Moving Forward – Chapter 57: Christmas

“Mommy! Daddy!” Alyssa yells as she runs into the bedsroom, jumping on the bed. “Wake up! Wake up!” Dale slightly opens his eyes, glancing at the clock, letting out a yawn.

“What time is it?” Marie wonders, as she tries to bury herself back under the pillows.

“It’s actually 8,” Dale states, as she glances over surprised. “She did let us sleep in some…”

“It’s Christmas!” Alyssa lets out as she sits on the bed, looking between them. “Santa came. I looked. Can we open gifts, puhleeeease?” The pair of them chuckle as Dale sits up, wrapping his arms around her, and pulling him back against him.

“Don’t you wanna lay here with daddy and cuddle?” She shakes her head no, immediately, squirming out of his hands. “So you really think Santa brought you some good stuff?”

“I good girl, Daddy!” He chuckles, knowing that was certain, as he tosses the blanket off, slowly getting up.

“I’ll go get Elsa from her room. I expect to see you downstairs shortly?” Marie gives a thumbs up as another yawn escapes her lips. “I’ll send Alyssa back up to get you if you’re not…”

“Yeah, yeah,” Marie lets out as Dale and Alyssa leave the room to go get Elsa.

It wasn’t long before the family was gathered around the tree, opening the gifts left by Santa, and also the ones they got for each other. From clothes, to barbies, to even a couple more toy cars, it seemed that Alyssa had gotten a bit of everything. Elsa was spoiled too, with some more toys for her to play with, including a little car to ride around on.

“We’re spoiled, aren’t we?” Marie questions, as she watches Elsa climb on her new toy car, pushing her feet as she goes back up the hall again.

“I wouldn’t say spoiled,” Dale answers as he wraps an arm around her, glancing towards Alyssa who was playing with her cars in a mock race of her own on the carpet. “I’d say we’re blessed, and deservingly so. You especially deserve it after everything you went through.” She looks over at him, grabbing his hand and squeezing it.

“You went through just as much as me, if not more. I still can’t imagine what was going through your mind that day on the plane.” Dale looks back towards Alyssa, counting his blessings once again, before his eyes return to Marie.

“I was thinking how much I missed you, how I loved you so much, and even how maybe I took you for granted sometimes. I don’t think I’ll ever do that again.” He then kisses her lips. “But I also remember watching Alyssa, wondering if I could raise a little girl all by myself, scared out of my mind. I just wanted the best for her – that’s all I still want for her. I was thinking how she’d never get to know her amazing mother, and why I loved you, and all the things that you could teach her. I was a mess…”

“Hey, that’s understandable. I mean, I was a mess when I woke up and you had gone missing from the hospital. If it wasn’t for Stevie and Kelley, I would’ve gone insane.” Dale chuckles, sometimes still amazed at his sister’s strength.

“All that matters is that we have each other, and these beautiful little girls…” He then kisses her lips once more, before heading out to the kitchen to start on breakfast.

As he was getting set to get the eggs out of the fridge, he pauses, taking a deep breath, as he glances once more towards the living room. He couldn’t help but smile as he saw Marie sit on the floor, kicking off a conversation with Alyssa about her race. He also chuckled as Elsa went around the kitchen and back out towards the living room, making vroom noises the entire time.

“Never take a single moment for granted,” he reminds himself, focusing back on breakfast. If he needed any assurance that he was making the right decision for his future, he got it in that moment.

The rest of the morning went smoothly as they all ate together, followed by the kids continuing to play with their new gifts. Dale and Marie began to set focus on dinner for later on that day, knowing the house would be full in a matter of hours.

Caught up in dressing her new dolls, Alyssa felt like she was having the perfect time in her little kid world. But when she heard a familiar ring from her dad’s cell phone, it didn’t take her long to drop her toys.

“I got it!” She announces immediately, walking over to the table and answering the facetime request. “Chasey!!” Chase immediately smiles back in return as her face fills the screen. “Merry Christmas!”

“Merry Christmas to you, too!” He replies back as Dale glances over, not surprised that he was messaging them. “Did you get lots of gifts?”

“Yes! I show you!!” She then carries the phone around the room, showing him everything that she got from Santa and her parents. “You get gifts?”

“Of course I did as I was a good boy, too. I also know that there’s a special gift you haven’t gotten yet.” Her eyes light up immediately. “Go look behind the cupboard in the dining room.” She sets the phone down, running there to look as she sees a pink box immediately. She grabs it, hurrying back with it as she sets it down on the ground. “You found it?”

“Can I open it, please?” He chuckles, nodding his head. He watches as she tears into the packaging, ripping through each layer as quick as she could, before reaching a box inside.

“Open that up…” She follows the instructions, immediately smiling as she pulls out the pink firesuit. She holds it up, looking it over, seeing the design that he had chosen, along with ‘Princess Alyssa’ along the belt line. She looks back in the box, seeing he had gotten a pair of pink skeleton gloves and racing shoes to match. “What do you think of that?” Chase knew she was almost too big for her current suit, and figured it was only fitting to spoil her for the next one.

“That’s awesome! It so pretty! Thank you Chasey!” He smiles back in return. “I have gift for you when you come home, okay?”

“Absolutely. I look forward to seeing it. Now, can I talk to your dad?”

“I go put on my new suit!” She then takes Dale the phone, handing it to him, before rushing back to the box to grab the suit.

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Moving Forward – Chapter 56: “I have something to tell you.”

Despite concerns surrounding whether Marie would get home in time, she ultimately made it home two days before Christmas. Dale was beyond thankful and glad for that as he didn’t know what he’d do if she wasn’t there for the holidays. She was also a great help wrapping presents.

There on Christmas eve, cookies and milk in hand, the pair sat by the tree wrapping the final gifts as they got them all set around. Dale’s eyes kept landing on her, a smile coming to his face, as a mix of thoughts flew through the mind.

He couldn’t wait to get married. He couldn’t get wait to spend the rest of their life together. He couldn’t wait for Christmas morning. He couldn’t wait to watch her daughters grow. He couldn’t wait for the travels that they’d get into together down the road.

He also had the thoughts of whether he was doing the right thing – wait no, he knew he was doing the right thing. But how was he supposed to tell her? Would she understand? When was the right time? How would she react?

