Back to Square One – Chapter 18: AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway

May 2016 – Race #12

Greenlee walks into the garage, smile on her face, clipboard held tightly close to her. She walks by some of the guys, taking a seat in what had become her usual spot already in just a couple weeks as she opened up the board.

She was getting herself in a good habit.

She would bring the notes from the last meeting containing the set-up they planned to start the weekend with, along with some details on the current weather conditions. That way through morning conversation in the hauler, she’d just have to make notes about small adjustments made to the plan.

She also was already developing her own short hand to use in the book so she could write things quicker, catching everything mentioned by the guys. Then later on, she’d expand it into long form so when reading back the notes were understandable by everybody.

Seeing how close competition was in the garage, there were times she wondered whether it’d be a good idea to actually teach the team the short hand so that way if anybody snagged a peak they’d never understand what was there. Shaking her head, she had to let out a small laugh as she was already turning into one of them looking for an advantage.

She used to trying to find advantages, though. She did with her business in always being on the cutting edge in fragrance and make-up so they’d remain on top. She continued that form when she did street race, keeping the second bottle of NOS hidden to where it couldn’t be seen if somebody peaked in the car.

“Already here working?” She hears, glancing up at Chad with a smile.

“I wanted to make sure everything was in perfect order,” she answers as he simply smiles in return. It seemed with each passing week, he was removing more reservations about her.

“I like your thinking. Maybe we can turn things around this week and actually have a good finish.” He then was about to walk away, but stopped and looked back towards her. “Has Ron mentioned anything since his panic episode at Dega?” She shakes her head no.

“He told me he’d talk when he was good and ready. I’ve been just offering comfort and steadiness, while reminding him that everything will be okay no matter the thoughts.” Chad shakes his head, accepting.

“I told him he could come to me whenever he felt right about doing so, if needed to. I just worry sometimes…” Greenlee smiles, seeing the concerning side of Chad that Ron had mentioned last week.

“When you go through something traumatic, some people just get over it easy while others it takes time. Some people can talk to somebody about it immediately, while others just need to do so in due time. I’m sure he’ll come around and handle it like we both want him to. Patience. All you can do right now is just assure him that everything is okay.” He shakes his head, accepting. He knew her advice was worth listening to after what he had learned from Dom.

“What did you do? Did you always talk about it, or avoid it?” She then looks on puzzled. “Look, I’m always super conscious about this team and everybody. I may have ran a background on you and found out everything that I could know about your past to make sure things were legit.”

“I can understand that based on how I entered the picture, and Ron’s past himself. But to answer your question, I always could talk to Ryan no matter what. We just had that special connection that I can’t even begin to describe, Chad.  It’s why it hurts so much knowing he’s gone. However, I admit there were times that I held it in and even tried running from it. That never did me any good, as you probably learned.” He shakes his head in agreement, having heard a couple of those tales from Dom.

“Well I appreciate what you’re doing for us, and I appreciate you being there for Ron. It means a lot. I hope this second, third chance works out for you.” She could only smile. It was nice to hear a bit of positivity from someone other than just Ron and Jimmie.

“Thanks Chad. That means a lot coming from you. Hopefully this weekend works out.”

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

The crew could only stand there shaking their heads.

They had done everything right. They gave Jimmie a quick car. They had run up front throughout the race. They were even second as the race was in the second half. Then it happened. The transmission messed up on the restart, causing a stack up and a crash, taking out Jimmie and a bunch of his fellow competitors.

Rather than celebrating or at least standing on pit road with a top-five, they had a wrecked car and a 25th place finish.

“We’re going to turn this around, eventually,” Chad states as they finish packing up. “We can’t  do this forever. We’ve been too quick for this to happen all year.”

“It’s a long season bud; we’ll be fine,” Jimmie replied.

Ron and Greenlee just looked at each other, knowing that it’d be another long week in dealing with Chad’s short temper once again. Greenlee was fine with that, as she understood the reasons why and had gotten to see the nicer side of him.

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Back to Square One – Chapter 17: Ready to Work

May 2016 – Kansas Speedway

“Ready for your first official work weekend?” Ron questions as they walk into the garage area together.

“Are you ready for this weekend all together?” Greenlee asks in response, causing Ron to freeze on the spot. “What?”

“Are you going to ask me that every weekend from here on out after what happened last week?” She then thinks it over, and shakes her head no. She knew that’d become too overbearing and she hated when Ryan was like that with her.

“I was just asking to be courteous and because I care about you. Is that okay?” He shakes his head yes as he wraps his arms around her.

“I don’t want to pretend that everything is okay, because I haven’t done what I needed to do yet. But, I can assure you that I am ready to go this weekend and we’re going to have a great weekend.” A smile formed on her face, hoping that he was right.

