Cabin Fears – Chapter 67: The Test

Alyssa lets out a sigh as she sits on a bench in the infield.

They had arrived at the track about 10 minutes ago with sets sight on the day. The plan was for Jimmie to shake the car down, and make sure it had a decent set-up in it. Chase would then afterwards take his turn behind the wheel, set to do a series of laps to see where his comfort level was mentally and physically.

Alyssa couldn’t help but smile at the possibility of Chase returning to racing. It was a step in the right direction and a step towards forgetting what had happened previously. Though she couldn’t help but admit the nerves that were eating at her, wondering how the day would go.

“Where’s Prince Charming?” Alyssa hears, catching her attention as her mom walks over. She points over to pit road, where Chase stood beside Alan and Josh, watching Jimmie intently. “But yet you’re back here?”

“I’m giving him and his team space to do what they need to do,” Alyssa comments. “It’s all about comfort for him right now. I want to do what it takes to make him most comfortable. If that involves giving him space to be with his guys before he goes out, then sure. If that involves being there with him while he gets changed and then strapped in, I will do it. He was there for me, so I’m repaying the favor.”

“I wouldn’t expect otherwise.” Alyssa smiles as she watches her mom sit down beside her. Normally, she’d turn to her dad and others in her life for advice. Though pondering back, maybe this was the right question for her mom.

“What was it like for you when Dad went back racing after his break?” Marie then glances at her daughter. “Like, what were you feeling? Nerves? Confidence?” Marie then crosses her arms, remembering the tirade of thoughts she had. She wasn’t sure she wanted to answer the question.

“Why do you ask, to begin with?” Alyssa lets out a sigh, knowing the answer right then and there. No wonder she was a mess herself right now.

“Curious, I suppose…” Alyssa felt that if her mom wasn’t going to share, why put the energy forth herself?

“I remember after we got back from Pitronia the first time, when he found me after I was presumed dead. I remember the fear that we went through in thinking that we’d lost each other forever. Him thinking I was killed in a car crash when I was kidnapped, while I thought Mariella had killed him in a plane.” Alyssa lets out a shiver as she couldn’t shake the nerves in hearing that name or plane together in the same sentence. “I was a mess, actually. I was royal mess. You can ask Steve, because I went into Daytona that year with emotions all over the place.”

“That’s a shock….” Marie chuckles, having grown used to her daughters thinking that she was made of stone and perfectly strong.

“I was so nervous that something would happen and I would lose him. I was nervous of a wreck that would end everything. I remember he got caught up in a wreck in the Shootout and I literally freaked, froze like a statue sitting on his pit box. It took Steve’s careful words of wisdom and calming to really bring myself out of it. Then when I explained everything, I began to realize why – I was afraid. Fear can sometimes be a good thing because it shows you how much you care. Do you get that?” Alyssa nods her head.

“The only reason why I may feel fearful for someone, or something, is because I care so much about them that I want the best.” Marie smiles, glad that her daughter was smart like her.

“Steve convinced me to talk to your dad about it. Needless to say, it was a long conversation and it wasn’t easy. But it was worth it in the end. Hearing his reasons, hearing why he thought I shouldn’t worry, and why it was going to be okay, it gave me some comfort. That allowed every bit of emotion that I was feeling to ease away, step by step, and eventually, as the weekend progressed, I handled things better to where I was back to super wife again.” Alyssa smiles as she glances back out towards Chase. She could only hope to get there herself.

“I feel a tinge of worry for Chase, just because of everything he’s been through. I worry about those emotional rampages of his, and I worry about him lashing out at the wrong time. I worry about him rushing it too, as he warned me so of doing. I worry about his anxiety and whether he can truly overcome that. I worry about him being in the midst of a pack.” Alyssa looks over at her. “I guess that means I’m normal, right?”

“Of course sweetheart, because we said – we only fear because we care so much. You care about him so much that you’re shedding every single fear that you can have over the situation. Now, can I give you the LeTarte advice?” Alyssa sighs.

“I wish that’d be the easiest thing to do, and knowing Chase, he’d know exactly what to say to me to make me feel better and ease away my concerns. But, I can’t bring myself to mention a single word to him. What if in inflict more fear on him than he has? What I trigger something? What if he’s trying to manage it and I push the wrong button? I don’t want to be the cause of a problem.” Marie nods her head, understanding that. However, she could only think back to her own experience.

“Chase has freaked at you before, though, and assured you it was out of character. What else did he say to make that easier?” Alyssa closes her eyes as she thinks back to the kitchen.

