Moving Forward – Chapter 52: Back to the Grind

With a successful test out of the way, along with a great banquet, everything was seamlessly falling into place. That’s why with a deep breath, Dale knew it was time to return back to the daily grind of details. With Marie focused on last minute wedding hiccups and running a country, he was set to get back to his responsibilities.

As he walked through the doors of JR Motorsports, immediately crew members who had missed seeing their boss over the past couple of months greeted him with either a simple hello, what’s up, handshake, or half-hug. Each time, Dale simply smiled in return, accepting the greeting, enjoying every single moment more being back at the shop.

“And what do you think you’re doing here?” A female voice then rung through the halls and Dale stopped, letting out a chuckle. It wouldn’t be a proper welcome back without Kelley having a comment of her own.

“I put you fully in charge while I was focused on getting better,” he starts, coming face-to-face with her in the hallway. “I’m feeling pretty good. We had the test at Darlington and that went over well. There’s nothing else lingering. I’m ready to get back at it.”  Kelley was grateful to see that as her brother had freaked her out beyond anything. However, that didn’t mean she approved the visit.

“What about the wedding, Christmas, and your Pitronia responsibilities?” Dale lets out a sigh, knowing that she meant well. However, he was a grown adult and could balance it all.

“Everything is set to go for the wedding as planned. There’s nothing else that I need to worry about in regards to that – you can ask Marie. As far as Christmas, I have been doing my shopping – yes, including you – and that’s coming together easily. Now Pitronia – let’s be serious. You know that Marie doesn’t let me get my hands too dirty with that as she feels that’s her responsibility. But, I haven’t been throwing off what I need to do there, either. I am fine, Kelley. I can handle this.” She takes a deep breath, nodding, slowly accepting.

“You do realize that I’m just riding your ass because I care, right?” Dale nods his head.

“I wouldn’t expect otherwise. Besides, the guys do like seeing me every once and awhile.” She glances towards the shop floor, having seen the greetings that were shared for Dale as he had made his way to where they were.

“I know. It’s nice to see you back, actually. Maybe now you can handle some of the crap on your desk.” She then turns around, walking away, as he looks at her confused and intrigued. It didn’t take long for him to reach his office, making his way inside and sitting down. In doing so, the stack of papers immediately caught his attention as he picked up a couple to read them over.

“Are you kidding me?” Kelley glances in the doorway, simply smiling in return.

“You said you were ready to be back in the fold. Welcome back!” She then walks away as he lets out a sigh.

He couldn’t try and push it off, nor argue what was happening. Besides, it was nice to be back. So as he picked up the first piece of paper, reading it over, followed by a signature, there was a smile on his face.

Who knew paperwork could be so fun some days?

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

Dale returns home that night, instantly smiling as he is greeted at the door by a pair of arms wrapped around his legs, glancing up at him with a bigger smile than he could muster.

“You’re home!!” Alyssa lets out as he picks her up into his arms.

“Did you miss me?” He questions and she nods her head. Perhaps she had become spoiled in having her parents both home everyday over the past couple months. “I missed you, too.”

“Mommy say you need lots of work.” Dale nods his head, knowing that Marie was certainly right in those words as it seemed that stack of papers would never end.

“Yes, there was lots of work to do today. But what matters is I got it all done and I’m home, ready for dinner with you, followed by some play time.” She immediately throws both arms up in the air, excited for their evening to come together.

“Yay!” He then gives her a kiss, before putting her down, as she takes off to the kitchen to tell her mom.

“Dada….” He hears and feels his heart swell even more, as he notices the waddling little girl making her way out of the kitchen. Now eight months, Elsa was beginning to walk, taking a couple steps at a time, before sitting down, and trying once again. It was actually unbelievable to see how quickly she was growing up. It felt just like yesterday that she was born.

“Hey princess,” he says as she finally reaches him, kneeling down to her level and wrapping his arms around her.

“Dada….” He smiles as he looks into her eyes, which matched his sparking blues in every which way imaginable.

“Have you been a good girl today for Mama?” He watches as she looks towards the kitchen, before sitting down in the hall.

“Mama….” He took that response as a yes, as he let out a chuckle.

“I think we should both go see Mama together.” He then scoops her up in his arms, carrying her to the kitchen. He freezes immediately as he reaches the doorway, taking the sweet smells. “Holy moly, that smells amazing…..”

“I’m glad,” Marie replies as she walks over, giving him a quick kiss, followed by one for Elsa. “Hopefully it tastes just as good.” Dale smiles as he watches her walk back over to the stove.

“Your cooking is never short of amazing,” he compliments her as she just smiles. “I see you have two perfect angels today.”

“Angels? That’s so funny….” She then turns around to face him. “That one there in your hands is becoming quite the little handful. It seems she can reach new heights now, and that means trying to get her hands on whatever she can. Don’t ever take your eye off of her as she at one point was trying to eat Gus’ food, followed by a remote, followed by grabbing a ball she’s not allowed, and then she reached up for some paperwork. Do you realize that I have to send something with teeth marks in it now?” Dale chuckles, remembering some of those previous experiences when Alyssa was smaller.

“She just wanted to add her own precious touch.” Dale then tickles Elsa’s belly, causing her to let out a big laugh in his arms. “This little girl being bad? I could never see that….”

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you. In some ways, she’s finding more things than Alyssa ever did.” He then looks at Elsa surprised.