“I have something to tell you,” he blurts out, before realizing it, as his hand comes up and lands on his mouth. He silently cursed himself as her eyes met his.

“I’m all ears,” she comments, curious as to what he had to say. She wondered if it dealt with their Christmas plans tomorrow – maybe they were going to have an unexpected guest, or maybe he forgot a gift. She also worried that it surrounded their wedding. What if some plan fell apart while she was away?

“With everything that has happened on track and away, I have been doing a lot of thinking lately. I’ve been pondering my career, whether I want to do this, and my future. What do I want from the rest of my life? Am I satisfied with what I’ve done so far? Where do I see myself five, 10 years from now? How do I see my family growing?” He was surprised how quickly and easily the words were coming to home as it just seemed to be pouring out of him. Maybe Chase was smarter with his advice than he thought. “I’m going to retire from racing at the end of this season.”

“Seriously? Are you sure absolutely certain about your decision?” Dale nods his head as he keeps his eyes on her, waiting to see what her response would be. “Is this driven by what happened? Are you scared of a reoccurance?” Dale shakes his head no, remembering the doctor’s words. “I don’t know what to say…..”

“The past two years, we’ve been through so much. I can’t even put into words everything that happened. From dealing with Mariela and what happened, to the wreck – it’s given me a new perspective. I’ve done this a long time, and I still love every minute, but I want to be there for my family. I want to raise my little girls. I want to have those special moments with you. I want to make it worthwhile.” She then puts down the gift that she was wrapping, moving closer to him, grabbing her hand with hers. She still wasn’t sure if she was ready to accept this yet.

“We can have everything and make it worthwhile even if you did continue racing, though.  We’ve proven that we can balance it all….” Dale nodded his head, actually surprised how things came together as the year went on. It was insane at times, but they certainly knew how to make it work.

“I know. But I’ve done this now, at the Cup level alone, 17 years. Beyond that, I ran XFINITY two years, and Late Models. I’ve been doing this a long time. I’m ready for a change. I’m ready to take a new role with the ownership. I’m ready to have my summers and weekends to do things with you and the girls. I’m ready to be there for Alyssa more as she goes to school. I’m ready for the change, because frankly, I don’t want to miss these moments.” Marie smiles as she keeps hold of his hand, focusing her eyes to the ground as she feels them cloud over with liquid. How was she going to hold it together?

“If you’re confident and ready, then I fully support you and believe in your decision.” She finally allows herself to look up into his eyes, letting him see the tears. “I just don’t know if I’m ready for you to retire myself.” Dale was willing to accept that reaction as he was glad she wasn’t fighting him on it. He also understood the emotions, knowing she wouldn’t be the only one.

“I get it, and I understand. I’m ready for the tears, people telling me that I shouldn’t, and hopefully by year-end, everybody is on the same page.” She then lays her head against his shoulder.

“So you won’t be upset if I’m in a ball of tears at Homestead?” He laughs and shakes his head.

“I may be joining you in those tears – happy and sad mixed together, but teary.” She smiles, as she gives him a kiss.

“Now, how do you plan to tell everyone this big news?” He lets out a sigh as he looks back down at the gift he was wrapping. So far, he had been taking one step at a time, seeing how it went.

“Kelley and my mom are going to find out sometime between now and January. Rick is going to find out in February, and the world will learn the truth shortly after that.” She nods her head, accepting, knowing that’d give her time to come to grips with her own emotions. “Chase knows alrea-”

“So you told somebody before me?” Perhaps he shouldn’t have told her that minor detail.

“Chase caught me thinking about it one day a couple weeks ago, so he knew it was on the mind. When I was almost certain, I called him over to talk over the final details. I didn’t mean for the secret to just out there before you wanted.” She wanted to be upset and mad, but taking a deep breath, she couldn’t be neither. She understood toying with emotions, and was glad that he had taken the step of talking to someone.

“What was his reaction?” Dale shrugs his shoulders. Like Chase in a normal sense, he was cool as a cucumber. What more could he say?

“He didn’t really have much to say, except belief that this year was going to be a great season with lots of checkered flags so we sent off things on the right note.” Marie smiles as she was hoping for the same thing, wanting to put the second half of last year away as far as possible.

“I hope he’s right, because we need it…” Dale nods his head, in agreement, as he looks back down at the package.

“Now, right now, we need to finish wrapping.” She then lets out a sigh as she goes back to her spot on the floor, grabbing the roll of paper.

“For next year, can we just get this stuff store wrapped please?” Dale then chuckles as he grabs a piece of paper, sticking it to her back with a piece of tape.

“I couldn’t do that if you got it store wrapped, or this.” He grabs a bow, taking the covering off the sticky piece, and sticking it on her head. “For the record, you’re the only Christmas present that I need….”

“Careful with your words, or this package may not get wrapped.” He then chuckles as he snatches the wrapping paper away from her, pinning her down on the ground with a kiss on her lips.

“Do I look too concerned right now?” He then begins to slowly undo the buttons on his pajama top – which nicely matched hers and the kids – but she places her hand on top of his, bringing it up above his head.

“You’re ruining half of my fun…” He then looks at her cautiously, wondering what she was meaning in her words. Did she really want to wrap presents instead of this?

“How’s that?” He hoped he didn’t regret testing the waters after.

“Because I want to help you undress…” She then kisses his lips lightly as a devious grin immediately forms.

“I don’t have one problem with that…” She then stands up, holding her hand out and making him stand out with her. “What?”

“Well, we better take this to a private area. I wouldn’t want the kids finding us by accident, or maybe even Mr. Claus himself…” She then tugs on his hand, leading him down the hall into the office, shutting the door immediately behind them. She then immediately pins him against the edge of the desk, lips clashing with his, hands finding their way underneath the clothes. “Merry Christmas to me…”

Cabin Fears – Chapter 87: “Did I hit a nerve or something?”

Friday at Kentucky Speedway

With Alyssa on track for the second practice of the day, Chase retreated back to his familiar perch on top of the hauler, fingers crossed it went smoother. Ultimately, that wish didn’t come true as smoke came out the back of the No. 88 Chevrolet as she went to go in the corner on her second run.