“Know that I don’t mean it against you and I’m just frustrated with the situation. Know that I could never be mad at you or angry. But also know that you can come to me no matter what.” Marie smiles as she wraps an arm around her daughter.

“Why don’t you go with those words and speak with him, then?” Alyssa wished she could just do that, but shaking her head, that wasn’t so.

“It’s not the same….”

“But I bet it’d be therapy for you both. Besides, it’s better that he faces those situations here in the privacy of our group, rather than his first race back at the track. Hence why this is a test. Why not test everything?” Alyssa knew that her mom was right as she could only imagine the reaction from everybody if they saw one of those instances, and could only imagine also what Chase would do afterwards.

Taking a deep breath and another glance towards him, she knew she had to speak her mind sooner than later.

The No. 9 car then comes down pit road, stopping in the pit box before the three crew members. Jimmie climbs out, smile planted on his face as he takes the helmet off.

“How was that?” He questions, looking up at Alan, who could only smile back.

“Run that lap in October and we have ourselves a new track record,” Alan answers as Jimmie couldn’t help but let out a small cheer. It was nice to know he still had the ability to get the job done.

“She’s handling very well. I honestly don’t think we can get any better. Just make sure you watch down in 3 as it’s a little slick – nothing new though, right?” Chase simply nods his head as he watches Jimmie walk away.

“Don’t let the track record, lap time comment lay in your mind. Just focus on getting in there, getting in your zone, and finding that comfort level. That’s all we’re here to do today. We’ll focus on getting the speed and what we need moving forward.”

“I know,” Chase comments quietly as he hops down off the wall. He takes a glance in the car, taking a couple deep breathes, debating once again. There was only one way to shut his mind up, though, as he glanced back up at the crew. “I’m going to go get changed.” He then walks off pit road as Alan turns around, watching him walk away closely.

“What do you think, chief?” Josh questions, catching Alan’s attention.

“He’ll be fine once he gets himself in the car,” Alan answers. “It’s just battling those other thoughts of his first.”

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Back to Square One – Chapter 19: Concerns….

Jimmie walks into the conference room, knowing the meeting that morning was not going to go smoothly. Based on the fact that they’d struggled, Chad was going to come in grumpier than ever, demanding answers and change. Taking a deep breath, he just hoped the headache wasn’t that bad afterwards.

He glances down the row of chairs, noticing he wasn’t the first to arrive with Ron already sitting in his usual spot. Jimmie couldn’t shake the conversation the other day in how things were still affecting him, nor really get rid of the fact that it was all his fault. He was the one that went down that road even after Ron and Chad had warned him not too, and got themselves in that mess. Now six months later, they were still dealing with the after effects.

“Hey,” Ron notices Jimmie as he looks down the line.

“Hey,” Jimmie replies as he takes his usual seat. “Where’s Greenlee?”

“She’s typing up the notes for Chad right now.” Jimmie simply nods his head, not surprised by that. It seemed since taking the job, she was handling it very seriously and on point in getting things done. He knew that’d keep Chad somewhat happy, even if the rest of them were blowing up his world.

“I’m surprised to see you here early….” Ron glances over, slightly surprised, though only a sigh escapes his lips afterwards.

“I couldn’t sleep last night so I figured a quiet change of scenery would help me relax a little.” Jimmie nods his head, feeling his worries creep back in.

“You still haven’t talked to anyone, have you?” Ron shakes his head no. “You need to do something. You can’t keep doing this.” Ron knew that, but also didn’t know what the first step he should take contained. “I mean, you can talk to me, you can talk to Greenlee, or even a specialist. But Ron, you need to talk to someone.”

“I know…” Ron glances down at his feet, thinking it over as Jimmie keeps his eyes locked on his best friend.

“I want my carefree buddy back that would have tons of fun with me doing whatever the future held. I want that car nut, the jokes – I want our friendship back to where it was, buddy. I care about you. That’s why I keep bugging you.” Ron appreciated the generosity, but in some cases, it was better to just ignore it. He wanted all that back, too. He didn’t want to be relieving what happened in his mind over and over. He didn’t want to be pondering what could’ve happened instead. But how to get that back was a whole other ball game.

“I’ll deal with it when I’m ready, alright? I’m just not….” Ron takes a deep breath as his eyes remain focused on the floor. “I just don’t know how to describe it to someone. I mean, all they did was take me away, tie me down, insert some drugs, and hit with some belts in the process. On paper, it just seems so simple. But yet, my mind just twists it into something.”

“You’re not giving it enough benefit, Ron. Anybody that would go through something like that would be feeling what you are. There’s fear, anger, panic, worry – so many emotions tied in that moment. I bet your thoughts were going a mile a minute in how to get out of it, but also fear and worry that it was the end. They say it’s the emotions that make it hard to move forward because you can’t warp your thoughts around those.” Ron nods his head, understanding that. He saw when Greenlee was explaining her past to him, as well.

