Cabin Fears – Chapter 69: Seeking a Release

Monday….

Alyssa glances at her feet, letting out a sigh. This was supposed to be taking the edge off.

Her eyes return back up to the punching bag, hand clenching in a fist as she throws one punch. She then brings her hand up again throwing another, and another, and another. Each punch represented a thought. Anger, fear, anxiety, Randy, Mariella, and then back through the list again. Each thought was supposed to disappear with each punch.

She then wounds herself up, set to throw another hard stiff punch, though misses and falls down on her face.

“Alyssa!” She hears yelled through the room as the door clicks closed, following by a furry foot steps coming to meet her. “Are you okay?” She nods her head as she sits up, catching her dad’s eyes.

“I’m fine – just missed my step,” she answers as she stands up, brushing her hand off.

“This is why we always say not to be in here alone and always have someone around in case something happens. How many times do I need to tell you that?” She then rolls her eyes, not believing that she was getting scolded like a child. “But based on that punch, I’m guessing you’re here because you want to get away from something.”

“Or maybe I’m pushing extra strength because I know I need it.” She then bites her tongue realizing how that came out as Dale holds the bag before her.

“Are we back to thinking that we’re weaker because we can’t use an arm? Is that part of your motivation?” She then lets out a sigh and shakes her head.

“I’ve come to realize that I’m fine as the one-handed bandit and can kick anyone’s ass. I’ve also come to realize that this is what I’m stuck with – a hand to do everything, and a hand to dangle at everybody. Oh wait, that dangling hand will eventually just be a stub right?” Dale nods his head as he looks at her with sympathy. “I don’t need a pitty party. I don’t need people feeling bad around me. It’s a fact of life, and I’ve pretty much figured out this so it’s not a problem.”

“So that’s not the fury behind the punch?” She shakes her head. “Then what is, because I know you better than you think. You’d always do a normal work-out routine with cycling, stretches, yoga – except when you’re angry. Then you come down here to old ring and let it loose.” Sometimes she cursed how well her dad knew her, after all.

“Feelings in general, okay?” He then looks at her puzzled.

“I thought you had that under contro-”

“I have it more under control than you probably realize. I got everything that I went under control with myself. I’ve dealt with it and handled it. I’ve put the shit that he put me through behind me. Actually, that’s damn motivation to win the championship this year.” Dale couldn’t help but smile at the determination laced in her voice.

“So then why is it feelings in general?” She then lets out a sigh as she leans back against the one wall, taking the bandages off her hand. She knew she wasn’t making it out there without a confession. Her mom knew already so why did it matter?

“Chase.” An even more puzzled look forms on Dale’s face. “Before you ask, we’re fine. We’re still happily in love, and happy together, and everything is good there.”

“Does it deal with yesterday?” She nods her head slowly. “Did he say something in the trailer?”

“He’s still dealing with everything accordingly – anxiety, panic, fear, lashing out. That didn’t do anything to affect me because I get that already and seen through that. It’s just focus on helping him in anyway that he’ll let me in moving forw-”

“So you’re frustrated because he won’t just open up?” She lets out a sigh and shakes her head.

“To be honest, I think mom gets this more than you’ll get this because she went through it with you. Does that help?” Dale then looks on confused as he sits on a stool.

“You told your mom before you told me? I’m surprised!” She then smiles.

“Let’s just say that she can relate and it just came out in a comment, okay?” Dale nods his head as a smile forms on his face.

“You’re as scared as Chase is about him returning to racing….” She nods her head as she focuses her eyes on the floor. “It’s understandable. You almost lost him a couple times. It makes you want to cherish life more, hold on to those moments, and be fearful that time will actually run out.” She then looks up at him, surprised. “That’s why I understood why your mom was afraid. That’s why I heard out her feelings, and talked her through them.”

“I haven’t told Chase, yet….” He then lets out a sigh, not surprised.

“Because he’s not the type to open up so you’re afraid of how he’ll take it?” She nods her head. “I can’t blame that, actually. However, I know how much he loves you and I know he’ll do anything for you. So therefore, I think it’d be a benefit for you to say something. He’ll want to talk and assure you and comfort you so he’ll give that assurance that you need. In return, it may be what he needs to tell himself to overcome his hurtle.”

“So you’re saying that I should just go home and say something?” Dale nods his head. “I guess….”

“You’re not going to move forward if you don’t, and you can’t be coming to my basement every day to punch it away.” She then chuckles.

“I’ve always wondered why you didn’t take this down…” Dale then stands up and walks over to the ring in the middle, leaning over the side.

“It’s good for anger management, as you say. A pair of friends can come here with gloves and get everything out of their system. I could also come down here and do what you’re doing. It’s better than punching that person in the face.” She then chuckles, nodding her head.

“So you won’t mind if I drag Dillon’s ass down here next time he pisses me off?” Dale laughs.

“I’d actually pay for that because I know you’d kick his ass.” She then chuckles as he walks over and wraps an arm around her. “Keep what I said in mind, okay? It’ll work out…”

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

Tony walks across the tarmac, stopping as he sees the young man before him. Taking a deep breath, he walks over, watching as the checklist continues.

“Where are you going?” He asks out loud, catching the young man’s attention as he looks back.

“A small flight to clear my head,” Chase answers as he focuses back on his list.

