Cabin Fears – Chapter 65: “Can we set something up, please?”

Jeff was focused on some notes on his desk, knowing that things needed to get done in relation to this year and the time ahead. There was never a dull moment, it seemed, and he had grown to respect the job of being the ‘boss’.

As he was flips over the latest piece of paper, he hears a knock on the door, causing him to look up.

“You know you can just enter without asking first, right?” Jeff questions and Chase nods his head as he steps forward.

“I didn’t want to interrupt you if you were busy,” he offers as Jeff rolls his eyes.

“I never get a dull moment, so you’ll find that time.” He then focuses his eyes on the man before him. “So I wasn’t expecting to see you here today. What can I do for you?” Chase takes a deep breath, remembering why he entered the office to begin with.

“I am getting closer to wanting to make a comeback – like real close actually.” Jeff then looks on surprised.

“Really?” Chase nods his head. “That’s surprising, considering our last discussion just a couple weeks ago had you believing that it could be a month or more…” Jeff also knew of the psychological deals that were still going on, too.

“Something about being at Darlington, seeing that paint scheme, going through all of my thoughts – it made me want to focus on getting back at it, again. I want to drive…” Jeff knew the desperation of drivers to want to compete. He remembered facing that balance himself when he finally chose to give it up. Part of him knew he could do it and part of him wanted to compete for wins, but the other part realized how long he’d be racing for and how his back had gone over the years.

“That doesn’t surprise me, really, because you’re a racer at heart.” Chase then crosses his arms, glad that they’ve made progress.

“So, can we set something up, please? Like a test, or perhaps an XFINITY deal?” Jeff thinks it over, as he pushes back on his chair. He couldn’t see why not as he knew this time would come eventually.

“I can talk to the guys and talk to NASCAR. I’m sure we can work out a test for you – if you’re serious enough. Then we can go from there.”  Chase nods his head in approval. “You just have to answer me two questions before I move forward. Is the fact that you can come back prior to Chicago and be in the playoffs part of this?” Chase shakes his head no.

“I hadn’t even given championship contention a thought, to be honest. This is all done on the feeling of the moment.” Jeff nods his head, accepting.

“Then riddle me this. You said that you didn’t want to come back till you had sorted out everything in relation to Randy due to how you handled it previously. Now given what I’ve heard, there’s still a lot of issues there – anxiety, panicing, fear. There’s also the mind games that he played. I also have a feeling that you haven’t quite discussed ‘everything’ that you should, either. Am I on to something here?” Chase lets out a sigh and nods his head. “Then why should we move forward despite your original statement?”

“I’ve dealt with most of everything that happened and come to grips with it. I am coming to grips with it a little more each day as I sort out my thoughts. I believe getting back behind the wheel will help complete the puzzle. It’ll let me find that common ground that I feel I am missing. I am racer. That’s what I’ve been before anything else. Without that, it’s almost as if something is missing and he has possibly stripped that away from me. I want to be able to stand here and say that’s not the truth.” Jeff nods his head, understanding. He could see how it was another layer of the mind games played by Randy.

“My only concern is how NASCAR will handle your anxiety and panic factor, and knowing you’re currently taking something for that. It may be against the drug policy, and be a cause for concern in relation to emotions.” Chase glances down as he sits down in the chair.

“I can’t blame them if they say no. But you know yourself that each person is different and unique in their own way with their corks. You know that there’s layers of that in each person and understand what I am taking. You have to sense that they’ll get that, too, and realize that it won’t be a big deal on track.” Jeff nods his head, hoping that was the case.

“We’ll just have to see, right? I mean, I’m just preparing you for the worst.” Chase nods his head, accepting. “By the way, have you come any closer to grips with that?”

“Like I said, it’s a little day-by-day. I had a good discussion with Tony on the weekend about mind games and been thinking about that as I piece together each thing. It’s certainly helping me keep the calmness that I need. But I will admit – I still can’t speak of the ice incident as much as I should to get that edge back off of my mind. I still can’t stand to be alone in a crowd with people that I don’t know. I still feel a tinge of fear that something will happen again because that’s what keeps happening. I still think about him, and I still think about Demi. There are still thoughts, there. But I feel that I am halfway.”

“And you feel that’s far enough to take this next step of getting back to racing?” Chase nods his head. “You’re not going to fall into that trap again of focusing on racing, and letting the other eat at you till it causes you to explode?” Chase shakes his head no.

“I learned my lesson the first time, Jeff, and there’s no way I could run from Alyssa.” Jeff smiles, knowing how close the pair had grown over the years. He had a couple small regrets in seeing Alyssa and Leo split up, but knew it had worked out for the better. Alyssa was happy with Chase, and Leo had Elladee.

“Alright. Then I’m willing to play ball. But Chase, balance is key……”

Through the week, Jeff worked through the right people and got them contacting who needed to be contacted. It was agreed that they’d converge next Sunday at Charlotte and go from there with a test.

But first, Richmond was on tap in hopes of another successful weekend for Alyssa…..

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Moving Forward – Chapter 41: Groomsmen

TJ Majors walks into the saloon, glancing around as he notices Chase sitting on one of the stools.

He was surprised when he gotten the message from Marie to meet at the saloon that evening. He knew there was a lot going on, and wondered whether it pertained to Dale’s healing from the concussion. There was also thoughts and speculation in regards to the wedding, too. Regardless, he simply accepted the message and went to the saloon.

“What are you doing here?” He asks and as he walks to Chase, grabbing the stool beside him. Chase shrugs his shoulders as he looks around.

“I dropped the girls off at the house and Dale asked if I’d go down to the saloon, and he’d meet me in a couple minutes,” Chase answers as TJ looks on puzzled. Did Dale know of the request from Marie? Had he asked Marie to pass along the message? “What’s your excuse?”

“Do I need an excuse?” Chase shrugs his shoulders, once again. “Actually, Marie told me to come down here.”

“Really?” TJ shakes his head yes, taking out his phone to show the text message. “Don’t worry – I believe you. What’s up with that?” TJ couldn’t answer the question as he had no clue, either.

“If Dale shows up and I’m not supposed to be here, I guess I’ll text Marie and tell her that we can talk elsewhere, or whatever.”

“Well this is a surprise,” the pair hears as they look behind them and see Steve LeTarte standing there. “Ingrid tells me that Dale wants to talk to me, says to meet at the saloon, and I find you two.”

“I was told by Marie and he was told by Dale,” TJ states as Steve takes a seat on the couch in the corner.

“So we’ve all been pulled here one way or another, and there’s a wedding set to take place here in a couple months,” Steve starts. “Coincidence huh?”

“Well, that’s one way to ruin my surprise,” Dale starts as he stands up from his spot behind the bar. “Jeff here, yet?” Jeff puts his hand up as he walks in through the front door. “Glad to see you’re all here.”

