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.

Advertisements

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…”

Cabin Fears – Chapter 66: Richmond

Chase takes a deep breath as he walks through the pits at Richmond Raceway garage.

He felt his nerves cringe at times in seeing the crowds of fans throughout, but a couple calming deep breathes and he found himself some common ground.

“The past will not repeat itself,” he tells himself quietly. “That was just a weird coincidence of events, thanks to one person. You know that. You know the game that he played. Don’t let him control your life and feelings.”

He then takes a pause, glancing around, continuing to remind himself of that fact as he takes a couple deep breathes, before continuing his walk through the garage.

Originally going into the weekend, he was set to stay focused on Alyssa solely. However, with the test scheduled on Sunday, he knew checking in with his guys to see how things were going was very well worth it for everyone’s sanity. He had been impressed with how Jimmie Johnson had performed during his time out of the seat, as it was like eight-time hadn’t missed a beat despite the time off.

“Must be all the triathlons he’s been doing,” Chase mused to himself one day.

He makes his way into the garage, receiving a couple surprised glances from the various crew members as they hadn’t expected an appearance.

“I thought you were too busy with the girl to care about us,” Alan comments as Chase immediately laughs.

“I always got time for my guys,” he replies, before giving the crew chief a hug. “It’s nice to see you.” Alan then takes a step back, giving Chase a glance over.

“Jeff mentioned something about having the intermediate car ready for Sunday to test at Charlotte for you. I thought he was crazy, but I’m beginning to think otherwise looking at you. Are you sure you’re ready?” Chase nods his head.

“Like I told him, one by one I am figuring things out so I believe this is the next step. I mean, I made my way over here all by myself. I wasn’t able to do that just two weeks ago.” Alan nods his head, having heard the story of what happened at Bristol.

“That’s certainly progress….”

“It’s just constantly giving myself little reminders in moving forward, and knowing that Randy’s games are over. He can’t hurt me no more and the game that he played has no more turns left. As long as I remind myself of that, look forward and not back at him, then I feel good.” Alan couldn’t help but smile at the revelation.

“And obviously, that’s helping the anxiety and fear, right?” Alan hated to bring up a negative, but the mention from Jeff that Chase was on a mild drug couldn’t leave his mind. There was a reason for that…

“Absolutely. I don’t think it’s absolutely gone, nor am I ready to do it all alone, but I’m closer with that thought.” Alan smiles as he wraps an arm around Chase.

“That’s great. I am absolutely happy for you.” Alan then stops and looks into his eyes. “Just make sure you’re doing this right and not repeating your past mistakes.” Chase rolls his eyes as he lets out a sigh.

“Jeff said the same thing…”

“It’s only because we care, and don’t want to do that again. You remember how sick you got at Charlotte. You remember how you drove yourself away from everybody. We don’t need that again. You don’t need that again, and Alyssa certainly doesn’t.” Chase knew that, and always reminded himself of that on a constant basis if he felt like running.

“Trust me – I know. I can promise you that I’m not doing that again, okay?” Alan nods his head, believing him.

“I’m just glad to have you back, man. I can’t wait for Sunday.” Chase then looks over as Jimmie is discussing something with the crew members.

“Think he’s ready to give me back the seat, though?” Alan chuckles as he looks over at him.

“I don’t know about that, but I also know he’s missing the time spending the kids, too. He’s in that parent mode where he can’t believe the kids are all grown up.” Chase nods his head in agreement.

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

Later on that night, Chase stood on pit road, waiting for opening ceremonies to begin as he watched Alyssa do a series of interviews. Taking a deep breath, he knew if things came together, this would be the calmest weekend they’d have at the track for awhile.

“What’s this I hear about you making a return?” He hears and turns immediately to the source.

“Ssssh!” He demands quickly as he walks over to his mom. “We don’t want everybody knowing…” Cindy then crosses her arms.

“I’m your mother. Don’t I deserve to know?” Chase nods his head as he lets out a sigh.