“Do you want to talk?” Chase shakes his head as he focuses on his list. “I heard you were at the track yester-”

“I didn’t make any laps, before you ask. I chickened out because of my fears.” Chase then stops, setting the pen down as he takes a deep breath.

“I think you did the right thing. It’s always good to know your limits and where to draw the line. Some people don’t know that, and they get themselves in trouble. I applaud you for realizing that.” Chase then looks up, looking over his shoulder at Tony.

“Thanks….I guess. Do you want to go tell everyone else in the world that?” Tony looks on confused.

“Backlash from the guys?” Chase lets out a sigh and shakes his head.

“They won’t say anything to my face, but you have to imagine what they’re thinking.” Tony laughs and shakes his head. “What?”

“Crew guys are family. They care about you more than they care about that piece of machinery they work on. They all know what you’ve been through. That’s why they’re there to support you. That’s why they’ll go to a bunch of failed tests if it means seeing their driver back when he’s ready. That’s why they’ll have your back against any person who would say that. So do not say that again, got it?” Chase lets out a sigh, nodding his head.

“I thought I had my hands wrapped around everything. I thought I found the control that I needed over my anxiety, fears, emotions. I thought I could stop lashing out, put things into perspective, and find what I wanted – myself, again. But yet, sitting there in the trailer, I was completely frozen and stuck in that state again. Now looking back, it just fills me with so many thoughts…” Tony takes a deep breath as he places a hand on Chase’s shoulders.

“I hate to say it, but you just realized your human. Don’t feel so bad – been there, done that.” Chase then looks at Tony, surprised. “I thought I could just do it, too. I thought I was the all mighty, what we built me up to be with my attitude, and I could just get back to it. You’d be surprised how wrong I was and how many thoughts tormented with my mind. I wondered whether my leg was fully healed; I wondered whether I could push that limit and not be afraid of death. I toyed with my emotions for emotions, and like you – I felt like I was edge of control when I should’ve been in control.”

“So how did you do it?” Tony thinks it over as he keeps his eyes focused on Chase.

“I kept working on those feelings, like we talked about before. I talked to who I needed to talk to. I let myself open those doors that I wanted to close. Then I kept pushing the boundaries more and more. I kept challenging myself to the point where I proved that I could do it. Next time you go to the track, push yourself to at least get in the car and make a couple laps. Then the next time, push it a little more. You’d be surprised what you’re capable of, and how you can make that fear and anxiety just go away.” Chase nods his head, understanding.

“Thanks. I’ll remember that…” Tony rubs his shoulder.

“As long as you’re past what you were thinking before and know there’s a way out, it’ll be fine…” Chase smiles as he thinks back to then,

“Trust me, I’m beyond that. I know it’ll work out – one way or another. So, why are you even here at the airport anyway?” Tony glances over at the plane.

“Heading back to Indiana, home. I did what I needed to do here with the team so now it’s time to get out of here.” Chase rolls his eyes as he looks back to his checklist.

“You’re living the dream, man. Safe flight.”

“Same to you, kid.” Tony then heads off as Chase watches him, before returning back to his list.

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Moving Forward – Chapter 48: “I couldn’t think straight…”

After their fun together, the pair laid back in the bed, glancing over at each other with a smile.

“It’d been way too long,” she comments as he laughs. She then rolls over to look over at him. “But on a brighter note, it’s nice to see that you’re feeling better.” He then glances over surprised.

“You can tell?” He questions and she nods her head.

“Confidence, the way you walk, the way you’re thinking – it’s like you’re almost back to your full-self.” He couldn’t help but agree as he glanced up at the ceiling.

“There’s only one thing missing in that…” She nods her head, as she felt the pit of her stomach twist.

“You’re doing an off-season test to make sure before Daytona, right?” Dale nods his head, remembering the recent conversation with the team.

“Darlington in a couple weeks, actually.” She then looks over puzzled.

“This soon?” He nods his head, remembering the discussion with Mickey as well. “Holy…”

“You don’t seem so confident.” She lets out a sigh as her minds go back to when she was away.

“When I was sitting in my office trying to go through everything that I had to do, I couldn’t think straight to be honest. I tried to focus on what they’d put before me, and I just – my mind would go blank. All I could think about is what happened, the wreck, and how you were feeling. My mind worried that it wasn’t going to get better through your frustration. I wondered what the future held. I had more questions coming home than I think I left with.” He could understand that, based on the state of things. However, he felt based on her words earlier these thoughts were worth nothing now.

“And now?” She glances over as she looks into his eyes.

“I want to believe in you and say that you’re right in being ready. But I just can’t bring myself to 100% confidence yet. Maybe it’s because I’m worried about another wreck. Maybe it’s because I’m nervous. Maybe I’m skeptical. Maybe I’m afraid to let go because of everything. Maybe I want to keep the spoiled feeling of having you to myself. But it just didn’t sit as well as I thought it would…” Dale lets out a sigh as he rolls onto his back, eyes up at the ceiling.

“I can’t lie that I’m skeptical, too. I want to feel confident in what everybody is saying around me. I want to feel confident in how I’m feeling. But till I strap back in that racecar and take to Darlington, I won’t know if I’m ready for that. Can I go back and do that again? Am I healed to the point to do that again? I won’t know till we make those laps. So I get your worries, but there’s one way to answer them…” She nods her head as she reaches over and grabs his hand.