“I wouldn’t mind being able to see why you guys like winning so much…” Ron then chuckles as they keep walking together, his arm wrapped around her.

“You’ll have to tell Jimmie to drive the wheels off of her Saturday night.” The pair then walk into the garage, resulting in a couple hoots and haulers from the guys. “Really, guys?”

“Hey, we’re not used to seeing a girl on your arm there, Ronnie,” R.J. Barnette teases first. “Want to start talking?”

“Was she one of those nurses who took care of you?” Kevin Novak adds, with a grin. “I told you he was flirting.” R.J. laughs as he sits back in his seat, causing an eye roll from R.J.

“That t doesn’t explain the outfit, though,” Kyle Tudor observes as she glances down at herself.

“She’s the boss’ new assistant,” Ron comments, causing a couple surprised glances.

“Chad finally found someone that will put up with him?” Kevin asks as Greenlee shoots a look at Ron.

“He probably hired her because he wanted to allow the love to blossom between these two,” R.J. adds as Ron just gives him a punch. “Hey!”

“She went through the proper process, and passed with flying colors,” Ron starts. “Chad then observed her notes during the week, and allowed her to spend Talladega weekend observing. She is doing well, so it’d be nice if you’d have some maturity to yourself.” R.J. then looks on surprised, but laughs.

“Dude, you can’t blame me. We’re not used to seeing our man with a girl.” Greenlee then focuses her eyes on the crew member.

“R.J., right?” She questions, and he shakes his head yes. “Listen, Ron and I are good friends, and been that way for a very long time. We’re not together as you’re implying, though. So no need to tease and start using that book of sex jokes that you’ve probably been waiting to use for a long time.” R.J. immediately smiled as he heard the words escape her lips.

“I like you already,” R.J. replies. “I can see why Chad hired you as you don’t take bullshit.” She then turned on her heels, heading to the pit box to grab her notebook. It was going to a joyous season. “Hey, does she have a boyfrie-”

“Can it,” Ron cuts him off before he can say anymore, which causes the smile to return on R.J.’s face.

“You do like her….”  Ron rolls his eyes, though couldn’t deny it.

“We went out a long time ago, and things just didn’t work. Let’s just say that I may be willing to try things around, but I’m not quite ready to do that just yet.” R.J. shakes his head, understanding.

“Well, I do sincerely wish you guys the best because it’d be great to see you happy. I mean, the boss is happy and Jimmie is happy so you’re up next.” Ron smiles, having figured that.

“I’ll be happy if we run well this weekend so Chad lays off our asses.” R.J. then laughs as he notices Chad and Jimmie heading their way.

“You obviously haven’t picked up anything much these past 14 years, have you?” Ron laughs and shakes his head no as he looks towards the pair.

“Time to get to work boys….” Chad announces as he walks into the garage and over to where Greenlee was standing with notebook in hand. It was going to be a fun weekend.

***********

“We’re smoking guys….” Earl Barber comes over the radio during the first practice as Chad shakes his head. The crew guys immediately begin to make their way down the steps, knowing the process. Some would begin to pull out the back-up motor, while others went to find the heads of the Hendrick Motorsports engine department.

“Blown up?” Chad questions on the radio.

“Not too sure actually,” Jimmie answers, causing puzzled glances from Chad and Ron towards each other.

“10-4.” Chad then climbs down the steps, followed by Ron and Greenlee.

“What could be wrong?” Greenlee asks as they head to the garage stall together.

“We may have lost the motor, may have a leak, or some oil in the intake,” Ron answers. “Didn’t Kasey have that problem at Phoenix?” Chad shakes his head yes, remembering.

The team head into the garage stall, letting the engine guys do their job in looking everything over accordingly. Chad could only glance at the clock and watch the minutes in practice continue to tick away.

“You guys are good to go,” Doug Duchart says as he walks over. “Same deal as Kasey. We figured it out and you should be fine.” Chad looks at the general manager, curiously.

“So we’re not going to blow a motor halfway through the race as a result?” Chad questions and Doug shakes his head no. “Alright. Thanks….” Chad then heads over to the car, set to go about the rest of practice as usual.

The rest of the practice went smoothly, with Jimmie finishing it off sitting fourth on the speed chart.

Despite qualifying in 15th, everybody was confident heading into the event. They started off strongly, with Jimmie working his way into the top-10 and up to sixth. However, the night fell apart with 26 laps to go when he sped on pit road. Restarting tail end of the field, he only got back up to 17th.

“Well, least we had a good car,” Ron comments as they are packing up the pit box.