“Jeff wasn’t sure if it was 100% set till about a couple hours ago after we got done talking with NASCAR. I was going to tell you sometime tomorrow so you and Dad knew. I don’t keep secrets…” Cindy remains there with her arms crossed.

“And are we sure about this?” Chase rolls his eyes as he glances away.

“Been through with Jeff, been through with Alan – and now you too?” She then taps his shoulder to get his attention.

“I’m your mother. My opinion comes over theirs and an explanation is due to me more than them.” He couldn’t argue with that, unfortunately.

“I feel that I am ready. I don’t want to stand here and discuss this all day – but let’s say I’ve found common ground, feel this is the next step, and won’t get lost in continuing to make progress even if it goes well. Is that satisfactory?” Cindy nods her head.

“Next time, let me find out from you and not from your crew, got it?” Chase nods his head. “And I wish you the best of luck. You know, I love you and support you no matter what. Do what’s best for you, and only what’s best for you. Don’t try and do stuff just to make everyone happy.”

“Yes ma’am.” As she headed away, he knew what she spoke of as he glanced back at Alyssa.

Everybody wanted to see him back racing and everybody wanted to see everything back like it was before, as if nothing had happened. The fans, the sponsors, and their friends, family – it was just better feeling that way. He knew he couldn’t let the pressure from everyone on the outside push him sooner than he should.

As he takes a deep breath, he wonders if he’s truly for what’s to come on Sunday and beyond.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 119: Reunited Together

New Hampshire – Friday, July 14 – 4:12 am

Chase walks through the infield, glancing at his watch. He couldn’t believe how late he had gotten in, but that’s what you get when weather plays havoc with your flying schedule.

He reaches the motorcoach, taking the key out of his pocket. He types in the lock code, along with inserting the key and turning it – increased security never hurt given the circumstances lately. He lets out a sigh, heading inside, slipping his shoes off immediately. Letting out a yawn, he just wanted to flop down and get some sleep before morning. He knew he had another long day ahead of him.

He makes his way through the motorcoach, and smiles as he enters the bedsroom. He saw Sarina curled up with his pillow tucked close to her. He remembered texting her to let her know he had left Las Vegas, and then texting her once again when plans got delayed.

He sits on the edge of the bed, slipping off his jeans, followed by his t-shirt, trying to do it as quietly as possible to not disturb her.

As he places both on the dresser, he hears her roll over in the bed, immediately glancing her way. Cursing slightly to himself, he hated the thought of possibly waking her up and knew he should’ve just flopped on the couch. He stands there, frozen, hoping that she’d simply fall back asleep with ease.

Feeling that she was settled back in, he climbs into the bed behind her, wrapping an arm around her as his head lands on her pillow.

“Sssh I’m here,” he says quietly. “Close your eyes. Go to sleep. I love you.” He then gives her a light kiss on the cheek, before getting himself settled in for the night. Almost completely settled, he was caught off-guard when she rolled over and locked eyes with his, only lit up by the moonlight through the window. “I didn’t mean to wak-”

“You really think I’m just going to go to sleep when I know you’re on your way and I haven’t seen you for a week?” She questions. “There’s no way that’s ever happening. No matter how hard I tried, there was no way I was going to sleep until I knew you were here with me – even, yes, at like 4 in the morning. That said, I love you as well and glad you made it.” She then leans in, kissing his lips.

“I’m sorry I was so late, and I love you, and I missed you so much. I meant what I said the whole time I was away – nobody can compare to you.” She then smiles, remembering that voice mail very clearly.

“By the way, that song message was the best gift anybody has ever given to me. That really touched me, Chase, so thank you very much. Don’t be surprised if you hear it played again.” He then looks at her surprised.

“You saved it?” She smiles as he just rolls his eyes.

“Don’t worry – it’s our secret. I haven’t played it for anybody. The only other person that knows about it is Kyle and that’s cause he caught me smiling while listening to it over and over at the shop.” He silently curses himself, knowing that Kyle was probably going to tease him about it.