“Can we ask first how you are?” Jeff asks as Dale lets out a sigh. He knew the question was coming. After all, he had spent the last month and a half in hiding without any contact with hardly anybody.

“I can happily say that I’ve seen a lot of improvement over the past while. It’s pretty much almost cleared up from what I can tell, except for a couple lagging deals in some exercises and the simulator. If everything plans out right, I’ll be testing next month.” The group look on with surprise and smiles as it was great news to hear. It was perfect news to be hearing as they started November.

“So you got a month and a half till you marry a Queen, and yet you’re somehow squeezing a test and Christmas in before that?” TJ questions as Dale shrugs his shoulders.

“Welcome to my life – where we balance everything wild all at once,” he states. “That brings me to why you all are here. As you know, Marie told the bridesmaids that they were going to be part of the wedding – Kelley, Ingrid and Sherry, with Stacey as the maid of honor. Alyssa and Elsa are set to be the flower girls, surprise surprise, while Wyatt is the ring barrier.” Everybody could only smile as it sounded like the perfect combination for the wedding. “Since someone spoiled my surpris-”

“I’m sorry,” Steve quickly apologies as Dale rolls his eyes.

“This is the meeting of the groomsmen,” he states as the group trade glances. “Chase, you’ve been there amazingly for my family, especially Alyssa, over the past year more than I could ever ask. It’s only fitting that you’re part of the wedding.” He then looks over at Jeff. “And I’ve known you for a long time, and you’ve always been a close friend and someone to lean on. We made a pair of killer teammates, have a friendship for a life time, and I think it’d be fitting for you to be there in January.”

“It’d be an honor,” Jeff comments as he could only smile. Part of him was still in disbelief that Dale was getting married in just a couple months.

“TJ, I don’t think I need to explain why you’re here. We’ve known each other way too long, and you’ve always been my righthand man. There’s no question about you being part of the wedding, and I expect to see Madelynn there as I know Wyatt wants a dance.” TJ chuckles as he had gotten to see how close Wyatt was growing with his daughter.

“I’ll see if her schedule is open,” TJ teases as Dale gives him a smack. “Hey! I’m paying you back with the bachelor par-”

“There’s going to be no wild party before the wedding,” Dale sets the record straight as TJ looks on surprised. “There’s so much other important stuff going on that I just want to focus on what’s ahead, okay?” TJ lets out a sigh.

“I’m sure you can find another reason to plan a party,” Chase tells him as TJ just rolls his eyes.

“Of course, I’ve stated that everybody is in the wedding except for one important detail. Steve, I would like you to be my best man.” Steve looks on, partially surprised. “You’ve done so much for me, personally. You helped me grow as a person and change into the man I am now. You were also there through all the turmoil with Marie, whether it was flying cross the country or listening to my crazy ran-”

“Hey, you were right about that resemblance though,” Steve says, reminding him of the discussion about the Mariela and Marie scrapbook photo.

“Don’t remind me of that,” Dale comments as Chase shakes his head in agreement. “But you did everything you could during that time to be there for me. Then you also were there for Marie, helping her when I couldn’t. I mean, without you, sometimes I wonder just how that would’ve went down. Of course, I don’t even need to think about that anymore than the plane crash. My daughter is here today because you risked your life, and did what you had to do save her. I told you that day there was no way I could repay you for what you did, and I still don’t know how I could. I could go on for days as to my reasons, but please, be my best man.” Steve smiles and shakes his head yes.

“I’d be glad to stand there with you.”

“So what do us boys have to do to get ready for dream wedding?” Jeff asks, remembering protocol for groomsmen from other weddings.

“Buy tuxedos, white dress t-shirts, and please carry the light blue hankerchief to match the design and dress,” Dale states as Chase’s eyes open in surprise.

“Please tell me you haven’t seen her wedding dress,” Chase comments and Dale shakes his head no. “You know it’s bad luck to see the dress before the wedding, right? Like, please, no taking peeks. You don’t need to tempt fate.”

“I wouldn’t think of it, Chase. I want this day to go off without a hitch just as much as you do.”

Marie smiled as she looked on from outside watching the boys interact together, knowing her thoughts were along the same lines as Dale’s.

As she heads back up to the house – Elsa in hand, Alyssa running up the hill, her mind was stuck on the words that Dale had shared about the past and why he made the choice he did.

She thought about the words that Kelley had told her. She didn’t need someone to walk her down the aisle, but if she wanted someone, then she could ask someone that meant a lot to her to do so –as Kelley had asked her brother.

She knew that Steve made perfect sense as the best man, but what if she needed someone for the walk to the alter?

Cabin Fears – Chapter 38: Hendrick Motorsports

Chase Elliott takes a deep breath, before he walks down the long familiar walkway that he’d grown used to in the big complex. Each area was sectioned off in a certain way  with executives one way, accounting another,  marketing in their corner, followed by drivers and crew chiefs with their own office area.

While normally a Monday morning consisted of heading to his own office, followed by meeting up with Alan somewhere, he instead had another spot to head to.

Since the discussion with Regan and Tony over the weekend, he had been doing some thinking as to what he wanted to do in the following days. He had sent a text message to Jeff with his initial thoughts on Sunday while they were fresh on his mind, with the promise to stop-in Monday to discuss further as needed.

The decision he came to wasn’t easy, as he fought the back and forth argument Tony had discussed. When do the needs for yourself and your brain outweigh your heart and desires to be behind the wheel? How do you balance that all together, knowing everything else filling your thoughts?

It was worth noting as he walked down the hall the last time he stepped in these halls was when he followed Jeff to the conference room, the note he found secured firmly in his fingers. That was not a thought lost on him, either.

Stopping as he reached the end of the hall, he knocks on the door, taking another deep breath. This didn’t seem so difficult last night when he sent the message, but he couldn’t help but be nervous. What if everybody wasn’t as accepting as he hoped?

“Come on in,” he hears, opening the door and walking inside. It was still surreal to think one of the drivers that he looked up to, and a partial initial coach for his move up to Cup, was now his day-to-day boss. “Hey Chase.”

“Hey,” was all Chase could muster with the nerves flowing through his mind as he walked up to the desk. He slowly sits down in the chair, not sure what he was preparing himself for. “Did you get my text last night?”

“Yeah, I read it this morning.” Chase shakes his head, knowing that by the quick response Jeff sent in when he’d be available to talk within his schedule.

“I didn’t mean to send it so late last night, or tell you that way. It’s just everything was on my mind, and I figured I’d get it out while I could.” Jeff shakes his head, understanding.

“Chase, you don’t need to explain things to me. I was there when Tony, Regan and your dad discussed things. I heard what was going on. I was also at the hospital for that week, too. I’ve known about the whole situation since the beginning. Do you remember what I told you at the very beginning in the conference room?” Chase shakes his head yes, remembering those words.