“Yeah – I guess,” Chad says as he heads off into the garage area.

“Is he always like that?” Greenlee questions, and Ron looks over shaking his head yes.

“He’s very hard on himself and this team to succeed,” Ron starts. “If you can’t handle the pressure, get out of the kitchen now because that’s life with these guys. He takes this very seriously, and expects greatness every week. When it doesn’t happen, he turns crabby. That said, he’s one of the most amazing guys away from the track and will always have your back.”  Greenlee shook her head, understanding as she watched him head off.

“Even if you do something that he’s completely angry about, and wants to question every turn?” Ron looked towards Chad’s direction, knowing what she was referencing right away.

“He’s just doing what he needs to do in order to protect this team and everybody involved. He just wants to make sure we’re making the best decisions that we can.” He then glances over her shoulder at the notes. “I say those look very nice.”

“Thank you.” She then closes the folder with a glance back his way. “Now to spend all night typing it up so Chad has it for the meeting.” Ron knew it was wrong to take this next step, but he was willing to go for it.

“Well, you actually have all day Sunday since we don’t do these meetings always till the Monday. So you can relax for the rest of tonight, spend some time tomorrow typing them up while relaxing. Maybe even go out for a bit with me….” She then looks over, intrigued and caught off-guard. That sounded like a date.

“Oh really?” He could only wonder about her response.

“Like, we could go mini golfing or go get you some things that you need. Whatever ya want.” She felt herself relax instantly, as it wasn’t a date offer.

“That sounds great.”

Back to Square One – Chapter 12: Their Discussion

After reaching the garage area, Greenlee glanced around, trying to figure out the right spot to chat.

“Where can we get some time alone?” She asks as Ron looks at her slightly confused. “We need to talk about what happ-”

“I’m fine,” he answers, wanting to totally avoid the discussion. “Can we just forget about it?” She then lets out a sigh and shakes her head no.

“That just lets it manifest into something bigger. Do you want to do that?” He then lets out a sigh, knowing that wouldn’t be a good idea. However, he still wanted to avoid the discussion. “Now, are you going to give us a spot to talk, or should I question the guys?” He didn’t want the guys knowing something was up, so he grabbed her by the hand, took her across the area away from the trailers, over by the garage stalls. He then walked into where they were parked for the weekend, standing in the middle with his arms crossed.

“Well?” She then lets out a sigh, knowing that this was going to be more difficult then she imagined. It seemed Ron had lost his caring side that he used to have when they were running around together before.

“Well it’s obvious by your little flashback there that you haven’t totally gotten over what happened. So, is that the case? Has that happened before?” Ron rolled his eyes, really hoping to avoid the discussion totally. He knew he’d be hearing about it from Chad and Jimmie anyway once Candiss spoke.

“It hasn’t happened before, okay? As for what happened, it was clear in my mind what was pulled over my head. Hence why I sat that night and told you everything – simply – and you saw where I stood. If this was some big deal on my mind, why would I have sat that night and told you the story?” She knew that she could use that fact to her advantage – he trusted her, and would open to her if not anyone else.

“If it’s happening – even just this once, that means that there’s something ther-”

“People jump out of their skins when they’re surprised, even if nothing has happened to them. Heck, we’re told to have our guard up because of crazy fans wandering these garages. So it transfixed me to another world for a minute – whatever.” She then rolls her eyes, wishing that he’d be more forthcoming.

“I know you’re trying to brush it off like it’s nothing, and be the macho man. I can promise you that it’s not a good fit for you. You’re just going to dig yourself a hole with that because it’s going to manifest into something that you can’t control. It’s better for your own sanity if you handle it.” He knew that she was right, but there was no way to know which direction to go first.

“So maybe I’ve thought about it some. Maybe there’s a couple nights I couldn’t sleep because of it. Maybe it lingers in my mind. What else would you expect having gone through that?” She shakes her head, understanding. It was nice to be making progress.

“Ron, I know exactly what you’re saying because trust me, been through it. You heard my story and know what I’ve been through. I may look like Ms. Confidence now, but I wasn’t always that way. I spent time breaking apart, wondering how I could process everything, for months at a time. But here I am, proof that you can get over those thoughts and return to the normalcy that you know. How did I do it? I talked to those who I was closest with, I confided in them, faced my fears and worked my way through it.” He knew what she meant. It was what Jimmie had already suggested to him before.

“I get the steps. I get the process. It’s just….I don’t know what step to take. I don’t know if there’s that person, or whether that’s what I need to do.” She could understand that, but also saw the excuse mechanism having done that herself.