“Elsa took my homework and chewed it!” Alyssa states as she holds up a piece of paper.

“See what I mean?” Marie questions as Dale just shakes his head.

“I guess she didn’t like math, huh?” Dale asks and Alyssa shakes her head no. “But do you like math?” IT was just learning how to count, and beginning to add one and one together, but it was a start.

“I love it!” Alyssa lets out, followed by grabbing a book out of her bag. “And my book, too. We reading about turtles!” Dale looks it over, impressed, before handing it back to her.

“Guess we’re reading that before bed now?” She nods her head. “Okay!”

“Look at us…” Marie lets out as she leans back against the counter. “Two beautiful budding little girls, focused on every little cranny of their lives. Could you have pictured this?” Dale smiles as he shakes his head no, remembering their starting times together.

“I’m just glad that I have the opportunity to raise a family with you,” Dale tells her, giving her a kiss on the cheek, as she nods her head, accepting. “I’ll never forget….”

“Me neither….” He then takes a calming deep breath, as he looks back to the little girl in his arms.

“I’m going to go get this one cleaned up – including that stinky in her diaper, so we’re ready for dinner.” Marie nods her head accepting, smiling as she watches Dale leave the kitchen.

They both knew that a day couldn’t pass by without them saying thank you a couple times.

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Moving Forward – Chapter 45: The Bet

TJ switches the light off, sitting back on his stool.

He watches as Dale walks around the room, taking steps in all different directions as he reads different signs, and cites different things. TJ’s eyes fall to the feet on the floor, watching for any tipsy movement or misplacement that leads to an almost trip. However, everything comes with ease around the entire room for a span of 10 minutes, before Dale makes his way over to the switch and hits it.

“$20 please?” Dale questions as he looks over at TJ, who sits there stunned.

“I’ll gladly give you that $20 because I am so damn happy that you are making such great progress,” TJ answers as he reaches into his pocket and places a bill on the bench. “Honestly, it warms my heart to see that. I mean, I admit – I was really worried there for awhile bud. But to see you do that, and not one slip up, that was amazing.” Dale smiles as he walks back over, sitting beside him.

“My goal all along was to go through these exercises and keep getting better just so that way I could walk down that aisle in January and be happy, seeing life straight as I married her. Now, I’m ready to go back to racing with the test at Darlington, and ready for the upcoming season.” TJ smiles as it was great to hear positivity, rather than being served and scared of the future.

“What about nerves?” Dale knew that was a topic as he glances outwards into the room.

“They’re there, for sure. I mean, there’s always the question of whether you’re exactly who you are and where you need to be to win races. Certainly walking into Darlington I’ll feel that. But I’m confident, and I’m happy.” TJ just kept smiling as it all sounded great.

“So, this wedding in January. I know you have this book of official announcement crap for after the wedding – but what about the wedding? We’re doing it here on the property but traditional or not?” Dale knew the question was going to be asked, having heard it already from a few people.

“Standard, typical wedding procedure is all that you need to know.” TJ shakes his head, easily accepting. He was worried there’d be something strange popping up due to this king-queen business.

“So you just need to know that book stuff for when you go back to Pitronia and announce?” Dale shakes his head yes. “And what about her name? Is she officially becoming Marie Earnhardt, which by the way sounds nice?” Dale knew how it rang together, having sung it a couple times in his mind as he counted down the days till January.

“Queen Marie-Anne Belle Kastona Earnhardt. There is no dropping names in the traditional sense.” TJ looked over perplexed, knowing he was missing something. “But she did drop Calantay to remove any trace of her father from herself, and future generations.”

“Say the name again, please.” Dale rolls his eyes.

“Queen Marie-Anne Belle Kastona Earnhardt.” TJ just shakes his head as he glances towards the glass on the counter.

“How the hell do you remember that?” Dale smiles as he looks at his best friend.

“Marie-Ann is her full name. Belle was her middle name off of her cousin. Kastona was her mother’s last name. It’s very easy.” TJ shook his head as he thought it over.

“And you, sir, would be King Ralph Dale Earnhardt Jr.?” Dale looks away as he thinks it over. There was a bit more than that.

“While for the sake of my life here, I will not be taking the name, I will officially have the Kastona name in the Pitronia records.” TJ then looks over, confused. “Country tradition, buddy. That’s just how it goes, and I respect their wishes.”

“So that means that Alyssa becomes prince-”

“She’s already princess, being Marie’s daughter. So therefore she’s Princess Alyssa Kastona Earnhardt, with her future husband to add his last name to the end.” TJ then glances up, thinking it over with a smile.

“So that’d be Alysssa Kastona Earnhardt Gordo-”

“Hey now, what did I say about that?” TJ laughs, remembering how Dale had wanted to avoid the thought of his daughter dating, and any prediction that Leo and Alyssa would get together.

“So then it should be Alyssa Kastona Earnhardt Har-”

“TJ Majors!” Dale then gives him a punch as TJ immediately looks over, surprised, rubbing his arm.

“Ouch!”

“Well then damn well listen to me. I told you – my girl ain’t dating no boy, nor getting married, nor any hokey pokey.” TJ laughs as he watches Dale walk away from him.

“You keep telling yourself that but it’s going to happen. I tried the same with Madeline and she kissed a boy in school.” Dale then spins around shocked.