“Son of a bitch!” He lets out as he climbs back down the steps, knowing what that meant. Blown motor equals end of practice for the day due to having to change it, and starting at the rear on Saturday with a car that was handling worse than ever. Certainly going as planned…

“Aren’t you supposed to be relaxing?” Chase hears and immediately rolls his eyes without a glance towards Jeff.

“Is everybody going to ask me that every single hour today?” He responds back, the combined annoyance of the question and Alyssa’s issues obviously nagging at him.

“It’s because we care, Chase…” Chase stopped, took a deep breath, knowing that Jeff was right. So maybe he could give him the benefit of the doubt.

“Well, like I’ve told everybody else, I’m alright. I’m taking it easy, just out here supporting Alyssa, but following all orders that I was told. I don’t need everybody turning into my babysitter.” Jeff nods his head, accepting, as he places a hand on Chase’s shoulder.

“I get it, and you’re right. But just remember…” Chase nods his head, accepting, only so that way Jeff would carry on his own marry well.

Chase makes his way into the garage stall, waiting patiently as he watches Alyssa interact with the team.

“Did the car feel better that run?” Kevin Meendering asks and Alyssa rolls her eyes.

“Before the motor blew? Yeah, it did as I think we found the handle a bit better,” she answers. “I mean, I did pop up to fourth on the speed chart, right? But hey, I guess that doesn’t matte-”

“It gives us somewhere to start from going into tomorrow. Now, if we can start there and are at least close on the set-up, you can gain some ground and put it in the top 10. That’s all we need here. Solid consistency will get us to round two.” She lets out a sigh as she leans back against the car.

“So why does it feel like I’m climbing a freaking mountain? Nothing has gone right, Kevin. What makes you so sure about tomorrow?” Kevin then spins around, eyes focused straight on her.

“Because I believe in my team, I believe in my driver, and I damn well know that we can win this championship. Now, are you in or are you out?” She then looks at him, eyes turning a dark navy blue laced with determination.

“I wouldn’t be here if I was out, Kevin. I wouldn’t schedule an important surgery around my racing career if I didn’t believe what was possible. That said, we better bring our A-game tomorrow.” She then puts her sunglasses on, walking out of the stall. Chase could only let out a sigh as he goes to follow, not saying a single word, just there for support for when she finally said something.

“Did I hit a nerve or something?” Dale nods his head as he watches Alyssa and Chase walk off together.

“Never question her determination, desire, or drive,” he starts, glancing back to the crew chief. He knew exactly what she was going through from his own experience as she was like him more and more each day. She hated to have someone question her desires; she hated to be surrounded by people with doubt. Confidence was everything to her, and sometimes determined just how far she would go. She needed that positive energy, even if the world was imploding, to get to that next step. “Just be positive and a cheerleader, no matter how she gets. She’ll be fine tomorrow.”

Dale then follows suit, knowing that he wanted to go give her a boost of confidence – if Chase hadn’t done that already. He also pulls out his phone, sending a quick text message to Steve LeTarte. Stevie had always been good at knowing what to say and boosting him up. Now maybe he could translate that to his daughter.

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

Saturday – Kentucky Speedway

After a quiet night filled with simply watching movies and playing video games as a distraction, it was time for a new day – race day. All that mattered today was getting something good out of what had been a disastrous past couple of days.

Alyssa had woken up early, sneaking out to meet up with the team. She immediately apologized to Kevin for her attitude, which he accepted with an apology of his own. He also followed the advice of her father with some quick works of encouragement, with the pair set to do what they could that day.

As they headed out for qualifying, their goal was simple – use it as a test session to shake down the car, and see where they stood on set-up, but not go beyond the limits since they were starting last anyway.

Chase had slept in a little late, with Regan taking the role of hanging out with his friend for the day. Regan didn’t have any obligations, having finished what he needed to do on Friday. Thankfully, he turned a long Thursday night into a solid Friday with a third-place finish in the truck race.

Now he was ready to focus and help his friend….

“I can’t do this,” Chase’s words catch his attention away from the television screen as he looks towards the small kitchen table where Chase stood.

“Can’t do what?” Regan wonders, watching him closely. After hearing positive things from Friday, he was shocked by the words.

“This, all of this…. It isn’t me.” Regan felt a wash of confusion, but his eyes didn’t leave Chase. Was he talking about the situation? Was he talking about needing someone? Was he talking about the pain? Or was he talking about the white capsules in his hand?

“What? Struggling to find answers? Lacking that perfection? People run into issues-”

“No – these pills.” Chase holds up the small white pill, which Regan knew was for the anxiety. “Anxiety pill, sleeping pill. It’s not me. How did we get to the point where I need these to get through every day?” Regan takes a deep breath, not expecting to turn into consult this early in the day.

“By a series of traumatic events that are out of your control.” Regan then stands up, walking over to where he stood, placing a hand on his shoulder. “Chase, like everybody has said, everything is okay. We get why you would struggle. We get the emotional breakdown. And like Eric said, this is just temporary till we find the right strategies that will work for you.” Chase had heard those words over and over since July, but yet seemed to be further away from the point he wanted to be at now more than ever.

“Do you think we will ever find them?” Regan had grown used to the uncertainty, knowing it was the anxiety playing tricks on his mind, as well as lacking what he desired the most right now.

“Absolutely. I haven’t changed my viewpoint since day one.” Chase knew that, and appreciated the confidence from Regan. However, he also began to wonder some, though.

“What if I don’t?” Regan didn’t want to process that thought as he wanted his best friend back, totally.

“Let’s not think about tha-“

“But what if?” Regan takes a deep breath, knowing he couldn’t escape the question.

“So you have a case of anxiety, so you have a case of the nightmares – do you realize how many people deal with that? There are some that you don’t even hear about. Don’t even dare look down on yourself one bit because you have to take that pill or that pill. Don’t ever think it’s a bad thing if that you have to do. It’s understandable. The important factor is that you – you know who you are, your desires, your wants, and you’re striving for that. We haven’t lost you in the midst of this, despite thes-”

“Sometimes I wonder….” Regan shakes his head, keeping his hand firmly placed on Chase’s shoulder.

“Trust me – I would know if we were losing that, and so would Alyssa. I also know that you’re taking the right steps, doing the right things – and you will find your way through this. It will take time, it will be tough, but you’ll find your way. Sure, we’ve hit two steps backwards lately – but damn, look at the progress since then. It’s coming together…..” Chase nods his head, remembering some of the steps that he had taken, from various conversations to confessions. It had to mean something, right?