“Focus on yourself and Alyssa, and don’t worry about anything else right now as that’s priority.” Jeff knew the reaction from Marshall wasn’t pleasant – the guy thought of the business side too much, but it didn’t matter to him. He knew he was doing the right thing for his friend, and knew Rick would easily side with him.

“That’s still priority. You’ve won us championships and races. You’ll always damn well have a ride with this team no matter what, whether it takes a couple months or the rest of the year. I don’t care. I will work it out some way or another, whether it’s Jimmie in the car or Leo filling in. You don’t need to come and explain yourself to me, Chase. I get it.” Chase felt all the nerves escape him in a minute, glad that he wasn’t getting the lecture he had originally anticipated.

“Are you sure?” Jeff shakes his head yes, knowing he couldn’t convince himself otherwise. “Like I said, I think it’ll be a couple months based on everything I’m thinking and feeling. However, it may be the rest of the year. I’ll probably give you a better update in October.” Jeff didn’t care about the exact deadlines.

“You don’t have to feel the need to update me and inform me. Just do what you need to do for yourself and when you’re ready, even if it’s just a week before, let me know. We will make it work regardless.” Chase smiled as it helped to have understanding amongst the mess. “I’ll handle talking to Marshall and working things out; you just focus on yourself. However, since you’re here, someone stopped in for the day and requested that you go see him.”

“Rick?” Jeff shakes his head yes. With Jeff on his side, he wasn’t too worried about that discussion. “That’s fine. I can deal.”

“Good. Now, if you have nothing else to say, I better go see Marshall before he goes insane.” Chase chuckles a little as he stands up.

“I’ll go see Rick, and then check in with the guys.”

“Sounds good.” Jeff then walks around, giving Chase a hug. “I meant what I said and Chase, it’ll be okay – just like I told you.”

“I’ve got my girl, that’s all that matters.” Chase then turns around and heads out. Jeff walks back behind his desk, dialing Marshall’s number to get him to come down.

Jeff glanced at the files on the desk, wishing Marshall would’ve kept them in his office as they didn’t matter to him. He knew how NAPA and the other sponsors worked –they’d be fine with Jimmie driving, and have Chase’s back till he was ready.

“I just saw Chase go walking down the hall,” Marshall says as he enters the office, before glancing back outside. “Isn’t he supposed to be her-”

“He doesn’t need to be,” Jeff cuts off Marshall, catching the fellow gentleman’s attention. “That boy has enough on his plate right now with everything that he’s going through. I told him I have it handled.” Marshall then walks up to the desk, a look of surprise on his face.

“So in other words, everything that I’ve flown here on your desk isn’t supposed to matter?” Jeff then sits back and crosses his arms.

“Precisely, yes. I care about hi-”

“Perhaps letting that affect your judgem-”

“And what would your father-in-law say to this, Marshall?” Marshall then lets out a sigh, already knowing Rick’s answer. “That’s what I thought.” Jeff then takes a deep breath, not exactly liking that he had to pull that card. He knew that Marshall was about the business side – and that was a good perspective to always have, but sometimes he crossed the line. “Listen, Chase has just gotten done healing from the physical injuries; however, he’s got a lot of other stuff going on. He’s dealing with nightmares, panic attacks, moments he can’t remember what he did – I could say more but I don’t think I need to, right?”

“No, I supposed not. I get what you’re coming from. So, what’s your plan with this?” Jeff looks at the files, immediately closing them as he hands them back over. “Really?”

“Each of the sponsors has been called personally by me. I called them before Chase got here this morning. They assured me that they are willing to back him and the team through this, no matter what, and be patient with his recovery. Besides, they’re pleased with how Jimmie has been running so there are no complaints. You had nothing to worry about on that side, Marshall.” Marshall then takes a deep breath, knowing that’d calm the marketing and accounting departments in hearing that news. He had them working on extra plans, just in case.

“So how much longer is Chase going to be out?” Jeff shrugged his shoulders, remembering Chase’s answer. “Okay, that’s fair. How much longer does Jimmie want to fill in, and how much longer do we hold the seat open?”

“Jimmie has said that he’s willing to do the rest of this year, except maybe a couple events. I’ve already looked at other options, whether fellow drivers not racing right now or XFINITY, to take over the seat if need be. As far as holding his seat open, I told him that it’ll be there no matter how long it tak-”

“Your caring side is getting in the wa-”

“The sponsors are fine with that, too, if it makes you happy. I told them that Chase may be out a couple months, maybe the rest of the year. They easily accepted. If we get to next year and he’s still not ready, I’ll revisit with him and then touch base with the sponsors. I have this under control, Marshall.” Marshall shakes his head as he picks up the files.

“Glad to see that you’re handling it. But Jeff, just keep in mind to not mix too much personal and business.” Jeff knew where Marshall was coming from, but he also knew the philosophy they’d followed for years.

“This isn’t a business. This isn’t just a race team. This is a family, everybody here in this complex, and a family looks after each other. Remember that when you’re thinking about things. I know Rick put you in charge because you do a helluva job with the business end, but sometimes you need to relax a little.” Marshall knew that Jeff was right, but was too proud to admit it as he turned and left the office with another word.

Down the hall, Chase found Rick busy at first so he went to see the guys, before returning to the boss’ office.

“You wanted to see me, sir?” Chase asks as he walks in the office, feeling the nerves that were there earlier with Jeff.

“I wanted to see how you were doing,” Rick answers as he takes in the young man’s appearance before him.

“I’m doing better, sir. Everything is healing accordingly for the doctors that they feel the stitches should be nothing to worry about soon. As far as everything else, that’s another story.” Rick motions for Chase to sit beside him on the couch, which Chase easily does.

“A little bit of the same before?” Chase didn’t want to divulge into details, but he felt he owed Rick the honesty.

“Nightmares and flashbacks are there once again. I’m also having panic attacks, and they’re worse than what we dealt with before. I completely panic, go about a series of actions without a single thought, and then snap out of it wondering why I did it. It was how I ended up in Canada with $2 million trying to save Alyssa myself, and how I ran into Tony this past weekend.” Rick had seen the series of events with Chase, previously. He was surprised to see how far they’d gotten this time.

“Have you spoken to anybody about this?” Chase wished he had a better answer at this time.

“Regan and Tony, a little – and Alyssa about some of her concerns. I haven’t divulged to anybody totally.” Chase then takes a deep breath. “It’s hard. I know I got to deal with it, but I don’t want to. I don’t want to remember or relive that. I don’t want to believe it happened. That’s been how I’ve dealt with things, you know? That’s why I ran before and why I got myself so sick that weekend. I know it’s wrong, but it’s what my subconscious keeps telling me.” Rick wraps an arm around Chase’s shoulders.