“Grade 2 and kissing?” TJ shakes his head yes. “Holy shit.”

“That was my reaction, before wanting to call the school and demand an answer.” Dale shakes his head.

“I’m going to need those guards sooner than I originally thought.” TJ then laughs as he follows Dale up the stairs.

“So how about Elsa then?” Dale then looks over at TJ.

“She’s only 11 months….”

“Elsa Kastona Earnhardt Busch marries Brexton Kastona Earnhardt Busch, or just Brexton Earnhardt Busch?” Dale rolls his eyes.

“You had the name placement right first, and that’s no way ever happening. Do you want a cause a riot amongst the fans?” TJ thinks it over as he smiles widely.

“Can we please, please, please prank them?” Dale just rolls his eyes again. “Is that a no?”

“Keep it up, TJ. I’ll be sure to send the boys to your house to pick up Madeline for a date.” TJ’s smile immediately disappears as Dale looks back with a grin. “Two can play this game, buddy.”

“And to think you guys have gone from drunken stumbers and stupid antics with video games, to setting each other’s kids up with boys,” they hear and glance towards the kitchen, seeing Kelley standing there beside Marie. “My oh my how times have changed.”

“Hey Kelley, is Wyatt available for a playdate?” Dale questions with a glance at TJ, who immediately returns it with a death stare.

“Oh there is no way you boys are getting me involved in your antics.”

“It’d be no surprise to see them officially be related though,” Marie comments as Kelley glances over at her.

“Don’t encourage them,” Kelley states. “They got enough ideas of their own. They don’t need our help. They need us to keep them out of trouble.”

“Yeah, that’s impossible with this guy,” TJ says as he points to Dale. “Hence why you’re still involved in his life because there’s no way he can avoid it.”

“Listen here Mr. Innocent, you’ve done your fair share too,” Dale replies as Marie shakes her head.

“I’ll tell you all about their antics later,” Kelley whispers as Marie smiles. She knew there was some good stories to be told.

Moving Forward – Chapter 39: Her Worries

Even with the process in place for Dale, it didn’t leave Marie off the hook. She still had to take care of the usual country responsibilities, as well as finalize details surrounding the wedding.

It was why that afternoon she was in the church at the back of the property finalizing wedding decorations and the male plan with some of her girls.

“Marie, what about this?” Stacey questions as she glances through the book they were given by the decorating company. It contained different flowers, among other things, and now the girls were trying to find the perfect blue flower to go with everything. “Marie?”

“Huh?” She then looks over at the book, glancing over the shade of blue that it was as she thought about everything else chosen, including her dress. “Yeah, that’ll work actually.”

“Am I wrong by saying you’re distracted today?” Marie couldn’t deny that as she just wanted to run back to the house and hold him close in her arms.

“Listen, I’m fine…honestly.” Stacey then raises her eyesbrows curiously at her.

“I know when something is off, Marie-Ann. You can’t lie to me.” Marie lets out a sigh as she stands up and walks away from Stacey.

“Alright, so there’s something on my mind. Can we just not talk about it and focus on what we need to do today?” Kelley glances over from her spot, intrigued by Marie’s reaction.

“Does this deal with Dale at all?” She wonders, the instinctive protective sister coming out, as Marie returns her gaze. “So I am right.”

“Is it wrong that I’m worried about him?” She questions. “Is it wrong that he’s all I can think about? Is it wrong that I’m wishing I could be there by his side every single moment, with my arms wrapped around him? Is it wrong that I’m worried things aren’t going to work out? I know the doctor keeps saying it’ll be fine, but what if it’s not? He doesn’t deserve this after everything. He doesn’t deserve it after what he’s been through, espically due to me.” She then glances down as she lets out a sigh, not wanting to be so direct with her words.

“Marie, it wasn’t your fau-” Stacey starts.

“It was my family though who caused the pain – Mariela and my sperm donor,” Marie spits back, unable to call her father a father after everything. “I brought those people into his life. I put him at their mercy by not handling them myself first. I went about falling in love, when I knew that’d put them at their mercy due to no acceptance. That’s why I blame myself at times, Stacey. Sure, you can say that it wasn’t my fault nor did I cause the pain directly, but that’s the connection. Same with Chase, and even the thoughts that Rega-”

“Marie, you can’t keep doing this to yourself,” Kelley cuts her off. “I get where you’re coming from. However, it’s still not your fault with that said. It’s their fault – Mariela and your father – for not accepting your wishes, and letting you live your life. And he will make it through this, one way or another. It may take some time, it may be painful, but he’ll be fine. And if for some reason it doesn’t work out as well as you want, there will be a way that it’ll still be fine.”

“And as far as worrying your heart out about him, that’s alright also,” Stacey continues. “That just means that you truly love him, and am truly meant to be with him. That just proves right there we’re standing here for the right reasons.” Marie couldn’t help but smile as the advice may have been small, it was starting to have an effect on her. She knew she was blessed to have Stacey in her life from childhood, and have Kelley as someone to speak to as Dale’s sister.

“What about postponing the wedding if it’s too much right now?” Sherry suggests as she glances up from the book she was viewing. Marie immediately shakes her head no as she sits back down between Stacey and Sherry.

“I suggested that to Dale already – twice, and he told me there was no way he was waiting any longer to marry me,” Marie answers as Kelley couldn’t help but be surprised; she never expected her brother to be so set on marriage. However, it certainly made her feel good to see the feeling was mutual between them.