“I hope you’re right….” Chase then puts the pills in his mouth, followed by a big swig of water to wash them down. “For now, though, we have a princess to focus on….”

“I think it’s going to be a good day…” Chase crossed his fingers, hoping that Regan was right, as they both settled in to watch the remainder of the qualifying session.

Cabin Fears – Chapter 86: “It’s on me.”

Thursday night, Kentucky Speedway

Once the plane landed, it was a short trip to the speedway with the group immediately finding their way to the infield. Couple goodbyes said, and both Jimmie and William headed in their own direction. Dale and Regan stuck with Chase, wanting to make sure he got settled for the night with everything that went on.

They go to the motorcoach, with Chase unlocking the door, quietly walking in. It didn’t take long before Alyssa had her arms wrapped around him tightly, holding him. Dale couldn’t help but smile knowing that was classic her, remembering when she did that to him a couple times.

“You shouldn’t have come,” Cindy starts as she is the next one to hug him. “You need to be home, taking care of yourself…” Chase lets out a sigh, as it didn’t matter how old he was, Momma was always going to try and take care of him.

“I’m fine being here in Kentucky,” he assures her. “The doctor said it was fine for me to fly out as Regan asked. Besides, if I was home, I’d be worried even more over what was going on here. I’ll take it easy, okay?”

“Don’t worry Cindy,” Alyssa adds. “If he doesn’t take it easy, I’ll kick his ass for you.” Chase then looks at her a little skeptical as she just smiles back in return. “You heard me….”

“Well, I’m going to go get settled so I will see you later,” Regan states. “Chase, if you need me, just give me a ring. Take it easy, and I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Thank you,” Chase says once again as he gives him a hug. “I mean it – thank you.”

“I’m always just a text message away.” Regan then gives Dale a quick pat on the back, before heading out to leave the group by themselves.

“Alright guys, it’s time for you to give them some time to chill,” Dale instructs after awhile. He knew sleep was the best thing for Chase right now, and having the motorcoach crowded wasn’t going to lead to that. “He needs to relax, and she needs sleep before a busy day tomorrow. Time to say goodbye.”

“You’re going to be careful, right?” Cindy asks once again and Chase nods his head. “Alright. Take care of yourself and get some sleep.”

It didn’t take long before everyone cleared out, leaving Alyssa and Chase to themselves, as they both got ready for bed and got comfortable.

“Are you sure you’re okay right now?” Alyssa wonders, still worried about him. He just simply responds by pulling her close to him.

“It’s a little sore, but I’m fine,” he answers honestly. “You don’t need to worry about me.” She then rolls her eyes, knowing that was impossible.

“I always worry about you – I always have. You can’t think that a moment is going to go by where I’m just going to sit back and not worry. Give me a break, Chase.” She then lays her head on his chest, a bunch of thoughts running through her mind at what seemed like 100 miles per hour. “I can’t believe this happened, and it’s on me-”

“What do you mean?” She then lifts her head up, staring into his brown eyes.

“Well they stated it was stress related and it clearly happened after my appointment. You’re stressing out over me, which is nothing new.” He then lets out a sigh, rubbing her shoulders. Well she was certainly on his mind, that wasn’t the start of it.

“I’d been dealing with a couple of the signs before then, but chalked it up to nothing. Besides, I’m not stressing about what’s about happen for you. I know that whatever works best, whether amputation or another road, is for the right reasons. I also know that you’re strong beyond anything. You’re like your father in a lot of ways. The world may throw a bunch of bricks at you, but you don’t change; you keep that sweetness, honesty, and every great quality about you. I know you’ll get through it so I don’t stress about you.” She knew he was just trying to make her feel better with his advice, and make it not seem like it was her fault.

“And now you can cut the cra-”

“My stress comes with my anxiety and fears. I’m stressing about everything that I’m going through and feeling. I’m stressing about trying to do the right thing. I’m stressing about the worry in whether I can make things better, come back from this. I’m stressing about…. It’s me that’s causing my own issues, not you. This isn’t something that just started over night.” He then takes a deep breath, remembering the doctor’s words in trying to find some way to cope with it all. “I just need to find a way to cope with it all.”

“You’re going to find that, Chase. You will move forward. Everything will get better. We’re not going to be stuck in this situations forever.” He nods his head, hoping that she was right. But admittedly, there were times he wasn’t sure about that.

“I believe you, and I’m trying.” She glances back up at him, again.

“You’re doing a helluva job, admirable. Just take it one step at a time, okay?” She then reaches up, kissing his lips. “Now, I wouldn’t be doing my job if we weren’t getting comfy and going to sleep.”

“Yes, Nurse Earnhardt.” She just smiles as they get comfortable together, set for a good night sleep.

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

Chase made his way through the garage, falling in suit with the crew members, ready for the first XFINITY practice of the day. So far, it was business as usual. Spend the morning hanging out with Alyssa, walk to the garage together, let her get ready to go, and head to the hauler to watch.

“Hey!” Regan says as the pair cross paths. “How are you feeling?”

“Alright,” Chase replies, and that was honesty. The pain had laid off with taking both the pain killers and other pills. It was just a matter of hoping things were starting to heal down there. He had also been keeping himself nice and relaxed, which came easily at the track, so he was following the stress rule so to speak.

“That’s good. Listen, just take it easy, alright?” Chase nods his head. “I’m serious. I don’t want to be creating some emergen-”

“I’m fine, Regan. It’s not that bad and I’m chilled out. Your truck looked good in practice so best of luck later on today. I’m headed to watch Alyssa.” Regan easily lets him go, though his eyes linger on him for a little while longer. He couldn’t help but worry.

The practice went smoothly, with no incidents at all. But that didn’t mean it was all smiles in the JR Motorsports camp as struggling wasn’t the word for it. No matter what they did to the car, it just seemed to be too loose all throughout the session and as a result, she timed in 24th quickest.

“This is ridiculous!” She comments as she runs her hands through her hair. First round of the playoffs and they looked like a bunch of idiots who didn’t know what they were doing. What happened to all the speed they had shown the past couple months?

