Friday at Darlington Raceway
The practice went solidly for Alyssa as she wasn’t the quickest, but she wasn’t that far off from where they wanted to be, posting the 14th quickest time for the session. More importantly, she was pleased with the handling of the car.
Though after finishing up her discussion with Kevin, she couldn’t help but find her eyes focused on Chase, wondering what was going through his mind. She saw his emotions before the practice started, and how he left for some time to himself prior to the session.
So immediately after being released from their post-practice debrief, she made her way over to Chase, wrapping her arms around his waist.
“Are you okay?” She asks as she leans her head against his back.
“I told you that you didn’t need to worr-” He starts.
“I care about you, Chas-”
“You have a race to focus on. If I need someone, I have a bunch of others that I can turn to, if need be.” She lets out a sigh as she rubs his sides.
“I know that you do, but sometimes that can be harder than you think to talk to them versus talking to me. Sure, it’s a busy weekend for me. But I always have time to spend with you, and hear you out. So if you have something on your mind, you can tell me.” He lets out a sigh as they quickly glance at each other. “I saw you leave the garage before the practice started. I could tell something was up before then, hence the concern then. Tell me, please….”
“I just have a lot on my mind, and basically re-visiting that time brought it full circle in my mind.” She rubs his shoulders, now feeling perhaps it was the wrong time to bring out the paint scheme – even if it held a lot of special meaning. Their first ever victory lane photo together was taken at this win.
“I didn’t mean to do tha-”
“It’s fine.” He then turns to face her. “You don’t have to blame yourself or apologize for how I am feeling. It may be a good thing, actually. It let me ponder how things were then, and how they’ve changed since. It made me reflect on how I’ve changed as a person, what I’ve been through, and perhaps find who I want to be.” He then glances down, taking a deep breath, before looking back at her. “I want to get back to who I was a couple years ago, when I believed that everything we’ve been through would be behind me. I want to get back to having that fun I was having. I want to get back to just living it up. I want to get back to being focused on racing and doing what I can, but having those fun crazy moments with friends – like you.” She chuckles, remembering some of those times.
“Including the late nights in the treehouse?” He immediately shakes his head no as she laughs. “Really? No horror movies?”
“I’ve had enough experience, thank you.” She couldn’t help but nod in agreement after her own run with terror. “But yes, moments like those. I want to get back to being able to sleep and not having to worry about that nightmare. I want to be able to wrap my arms around everything, and feel total control. My little glance back in my mind through time gave me the clarity to see all that, realize what I wanted, and focus on fighting for that.” It brought a smile to her face to hear the encouragement in his voice, especially with how they started the week.
“I’ve got your back no matter what, and I vow to help you.” He nods his head, knowing there was no questioning that.
“I know you have my back. I know Dale has my back. But what’s the most important thing? Believing in myself, even in my lowest moments, that I can crawl out of that hole. Tony talked about remembering that. I didn’t say much then, but I guess I was still questioning myself – letting the anxiety speak more than I should. But reminding me of this, being here, it gave me that answer that I needed. So rather than apologizing for bringing that scheme out of hiding, I say thank you.” An even bigger smile formed.
“Hopefully I can fulfill the rightfulness of bringing it back in familiar style.” He smiled, knowing that’d be a great feeling after the disappointment last week.
“Just focus on doing your best, and believe. You can do this. I know you can.” She smiles as she wraps her arms back around him firmly. He lets out a sigh as he rubs her back. “Alyssa….”
“Everything that’s happened this week scared me more than I admitted. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to do.” She then glances up at him. “But hearing this positivity from you, it’s beautiful.”
“I’m going to have my moments. I know I’m not through every emotion that’s rattling in my mind. Randy is still playing his tricks with me even though he’s locked up due to his mazes of mystery. I’m still careful in doings due to fear of something happening – hence why I haven’t ventured off far from here. I’m sure I’m going to slip up and probably flip on you, unintentionally, out of my own frustration. But you’re right – I’m positive about your chances, and I’m positive that I’ll figure this out.”
“I know you will…” She then kisses his lips. “So what do you say we go do some exploring?” He nods his head in agreement as they accept each other’s hands, walking out of the stall together.
As they headed out together, Marie sat by the hauler with Dale, eyes focused on them with intent staring.
“Are you sure it’s best for him to be here this weekend?” Marie questions, catching Dale’s attention as he looks over.
“He couldn’t stand to be at home away from Aly-” He starts.
“I mean, with everything that happened and you told me.” Dale lets out a sigh, having his own reservations. He remembered calling Regan with a call of concern, wondering if they should put some plan in motion. However, Regan convinced him that Chase will find his way and the best way to give him space was let him to do it how he wanted. If they continue to pressure, it could backfire.
“So far, it seems to be working out well. He seems to be in the perfect positive attitude about things with smiles between them. I don’t think we’ll have any problems.” Marie had hesitation, though, based on previous weekends.
“What about the incident that happened at Bristol? What about the fan incident, too?” Dale remembered those, being the reason he had called Regan.
“He knows what happened. He’s taking the steps to make sure they don’t repeat themselves while he figures out what he needs to in his mind. Hence no walks by himself, hence staying away from crowds, and hence staying grounded. With everything put together, I don’t think we need to worry.” He then glances over at Marie. “You haven’t bothered me about them for awhile now….”
“I can’t help it with hearing what happened and his thoughts. Their lives have been shattered, and trying to put the pieces back together….” She then pauses as she looks down. “We know what it’s like, Dale. We’ve seen that and we know how much it hurts. I remember finding you broken down that night through it. I remember when you found me sitting on the balcony another night. I don’t want to see my baby go through that….” Dale wraps an arm around her.
“I know, and I don’t want to see her go through that. But what saved us those times? We knew that we had something to run to, and we had each other. They need each other more than anything else right now. I know you’re worried about Chase and things, but she needs him more than our worry justifies – just like she helps keep him good. We need to believe that it’ll be fine, and give them the space, and let them do what they need to do to get through it – just like we did.” Marie knew he was right, no matter how hard it felt to do so.
“Why can’t we just sweep in and take away all the pain and questions?” Dale wondered the same thing sometimes.
“Because life is unfair in that way sometimes. But hey, admit it – if anybody can do it, it’s them.” Marie nods her head in agreement.