The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 171: Flashbacks and Surprises

Monday, January 14 – Charlotte, North Carolina – 27 weeks pregnant

Sarina lays there, taking a deep breath as she watches him sleep peacefully, not wanting to disturb a single moment. She knew there was no way that she was going to take moments like these for granted after the worry that she was feeling exactly a week ago. She couldn’t thank her lucky stars enough that he was okay, and knew she’d probably never stop thanking Morgan and Christopher for what they did.

“Normally I am the one staring at you,” she hears, which breaks her concentration immediately. She could only smile back in response, remembering those times she woke up to the same thing.

“I think I’m beginning to understand why you laid there like that some mornings,” she offers, earning back a smirk in response.

“Ah, it’s so nice of you to admire my beauty…” She then chuckles, rolling her eyes as she half-expected a smart ass comment like that in response.

“Actually, I’m just glad that we get to spend this time together, like this.” He then reaches out, clutching her hand with his.

“When we married each other, I promised you that I’d be here for you. I vowed to hold you, cuddle you, listen to you, take care of you, and keep you safe. I vowed to make sure that you didn’t endure the same pain that we have endured ever again, and I vowed to be yours forever and always – till death do us part. I don’t break my promises, sweetheart.” She knew that, knowing she could trust him no matter what with how much their trust in each other had grown from the first day they met.

“I know, and I’m glad that I get to call you my husband.” A cheesy smile then forms across her face immediately. “Husband. That’s as much fun to say as it is to say Sarina Elliott.”

“Just like Abigail Elliott, it seems that Sarina Elliott has a nice ring to it as well.” He then brings her hand to his lips. “I meant what I said, so you don’t have to worry about me going anywhere. I wasn’t going to marry you and just leave you like that.” He then gives her a light kiss, before letting it go slowly.

“I would’ve probably smacked you if you did that to me.” He then chuckles.

“I wouldn’t expect otherwise.” He then goes to move slightly, letting out a small groan as he feels a sharp pain in his shoulder.

“Easy Chase…” She then reaches over, rubbing it lightly. “Relax, and take it easy. It’s only been a week. Don’t push it and not heal accordingly.”

“I just wish the nagging pain would go away.” He then sits up, grabbing the bottle of water and pain killers off of the nightstand. He then takes a couple, followed by a sip of the water.

“On a brighter note, I heard that chicks dig scars. You’ll have something to impress the ladies.” He then looks over at her, shaking his head.

“I don’t need to be impressing any ladies as I have the woman that I’ve wanted right here beside me.” She smiles back in response, as it didn’t hurt to hear that repeated multiple times a day.

“Well, how about this?” She then slips down the edge of her pajama shirt, revealing the scar that remained on her shoulder. “Even if yours is going to be a little bigger, we’re going to match now.”

Chase slowly nods his head, taking a deep breath as he tries to keep calm with the thoughts coming back to him immediately. There was no way he could forget what happened that day.

“I hope you enjoy the present I left for him, as well as what you’re going to receive,” he hears Alison say, as she brings her body against his, pinning him against the closest wall as he stood there blindfolded. “Let’s give her a show…” She then brings her lips to meet his once again, pushing against him, reaching into his boxers to stroke him slowly. “You’re so hard, baby.”

“Alison Reynolds!” A voice reigns through the place, which immediately causes Alison to back off of being against him. He could hear the wheels of the chair that Sarina was tied to rolling, followed by a gunshot being let off.

“Oh fuck!” Sarina let out immediately.

“What is going on?” His voice reign out, staying frozen in the same spot, still blindfolded. He feels arms wrap around him – recognizing them immediately to belong to Alan. He could feel them beginning to untie the mask. “What happened?!?”

“Chase….” He hears, snapping him out of his thoughts. He was now sitting up in the bed, breathing heavily, feeling a sudden panic on the flashback. “Chase?” He feels Sarina’s arms wrap around him immediately. “Talk to me, please. Say somet-”

“I’m okay,” he cuts her off, taking a couple deep breaths as he tries to get everything back under control and block out those feelings. “I’m okay.” He then finally turns to look into her eyes. “I’m fine.”