“That’s why despite what I may show and feel, I will be there and ready to support you 100%.” He looks over at her with a smile. “And I will then focus on Christmas plans because we got a lot of shopping to catch up on.” He then rolls his eyes.

“Can we skip that this year because we have a wedding instead to focus on?” She chuckles and shakes her head no.

“There are some kids that will be expecting gifts under the tree, Mr. Earnhardt.” He nods his head, with a smile forming. It was going to be fun to watch Alyssa and Elsa tear into their gifts together this year as Elsa seemed to be trying to copy everything Alyssa did now.

“We also have a wedding to finish up planning, and then go through…” She nods her head.

“I think that’s almost squared away, though. Didn’t we go through almost all the lists?” He looks back, remembering his last glance through the binders. “Besides, the details don’t matter. All that matters to me is being able to call you my dear husband.” He then glances over at her.

“So we can skip the formal presentation?” She laughs and shakes her head no. “Dang….”

“It’s Pitronia tradition, and I would like them to recognize you as an equal and fair party in this deal. Those people trust in the powers to run their country and home as they want. They’ve put their trust in myself, Stacey and John. They also need to know the people behind me who believe in me no matter what I may do because I want them to know how much you mean to me.” He smiles as he thinks it over.

“Okay, so maybe for that reason I can stand on stage and accept it all.” She smiles as she moves back close to him, placing her head on his chest.

“Just think. You’ll be King Ralph Dale Kastona Earnhardt Jr.” He rang the name through his head a couple times, trying to find a way to grow used to it.

“I like the sounds of Queen Marie-Ann Belle Kastona Earnhardt better.” She then chuckles, having written that out a couple times already.

“I don’t care whether it’s full name, or Marie Earnhardt, I just can’t wait to officially call you my husband.” He then looks down at her with an evil grin.

“Then let’s run away to Las Vegas and hitch up tonight. Then we can say we’re married for Christmas and I can save on a gift for you.” She then looks up at him surprised as the grin widens on his face.

“You’re one evil man, but I do like your ways…” He then laughs as she scoots up, kissing his lips once again. “Just promise me you’ll be careful when we do go to Darlington.” He nods his head as he wraps his arms firmly back around her once again.

“Don’t worry – I’m not going anywhere. You’ll always have me in your life. We almost lost each other once. I’m not letting that happen again.”

Cabin Fears – Chapter 64: Her Dance with the Lady

The day seemed to go by quickly as just as it seemed qualifying was over, they were standing on pit road getting ready for opening ceremonies. Alyssa went through driver introductions, before coming to stand with the rest of the group.

A series of photos were done of Alyssa standing by the car, including one with her and Chase, along with her, Chase and her dad together. It was even nice to see Greg Ives make his way down pit road to see the car up close, himself.

“This brings back a lot of memories,” Dale comments as Chase glances over at him. “Who knew when we came here that we’d leave finally starting to show the world how much talent you had?” Chase chuckles, remembering the reaction from some people that night.

“They didn’t believe that you could go from sixth to first on a final restart and score a victory here, strangely,” Chase adds and Dale nods his head. “I mean, they forgot the value of new tires.”

“No matter when the caution comes out, what was the rule?” Chase simply smiles.

“New tires baby. Give me four fresh Goodyears and I’ll be set to dance with the Lady in the Black.” Dale chuckles, remembering the conversation that night on the radio with Chase and Greg. “You know, going to these races with Alyssa, I was fine sitting back and watching and being a cheerleader. Can I admit that tonight makes me itch a little to get back at it?” Dale could relate as he crossed his arms, eyes beginning to focus on Chase.

“There are few tracks that just make a driver’s skin crawl more than others. I went through that phase when I said that I was giving it up. I remember that, honestly. It gets easier with time – but there’s still the odd moment you wonder if you could still do it.” Chase nods his head, already having an answer for Dale on that question – for both himself and Dale. “Everything is healed stomach wise for you, right?” Chase nods his head once again.

“I’ve got the medical clearance already. The stomach lining and surgery and all that has healed, thankfully. I don’t want to think about that pain ever again.” Dale simply accepts, not wanting to reminders either. “But I know myself. I will go back racing and focus solely on that and Alyssa. I won’t focus on what I need to do for me. I want focus on figuring out my thoughts, getting back to where I should be mentally, because I’ll try and shove it away in a closet. I did that twice already. I’m not doing that again.”

“I admire you for that, really. It takes a lot of guts to stand up and state that’s what you need to do, even when the desire to be racing once again burns so deep. Let that desire be motivation. The desire to race, the want for a future, and the happiness you know you’re capable of – let it push you. I know it’s tough right now, but fight outside of your comfort zone and figure out what you need to do. You’ll figure it out…” Chase nods his head, hoping that Dale was right. It was nice hearing the encouragement from both Dale and Tony, but he knew it truly rested on his shoulders.

“I’m going to try and do what I need to do…” Dale then glances up pit road, before turning his eyes back to Chase.

“Then once you’re squared away, you’re going back racing for sure, right?” Chase smiles and nods his head.