“Great….” He then lets out another yawn as she snuggles herself as close as she can to him.

“Now, it’s your turn to close your eyes. A big week like that, you need your sleep for sure. Alarm is set for an hour and a half before practice. So close those big eyes, and enjoy some sleep…” He wraps his arm tightly around her, easily listening without a single protest.

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

Sleep had come with ease as Sarina now stood on top of the NAPA hauler, taking in the sights of practice. So far, Chase had been pleased with the handling of the No. 24 Chevrolet. They just needed to improve the speed a little bit, and perhaps they could challenge for the win come Sunday.

With just a couple minutes remaining in the practice, she climbs down the stairs, set to take a quick trip to the bathroom before meeting up with him in the garage. She figured they’d hang out together through the XFINITY practice.

“Sarina?” She hears as she gets down off the final step. She glances over, rolling her eyes immediately. “You’re here?”

“What? You think with the trucks being off that I’m going to run off?” She questions in response as Christopher Bell simply shrugs his shoulders. “Yeah, that’s not happening.”

“Why shouldn’t that surprise me to be honest, actually? I should’ve known that you’d want to spend time with Chase. Has he been talking about all the girls that he saw?” Sarina lets out a sigh, shaking her head.

“Unlike you and the majority of the male population, he isn’t turned on by girls walking around in skimpy clothes.” Christopher then looks at her surprised. “Do I need to speak to your girlfriend about this?”

“Nah, I didn’t even watch the coverage because I could care less.” Christopher then carefully crosses his arms, as he glances around, before back at her. “How’s things panning out with your brot-”

“What is there left to pan out, Bell?” He then freezes, knowing he shouldn’t have asked.

“I meant trial, police, investigation-based….” She then lets out a sigh.

“He’s not getting bail, and the trail should be coming up soon. They have enough stuff to convict him so it should go down pretty easily.” Christopher nods his head, satisfied.

“And what about Bethany? I heard that you guys got into it, and she’s off the list.” Sarina wished she never heard that name again, either.

“Let’s just say that she doesn’t agree with how things are going with my brother, okay? She knows her place and knows where she belongs now based on that.”

“Just be careful, okay?” Sarina nods her head. “Alright. I got to go. I’ll see ya later.” Christopher then heads off as Sarina continues down her previous chosen path.

She knew that Christopher meant well with his questions of concern. However, she hoped they’d eventually get to a point when there wouldn’t be a reason to be worried. As she had always wanted, why couldn’t she get the happily ever after normal life everyone else seemed to have?

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

New Hampshire – Sunday, July 16

Chase smiles as he looks down pit road seeing Sarina talking with Kyle and Samantha.

“So, everything has been kept normal now?” Cindy questions and Chase looks back to his mom, nodding his head. “There’s nothing else I need to worry about in regards to you, right?”

“Not a thing, mama,” he answers. “Chris is going to see jail bars for a number of years based on the evidence and the fact that he isn’t pulling any of his previous stunts again. Her cousin is more talk than action, and has been told to keep her distance. You could say that things are finally starting to play out right, and the relationship that I thought we could have together is happening.”

“And no more signs of throwing you into danger?” Chase shakes his head no.

“Mom, we’ve dealt with everything. There’s nothing else that could happen. Besides, as I told you before, you can’t sit here and blame Sarina. It’s not her fault that all of this surrounds her. She’s a great girl. Just give her a chance for me, please.” Cindy lets out a sigh as she looks down towards Sarina.

“I want to believe you, but I can’t help but picture everything that’s happened since you let her in your life. I also know there was instances where she didn’t trust you fully, nor was she 100% honest. To have a relationship, you need that fully without a single question of faith in that. Do you guys truly have that now, Chase?” Chase nods his head as he glances the same direction as his mom.