“Listen, I think you’re just being too hard on yourself right now. You’re right that you’re not taking the right steps initially, but anybody would understand why you haven’t followed through with the according steps. Look at everything you’ve been through. You don’t need to sit here and eat at yourself for not doing the right thing.” Chase knew Rick was probably right in those words, but it still didn’t seem to change his ways.

“I’ve always been the one to say that you take experiences, look back on them, find what you did wrong, and damn well do it right the next time. I’ve told myself that numerous times. Here I am knowing what I’m doing wrong, and I can’t follow throu-”

“Chase, it’s okay, though. Everybody understands, and you should yourself too, that it’s difficult because it’s tough right now on you to do so. It’s tough to face those moments and go through that. At least you’re realizing what you’re doing and in the right time, you’re going to do the right thing and handle it. The first step is recognition. The second step is determining your strategy – which I can see you’re doing now. You’re feeling out who you can talk to, whether that’s Regan, Tony or someone else. Once you’re certain, you’ll go through with it and do the right thing. I know that.” Chase hoped that Rick was right in those words, but the uncertainty he told Regan about still remained at times.

“I suppose….”

“Everything is going to be okay, no matter what. I can promise you that.” Once again, Chase hoped those words were true as he heard everybody saying them around him. Perhaps he just needed to push himself to believe more like everyone else. “And remember – like I told you previously, my door is always open. We’re all here for you.”

“Thank you, sir.” Rick then shook his head as he glanced around the room.

“It’s crazy that you’ve been driving for me for like 14 years now and you still haven’t dropped the sir.” Chase chuckles a little.

“I was brought up to give respect, and sir, you still deserve that respect.” Rick just smiles as he looks over at him.

“I remember I met you as a little rascal teenager, and signed you to a development deal. I knew you’d turn into a great racecar driver by what I’d seen, and had faith that you’d turn out alright. I can tell you now that you’ve turned into quite the young man and done your fair share of things right – even with everything against you. Don’t ever change.”

“I don’t plan on it. It’s worked for me so far.”

Cabin Fears – Chapter 29: The Meeting

Tony Stewart walks outside, turning the corner and making the quick work down to the next hauler, meeting face-to-face with Kevin Harvick. He was surprised to still see him racing, but had to chuckle as it reminded him a lot of himself. For some, there was no way to get the racing out of them.

“You  know, it’s a lot harder than you may think to wrangle up that group and get them to stay in a room calm without many details,”  Kevin starts as Tony crosses his arms. “Between the questions to the worry to the demanding of answers, to what the heck is going on – I give up with them. Why did you put me in charge?”

“Because I knew you could handle it as best as anybody here, and thank you,” Tony tells him. “Besides, I couldn’t say much or else they’d be stomping down the doors till they found him.” Kevin then looks at Tony curiously, stopping Tony as he goes to walk inside.

“Is he alright?” Tony stops, looking at Kevin with a sincere smile.

“He’s good right now, let me put it that way. It’s just going to take time working through everything, and I want to make sure that these people know what’s going on.” Kevin shakes his head yes as he understands, allowing Tony to enter.

Tony walks through the trailer, up the small set of stairs and opening the door. He glances around the room, seeing the group – including a face he didn’t text message – before stepping inside and closing the door.

“What the hell is going on, Tony?” Alyssa demands first, catching Tony’s attention.

“Where’s my son?” Cindy asks as she crosses her arms, giving Tony the equivalent to a stare down.

“Why haven’t you told us much of anything?” Dale questions as Tony sits back in the one open seat, spinning around the chair before looking at the group.

“Any other questions that you have?” He asks as he glances around. “No? Okay, then maybe I’ll start talking. For the record, Alyssa, I am going to explain what’s going on. Cindy, your son is currently having a well-needed in one of the other haulers in the lounge, at my request. He kind of appeared to look to need it. And Dale, that’s because I wanted to do it this way rather than in pieces over text message and make you go looking for him. Happy? Okay! Now that I’ve answered those, I will say what I called you here for.” He then looks over at Regan. “But wait, why are you here?”

“Dale told me to come,” Regan states with a glance towards Dale.

“When Chase is going through something and needs someone to talk to, most of the time he goes Regan,” Dale starts. “I figured it’d be fitting that he heard this.” Tony shakes his head, completely understanding. He figured the kid had a support system and tried to message those he knew were probably part of it, but figured he’d miss one or two. He was glad that Dale picked up on the fact to call Regan.

“Quite fitting indeed,” Tony comments as he takes a deep breath. Where was he supposed to begin? “So I was making my way back to the hauler after having met with some of the team in the garage to discuss things and I heard someone let out a sound, so I looked with curiosity – and it was Chase. He had tripped over a rock, causing him to let out a curse of word of his choi-”

“Was it fuck or shit?” Ryan questions, catching Tony’s attention. “That boy doesn’t say a lot of bad words. Cindy and Bill raised him really well.” Tony had expected a remark of question in that regard from Darrell, not Ryan.

“It was fuck, but who cares on that small detail, okay? Anyways, I called out his name, simply looking to ask if he was okay. I got an odd reaction, as he jumped back surprised, perhaps even worried. Anyways, I stood my ground and just simply said for him to look at me and got his attention. Seeing how startled he was –not by just me, but perhaps everything going on, I figured it’d be best to give him space to relax so I brought him in the hauler and got him a bottle of water, wanting to calm him down.”

“Anxiety, fear, worry – it’s common with him after something,” Regan starts, remembering some of their conversations. “There was one night he made me stay there over night to be with him because he was worried, I guess you could even say scared. We dealt with a good bit of that when Randy originally attacked him. You could also say that Alyssa being missing resparked that as I noticed it in a couple conversations we had before he got kidnapped. Tony, if that’s why you called us all figuring we didn’t kno-”

“I figured that you guys knew something, but you probably don’t know everything that I’m going to say,” Tony starts. “That’s why I called you guys – because of the unknown facts that I know. However, it’s great to see that you’ve recognized what’s going on and have spoken with him. I just hope that continues, and big time.” The comment throws a curveball through the room, as minds began to wander as to everything that Chase either said or did to spark this conversation out of Tony.1

“Why do you say that?” Jeff Gordon asks curiously from his perspective. Tony then takes a deep breath, figuring it was worth continuing with what else he sad to say.

“As he was drinking the bottle of water, you could tell that he was in pain – his stomach –just by his motions and expressions. I offered to go get someone, or do something, and he told me that he left his pain pills in the 24 hauler when he was there earlier today seeing the gu-”

“That’s why he probably didn’t come up for practice, because he went to get the pills and ran into you?” Marie questions and Tony shakes his head yes. “Yeah, he told Kevin (Meendering) that he had to do something and then was coming back. It caught Dale and Kevin off-guard when he didn’t, but we figured maybe he got tied up talking to someone.” Tony could understand that explanation. However, he knew that wasn’t a fitting reaction based on what he had seen out of Chase. It was why he knew this conversation was necessary.