“You know who your friends are, you know the resources around you. It’s time to figure it out and take the first step or else you’ll be driving yourself in circles for months on end, Ron. I took my step by talking to Ryan, Kendall and my dad. It turned out that those slowly worked. It takes time, it takes hard work – but I know that you can do it.” She then reaches out and grabs his hand. “If I can do it, then you can do it because you’re stronger than me.”

“I don’t know about that. I don’t know if I could’ve gone through everything that you’ve been through.” She knew that there was a lot in her story, but there was a constant.

“I don’t know how I did it sometimes. Truthfully, I think the real reason I did it was for Ryan. There’s nothing that I could say that could describe what we had together. It was magic.” He then smiles as he looks into her eyes. There were times he wondered about a future with her, but there were times like this where he held back. He wondered whether that’d even be possible for her with everything she’d been through.

“You mentioned his ex and what happened to him. How long did it take you to move forward from that?” She then glances down, a couple tears forming in her eyes.

“To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten over his death. I think that’s why I truly screwed up any relationship afterwards, and why I ran away from Pine Valley – trying to escape the ghost, if you will.” Ron then reaches out, rubbing her shoulder.

“For what it’s worth, I think you’ve moved on just fine. I think you’ve taken everything that happened with stride. Look at where your life is now and the wonderful woman you’ve become. I know you say that you’re not totally over what happened to Ryan, but that’s understandable. He was your everything, your world, the man you could only dream about. I don’t think anybody could get over something like that. However, I can tell that you’ve done a tremendous job moving forward. For what it’s worth, if you need someone ever to talk about things or whatever, you’ve got a friend in me.” She then smiles.

“Well, for what it’s worth, you’ve also got a friend in me. If you want to talk about things and why you’ve got all these feelings Ron, you just have to say something and I’ll listen. And Ronnie, it will work out for you – I promise.” He smiles as she pulls him into a hug, rubbing his back. The pair remained like that for awhile before heading back towards the trailer, jumping the rest of the team as they finished packing things up.

Back to Square One – Chapter 11: Packing Up

Thanks for reading and reviewing, and your patience for this chapter.

Another race complete on the schedule. Another usual Talladega crap shit mess that he had come to expect. Why should it be a new feeling that they were once again caught in the midst of a big wreck at Talladega, done for the day before the checkered flag? Letting out a sigh, he swore he hated restrictor plate racing sometimes.

Ron then climbs down the steps, allowing Greenlee to easily follow, as the pair take a couple steps back, watching the crew swarm into action.

“Does this happen after every single race?” She asks and Ron shakes his head yes.

“Each crew member has a job to follow in putting everything away in a timely fashion,” he answers as she shakes her head understanding.

“Organized team work – I like it.” He could see how she understood the deal, given her past work experience with a business of her own.

“So my job is to organize the notes that Chad I have together, and tuck some of them into the drawer marked, well taking some with us. Basically, given that you’re going to be Chad’s note taker, those notes will come with us. So you would have duty in making sure that we both have the right notes with us and right ones in the drawer.” She shakes her head, accepting, as she watches him shuffle through the pieces of paper.

“How will I know what’s important and what’s not?” He then glances up from the stack, looking over at her.

“You’ll get used to it after a couple weeks and figure it out. It all goes based on the type of note written.” He then focuses back to his notes, which she easily allows him to do. She didn’t want to break his concentration as she understood the process. She remembered having to sort orders, invoices, bank information, factory information and marketing information when she was running Fusion.

“So what happens next?” He then glances around, watching the fury of business that normally took place. He hated to see it happening before the final lap was complete, though.

“I make sure everybody is following orders, as if anything is not done right – it’s my fault as car chief. Seeing as though the guys have it mostly packed up and set to go, my job is done. We can head out and go back to the trailer for stage two.” She then easily accepted, though found herself rolling her eyes. So much for this being the simple easy job in which Ron had explained at the house. When did all these rules and factors end?

The pair walked towards the garage, winding their way through with ease. Ron was set to continue the same walk he’d always make, till he felt a hand grab his firmly, catching his attention as he looked towards the source. He missed the face, only catching the blond hair that blew in the wind. His body then let out a shiver as he could only picture in his mind these events happenings before.

“Hel-” I go to let out but never manage to finish the words as I feel a cold, metal object against my forehead. Now, I hadn’t been in these types of deals before – okay, so I dealt with idiots that wouldn’t pay their dues on the streets or were set for a fight, but not some crazy terrorist group type level deal – but I could tell you exactly what was against my temple. I’ll give you two guesses, and the first guess doesn’t count.

“Finish those words and draw attention and you’re going to wish that you never said those words,” she tells me as she grabs my hands, pulling them behind my back. I feel the clamp go over them, no doubt she had some sort of handcuff on them so I couldn’t use them if I wanted.