“I have unfinished business, in case you’re not aware.” Dale chuckles, knowing that a couple more championships wouldn’t be out of the question. “Besides, someone has to keep her in line when she moves up next year.” Dale rolls his eyes, as he lets out a sigh.

“Don’t remind me. I never thought I’d be taking JRM to Cup but here we go.” Chase puts a hand on Dale’s shoulder.

“It’ll be fine, trust me. You have the right people in place to make it go off without a problem.” Dale glances over with a smile.

“Thanks…”

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

“Come on Alyssa!” Chase lets out as he stands on top of the pit box, watching her closely.

She had been fast throughout the event – dominating, actually. However, in classic Darlington style, a late race caution shook everything up. She followed the famous rule of coming to pit road for tires, but now had to make her way back to the front.

Chase’s eyes focused on the No. 9 car, then to the scoring monitor, and then back to the car on track. He let the laps count down, focusing on the lap times, knowing that she was catching the leaders. It just about making the move in the right amount of time.

Just as they suspected, she caught the leaders and made her way to second with ease. However, now the challenge of passing Erik Jones for the win wasn’t going to be easy.

Through turns three and four on the last lap, she finally got her run, diving to the bottom of him. The pair then bounced off each other a couple times coming to the line, but by the skinny edge of a blue bumper, cheers erupted from the pits.

“Woooohooo!” She screamed over the radio as Chase high-fived Dale with big smiles on both their faces.

“Now that’s how you bring that baby back to her playground,” Kevin Meendering says as he feels Chase’s arms around his shoulders, giving him a hug. “Heck yeah!”

“You danced well with the lady tonight,” Dale takes his turn. “Well done, princess.”

“I don’t care what else we do from here to November – this is the best victory ever!” She lets out, before laying down a huge burnout down the frontstretch.

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

Sitting down on the steps following the last photo, Alyssa lets out a sigh as she glances out towards the track. She feels someone sit down beside her, glancing towards her right and smiling.

“Everything okay?” Chase questions and she nods her head.

“I just can’t believe I pulled that off,” she answers. “I mean, this is the toughest track on the circuit and here I am, sitting in victory lane. Nobody believed that I could come back and be myself, winning races. But yet, we’ve won two races since I returned – and one of them here. I can’t believe it…” He wraps an arm around her, pulling her close to him.

“I believe it. I knew you were strong enough to overcome anything, whether it be what Randy threw at you or whether it was critics or this. You’re a combination of your parents and that makes you the strongest person that I know. You’re amazing and I knew you’d prove that to everybody. Believe it or not, you’re the inspiration for everyone. You’re showing them strength, drive, desire for success, and how to push against the boundaries people are faced with. I know that we talk about how frustrating this can be, but really, it makes you even more special.” He then gives her a kiss as she smiles in return.

“I remember how upset I was sitting in the hospital room. I remember telling the universe it was so unfair and wondering what I’d done wrong to deserve such a horrible thing to not feel anymore. All I wanted to was feel touch, grab things, simple things that people take for granted with their hands. I even remember how frustrated I was over a simple pony tail. But sitting here, and then hearing the comments from people like you’re saying, it makes everything alright.” He looks at her slightly puzzled.

“Alright? I thought sitting in Darlington victory lane would be amazi-” She could only laugh in response.

“It is, trust me. But I mean, about my arm. They say things happen for a reason. Maybe this happened to teach myself a lesson about everything we’re talking about. Maybe this happened so I could teach others a lesson because God knew I was strong enough to show them. I don’t know. But where I was frustrated a month ago, now I’ve come to grips with it and am okay.” He smiles as he rubs her shoulders.

“That’s a very mature, grown-up thing for you to say. I can still see you as the little girl sometimes, but I also see you growing up right in front of me. I’m proud of you, and I love you.” She then looks into his eyes.

“I love you, too.” She then takes his hand with her own. “And Chase, just as I am finding my peace, you will find yours. I’ve got you through it all.” He nods his head simply as she lays hers back against his shoulder.

Cabin Fears – Chapter 62: Building Belief

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.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 102: “You Need to Come Run the Clash”

Friday, June 30

With a mostly quiet day on deck, Chase was surprised when he found himself up earlier than normal. However, perhaps that was because he had a lot on his mind.

After making a quick note for Sarina, he headed out off on a bike ride, hoping that it would clear his head.

Sarina’s brother had been something of discussion for the young man for awhile now – whether apprehension, fear, concern. As he rode down the hill towards the beach, he wondered why that concern seemed to grow more than he had hoped. Perhaps that was because the theory had continued to wrap around his mind over and over.

He debated with himself whether it was circumstance, or whether there was something to go with based on the discussion with Alan. He even thought about calling Jared to see what he truly had to say about Chris’ possible involvement.

He wondered as to whether Sarina could trust her brother, or perhaps she was letting her love and care for him overshadow what was right before them. Did he completely lie to her face without her knowing?

As he reached the beach, getting off the bike for a bit to dip his toes in the water, he could only let out a sigh. Why did it seem not a single question he asked himself had an answer to it? Why were the simplest things in life becoming so complicated now?

Perhaps it was because the things that Chris said at different times made it even more confusing. If he was set to move forward and regret what happened, why did he rehash the topic with Sarina? If he was glad to have his sister back in his life sincerely, why was he pushing her towards doing something she didn’t want to do?