“Totally easy assumption to make in figuring nothing is wrong,” Tony starts. “But to be honest, I think for the next bit everybody should be a bit more careful, know where he is and who he with and everything. Why? Trust me, you’ll understand if you let me finish saying what happened.”

“And you said that he was fine now, so we don’t have to worry at this very moment, right?” Bill questions and Tony shakes his head yes.

“He’s calmed right down, enough to grab some sleep in the trailer. I have a crew member there and as soon as he wakes up, the crew member will text me so I can go back and make sure he’s fine. Trust me, I took care of all angles.” Bill shakes his head in approval, glad that it was Tony who had found Chase and gone through the motions. He wasn’t sure if the same type of reaction would’ve happened with just any fellow driver or owner in the garage. “Anyways, I offered to go get them but he didn’t want to be left alone – sort of what you were talking about, Regan. So I sent a crew member, easily got them, and he was able to take one, which started working instantly. I waited quietly, just seeing where his reaction would go and what to do next as I wasn’t sure how to handle this. He then told me that he thought he could simply go get the pills, take one, return back to the trailer to watch Alyssa with ease. However, he then goes ‘then it happened, again.’” The group looks at each other, slight confusion entering the spectrum as Regan glances at Dale, remembering the discussion they had shortly after Chase had gone missing with the airplane.

“Can I guess?” Regan asks, catching Tony by surprise. “I’m guessing that he had a total panic alarm set off in his mind, blanking out logical thinking, just going through the wheel of motions till everything caught up together without clearly knowing what he was doing.” Tony was surprised that he heard the right guess made, as it made him question even more why Chase was left alone.

“Yeah, that’s what happened,” Tony answers as Regan lets out a sigh. Perhaps he should’ve moved forward on his original thoughts then. “If you guys knew of this happening, why did you leave him alon-”

“We didn’t know of it being an actual occurrence; it was a random mind guess after he went missing looking for Alyssa. It was a theory that I had put together, but quickly dismissed due to nothing said by him in the days that followed.” Tony felt anger boiling as he just thought nobody had any idea. However, how could you avoid thought when you had an idea?

“Well, since you know of it, I guess why I’ve called you all here. Listen, the kid is got a TON going on emotionally, on a variety of scales. I just wanted to warn you based on what I saw so that way those closest to him to make sure to be there with him, and perhaps – as I said earlier – make sure someone was with him at all times – just so that way they can handle when these happen, till he figures it out.”

“Maybe I did come back racing too soon….” Alyssa thinks out loud, as she thought back to Chase’s thoughts on her return over the past several days. She had been selfish, stuck on her own goals of racing and dealing with her feelings. However, was part of the apprehension actually due to his feelings and needing her to deal with them?

“Alyssa, you can go back racing and we can still handle this,” Darrell starts. “We’ve got a bunch of us here that are tied up and available at different times so we can help when we’ve got time. This doesn’t fall on your shoulders and don’t think your decision has bought this on more.” Tony was glad to hear Darrell giving that piece of advice to Alyssa, especially with what he had to come. He had debated not saying what was said between him and Chase about Alyssa, but knew it was worth her knowing so everybody knew just where Chase was mentally.

“Chase was only giving you those warnings based on his own experience of coming back early, not because of this,” Dale adds. “However, if you felt that you handled it enough to come back racing, and handle the rest while racing, then don’t hold a single thought back on coming back.” Alyssa lets out a sigh as that was a thought she had continued to toss back and forth over the past couple of weeks, as well as during the day with what was said earlier at the press conference.

“Beyond that comment, I think you have word from the rest of us that we’ll be there and help him, and I appreciate you letting us know,” Ryan states, figuring they were near the conclusion of Tony’s discussion period. Besides, there was another XFINITY practice coming up that some of them had to get to.

“I know that I have your word because I know that you guys love him and will do what it takes,” Tony states cleanly, and that wasn’t a question in his mind. “I just have one other thing I think you guys should know, and I hope it doesn’t cause another issue.” He then takes a deep breath, remembering the discussion. “Chase blames himself for what happened. He says because of letting his fear control him, he wasn’t there for Alyssa. He wasn’t able to save her, prevent it from happening, or be there for her today. it’s a ton of guilt that just seemed to pour out of him unexpectedly. I spent a good bit convincing him otherwise in telling him that he was an amazing guy, great for Alyssa, and the fact his attempt to come out this weekend despite everything going on was beyond brave. I told him that he did a great job at the press conference, that he’s proven the odds surrounding the relationship, and mistakes are bound to happe-”

“He’s a ultra perfectionist,” Bill cuts off Tony, catching his attention. “He doesn’t believe in mistakes. To him, mistakes are the cause of things that he could’ve changed or done better to change what happened. He’s always been that way. It’s why he kept playing the previous attacks in his mind over and over, trying to see what he could’ve done differently. It’s why this is eating at him, again, and perhaps more because of how much he loves and cares about her.” Tony shakes his head, having picked up on his own theory around that.

“I also told him that he could bounce back from this, in which he didn’t believe me at first. However, I reminded him how he was able to before, followed by everybody who is here to support him, including Alyssa. I reminded him of the strength that we know he has, and there’s always a way to move forward. I told him it’d be okay, and to be honest, I think I got somewhere as we had a good session of tears before I let him go to sleep for awhile.” Tony then takes a deep breath. “I’ve been in those darkest moments and I know it takes a lot of work. However, with this group, I know you guys will help him.”

“It’s going to work out,” Ryan comments. “It’ll take time, it’ll take each of being patient with him and helping – but it’ll work out. I hate to go through this again with him, but I’d do a 100 times over because of how much I like my best friend.”

“I have no doubt,” Tony states as he reaches for his phone, seeing a text message. “That’s Chase…” The group goes to move, but Alyssa holds her arms out as she stands up.

“I want to go see him before any of you, please,” Alyssa starts. “He blames himself for what happened to me. As Tony said, the first round of feelings that poured out was all about me. Let me go see him. Let me have a heart-to-heart with him, show him I love him, show him it’ll be okay. Maybe with that out of the way, we can work through the rest.”

She then makes her way towards the door, glancing at Tony for directions as to where to go. She knew that she had practice coming up, but she in no way could think about the car or the race later on that night. There was only one thought on her mind, just as he had been in the hospital.

She had to make sure he was okay before she could take her own next step forward that weekend.

Cabin Fears – Chapter 21: Her Excitement

Alyssa walks back into the room, smile proudly on her face, as she walks up to Chase, giving him a kiss as she hands over a smoothie.

“Bananas, strawberries, blueberries, raspberry and mango – as instructed,” she states as he simply smiles, sliding a touch over so she could join him in the bed. “It’s nice to see you allowed food.”

