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.

Back to Square One – Chapter 9: The Interview

Greenlee follows Ron through the set of doors, walking down the long hallway that’d lead to the conference room where the interview was set-up with Chad Knaus for the position.

“Why do I feel so nervous all of a sudden?” She questions, catching Ron’s attention as he glances back at her.

“That’s a surprise coming from you,” he answers. “I thought you were the princess of confidence.” She laughs, always having that sense to her through the years. Perhaps after the last round of what happened with Ryan and Annie, they had cracked her. He had been her rock for a long time, after all.

“I remember when I was running Fusion with Kendall and the girls. I could walk into a room, sell the product within five minutes with the right words and attitude. Now I am wondering if I will have the right thing to say to please your boss.” Ron laughs, having felt that unease in one of his first meetings with Chad. It was part of the aura that everybody knew with regards to him.

“I’m sure you’ll be fine. Besides, why don’t you just go back to Fusion with Kendall?” Greenlee had thought of that doing. However, it’d involve being in Pine Valley and she wasn’t prepared for that.

“I told you that I didn’t want to be in Pine Vall-”

“You could run the second-tier, say southern office, from down here.” Greenlee shakes her head no, knowing the girls wouldn’t go for that. They had a certain pack they had formed together in how to run the country.

She never did get the chance to answer as they reached the conference room. Taking a deep breath, she followed Ron inside, almost jumping when she heard the door slam behind her. It was all or nothing now.

“Ms. Smythe, it’s nice to meet you,” a voice catches her attention, and she shakes the hand extended to her. She immediately could tell that the man was probably Chad Knaus, giving the stack of notebooks.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, too, sir,” she replies with confidence laced in her voice. Maybe she could do this after all. “Jimmie, it’s nice to see you after all these years. Glad that you’ve been able to have a ton of success.”

“Thank you, and it’s nice to see you,” Jimmie replies, watching the pair closely. He had heard the comments from Ron yesterday, and now wondered whether there was truth to the rumors of chemistry.

“So Ron says that you’d be perfect for the note taker position?” Chad questions and she shakes her head yes as she sits down in the chair alongside Chad’s.

“Her attention is second to none, even better than mine,” Ron vouches as he leans back against the nearest wall watching them. Chad then glances back at the car chief, before turning his eyes to the female before him. He didn’t know if he could fully believe those words, given that he wondered if there were other reasons for this arrangement.

“I can handle the interview process, Ron. I have read over your resume and even called one of your references – pretty pleased.” Greenlee smiles, thankful that Bianca had agreed to be a reference without asking for many details. She wanted to keep her location as secret as possible. “It’s interesting with all this knowhow that you’d be wanting to take a simple position as a notetaker.” Ron then went to speak, but Greenlee held her hand up. She knew that the only way to impress him was to handle this herself.

“I grew up in Pine Valley and it was a good life,” she starts. “But it’s also been a place of heartbreak – losing both Leo and Ryan, recently. I came down to North Carolina for a fresh start on life. I was looking for something, anything, to land my feet so I had some money, and Ron mentioned you had a job opening. Given my experience in being organized, and my attention to detail, I felt that I’d fit the description.” Chad shakes his head, accepting, though knew that was only part of the deal here.

“What about mechanical, car experience?” Chad asks. “It’d be important that you know the terms that you’re making notes in reference to.” She knew the question was coming, and had debated the correct way to handle it.

“I’ve been around cars for my entire life, sir. I know all the terms and details that a lot of people wouldn’t know. I can assure that there’d be no issues in that regard. You can ask Ron.” Chad then glanced back at Ron, before looking at Greenlee. He had a funny feeling with the direction this was headed.

“Do you have a past in street racing?” Greenlee knew how that hadn’t gone over well in the past for Ron and Jimmie so she immediately shook her head no.

“Greenlee, I can’t lie to him – again,” Ron gives in with a sigh. He had been through the lies before and saw how close they were to tearing the team apart. He didn’t want to take any chances as he liked the group that he was working with. “Chad, she does have a history in street racin-”

“You are aware of the mess that we created alrea-”

“And you are aware that we both promised to stay away from that, and have,” Jimmie cuts Chad off, not wanting to have this discussion.

“Then how does someone else with a street racing connection show up out of the blue, again?” Chad asks as he looks towards Greenlee.