“I’m sorry….” She knew immediately what had happened and where she had transported him back to immediately in seeing him freeze up sitting there. Once again, she hadn’t been careful enough in knowing how sensitive his feelings still were about everything that happened. “I’m sorry, Chase. I shouldn’t had mentioned a single thing abou-”

“It’s fine, it’s not your fault.” He then takes a couple more deep breathes, before snatching the water off of the night table to have a couple of sips. “You couldn’t had known that it was going to cause me to do that.”

“I still should’ve been more careful in knowing that you’re still coming to grips with everything that happened. We’ve talked about this before.” He nods his head, remembering the night they were laying together and she made a comment exactly like something Alison said. It caused him to freeze up then, and flashback to that trail of events with her.

“I’m not mad at you, Sarina. It’s okay.” He then looks over at her, now calm, taking her hand once again with his. “I promise that I’m not mad or upset. If I’m going to move forward, I need to face everything that comes with it – and that includes dealing with flashbacks like that. You didn’t mean anything wrong as you are right with your comment.” He then looks back down at the bed spread, taking a deep breath. “That week with Alison was the worst of everything that she managed to do during the time that she was loose – well, and poisoning me so I was knocked out and she could have her way. But that week, every single emotion that you can think of has resulted from what happened. I’ve ranged from sadness, to betrayal, to disgust, to anger, to guilt, to being so sick to my stomach that I puked every single thing up.”

“Chase, it’s not your fault. You don’t need to live with that forev-”

“I know it’s my fault, but I do have to live with what happened forever. It’s not just going to go away. It happened, it affected me, and I have to deal with it accordingly like I have been. It’s coming, slowly, but there will be moments like that – and it’s not your fault, okay?” She slowly nods her head. “Out of everything that she did that week, that single moment where I was blinded, heard the gun shot, followed by your scream, is the scariest thing. I honestly thought the worst had happened. I thought she had popped off some shot at you, or threw you right in direct line of fire to save her own ass. I was fearing that when Alan got it off of me, that you were going to be gon-”

“That didn’t happen, though. I was okay. It just briefly brushed my shoulder.” He takes a deep breath, knowing that as the mark on her shoulder indicated that simple reminder.

“I know. But in that moment, I didn’t know that. The flashback took me back to that fear. It reminded me of how afraid I was. It reminded me of how guilty I felt at that time because I had let Alison continue this tirade, and led everything to that happening with the plan. I know factually that I am not guilty of what happened, but in that moment, that was the emotion. The scar took me back to that moment, hence why I froze up.”

“I’m sorr-”

“I told you, Sarina, it’s not your fault. Part of me moving forward is facing every bit of what happened. It’s about figuring out what I’m dealing with, why I am dealing with it, and how I can overcome it. I need to do that for me.” He then takes a deep breath, sipping on the water once again. “Actually, in a way, this has helped me because here I am openly talking about the emotions to you for a change. That’s progress. That’s a step in the direction. Those are things that I need to do to move forward.”

“Well, whenever you want to openly talk about your emotions, or anything, please know that you can turn to me whenever you want.” She then lightly kisses his lips, as he takes a deep breath. That simple reminder emphasized guilt in what he was doing right now in keeping the Carter secret from her. However, he remembered the reasons that he told Christopher and knew his actions were justified – right?

“That goes both ways. I’m always here for you, and for this princess as well.” He then kiss her lips in return, before kissing her stomach afterwards. “Do you realize that she was kicking around 3am?”

“While I was sleeping? Seriously?” Chase nods his head, remembering.

“I woke up in the middle of the night due to a bit of pain. I shifted myself over a bit, before getting set to close my eyes. I brought my hand over to your stomach, and she was kicking up a small storm. I rubbed your stomach lightly, and she finally calmed down.” Sarina could only let out a sigh as she looks over at him to meet his eyes.

“She woke up to make sure that her daddy was okay. Look at this – you’re both already looking out for each other. What am I going to do when she comes?” He already knew where those thoughts in her head were going.

“Don’t worry – I got enough love to spread around to both of you as you’re the ladies of my life, and I promise to take care of you both.” He then kisses her lips once again, content on keeping that promise in hearing that Carter had been caught soon.