“They’ve tried to fix me, but they never will.”  “You can change your name, but you can’t leave behind your past.”  “You’re trying to simply leave your family behind, because now you’re wrapped up in your new family. It’s a defensive mechanism in an effort to protect yourself from nothing.”

It seemed each comment that flew out of the guy’s mouth took up Chase’s thoughts, as he tried to dissect what was happening. Maybe it was just his concern and worry – could you blame him? But what if it was something more? He crossed his fingers and toes that wasn’t the case, as he didn’t want to waltz right into another trap.

Getting back on the bike, he had done nothing to clear the thoughts in his mind. However, there was no more time left to worry as he rode back to the track, set for a fun day. A qualifying session, followed by hanging out with Sarina, and then watching the XFINITY race should be make things interesting.

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

Sarina woke up sitting in the bed all alone, surprised by Chase’s note. Normally, he would wake her up and ask if she wanted to come. But yet today, instead, she got left with a note.

Letting out a sigh as she kicked the blankets off the bed, she could only wonder as to why. She grabs a towel before heading into the bathroom, turning on the water.

Standing on the hot water, her mind drifts back to the conversation the day before.

She found herself repeating the words from Christopher in her head over and over, wondering if maybe she had jumped the gun in yelling at him. It wasn’t like Christopher was the only suspicious person, supposedly, so maybe she could’ve given him benefit of the doubt for the warning. Instead, she had put her back up against the wall and flipped out on him. Wasn’t that always her defense mechanism?

She recalled the conversation with her brother, and how he denied the accusations. There was nothing in his words to tell her otherwise so she believed him. However, the comment on families still drew to her thoughts. Why would he release something like that? It kind of went along with the odd comment a week ago. Letting out a sigh, it was probably just him and his regrets for what happened on his part. She knew, whether he admitted it or not, there were some on his side of things.

She recalled the conversation with Chase, and how he paused in hearing a comment from her. He pushed it off as just being focused on a tweet – which was probably the case. However, the pause was certainly at an odd time and made her focus back to the comment.

She begins to wash the soap out of her hair, knowing that at this time she should be enjoying life. She was getting the opportunity she dreamed of, had a great boyfriend, and was in Florida for a vacation. What more could she ask for? However, instead, she found herself caught in her thoughts.

Climbing out of the shower and drying herself off, she knew she had to just let everything go. The key to moving forward was to always not focus on your regrets, but learn from those and focus on the future. Rather than mulling over these thoughts, why wasn’t she focusing on the fun day she was about to have?

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

A glance at the time, and Chase knew he had to be out to pit road soon. With his fingers firmly holding onto Sarina’s hand, the pair made their way out and walked down to where his No. 24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet sat. A glance at each other, words didn’t need to be said. It was Daytona qualifying – sometimes you end up well, sometimes you don’t. It didn’t matter end of the day, though, because of the nature of the beast. This was just a formality in laying down laps.

“I’ll be back,” Sarina comments as she gives him a quick kiss before letting go of his hand. He looks on confused, but easily accepts as he knew that she’d do this normally. She had her own life and people to see, and probably had spotted someone. He watches her walk away, immediately rolling his eyes and freezing up a little as he notices her walking in Christopher’s direction. Given their debacle yesterday, he wasn’t too excited about what could happen next.

“I don’t want to talk to you if you’re going to yell at me again,” Christopher comments as he rolls his eyes. She could only take a deep breath, remembering her morning shower thoughts.

“I actually came to apologize,” she starts, causing him to look at her surprised. “I may have snapped on you a little too quickly. Sure, you were wrong to accuse my brother of something, and sure you shouldn’t kept your big mouth shut. But that said, you were just trying to warn me of what others were saying as a friend, teammate watching out for me. I should’ve given you that benefit.” Christopher shakes his head accepting, having wished that apology would’ve went a little different though.

“Like I said, I understood that you’d probably flip on me and be really upset. It’s the nature of the topic, right?” She shakes her head, in agreement.

“I’m not used to people caring about me and doing what’s right, thanks to just how everything has played out. The only person who came close to that was my father, and well…..I’d rather not discuss that. It’s why it took me a while to open up to Chase and accept him and our love together. It’s why I’m still a little hesitant around Kyle, Marcus, and talking about things that are personal. I guess what I’m trying to say as I shouldn’t have let my fears control how I reacted to you.”

“It’s okay. All is forgiven. I just like having you as a teammate, and think you’re a great person. I don’t want you to get screwed over or hurt because of something. Hence why I brought it up so you know what’s being said, and also watch a little.” She shook her head, accepting. It was the same thing that others had mentioned about her brother, too. She got the feeling based on Chase’s quietness at times, too.

“I appreciate that, and I will keep in mind what you said accordingly.” Christopher thanked himself for that as he knew any eyes on Chris were better than none.

The pair of teammates went back and forth for a bit, though all while keeping their eyes on the on-track action. It was no surprise when Chase made the final round of time trials, as he had done that at Daytona and Talladega earlier this year. Crossing her fingers, maybe it’d be nice to walk away with a pole today to put everything else in the rearview for a bit.