“You’re not going to get away with this.” She then spins me around, snagging something out of her pocket – I think a handkerchief, I think.

“I already am.” She then ties it around my mouth as the fumes immediately begin to take over. I feel myself getting light on my feet as she pulls me from the direction that we are towards some red object….a car, I think – it looks to have wheels.

I quickly drop the folder out of my hand, not caring if anybody sees the precious secrets of HMS or my notes. Actually, it’d be better if someone did as everyone would know what was happening and come help me.

“Malec!” Candiss yells at the top of her lungs as she flicks her fingers before his face, while Greenlee bends down, picking up the scattered pieces of paper and folder as quickly as she can, filing it back away, not caring whether it was in order or not.

Ron’s eyes immediately flash open, sweat trembling off his body as his eyes immediately meet hers, feeling her gripping him harder than she was earlier. His breathes are quicker than usual, panic settling in his body as glances around.

“Hey, look at me,” she instructs as he goes to look away. “Calm down, it’s just me. I just came to see if you knew where Jimmie and Chad were, that’s all. Nothing more.” He then takes a couple calming deep breathes, letting out a sigh. “Now you gonna tell me what the hell happened there?” Ron wasn’t quite sure if he could explain it himself. It was like the hair sent him through a trial of emotions.

“Flashback of some kind as it seemed he was in a trence,” Greenlee comments as she joins the pair having picked everything up. “I used to get those at one point. I know what they’re like – they’re the worst thing ever. It’s like you know it’s not reality, but nothing to grab on to snap you out of your memory. It’s fine, though, as it’s just us here.” Ron knew that and had kept reminding himself that as he calmed back down.

“I’m sorry,” he apologizes immediately. “It’s just when you grabbed my hand and I saw the hair, it made me think of Hilary.” Candiss simply shakes her head, understanding. She didn’t know what to say in response. What was she supposed to say? How do you handle these situations?

“But you’re okay now and calm, and can continue with ease right?” Ron shakes his head yes as he looks over at Greenlee. “Okay, that’s fine. We’ll just take it easy and then later on, we can talk about what triggered it and why it’s happening.” Ron rolled his eyes as he wasn’t looking forward to that discussion. However, hearing her speak of experience with them, perhaps she was the person she needed to talk to.

“Sure, I guess.” Candiss could only roll her eyes at the comment. She wondered whether Chad or Jimmie knew anything about this, and what else remained from what happened. She had totally left it behind her, not wanting to cross those paths again as it was an experience to not relive. However, she couldn’t help but feel transplanted to the trail events created.

“And if you ever need someone to talk to, besides Greenlee, you can call me,” Candiss states. It seemed like the considerate thing to say given the situation.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Ron answers as he walks back to the hauler, going inside and snagging a bottle of water, quickly downing it.

He wasn’t looking forward to the conversation. He also wasn’t looking forward to more questioning from Jimmie and Chad as he knew that Candiss would say something. He just wanted to make everything disappear.

Why was this happening?

Back to Square One – Chapter 8: The Offer

BacktoSquareOne

Wednesday

Ron walks into the house, smiling as he sees her relaxing on the couch, tuning into something on the television. She glances over and smiles in return.

“I was thinking you’d never come home,” she offers with a glance at the time, seeing as it was 8 o’ clock at night. “I made myself dinner a couple hours ago. There’s leftovers in the microwave for you to warm up.” Ron smiles as he could get used to coming home to a meal already cooked. He wasn’t the best cook himself, so normally dinner consisted of a frozen dinner, some sort of pasta, or whatever basic item he could find.

“Thank you,” he replies as he heads to the kitchen. He opens the microwave, already excited to indulge in the baked chicken and mashed potatoes. He closes the microwave, letting it reheat the food as he looks back in her direction. “As far as being home late, that’s something that you need to get used to with me. Long hours, lots of work put into being successful is the name of the game.”

“Have you always liked being the mechanic more than the driver, or do you sometimes think back whether you could’ve raced yourself?” Ron leans back against the counter and thinks it over. The answer always came to him quickly, even if he could run with the best during those days.

“I was a good driver, but there’s something about turning those wrenches and trying to see what it needs to find that extra edge.” He then hears the microwave beep, taking the food out and carrying it to the living room, sitting beside her on the couch. “By the way, if you’re going to cook awesome meals, I have no problem with you sticking around.”

“Consider it my appreciation for this.” He smiles as he glances at the TV, seeing as she’s watching one of those cliché soap-operas.

“Do you regularly watch this?” She shakes her head as she turns her eyes back to the TV.

