Monday, January 8 – North Carolina
As Christopher went to make his next move in their game of monopoly, he heard a knock on the door. He looked over the table at Sarina with raised eyebrows.
“I told you we wouldn’t have enough time to complete the whole game,” he offers as he stands up and walks over to the door, pulling it open. “Hey. She’s in the living room kicking my ass at Monopoly.”
“Poor Christopher,” Chase comments as he gives him a pat on the shoulder as he enters the house.
“Ah shucks, you cut our date short,” Sarina says with a smile on her face as she stands up and walks over, wrapping both arms around Chase. “I’m sorry they didn’t win. I was so confident when we glanced at the score, seeing the huge lead, I figured they’d hold on and it’d be the perfect night of glory. Of course, I was wrong…” Chase nods his head as he glances at the ground.
“Trust me, it was a bit of a downer watching that lead just disappear in the flick of a couple fingers. I can’t say that I’m not disappointed. But, I’m proud of them. They did a great job and proved they could get there. It gives me confidence that we’ll see a return visit next year with a better result.” He then wraps his arms around her. “But regardless, I had a ton of fun being there and taking it all in, and I can’t thank you enough for the tickets.”
“Well, as long as you had fun, that’s what matters.” She then lightly kisses his lips. “This guy’s company wasn’t bad as we had a ton of fun together. But, there’s nothing like spending time with you.”
“Will you both just get a room already?” Christopher questions as he glances out of the kitchen. “Seriously, I was expecting a ring after that trip, too.” Both of their jaws drop as they look over at him. “Too soon? I mean, I can’t be the only one that has made the comment to you.”
“You aren’t,” Chase answers, remembering a previous conversation as he keeps his eyes locked on hers. Taking a deep breath, he knew they had other things to talk about first – even if he knew they could weather the storm.
“I could say the same about you,” Sarina adds as Christopher just shrugs his shoulders. “By the way, you better come back with a Gold Digger. I won’t accept otherwise after last year.” He then chuckles.
“It’s certainly the best way to start off a year,” he comments.
Tuesday, January 9 – North Carolina
“Are you sure you’ll be fine all day?” Chase questions and Sarina glances down the stairs, rolling her eyes.
“I’m fine, Chase,” she answers as she come down the steps. “I’m pretty much back to myself without a single reason to fret or worry. You don’t need to baby or care for me because I am fine. Do I need to spell that out for you?” He then lets out a sigh as he grabs her hand.
“I just care and worry about you. Isn’t a guy allowed to worry?” She then takes a deep breath, nodding her head.
“I appreciate it, I really do – even if I don’t show it sometimes. But trust me, I’m fine. Besides, I’m not spending today here just lounging around. I’m going to the shop to do a seat fitting, and then I promised Harrison that I would help him with his homework.” Chase then looks at her surprised. “What? Can’t a girl offer her young teammate a nice gesture? I’m good at math, he’s struggling a little – I figure I better help him get it where it needs to be before the season starts.”
“Harrison is a good kid, and I know it can be tough doing school and racing all together. Been there, don-”
“Done that, and sometimes regretted every minute but wouldn’t change it for anything to chase after a dream. Hence why I offered to help him out.” Chase just gives her a smile. “Do you promise to not be home late?”
“Short flight, and Texas doesn’t want to put on the lights, so you know what that means.” He then grabs his backpack, putting it on his back, before kissing her lips. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.” He then heads out the door as she leans back against the staircase, taking a deep breath, before heading back up to get dressed. So much for their nice quiet time….
Tuesday, January 9 – Texas Motor Speedway
Chase walks into the garage, firesuit on, ready for a full day of making laps and notes ahead of the new year. Taking a glance over the car, he had to smile. It just seemed perfect now adorning the No. 9, and the new body lines of the camaro were nothing to complain about.
“I’m surprised you’re here,” he hears, glancing up and giving Alan a quick smile.
“Where else would I be?” He questions as Alan walks over, eyes locked on him.
“At home, taking care of your girlfriend.” Alan places a hand around Chase’s shoulders. “You don’t need to put on the tough guy act for me. I get it, Chase.” Chase then slowly looks away from the car back to the crew chief.
“She says that she’s feeling better with no side effects, complications, so it’s back to business as usual. Besides, she’s spending the day at KBM doing a seat fitting and helping Harrison with his homework.”
“So just like that, it’s back to business as usual?” Chase shrugs his shoulders, knowing that was far from the truth.
“What do you want me to say, Alan?” Alan takes a deep breath, not moving his hand from where it was on Chase’s shoulder.
“There’s a reason that I suggested Rick get Alex, Jimmie or William to do the test instea-”
“Alex is at the Chili Bowl, Jimmie is still in Colora-”
“He could’ve given up his vacation for your sake, and I know the William explanation before you say anything.” Chase takes a deep breath as he glances back towards the car.
“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else today, okay? I’m fine being here. Rick even called me last night to make sure that I was okay. Like I said, we’re back to business as usual…” Alan nods his head, accepting, but fails to remove his hand from where it was placed on the shoulder.
“But there’s a lot of other pieces left over, I bet. You don’t just move forward without a care.” Chase takes another deep breath as he places his hands along the door bar. It was getting much harder to just avoid any conversation about it.