“I just wish sometimes I could make it like it never happened, you know?” Jimmie nods his head, as he lets out his own sigh.

“I do, too. I wish that I could go back in time, see where things were heading among all the warnings thrown at me by you and Marshall, listen to them, and back away from it sooner than I did. But I was stubborn, didn’t think it was possible.” Ron looks over at Jimmie.

“Because that damn near was a once and a million deal, Jimmie. That’s not something that happens in our world, and you know that. We’ve travelled around and met thousands of people. That group right there was just the couple of bad seeds in the batch, and we were the lucky ones to become their target.” Jimmie knew that, and he knew the reason why they were the target.

“Kick their ass, and it torments their minds. Find out that I have a celebrity connection, and boom – here’s a way to extort it. I should’ve known that was possible because of who I was, but yet I kept forgetting that. I thought I could keep it hidden on some stupid name. Like I said, I should’ve listened….”

“There’s no going back and changing it now, though. We can’t think about those regrets – we can only focus on the future.” Ron lets out a sigh as he watches the door open. “And that future is us focusing on moving forward, and doing what we need to do. I’ll be fine, I promise. It’s just taking time to wrap my arms around it.”

“Let me know if you need anything or want to talk, though, okay?” Ron nods his head as they watch some crew members make their way in.

“Surprised to see you both here early,” Chad comments as he walks past the pair, taking his usual seat. He knew Jimmie never usually showed up until they were about to begin, and he thought Ron would be dwelling somewhere with everything going on.

“Got to the shop early and figured I better not be late,” Jimmie states as he glances over at Ron.

“And I didn’t have anything to do so I thought I’d just wait in here,” Ron adds as Chad opens up his notebook.

“There’s cars that could’ve been looked over instead,” he comments and Ron knew the boss was right.

“Sorry. Next time I’ll do that instead…” Chad simply accepts as he watches the group sit down around the table.

“Good.” He then finds the page he wants, before looking across the table and waiting for everyone’s attention. “Alright. It’s no secret that we’ve ran like shit lately over the past month. There’s no excuse for this, either. We have every resource and we are coming in after such a high to close out last year. We need to stop making dumb mistakes, get focused, and do what we do. Now, rather than playing on your phones or worrying about who you’re going to get laid off of, let’s focus today, okay?” A bunch of approvals come out around the room.

The meeting goes smoothly, with different topics coming about throughout. The team was confident by the end that they had everything in place to turn things around heading into the next race. For everybody’s sanity, they hoped it was a good enough run to calm Chad down.

Once the meeting was complete, everybody begins to leave the office with ease, with only Chad and Jimmie remaining right at the tail end.

“Chad?” Jimmie questions, catching Chad’s attention. “Just lay off Ron a bit, please? I know you’re frustrated, but you know that he’s got a lot going on, too.” Chad crosses his arms as he looks over at Jimmie.

“How do you expect us to turn around this shit hole streak if we’re just letting people get out of doing their job?” Chad asks as Jimmie lets out a sigh. While he knew Chad could show sympathy, today was obviously not that day.

“I know it doesn’t help things. But you know as much as I do what he’s going through right now. We talked about this. He’s still dealing with stuff from what happened. I actually got a chance to talk to him before everybody showed up today. There’s a lot there, Chad. I got him to touch the surface, but there’s so much on his mind. Besides, you know he’s not sleeping the greatest because of it, too, right?” Chad lets out a sigh, nodding his head. “I’m not saying forget everything and treat him like a baby, or something. But just give him a small break, okay?”

“Ever since we got into this mess, I’ve been the understanding one. I held back in launching off on you both after what happened. I let go the fact that you guys put everything in jeopardy. But yet, you don’t think I get it? Jimmie, I know what he’s going through and I get what you’re saying. But tiptoeing around him isn’t going to help. The only way to make things begin to move forward is to get back to where things were, and find ways to move past it. Hence why I’m not lagging back on it. If he’d come to me and say he wanted to talk, I’d be willing to listen. If he asked for some time because he needed it, I’d be willing to play ball. But you don’t need to worry about this whole hard-ass not understanding crap. I may be pissed as hell right now at whatever this streak is, but you don’t need to question that. Got it?” Jimmie simply nods his head.

“I know you care, and I know we’re all friends. I just wanted to cover the base, incase.” Chad picks up his notebook, closing it as he walks over to Jimmie.