“I am going to go see if Leo’s guys have any suggestions,” Kevin Meendering says, before walking away. She rolls her eyes in response, not believing that now they were having to rely on their teammate, their competition at that, so they could figure it out.

“Hey, you’ve started weekends like this before and they’ve turned out beautiful,” Chase reminds her as he wraps his arms around her shoulders. “Take a deep breath, think, and relax. You’ll be fine.” She wanted to follow those words, but the drive and desire to succeed was telling her otherwise. “Think about how you’re detailing of what the car is doing, and try to rerun those laps over and over in your mind. Was there something that you missed? Did you maybe not explain something how Kevin needed to hear you? Could you change up or give a bit stronger feedback to get the car where you need it?”

“Maybe it’s not necessarily loose, but tight on entry,” she finally says out loud as she glances over her shoulder at him. “Maybe I’m not realizing that, trying to overcorrect my line, and causing the other issue. So therefore, we’re not fixing what the real problem is….”

“Why don’t you give that a try in the next session?” She nods her head, accepting, ready to tell Kevin when he got back.

“Are you okay?” He immediately rolls his eyes, growing annoyed at every person asking him already throughout the day.

“I’m fine – just focus on getting the car better for tomorrow.”

Cabin Fears – Chapter 85: The Truth

“Mr. Elliott?” A doctor peaks his head into the room, catching all of their attention immediately.

“That’s me last time I checked,” Chase states with a small smile as he tries to relax, despite the pain he was feeling. The doctor enters, file in hand – which immediately is where all eyes lie right away.

“I have the results of all the tests that we ran for you. Now, I understand that Eric signed off on your file and such so I won’t touch that.” Chase was glad for that reason, as he wasn’t about to tackle that stuff with a stranger now. “The pain in your stomach is not related to what you were thinking, but rather stomach ulcers.”

“Oh shit…” Regan lets out, knowing what those were right away as he lays his head back. He could sympathize with the pain Chase was feeling there.

“Now, the ulcers are basically painful sores in the stomach lining,” the doctor continues. “Now, it’s my understanding you had surgery not long ago….” Chase lets out a sigh, not wanting to reflect back to that experience.

“Tears in the stomach lining resulting in stomach bleeding in July,” Dale states, not flinching one bit as his hand reached for his phone. It was almost to the point where Cindy and Bill deserved a call. “That came courtesy of a strong poison injected into him.”

“That would explain the severity marked in the file…” The doctor makes another note as Chase’s eyes follow the pen closely. “With the healing time, you were pretty much set from that point and looked to be home free. However, it did make them tender and susceptible to more issues in the near future. Were you given any warning?” Chase nods his head, remembering the advice from the doctor. “So right now, the stomach acid isn’t breaking down correctly – therefore bringing this issue to the forefront…”

“Lovely,” Chase muses out loud as he shakes his head. Of course this would happen on top of everything else.

“Now, the reason for that is simple – stress. Stress rarely causes an issue like this, but if you’re under a tremendous amount, it is possible. Given everything that’s going on psychological and in your life, I would see it easily part of your life.” Regan thought back to Eric’s words in making sure to accept the doctor’s advice carefully. Certainly cutting stress would be along those lines.

“So, what’s the next step?” Dale questions, his fingers still resting on his phone in his pocket.

“We’re going to issue you mild pain killers to help the pain, as well as Dexilant to help reduce the acid in your stomach,” the doctor explains. “Both taken three times a day should relieve what is causing your problem. Once that is done, the sores should heal accordingly – but the process will take two to three weeks minimum, up to three months. If they do not heal, then you know the alternative.” Chase rolls his eyes, not wanting to go back down the road of stomach surgery once again. That was even worse than being stabbed in the leg. “In the meantime, cutting down the stress in your life – whatever way you can, will help you tremendously. I suggest you try to work on that, okay?”

“Yeah,” Chase comments as he lets out a sigh. He understood the reasons and knew that it’d be a good idea. However, that was obviously easier said than done considering everything going through his mind, the nightmares, the flash moments, and Alyssa’s situation.

“You should also check in with your doctor in two weeks, 14 days, to make sure that things are healing accordingly. Other than that, I am going to let you go with the prescriptions in hand…”

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

After stopping by Regan’s house to let him get his stuff, the group immediately headed to the airport. Jimmie and William both met them there, concerned with how Chase was doing. Chase easily explained the situation regarding the ulcers, leaving out the details of the dream, as they got set to the board the plane. Although Chase was originally going to fly them out himself, Dale immediately put down that idea, ordering his pilot and plane to be ready for the group.

“So they’re letting you fly to Kentucky no problem?” Jimmie questions and Chase nods his head. “Well, just be careful and take care of yourself.”

“Hope you feel better soon,” William adds as he follows his teammate onto the plane, taking a seat beside him.

Chase then goes to his usual spot at the back of Dale’s plane, curling up immediately with pillow and blanket as they get set for takeoff. After leaving the hospital, he got the prescriptions filled, and had taken the first dosage. The pain killers were already working, taking the edge off.

“Are you okay?” Regan asks as if they’d been in the air for a bit with a glance over the seat at him. Chase glances up, nodding his head.

“Yea,” he replies quietly. “Hey, can we keep this between us, please? Everything that happened….” Regan hadn’t thought of doing anything else otherwise. He understood the sensitivity in what happened.

“You know the rule….” Dale then glances over at the pair, having his own theory.

“Actually, the stomach ulcers, tears and stress – we should tell your parents and Alyssa, at least,” he suggests. “That way they can keep an eye-out, too, for your own good. Alyssa is going to notice, anyway.” Chase couldn’t argue with that, as he wasn’t concerned with people knowing about that. It was the other part as he wasn’t willing to touch those emotions otherwise.

“That’s fine, I can do that,” he tells Dale. “But the other – can we just not talk about that? Can that be something only we three talk about together?” Dale could see the fear and edginess in his voice upon the confession, immediately. Glancing at Regan, it was all about comfort here….

“Absolutely. That’ll be our secret.”

“And no matter what, it’s going to be okay….” Regan adds, before focusing back forward.

With everything that had gone on, they all knew that Chase needed to catch up on his sleep – especially now the pain was subsiding. Beyond the pain, the emotions of the day’s confession with Eric, along with the craziness of how he was woken up and another round of confessions had drained every last bit of emotional strength he had with him, too.

