to hear the doctor spending time wasting energy on stuff they didn’t need to know this second. “I got a hold of Dr. Hanken in Daytona as we were looking over initial test results to discuss everything. We both confirmed that he was poisoned with the same substance, with it acting as a stronger stream due to the consistency, the fact that it was injected versus digested, and length of time in the body.”

“We should’ve said something….” Alan comments, feeling a bunch of regret in hearing how serious things had potentially come. It was a regret that he didn’t know if he could ever overcome, either.

“How much more serious?” Bill questions, feeling a tinge of worry himself now. Normally, it was Cindy’s job to panic and worry while he stayed calm – but that wasn’t happening.

“We’re not absolutely certain that he’ll fully recover, yet, or how long it will take him to wake up,” the doctor reveals, which pulled at every heart string for both Cindy and Sarina. “We immediat-”

“What do you mean by ‘wake up’?” Cindy interrupts. “Last time, they gave him a sedative to keep him asleep as his body fought it and he began to heal. Are you referring to that, or….” Dr. Manning takes a deep breath.

“Recall that he passed out on the way to the care center with Mr. Gustafson and Mr. Kirk. Well, he hasn’t woken up since then – and that’s what I am referring to. It may take him a couple hours, or it could be a couple of days. It just depends how the poison affected him.”

“But he will wake up, right?” Dr. Manning felt confident in nodding her head.

“As I started to say, we immediately started him on the antidotes and anti-epileptic medicine. He’s also on a ventilator like previously, too.” Cindy knew that shouldn’t affect her too much as she’d been here before, but she couldn’t help but cringe at those words. “We’ll wait to see when he wakes up and see where he is. If he’s really agitated, we’ll give him a sedative. If he’s not too bad, we’ll look towards the next steps – removing the ventilator, and checking everything over. Either way, it’s going to take a bit of time….”

“Can we go see him, though?” The doctor nods her head.

“I’d actually encourage that, as being surrounded by family and friends will help. Don’t be afraid to talk to him or amongst yourselves, either.”

The group then followed the doctor through the doors, down a short hall, before turning into a room. After a couple deep breaths trying to clear their nerves, Cindy and Sarina led the group into the room. They each took a seat in the first two chairs by the bed, putting their differences aside for the time being. Bill then sat back on the window sill, while Alan and Josh leaned against the wall.

One way or another – none of them were leaving the room until they knew he was okay.

“Kasey won…” Josh breaks the silence in the room that had fallen over a good 20 minutes.

“Really?” Alan asks as he looks over surprised and Josh just nods his head.

“Truex and Kyle wrecked racing for the lead and Kasey managed to get his ass to the front.” Alan shakes his head in disbelief.

“That’s great for Kasey, though. I know how frustrated he’s been.” Josh nods his head once again.

“We keep doing what we’re doing, and Dale manages to snag a win, we may actually get all four cars in the playoffs after all.” Alan could only hope that as he knew how much the guys would like that in the shop. After all, he had seen the frustration with how they’d all run lately.

“How can you think of playoffs at a time like this?” Sarina questions, catching the crew members off-guard.

“Casual conversation and hope for the future – just like the doctor recommended,” Alan summarizes.

“All I can think about is how much pain he’s in and how hard he is fighting…” Alan walks a couple steps forward, rubbing her shoulders.

“Listen, that’s certainly on my mind – bigger than Kasey’s win or anything Josh and I are talking about. Chase’s well-being is the most important thing that I can think of, so you don’t need to question that. We’re just trying to lightly pass the time so we can get to that point he is okay. Besides, you know he’ll be asking what happened and wanting to be in those playoffs.” Sarina sighs, nodding her head. It still didn’t feel right to talk about it all, though.

“Oh shit!” Josh lets out as he grabs his phone off the window sill, causing the entire room to glance over surprised.

“What?” Alan questions as he walks back over to the car chief. “Encumbered finish?”

“Don’t mention those dreadful words – but this is worse. Kasey is feeling crampy, almost dehydrated…but remember before the race in the driver’s mee-”

“Text Kenny right away!” Bill’s eyes then open in surprise as he hears the panic in Alan’s voice. “Kasey sipped from Chase’s water bottle because he was so thirsty. Chase tried to shrug him off from doing it, but couldn’t convince before he did.” Bill rolls his eyes.