“I get that because he’s your best friend and you care. But remember what I said, too.” Chad then leaves the office as Jimmie glances at the table, placing his hands on it, before taking a deep breath.

Somehow, everything was going to work out….

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.

Back to Square One – Chapter 14: Our Discussion

Jimmie and Chad were glad that Candiss had told them what happened. They also knew that Ron would be waiting for their discussion, and didn’t want to do it with everybody else hearing or involved. It was why the pair agreed to remain quiet till Monday morning.

“Ready for this?” Chad asks and Jimmie shakes his head yes as the pair take a glance at each other. Chad then buzzes Ron’s office, asking the car chief to come over for a meeting between just the three of them. They had planned to go down to Ron’s office, but Greenlee was there beginning her job as note taker, typing up the weekend’s notes.

“Do you think we’re doing the right thing, like this intervention style?” Jimmie wonders and Chad shrugs his shoulders.

“You know him best, right? What do you think?” Jimmie lets out a sigh as he glances around, avoiding topic.

“I don’t know, honestly. This whole deal just has me stumped.” Chad then sits up in his chair, reading the emotions on Jimmie’s face.

“Don’t be blaming yourself again, Jimmie. We went through that at the hospital and thereafter. It was a combination of both you guys going down that roa-”

“He wanted me to get out of it, and I didn’t listen, and look what happe-”

“It’s not your fault some damn terrorist decided to get in the middle of some innocent street racin-”

“Play the game, chance the ris-”

“You guys met the one and a millionth guy that anybody would meet and go that far. The danger that Ron was probably worrying was either you getting yourself hurt, or getting caught illegally and going to jail.” Jimmie lets out a sigh, knowing that Chad was probably right in those words.

He was able to say something in response, when he heard the door open, his eyes immediately taking to the sight before him. The pair glanced at each other, before Chad motioned to the seat beside Jimmie.

“What’s up with this meeting?” Ron asks as he looks around, before sitting down. “It’s a lot earlier than our normal Monday morning meetings.” Jimmie and Chad knew that, and had planned it that way. They didn’t need other people barging in on the conversation.

“Because this isn’t your typical Monday morning meeting,” Jimmie starts as Ron looks over, surprised. “We both wanted to talk to you about something, actually. How are you feeling?” Ron lets out a sigh as he glances away from the pair.

“I’m guessing this conversation is about my little freeze up in front of Candiss on Sunday, right?” The pair shake their heads yes. “Okay, I told her the explanation incase she didn’t tell you both. I was just caught off-guard, okay? Besides, I talked with Greenlee after about what happened and ideas to move forward.  You guys don’t have to worry about me, honestly.” Jimmie knew that wasn’t possible as he’d always worry and care about his best friend. It was just in his nature with how close they were.

“I caught you sleeping in your office a couple times. Is that connected?” Ron shakes his head no, knowing he was telling a lie immediately. However, the sooner he avoided conversation, the better. He wasn’t in the mood to talk about what happened.

“Ron…..”

“Look, we’re just trying to help you so at least be honest with us, please,” Chad adds as Ron just glances away from the pair, wishing this conversation never had happened. He could kill Candiss right now.

“So maybe I didn’t sleep a couple nights due to what happened,” Ron starts. “And maybe it’s been on my mind. What the hell else do you expect when something that flipping crazy happens to you?” Chad and Jimmie trade a quick glance, before looking towards Ron.

“We understand, we get it – you don’t need to flip on us, okay? That’s why we’re having this conversation, because we want to help you. Considering the thoughts at night combined with what happened, we know something is up.  We were hoping by talking with you that we could start the road of helping you. Would you be willing to talk with us about things?” Ron looks back towards the pair, urging himself to spill out details but unable to find the words at that time.

“I don’t want to be stuck in this warp forever, but it’s hard to talk about it. It’s hard to come out with the right words after everything that I went through to describe it to you. It’s hard to go through the events that happened because I don’t want to relive in my mind. Heck, it was hard enough giving Greenlee the brief details of what happened so she’d understand where I was coming from.” Chad remembered some words from Jimmie in their private conversation, and considered the thought of using them here now. Perhaps it’d help in getting more details about Greenlee, considering the concerns he and Jimmie both had.

“You mentioned that you talked with Greenlee after your little freeze up, and Candiss mentioned that Greenlee knew how to help you through that. It’s clear that she has a dark past, too – hence why you said she was looking for some redemption in moving away from Pine Valley. Given that you both understand each other in that light, and you’re close friends, have you spoken to her at depth, or thought about it?” Ron shakes his head yes, remembering his thoughts when he woke up one morning.