Letting out a yawn, it wasn’t long before he was curled up and sleeping away on the flight.

“Are you okay?” Dale questions as he looks over at Regan.

“Yeah,” Regan replies. “How about you?” Dale looks back at Chase once again, letting out a sigh as he turns back to Regan. Every fear was tingling in knowing they’d used the code word.

“I’m alright. I’m just glad that he reached out to you, and you were there….” Regan nodded his head, but knew there was no need for anymore discussion. You never turned your back on your friends.

“I told him I’d always be there. That was a promise, Dale….” Dale knew that, remembering when it was originally spoken.

“I still remember when I first met him, and I also remember when he first came to drive for me. It’s crazy to think back to then. A sweet, endearing 18-year-old with the world at his feet. You couldn’t had found a nicer guy at that age, or polite, or mature. I remember the jokes and the shyness at times.” Dale takes a deep breath. “It’s crazy to think how much he’s grown over these years….”

“He’s certainly grown up and became even more amazing, but some things don’t change. He’s still got that kindness, and he’s still afraid to talk about things. But we’ll get there with time.” Dale believed in those words, even with the setback, because of the signs of strength that he had seen at times over the night. “Could you ever imagined that he’d be dating your daughter?” Dale then laughs.

“Never in a million years, but I wouldn’t have it any other way….”

Cabin Fears – Chapter 84: “It won’t come to that….”

Dale makes his way down the hall, glancing at the room numbers, remembering what Regan texted him. He freezes when he sees the number, glancing inside. He was surprised to see Regan sitting there in a lone chair, clipboard and paper in hand.

“Hey,” Dale says as he enters the room, catching Regan’s attention as he looks up from the clipboard.

“Hey,” Regan replies, before glancing back down. Dale takes a look to the right, noticing it was totally empty, before looking back toward Regan.

“Where is he?” Regan looks back up once again as he takes a deep breath.

“They took him for tests. X-ray, ultrasound, couple different things.” Dale could understand that as he made his way to the one side, leaning back against the wall.

“Oh, okay. How is he?” Regan takes a deep breath, knowing that was a loaded question as he tried to focus on the form.

“Scared out of his mind, confused, in pain. So much shit.” Regan then pauses as he looks at the sheet, shaking his head. “Fuck, I can’t fill this out!” Dale then looks over confused as normally Regan was the calm one in these situations.

“What is it?” Regan hands over the clipboard as he takes another deep breath. “Psych evaluation?” Regan nods his head as he looks over, taking the clipboard back. He knew whether he liked it or not, he needed to finish it.

“Because of how I explained it and how he’s feeling, they asked me to fill this out based on tonight and the past couple months.” Dale was confused, if it was possible to even more so after reading Regan’s initial message.

“Why?” Regan shrugs his shoulders.

“I guess to have an idea of his mental state.” Dale knew there was no more sitting around waiting. Things were serious, and he needed to know now.

“What the hell is going on anyways? Your text message confused me.” Regan takes a deep breath, not even knowing where to begin. How were you supposed to describe this to someone?

“My head has been swirling since he texted me, so bare with me…..” Regan then tells him everything in the best way that he can possibly describe it, just hoping that it made some sort of sense.

“What do you believe happened?” Regan admittedly had gone back and forth with possibilities since then.

“There’s no signs at the house. Heck, you would’ve known as you have all the security detail of who enters the property. Plus, he’s 99% sure that it’s just a dream. So I don’t see it as happening now. So it’s either a dream, maybe it happened before….” Dale ponders it over, while making a note to double check the cameras incase.

“He did sleep with Demi at the cabin a long time ago. That was feeling of betrayal, pain. You heard him when he told us. Could he be re-invisioning that with the images and thoughts from Kassandra?” Regan shrugs his shoulders as he glances back to the forms.

“Who knows at this point, to be honest. You could be right. Either way, for his sanity, we need to figure what’s going on.” Dale knew that was the primary focus, as he wanted to see the same thing – for multiple reasons.

“Well, you made the right decision coming here. If something happened, then we and they can handle it. If nothing did, the emotions can be handled.” Regan believed in those words, but he also remembered the desperation and tone Chase had used with him.

“I just don’t feel right filling this out. He asked me if he was crazy, losing his mind, and I told him he wasn’t. But filling this out, it doesn’t feel right….” Dale places a hand on Regan’s shoulder, sympathizing with him immediately.

“It’s not supposed to, Regan. He’s not the type to go crazy or lose his mind. He’s the calm, focused one. Heck if anybody should be that it’s me as I was always the nervous panic type.” Regan couldn’t argue with that, though, as he looks up with a small smile.

“You found your way, though, and he will too. I know that in my heart.” Dale believed in that, no matter what. It was the only way they could move forward.

“You’re right. He will…” Regan continues filling out the paper, not wanting his support to waiver, though the final words on the page catch his attention.

“It says here that by filling this out and understanding the terms and situation, the individual could be committed. I can’t see them doing that. That would be the last straw for both him and Alyssa. They both need what they can hold on to…” Dale couldn’t even imagine what Alyssa’s reaction would be if she was there, or he had texted her to tell her.

“It won’t come to that….” Dale’s voice trails off as they watch the nurse bring him back in the room, both flashing a small smile.

“Is that form filled out Mr. Smith?” The nurse asks Regan after she is done getting him situated.

“Yeah, pretty much…” Regan answers as he hands over the clipboard, not taking his eyes off of Chase in the process.

“Thank you. The doctor should be here soon with your results.” The nurse then leaves as both Dale and Regan keep their eyes locked on Chase.

“Hey,” Dale says quietly as Chase just gives him a little wave.

“Everything go smoothly?” Regan questions and Chase nods his head. “Did they say anything?”

“Not a single world,” Chase answers as he tries to get comfy, rubbing his stomach. “Oh man…”

“How long has that been bothering you?” Chase knew where Regan was going with the question and knew that needed to end right there.

“It just started today when I woke up.” Chase then closes his eyes, taking a deep breath, as he lies his head back on the pillow. “I still can’t believe myself….”

“About?” Chase opens his eyes as he focuses on Regan.

