Monday, January 22 – North Carolina
Chase sits at the kitchen table, eyes focused on the eggs, as Sarina walks over, wrapping her arms around him from behind.
“Are you sure you can’t just come back to bed?” She questions and he looks up at her with a smile.
“If I missed today’s meeting, Rick may have my head,” Chase offers as he focuses back on his breakfast. She then lets out a sigh as she places her head on top of his.
“But you have to admit that our activities together are more fun.” Chase chuckles as he pauses in his eating. Despite avoiding intercourse with the waiting period, it hadn’t stopped them from laying kisses from head to toe the past couple of nights.
“Trust me – they’re a lot more fun than listening to speeches.” She then rubs his shoulders.
“When you get bored today, just think of me and our fun together.” She then kisses his cheek lightly, before heading off to get a shower.
“It’s like he has a certain glow to him,” Chad Avrit offers as Chase walks by the crew members, taking his place at the front with his fellow teammates.
It was time for the annual Hendrick Motorsports kick-off meeting together, where Rick got every employee together in the big conference room and a series of pep talks were offered in hopes of success for the season ahead.
“He’s not wearing any new rings,” John Gianninoto comments, glancing over Chase’s shoulder at his hands.
“Not every guy wears an engagement ring, though. He just seems a little more happier in his step today.” Each of the crew guys watch their young driver pull out his phone, sending a quick message, before placing it back in his pocket. When they were at the track, it was easy to read his reactions and figure out everything. But at the shop, it was a bit of a mystery and brought conversation. At least it’d keep them entertained while everyone filed in.
“Haven’t you guys been told to mind your own business?” Alan interrupts the crew members, who all look up innocently as if they weren’t discussing anything. “If he’s happy, then that’s great. We don’t need to dissect the very reason why.”
“Where’s the fun in not doing that?” Jared Seate questions as Alan looks over at him, surprised. He thought entering a third year together, they would be done with the childish games.
“Didn’t you learn your lesson the last time?” Jared just shrugs his shoulder as a smile forms on his face.
“If it wasn’t my phone call, they would’ve been apart longer. I was the right encouragement for Sarina to go see him that night. You would’ve had to deal with a grumpy driver a lot longer.” Alan rolls his eyes as he sits back in his seat.
“Are you ever going to stop reminding us about that?” Chad wonders and Jared just shrugs his shoulders. “Alan, please let me tape his mouth shut this season.” The other crew members nod in agreement as Alan can only chuckle in response.
Though his eyes then rested on his young driver, seeing exactly what the crew members were talking about as he smiled himself.
“What’s got you in a good mood?” Alan questions, certainly against his own advice for the crew guys.
“I’m just ready to get the year started,” Chase answers and Alan just rolls his eyes in response.
“No no, you’re smiling for another reason all together…..” Chase glances over, surprised that Alan had caught on so quickly. Was it that obvious?
“Everything is going better than I could’ve dreamed at times, Alan. We’re growing closer and closer with each passing day. We also finally had a discussion about our future together, in relation to children, and it went so much smoother than I could’ve imagined. Every worry that I discussed with you – it’s almost like it doesn’t exist anymore.” Alan could only smile back in response, glad to see that Chase was happy. A happy driver meant that he would be more focused, and easier to get along with, meaning that success should be inevitable this year. Plus, he couldn’t help but be happy on a personal level, too.
“See, that wasn’t that hard after all. It’s amazing what happens when you put faith into it.” Chase nods his head in agreement. “So if you talked about a future, is there a ring missing here?”
“Oh no, not at all. That didn’t come up at all…” Chase then glances back forward at the mention as Alan watches him closely. He was intrigued in how Chase automatically closed that door without a thought. It was weird to see him set on planning a future, but not opening the engagement or marriage door.
“Is that going to be a future topic of discussion in the near future?” Chase looks back over at Alan, and shrugs his shoulders. “I mean, it doesn’t matter to me. You can just ask Sherry or Martin about that, or even Jordan and Danny if you really want to. But normally when you see someone mention a future, the next topic is marriage. Given your happiness, the guys were even suspecting it.” Chase lets out a sigh, knowing that it was only a matter of time before more people asked the same questions. But just like the children discussion, he hadn’t given it much thought. Besides, he was still a young lad. Was it fair to be faced with all these grown up questions just like that?
“I haven’t thought about it, okay?” Alan nods his head, accepting.
“If you want to talk, you know where to find me. I’ll always be there for you.” Chase nods his head, accepting. “Just as long as you don’t scare the wits out of me this year.”
“I don’t plan on crossing paths with any evil people once again. I don’t want to repeat that experience.” Chase then closes his eyes as he rests his head back against the seat. “When I do think back to either Daytona, or especially Indy, I can only shake my head. it continues to set in just how much I put myself through, and how close we came to that being worse. What was I thinking at Indy?”
“I asked you that very question, remember. When you and Josh came up with the plan, I kept asking you what you were thinking because I couldn’t believe you would subject yourself to that. The same way that my stomach still flip flops in seeing how white you looked, and just how bad things spiraled so fast.” Chase glances down at the ground as he takes a deep breath.
“I’m sorry I put you through tha-”
“Hey, it’s okay. I would do it again in a heartbeat for you – as long as you’re okay, and we have a future working together.” Chase looks back over at Alan, giving him a smile.
“I wouldn’t want to work with anyone else.” Alan then looks at him a little surprised.
“Not even Greg or Ricky?” Chase shakes his head no.