“Of course…” He says as he glances over at Chase, feeling his heart break in seeing all the tubes and how he just laid there motionless.

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

Kasey makes his way down the hall, stopping as he reaches the door and glances in. Alan immediately notices him, excusing himself from the room as he goes out to the hall. It had been four hours since the aforementioned text had been sent.

“Nothing from him?” Kasey questions and Alan shakes his head no.

“Not a single movement,” Alan answers as he leans back against the wall, crossing his arms. “Dr. Manning says that could be a good thing, as his body is conserving energy to fight off everything. But she also warned that not waking up in the first 24 hours could be a sign of brain damage or something serious.” Kasey shakes his head in disbelief.

“Well then he better wake up….”

“How are you, though?” Kasey could only shrug his shoulders. It’d be a whirlwind from victory lane to kissing the bricks, to the infield care center and to the hospital.

“I didn’t get a lot in my system, thankfully. Dr. Manning gave me the same antidote that Chase is taking, and it’s starting to work. I’m about 80% right now, and she says I should be back to myself in the next couple of days.” Alan could only let out a sigh of relief.

“That’s good.” Alan then glances back towards the room, before looking at Kasey. “I’m glad you’re not in the same shoes as him. I mean, he shouldn’t be there, either. If he would’ve said something sooner, then he could be like you. If I would’ve convinced him to say something sooner, or I would’ve just done it myself, then we wouldn’t be here this serious. I can’t believe I didn’t say something. I can’t believe I didn’t go against everything. Why did I just sit there this morning and let him convince me about this absurd plan of Josh’s?” Kasey shrugs his shoulders, having not been there to see everything.

“You can’t beat yourself up over it, Alan. We all make mistakes. Heck, I’ve made some myself. It doesn’t help. You just got to focus on getting him bet-”

“Every time I look at him lying there, though, it’s a reminder. It’s a reminder that time is precious and I was an idiot for not remembering that. I mean, what kind of crew chief am I if let my driver get into this positio-”

“Alan, it’s not your faul-”

“But it is, Kahne! We’ve been here before! Damn it!” Kasey could hear the anger laced in Alan’s voice, knowing it wasn’t directed at him, but rather the situation. “I should’ve done something…” A couple tears fall as Kasey immediately reaches out, pulling Alan into a hug, rubbing his back. “I should’ve….”

“He’s going to be okay, Alan. It’s going to be okay…”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 124: Brickyard 400

Sunday, July 23 – Indianapolis

Chase lets out a yawn as he makes his way through the infield, knowing that he had a pre-race meeting with the guys.

He admittedly hadn’t slept well last night, tossing and turning and worrying about everything. He even began to wonder if maybe there was nothing in what she injected – and it was just done to scare him more than anything.

Though beginning to feel a little sick in the morning, he knew that was a lie. It wasn’t terrible – sort of reminded him of how you feel with the 24 hour stomach flu. He felt a little nauseous, but other than that he was fine. Saying his own prayers in his mind, the day would be over soon and they could get to the bottom of it.

He makes his way into the trailer, taking his usual position amongst the guys, paying attention as Alan goes over the notes for the day. He then chimed in with his own ‘pick me up comments,’ and the team felt more than confident in the day ahead.

With the meeting done, he headed out of the trailer, knowing he had to go see some sponsor VIPs, and then he would have a couple hours for himself. Maybe he could get some sleep, or perhaps stomach at least some soup.

“Hey, are you feeling okay?” His dad asks as they head to the last appearance. With how it’d been set-up, the pair was supposed to attend together and do a quick Q&A with the guests.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Chase answers quickly, hoping to finish up this string of events quicker than ever so he didn’t have to deal with questions like this. Bill, meanwhile, had his eyes locked on Chase, knowing that his comment was an immediate lie. If there was one thing, he could never tell a lie, ever.

“Chase….” Chase then lets out a sigh, debating which way to go with his excuse.

“Alright, I’m feeling a little sick. I think I picked up the bug that was going around – one of the other crew guys had it. I’m fine.” Bill then looked at him with raised eyebrows, but figured he could trust him. Besides, Cindy could handle strangling him later.

“Just be careful and make sure to tell Alan incase, okay?” Chase nods his head.

While he hadn’t planned to say anything to Alan and didn’t really want to have a back-up driver – someone else involved in this chaos, it did give him another idea though. Maybe there was a way out of this quicker, after all.