“I forgot to watch it earlier today, actually, so I’m watching it now. Gotta love me some Jason Morgan and Sam.” He rolls his eyes, knowing how girls could get with their soaps. It was an immediate invitation to change the topic.

“So, remember how I offered to help find you a job? Well, I think I have an open position for you.” She then looks at him curiously. “Not working for me, but working for my boss.”

“Just because I was one of those girls then doesn’t mean that I know all those car things that you know, Ron.” Ron chuckles as he figured that, seeing how close she was to the crew that she ran with. But he knew something about then that could be useful.

“You were always watching for the smallest detail. Beyond being a helluva racer yourself, you were always watching for the smallest thing to stand out. Remember when you told me that little note on Shaun’s Nova in how it gets squirrely at the 60 foot? Remember when you told me that note about timing the light? You have a fascination for the smallest details.” She couldn’t help but smile as he recalled those memorable moments. It made her feel bad for allowing them to grow apart and watch their friendship fade.

“So what does that deal with working on a race team?” He smiles, remembering the discussion with Jimmie.

“Our crew chief – team leader if you will, Chad Knaus, is looking to hire a new notetaker for shop meetings. He just doesn’t want to hire anybody, but someone he can trust and someone that pays attention to details. You’d sit in on every meeting and make up notes, while helping to input his notes, as well as other engineer notes, into the system.” The job sounded like one that she could handle, and perhaps enjoy in being around cars and the guys more. It’d be nice to see Jimmie, again.

“Someone that he can trust. How do you know that he’ll trust me? You, yourself, even said that you didn’t know if you could fully trust me yet but were willing to give me a chance.” Ron shakes his head, remembering the conversation. He also could feel himself opening up quicker than he thought with each of their moments together.

“It’s different than that. He’ll trust you because you’re not coming from another team so he knows that you’re not a spy. Heck, you don’t know the people down here so it’s not like you can be guilty by association. Furthermore, he knows that we’re friends and we have a past together so he knows that you’ll keep the notes in house. So, what do you say?” From her standpoint, it was an easy answer.

“Yes. It sounds like something that I could handle, and will allow me to land my feet here in Charlotte.” Ron smiles as he was glad it had worked out. He already wanted to text Jimmie the happy news.

“You’ll come to the shop with me tomorrow and meet Chad and the guys. If you fit his approval, he will hire you on the spot; with my recommendation and Jimmie’s, you’ll be fine. You will then begin with next weekend’s Monday morning shop meeting. We’ll get some team attire that’s your size to wear. You will also be attending races on the weekends – this weekend to see what goes on, next weekend working. Is that a deal?” She shakes her head, accepting. She always liked traveling before when she had her cosmetic line and spreading news about it. She couldn’t wait to travel again, but this time to experience different race tracks. There was nothing like being at a track, whether a drag strip or oval, in her mind.

“That’s a deal. Thank you for the opportunity.” He then gets up with a glance towards her.

“Don’t thank me. Thank Jimmie. He gave me the idea.” He then walks away from her and heads to the kitchen as she looks in his direction surprised.

“Jimmie knows that I am here?” He then turns back to face her, letting out a sigh. Perhaps that wasn’t the best way for her to find out. Now she knew that he was talking about her to other people.

“I was a little tired when I got to the shop as I was up later than normal las-”

“Sorr-”

“So I was taking a quick nap before the meeting. Jimmie woke me up and asked what was up, and I sort of blurted it out. He was rather accepting.” He then heads down the hall to his room, knowing that he needed a good shower.

It was also a good way to escape discussing the topic further. He didn’t want to tell her the real reason for the nap in his office, just like he didn’t tell Jimmie for the real reason for the nap. Those were demons and thoughts that he’d rather keep to himself as there was no way that he could find words to say them out loud. It took every ounce of strength the night before to tell Greenlee what he did.

Back to Square One – Chapter 6: Morning

BacktoSquareOne

Ron stretches as he walks down the hall, though pauses once he gets halfway. He sniffs as his eyesbrows raise in curiosity. He then continues the walk, making his way into the kitchen surprised.

“Good morning,” he hears as he gives his head a shake. He didn’t expect that she’d be up that early at 7 making breakfast in his kitchen. He glances at the frying pan, seeing an egg, before glancing over at the second pan that contained bacon.

“Morning,” he says quietly as he fits the coffee pot with water before turning it on.

“You looked surprised….” He shrugs his shoulders as he leans back against the counter.

“It’s like 7 in the morning and you’re awake. You’re also making breakfast in my kitchen, one that doesn’t have much food in it to begin with.” She shrugs her shoulders as she glances over at him.