“Aren’t we going home?” Sarina asks, as she looks out the Tahoe windows confused.

They had just got done lunch, and they were supposed to be heading home from what she knew. However, Chase was taking a different route then she remembered.

“I figured we stopped in and check on how Lindsay and Evelyn are doing,” Chase answers with a smile. He knew it was a better than telling her the truth.

“Actually, I think that’s a good idea. We could use some baby love right about now.” Chase lets out a small sigh of relief, glad that she bought what he was saying.

“I figured you and Lindsay can spend time with Evelyn, while I check out Ryan’s new puppy.” That was actually the plan as he knew the ladies would be busy once he got there, just not in the way that Sarina was probably thinking.

They pull up to the Blaney household, with both of them getting out of the Tahoe together. They walk up to the front door, with Chase opening it without even knocking.

“I told Ryan ahead of time that we were coming,” Chase informs her as she glances at him confused. “Go on inside. I don’t want you catching a cold.”

Sarina then enters the house as instructed, going around the corner as her jaws drops.

“Surprise!!” The bunch of ladies in the room let out as she enters, seeing the teddy bear cake in the center of the room. She then glances up, seeing the banner ‘Baby Elliott,’ along with the several other directions.

“Oh my gosh!” She lets out, clearly surprised by the surprise of the baby shower. On top of the decorations, she was surprised by everybody who had shown up to celebrate with her.

“The only ones that couldn’t be here were Kaitlyn (Sweet) and Morgan as they’re in Oklahome for the Chili Bowl, as well as Emma whose at home with the baby,” Lindsay says after a bunch of the girls get done giving her hugs. “However, we knew that we wanted to do something for you and the baby. We also knew that it’d be a good pick me up after everything that has happened.”

“This is amazing….”

Throughout the rest of the afternoon, the ladies played a variety of different baby games. Who could put the diaper on the doll the quickest? Who could guess the correct size of her stomach right now? Guess the baby food, where you try a baby food from unmarked jar and guess the contents. They also played bobbing for nipples, which was a fun take on bobbing for apples.

They then sat around the living room together, handing over the gifts that they’d bought for Sarina and the baby. She was thankful for the car seat from Cindy, as well as the diaper bag from Erin that matched the nursery. She knew Abigail would be stylish in the outfits that Samantha had bought, each gender neutral as nobody in the room (except Cindy) knew the baby’s gender yet. On top of that, she couldn’t complain about the diapers, bottles, and gift cards that had been purchased by the other ladies in the room.

“So since Kyle already went through the liberty of buying a go-kart for the baby, we knew that a firesuit was necessary as well,” Samantha says after they had done the rest of the gifts.

“She got a hold of me, and wanted to know the exact design of the firesuit that you are getting for JR Motorsports,” Kelley continues. “I offered the different designs to her, so she could order them accordingly. I then called her a couple weeks later, saying that your baby couldn’t just show you love so we needed to add some more.”

Samantha then hands over the big box, which Sarina easily rips open. She then chuckles as she begins to go through the contents, seeing that they had gotten her baby firesuits that would match each of the suits her and Chase would wear this season.

“Your baby will be the most stylish baby this season,” Kelley says as Sarina checks them out. “We got them in newborn, three month, six month, and 12 month, so each size this upcoming season you’ll be prepared for.”

“This is amazing and completely adorable,” Sarina replies. She then places them back in the box, before offering each of the ladies a hug. “Thank you everybody so much for the gifts. They all mean a lot to me.” She then rubs her stomach, taking a deep breath. “Hopefully this little one co-operates and shows up in a timely, yet healthy fashion for mommy and daddy.”

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The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 114: Indianapolis Double

Monday, September 10 – Indianapolis Motor Speedway

“Can you believe it? It finally stopped raining!” Sarina lets out as she takes her seat atop of the GMS Racing pit box behind Chad Norris.

“Miracles actually do happen,” the crew chief mused with a nod in her direction.

From drop of the green flag, Chase ran up front throughout the race, showing the potential of the No. 23 Chevrolet underneath him. Chad Norris also pulled the perfect strategy, bringing Chase to pit road near the end of stage. As a result, he would start first for the third and final stage after the leaders pitted.