Once he was done the series appearances, he made his way back to the team trailer. He knew that Alan and Josh would be there going over some final notes of the day with the car having gone through pre-race tech inspection already. He just needed to find the courage to tell them.

“You’re back here?” Josh questions as he sees the door to the lounge open up.

“Yeah,” Chase answers as he closes it behind him. “I needed to talk to you both before the race. It’s important…” Josh and Alan glance at each other a little confused, before setting their eyes back on their driver.

“I’m all ears,” Alan says as he sets his notes aside. He knew if Chase was interrupting them, it was important.

Taking a shaky breath, Chase went into detail of the series of events over the past week involving Allison. He told them about what happened at the beauty pageant. He told them about the photo getting sent to Sarina and how that broke down. He then told them what happened yesterday in the garage area, which caused both of their jaws to drop.

“I’m starting to feel some symptoms – very minor at that, though,” he reveals, bringing an even bigger shock to Alan’s face. “Feeling a little sick, a little clammy – but nothing that I can’t handle. I figure I’d let you know so we can do something post-rac-”

“There’s no way you’re racing toda-” Alan starts.

“Alan, we have no choice. If we go say something, then that bomb goes off. Do you know how many people are around there right now?” Alan lets out a sigh, nodding his head. “And sure, you could tell the cops and the bomb squad and whoever you want. But if she gets word that someone knows, she won’t take any chances.”

“So you’re just going to let this crap eat at you, while trying to race 400 miles today?” Chase sits down, knowing that was the only option that they were left with. He just figured the team knowing would be a good step for after the race.

“Alan, I know we’re trying to point our way into the playoffs, but could we just give up this one?” Josh questions, causing a shocked expression from Chase immediately.

“That’ll clue her in righ-” Chase starts as Josh shakes his head no.

“Not if we do this how I am thinking, Chase.” Chase then looks at him puzzled.

“He’s not wrecking the car purposely at the start for that reason,” Alan states, beginning to read the car chief’s mind.

“Does anybody not have a clue to what I am thinking?” Josh questions as he had to laugh at their responses. “Of course, I wouldn’t want him to do that because what if he gets hurt? I’m not stupid, Alan. Remember – you hired me.” Chase had to chuckle at the response as Alan rolls his eyes. “But what if we had an engine failure?” Chase and Alan glance at each other, before turning their eyes back to Josh.

“I’d be fully willing to give up today as someone’s health and safety is more important…” Josh then pulls up his laptop, opening some of the engineering numbers.

“Dale has blown a couple motors this year, and we have past data from other years. I can construct the perfect formula in steps for Chase to follow to make that motor blow up in the first 50 laps.” Chase then looks on surprised.

“That easy?” He questions and Josh nods his head.

“Certain missed shift on the start, certain missed shift on a possible restart afterwards, and hitting certain revs would cause it to go big time,” Josh reveals as he looks over the numbers. “Of course, you’ll have the engineers and engine tuners willing to kill yo-”

“Wrong choice of wording!” Alan yells as Josh freezes.

“Right, sorry.” He then goes back to his notes. “But I mean, I’d rather deal with them on your ass then something else.” Chase couldn’t help but admit that the car chief was pretty smart after all.

“Give those numbers, please…” Josh then sorts through everything, jotting some numbers and notes on a piece of paper, before handing it over to Chase. “After it goes and we’re don-”

“Clearing the garage area immediately, telling the guys to load up and not even bother reviewing,” Alan cuts him off, reading his mind. “We’ll have it sorted out. You just focus on coming back to the garage, getting out, and going to get help.” Chase nods his head as he takes a couple deep breaths. “Chase?”

“I’m fine,” he tells them as he stands up, snatching the piece of paper off the table. “By the way, Sarina doesn’t know. Someone will have to tell her.” Alan nods his head, knowing that would be on his conscious.

For the rest of the morning before the race, things went like normal and Chase found himself standing on pit road, counting down the minutes. He glanced around, silently telling him what he had read off the paper 50 different times over and over in his head, just hoping that it’d work out as smooth as Josh said it would.

“Ahh, my favorite people,” Chase hears, as he glances over and sees Ryan walking over with a box. He would rather just be left alone, but he knew that’d be too suspicious.