“Well, what about you let us girls handle the plans and you go focus on that man of yours? I mean, you trust us that we will decide the right decorations, food, place setting and everything. We know your tastes and the general idea that you’re looking for. We also know who shouldn’t be sitting beside who, and who should be with who from our various encounters. That way your heart is not going crazy right now like it is.” Marie thought about it, though shook her head no again. She knew that wouldn’t work, either.

“Besides the fact that Dale isn’t supposed to worry about anything and just focus on himself and the kids, the rest of the world around him isn’t supposed to change. Mickey said keeping the regular behavior that’s there will help – from Alyssa going to school, Elsa’s daycare schedule, and my own. If I was to screw this wedding planning, that’d mess up the schedule and perhaps throw in some worries we don’t need.” She then takes a deep breath as she picks a book up. “I can do this girls, don’t worry. There may be some tough moments, but I can do this. We will get the planning done, amongst my thoughts, and everything will be perfect for January.”

Moving Forward – Chapter 34: Wedding Dress Shopping

Marie double checked that she had everything that she wanted, before joining the girls in the car together.

“Are you sure you want to do this?”  Sherry asks and Marie shakes her head yes. In truth, she didn’t want to leave Dale by himself. But she kept telling herself that it’d be fine as he wasn’t truly by himself. Chase and Ryan were both over, playing with the kids and watching them, so if Dale needed someone, he had the pair of them. Besides, he was supposed to resting and keep quiet as part of his recovery.

“We can do this anoth-” Kelley starts, knowing Marie had a tendency to over worry and sensing how she’d be feeling right now.

“We scheduled this day originally, so let’s go forth with the original plan.” Marie states with a glance towards the fellow ladies in the car.

“We can reschedule if you want,” Sherry offers. “I mean, none of us expected what happened to happen. That obviously changes thing, so we’d get it. You don’t have to if you don’t want to.” Marie almost for a minute was about to blurt out the word ‘reschedule’, but instead settled into her seat. She knew if she went back in the house without going, she’d get Dale riled up and he didn’t need that right now.

“I’m fine, trust me. Let’s go get me a dress.”

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

Sherry leads the group of ladies through the boutique, saying hi to each of her staff members on duty, before retreating to the back room where they’d have some privacy.

While most girls would take the approach of shopping by checking out many different stores looking for the exact style they wanted, Marie and Sherry had taken a different approach. Marie went online and found some different styles that she was interested in – three – with Sherry accepting the pictures from her with ease. Sherry then connected with designers that she knew to see if they had those styles in stock, getting some from each designer. In total, she had 15 wedding dresses shipped in the past couple of weeks. Now it was just up to Marie to sort through and go with what she wanted.

“The rack is right over there with the different dresses that you wanted my dear,” she states as Marie goes over to check out the rack. “Take your time cause you have all the time you want in the world. And if there’s nothing there that you like, we can send them all back and redo.” Marie chuckles as she couldn’t imagine doing that.

“Trust me, I’m not one of those brides who is so picky and all this and that,” Marie comments as Kelley and Stacey both chuckled a little, having seen otherwise with how the planning had been going. “I heard that Mrs. Miller.”

“Stacey laughed as well so I’m not the only guilty party,” Kelley says as she sticks her tongue out at Stacey behind Marie’s back.

“I think what Sherry is also saying is don’t settle on one because you have to either,” Ingrid starts. “This is your one special day, the greatest day of your life. You should truly get married in the dress of your dreams that you absolutely love.”

“So is that why you married Jeff in a goofy Halloween costume?” Sherry questions, referring to Ingrid and Jeff’s ceremony. Ingrid rolls her eyes, remembering that experience.

“We decided to do something fun and different. As you know, we did the proper ceremony with friends and such a week later.” Sherry shakes her head, remembering the pictures which surfaced from the wedding.

“Am I wrong for going with a princess theme?” Marie asks as she glances through the dresses. “I mean, it seems corny now that I think about it.” Each of the girls had their own opinions, but so far were impressed. “By the way, each of you can follow the Disney princess of your choice for the bridesmaid dresses – as long as you don’t copy what I’m with. And I settled it with Dale that no matter what princess dress I get, the color scheme of the wedding will match.”

“Isn’t that going to give away the dress that you got partly?” Kelley wonders, not wanting anything to jinx the day as she insisted on a bunch of traditions to be followed.

“Nope, because he’s agreed to not know the color theme that we’re going to go with. He’s just going to make the guys buy black tuxs and use white accents for the pockets and white ties.”

“That’s fair…”

“So, have you decided which dress you want to try first?” Sherry wonders as she watches Marie flip through the dresses. Marie shakes her head yes as she pulls a dress off the rack. “Okay. So let’s go in the back room and I’ll help you get in it.”

The pair of ladies disappear into the small change room, with Sherry helping Marie put on the first dress of choice. It was one of Sherry’s favorites, and one of the more fancier ones on the rack. With a corset style top, it wrapped around tightly to the body with a beige flower pattern embodied on it. The bottom then flared out in a traditional way, white in color, with beige flowers throughout.

Marie walks out of the change room shortly after, spinning around for the ladies to check out the full look on her.

“What do you think?” Sherry asks as she watches Marie spin around.