“We’re able to talk about everything under the sun without a single issue, mama. She has already confessed her feelings about certain things. Like I said, I don’t have a single worry….” He then thought back to the hotel room, remembering Alison. Though he knew that was only because she was mad about not getting her dream opportunity so it was thought quickly out of mind.

He couldn’t think about any of that anymore, though, as the race was the only thing on his mind within a couple minutes of that discussion. Like other weekends, they had shown speed and potential, but were missing the edge needed to really get up there and contend. As a result, he ran around the teens all day, eventually crossing the finish line in 11th. He knew if they were going to be championship contenders, things needed to improve as they couldn’t run like this all summer and then into the playoffs.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 114: Solid Rebound

Thursday, July 6

Chase walked into the garage, smiling as some crew members from fellow teams walked over to ask how he was, followed by some other drivers. He simply answered their quick question, thanking them for the well wishes.

He makes his way into the motorcoach area, smiling as he lays his eyes immediately on Sarina. He walks over, pulling her close without any hesitation, followed by a kiss on the cheek.

“I’m surprised you survived a day without me,” he comments as she rolls her eyes.

“Just be glad that you haven’t heard half of the crap around here yet,” she tells him as he looks at her confused. “You got my text about Briscoe, right? Well, he was one of many with comments.” Chase firmly wraps his arms around her.

“Listen, those comments don’t bother me at all. I’m here to do my job, and that’s drive a racecar as far as I can and try to win for my team. If anybody wants to try and create other drama around us for whatever reason, let them, because it doesn’t faze me – same as the pressure, and whatever else. All that matters to me is what we have, together.” She smiles as she lifts his sunglasses off his face, looking into his eyes.

“Do you realize how special you are?” He chuckles as he takes his keys out of his pocket, twirling them around. He then reaches over, unlocking the door for the motorcoach.

“After you….” Sarina heads in first, with Chase going to follow her, before a hand lands on his shoulder.

“Can we talk first?” He hears and feels like rolling his eyes immediately as he turns around to face his mom. “Are you sure by what you told her? I mean, there’s going to be lots said. People are going to question your actions based on being with her after what Chris did. People are going question everything about her due to her brother, and her background – the same questions that I’ve been reminding you of. Are you ready for that to be thrown in your face?” Chase nods his head.

“Just like I told you on Monday, and will repeat 10 times over if need be, I have her back and nothing is going to change that,” he informs his mom. “Her brother’s actions are not her fault. That is his fault for choosing to do that for whatever reas-”

“What about the fact that she let it go on for longer than it should’ve?” Chase crosses his arms, having asked the question himself initially.

“There was no concrete evidence pointing him to the crime prior to Ryan’s admission and them finding the vials. Secondly, she loved her brother and wanted to believe in a future together reunited just like they were when they were younger. It’s understandable that she didn’t believe it. You wouldn’t believe it if someone close to you decided to do something like that, would you?” Cindy lets out a sigh, shaking her head.

“But you said it yourself – you didn’t know whether you could trust him. That should’ve been a warni-”

“It was a warning, and she did approach him so it wasn’t like she didn’t take any steps. I was guarded more than she was without a doubt, and reasonably so based on what happened. However, I will admit that I started to believe in the change for awhile there before a couple off-key conversations happened. So while you want to accuse her, you can accuse me the same thing because I also trusted him a little there.”

“There’s nothing that I can to say change your mind?” Chase shakes his head no. “You know, I do this because I love you and I want to protect you. I don’t want to see you hurt like that ever again, and I can’t help but look at her because that’s three times now. Normally it’s three times and you’re out. I also know what everybody in this garage is capable of doing with rumors and stories from your father, and I don’t want to see you go through that.” Chase places his hands on his mom’s shoulders as he keeps his eyes locked on her. If they were going to have this discussion, might as well get it all out at once.

“I appreciate how much you care for me, and how you’re looking out for me. But with all due respect, there’s nothing you need to worry about when it comes to Sarina. I won’t get hurt with her, and as I told her – what is said won’t bother me at all, no matter who says it. I’m a big boy; I can handle it.” He then gives her a hug. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.” He then turns on his heels and heads inside, slipping the door closed as his eyes set on Sarina who was sitting on the couch.