“And how’s Ryan?” Chase questions as Ryan just smiles in response.

“Ready to go and have a great day.” He then looks over at Sarina. “My team had a couple extra donuts so I thought I’d bring you a snack.” Sarina then looks at him, surprised.

“Any specific occasion?” She wonders and Ryan shakes his head no. “Well, everybody knows I love a good Krispy Kreme donut…” Ryan smiles as she takes the box from him.

“I’m good,” Chase comments as Sarina holds the box out to him first. He had already heard about the contents, but also knew that it’d turn his stomach once again and he may actually throw-up this time.

“Suit yourself…” She then opens the box, and her smile immediately disappears as she sees a mix of raw cabbage and broccoli, shaped into little donuts. Ryan began laughing immediately as she looked at him. “Really?”

“Nice job on the ringtone,” he tells her with before turning on his heels and walking away. She then takes one of the pieces of broccoli, chucking it down pit road at him, causing him to spin around in surprise. “Now, now Ms. Ott, you shouldn’t be throwing things on pit road. That’s against the rules.”

“This is cruel!” She replies as he only laughs harder. Chase just shakes his head between them, knowing that this was probably just the start of what was to come. They seemed to have a good knack now for pranking each other. “Did you see what he di-”

“It’s a good prank,” Chase cuts her off as he leans back against the car. If he had to be honest, the heat was getting to him a little, combined with the sickness increasing. He could only hope the plan that Josh had in place worked real quickly as there was no way he could do 400 miles feeling like this. Maybe he should’ve taken the back-up driver approach, instead.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Chase nods his head. “I mean, I’m still saying something is off….” He then looks over at her, giving her a small smile.

“Just ready to get this started. I would’ve preferred to be in the car by now….”

It wasn’t long until opening ceremonies kicked off, followed by Chase climbing in the car. Josh had stayed there to make sure he was buckled in, and go through everything once again. As he put up the window net, Josh had to resist the urge to yell something there as he could see it in Chase’s eyes that things were getting worse. However, he followed normal protocol, before retreating back to the pit box.

Chase went through pace laps as if nothing was different – though felt everything wrong in that moment. He felt sicker to his stomach, felt clammy, felt a headache coming on, and knew what was coming if they didn’t get through this sooner than later.

On the drop of the green flag, he remembered what Josh said – skip from gear 2 to gear 4 by accident, letting the motor hit the higher revs as that’ll damage some inner components. He could only curse what he was doing, knowing it’d just increase everybody’s discussions about him doing crap on restarts.

He pushed like usual, keeping himself in solid contention, though silently wishing that it would go sooner than anticipated. He knew the caution at Lap 11 and restart six laps later would help his cause, too, as he went through another of the messed up processes.

“Something is off here,” he reports afterwards, starting to feel the beginning of the valve train giving up. Obviously, Josh’s numbers were right on target.

“10-4,” Alan replies, giving the car chief a nod on the pit box. “Just keep an eye on it.” Alan knew that they should actually look at it under the next possible caution, but knew that’d go against the plan in place.

They got another caution, and another fumble through the gears to hit different RPM numbers began to work its magic, with things getting even more off basis.

“Next caution, we’ll take a look,” Alan states, following protocol of cover-up as he glances at Josh. It was only a matter time now.

“It’s flashing these codes,” Chase alerts them as Josh smiles, knowing that the process had worked perfectly. He knew those were the error codes of the fuel pump.

“Read them off…” Chase bit his tongue as that’d be tougher than imagined. He was already having a hard enough time ignoring how he was feeling, concentrating on racing, and following the necessary steps in place. Now he had to read a series of numbers off the dashboard?

He began to read the first set of numbers as Josh compared them to other notes, seeing as though they were following the error process that he wanted. Sure enough, it came together with smoke begin to come out the back of the No. 24 on Lap 43.

“Bring it in,” Alan states as he immediately closes up his notebook. “Guys, to the trailer and load it up. We’re done.” He glances at Josh, remembering that crucial step as Josh nods his head in response.

“You take Chase as Sarina will follow,” Josh whispers once they’re down off the pit box. “I’ll make sure all the guys are there. Alert the guys if you need them – I’ll make sure everywhere else is clear….” Alan nods his head as they began the quiet walk through the garage area.

They turn the corner and see the car sitting by the garage stall, causing both of the crew members to look at each other confused. They then walk a little faster, with the rest of the team in toe.