“The reason I texted you initially. I don’t get how that flashed in my mind so vividly…” Regan and Dale glance at each other, as if they could share mental notes, before both focusing on Chase.

“Nightmares can be like that…” Dale remembered a couple of his own, along with Alyssa’s past experience.

“Sometimes they’re worse than what happened itself,” he adds as Chase glances towards the small window.

“I don’t get why this is so tough to wrap my arms around,” Chase starts. “The others – yeah, they were tough, and they certainly freaked me out. I know they took time to handle, too. But this just doesn’t seem to be getting better, and almost endless at times…” Dale wanted to simply walk over, hold him, do whatever he could to just make everything go away in a flash. But he knew that wasn’t the answer.

“This is just feeling worse for reasons that we can’t explai-”

“Not only were you attacked, but the number one person that you love with everything as well,” Regan interrupts. “That’s why it’s tearing at more heart strings than you could imagine. You’re feeling what you felt towards you, but you’re also feeling a strong sympathy pain and regret for what Alyssa experienced.” Chase could see where Regan was coming from with that explanation.

“And it will get better eventually, right?” Chase asks and Regan nods his head. He wasn’t sure how soon, or even how to begin with, but he would never give up on his friend.

Their attention is then caught to the doorway as they watch Eric enter, slipping the door closed behind him. Regan’s eyes immediately find Dale, every possibility of the paper he filled out swirling through his mind.

“Hello Dale,” Eric says quietly as Dale simply smiles.

“Hey,” he replies. Eric then glances towards the chair at Regan.

“You must be Regan. I’m Eric.” Regan shakes the man’s hand.

“Nice to meet you,” Regan replies. “Wait – how do you know who I am?” Dale just chuckles in response.

“You’re a superstar….” Dale muses as Regan just rolls his eyes.

“I do watch some racing, but I figured you’d be here as I know Chase turns to you on a lot of things,” Eric comments, which Regan could see easily making sense. “And then there’s you. We just saw each other earlier today. I mean, I don’t mind seeing you, but not under these circumstances. How are you feeling?”

“Sore,” Chase comments quietly as Eric could only nod his head.

“That’s understandable. When the doctor comes in after, he’s got something that’ll help with the pain, okay?” Chase nods his head, accepting. “Now, I’ve read over everything that they gave me that you and Regan told them, along with everything they figured out.” Eric then places the file aside, keeping his eyes on Chase. “I don’t care what the paper says. What really matters, end of the day?”

“My feelings.” Eric nods his head.

“Right. Now, obviously the biggest concern from both you and Regan was a potential rape scenario. What are you thinking about that, right now?” Chase takes a deep breath, as he focuses up on the ceiling. He would rather not say a single word.

“That I was a fool for saying that happened. I was totally wrong in every aspect of what I said. The more I think it, the more I realize that I was just woke up panicked from my dream – like when you wake up screaming because you’re set to scream in a nightmare.”

“You’re never a fool, okay? Actually, you’re a bigger person for doing something about it and contacting a friend. You’re also a bigger person for lying here, and having figured out what happened. The doctor went through with the rape kit, checking to see if there were finger prints or any trace anywhere of the possibility. Nothing came back. With what you’ve said and what we’ve found as a whole, I am confident nothing happened and what you’re saying is true.” Regan felt more confused now as he watched the pair closely.

“Then why is he feeling this random pain in his stomach?” Regan wonders as Eric glances back at him.

“There’s a reason, and you will get that reason when the doctor comes in after,” Eric answers. “For now, I’d like to take the steps in talking about why I’m here.” Regan nodded his head, accepting. He knew why they had called Eric as it was all about the paper he filled out earlier. “With what I’ve told you, does that make sense and can you accept that?”

“Yeah,” Chase says, as it made sense. A combination of trapped in his dream, along with a new pain, would easily equal what happened.

“What if this is a case of a rape that happened but he totally blocked it out of mind and it wasn’t caught due to other things?” Dale then questions, remembering his conversation with Regan about the possibilities. It was better to explore them now with Eric, than enter that scenario later.

“That’s possible, but I feel this is more a combination of his fear and thoughts twisting around itself,” Eric explains. “We’ve talked about fearing rape, scared of what could’ve happen if things had played out as envisioned. We talked about fearing a rape against Alyssa by photos that Randy had taken. We talked about fearing a rape by Kassandra when at her disposal and hands, even being touched unfairly in that moment. A new sense of pain, combined with nightmares of a possibility, and you have this scenario.” Chase could only shake his head as Eric broke it down. There was only one more thing to say.

“So I am crazy….” Chase comments, causing a surprised glance from everybody in the room.

“Chase….” Regan says quietly, remembering their discussion earlier.

“Going through the trauma that you experienced, and running into a situation like this does not mean you’re crazy,” Eric tells him. “It just means that the mind is having a hard time processing everything and making sense of these feelings. In this situation, we’ve simply watched your nightmares pick up to a new level of intensity. It happens as there are plenty of people who deal with this scenario. So for future sessions, we can talk about that, and work through strategies to make coping with them easier.” Chase nods his head, accepting. As long as there were answers that could get rid of this feeling, he was on-board.

“What do we do in the meanwhile?” Eric glances over at Regan, again.

“He has a mild anxiety drug that he has been taking once in the morning to soothe off extreme emotions – and it is working for what we want it to do. For the night time, I can either suggest taking another dosage or a sleeping pill to allow him to relax. That’s something that me and him can discuss.” Regan nods his head, accepting. He could now understand why Dale always suggested to go to Eric when there were problems. “Other than the words that I’ve spoken, there is not much else that I can say. Do you have any questions?”

“This pain…” Chase comments, voice trailing out.

“The doctor has an explanation for you that connects in a way, but I will let him explain,” Eric states, as he picks the file backup, opening it. “The doctor did request a psychological evaluation form to be filled out and overlooked by myself. Regan, I appreciate your patience in filling it out accordingly. The form is meant for me to give my recommendation on what to do from a psychological standpoint. Now, this can include treatment, drugs, further evaluation under a physician, or ground rules of a type of sta-”

“So basically, you’re supposed to judge if I’m to be admitted to the psych ward or not?” Regan froze at Chase’s revelation, glancing towards Dale. Dale just glanced back at Regan with a calm glance, hand slightly up.