“I like it,” Marie answers as she looks towards her bridesmaids. “Ladies?” Stacey found herself sitting there biting her tongue, not wanting to affect Marie’s opinion especially if this was the dress.

“It looks great and trust me, it brings out yourself,” Stacey starts. “I just don’t know if it’s totally you. I mean, you’re not the super fancy person and ultra preppy Queen, either. I don’t want you to go dull yourself up so much that you lose yourself.”

“Isn’t part of a wedding about getting all dulled up and fancy?” Ingrid questions as Stacey shrugs her shoulders.

“Oh it is partially, but I just don’t want Marie to lose herself, identity, in what she chooses.” Ingrid shook her head, understanding.

“I think the train is a little long, anyway, though. As much as a long train makes for great photos and such, it’s the easiest thing to trip over and rip. With kids clawing at their parent’s attention and being the middle of winter, you know how that may go.” Marie looks at herself once again in the mirror.

“So in other words, you think I should try something else?” Marie wonders as the girls glance at each other.

“Remember, it is your wedding so it’s your decision,” Sherry starts. “They’re just giving you advice based on what they’re seeing and how well they know you. However, if you’re absolutely certain that you’ve fallen in love with this dress, then you can go with it.” While Marie liked it and admired herself in it, she had to admit that she wasn’t getting the total in love feeling that Sherry spoke of.

“Let’s try something else.” Marie makes her way over to the rack carefully, sifting through the dresses once again. “What about this pink one?”

“If you want to try it, then let’s go with it.” Sherry then pulls it off the rack and follows her back into the change room.

The next dress of choice was modeled off the dress that Belle wore being pink in color. It featured the wide white cloths sticking out just under the shoulders, followed by a pink corset appearing shape which followed by the body before semi-flaring out at the bottom. It also featured the light pink long sleeves in which Belle became known for in photos by Disney.

As Marie pulled it on, she immediately shook her head no immediately as she grabbed Sherry’s arm to stop her.

“Go get another one,” she states immediately. “I don’t like it. It’s not wide enough at the bottom for what I’d like in a wedding dress, and I don’t think pink is flattering enough.” Sherry easily shakes her head, accepting.

“What dress do you want next?” Sherry questions before being set to leave the change room.

“Bring me the Cinderella dress.” Sherry shakes her head yes accepting before leaving the change room. She walks over to the rack, snatching the next dress off.

“She didn’t like it as she’s not a fan of the pink.”

“Can you keep it, actually?” Kelley wonders. “I was thinking of wearing it as pink seems to suit me well.” Sherry gives her a thumbs up before returning to the room.

Sherry then helps her out with the Cinderella dress, admiring the way it appeared already. She liked the puffy shoulder straps at the top and how it was sleeveless, compared to the Belle dress. The light blue also seemed more flattering, as she helped Marie pull it up, seeing it tug to her through the middle of her body before flowing out at the bottom. The fact that it had more flare than the Belle dress also added to the liking factor.

Marie spun around, feeling alright with it, before making her way out to visit the girls in the room.

“What do you think?”  Sherry asks as she watches Marie glance at herself in the mirror, spinning around for the girls.

“I like it,” she answers. “The blue is certainly a better choice than the other colors.” She then turns to face the girls. “What do you think?”

“I’m still not sold on poofy over the top style for you, but that looks better,” Stacey comments from her vantage point. Marie had to admit that was one of the things stopping her from saying she loved it, too, as she wasn’t sure she wanted it to stick out that much at the bottom.

“More wedding dresses have that style so I get why you’re drawn to it in discussion,” Kelley starts as she watches the reactions closely. She then stands up and walks over to the rack. “However, there have been some without that much and still looked amazing. I say if Stacey is right and you’re not comfortable with it, try something with less poof.”

“I like the blue, thou-” Marie starts, as she had to admit that she was falling in love with the color the more she saw herself in the mirror.

“Then what about this dress?” Kelley then pulls one of the dresses off the rack, holding it up with a smile on her face. It was another light blue dress, but more tame at the bottom – supposedly modeled after Elsa from Frozen.

“Figures that’d be the dress that’d catch attention,” Ingrid comments, knowing the jokes that’d come if they went with a Frozen themed wedding with their daughter.

“Too corny or cliché, or too much though if I do?” Marie wonders as the girls shrug their shoulders.

“It’s whatever you’re comfortable with, sweetheart. I’m sure some people will have jokes, but for the most part everybody will love no matter what you do because you’ll both look amazing and I’m sure the decorations will look perfect.”

“What do you say?” Sherry questions as Marie shakes her head yes with a smile.

“Let’s try it.” They then return back to the change room, as Sherry helps her out of the one dress.

She then helps her into the Frozen dress, feeling her own smile immediately. Corset style at the top there were no shoulder straps and it held to the body, but it didn’t seem as clingy or close with the flower lace pattern that covered the dress – almost reminding you of snow. As you went down the dress, the pattern slowly died off and it flared out a little, but not to the point that someone called it over the top. The other key feature, which Marie felt herself loving, was the light sheet that hung from the back, adding to the flare of the dress.

Feeling proud based on what she was seeing, and loving the immediate look on Marie’s face, she opens the door and ushers her out. The other girls jaws drop immediately as they fall in love with the right away, watching Marie spin around easily.

“I’m guessing this is the dress by the smile on your face?” Sherry finally questions.