“The usual discussion?” Sarina questions and Chase nods his head. “Chase, I’m sorry….” He walks over, sitting beside her.

“I told you that you never have to apologize, right?” He asks and she nods her head. “Well then, don’t apologize. Besides, she’s starting to come around slowly. She told me that she is just doing this because of how much she cares about me, how she wants to protect me and what not. I think she’s beginning to see why I love you so much.” She smiles as she places her hand on his leg.

“Well how about you begin taking advantage of my caring nature and we go head back there, and relax for a bit? You’re supposed to be resting and building up that energy, huh?” He lets out a sigh and nods his head. “It’s going to be one of those rainy ass days so I say we spend it being as lazy as possible, together as much as we can, until I have to race tonight.”

“Do I have a welcome seat on your pit box tonight?” She smiles and shakes her head yes, remembering her discussion with Kyle.

“Let’s just say that the boss is glad that we are back together.” Chase was glad to hear that as he didn’t need to hear any backlash from Kyle.

“It’s probably because he knows it puts you in a better mood.” She chuckles as she stands up, pulling at his hand.

“Come on. You need to listen to doctor’s orders.” He lets out a sigh as he stands and follows her. He wasn’t one for spending time relaxing quietly, so it was tough to follow the orders of keeping quiet and being lazy. However, if he had to follow them, this was the best way possible.

“Yes, Nurse Ott.”

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

After a quiet afternoon, the pair ventured out to the garage area, where Sarina headed into the Kyle Busch Motorsports hauler for a pre-team meeting, followed by getting ready. The actions left Chase to himself in the garage area, obviously now surrounded by the same comments that Sarina heard the day before. Of course, they were heightened with the pair having being spotted holding hands.

“You look quieter than normal….” Chase hears and glances over, seeing Ryan leaning against a wall pillar.

“I could ask you why you look lost in a garage, but I’d assume that you’re here to watch Austin and Chase (Briscoe),” Chase replies as Ryan nods his head. “Besides, I’m normally quiet anyway.”

“Touché, but it just seems quieter, and I’ve heard all the comments that people have been saying. For the record, I have your back and I’m glad you guys are back to square one. As long as her brother stays locked away, I have no issues.” Chase walks over, leaning against the wall beside him.

“We’re both on agreement on that, and so is Sarina. She’s been checking in to make sure he isn’t pulling any tricks at all.” Ryan nods his head.

“And what about the comments?” Chase lets out a sigh as he glances around.

“I can’t deny what I’ve heard. I’m surprised by who has said some of the things, to be honest. I thought some of these guys in the garage were nicer and more understanding than that. I mean, hearing that Kyle only kept Sarina because she’s a girl, and hearing that I’m messing up my perfect life by aligning myself with a witch like her isn’t heartwarming.” Ryan couldn’t help but shudder at the comments. “But, for the most part, it doesn’t matter. I haven’t really listened to any of it and just let it blow over my head. I’m focused on two things – racing this weekend, and my girl.”

“So you’re for sure racing on Saturday night despite everything that happened?” Chase nods his head, feeling confident that he’d be able to endure the full 400 mile distance despite the heat and everything, even with still working at building his strength entirely back up. “Well, I wish ya the best of luck and hope you do well.”

“Right back at you.” The pair then fell quiet, waiting for their respective drivers as Ryan thought over whether to ask the next question.

“Has Sarina told you her thoughts on the comments at all?” Chase glances over, debating whether he should open up about the text message.

“Oh, about the fact that Austin approached her unfairly yesterday entering the garage with a bitchy comment? Yeah, that happened and she wasn’t pleased just because nobody would expect that out of him. You’d think Tim would’ve raised him better than that.” Ryan rolls his eyes, having heard the rough details from a couple crew members.