“I thought about asking for her advice, and thoughts on it one morning when I woke up after very little sleep. I thought it’d be useful. However, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it again. Like I said, I’m trying to avoid this crap.” Chad shakes his head, understanding as Jimmie just sits there in silence, disbelief that they’re still stuck at what happened.

“I understand, totally.  Listen, I don’t want to sound like we’re coming down on you or make you feel bad. We just wanted to see where you stood on the subject, and suggest helping you. Just know that we’re both here for you, willing to talk to you, willing to hear you out and help you, care for you. Also, if you need time off, we can give you some time off. We just want you, to be okay.”  Ron shook his head, understanding. Perhaps it’d be worth letting his guard down and hearing his buddies out.

“I appreciate the support. Thank you, both of you.” Chad then glanced down at his notes, letting out a sigh. He knew any morning after a wreck-filled weekend was never a fun one, even if that wreck was Talladega and out of control. There was just something in his nature that didn’t put wrecks and Monday happiness together.

“Alright. Now with that out in the open, let’s get down to business. We need a good run this weekend, badly.” Ron then looks on surprised.

“I wouldn’t say we’re that desperate, Chad. I mean, Talladega is either good or bad – but that’s dependent on itself. I mean, we finished third the week before at Richmo-”

“Let me remind you of our last five finishes, Malec – 9, 4, 23, 3, and now 22nd. Consistency is what wins championships, and what does that look like?” Ron rolls his eyes, knowing the sympathy he felt earlier was clearly thrown out the window by Chad’s frustration.

“In fairness, the 23rd at Bristol was a pit road speeding penalty and I put that on my shoulders,” Jimmie reminds the crew chief. “We’ve had fast cars every weekend, that’s all we can ask for. We’ve got our win so now the focus is on keeping this program top-notch so we can get that championship.” Jimmie then glances at the schedule. “We’re at Kansas Speedway this weekend. We’ve been good on intermediates this year so we should be fine. It’s a Chase track, though, so a good run would bode well looking towards September. We could use this weekend to see where we stand.”

“We could also try something since we’re locked in anyway and with no testing, research could be warranted,” Ron adds as Chad sighs as he glances at the paperwork before him. He knew both his partners had valid points, despite his rant on numbers. Perhaps the pressure and knowing everybody’s eyes were on their backs even more so than usual after last year’s incident was playing with his emotions.

“Well, let’s hear your thoughts – what matters most to you going into this weekend and coming out, with the options of consistency or trial on the table?” Chad asks the pair, trying to get his head into the game.

Back to Square One – Chapter 13: Candiss’ Truth

Candiss glances over towards Greenlee and Ron, intrigued by their conversation. He wondered whether Ron was listening to her, and whether she was going to be able to help him.

Shaking her head, she couldn’t get the moment out of her mind and knew no matter what she needed to tell the boys.

“We’re ready to go,” Chad caught her attention as she glanced between them. Taking a deep breath, it’d be better if they found out now rather than later.

“Before we head off, I have something to tell you,” she starts, as Chad focuses his eyes on Jimmie.

“Sounds like she’s about to drop the baby bomb. So you stop street racing and decide to have fun somewhere else instead?” Candiss then looks at Chad with surprise as Jimmie crosses his arms.

“This should be fun…” Jimmie comments as Chad takes a couple steps back.

“I’m sorry, but that’s what it sounded like,” Chad pleads as she rolls her eyes.

“This is much more serious,” she counters, catching both of their attention. Jimmie immediately began to wonder if they were in danger once again. “It deals with Ron, actually, and something that happe-”

“Is he okay?” They both immediately ask together. Chad was royally confused now, having just seen Ron moments earlier.

“He’s fine – don’t worry.” She then takes a deep breath. “It’s just he had a panic attack on the way back here.” Jimmie felt his curiosity growing, having heard that Ron was having some thoughts from what happened.

“What happened?” Jimmie asks as she glances over at him calmly.

“I saw him and Greenlee walking back to the garage. I was frantic looking for you both so I grabbed his hand, saying his name, just ready to ask the question as to where you were. He immediately froze, letting out an involuntary shiver. It was why he was transfixed on something. I managed to snap him out of it by yelling his name, which caused the folder of papers to fall out of his hand.  I then calmed down, explaining why I had got his attention.” Before, Jimmie was worried as he wondered how much Ron was sleeping and thinking about it. However, he didn’t fixate on it knowing that was natural after a traumatic event and knowing Ron was strong, could find his way through. However, now he felt his worry intensifying and wondering if he should’ve said something sooner.

“Did he say anything else?”

“He didn’t say anything – except Greenlee answered, saying he had a flashback and was stuck in a tren-”

“Is she some psychologist or something?” Chad questions, still not sure about Greenlee’s involvement in their lives.