The final round seemed like it took forever, watching each car make two laps around the 2.5-mile oval, laying down the best lap that they could. Perhaps it was the anticipation that made it seem longer. Though as the checkered flag waved, there were no sad faces to be seen. Chase hadn’t gotten the pole, but he was set to start second in the race tomorrow night.

“Oops, I think I went a tick slower than I should have,” Chase commented as he walked up to Dale. “I just wanted to make sure you got a pole. You need to come run the Clash next year.” Dale then chuckles, remembering the comment he made about a possible comeback for the non-points show if he got a pole. There was no way to gauge speed and make sure he was slower than Dale to give him a pole, but it was worth a fun little kickback considering the chaos started yesterday.

 

“So you let me have that one?” Dale questions as Chase shrugs his shoulders. “I thought you said you wouldn’t be the guy to let anyone win.”

“That remains true for tomorrow night. Nice job, by the way.”

“Thank you.” Chase then heads down pit road, meeting up with Sarina as he gives her a quick kiss before they head out.

“Hopefully the rain stays away and we can enjoy our date night together.” She smiles as she cuddles up close to him through their walk, both smiling. It seemed every thought from earlier in the morning had escaped them in the simple bliss of spending time together.

The pair went back to the motorcoach, grabbing a bite to each together, before making their way out once again. They crossed the track, climbing up to their seats in the grandstands, set for a fun race that evening.

“I don’t get why you come up here to watch one of these races when you could be anywhere you want,” she comments as she looks over at him.

“It just brings me back to where I started,” Chase replies as he looks over at her. “It reminds me of my beginnings, why I got into this to begin with, and how fun it is. Besides, there’s no bad seat at Daytona to watch a race from.” She couldn’t help but agree with that statement, having tried a couple different spots during February Speedweeks.

“Well, you can always count on me to join you as you always pick good spots to sit.” He smiles as he wraps an arm around the back of her.

“I’m a trained professional, that’s why.” She then simply smiles as he snags a quick kiss as the cars head off pit road.

The pair got to enjoy the first 32 laps of the event from their seats, taking in the thrills with some cheers and some frustrated sighs. Chase found himself cheering for William Byron, impressed with how the young man had began to move forward after starting at the back. He also focused on the other JR Motorsports cars, seeing the same powerfulness in Elliott Sadler as always, placing bets that he’d probably win later on.

“Nah, it’s going to be Willy B!” Sarina had declared instead, causing a smile to form on Chase’s face. He couldn’t deny the youngster was talented.

Unfortunately, the pair did not get to watch the entire race as the skies opened, soaking them both through before they could get to cover and postponing the rest of the race till Saturday morning.

“I’d offer you a coat or something to keep you dry, but I’m just as wet,” Chase comments as they head down the steps together.

“What do you say we head back to the motorcoach, each get something dry and then watch a movie?” She questions, knowing how much of a movie buff he was. She had gotten her hands on “Drone,” which wasn’t supposed to be out for another couple of days. Knowing how much he liked a good action thriller, she hoped that it’d suit his fantasy that night.

“I’d have no problem with that, actually. It’ll feel nice to get out of these wet clothes.” The pair then head through the tunnel together, laughing as their feet sloshed in their shoes from how soaked they had gotten.

“I look like a drowned rat!” Chase chuckles as they continue running together.

“But you’re my cute drowned rat!” Sarina just rolls her eyes as she kicks a puddle of water at him. “Hey!” He then scoops her up in his arms, threatening to drop her in the puddle.

“Chase…no….Chase….” He just laughs as he lowers her a little bit more towards the puddle, though tips her back right side up before letting her go.

The pair continued laughing all the way back to the motorcoach, before entering together. Chase then takes his phone out of his pocket, drying it off as he sets it on the counter. He removes his t-shirt, which was clanged to his body being so wet, as he glances down at the phone and notices the three missed calls and nine text messages – certainly not normal for him.

He picks the phone up, seeing two of the calls came from Ryan Blaney while another came from his crew chief. He then opens the text message, seeing three from Ryan, three from his crew chief, one from Bubba, and two others he wasn’t set to place yet.

He opens the three from Ryan, curious as to why it seemed the young man had completely panicked on him.

“What the heck?” He questions, catching Sarina’s attention as she walks out of the bathroom from ringing out her hair. “Oh shit…” He then hurries past Sarina without a word, slipping off his soaked jeans for a pair of dry ones and grabbing the first t-shirt out of the drawer.

“What’s wrong?” She asks as she could see the panic on his face.

“Ryan was poisoned.” Her jaw drops immediately as she watches Chase grab another pair of running shoes out of the closet.

“I’m coming with you…” She then grabs her flip flops, slipping them on as she grabs the umbrella out of the closet.

Cabin Fears – Chapter 59: The Afterthought

Tuesday morning

 

Regan knocks on the door, glancing around. He had been over here too many times to count through the years – almost too much it seemed. However, he was willing to do whatever it took.

He watches the door open, immediately smiling as he sees Marie standing there. She backs up, easily letting him inside as she was expecting him.

“Dale is out back with Tony,” she states simply as he nods his head.

He makes his way through the house, giving Robby and Elsa a quick wave along the way. He takes a deep breath as he opens the door, walking out onto the porch as he catches the boy’s attention.

“How are you?” Dale questions as Regan takes his seat with the group.

“I’m alright,” he answers. “The bigger question is how you are.” Dale knew the answer to the question was simple.

