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.