“I told you the story as to why I came down here, sir,” she starts carefully, knowing that she was on thin ice. She wished Ron had explained the history in regards to Chad on this note. “My involvement in street racing goes back to when I was younger – teens, early 20s. Since I left California and moved to Pine Valley, getting involved in business there, I haven’t returned to the street. You don’t have anything to worry about.” Chad glanced back down at her resume as he thought over her words. He knew it was a risk in hiring her for that reason. However, she was the only candidate that had come close to his acceptance in the past three weeks and there was no fear in being a spy. Letting out a sigh, he wanted to kick himself in the butt for saying his next set of words.

“You’re hired. You will accompany us to the track this weekend to get a feel for the weekend happenings. You will begin work on Monday in our first morning meeting, taking notes. The notes must be to the degree that will satisfy me or else I will have you removed. Secondly, if there’s any funny business, I don’t accept apologies or give second chances. Ron, for your sake too, you better hope she behaves.” Ron puts his hands up as a smile forms on his face.

“You have nothing to fear,” Ron states.

“Thank you so much,” Greenlee says before shaking Chad’s hand once again. He then lets go, placing a card before her.

“Go see these people to get your uniform to size for weekend and through the week,” Chad states as he stands up. “Ron knows all the details and can help you out. Jimmie, let’s go.” Jimmie shakes his head yes as he follows the crew chief out of the room. “Jimmie, do you think I did the right thing?”

“I think you did a great thing as she should fit in nicely,” Jimmie answers as they head down the hall.

Back to Square One – Chapter 7: Sleeping in Shop

BacktoSquareOne

Wednesday

Ron walks into the shop, giving a quick wave to a couple crew guys as he walks past them, before walking into his office and closing the door behind him. He then turns the blinds down, blocking the light that threatened to filter it’s way in.

He then sits down in the chair at his desk, putting his feet up as he lets out a sigh.

While he went through the morning like any other – well, this was obviously different due to Greenlee making him breakfast. However, he had acted as though he had gotten the necessary sleep that he needed to function for the day.

However, it wasn’t the truth and he almost brought himself to say something to her before he left the house.

All he could do was picture back to the night before, sitting on the couch in his living room, going back through the details from a couple months ago. He recalled going through how David and Hilary came into their lives. He recalled how David was set on finding Jimmie. He recalled how the racing morning went, including his meeting with Hilary. He recalled how things went following the crash, how he was doing his normal duty and swept up into her arms. He recalled the moments that he remembered from being in her hands.

On the surface, and the appearance that he put on to others, it looked as though he had been able to heal both physically and mentally from what happened. It seemed as it had no effect on him, and life would simply return to normal.

That was far from the truth, though. He found himself still haunted by the demons of what happened. He feared being alone at the track, memory flashing back to the kidnapping. He found himself glancing over his shoulder a lot more, wondering if someone was watching and lurking, ready to mark another move. He also hadn’t slept as much as he wanted the night before, his memory taking him through the events that happened.

Letting out a sigh, he wished that he could say that it was getting easier to deal with. However, that would be far from the truth. He found himself getting less sleep with each night, followed by those fears that he felt being heightened.

He thought about speaking with a friend, perhaps even Jimmie as they were close, but he couldn’t find himself to speak out loud. He could repeat the trail of events that happened. What was needed to be said that would make it easier to deal with?

He thought about taking further steps to deal with it – some in a positive direction of seeing a psychiatrist, or simply voicing his concerns to someone. There was also the negative direction that he thought about, looking for any cure possible to get the sleep that he craved. But he couldn’t bring himself to do that as he knew while times were tough, he’d regret it later as there was a life that he loved living and people who loved him.

He closes his eyes, drifting off to sleep for about 30 minutes, only to awaken at the sound of his door opening. He immediately takes his feet off of the desk, sitting up and facing the driver that stands in the doorway.

“Chad’s been looking for you,” Jimmie starts, eyes locked on his car chief and best friend. “He says that you had a mee-”

“Tell him I’ll be there in five,” Ron cuts Jimmie off as he tries to wipe the sleepiness off like nothing, opening the drawer as he searches for his binder. He knew that he had placed the binder with notes from the previous day’s discussion with the team members in the drawer. They had discussed adjustments and things to do with the car for a couple weeks ahead. He was supposed to debrief Chad and Cameron on that discussion, while taking part in discussions for that upcoming weekend.