“I’m used to getting up early. I always go for a morning jog to help keep in shape, and to think about things. I also like a good breakfast and when I noticed that you had no food, I knew that’d be a problem. So I jogged to the local grocery store, bought some things, and brought them back to make.” He could only manage an impressed glance as he hadn’t expected this at all. Given her shady past and not knowing much about her, he was wondering the night before if she’d lie around once morning hit. However, here she stood, in his kitchen, cooking.

“I commend you for the workout routine, and as far as breakfast, I don’t keep the house stalked as I normally don’t eat much. A couple pieces of toast with jam or peanut butter and a coffee and I’m out of here, set for work.” She shakes her head, understanding. Ron seemed like he was the hard working type that divulged 100% effort into anything that he set his mind on. She noticed that during their time spent around each other in California.

“Well, for this morning, let me offer you a change. Perhaps you’ll take the advice about making sure to have a good breakfast every morning.” He pours himself a cup of coffee as he ponders it over. He always taught to be respectful, and that meant not turning down offers especially after someone put hard work into it.

“Deal – but I can’t stay here past 8-”

“It’ll be ready in about three minutes, so you can eat and get dressed in a timely fashion. I wouldn’t want to make you late.” He smiles, shaking his head in approval. He then takes a seat at the table, as he watches her cook the field in awe.

It seemed no matter how you judged a person, you could never be certain of your judgment. He had judged Candiss as a total badass and someone to avoid, but yet she’d grown as close as hell with Jimmie. He had formed a couple thoughts in his mind about Greenlee the night before, but yet found some of those proven wrong by her actions that morning.

Perhaps this wasn’t such a bad arrangement after all.

Once the food was cooked and ready, she prepared a pair of plates, setting one of them in front of him before in the chair alongside with hers. He looked at the plate, his taste buds thanking him already for staying, as he smelt the bacon, eggs and toast.

Perhaps she was on to something about having breakfast in the morning.

“Is it okay?” She asks after a couple of bites and he shakes his head yes.

“This is really good,” he answers as his eyes focus on her. He couldn’t help but want to get to know her more. “Where did you learn to cook?”

“Eggs and bacon are nothing fancy, but it was my mom that taught me. She said that I should know so that way I can keep my man well fed. I don’t know anything too complex, just some of the basics and enough to get by.”

“Well, it is good.” He then focuses back on his food, contemplating the next topic for discussion. He knew he couldn’t avoid it all morning as the curiosity would kill him. He left her that night with a decision to make, and now wondered what she’d decided. “So, what are you going to do now?”

“I can’t honestly see myself returning home, not yet anyway. California has enough bad traces, probably more so my fault for what I did then.” Ron chuckles, but has to shake his head in agreement as he knew the stories of her antics. “Pine Valley just brings forth too much heartbreak and anger due to everything I told you. That’s why I felt that a new beginning, somewhere like North Carolina, was perfect.”

“Well, I told you last night that you could say as long as you need to – as long you cause me no iss-”

“I’m done with drama, Malec.” He wanted to believe those words and inside, he truly hoped that she was telling him the truth. However, he couldn’t help but wonder about what could happen moving forward.

“I want to believe you, but I don’t know if I can fully do so yet. Hence why I gave you the agreement.” She shakes her head, understanding. She knew that there was a layer of trust that needed to be built. “If you’re serious about starting things over down here, though, I may be able to help. I know some people that own race teams, restaurants, mechanical shops and places around here. Perhaps I could bring your name up to those individuals if they’re looking for an extra hand and get you a job. From there, you can work at seeing the direction that you want to go, whatever that may be.”

“I’d appreciate that, honestly. I actually can’t thank you enough for having this belief in me and wanting to help me.” Ron glances over at her with a sly smile, feeling her cheeks grow warmer.

“Maybe it’s the crush talking, maybe it’s sympathy, but I want to help. Oh, and don’t worry about rent. As long as you help out with meals and cleaning, I’ll call it covered.” She found herself locked on the word crush as it was the first time that he had admitted liking her to any degree. Were those pondering thoughts of last night actually worth something?

“Did I just hear you say the word ‘crush’?” He feels his cheeks go even warmer at her question.

“I’ve always had a soft spot for you, Greenlee. It was just I questioned whether I wanted to throw myself into your world.” He then gets up from the table and places his pate in the sink. “Breakfast was wonderful. Thank you. Feel free to steal the shower if you want, and if you need some clothes, you can grab something from my cupboard.”

“So that’s it?” He then looks at her curiously. “You’re just going to leave me with that comment?”

“I have nothing else to say. We’ll see how things go, where our friendship goes, and how those feelings go. I have some things to think about and consider, and you have a past to think about before moving forward.”