“There’s so many emotions that I can’t even begin to describe to you right now. There’s a lot that Sarina and I need to talk about following the doctor’s appointment. We also have another whole issue due to Aunt Shelle-”
“Should I be worried?” Chase shakes his head no as he glances back at the crew chief.
“Let’s just say it was a meeting that didn’t go as planned. She basically had some rude comments for Sarina regarding her brother’s situation that were out of line. I basically told her straight off, but I can tell that it affected Sarina.” Alan lets out a sigh.
“That’s what we were scared of when you began to search for family, too.” Chase nods his head as his eyes focus back on the car.
“Part of me wishes I just would’ve left things alone as they were fine, but I can’t do that. Look at Lindsay. She’s one of the best things to happen to Sarina.” Chase then turns around, leaning back against the car. “I feel like it’s two steps forward, one step backwards with Sarina. We begin to make progress in getting emotions out there, truly releasing everything – and I being able to trust her fully without a tinge of fear that we’ll repeat the past. Then something happens and she’s back to putting the wall up. She’s hiding emotions, afraid to talk, worried about expressing everything, not able to make herself vulnerable.”
“I know it’s frustrating, but you have to understand that’s how she’s been her entire life, until she met you and could trust you.” Chase nods his head as he looks out of the garage area for a quick second, before turning his eyes back to Alan.
“I understand, and for that reason, I keep pushing and keep doing whatever I can to support her so she will open up to me. There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do for her, either. But once, I wish we could just make steps forward without this back and forth.” Alan nods his head, accepting, as he hoped for the same.
“How about we just keep a positive outlook on 2018 and maybe it’ll happen? Maybe you’re just getting everything out of the way early.” Chase chuckles as he spins around, back to face the car. “What?”
“I don’t know if I believe you. It may just be the beginning in reality, but whatever the case, I’m here for the ride…” Chase then climbs in the car, getting comfortable as he glances around to make sure everything was in order. Alan then kneels down, looking in on his young driver.
“Have faith. You guys are meant to be, and when two people are meant to be, the universe has a funny way of letting things fall in place when you least expect it.” Alan then reaches back, grabbing a clipboard, before bringing it into view for Chase. “Now, Goodyear has brought four different tires for the two days….”
Tuesday, January 9 – North Carolina
Once he was cleared done for the day, he took the short flight back to North Carolina, returning home. He was met by a pleasant surprise, too, as Sarina had made them his favorite – chicken parmesan – for dinner.
“I was thinking while you were gone,” Sarina starts, catching Chase’s attention as he looks up from his plate. “Maybe it’s worth reaching out to Shelley again.” Chase instantly drops his fork, which falls to the floor.
“Are you kidding me?” He asks and she shakes her head no. “You do remember what she said and how rude she was to you, right? I mean, if someone did that to me, I wouldn’t waste my time with them ever again. They’re not worth the energy.” Sarina takes a deep breath, absolutely understanding where Chase was coming from as she reaches down, picking up his fork.
“She was frustrated with the situation, and this was her first time seeing someone connected. We pulled back an old wound and boom – we got shattered with the reaction from doing that.” Chase then glances back from the sink as he washes the fork off.
“So you’re just willing to let it go?” She nods her head.
“She was frustrated, so she just began venting for whatever reason and unfortunately, we were the source along with Lindsay. She even admitted to you that it was out of anger, and maybe she direct-”
“Maybe she directed it?” Chase sits back down at the table alongside Sarina. “I’m sorry, but it was totally directed in the wrong way possible, as I told her. You did everything that you could in the situation that you were given, and no fault should ever be placed on your shoulders. Frankly, that should be the responsibility of your paren-”
“They were both dea-”
“Then it should become the responsibility of child services and the state protection system. They’re the ones that forced you to move around, and into the situation. They just emphasized what was going on. If they would’ve taken a harder look, maybe gotten him some help or showed him drugs were wrong, things could’ve been different.” He then places his hand on top of hers. “You were only 16, Sarina. No 16-year-old should be expected to handle losing both of her parents and dealing with a brother like Chris was on their own. He was 14, so that should’ve been child services handling it. But for them to throw you both out on your own with all that to handle – what happened from there on is on them.”
“But does Shelley know those exact details? Nope. That’s why she probably started there, realized from your words that she was wrong, and made the point about wrongfully directing her anger. Hence why she also ended the discussion. She knew the pain that she caused, and probably how wrong she was so she just finished it before we could blow it up mor-”
“Or maybe because she doesn’t want anything to do with you – as mean as that is.” Sarina’s eyes drop down to the table as she takes a deep breath.
“I am ready to face that truth if it is indeed what she wants. I understand that because I know there are certain things that I can never forgive my brother for, too.” She then takes a deep breath, looking back up at Chase. “I feel reaching out will give her a chance for a re-do, to possibly correct her wrongs, and maybe fresh start with that frustration out there. I just don’t want to give up hope until there’s totally none.” Chase felt every nerve inside of him telling her to not do this, because it was that approach that allowed Chris to dig his claws deeper into them with Bethany and Alison.
“Just promise me that you’ll be careful and the first sign of trouble, you’ll run the other direction.” She nods her head, accepting.
“Trust me – I’m not letting another situation arise like last year. We’re done with those.”