“She’s had a rough go at it through the years,” Jimmie answers, remembering the discussion he had with Ron about her. “From being kidnapped, believed to be dead, losing two husbands – I could go on for awhile. Let’s just say that she can relate to traumatic experiences.” Chad shakes his head, understanding. It was certainly a life far from normal, and he wondered what could be the cause of the turmoil.  What if she wasn’t as clean cut as everybody said?

“And you’re certain she’s a good girl and won’t cause us any problems?” Jimmie lets out a sigh, knowing he couldn’t answer with certainty.  However, he trusted Ron’s judgment.

`”Everything that happened – it was mostly not her fault. Sure, she made some mistakes but hey, Ron and I have also. She moved forward from those, still faced some turmoil not of her own making. Hence why she left Pine Valley and moved down here for a fresh start. Ron thought by offering her a job it’d help land her feet.” Chad still wasn’t satisfied, but wasn’t set to argue the issue till he heard more about her background. “What else happened, Candiss?”

“Ron apologized, saying when I grabbed his hand that it placed him back to that time,” she continued. “He then assured us he was fine now, and Greenlee made suggestion that they talk about it later – to work through it, I guess. I then told him that he could also call me if needed, and we separated.” Jimmie lets out a sigh as he leans back against the wall.

“I knew that he wasn’t over what happened,” he starts. “I mean, you don’t just get over that quickly. He also mentioned some nights of lack of sleep, too. I thought he had a handle on it. Given this information, obviously it doesn’t seem like it.”

“What are you going to do?” Chad wonders as Jimmie lets out another sigh. He wasn’t looking forward to the next step.

“I’m going to confront him and see how he’s doing. I’m going to see if he will open up, see if I can help him, and figure where he stands. Once I know that information, then I’ll know how to proceed forward. Maybe we’re making this a bigger deal than it is.”

“It’s a big deal when you freeze up like that, Jimmie.” Jimmie shakes his head, knowing that Chad was right. He just wasn’t ready to face something being wrong with his friend. After all, he was still partially to blame for everything that happened.

“Let’s just handle it one step at a time, okay?” Chad shakes his head in agreement.

Cabin Fears – Chapter 37: Food City 500

Despite the fact that he wasn’t racing and should’ve been home taking care of himself, Chase made the decision to stick around for the Cup Series event on Saturday night. Alyssa had easily agreed to join him, knowing that a night race at Bristol Motor Speedway was always fun to watch.

The pair hung out for the most of the day, before heading out as pre-race ceremonies kicked off to pit road. They stopped by and saw each of their friends, giving them well wishes while accepting their ‘take care’ ‘feel better’ messages in return. Alyssa also got the honor of hearing tons of congratulations messages in return.

The pair continued to make their way down pit road, knowing their final stop was going to be at Chase’s car. He wanted to see the guys again to say hi and wish them the best. The conversations all started off smoothly, with positive messages back and forth. Chase eventually made his way through the group, before setting eyes on the driver that night.

“You know, your fitness routine may have paid off after all,” Chase starts as Jimmie simply smiles in return. “You’re still in as good as shape as ever.”

“Still biking everyday like usual,” Jimmie replies. “When you start feeling better, I have some trails that you should check out.” Chase simply shook his head, accepting, knowing the spots Jimmie normally sent him were always fun. Some of them were a challenge, while some produced breath taking views.

“Triathlons as well?” Alyssa asks and Jimmie shakes his head yes.

“And by the way, Chani still says I’m as competitive as ever as I wasn’t too pleased with coming second the other week. But, it was good day regardless as I had fun.”

“Is it fun being back behind the wheel?” Chase wonders and Jimmie couldn’t help but smile in response with a nod of the head.

“It’s weird not working with Chad or Ron, but it’s still been awesome,” Jimmie comments. “You don’t realize how much you miss it till you make these odd appearances.”

“And it seems you still got it,” Alyssa adds, referencing last week’s third place finish.

“So how much longer till our favorite superstar is back?” Chase hated hearing the question over and over. It was annoying as it seemed 80% of people asked it, but it also felt like a load of bricks with the pressure amounting. Everybody wanted to know for sponsorship, contractual, and a sort of other reasons – not connected to himself, personally. He knew it was different with Jimmie – he was a friend and probably asked for those reasons. However, what if it was wondering how much longer he’d be racing himself?

“I don’t know, to be honest,” Chase answers, repeating the statutory answer he had been giving. “I got stuff to work through before I come back and I don’t know how long that’ll take.”

