Sunday, April 15 – Bristol Motor Speedway
It’d been a quiet period of time waiting for the rain to pass, but it also didn’t seem like it’d be stopping anytime soon. It was at that time that NASCAR made the decision to regroup and come back on Monday to try and finish the rest of the Food City 500.
“Considering the car is wrecked and we’re out of it, we could just pack up,” Kenny suggests, catching a glance from Chase. “I know you’ve been through quite a bi-”
“Everything that happened last week has no effect on me standing here right now, or coming back tomorrow,” Chase cuts him off, which caught the crew chief by surprise. Kenny could also tell that it wasn’t the full truth, either. “Besides, we are spending another weekend working together. Let’s use tomorrow as practice for getting to know each other more, and then maybe we can make something work in Richmond.”
“If that’s what you want to do, I’m as committed as you are and I’ll see you tomorrow.” Chase nods his head with a small smile as he goes to head off. “Chase?” Chase then stops, glancing back towards Kenny. “I have no clue what happened this past week, or what Alan and Jordan know. But I will say this – whatever it is that happened between yourself, Sarina, and Alison, I hope it works out. I hope that you’re able to work your way through whatever feelings you’re having. I hope they’re able to find her so you can put your mind at peace. If you want to talk, you know my door is always open…”
“I appreciate that, Kenny, but I’m going to be fine.” Chase takes a pause, followed by a deep breath as everything flashes before his eyes once again. “I don’t think I could bring myself to talk to you about it, if I’m being honest. I just can’t find those words. But I appreciate the offer.”
“Anytime. Remember, we’re all family and we will do whatever we need to do for each other.” Chase nods his head, not needing a reminder considering Alan’s past couple of instances.
Monday, April 16 – Bristol Motor Speedway
Chase shakes his head as he glances out the window of the motorcoach. It was supposed to be nicer weather today, and get the rest of the race done – but yet it seemed worse. How did they get to the point of sleet falling at Bristol?
He then hears a knock at the door, and rolls his eyes at first. He had half-expected it to be one of the crew members with concerns for him, giving his distance through the weekend. Could you blame him for what had happened just the week before? And how could you expect him to say something? It wasn’t something he wanted everybody knowing.
He was caught off-guard when he opened the door, though, seeing his dad standing there instead. Since seeing his parents at the hospital after he woke up, he hadn’t seen them much since, focused solely on the racing that weekend and wanting to avoid everything concerning Alison.
“Hey,” Chase says quietly as he backs away from the door, watching his dad follow him back up inside.
“Hey,” Bill replies as he keeps his eyes on Chase, watching him closely. “How are you?” Chase sits down on the couch, half-expecting the conversation to come.
“I’m alright. I told you on Friday that I was fin-”
“I know what you said, Chase. I listen when you talk to me. But it’s been some time since then, and clearly everything has been on your mind more than likely. Can I guess that it’s still bothering you?” Chase lets out a sigh as he looks back out the window.
“I woke up Friday night, as well as last night in the middle of the night because I was thinking about Alison. I was worried that she was going to show up once again. I was worried that she’d try to do something even further pushing because of her frustration in what happened. I was also sick and disgusted about what happened.” Chase then looks back towards his dad. “Is that what you wanted to hear, rather than my cover-up that I’ve told everyone?”
“It’s a start, if I’m being honest. We talked about it when you woke up in the hospital – your feelings, what happened, and the fact that you pani-”
“I was scared for Sarina. I had just watched her get shot after being kidnapped for a whole week. That didn’t have to do with what Alison did.” Bill takes a deep breath, trying to stay as calm as possible despite being frustrated as ever with Chase.
“Sure, that explains what happened. But what about Jordan and Alan finding you in the bathroom, sick and disgusted, having been up crying most of the night? That’s what worries me, Chase. The fact that you’re avoiding dealing with those feelings by putting it off as if nothing happened. I bet you haven’t said anything to anyon-”
“I brought it on mysel-”
“She sexually assaulted yo-”
“I made the deal, didn’t I?” Chase takes a deep breath as he glances back out the window. “I accepted it for Sarina’s safety, and I have to live with the consequences, whatever those may be. I’m dealing with it.” Bill rolls his eyes as he knew that wasn’t the case.
“Avoiding discussion isn’t dealing with it, Chase. You need to get a battle handle on it. When I mentioned what she did to you, you couldn’t even look me in the eye. You were about to break down in tears – but hey, there’s nothing remaining right? I let it go that day at the hospital because you were right, seeing Sarina was the most important thing that day.” Bill reaches out and places a hand on Chase’s, catching his attention. “Stop hiding it. I know you’re hurting, and it hurts me more than anything to see you like this…”
“I just want to forget it happened. I just want to find out that she’s been caught and I never have to see her again. Can we please just not tal-”
“Avoiding the topic isn’t going to make it go away, Chase. You need to talk about this with someone.” Bill reaches with his other hand into his pocket, pulling out a booklet and placing it down on the couch, catching Chase’s attention.