“I’m fine; that’s not why we’re here, Regan.” Regan shook his head, knowing exactly why Dale had called them. “So as I told you both on the phone, he had a bit of an episode yesterday. He snapped at Alyssa, and then I had a good discussion with him. A lot of mixture of thoughts from anger to frustration to blame to….well, the usual that he always get with Randy. But it was heightened more than I’ve ever seen it. That’s when I suggested he go to see Eric and he did, and Eric gave him a mild anxiety drug till he figures it out.”

“Glad that he finally listened to that advice,” Tony comments, remembering his discussions with Chase. “I told him that he should seek out help if he needs it. I mean, I know the feeling…”

“So do I,” Dale says, remembering the time he looked towards help after his experience with Marie’s family. “From what I get, this isn’t the first time he’s almost snapped, is it?” Regan shakes his head no, remembering their discussion at Bristol. “I don’t want to get overly crazy but we all agreed that we’d watch out for both him and Alyssa because we care. I think Alyssa is handling it slowly and right, as I know she’s taking steps in talking to people and getting her feelings out there.”

“She talked with me twice about things, actually,” Regan announces, remembering their discussions clearly. He remembered her concerns expressed about Chase.

“But what about Chase, guys? Should we be more concerned than we are? I mean, we’re trying to give him space and let him handle as he may because yes, he is taking steps slowly. But what if this is worse than that?” Regan thought back through the years, remembering his late night confessions with Chase and seeing all the signs of breakdown with him. He found himself comparing them to now.

“I think the emotions are worse, but I think we’re still handling it accordingly. He is slowly taking steps and he’s accepting advice when it is given to him. He’s doing more than he did before. If we keep seeing that, I’m going to lay off and let him do this the way that he wants. However, if we start backtracking with nothing done, you can hit the panic button and I’ll be there with you.”

“I haven’t been around him in other times like you both have,” Tony starts. “So I don’t know what he gets like. However, hearing the words that he wants to give up at times and he’s right at his edge, that’s concerning. If you’re going to get better, you have to believe in yourself without a shadow of doubt and focus on the steps to improving. If you have any doubt, where’s the effort coming from?” Dale and Regan both shook their heads, understanding what Tony was saying.

“I think that was the anxiety talking though,” Regan comments. “That’s why I feel what Dale did in making him go see Eric for a mild-anxiety drug will help keep that at bay as he works through the rest. Once he comes at peace with what happened, he typically stops panicing and worrying. So I think we let him get through it, and then see where he stands with regards to the other.”

“And what If our wait and see approach doesn’t pan out?” Dale didn’t want to think about that. He knew the previous two runaway activities by Chase had gone totally wrong.

“Let’s just not picture that, plea-” Dale pleads.

“It’s a possibility, and something you should consider if you’re going to do what you’re doing,” Tony cuts him off. “I know you hate the thought, but come on Dale…” Dale lets out a sigh as he looks out to the field.

“It’s not going to come to that, Tony,” Regan says as Tony looks over at him. “I’ve helped him through everything in the past. I know how he is. It won’t come to that. We just have to make sure he keeps making progress, slowly, whatever that may be. Keep making sure that he’s talking to people, working through his thoughts. If that happens, we’ll be fine.”

“100%?” Regan shakes his head yes, believing his words fully. He always knew to give Chase more credit than perhaps others would because he had seen what he’d been through.

“Alright, fine. But just promise me that you’ll keep watch and make sure it doesn’t go further.”

“100%,” Regan and Dale say together without a shadow of doubt.

While the boys were talking on the back porch, Alyssa had made her way over and met with Marie in the living room.

She remembered her own words last night of not wanting to make conversation. She remembered her own thoughts of avoiding what was going on. However, in the same thought, she was pushing Chase to talk about what was going on with him. So it was only fair that she actually did something instead of doing nothing.

“So what do you want to talk about?” Marie questions as Alyssa takes a deep breath.

“I’m having my nightmares again,” she confesses as Marie lets out a sigh. She hated the thought of her daughter suffering from anything.

“Well, that’s understandable with what you went through.” Alyssa looks down, remembering everything clearly. She could think through the trail of events without panicing now, thanks to careful conversation with some people.

“I’ve talked through that. I’ve handled that. I can look back at that and not worry a single bit. I talked to Regan, Ella, and a couple others. I’ve come to grips with what happened. I get that I couldn’t had done anything different and it is what it is. There’s no doubt there.” Marie was proud of the progress her daughter had made, knowing how much that meant to her. However, she was still concerned.

“But the nightmares….” Alyssa looks over at her mom, taking a deep breath.

“There’s nights that I close my eyes, and I see an assortment of scary images. Some of them are trying to kill me, or I’m watching someone I love be killed. There’s pain other nights. There’s also repeats of a plane crashing, or images of what happened like a movie.” Marie lets out a sigh as she reaches over, rubbing her daughter’s back.

“The last time you had these, it helped to talk through each nightmare that you were having. Have you done that, yet?” Alyssa shakes her head no. “Do you want to do that this afternoon?” While she loved her mom, she was never good at breaking everything like that down with her.