“Hey, I totally get it,” Jimmie starts. “No worries on that. I’ll keep your seat warm as long as you need me too, but I can promise these guys can’t wait for you to get back and will welcome you back immediately. Besides, it’s kind of neat getting to race against the girls.” Jimmie then glances down pit road where he sees Genieve with her team. “I never thought my girls would race – either of them. It just didn’t seem like it was in the cards. But when she turned eight, my gosh I couldn’t slow her down no matter what we did.”

“So where’s Lydia this week?” Alyssa wonders, as she had seen Chandra down by Genieve, but hadn’t seen the youngest Johnson.

“She is off in Paris doing a fashion show for one of the big designers that she’s working for. I actually was facetiming her before I came out to the grid.”

“So in other words, she’s totally like her momma?” Jimmie laughs and shakes his head yes. “Hey, she’s got the looks and she pulls off those dresses like I could only dream of.”

“I don’t think you’re giving yourself enough credit,” Chase comments as he wraps his arms around her. “I think you’re certainly beautiful.” He then kisses her cheek.

The rest of the pre-race festivities went off smoothly, with Chase and Alyssa remaining by the 24 car the innovation and national anthem. After a quick fist pump for Jimmie afterwards, the pair headed off towards pit road. Following pre-race discussions with Alan, it was agreed that they’d both sit on Chase’s pit box for the race.

“Chase!” Chase hears his name called, almost set to roll his eyes till he notices the source.

“I’ll catch up with you,” he says as Alyssa heads towards the pit stall while he turns and heads down pit road. He meets up partway with Tony. “What’s up?”

“I’m surprised you’re here.” Chase shrugs his shoulders as he looks around.

“It’s Bristol. Would you ever miss a fun night at Bristol, Mr. Stewart?” Tony laughs and shakes his head no. “Besides, I’m taking it easy so like everybody else, you don’t got to worry about me tonight.”

“I know you can take care of yourself, Chase. I just wanted to see how you were after what happened yesterday.” Tony takes a deep breath, debating his words. “To be honest, that scared me more than I let you know in what you told me. I was worried more than I let on, and why I called the immediate meeting with those closest to you. I don’t know what it was about that, but it just got me thinking and worr-”

“Tony, it’s fine. Listen, I’m glad that you told them so that way they know and understand. It also opened the door for Alyssa and I to begin discussing things. It also put it right in my face that I need to start doing something, whether then making up excuses to avoid it. It’s why I talked to Regan a bit last night. I appreciate what you did, so thank you.” Tony smiles as he glances over Chase’s shoulder towards Johnson.

“So does it feel weird watching someone else drive your baby?” Chase looks back towards the car and shakes his head yes. “It’ll feel even stranger as the day goes on, and especially since you’re sitting on your pit box. I went through those feelings when I was healing from injures, and then when I totally gave this up. I thought I was totally ready to walk away from NASCAR, and in the most part I was. But there was a touch of me that remained there, reaching out, for a good bit in the first couple months.” Chase knew those feelings all too well, having experienced them already.

“There’s part of me when Alyssa went testing and then watching Jimmie run the car that is doing that. There’s part of me that’s wishing, and wanting to drive as soon as possible. It’s all I’ve known, Tony. I want that need for speed that we all crave. Admittingly, though, that is just a small piece right now because in my heart and brain I know I’m not ready till I handle things.” Tony shook his head, understanding.

“There’s always the balance of trying to come back when you’re ready, but not too soon. As long as you’re keeping both sides of the coin in mind, you’re doing the right thing. Just make sure to remember that. You may be in your 30s but you’re still young, Chase. You got a lot of years of driving in, and you got lots to go. Make sure you fully do what you got to do before you come back so you take advantage of that.” Chase knew that Tony was right in those words. It was why he had made the personal promise to himself, already.

“I know, and thank you.” Tony then wraps an arm around him.

“You’ll always be the little rugrat that was running around the garage when I showed up to drive in this series so know that you can always look to me if you need someone else.” Chase smiles.

“Alright. I’ll remember that.”

“Hope Jimmie has a good race for you.” Tony then puts his headset on, heading off to one of his team’s pit boxes. Meanwhile, Chase heads back the direction he was going originally, climbing up on top of his pit box to watch Jimmie.

This was going to be one strange night.

In the end, though, it didn’t end with them celebrating. Jimmie ended up crossing the line second, at the hand of a well-timed bump-and-run from Cole Custer (SHR) for the win.

Back to Square One – Chapter 10: His Concerns

The rest of the week had appeared to go smoothly, and before the team knew it, they were off to the race track once again.

This week – it was Talladega.