“It’s nice to be allowed something other than water, bread and jello,” he replies as he sips on the drink. “What’s up with that smile on your face?” Jeff could only smile in his corner, knowing the exact reason. He had wished he could’ve been downstairs for her reaction earlier.

“I take it somebody enjoyed what Steve did, huh?” Jeff asks and Alyssa simply shakes her head yes as the rest look on confused.

“He took my camaro and got it fitted with paddle shift gears so I could drive it,” she states as Dale looks over at Steve surprised. “It took some getting used to, but once I was, it felt amazing. You do not realize how much the thought of being torn away from racing bugs you till you’re sitting there, feeling that driving again. I will admit – I was scared and worried over that fact. I admit it killed part of me inside originally. But just those 15 minutes today were enough to regenerate everything.” Dale glances at Marie, remembering their discussion from the other night at the hotel. He knew there were some feelings going on for his daughter. He just didn’t realize Steve would solve their problems before they could be addressed.

“I also told her that we could possibly try it out with a racecar,” Steve continues, catching a mix of curious and surprised glances from the room. “If Dale would let us use one of the XFINITY cars, I could get the same technology put in that and see if she can run it, and then if NASCAR would approve it.” They thought caused a mixed of emotions throughout the room, ranging from fear to surprise to uncertainty to excitement. Everybody had their own opinions on Alyssa’s situation and what to do moving forward.

“What are your thoughts on this, Alyssa?” Bill asks as he looks towards her. It seemed fair to make the person who this affected most get her say.

“I can’t deny it – racing is my life, it’s my dream, it’s everything that I’ve wanted to do,” she said. “I grew up wanting to drive a stock car. I grew up wanting to be a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion. I grew up wanting to win at Darlington, Martinsville, Bristol, and one day the Daytona 500.” She then looks at Chase with a smile, before glancing over towards her father. “I grew up wanting to be a racecar driver and just as successful as the two people who mean the most to me – my father, and my boyfriend. It means everything to me and certainly being torn away from that sooner than getting my real shot at it would hurt. It’s why I know that I want to take the sho-”

“But sweetie, do you realize what you’re saying?”  Marie asks and Alyssa shakes her head yes as she then turns to her mother.

“I know it’s going to be tough. I know it’s going to be a test of strength and durability and whether I can simply handle driving with just one hand. I know there are people out there who do it at the short track level – there was this one guy I saw who always kept his right hand on the roll bar, just his left hand on the wheel.  I believe that I can do it. I also know there’s a challenge in getting NASCAR’s approval because this is out of the box of normal. However, I want to take a chance and see if I can do it before I close that chapter in my life, if I need to.” She then glances at Steve with a slight smile. “I don’t want to be stuck asking myself what if down the road.”

“I just don’t know if I’m comfortable with this….”

“Mom, it’s my life and my decis-”

“You’re my daughter, though. I care about you. I don’t want you to get hurt.  I don’t want you to do something that could cause more pain. It’s my job to worry about you. I mean, are you absolutely certain?” Alyssa knew there were no doubts on that, having thought about it since her discussion with Steve.

“Trust me, I’m absolutely 100% certain. Besides, if NASCAR doesn’t accept, there’s always sports car or open-wheel.” Marie’s eyes then widen, as she wanted her children to have nothing to do with open-wheel cars. Stock cars were scary and one thing, but open-wheel was whole other animal.

“Dale, help me, please?” Dale takes a deep breath, thinking of where he could start. He knew that he couldn’t deny his daughter the opportunity, having been in her shoes in a way before. He had his fears just as much as Marie, but that was part of being a parent. The racecar driver in him knew otherwise.

“There’s risk and there’s worries, but we don’t know anything till we take a chance,” Dale starts. “It’s worth looking into to see if it’s possible and go from there. If the test goes well, I don’t see why not. However if the test doesn’t go well, at least we know whether than questioning it.” He then looks over at Steve, knowing he was waiting for the seal of approval. “You have my permission to use one of the cars. Just let Kevin Meendering know what you’re doing, and he can tell you what chassis you can use.”

“Are you serious?”  Marie questions as Dale looks over at his wife, shaking his head yes.

“You heard the conversation that we had when racing was almost ripped away from me. You heard my thoughts on the situation last night, and you heard her thoughts today.  There’s always risk in racing. Let her at least see where she stands before you pull the plug, please.”

“It’s not like we’re jumping in without evaluation either,” Steve comments as his eyes lock on Marie.  He hated to leave it with her being disapproving. However, he figured that’d be solved once they were at the test together as he believed in Alyssa, as he always did.

“I can tell you that if it does work out for you, safely, I’d race with you any day on any track because I know that you can do it and win,” Chase tells her before he gives her a kiss. “I just hope you don’t a bump and run for the win at Bristol.”

“I just hope you don’t mind a door slam for the win at Martinsville,” she replies with a smirk in return. It was their normal teasing back and forth as they had done throughout the whole summer.

“I just worry about everything else, though, in everything that happened,” Marie adds, catching their attention.

“I can cover that knowing it from experience,” Chase starts as he takes a deep breath.  “In a racer’s mind, those two become separate. You’re able to throw everything into a bucket and forget about it for those hours that you’re driving; it’s why racing can sometimes be our escape, and trust me – I used it a lot before. But knowing her, the way she is, and her parents, she’ll work through everything that happened in between those weekends to where she can go each day without a single fear. If I was able to do it, then I know that she can.”

“Just don’t forget about doing that yourself,” Cindy reminds him, remembering the runaway stunt he pulled. Chase lets out a sigh and shakes his head, understanding. He knew that fact. He just wasn’t looking forward to it as there were lots of thoughts swirling through his mind already.

“I know, trust me.  I’ll do what I got to do, momma.”

The conversation entered the mind of Alyssa as she laid there, head on Chase’s shoulder. She hadn’t thought about much in regards to what happened. She was focused on getting herself feeling better, along with him. She wanted them to both get out of there and home as soon as possible.

Though as she let those 72 hours flood through her mind, she felt the fear, anger, sadness, worry that everybody had talked about around her. She felt the emotions that Chase had discussed going through in his instances. She felt others in her mind.

She began to wonder whether she could make them all go away, like Chase had talked about that. How do you forget that fear you felt? How do you forget the pain? How do you go forward like normal and nothing happened?

Feeling him against her, she wasn’t sure how to answer those questions, but believed that she’d make it through as long as she had him by her side.

Cabin Fears – Chapter 19: Steve’s Plan

Thursday afternoon

The following morning, the group made their way over to the hospital as promised. They were pleased with the progress by both. Chase and Alyssa were both still in a lot of pain – his stomach, her burns – but the pain killers were taking the edge off. For Alyssa, she was told if she continued to heal accordingly, she’d be released in the next 24 hours. Chase, though, they wanted to monitor longer, which made Alyssa not care of the release due to wanting to be there for him.