“Greg was great for XFINITY and sure we won a championship together, but it’s not the same. And yes, Ricky is amazing and I still look up to him a ton. But at this level, seeing what we’re going through, you’re the man.” Alan smiles back in return as Rick takes to the stage, set to get everything started.
“Excuse me miss, but what are you doing here?” Sarina hears, instantly spinning around immediately. She had been focused on the late model, checking out the interior, making sure everything was place – from mirrors to the shifter handle – for the Winter Showdown.
“Why don’t you go see Kyle and ask him what I said?” She questions, before turning her focus back on the car. He was caught off-guard by her attitude as he places a hand on her shoulder lightly.
“I know you’re pissed that you’re missing this weekend, and I know you’re angry for how he handled things. But please, I didn’t have a say in the matter. Give me a bit of benefit here.” She then stops, closing her eyes, and taking a deep breath as she slowly turns around to face Marcus.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have flipped on you. You’re right as it was rude and unfair. And to be honest, I’ve come to grips with Kyle’s decision after talking to him.” She then leans back against the car, glancing down at the floor. “I just am getting annoyed of everyone babying me, trying to protect me and take care of me. That’s never been my style. I’ve always been right out there, focused on my dreams, independent, able to take care of myself, determined, and not needing to be taken care of delicately. But since everything happened, that’s all that everyone – Kyle, Sam, you, and Chase sometimes – want to do.”
“It’s because we care about you, and that comes out by us trying to do what we feel right in helping you. It’s because we know there’s pain involved, and we want to make everything as easy as possible to handle for you.” She nods her head, accepting, as she looks up at him.
“I know there was pain – I felt that pain everyda-”
“So you understand where we’re coming fro-”
“But I dealt with. I healed physically and got through the days of pain as the doctor described. I healed mentally, coming to grips with what happened and everything that I was feeling with. I fought through the confusion. I made my way through the sadness, and anger, in my own way, over those couple of weeks, with Chase by my side. We talked for long nights about how I felt emotionally – to the point that he hid his emotions from me because he didn’t want to hurt me more.” She then takes a deep breath. “But it’s done with. That was the past. We’re both – Chase and I – are moving forward. Now it’s time for everybody else to do the same.”
“Is it really dealt with? You mentioned Chase hiding his emot-”
“He talked to me about why he did it, and how he felt on a couple different occasions. I made him assure me that he wouldn’t ever do that again for my sake if something happened. We talked about it, Marc-”
“Including your future together, and whether you want kids?” She nods her head, remembering the conversation with a small smile on her face. She found herself imaging the day dream that he had told her about. “Okay, that’s great to hear and see. But you do see where we’re coming from and can give us a small break, right?”
“Absolutely – hence why I am not mad at Kyle for what he did. But on that same note, I’m here because I’m ready to move forward. I’m ready to have this car ready for Kern County.” He then looks at her, surprised. “Kyle didn’t tell you yet? He has put Kern County back on my schedule.”
“That’s great. I know how much you wanted to race there last year….” Marcus’ voice trails off, knowing that it was a sore subject with everything that happened, as it marked the beginning to the turmoil with her brother all year long.
“I can’t wait to see if what we tried in practice actually pays off to being strong enough to win the thing.” She then reaches out, grabbing Marcus’ hand. “You can bring up last year all you want – its okay; it doesn’t hurt me anymore. I’ve come to grips with everything that happened with Chris. I’m ready to head there without a single thought back in reverse.”
“What about Chase? I know he’ll want to be there to support you.” She takes a deep breath as she glances back to the car.
“I have a feeling that he’ll be fine, too. He didn’t hesitate or freeze up in the mention of what happened. We’re going to be fine, Marcus.” Marcus smiles, giving her shoulder a pat.
“I know. I always knew it’d work out between you both eventually. Now, why don’t you climb in there and we can make any adjustments needed?” She nods her head, accepting, as she climbs in the car as instructed. He then kneels down, looking through the window at her. “I have one question. If you talked about your future together, did you mention your hesitation about marriage?”
“Nope. We didn’t discuss that – just whether we wanted kids together, and when. We both agreed on waiting for three, five years – whatever it took for me to do my thing.” A smile immediately comes to her face. “Marcus, I got lucky in him. I keep saying it over and over, but I mean it. He’s so patient with me, and he helps me on so many emotional levels like nobody could have before. But here’s a guy whose willing to wait to have a family so I can have a chance to chase my dreams. Can you believe that?”
“He’s one of a kind. Don’t lose him because of the smallest thing…” He then stands up, and walks away to get the clipboard as she lays her head back against the seat. What if she was making a bigger deal about a future engagement, marriage than she needed to be?
“Hey, what are you doing?” Marcus then glances over the clip board, curious. “Were you not present at the competition meeting?” Marcus nods his head. “Then you know that we’re not working togeth-”
“I’m not crazy, Sarina. I know that Kyle wants you to work with Rudy (Fugle) this year, and I’m fine with that. Why do you think I’ve left your truck stuff alone, handed all notes over to Rudy, and am focused on what I am doing?” She then points to the clipboard. “I figured I’d give you a hand. What’s wrong with that?”
“Nothing, nothing at all. You know, I am going to miss you this year.” Marcus smiles as he nods his head in agreement.
“I’ll miss our fun times, too, but there’s a lot that you can learn from Rudy that I can’t teach you. That’s why he has helped Erik (Jones), and Christopher (Bell) become the drivers they are today.” He then places a hand on the window ledge as she glances out at him. “But know that you can always come to me if you want to talk. I’ll understand.”