Jimmie knew the game plan for practice as they did the same thing every year. Single-car runs throughout all the practices in an effort to get the car as fast and comfortable as possible. The theory was less risk then pack packaging, and Jimmie knew how to draft anyway.

However, he still took the same approach in meeting with Chad prior to the first session. He figured it’d be a good time to address other concerns.

“I want to talk you about Greenlee actually,” Jimmie starts, causing Chad to glance over confused. He was already baffled as to why they had met up with plan already in mind, but now was hearing this? He thought things were clear with their new employee. “I just have some concerns about her, if you may.”

“Concerns?” Chad questions, intrigued by his driver’s comments. He had to admit that he had concerns as well, hence the questions asked on Tuesday. “Why weren’t they expressed when I was questioning her?”  Jimmie knew that he should’ve said something, but he couldn’t bring himself to do that – especially with Ron present.

“Because I was the one who suggested to Ron to talk to her about the job.” Chad found himself being even more surprised by the minute. He thought the surprises were over when everything came out of the box last year.

“So you suggested her for the position even with concerns? You also didn’t have the heart to say something in front of Malec about these concerns, either. So what the hell are they?” Jimmie knew that he was pegging Chad’s frustration as the crew chief probably wanted to focus on his notes, as always. Perhaps he should’ve discussed this at a different time.

“Ron detailed her background and everything that happened in Pine Valley – per her words. However, I have to wonder if there’s something else going on there. What if something else happened that caused her to run away?” Chad knew that it was a risk in accepting Greenlee already based on her street racing past – but that was cleared by the discussion. He also knew there was a risk based on what Jimmie had just said.

“I’m well aware of that risk and concern, Jimmie. Why do you think I basically said to Ron that his ass is on the line if this doesn’t go according to plan?” Jimmie remembered those words clearly.  It was why he had swallowed a mouthful of empty concern on Tuesday.

“But if she doesn’t say something, then how is he to kno-”

“If there was a doubt of worry or thought of your nature in his mind, he shouldn’t have taken the chance that he took.  It’s simple as that, Jimmie. You know that we’re each responsible for our actions and who we bring into this team.  Rick also made it perfectly clear he wasn’t going to deal with more crap after what happened last year.” Jimmie lets out a sigh, remembering that discussion with Rick very well. He was just glad that he wasn’t fired on the spot.

“Trust me, I remember the discussion. I just wanted to see your thoughts on my thought, that’s all.” Chad understood that as the pair was close and shared everything. However, the one person missing from the discussion was important, too.

“What about Ron? Did you ever feel the need to question him about this concern?” Jimmie knew the answer to that, clearly. Hence why he was having this conversation now while Ron was busy with the crew in the garage.

“I asked him about intentions a couple times already to see where things stood. He didn’t say anything that stuck out. However, it still rang in my mind with the professional connection now. I also, though, didn’t come out and say it as much as I could’ve, to be honest. I may have darted around the bush a little.” Chad understood that, as he knew it’d be tough to directly accuse a friend.

“Well if these concerns are so darting and mind consuming, perhaps you should stop playing games. The only way things are figured out is by finding out answers.” Jimmie knew that Chad was right, but he didn’t know if he could do that.

“I’ll keep that in mind. I better go get changed so we’re ready for practice.” Chad easily accepted as he watched his driver head off with ease.

He was set to return to his work when the conversation found itself replaying in his mind. With no way to block out the thoughts, and wanting to focus on his work, he pulled out his phone and texted Dom.

Since everything that happened, everybody on the team had kept in contact with Dom as part of the friendship grown through everything. Chad knew that Dom had the right connections to people who could get answers, without giving away the reasoning why. If there was anything to worry about, this was the way to handle it.

Once the text was sent and plan was in motion, the crew chief was able to go through the rest of the day with ease, getting the required work done. Practice was as boring as usual, but they got the answers that they needed.  Based on what they had done, Chad felt confident that they’d be up front come the final stages of the race.

Meanwhile, Ron had no issue in this weekend including less work than a normal weekend. It gave him more time to spend with Greenlee, explaining things about a race weekend.

He had to admit that it was nice to catch up more with her and spend time with her again. He had honestly forgotten about how strong their chemistry was when they were playing around on the streets.

Truth be told, it was also a good distraction. In the past months, his quiet time at the track resulted in him being worried of a repeat of before or consumed in his own thoughts of fear and wonder. Now, though, he had something else for his mind to focus on – a beautiful young lady – and found himself being able to put the past further away, for now.

Going through the days avoiding it wouldn’t help, he knew that. He knew there’d be a day where he’d have to face these feelings head on. However, for now, that day wouldn’t be today.