“This is the dress!!” Marie lets out as she looks back at the girls totally smiling. “This is the dress. I am totally in love. I know it sounds odd especially with naming my daughter off her, but it just suits me perfectly and I love it. I don’t care what anybody says – this is the dress and we’re done.”

“On the bright side, our little flower girl Elsa fits the key immediately,” Stacey comments as Marie shakes her head yes, smiling.

“Does that mean that Alyssa is getting dressed like Anna?” Ingrid asks as Marie shrugs her shoulders, assuming that’d probably happen. “By the way, I don’t think you could dress Keelan as Oolaf.”

“He can be Hans, while Dale I guess is your Kristoff.”

“I guess he is,” Marie comments with a laugh of her own before looking back at herself in the mirror.

She didn’t care what anybody said. She didn’t care about the jokes that came about. There was no other dress that made her feel this amazing, pretty, perfect, and no other dress that she could see herself wearing when they got married.

She just hoped everything else came together this well on their wedding day.

 

By the way, for your viewing pleasure, here is Ms. Queen Marie Calantay, as well as her Princess Alyssa Earnhardt Calantay. 

marie-castona alyssa-earnhardt-castona

Cabin Fears – Chapter 17: Hospital Visit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I know. I just hate-”

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

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

 

Cabin Fears – Chapter 15: “They’re going to be okay”

Wednesday Night

“I don’t get why we’re headed to Toronto General,” Cindy comments as they arrive at the hospital. “I mean, wouldn’t they have taken them to the local hospital?”

“They said it was for traumatic reasons – wanted to make sure they got the best trauma care based on their condition,” Dale states, remembering the phone call he had received from the detective.

As soon as the call had been put into the task force, Dale put a phone call into his pilot, requesting an immediate flight for everybody to Ontario, Canada – set to land at the same Kingston airport in which Chase had landed. The pilot quickly listened, knowing the importance of the situation.

As they were flying, Dale had received a phone call regarding the change in hospital location, with the attached explanation. He had demanded an update on the condition of the pair, however that was not obliged. Instead, he was told by the detective all updates would come from the doctor in person. Letting out a sigh, he just hoped it wasn’t as serious as mind was trying to tell him now.

They had landed at Pearson International Airport just outside of Toronto just an hour and a half prior, before making their way downtown to the hospital. Now with the front doors right in front of them, they knew it was now or never in finding out what was going on.

“It’s probably precautionary,” Regan comments, sensing the nervousness in the parents’ voices as they spoke. “They’re going to be okay.”

The group walks into the hospital, set to find the front desk in the emergency department as instructed by the detective. It was there they would be instructed where to go next. After confirming who they were there to see, the triage nurse led them through a series of halls, before arriving in a private waiting room.

“Of course,” Cindy comments as she walks in the room. “They still haven’t gotten it through their head that all we want is to see the children, then hear the updates. Don’t they get what we’re going through?”  She then takes a seat in the corner, with Bill sitting in the chair beside her. He quietly intertwines his fingers with hers, holding her hand tight as if to offer reassurance.

“It’s going to be okay, it’s going to be okay,” Marie kept repeating to herself as she took her seat, trying to keep her own tears at bay. She watched as Dale sat beside her, their eyes locking for a second. It was clear between them the situation. She was the type to worry on the outside and let it be known, whereas he was the type to look strong – but yet be driving himself crazy on the inside with anxiety and nerves. While he had been the one to keep things together, in truth he was falling apart more than she was with each passing moment. It was why Marie was trying to be the strong one, for a change. “It’s going to be okay.”

Regan, Ryan, Darrell, Jeff and Kelley found themselves standing. There were five chairs in the room, but they didn’t want to take it in case the other wanted it. Truthfully, it was a fine move by them each to stand as they were set to be there for support for the group and the ability to quickly move would help.

The room fell into a quiet period of worry, curiosity and nerves – till the door opened, catching everyone’s attention in an instant as a female doctor entered and closed the door behind her.

“My name is Dr. Grayson,” the doctor starts as she takes a seat in the last remaining chair. The name immediately causes Regan to look up from his chosen corner.

“I know the name,” he states as she smiles, shaking her head yes. “You’re his daughter, right?” She shakes her head yes as Regan smiles. The conversation immediately answered the rest of the group’s questions, remembering it was Dr. Randolph Grayson who had treated Chase the last time they crossed the border.

“This is just too much irony for one man to take,” Darrell comments.

“Given that the family has quite the history, I’m going to start off by stating that both of them should make a full recovery from the injuries sustained,” she starts, causing a couple sighs of relief. Dale still felt himself frozen in his nerves, though, as he knew that was part of the puzzle. It was always easy for the body to heal from the physical injuries, but what about the mental? “I’m going to address Ms. Earnhardt’s files, followed by Mr. Elliott’s file. Once they’re both complete, you’re free to go see them. We do have them on a 24 hour nurse watch, but placed them both in the same room knowing the connection.”

“That is appreciated,” Kelley comments from her perspective, knowing that’d make it easier on everybody. She also knew it’d help Chase and Alyssa in being able to see each other.