“She wouldn’t roll the rest of the way,” Chase says quietly as he leans back against the car after climbing out.

“It’s fine,” Alan assures him as he wraps an arm around his shoulders. “We got this regardless.” Chase nods his head as he lets out an aggravated sigh. “Talk to me…”

“I feel like shit. I never should’ve let her do that. I never should’ve let gone along with this. I should’ve said something sooner, did something different. I shouldn’t even started that race.” He then pauses, taking a careful deep breath. “I feel like total shit, Alan. I feel like I’m going to throw up, I feel so clammy but sweaty and hot, headache, fever, and can barely move…”

“I knew something was up….” Sarina says as she crosses her arms.

“We’ll explain later,” Josh tells her as he glances between Chase, Alan and the crew.

“Come on, I got you…” Alan forces Chase to lean against him, leading him away from the car as he takes a glance at Josh.

“Guys, let’s push it to the trailer…” Josh instructs, rallying all the guys.

The guys begin to follow the instruction, pushing the car through the garage with confused glances at each other as they each take turns in seeing what direction Alan headed with Chase. Josh had headed that way, showing up on Chase’s other side, before another look towards Alan. They had only one destination in mind.

As everybody heads in different directions, they hear a big boom behind them, causing the whole crew to freeze and look back to the stall that they were just standing in a couple minutes ago in shock.

“The guys…” Chase says as he leans against Alan through their walk.

“I got them out of there, heading to the hauler with the car,” Josh assures Chase.

“Do I want to know?” Sarina questions and Josh shakes his head no.

“Like I said – we’ll explain later….” Sarina could only fear in finding out the truth of what was going on, with thoughts of Allison, her brother and Bethany floating through her brain. Why did this keep happening? She had done it again to him, and now the guys, too….

“Just focus on continuing to go forward, and focus on yourself,” Alan tells him. “Keep walking, keep moving forward, and keep fighting. We’re almost there…”

“I’m trying…” Chase says his legs give out a little, which causes Alan and Josh to grab him a firmer grip. “I can’t…” They then go give out again.

“Chase!” Alan tightens his grip even more, if he could, before feeling the young man fall against him. “I got you, I got you buddy….”

“Hold his shoulders and head,” Josh instructs as he picks the lower half up. The pair then continue moving as quickly as they can, shuffling into the care center. “We need help – ASAP!”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 112: McDowell

Tuesday, July 5

Chase sat on the edge of the bed, tapping his feet on the ground as he looked towards the door. He had gotten the news that he had been waiting for all morning – he was going to be allowed out of the hospital. Sure, there was still some healing to do as he still felt a little sick at times and was finding his strength back, but healing would feel better in his own bed, rather than here.

“Patience…” Bill pats his shoulder as he lets out a sigh, growing annoyed waiting as he looks down at his phone. He and Sarina had stayed there discussing everything they could think of till late Monday night, before she left to get her flight back to Charlotte. The pair promised despite their chaotic schedules to stay in touch as much as possible until they were able to see each other next, including a promise to text each other constantly.

“Why do they tell you one time and then make you wait another whole 20 minutes beyond that?” He questions as he sends Sarina back a message.

“He may have taken longer with a patient than expected.” Chase could only roll his eyes, growing annoyed, though tried to remain as patience as possible. Perhaps logging onto twitter and reading some tweets would waste enough time.

“Why does this not surprise me?” Bill then looks over curiously as Chase scrolls past a series of tweets. “There’s some people insisting that Kyle should let Sarina go because of what happened, insisting it’s her fault.” Cindy just crosses her arms, keeping her comment to herself as she had her own theory on that, still, no matter what Chase insisted. “Then of course you have the constant messages of people wondering whether I’m going to be fine for this weekend.”

“Have you asked the doctor about tha-”

“Seriously?” Cindy questions, not resisting the urge to comment anymore. “Hello, are we forgetting what just happened? Are we forgetting how he was feeling? They said this is going to take time…” Chase takes a deep breath, not surprised by the comment.