“There’s no way I’m talking to a complete stranger about this, Dad…” Bill takes a deep breath.
“I know it’s a daunting task, but that’s why there are psychiatrists. They can help you with your feelings because even beyond what she did this past week, she’s been messing with you for awhile now. Everybody can see that.” Chase rolls his eyes.
“Right, because that’s just how I am. Nobody believes that I can handle this and am stron-”
“Are you serious right now? Listen to yourself for a second. If you ask me, I have no question about how strong you are in how you’ve been able to face what she’s thrown at you, and keep everything else in your life in order. Not a lot of people could say or do that. I’m just trying to give you a way to stop fighting the silent fight anymore. Talk to someone, please. Take this number and call it, or talk to me, talk to Sarina, talk to your mom, talk to Jordan, or even talk to Alan. Just talk to someone and address your feelings, please…”
“I’ll think about it, okay?” Chase takes the booklet and places it up on the table. “Dad, I’ve got this. I don’t need you treating me like a kid anymore. I’ll be fine…”
He then stands up, grabs his phone and sunglasses off the table, before heading out to go to pit road. Bill could only glance in the direction he headed, and let out a sigh.
“Bill?” Sarina asks, catching his attention. “Please tell me he’s going to be okay….”
“He’ll be okay,” Bill replies as he gets up and walks over to her. “I know he’ll be okay. I just wish he would make it easier on himself…”
It was a long day, but their attitude paid off as they were able to gain some positions – and with every point mattering to qualify for the playoffs, they weren’t going to complain. But even with that said, Chase was certainly glad to be heading out of Bristol.
“I love you,” Sarina comments as he comes out of the back room after getting changed out of his firesuit.
“I love you, too,” he replies, lightly kissing her lips as she wraps her arms around him.
“You’ve been here for me through everything, and even are still here for me. I wouldn’t be able to make my XFINITY Series debut next weekend if it wasn’t for you being there, holding my hand, listening to me, letting me grow, and helping me be a better person. I can’t thank you enough for everything that you’ve done. We’re a team, Chase, so let me be here for you now. Talk to me about Alison, your feelings, your fears, how you feel. I’m willing to listen to you.” He watches as she lays her head against his chest, letting out a sigh as he rests his chin on top of her head.
“I wish I could just tell you everything, spill my guts out here and now. I wish I could just make the feelings go away by pouring them out. I wish I could do what you want – but I can’t. I can’t bring myself to say what happened….” She then glances up into his eyes.
“Is it because of the shame? Or something else?” He shrugs his shoulders as he wraps his arms around her.
“I don’t know, honestly. But I do appreciate you being here, and I love you. Nothing will ever change that.” She then lays her head back against his chest.
“Chase, I’ll always be here, forever and always….”
Friday, April 20 – Richmond Raceway
Chase makes his way into the garage area, a smile fixated on his face as he stops by the car.
“I don’t want to be insensitive here, but that smile normally means something….” Jordan starts as he leans over from the other side of the NAPA Chevrolet. He had wanted to make the dip in that something had happened, but didn’t want to push his luck just yet. He could only guess that the topic of sexual contact was still a sensitive subject.
“Check the XFINITY leaderboard and then get back to me,” Chase offers, earning a curious glance from Jordan. However, he did as requested, seeing that Sarina had ended both XFINITY series practice sessions ranked third on the board.
“She looks like no damn rookie out there!” Chase shakes his head no with a smile of his own.
“And the odd thing? She wasn’t using the bottom lane. Justin pointed it out, and I noticed watching, that she was using the middle groove instead of the bottom.” Jordan was now even more impressed as he kept his eyes on his driver.
“Are you going to try and steal a secret from your girlfriend now?” Chase just gives him back a wink as Jordan laughs. “Hey, whatever makes ya happy is all that matters, right?”
“We just need to survive this week and our boss is back next week.” Jordan nods his head in agreement as he makes his way over to Chase.
“You know, Alan told me to keep an eye on you.” Chase glances over intrigued. “He was worried about how you were feeling, and how Kenny would treat things. I mean, we both know what happ-”
“I don’t want to talk about tha-”
“Let me guess – you haven’t said a single word about that to anyone all week, have you?” Chase lets out a sigh as he lays his head on the roof of the car. “As Alan predicted. Look, we’re both just worried about you and being that we’re the only ones that know besides Sarina and your parents, we’re the only ones that can truly be here for you – unless you tell someone else.”
“Jordan, please…..” Jordan places a hand on Chase’s shoulder.
“I know you’re going to take your time and do this at your own pace and do whatever the hell you want with it. But please, don’t keep putting it off. You’re just going to make it worse. It’s like you’ve always said – don’t give someone the power to eat at you. What have you been doing with Alison for months? Don’t give her this power.” Chase glances over at the interior mechanic.