The strength of the car shined through as he led the field around the speedway, holding a pretty wheel with sights set on winning.

However, the package NASCAR chose for  the XFINITY Series allowed for runs to be created if you drafted together with teammates. The JR Motorsports played that to perfection on a late-race restart as Justin Allgaier and Tyler Reddick got a run on him together, passing him to take the leadwith 18 laps to go.

“Ugh…” was all Sarina could say, knowing that it’d be tough to make it up in the final laps.

He wasn’t able to, as predicted, ultimately crossing the finish line with a fourth-place finish.

“I hated that for you,” she comments as she rests her head on his shoulder. “But on a brighter note, I am going to have a pair of badass teammates next year.” Chase chuckles as he couldn’t be upset in seeing the success for Justin and Tyler, either.

“Careful how loud you say that,” he offered, with a quick kiss.  “One down, one to go.”

Sarina once again climbs the step of the pit box, this time in very familiar territory on top of the No. 9 pit box. She took her usual seat behind Alan, catching the crew chief’s attention.

“I guess congratulations are in order,” Alan offers with a smile, as he holds his arms out for a hug. She then accepts it, graciously.

“Thank you,” she replies, before getting comfortable in her spot once again. She was admittedly nervous discussing the baby topic with Alan based on his thoughts as Chase expressed yesterday.

“I wish you and Chase the best – I really do, and I want to see it work out for you both because of course I want the best for you guys. You deserve it after everything you’ve been through these past couple years. Just promise me you’ll be smart, and careful.” She nods her head, accepting, knowing exactly what he was talking about.

“I know what I’m doing Alan.”

With pace laps beginning, Alan was set to focus on his job at hand, while she got comfortable knowing it was going to be a long afternoon.

From drop of the green flag, Chase showed that he had a solid car as he kept himself just inside the top-10 until the second competition caution, when he was scored eighth. Alan would make a strategy call with the yellow flags close together, electing to put just two tires on the NAPA Chevrolet. This would allow them to jump up to third for the restart.

The discussion on the radio through the caution turned interesting, though, with a couple comments from both in a side skirt that was flared out on someone else’s car after contact. While normally that would be something concerning, it seemed to be giving them an advantage.

“I can put it back if it helps that much,” Chase joked on the radio, causing a couple chuckles from Alan and Sarina.

“Let’s just focus on our race,” Alan offered. “We’re doing a great job so far, bud.”

The two tire called proved to be a little tougher than imagined, but Chase was able to hold on to score a seventh-place finish to end stage one.

“I am going to pit you here – setting us up for later,” Alan tells him as he brings him down pit road at the end of the stage. With several others staying out, it drop Chase back to the 20th position for the restart. Sarina took a deep breath, not sure if it was butterflies or baby jitters swirling in the stomach right now.

The plan worked by the crew chief as they stayed out through the stage while others pitted, gaining track position in the process, crossing the finish line with a second-place finish.

Alan would bring him down pit road, wanting to put new tires on to start the run to the checkered, which dropped him back to ninth. The strategy worked as even with a green flag pit cycle, Chase would make his way up to fifth. The caution then came out with 18 to go, as Alan debated what to do next. Track position was nice, but tires seemed critical.

“Bring it in….” Alan finally decided as Sarina let out a sigh of her own. Personally, she felt they had a better chance by staying out.

Restarting 14th, Chase would gain four spots before the next yellow flag came out with seven laps to go. The final restart with three laps to go would not go accordingly with Clint Bowyer spinning his tires, backing up the line, causing Chase to lose valuable ground. he’d ultimately cross the finish line with a 15th-place finish.

“I shouldn’t have brought you down pit road that late in the race,” Alan comments as they meet up together after the race. Both of them, along with Sarina, were wanting to get out of Indianapolis as soon as possible, but that wasn’t happening as Chase needed to do playoff photos.

“I still agree with the call,” Chase offers, catching the crew chief’s attention. “I think we would’ve lost a lot of ground with tires being so important. If Bowyer doesn’t spin the tires, we finish inside the top-10 about seventh or eighth, where I’d finish without new tires. It was a gamble either way, and I’d rather try so we know than wonder.”