“Ms. Earnhardt was subjected to obvious torture – without a single doubt in my mind. From being slapped with a belt, to parts of her body being electrocuted multiple times.” The comment caused the group to cringe, only wondering what the injuries could be. “The electrocution was the primary concern when she arrived. We did an electrocardiogram to check her heart, checked her blood count, as well as a CT scan for both brain and internal injury reasons. Everything came back clean so there are no severe underlying injuries. However, there are burns down her left arm from the shoulder down, as well as others down her left side. We have bandaged them, and will be regularly changing the bandages, putting on ointment and monitoring those. If they do get worse, a skin graph will be done.”

“Burns are painful – trust me,” Dale comments quietly as he watches the doctor flip the page in the file. He had hoped there was only one page to be concerned about.

“When she woke up, we did a general assessment and were surprised when she said she couldn’t feel her left arm,” the doctor continues, causing confusion to come over Dale’s face. “We did run an x-ray, as well as an electromyography and other nerve tests. Looking over the results myself and with other consults, it was determined the electrocution killed the nerves, which control those movements. By what we were able to see, it seems that she’s permanently lost the feeling from her left elbow to her left hand.” It seemed like a sense of shock went over the room in hearing the news. It wasn’t the worst thing that could’ve happened, but it wasn’t the prettiest either.

Dale knew it was the wrong time to think about it – especially where the number one concern being her physical and mental health, but it was an immediate thought when it came to her.

What about her racing career?

He knew hearing the news, questioning whether she could race or not would crush her totally as it was a big part of her life. She had always wanted to be a racecar driver since she was a little kid, and yet here as she was starting to blossom into a star this happened.

“Obviously I know that is a shock to everyone and it’ll take getting used to in her daily routine, but it should come with ease,” Dr. Grayson continued, but Dale wasn’t as convinced. “In the coming weeks, we’ll have her meet with a specialist who can determine what the next best course of action is in regards to her left side. Other than that, there are some pain marks for her to heal from in relation to the belt slaps and restraints, but those should heal accordingly with time.”

“Now, what about Chase?”  Bill asked as he took a deep breath. Considering what he had heard in relation to Alyssa’s torture and knew of the past, he could only wonder what his son had been put through. He just hoped it wasn’t too bad.

“Mr. Elliott certainly has some significant concerns, as well. When he came in, he was complaining of severe pain to the stomach, as well as the fact he was injected with a needle right above his lower extermitie-”

“Are you saying that sick-o stuck a needle in the top of weewee?” Darrell questions, feeling disgusted immediately at the thought, as the doctor shakes her head yes. “That’s just wrong on so many levels.”

“From conversation, it was supposed to bring a sense of simulated pain and sexual arousal from the side of the attacker so he thought he’d be raped and Alyssa would hear the sounds of it. The pair had a discussion of the nature when we were discussing things over with them.”

Cindy could only shake her head, barely able to restrain herself from getting up from her seat and marching over to the police station to give Kassandra a piece of her mind and a slap. It was one thing to attack her baby, but it was a whole other aspect to do it that way.

It was why she was also thanking the task force 10 times over for killing Randy, even if they hadn’t planned on it.

“The drugs in the needle were of high concentration – so we completely pumped out the contents of his system, followed by IV fluids to replenish the body,” the doctor continues. “There was a purpose to the drugs, beyond the simple sexual arousal reasons and pain. Unfortunately, this has brought more issues and more pain, as it was meant to eat at the lining of his stomach. As a result, there’s been vomiting and significant pain experienced. We did surgery for some of the excessive bleeding inside already, in which went successfully. Now, it’s just letting it heal and rebuilding the lining of his stomach through medicine. He should be fully healed in four to six weeks.” Cindy was relieved that there was no permanent damage on that front and the surgery had gone well, however going through four to six weeks of healing and pain didn’t sound fun.

“What about the other degusting factor?” Ryan asks. He didn’t want to ponder the thought, but he knew it had to be addressed by someone.

“The lower exterminity area, known as the dick in which you boys can’t say?” Dr. Grayson asks and Ryan shakes his head yes. “Other than some pain from being stuck there, it should be fine. He’ll still be able to make babies for the curious parents.  Beyond that, there is some other general pain – again, belt slaps and restraints – but it should all heal accordingly.”

“Can we go see them now?” Dale asks, figuring that the explanation was done. He knew he wouldn’t calm in his worries at all till he saw the pair.

“Yes, you may. Let me lead you all to the room.”

Moving Forward – Chapter 30: Bridesmaids

Kelley walked into the room with Alyssa and Elsa, glancing around with surprise as she was curious as to why they were there. She had gotten an anonymous note in her office to meet at Whiskey River’s church.

At first, she thought she was there because of a surprise courtesy of L.W. But why’d that involve bringing Dale’s daughters with her? Then she thought it was a surprise from Marie and Dale. However, that didn’t add up after hearing about the wedding plans on-hold for racing concentration story from Marie. Truthfully, that didn’t bother her as they’d gotten a good jump on plans and she knew how much Dale fussed about things.

She even caught herself thinking that she was walking into a trap, but felt that thought erase from her mind once seeing Ingrid sitting at the front of the church.

“Did you get write the not-” Kelley starts as she continues to walk towards the front of the church.

“If you’re speaking of the anonymous note to come here, nope because I have one also,” Ingrid replies as she holds up her note. “Any idea behind it?” Kelley shakes her head no as she sits down beside Ingrid.

“Mommy had those notes,” Alyssa states as she snatches the piece of paper from Ingrid. The pair of ladies then glance at each other with surprise before looking towards the little girl. “They in her room Sunday.”