“And how am I supposed to just remove that power without question? The minute that I go to let my guard down is the minute that she strikes and does something.” Jordan nods his head, having seen the pattern over the past couple of months.
“So making yourself sick in thought is better? That doesn’t sound healthy, Chase. But hey, it’s your life.” Jordan walks away as Chase just lets out a long sigh.
Hopefully he wouldn’t have to deal with this much longer as he’d get the news they’d been waiting to hear all along. For now, though, he could use his racecar as a good distraction with the pair of practice sessions.
The first practice went amazing as he was comfortable in race trim through most of the session, and managed to top the speed chart with a qualifying trim run at the very end.
The second practice didn’t show the speed on the chart (25th), but that wasn’t Kenny’s focus as he was more focused on getting Chase comfortable over the long run. Given the pair of the practices, he had to admit that he was confident going into Saturday night’s race.
Chase makes his way into the garage area, hopping up onto the shelf with a sigh as Kenny glances over.
“For someone who just qualified second for the race, you don’t look happy,” Kenny comments as Chase looks over his way.
“Trust me – qualifying second is great, as is Sarina starting up front tonight too,” Chase replies as Kenny was now confused. “There’s more to life than that, though.” Kenny hated to intrigue on his driver’s personal lives when he worked with them, but the confusion pushed him to do so anyway.
“Enlighten me…” Chase rolls his eyes as he wanted to just forget about it.
“Media center, post qualifying. Did you not hear how they implied cheating on purpose, pressure getting to us, tension in the team?” Kenny nods his head, having watched the feed, and laughed through it all. “Alan and I have the best friendship, ever, and yet we’ve got to deal with that? They don’t understa-”
“When did it matter to you what they said, Chase? They’re just fishing for a story.” Chase lets out a sigh as he knew that was the case.
“I also had the autograph session – which by the way, it went great for the most part as the fans were awesome. But of course, someone has to remind me that she’s alive.” Kenny was now ultra confused, and even a little worried.
“Alison?” Chase lets out a sigh as he nods his head, pulling his phone out of his pocket. He loads a photo of the note, having handed the original over the authorities, before handing the phone over to Kenny. “Just because I’ve left you alone for a couple weeks doesn’t mean I’m done with you. We were just getting started…” Kenny looks up at Chase. “Did she hand it to you herself?”
“No, she left a note lying around with my name on it and someone handed it to me – typical Alison style.” Kenny just shakes his head in disgust as he hands the phone back over.
“That’s just sick and retarded. But hey, everybody is watching for her-”
“They have been for the past several months and we’ve had nothing happen. She was within feet of police officers and managed to escape.” Kenny almost felt his barrier drop immediately as he watched his young driver.
“For whatever it is worth, I believe it will work out. she’ll be found, caught, and eliminated from your life – and she won’t pull anything else ever again. I know that because of how many people have your back, and how strong you are. No matter what she throws at you, you can push it away.” Chase glances up at the crew chief.
“I used to believe that, until she played my greatest weaknesses and vulnerabilities against me. Now, I don’t know how much I can take…” Kenny almost wanted to reach out, but resisted doing so as he wasn’t sure where things stood with them together.
“You’re still standing here, right? You’re still pushing forward. You were able to keep a straight face all last weekend. That should say something, right?” Chase wanted to believe that as he kept saying that, wanting to use that strength to actually move forward, but he also felt stuck.
“What if while I put on this great front it is tearing me apart inside slowly? I can’t even begin to describe how sick she makes me feel. The thought of her makes me sick to my stomach. I don’t even want to think about the feelings that I had….” Chase takes a deep breath as he feels the emotions coming to the forefront once again.
“But the only way that you’re going to see them through-”
“I know I need to talk about them to someone, Kenny. You’re not the first person to tell me that. Sarina has told me that. Jordan has told me that. My dad told me that. Alan told me that. But how do you talk about something that makes you so sick?” Kenny wasn’t even sure where to go with it as he shook his head.
“I don’t know because I’ve never been in your shoes before. You could always make sure you’re comfortable, knowing that she can’t hurt you from memories, knowing that you will be okay.” Kenny then looks over at Chase with sympatric eyes. “I wish I could tell you some magic cure…”
“I wish there was some potion that I could drink that would make me forget everything that happened – every single motion, feeling, entrapment. But I can’t get that wish either.”
“Life isn’t meant to be easy, Chase. But for what it’s worth, you have the right friends around you and I know you’ll find that answer you’re looking for.”
“When?” Kenny shrugs his shoulders.
“I don’t know, but hopefully sooner than later. Stay strong, it’ll work out…” Kenny then heads off, leaving Chase to think over his thoughts.
“I hope you’re right, Kenny…..”