“They said that it’ll take time to clear it all out of my system and make me feel perfectly 100% and then get back every bit of my strength due to my body fighting,” he starts. “But if I focus on following what they tell me, rest, and work at that strength factor – I’ll be fine. I’m supposed to take this week and weekend as I want, one step at a time, seeing how I feel each step of the way. I’ve already talked about it with Rick and he’s going to have Justin on stand-by incase. I’ve also talked to Alan and Greg, and we have things in place. I’ll be fine.” Cindy could only roll her eyes, not believing how soon they were discussing it.

“Just promise me you’ll be careful?” Chase looks over, nodding his head, before returning his eyes back to his phone. He then switches to his mentions, scrolling through them. The messages of worry were nice, backed up with interesting messages about people’s thoughts ahead of the weekend. He quickly scrolled past those that had comments about the future for him and Sarina, not caring what everybody else thought. He then paused as he reached Michael McDowell’s tweet.

“Un-fucking-believable!” Bill and Cindy instantly turn surprised.

“William Clyde Elliott!” Cindy yells first.

“Chase?!?” Bill says at the same time as Chase looks up from his phone.

“Sorry,” he quickly apologizes before looking back at the message. “I was just caught off-guard by the message.”

“What does it say?” Chase re-opens the tweet, ignoring the search he had already started.

“I wonder if Chase Elliott watches replays and realizes he wrecks himself. That is twice now, with hashtag untouchables. That’s thanks to the one-talent wonder, Mr. McDowell.” Cindy’s jaw drops in shock as Chase turns the phone to show them.

“He can’t be serious, can he?” Chase rolls his eyes as he pulls open a replay of the wreck, watching a couple different views.

“Clearly he needs a McDoctor because he can’t see, either. There’s no questioning what he did Saturday night. And sure, I may have snapped a little more than I should’ve on the radio, but heck, he deserved that because yes, that’s twice now.”

“Unbelievable….” Chase didn’t even bother focusing on a reply, but instead took chuckle at some of his fans replying back with their words. It was clear McDowell wasn’t winning any argument here. His attention was only taken away from the phone when he heard footsteps entering the room, glad that the doctor had finally made his way in.

“I have something that you probably want,” Dr. Hanken said as he places some papers on the bed beside Chase. “Release papers, along with your waiver for NASCAR clearing you for the weekend, even with the prescription and such.” Chase smiles, as that was a good step in the right direction.

“Thank you,” he simply replies as he sets his phone down.

“Just make sure you take two pills a day for seven days so you clear up the rest of the infection that lies from the poison. If you don’t do that, it has a chance of growing and causing you more problems.” Chase nods his head, accepting. “The sickness feeling should continue disappearing, but don’t be afraid to get your hands on gravol. Remember to take it easy, get lots of rest, don’t push yourself too far, and let yourself heal. If you try to do anything too soon, you’re just going to set yourself back. I know that’s hard for you, but it’s necessary.” Chase nods his head.

“Don’t worry – I won’t pull anything smart off, thanks to everybody already on my ass. Besides, I don’t want to go back to that ever again.”

“And check in with your own doctor next week to make sure everything is going accordingly. If there’s any questions, get him to call me or come down for a visit.” Chase nods his head. “Other than that, you’re free to go – but remember what I said.”

“Got it. Thanks for everything.” He shakes the doctor’s hand before hopping down off the bed, grabbing the papers and glancing at his parents with a smile. “Ready to go?” They both nod their heads following him in toe.

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

Christopher Bell walks over, leaning over the tailgate of the truck as he watches Sarina adjust the mirrors in her truck closely. They were getting everything together ahead of the next event at New Hampshire, and like always, she was being particular on her cockpit.

“Can I help you, Bell?” She questions as she climbs out of the truck, about three minutes later.

“I’m surprised that you’re here and not in Florida right now,” he answers as she looks over at her teammate.

“I had a necessary meeting to attend here. I needed a conference with the team about continuing to improve, and then a meeting with Kyle, Sam and the PR team in regards to everything that happened. I wasn’t about to blow a necessary commitment.” Christopher then crosses his arms.

“But what about Chase?” She then rolls her eyes, as she thought they were done discussing him.

“He’s got his parents to keep an eye on him, and he understood the means to the end. We both agreed to text each other constantly, and see each other when we can. We’re going to make time for each other, Christopher. I thought we were done discussing my personal life.” Christopher remembered her frustration before, and almost kept his mouth shut.

“I was just concerned, considering what happened. I mean, things got pretty serious there. I was wondering whether he’d see the light, and how you’d be feeling with everything considered.” Sarina stops, glancing at the floor and taking a deep breath, before returning her eyes to him.