“I heard he apologized, though.” Chase nods his head. “I mean, I know that doesn’t excuse him, but hey, it’s something. Oh, and for the record, I have no agreement on that.”

“Other than that, she’s her usual self – focused on doing the best that she can and kicking his ass, fully without any other thought interrupting her. I mean, that’s what makes her so good – her focus. She will stay focused and keep pushing harder, and also take in whatever lessons she can. She was texting Christopher last night while texting me to get more advice.”

“They are on good terms?” Chase wasn’t quite sure how far that went, honestly.

“Working as teammates, and probably as friends too, but I won’t confirm it.” Ryan nods his head.

“Has she mentioned her brother or family at all?” Chase looks over confused. “We both said that it was going to be something that’d tear her apart and affect her emotionally. I was wondering if she began talking, if you don’t mind me asking.”

“She hasn’t said much, yet.” Chase glances down, before taking a deep breath. “Her tactic is to avoid everything, and focus on racing as her escape. I’m letting her do that right now, while continuing to assure her that I have her back. That way when it gets to where she wants to talk, she’ll open up to me rather than running away from it. That’s all I can do.”

“Well, I hope it works out because I want to see you both happy.” Chase smiles, wishing for the same thing.

“She deserves it.” They then smile as they watch her emerge from the hauler, dressed in her familiar white uniform with pony tail fixed appropriately, heading their way.

“Don’t be getting any ideas, Ryan,” she states with a smirk, walking up to Chase. “I see you staring…” Ryan then looks at her as innocently as possible.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about as I wasn’t looking at nothing,” Ryan comments as Chase gives him a glance.

“Just because white shows everything doesn’t mean that you need to stare,” Chase says as he wraps his arms around her. “We know you’re jealous of our relationship. When Emma stops her cock-blocking games, I’ll find you a girl.” Ryan just rolls his eyes as Sarina laughs.

“Keep talking all you want, but remember who got you with the orange juice.” Sarina’s smile immediately disappears, turning into a ice cold stare on Ryan.

“That prank war isn’t over by a long shot, Blaney,” she says before walking away.

“You started a war that you’re not going to win,” Chase adds as he follows her with a smile of his own. It was nice to be getting back to their joking ways.

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

Sarina leans against the truck, sipping on a bottle of water following her post-race interviews, smiling as Marcus and Chase make their way over.

“Solid rebound,” Chase comments as he gives her a hug. “That was a job well done, considering.” She couldn’t help but agree. After running up front all race, she got spun at the beginning of the third stage, but managed to fight back for a fifth-place finish.

“Thank you,” she replies. “I just can’t help but think should’ve, could’ve and would’ve. If we could’ve stayed up front, we would’ve been able to possibly fight for the win and should’ve been right there with Christopher.” She then lets out a sigh as she takes another mouthful.

“Don’t let it eat at you. You’re performing great for a rookie – just ask anybody. The wins and success will come if you keep running like you are. You’re doing great.” He gives her a pat on the shoulder as Marcus looks on, nodding his head in agreement.

“Kyle found a gem in you, and we’re going to show everybody that soon,” he adds. “We’re working towards that. We’re running up front – now we just need to put it all together. Patience, young grasshopper.” She smiles as she simply gives her crew chief a hug.

“As long as we survive a night on dirt, I won’t complain,” she comments, knowing the next truck race was at Eldora Raceway. “That’s a whole new ballgame for me so it’ll be interesting.” Marcus chuckles nervously, though wasn’t too worried after seeing others adjust quickly.

“You have a natural feel. We’ll be fine…”

“You can also ask Christopher for advice,” Chase adds and Sarina nods her head, though slightly surprised. She thought that Chase was all set on those two not talking following Christopher’s previous comments.

“Keep doing what you’re doing, focus on your thing, and everything else will fall into place,” Marcus reminds her. “I’ll see you next week.” He then heads off as she turns to Chase.

“He’s right. It’ll work out, everything….” He then pulls her into a hug, knowing that the spin was still eating at her, as he rubs her back.