“I was happy with the performance.” Chase nods his head in agreement as he reaches down, rubbing the back of legs. “You had a busy day…”

“I just want to go home, just put my legs up, and relax..” He then lets out a small yawn, as he continues rubbing the back of his legs. “My calves are sore.”

“Did you drink enough?” Chase wasn’t sure on the answer to the question, but he felt he had. “Well, at least Sarina can take care of you. Oh wait, you already took care of her in good fashion.” Chase then gives Alan a glance as Alan begins chuckling.

“Am I supposed to expect these jokes for the next seven months?” Alan thinks it over, before nodding his head. “As long as you don’t say anythi-”

“I may not agree with every bit of your plan, but I won’t spoil the party. Are you sure that Kyle and Samantha won’t say anything?” Chase knew that for certain based on their conversations the past two days, especially with Sam.

“They’re both totally on-board.” Alan was surprised to hear that, given the risks involved.

“I thought Samantha would’ve said something given her experience.” Chase had expected that, as well, however she seemed to be the strongest one in Sarina’s corner of them all – or it seemed. Sarina had hinted otherwise based on what she had discussed with Samantha without Chase.

“Samantha is on the fence, but says she’ll do whatever we need to support us with our decisions.” Alan smiles as he puts a hand on Chase’s shoulder.

“I promise to follow through with that, as well, even if I want to smack sense into you both sometimes.”

“Thank you everybody,” the photographer says once the last photo is taken of the three Hendrick Motorsports teammates together.

“We need a selfie for social media and then you can go,” the one PR rep states, as she hands a phone over to Alex.

“Get in here guys!” Alex says as he sets it up, ready to take the image of the three of them together.

“I’m good…” Chase comments, earning a glance from Alex and Jimmie.

“What? Are you afraid the trophy is going to bite you or something?” Chase then gives it a glance over, before looking back up at his teammates.

“I’m not touching it.” Jimmie just rolls his eyes as he looks over at him.

“Scared of the jinx?” Jimmie questions, earning a nod from Chase. It was one of the oldest tales in racing – don’t touch the trophy before you get it, or you’ll jinx yourself. Chase had always followed that rule, and even ready to drop suspicions away, he wasn’t going to break that today. “Well, I don’t believe in those crazy suspicions. As a matter of fact, I believe you should become friends with it so it comes home with you.” Jimmie then leans right on it, giving Chase a smirk before looking back at Alex. “Make it work, kid.”

“Say cheese!” Alex lets out as he gets it centered so they were all in the frame with the trophy.

Tuesday, September 11 – JR Motorsports

“Are you nervous?” Chase questions as he holds the door open for her, following Sarina inside.

“A little,” Sarina answers as she glances back at him, taking his hand before heading towards the office doors. Sarina had called ahead of time, saying she wanted to stop by. Kelley had told her to make her way through, no need to stop at the desk, as she’d be in her office. “You’ve got some great memories here.”

“Lots of fun times, actually. I wouldn’t change the decision to drive for Dale and Kelley.” He then squeezes her hand, catching a gaze from her eyes. “I know you’ll make your own memories here, too.”

They make their way down the short hallway, knocking on Kelley’s office door. She motions for them to come in, surprised when she sees Chase with Sarina.

“Chase, I wasn’t expecting you,” Kelley says, giving them both a hug before taking her usual seat back behind her desk. “So did you bring a new bargaining partner?” Sarina chuckles as she takes a seat across from Kelley.

“I figured he should be here when I told you the news,” Sarina starts, catching Kelley’s interest immediately. What would Sarina have to share that she’d want Chase to be there for her?

“Well Dale can’t be here today due to NBC and sponsor commitments, so please go ahead…” Sarina takes a nervous deep breath, debating how to tell Kelley the news.

“I want to say yes to the deal, and agree to drive for you next season as it’s a spectacular oppor-”

“Please tell me you didn’t go to Mike Beam for her, Chase…” Chase puts his hands up defensively immediately, knowing that he didn’t want to be Kelley’s bad side.

“I haven’t done a single bit of negotiating for her,” he confesses. “I always believed that she’d stay with KBM and move on to JGR next.” Kelley knew that was a possibility, but also knew the dynamics at play over there – hence the move for William a couple years ago.