“Okay. I can do that.” Jimmie then walks closer to the desk, eyes focused on Ron as he finds his mind scrambling for answers. He could tell that the car chief hadn’t been working before his appearance, but rather looking for some quiet space. He could also see the resemblance of bags underneath the eyes, meaning a lack of sleep. It was that moment that he found himself generally concerned for his friend. “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah. I just have to make sure I grab the right bind-”

“I’m talking about you, Malec.” Ron grabs the binder out of the drawer, closing it as he looks up at his driver. He knew that Jimmie could see right through any lies that he told and could probably see the sleepiness that he tried to hide.

“Look, I didn’t sleep as much as I would’ve preferred last night so I’m a little tired. Hence why I was trying to grab a quick nap.” Ron then focuses on getting whatever else he felt that was needed as Jimmie crosses his arms. His comment seemed to go with some suspicions that Cameron had shared earlier in the week about how Ron was doing. The engineer had wondered whether the car chief was fine, or something was going on once again. Jimmie quickly brushed it off, knowing that they had all put everything behind them, but found himself curious now.

“Okay. So there’s nothing going on? You haven’t gone back on the pack that we made. You haven’t crossed paths with David or Hilary or anybody related to them. I have nothing to worry about, right?” Ron stands up and shakes his head yes, knowing that those things didn’t hi the needle on the head, as he focuses on the driver. “And everything is cool? You’re not sick or having emotional issues from what happened?” Ron knew that he couldn’t be truthful in stating that nothing of those statements were true, but he wasn’t about to admit it either. Though he knew that he could take a different approach. It was bound to come out that Greenlee was staying at his house.

“Do you remember Greenle-”

“I thought you said that you didn’t go back on our pack!” Ron rolls his eyes as he wished it was that simple, rather than the story that Greenlee laid on his shoulders that night.

“I didn’t, okay? She wanted to get away from some things that happened both in California and Pine Valley, so she came down here. She got stranded on the side of the road and I gave her a lift back to my place last night so she’d have a safe place to stay.” Jimmie didn’t know whether to relax in hearing that or not. He knew of the trouble that she had caused before, and the feelings that Ron had for her originally. “Let me go to this meeting and then I’ll come to your office and tell you everything. Fair?”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Jimmie sat back in shock as he listened to Ron divulge on Greenlee’s tale, from start to finish. He also couldn’t believe that despite her questionable past, Ron was set to give her a chance by allowing her to stay at his place and help her find a job. Though with a smirk, he could see why in the long run.

“Nothing happened,” Ron repeated as he noticed the smirk on Jimmie’s face.

“That doesn’t mean that you don’t want anything to happen,” Jimmie comments as Ron rolls his eyes. It seemed that Jimmie wasn’t far from the truth, though.

“I’m not even going to comme-”

“So it is true since you won’t address the issue.” Ron then stares down at Jimmie.

“Do I like her? Sure. Do I still have a crush on her? Sure. Am I going to move on that? I don’t know. Does she know that I have a crush on her? It may have slipped out after she made me breakfast. I’m going to tell you the same thing that I told her, though. We’ll see how our friendship goes, and how the feelin-”

“Famous last wor-”

“I have to think about whether I can put everything that she’s done in the past and trust her, and whether she’s done those games as I can’t have that bullshit again. She also has to think if she wants to love again after what happened with Leo and Ryan, and whether she’s willing to move forward. IF there’s any hesitation, there’s no way that I am doing this. But…maybe…just maybe….you’re god damn right.” Jimmie just smiles as he kicks his feet back, eyes focused on Ron. It was certainly an interesting scenario with her back in play.

“I knew something was there. Now, did you manage to get her a job?” Ron lets out a sigh as he checks his text messages, seeing a decline from both Malcolm and Tyler. Malcolm knew her shady past, and Tyler wasn’t taking on any new hires. “Say, she can work on cars, right? Chad mentioned something about needing a note taker. Perhaps you could throw that out to her. If she says yes, I’ll vouch for her….for now.”

“You’d do that?” Jimmie shakes his head yes.

“Tyler gave Candiss a second chance, and look at where things are now. Perhaps a second chance is all Greenlee needs for you both to be happy.”