Standing in the corner observing the group, Jeff was keeping quiet as he let the parents discuss things with the children. He then glances at his phone, surprised by the text message.

“Come outside,” he reads as he glances around the room confused. He then shrugs his shoulders, figuring he’d listen.

“I’ll be back,” he answers with ease as he leaves the room.  Everybody simply thought he needed some space for a call or had to make a bathroom trip.

He makes his way downstairs, following the directions laid out as he walks to the meeting spot.

“You could’ve just flown up instead of driving,” he starts, barely paying attention except knowing the person he wanted was there. “Heck, why didn’t you just come up to the room?”

“Because I brought a surprise,” Steve LeTarte states, finally catching Jeff’s attention as he notices the pink Camaro.

“That’s Alyssa’s Camaro, the dream ’67 car that Chase searched the bloody country for to make her wishes come true. Did you drive it up here?”  Steve shakes his head no as Jeff looks at him confused.

“I had it delivered, okay? Special delivery at that.”  Jeff felt himself growing more confused.

“May I dare ask why? With the manual transmission, she won’t be able to shift and drive it.”  A smile formed on Steve’s face as he walked around, opening the door.

“Paddle gear shift, same way it is in IndyCar with being on the side of the wheel.”  Jeff then looks it over, surprised, as he glances at Steve. “Our conversation, the one that we had, got me thinking, along with my short discussion on the phone with her. I figured it’d be easier on them both driving than flying – forces and pains – so here’s a surprise for the trip home. It’s a way to express to her that things are going to be alright.”  Jeff had to admit that he was impressed with the handy work as he sat in the car for a moment.

“This is perfect, Steve. It’ll ease her worries, along with those around her as you’ve given her something back that she thought she lost.”  Steve shakes his head in agreement as he thinks about something else, leaning back against the car.

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way – that’s something that you said you told her. Alex Zanardi has become a legend in Olympics. There’s a guy over in Europe who drives with his feet because both of his arms are paralyzed. Sam Schmidt got to drive again, simply by head movements and voice commands. There are stories everywhere, Jeff. Getting in contact with the right people, and the technology is right at our fing-”

“Do I want to know what you’re thinking?” Steve smiles as he shrugs his shoulders. He thought it’d be a good idea as it’d answer the biggest worry everyone had, and solve Alyssa’s problem.

“I spoke to the same people who put this technology in her car, and asked if it’d be possible. They said if we could combine a small enough steering box ratio to give her the control with one hand, combined with the paddle shifting, why wouldn’t it be possible? While everybody, including herself, has assumed the racing dream is dead, I say otherwise. I say it is possible. We just need to get her to try it, get comfortable with it, and get NASCAR to approve it.” Jeff knew everything was easily possible; he had used the shift paddles himself in a couple racing experiments. He just didn’t know about the last variable.

“Do you think NASCAR would?” Steve shrugs his shoulders as he wasn’t quite sure on that factor, yet.

“I haven’t asked because I don’t want to go through the trouble without it being set. I say we let her get comfortable in this, and then transition to a stock car. Bring them out to a test and see what they say. If they somehow deny it, I say those open wheel rumors for her may have truth behind them.” Jeff knew it was a possibility, but seeing an Earnhardt outside of a stock car in an open-wheel car would feel weird. He knew that they better make NASCAR see things their way, when the time is right.

“So my question is when are you going to tell Alyssa all of this?” Steve had debated how to go about the next critical step, whether immediately or wait.

“Let her get released. Then I’ll bring her down and show her. We won’t say a single word till then. Let this be a surprise, a happy change of pace.” Jeff shook his head in agreement.

“I won’t say a word, promise. Just think, though. She already loved you by how close you guys were, and the fact that you saved her life when she was younger. Now you’re going to be her king.” Steve laughs as they head into the hospital, although he remembered when Alyssa said he was the knight in shining armor back then.

“Chase will always have that number spot in her life, Jeff. I don’t think anyone could ever replace that for her.” Jeff shakes his head in agreement as they walk through the hospital, getting into the elevator. Jeff presses the button, as he leans back against the wall.

“When she and Leo were dating, I could tell that they were great together – but something was missing, the extra magic that makes you know it’s the perfect right match forever.  I never said anything because they were young, and it was for them to discover – even though every part of me yelled to say something as I didn’t want to see a mess later on like Brooke and I turned into. I’m actually glad that they realized when they did, and were able to break it off how they did and remain friends. Now she’s got Chase, and he’s got Elladee.” Steve smiles, as he was glad things had worked out for the children. It was also nice to see how close Elladee and Leo were growing.

“She’s still involved in dirt racing heavily, right?” Jeff shakes his head yes as they reach the floor. While it seemed Jeff’s kids, Genieve, and Alyssa had taken after their father’s love of asphalt racing, Elladee was different. She ended up taking a liking to the dirt side – no surprise with her father’s involvements there, too – and had become quite the Sprint Car racer.

“Currently leading the World of Outlaw standings driving for Tony Stewart.”

Cabin Fears – Chapter 17: Hospital Visit

Once the initial hugs were out of the way and the pair were back being comfy in their cuddle together, the group of visitors figured out their spots around the room, whether in a chair or sitting on what was supposed to be Alyssa’s bed, or a couple even choosing to stand.

“The obvious question – how are you both feeling?” Bill broke the silence in the room as the pair glanced over.

“Pretty sore,” Chase answered honestly. His stomach constantly ached – thankfully, just dully due to the pain meds being given, but enough that it caught his attention and made him want to curl up.  He knew he couldn’t do that, though, needing to lie on his back, straight due to the stitches. “It just constantly aches, with a nauseous feeling here and there. Everywhere else is just a little sore, though. It’s not the worse.”

“Sometimes I want to scream, sometimes I want to cry, sometimes I just wish I could rip away my entire side,” Alyssa explains, in reference to the burns up her left side. “They’re just evil. The pain killers are taking the edge off, but they still hurt a good bit.”

“Don’t need to tell me as I know that experience,” Dale offers, reflecting back to Sonoma awhile ago.

“You’ll get to see how we all felt when we were changing your bandages,” Kelley quips, remembering how disgusting the burns looked in the first couple of weeks afterwards.

“I’m not pushing against you too much by placing my hand here, am I?”  Chase questions, having wrapped his right arm her. She immediately shakes her head no, knowing he was careful of where to rest it.

“I’m not pushing against you either, right?” Alyssa asks and Chase shakes his head no. Alyssa had been careful when climbing into the bed not to push too much against his side, knowing the amount of pain he was in.

“Any tingling feeling at all in your arm?” Marie asks, not believing the doctor’s words about permanent damage.