As she thought it over, she knew being frustrated with the spin was small in comparison to everything going on. If that was the only complaint on the day, than perhaps it wasn’t too bad and maybe Marcus was right. Maybe it was time for that happy ever after, finally.

Though letting out a sigh and seeing a missed call on her phone, she knew that was further from the truth given everything going on. She shakes her head, wishing the accompanying thoughts would disappear again as she deletes the notification.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 113: Talk of the Garage

Wednesday, July 5

Chase took a deep breath, before stepping off the plane and looking around. It was a surprise to be there, considering everything.

With having spent the majority of the weekend in the hospital, everybody was set to cancel his promotional period for Indianapolis. However, upon his release, the agreement was in place to keep it on as planned.

“Just so you’re aware, the Indianapolis media squad knows about what happened,” Morgan starts, as he glances over at her. “They understand that you were just released yesterday. It’s been cleared with them that if it gets to be too much of a day, or you need a break, we can just say something and do it. They don’t have a single problem as they’re glad that you were able to do this, still.” Chase nods his head as he looks around the airport for the group waiting for them.

“I still say you should’ve cancelled entirely,” Cindy comments as Chase rolls his eyes. He knew his mother was just being overly cautious. However, with a good sleep the night before, combined with sleeping the entire flight and continually feeling better, he felt up to going about business as usual. Besides, it wasn’t like there was going to be anything big and taxing on the day.

“Also, if anybody asks about Chris or Sarina or anything, simply state that you have no comment and move forward. I know things are touchy so we don’t need to get into that, and being an on-going police investigation, it’s not allowed anyway. They said they told all media members to not question, but you know how that works.” Chase nods his head.

“What’s first on the agenda, anyway?” He questions as Morgan pulls out her phone, looking at the schedule.

“A helicopt – ah shit,” she answers, as he looks over confused. “So you were supposed to take the track president, along with his head social media guru and two others on a helicopter tour of the city to the track.” Chase roughly remembered mention of that, as questions were made whether he had enough hours on his license to fly a group of people. “Are you still up to doing that?”

“Yeah, I can still do it. Maybe not as long as we discussed originally, but I can do a shortened version.” Morgan nods her head, making a note.

“Are you sure?” Cindy questions and Chase nods his head again. With how he was feeling, he knew that a short flight wouldn’t be a problem as concentration and awareness was back to a level that he was confident.

“If I had any concerns at all, I wouldn’t accept it,” he answers as Morgan meets up with one of the representatives to go over details.

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

Sarina fixes the belt on her firesuit, before glancing in the mirror. She puts her hair up in a ponytail, giving it a quick brush through and smiles. That was easier getting ready than expected.

She then walks out of the Kyle Busch Motorsports trailer, smiling as there were some fans waiting for autographs – as usual. She signs them, before beginning the walk over to the garage for the start of the first practice.

The entire walk over, she could overhear comments all around her and noticed the eyes staring at her. There were some questioning her status with Kyle Busch Motorsports, things surrounding her brother, and whether she was still with Chase. She could only roll her eyes, knowing that there was probably going to be rumors flying every which way all weekend long.

“Well well, the princess is here,” she hears as she reaches the garage, glancing over a stall over. “Did you realize that you’re talk of the garage today?” She takes her sunglasses off, noticing Austin Cindric standing there.

“Yeah, I heard everybody’s thoughts,” she comments with an eye roll. “What’s your point?”

“I’m just surprised that you’re standing here in a Kyle Busch Motorsports uniform set to drive the No. 18 truck this weekend.” She expected those comments from some fans; however, it was a surprise from another competitor.

“Kyle understands that it wasn’t my fault, and stated that he has my back through everything. The sponsors have also said that they’re not backing down on their support. What’s your point, again?” He crosses his arms, a little surprised to hear those words.