“I’d prefer to not do that with you, actually. It’s just…..I can’t explain it….I can’t tal-”

“It doesn’t come easily because you’re more comfortable with your father or Chase?” Alyssa shakes her head yes. “That’s fine, sweetheart. You have nothing to worry and I’m not offended. I understand being closer to someone else more. So, have you talked to Chase at all?”

“I admitted to them, but didn’t push the topic any further. With everything that’s going on for him right now, I didn’t want to make those thoughts worse.” Marie shakes her head, understanding.

“That’s fine, sweetheart. Just remember that you need to take care of yourself. So before sooner than later, you need to have that necessary discussion. Whether it’s with Chase, or if you feel that’s not ready then with your father or someone else. You need to work through this as it’s not healthy and we know that you need your sleep. You got a busy schedule coming up….” Alyssa knew that was for certain with plans to race for the championship and win it.

“I know. That’s why I’m trying to figure out the best thing to do….” Marie gives her daughter a pat on the back.

“You’ll figure it out – you always do. Keep believing in yourself; everything will be fine.”

Moving Forward – Chapter 47: The Surprise

Marie grabs her bag, smiling as she walks through the airport, clasping Elsa in her arms with Alyssa in toe.

While it was nice to head home and she took pride in her work, there was nothing like returning home to where she lived now and reuniting with Dale. Besides, she still had some wedding plans to finalize.

“Daddy!!” Alyssa then lets out, running off from Marie as she goes to protest, though immediately smiles as she sees Dale standing there, leaning against the car. “I missed you!”

“I missed you too,” Dale replies as he holds her tightly in his arms, kneeling down to her level. “Did you have fun?” She shakes her head yes.

“I got to play in the garden, played with Lia and Nazelle, baked cookies and a big painting!” He then stands up, smiling as he takes Elsa from her hands.

“You didn’t have to meet me here,” Marie tells him as Dale kisses Elsa’s forehead. “I would’ve just got a ride back to the house.” He then looks over at her.

“I’ve been driving myself crazy missing you, and couldn’t bare to wait a minute longer,” he confesses with a smile. “Besides, I wanted to see my girls….” He then tickles Elsa’s belly, causing her to laugh as he just laughs in response.

“I just figured that you’d be busy today.” He then looks back over at her.

“I always have time for us, you more specifically.” He then leans in and kisses her lips. “And I’ve missed those…” She could only lick her own lips in agreement.

“Chase!!” Alyssa then lets out as she sees Chase heading over to them, running up to him for a hug.

“Chase?!?” Marie questions, glancing between Chase and Dale.

“Hey Alyssa,” Chase says as he gives her a big hug, before taking Elsa out of Dale’s arms. Dale gives him a simple nod, before pulling Marie close to him.

“Considering how much I’ve missed you, I figured we could use some time together,” he tells her, slipping his hand around her, firmly planted on her butt. “Besides, you’ve been busy with your responsibilities and planning the wedding that you need a break. Chase is going to watch the girls, while we have a night to ourselves.”

“We get to spend the night with you?!?” Alyssa questions and Chase shakes his head yes. “That’s awesome!” Chase could only look over at the pair of adults, seeing their eyes locked together. He could only bet how many minutes till they were wrapped in each other’s arms, reunited. There may be a third kid running around before long.

“That sounds like a good idea,” Marie gives in.

“Well, you both better get started on your fun,” Chase states. Everybody trades goodbyes, with Chase grabbing the girls’ stuff and heading off with them.

“My lady…” Dale says as he holds open the door, with a smile.

“My darling,” she replies, giving him a quick kiss before climbing in the car. He then closes the door, walking around to the other side, set for a fun night.

Leaving the airport, the pair were caught in heavy traffic, resulting in steady conversation about her latest trip to Pitronia and the happenings. It also saw them focus their eyes on each other at times, both biting their lips as thoughts fluttered through their minds.

“So what’s the plan for tonight, superstar?” Marie questions as she reaches over, placing her hand on his leg.

“I was thinking we’d go out for dinner, and then head back and spend a quiet night together,” he answers as he looks over into her eyes. “Unless you want to do something else….”

“That sounds like such a good idea. It’s just….” She lets her hand run up his leg to his crotch, placing lightly. “I’ve missed you so much…” He bit his lip, resisting the urge to let out a moan feeling her hand pressing against his package.

“We could skip dinner and head for desert?” She slips her hand underneath the rim of his jeans, forcing her hand down beneath the fabric of his underwear.

“I wouldn’t want to ruin your precious plans or spoil your appetite…” He bites his lip even harder, feeling her rub his package, wishing the traffic would move faster than it was.

“I think you’d be satisfying it more than…..oh man….” She then smiles, stroking him lightly as she locks eyes with his.

“Problem?” He then looks over at her and shakes his head no, leaning in for a kiss before focusing his eyes back on the road. “I can’t tell you how much I missed you…”

“This drive is way too long.” She then laughs as he takes a turn up at the next street, heading down the long alleyway. She releases him from her grasp, placing her hand on his on the shifter, eyes looking at each other briefly and locking, before his eyes returned to the road before them.

“Where are we going?” He just smiles as he takes another turn, pulling it behind the race shop, before reutnring the glance.

“I couldn’t wait. I figured here, behind the shop, we’d have some privacy.” He then flips the key off, turning to face her, leaning in and kissing her lips, as he pulls her close to him.