She was about to argue in response, but taking a deep breath, she could only shake her head in agreement.

There was no way that she could dive into another relationship right now. She still had her past feelings for Leo and Ryan, and what happened to them. Was she ready to move past that? Was she ready to put Ron first? Was she ready to find any compromise?

Furthermore, she understood the reasons for his hesitation. She knew the mistakes of her past and the things that she had done. She knew the boundaries that she continued to push. She knew that she had lost the respect of some, and knew that she had plenty of wrong decisions through the years. While she was ready to move past those, she knew that not everybody would be ready to move forward with her – wanting to see examples of that first.

It was for that reason that she simply cleared her throat and said, “I understand, and agree. You’re welcome for breakfast, but thank you for giving me a chance to stay here.”

“You’re welcome,” he replies with a simple smile before leaving the room.

Back to Square One – Chapter 5: Agreement

BacktoSquareOne

Ron gets up off of the couch, glancing at the time as he looks back over at her.

“Alright well you can stay the night and then figure out what you want to do in the morning,” he tells her simply as she shakes her head yes, accepting. “You can either head back to Pine Valley, get a hold of someone or…perhaps stay here for awhile as you get your feet set solidly.” Her eyes brows look over at him raised.

“You seriously would let me stay here for awhile?” She questions as Ron takes a deep breath. It was the option on the list that he debated even putting there. She was a great person and he had really enjoyed the time that they spent together a long time ago. He also felt bad for her in everything that she had gone through, ranging from Leo to Ryan to Kendall. However, he also couldn’t find himself to fully trust her. There were some questions as to what stunts she may pull in the future, and whether her games were done and out the window. He didn’t need to end up caught up in another mess.

“Let’s just say that I feel for you, and still consider you a friend. With that said, I can’t do anything that risks anything so I suggest that you keep your behavior in line.” She then shakes her head, understanding as she stands up and walks over to him.

“Can’t trust me yet?” He swallows the lump that forms in his throat as he looks into her eyes. There was something about her that always turned him on.

“I know the games that you’ve played in the past, Greenlee. It seems those have continued over the years. I can’t risk what I have right now. That’s all I’m saying.” She grabs his hand firmly with hers, sending a shooting rage of heat through him.

“I want to put the mistakes of my past behind me and move forward, Ron. You can trust me not to cause any trouble.” He shakes his head accepting as she lets go. “Do you want me to take the cou-” He found himself tempted to welcome her to his room, but knew that it was too soon for that on many levels.

“Spare bedsroom is just down the hall from mine. You can sleep there.”

“That’s fine.”

Once they both got ready for bed, they traded good night wishes and retreated back to their own rooms.

Ron flopped back in his bed, still surprised by everything that she had gone through over the years since their lives took them in different directions. He knew that if he went through something similar he’d be nothing like she was but rather broken into pieces. Heck, the stunt with David and Hilary almost did that alone.

He also found himself still heavily attracted to her, wanting to be close with her, and test those waters. It seemed those feelings from before hadn’t wavered at all during the years. However, he couldn’t ever bring himself to voice those concerns. The apprehension remained. What if she wasn’t done her games? What if it just brought a world of turmoil? He didn’t want to be stuck in the midst of some of her stunts as she seemed to find a way of always attracting trouble.

Down the hall, Greenlee got comfortable in the bed. She was beyond thankful that Ron had found her at the side of the road. She could only imagine what would’ve happened if she was been out there any longer.

She debated returning back to Pine Valley. It’d be nice to see Kendall and Bianca once again. However, she knew that she couldn’t do that. The place always brought drama to her life, and she didn’t know if she could face everyone after what had happened. It was for the best that she put the distance that she had created between herself and that place.

She also found herself thinking about Ron a lot and the discussion that took place between the pair. She even chuckled as she thought about the feelings that she had for him. Everybody kept their eyes on Jimmie, but she was the one who had her eyes on Ron. She remembered pursuing him, and how he pulled away with the racing dreams. She even contemplated now whether it’d be a good idea to go back down that road.

Though her eyes then glance down at the ring that remained on her finger as she lets out a sigh. There were no words that could describe how much she missed both Leo and Ryan. There were no words to explain how much she wanted to see them both once again. She knew it’d be difficult to love once again with them in the back of her mind. She knew that it’d almost feel like a betrayal, and there were guys out there that wouldn’t accept that she still loved a piece of someone else.

Would she ever be able to move forward without being knocked back two steps?

No matter the thoughts on both of their minds, they knew something was true about that night – they were both back to square one. Ron on figuring his best way to move past the street racing and what happened, and Greenlee on figuring the best way to move forward with her life.