“I’m just surprised. I mean, there was a ton of things said – including some wondering whether you still had the ride for the only reason that you’re female, and this isn’t the first incident regarding your broth-”

“Again, what’s your point? Sure, my brother made a mistake and a big one at that. So you’re saying that I should pay for that mistake? The next time you have a family member do something wrong, ask yourself that question. Furthermore, mind your own business!”

She then continues her walk, making her way up to Marcus Richmond. She couldn’t wait to focus on the truck and ignore everything else that was going on.

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

Chase walks into the building, following the media representatives for the next step of their promotional blitz.

So far, everything had gone with ease.

The helicopter flying came to him naturally and easily, allowing him to follow the route discussed with some entertainment had. It was also an experience that gave him confidence in how he had continued to get better, with focus on the upcoming race weekend. Maybe he’d be better than he envisioned at first.

He went through doing a series of sit-down interviews, followed by some TV interviews and radio interviews as directed by the schedule. Everybody was easy with the questions – all the usual simple stuff you heard for promoting events in different cities.

He also spent some time at the speedway with some go-karters, giving them advice and answering their questions. There was a moment that made the whole trip feel worthwhile when an eight-year-old was beyond excited to meet him and told him how he was his hero, followed by ‘best day of his life ever’ line.

The tour now took them to a local axe throwing place, where he was supposed to have a contest with the track promoter in whom had the better aim for some local television coverage.

“You don’t have to…” Morgan commented as he looked over the axe, picking it up. She kept her eyes, questioning his strength based on what she heard from Alan and Greg.

“I have to get my strength back up and this doesn’t feel too bad,” he states, as he holds it over his shoulder, swinging forward a little. It was probably heavier than he should handle at this exact time, but a quick swing for the cameras wouldn’t be a killer.

“Well then I have a piece of advice for aim – pretend his head is in the middle.” He smiles as he walks over, thinking that over. He looks at the target, taking in the jokes with the promoter. He then pulls it over his shoulder, taking a deep breath with eyes focused forward, throwing it and smiling as he hit the middle of the target.

“You’re pretty good,” the promoter comments, as he throws and misses by a bit.

After a couple more interviews, and some photos, he was released for the day.

Letting out a yawn, he makes his way onto the Hendrick Motorsports plane and takes a seat. Putting his feet up, he glances at his phone, pleased to see that Sarina had posted a time in the top-five in practice. He sends her a quick message, adding that he couldn’t wait to see her, before locking his phone and putting it up.

Another yawn, he stretched back, knowing that perhaps the day had been a little longer than he at first anticipated. He reminded himself that he was still healing, strength wasn’t totally back yet, and knew sleep was welcoming. He closes his eyes, thinking of the weekend ahead with happy thoughts, as he falls asleep.

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

With the last run of the day complete, Sarina debriefed with Marcus in the garage, going over what she liked about the truck and where they could improve. Satisfied, she agreed to head back and get a shower, before changing for dinner.

She makes her way through the garage once again, hearing the whispers, which she just meets with more eye rolls.

“Sarina!” She hears and rolls her eyes, recognizing the voice. She just continues walking, though knew that wasn’t going to be enough as she could hear the feet jogging behind her. “Hey!”

“What the hell do you want now?” She snaps as she spins around to face Austin.

“Woah, easy tig-”

“You expect me to be nice after your comments this morning? Never!” He holds his hands up, knowing a fight would do neither of them good.

“Look, I wanted to apologize actually. I overstepped the boundaries there as you have a point. Heck, you couldn’t have predicted what happened and I’m sure you did what you could. I also applaud Kyle for sticking his neck out on the line for you, as well as the sponsors. And you did a good job today. I’m sorry.” She takes a deep breath, trying to let the anger from earlier go away.

“Thank you, and apology accepted. There’s just a lot that people don’t understand.” He nods his head.

“Wanna try to make me understand?” She shakes her head no. “Okay, that’s fine. Look, good luck this weekend and hopefully things die off.” She then rolls her eyes as she knew once Chase showed up, the chaos would just continue.

“Let’s hope….”