“I have a ton of thoughts going through my mind that you probably couldn’t even imagine right now. Try putting yourself in my shoes and seeing how all this makes you feel. It’s a mess. Do I feel like talking about it with you, though? No, but I can damn well promise you that like everything else I’m going to figure out what to do and get through it. So don’t dare ever question that. Now, as far as Chase and I, that’s still as tight as ever – in his words to me – so stop worrying.” He then puts his hands up, regretting saying a word to begin with.

“I’m sorry for trying to be a friend and care. I wish you guys the best, and see you at the track.” He then turns on his heels and heads across the shop as she lets out a sigh.

She then leans against her truck, shaking her head. Maybe she was a little too hard on him. Maybe she needed to watch how much she threw her guard up. But could you blame her for watching who she trusted?

Fully pleased with how the day went, she stops by Kyle’s office to say goodbye, before leaving. As she climbed in her car, she knew a nice bath that night would feel good to let the stress go. She knew she couldn’t everything bottled up like his entering the weekend.

She makes the short drive back to the house, surprised when she notices a car in the driveway. She glances back at her phone, remembering that Chase mentioned he was being released. However, there was nothing about returning home as she figured he’d be at his parent’s house.

Grabbing her phone and purse, she climbs out of the car and heads to the door, unlocking and walking in with ease. She then smiles as she could see Cindy in the question from her location. While Chase’s mom wasn’t the sight she needed right now given their feelings for each other, she knew what else that meant.

“He’s upstairs lying down,” she hears from the living room, smiling when she sees Bill sitting there watching TV. “Cindy is making him some soup, and then we were going to order in something. We can add something for you, if you want.” Sarina thought about it, knowing a good bite to eat would be nice. However, avoiding arguments and his mom for now was probably a better option.

“I’ll grab something after, but thank you for the offer,” she says before heading up the stairs. She smiles when she reaches the bedroom doorway, seeing him curled up and relaxed nicely. She quietly makes her way into the room, climbing into the bed, wrapping an arm around him. “I missed you….”

“I was wondering when you’d get here,” he immediately whispers in return, before rolling over to look into her eyes. “Glad to see you. Surprise.” She leans in for a kiss right away. Screw the bath as this was way better.

“Best surprise that I could ever have – even if I have to fly out in five hours for Kentucky.” He then holds up his piece of paper with a smile. “Seriously?”

“They said if I’m feeling up to it, so I’m going to give it a shot. Regardless, it gives me a good reason to spend more time with you.” She smiles, as she couldn’t deny that being a good idea.

“I have no problem with being able to cuddle with you every night.” He then lays down flat on his back, wrapping an arm around her as she lays her head against his chest.

“Close your eyes. Take a deep breath and relax. We’ve got some time before mom brings up my soup. I know you have lots on your mind and probably can’t sleep so catch up while you can.” She couldn’t believe how tired she felt, realizing it as she laid her head on him, eyes closing immediately as she relaxed, repeatedly thanking whoever that he was okay.

The pair remained like that in silence as he rubbed her back with her peacefully sleeping, till a knock was heard on the door. Sarina rolled over just enough to let Chase sit up, but remained right close to him.

“Thank you mom,” he thanks his mom as she hands over the tray, including the soup and crackers. Her eyes drift to Sarina for a minute, before returning to him.

“If you need anything else, let me know,” she tells him and he nods his head. She then turns on her heels and leaves the room as Sarina lets out a sigh.

“When is it not going to be awkward between us?” Sarina wonders as Chase glances over at her.

“When she understands why I love you, that it’s not your fault, and everything else,” he answers as Sarina rolls her eyes.

“And that’s ever going to happen?” Chase nods his head.

“As much as my mom can be a pain in the ass and determined with her ways, she eventually will come around and be the best person that you’ve ever known. Just be patient.” He then leans in and gives her a quick kiss. “You should go get yourself something to eat.” She shakes her head.

“I want to make the most of every one of these minutes that we have before I have to leave. I can get something as I’m getting on the plane and eat it.” He was almost ready to argue, but bit his tongue. He could understand her reasons – fear regarding him, mixed emotions about her brother, a trail of broken hearts through her life – so he simply accepted, giving her a quick smile.