“That is part of it, yes, depending on patient safety and whether they’re a danger to themselves or the public.” Eric flips through the pages to the last one in the file. “I’m not supposed to tell you my recommendation or what I write in here, but we have an open-book policy so I owe it to you. I am simply going to state that I went over with the patient the bearings of what happened, and we determined that a trauma-caused nightmares were the result of your feelings. It is also worth noting that previous time spent with you showed clear signs of PTSD. My recommendation is to either increase our anti-anxiety medicine or give you a sleeping pill to put off the feelings until they can be further discussed, broken down, and handled accordingly. That seems right, so far?” Chase nods his head.

“That’s exactly what you told me.” He then lets out a yawn as he lie back. “Sleeping has been a pain in the ass, so I hate to say this but maybe that’d be a good idea…”

“The focus should be on yourself, your health, and how you’re feeling. If it’s going to help make things easier, then I would fully open that door if I was you. That doesn’t mean you have to open it forever, or become dependent. It’s just a strategy till you find a better one.” Chase nods his head, accepting, even if part of him wanted to chuck the pills across the room. “Furthermore, I do not believe you to be a danger to society or yourself, so I see no emergency reason to keep you on a psychological basis. I will strongly recommend that someone be with you at all times – 24 hours a day, just in case an episode creeps up until we see some noteworthy progress. Is that possible?” Chase nods his head, with both Regan and Dale joining in.

“I’ll come spend time if nobody else is available,” Dale adds, knowing he’d do whatever it took.

“My signature is on the file, and we are done,” Eric says as he signs off, closing it. “Now, I will let the doctor see this, and then he can tell you what he has to say. Trust me, you’re going to fully understand why you’re experiencing the pain once you see the results. My advice? Take every bit of what he is going to say and consider it. You can always call me if you need me.” Eric then leaves the room, as the group takes glances towards each other, pondering what is next.

Moving Forward – Chapter 55: “I have my decision…”

News – there will be a direct sequel to this story, and it will have a fun twist. That is all….

It had been four days since Marie had left to go back to Pitronia to help with the relief effort. The couple had been keeping in touch on a regular basis through constant phone calls and text messages, but it wasn’t the same.

They both wanted to be reunited together, and soon.

Marie had suggested for Dale to come down and join her, but he brushed off the offer. He didn’t want to pull Alyssa from school – even being kindergarten – as he wanted to keep that balance for her. Furthermore, there was still stuff to do around the house. That was why that afternoon, he was busy getting the tree situated and finding the ornaments so he and Alyssa could decorate it after.

“I knew you’d have a real tree,” Dale hears, smiling as he recognizes the voice immediately. He had asked Chase to stop by that afternoon when he got a chance. “Looks good, though.”

“Alyssa and I are going to decorate it tonight with a little help from Elsa,” he comments as Chase nods his head, accepting. It sounded like the perfect family activity.

“Have you heard anything from Marie?” Dale lets out a sigh, remembering their last conversation.

“There’s still so much to do. There’s people that lost their homes totally and need some place to stay, and there are others who have to do so much cleaning so it’s sustainable. It’s going to be another week at least.” Chase couldn’t help but look at the calendar.

“That’s pushing it close to Christmas….” Dale nods his head, having the same thought when she told him.

“We always like to test those Christmas boundaries, right?” Chase chuckles, remembering his own experience last year.

“Look at it this way. I didn’t go away these holidays so I will be home with my parents easily.” Dale smiles as he glances over. It was nice to be able to joke about that now. “What if she can’t get away by Christmas?”

“I told her there was no way around it, and she accepted. She’ll be here.” Dale then lets out a sigh as he takes a step back, plugging the lights in and pleased to see all the dead spots had been taken care of. “Now, I did call you over here for a reason, didn’t I?”

“I would assume so…” Dale unplugs the lights, setting the cord down, before turning around to face Chase.

“I have my decision about retirement moving forward.” Chase then looks on a little confused.

“And you’re telling me, because?” Dale crosses his arms as he walks over, sitting on the couch.

“I figured as my friend you deserved to know, and since you already knew I was thinking about it. Oh, and you’re the first.” Chase felt his stomach flip flop with that confession. He could already see where this was going.

“How soon?” Dale was intrigued at how quickly Chase picked up on what was set to happen.

“End of this year. I’m going to tell Rick in February and make my suggestion for my replacement, aka your new teammate.” Chase silently crossed his fingers, hoping some sanity was involved.

“Please tell me that you’re thinking clearly he-”

“Alex.” Chase stops, thinking it over. Alex Bowman wasn’t that bad of a guy. “The past two years, I’ve been through so much for Marie and my family. I can’t even put into words everything that happened. From dealing with her sister and what happened, to the wreck – it’s given me a new perspective. I’ve done this a long time, and I still love every minute, but I want to be there for my family. I want to raise my little girls. I want to have those special moments with Marie. I want to make it worthwhile.” Chase smiles, as he could see exactly where Dale was coming from immediately.

“I don’t blame you, to be honest. I can see how that would affect a person. I mean, I know how it can from what I went through.” Dale then glances towards the ground, taking a careful deep breath.

“I just don’t know how to tell Marie, my sister, or even Rick. I know my reasons and I know this is what I want. I just don’t know how to say it.” Chase wondered whether it was truly the right decision if Dale was having second thoughts.

“Are you 100% certain this is what you want to do? Because if you’re certain, it should just come easy…” Dale laughs, wishing that was the case.

“We were both certain that we needed to talk about what happened, and look at how long it took us both to do that. Good try, Chase.” Chase lets out a sigh, remembering that.

“I think you just need to sit her down when the time is right and tell her. Give her the reasons that you gave me, hear out her protests, and answer each question. If you’re patient and just let it come to you, it’ll work.” Dale nods his head, accepting.

“I hope. I just hope we have a better year, too.” Chase glances straight at Dale.

“It’s going to be a much better season than what we had. It’s going to go smoothly with checkered flags everywhere you look, beginning with Daytona. I believe in our team. You can get the job done, I know I can get the job done, and that’s all we need.” Dale smiles as he keeps his eyes locked on Chase.

“You continue to impress me, beyond just your driving. Don’t ever change…” Chase could only smile back in return.

“Why would I change what’s working for me?”