“Really?” Kelley asks and Alyssa shakes her head yes. “Well, at least we know that the notes came from a decent source.”

The pair then sat there chatting about a couple of random topics before watching Sherry (Martin’s girlfriend) and Stacey walk into the church. The pair of girls then glanced at each other, surprised, before turning their eyes on the pair of fellow ladies. After seeing the cards that they held up, smiles formed around the whole group.

“I think you’re all starting to figure out something is up,” Marie states as she comes out from her hiding spot. “I brought all of you here today, including the children, for a special reason. You’re all going to be apart of my wedding!” The ladies then glance at each other surprised.

“Mommy going to marry daddy after Christmas,” Alyssa says with a wide smile on her face as the ladies let out a small chuckle.

“You’re right. Guess what? You’re going to get to spread flowers down the aisle at the wedding. How cool is that?” A huge smile forms on Alyssa’s face.

“Really?” Marie shakes her head yes as she kneels to her daughter’s level.

“You’re going to be mommy’s flower girl – Elsa, too. You both will get to wear pretty dresses and go down the aisle together. Elsa will get to crawl, while you my dear get to walk and throw flowers.”

“Yay!” Alyssa then gives her mom a big hug.

“Now, what do you say you go play just outside on the play set while I talk to the ladies. Is that okay?” Alyssa shakes her head yes before she runs off. “I brought each of you here because you mean something to me, and that’s why I want you to be part of the wedding. I want you to celebrate the day with me.” The ladies each smile as Marie walks over to them.

“You don’t have to ask me twice as I wouldn’t miss the wedding for anything,” Kelley states as Marie knew that was to be certain, having gotten Kelley to help with some of the planning.

“Trust me – I know you’d be there for sure. And with how close we’ve gotten, how amazing you are, how I can always lean on you – it seemed only fitting to make you one of my bridesmaids. I knew you’d say yes without a second of hesitation.” She then glances over at Sherry and Ingrid. “And both of you ladies – I’ve been able to grow close to both of you, become good friends, talk about anything. You were also two of the very first wives, if we shall say, that accepted me. That meant more than anything.”

“That’s because you’re so amazing,” Sherry says as she gives Marie a hug. Ingird then followed suit.

“Now Stacey, you certainly be surprised to be sitting here,” Marie starts. “We talked about this from when I was a little girl. You were always the key person that always there for me through everything and told you when I was around 12 that when I got married, you’d be at my wedding. I don’t know if I could’ve gotten through everything without you, and I don’t know if I could’ve done everything till this day without you. I’d like you to be my maid of honor.”

“I’d be honored darling,” Stacey comments as she pulls Marie into a tight hug. “I can also say without a doubt that I’m excited for the wedding.”

“So you’ve told us – but has Dale told his guys yet?” Kelley wonders and Marie shakes her head no. “Do you know when he is going to tell them?” Marie shrugs her shoulders as Dale hadn’t given her a straight answer.

“That’s totally up to him – and I am not revealing who they are till he tells them,” Marie answers, as the girls let out a sigh. They were certainly curious who, out of all his friends, he’d choose to be part of the wedding. “Regardless, I wanted to tell you sooner than later. The guys can buy any tux out there, and just by the matching hankerchief to the colors of the wedding. Us girls, meanwhile, have something else very important that we need to accomplish.”

“Dress shopping!” Sherry and Ingrid both let out together.

“So when are we heading to New York?” Ingrid questions.

“New York?” Sherry repeats. “Heck, we don’t need to head to New York sweetheart. I own a boutique. She can hit up any designer that she wants and we can head straight to them no problem. It pays to have connections at a time like this.”

“But you know every bride likes to go down to the big city and check out the styles before choosing something.”

“But not every bride is as busy as this one.”

“Do you see what we started?” Marie questions as Kelley and Stacey laugh. “Ladies, let’s not pull our hairs out on the first day. As far as dress shopping, I haven’t decided on a strategy yet but I will let you know and will advance notice for planning. I have a country visit next week during the off-wee-”

“You don’t necessarily have to appear,” Stacey starts. “I can continue to handle without any issues.” Marie smiles, and she knew that was the truth. However, she felt obligated to at least check in.

“I believe in you and trust you – hence why you’re in charge and my maid of honor. However, it’s my responsibility to my people. Besides, we still have awhile to go before I walk down the aisle.”

The ladies then continued to joke around for a bit, before most of them left, leaving Kelley and Marie to make the walk back up to the house by themselves (Alyssa had headed up with Stacey).

“Listen, I wanted to talk to you about something,” Kelley starts as Marie looks at her curiously. “I know it’s normally every girl’s dream to walk down the aisle with their dad with them. I know that you’re not getting the opportun-”

“Thankfully, or else I’d be marrying someone he forced on me,” Marie cuts her off as Kelley shakes her head in agreement.

“Trust me – I didn’t mean it was a bad thing. But if you’re feeling anything bad about it or out of place from other girls, I know what you’re feeling – in a way. I mean, look when I got married. It was my brother who walked me down the aisle. It just seemed perfect to ask him because of how close we are. Perhaps asking someone who you are close with could help, if you’re feeling anything.” Marie shakes her head, understanding. It was certainly a new thought on the wedding.

“I hadn’t honestly thought about it, to be honest. But I do appreciate the advice if it does start to bother me.”