“Please continue, Sarina,” Kelley instructs as Sarina takes another shaky breath.

“As I was saying, everything about it is perfect as I can’t find any argument against it,” Sarina continues. “Under any other circumstances, I would’ve come here and said yes without another discussion. However, I have a unique situation. I am pregnant.” Kelley’s jaw drops immediately as she glances between the pair.

“Seriously?” Sarina nods her head as Chase places a hand on her shoulder. “How far along are you?”

“Two months..” Kelley’s deadpan surprise look remained as she glanced between the pair once again. “I just found out this past weekend at Indianapolis. It’s strange what you can uncover during a rain delay, huh?” Chase almost wanted to chuckle already imagining another couple having baby news in a couple weeks as a result of the boredom. “I am in due early in March. I wanted to come and talk to you about this today because I believed you had a right to know before you decided or announced anything. I’ve thought about this, and I was thinking that once I have the baby in March, if you are willing, I would like to begin driving for your team then.”

“So in other words, you’re going to miss about three or four races and then planned to step in as if nothing happened?” Sarina slowly nods her head, the nerves growing in hearing Kelley’s tone.

“The playoff format allows for her to do so…” Chase offers, trying to ease Kelley’s heavy presence.

“I am still in shock that you’re pregnant – and you got her pregnant,” Kelley comments as she tries to process everything they just told her.

“I was taking birth control, he was using condoms – it still happened,” Sarina confesses as Kelley’s shock hit a new level. “And trust me, if you do agree to all of this, I won’t be marching in your office next year mid-season saying oh surprise I’m pregnant again.” Sarina then glances down, taking a deep breath. “I just can’t give up this baby because it wouldn’t feel right after everything that we’ve gone through.” She then slowly glances back up at Kelley. “But at the same time, I don’t want to let go of this opportunity because it’s everything.”

“If you came to any other plain old car owner with news like this, you’d probably get a strip torn off your ass and sent back out the door for messing with plans.” Sarina felt every nerve tingle, but also wanted to argue that after her own discussion with Kyle and Samantha. “However, we’re family. I’ve known Chase for a very long time, and my happiness for him soon to be a father is bursting at the seams. I remember the days he’d spend here playing with Wyatt while waiting in between meetings or sponsor commitments, and he was great with him. I know he’ll make a great father – just like you’ll make a great mother. I’ve believed in you since day one when Chase started bringing you around. I’ve watched you grow as a driver. So given the circumstances, how well I know you both, I’ll work with your so-called plan.”  Sarina smiles as it was a big relief off of her back to have someone else committed to everyone. It was also nice in hearing Kelley’s sentiments as it further solidified her decision to join JRM for 2019.

“Maybe Elliott will drive the first couple of races,” Chase suggests as Kelley nods her head in agreement, already having made a note to ask him. “Oh, the other thing – we’re not revealing she’s pregnant till after the season.”

“I am going to finish the year at KBM as committed with a focus on that championship,” Sarina adds, catching Kelley’s surprise glance once again.

“Are you sure you can handle that while carrying a baby?” Kelley questions and Sarina nods her head. “Well, I hope you come away as the champion as you’d certainly deserve it for all of your effort.” She then takes a deep breath, glancing over her calendar. “That said, I won’t say anything to anybody else within the company – other than Dale, that is – until you’re ready to do so. We’ll reveal you’re driving for us as originally scheduled in a couple weeks, and then handle the fall-out when you announce the pregnancy.”

“Thank you….” She then glances at Chase, knowing where their next stop would take them. “Now let’s just hope that Cindy and Bill are as accepting.” Kelley then looks up from her notes.

“Expecting grandparents better be a happy reaction. Actually, I expect Cindy to smother you with love.” Sarina had to chuckle at the thought considering where their relationship started.

“What about the plan, though?” Chase questions, having his own nerves in revealing that to his parents after Alan’s reaction.

“All I can say is good luck on that one,” Kelley offers. “I can already sense their fears perking up because they understand the dangers of racing having grown up around it just like me. However, if you explain your motives, you may get Bill on your side at least.”

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.

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.”