“Not a single thing. I smacked it earlier and I pinched it earlier, watched the skin turn red, but felt not a single thing. I can’t even feel against Chase’s body right now. It just feels like this odd dead weight attached my elbow.”

“Well, if someone pisses you off, you can just swing it at them like a bat and not feel a thing,” Darrell comments, causing a small laugh and smile to follow from Alyssa. “Remind people not to wreck Chase because he’s got his own special security guard.”

“Hey now, it’s going to be awhile before I’m driving again,” Chase comments, remembering what the doctor told him about the healing process. “4-6 weeks, at least.” Ryan then thought it over, doing the math his head as he smiled.

“Even if it takes six weeks, you’re healed for the Chase,” he says as Chase just rolls his eyes. He knew other years, he would’ve been doing the math himself. However, that was not him today. Instead, he was focused on getting himself better, as well as Alyssa. He also knew the racing discussion wasn’t perhaps the best topic for Alyssa right now.

“You know, it’s not the end of the world – as I told you earlier. There are plenty of things that I know you’re good at, and I’m sure you’d make a great crew chief or a great helper in running the race team with your dad.”

“Can I hire you as my driver coach?” Ryan questions, as Alyssa looks over. The comment from Chase about her possible future had gone completely over her head, for now. That was a thought for when she was feeling better.

“Are you admitting that I am a better driver than you?” She asks as Ryan shrugs his shoulders.

“Nah, I know I’m better – but I need to figure out some of that guy’s secrets.”

“She’s not giving those up no matter what,” Chase states as he gives her another kiss. “I have the golden key to keep those locked up. Good try, through.”

“I know you don’t want to talk about it, Alyssa, but you can tell us about your thoughts on the whole racing thing,” Dale starts as he focuses on his daughter. That was his little girl and it seemed in more ways than one she was exactly like her daddy. She picked up on his love for racing, and ways of handling certain situations. That’s why he knew that the racing dream being ripped away from her would affect her, from losing her passion to anger over not being able to decide the end, to the anxiety and nerves. It hadn’t happened to him, but he knew the feelings associated when it almost happened following a concussion and doctor discussion. “I know the feelings that you must be going through. If you need someone to talk to, don’t hesitate to open up to someone.”

“Actually, that goes for both of you on everything that happened,” Regan adds, his eyes locked on Chase. He knew what his friend was like when it came to events happening.

“I don’t really have anything thoughts or anything to say on that right now,” Alyssa starts carefully. “I haven’t thought about it much. My priority right now is getting better, and making sure Chase gets better. I’ll worry about that down the road, and I’ll remember what you said.”

“By the way, Chase – the cops said the $2 million has been returned to your account upon Kassandra’s arrest and Randy’s death.” Chase shakes his head, accepting. It didn’t matter to him, though, as the money wasn’t the huge importance. The bigger thing was they were both going to be okay, and Randy was gone.

“What were you bloody well thinking when you did that?” Cindy spits out, shocking half of the room in her reaction. However, it was something that she had been holding back since learning about it.

“I wasn’t thinking,” Chase starts quietly. “I let my fear, being worried, scared, need for Alyssa to be okay force me to go through a series of events that I wasn’t thinking clearly. Somehow I rationalized with myself that I could save her by easily dropping the money off with no problem. I was going to make everything alright, get rid of those feelings that I was having just in a flicker of two fingers.  Obviously, if I was thinking, I would’ve said something to the police and we could’ve come up with a better strategy.”

“Did you have any thought to speak to someone?” Regan wonders and Chase shakes his head no.

“As soon as I got that text message, I was on my way to the airport, set to find her.” Chase takes a deep breath, calming himself down. He could feel some of that anxiety and fear still sitting there, and knew it’d be a battle to get it to go away again. “Knowing that she was missing, it sent me through a warp speed reminder of everything that happened through the years, causing my mind to go into overdrive. Stuck in my own world, I was thinking about anything else – except getting her, ending those feelings. There was no rational thought to speak to someone, or do the right thing. To be honest, it scared me once I realized what I had done.”

“The main thing is that you’re going to be okay over time,” Bill states as he gives his son a pat on the shoulder, eyes locked on Regan.  He knew there was a want to push the discussion and help Chase through it all in one sweep. However, it was obvious to Bill that this went deep and another strategy was going to be needed. It was why he wanted to play assurance, and then work on the rest once Chase was feeling better physically.

“We all know that feeling Chase,” Dale adds as he leans back against the wall with a sigh. He felt the same thoughts- panic, anxiety, fear. It was why he forced so much of his energy through the past three days on taking care of everybody else, not wanting to focus on his own emotions and cause them to eat at him.  “You had your way of handling it, and I had mine. Mine wasn’t much healthy as I let it eat at me insider while forcing myself to focus on other people’s needs.”

“Well everybody can relax now, because we’re going to heal from this – and be okay,” Alyssa interrupts the discussion. “We’re going to heal physically, and we’re going to get through all the fears and anxiety that comes with it. We’re even going to deal with my racing issue as it’s been worded.”

Marie watched the group interact, keeping quiet in her corner of the room where she had chosen to sit.  It pained her to hear of the emotions from Dale, Chase, and Alyssa. It pained her to hear about the amount of pain that Alyssa and Chase were in. it pained her to hear that Alyssa’s racing dreams were all cut short.

She blamed herself for everything, too. They had only met Randy because he was working with Mariela when she was trying to kill Marie as a result of the sisterhood going bad following a disagreement with their dad. It also didn’t help that she killed her own father, either.

She knew it was wrong to do that – it wasn’t her fault that Mariela and Randy did what they did, but she couldn’t help but blame herself in times like this. She had brought them in their lives by marrying Dale.  Without her influence, Dale and Chase wouldn’t have been through everything they experienced. Of course, she wouldn’t have a daughter, either, but those down times – she wished someone else was Alyssa’s mother to avoid this.

Marie’s silence was more telling than anything as Dale and Kelley picked up on it immediately, knowing what she was telling herself. Dale knew the feeling, having done the same after one of Chase’s attacks.

“What have we said about blaming yourself, Marie?” Kelley questions, catching the rest of the room’s attention.

“I know it’s not my fault – my brain knows that,” Marie answers as she glances over at Kelley. “It’s just telling my heart that in this moment. I’m working on it, trust me. I’ll be fine.”

“Don’t blame yourself mom,” Alyssa then speaks. “It’s fine. We can work our way through this.”

“I know. I just hate-”

“What have I told everybody else about the racing factor? I’ll deal with it. There are plenty of things that I can still do, involved in racing and in other parts of life.”

“There are also plenty of people out there who have defied the odds before,” Jeff finally speaks up. “Sam Schmidt and Alex Zanardi are both great examples. They were able to go back driving, at a high rate of speed, after their accidents and being told it’d be practically impossible. I’m sure where there’s a will, there’s a way.”