Moving Forward – Chapter 57: Christmas

“Mommy! Daddy!” Alyssa yells as she runs into the bedsroom, jumping on the bed. “Wake up! Wake up!” Dale slightly opens his eyes, glancing at the clock, letting out a yawn.

“What time is it?” Marie wonders, as she tries to bury herself back under the pillows.

“It’s actually 8,” Dale states, as she glances over surprised. “She did let us sleep in some…”

“It’s Christmas!” Alyssa lets out as she sits on the bed, looking between them. “Santa came. I looked. Can we open gifts, puhleeeease?” The pair of them chuckle as Dale sits up, wrapping his arms around her, and pulling him back against him.

“Don’t you wanna lay here with daddy and cuddle?” She shakes her head no, immediately, squirming out of his hands. “So you really think Santa brought you some good stuff?”

“I good girl, Daddy!” He chuckles, knowing that was certain, as he tosses the blanket off, slowly getting up.

“I’ll go get Elsa from her room. I expect to see you downstairs shortly?” Marie gives a thumbs up as another yawn escapes her lips. “I’ll send Alyssa back up to get you if you’re not…”

“Yeah, yeah,” Marie lets out as Dale and Alyssa leave the room to go get Elsa.

It wasn’t long before the family was gathered around the tree, opening the gifts left by Santa, and also the ones they got for each other. From clothes, to barbies, to even a couple more toy cars, it seemed that Alyssa had gotten a bit of everything. Elsa was spoiled too, with some more toys for her to play with, including a little car to ride around on.

“We’re spoiled, aren’t we?” Marie questions, as she watches Elsa climb on her new toy car, pushing her feet as she goes back up the hall again.

“I wouldn’t say spoiled,” Dale answers as he wraps an arm around her, glancing towards Alyssa who was playing with her cars in a mock race of her own on the carpet. “I’d say we’re blessed, and deservingly so. You especially deserve it after everything you went through.” She looks over at him, grabbing his hand and squeezing it.

“You went through just as much as me, if not more. I still can’t imagine what was going through your mind that day on the plane.” Dale looks back towards Alyssa, counting his blessings once again, before his eyes return to Marie.

“I was thinking how much I missed you, how I loved you so much, and even how maybe I took you for granted sometimes. I don’t think I’ll ever do that again.” He then kisses her lips. “But I also remember watching Alyssa, wondering if I could raise a little girl all by myself, scared out of my mind. I just wanted the best for her – that’s all I still want for her. I was thinking how she’d never get to know her amazing mother, and why I loved you, and all the things that you could teach her. I was a mess…”

“Hey, that’s understandable. I mean, I was a mess when I woke up and you had gone missing from the hospital. If it wasn’t for Stevie and Kelley, I would’ve gone insane.” Dale chuckles, sometimes still amazed at his sister’s strength.

“All that matters is that we have each other, and these beautiful little girls…” He then kisses her lips once more, before heading out to the kitchen to start on breakfast.

As he was getting set to get the eggs out of the fridge, he pauses, taking a deep breath, as he glances once more towards the living room. He couldn’t help but smile as he saw Marie sit on the floor, kicking off a conversation with Alyssa about her race. He also chuckled as Elsa went around the kitchen and back out towards the living room, making vroom noises the entire time.

“Never take a single moment for granted,” he reminds himself, focusing back on breakfast. If he needed any assurance that he was making the right decision for his future, he got it in that moment.

The rest of the morning went smoothly as they all ate together, followed by the kids continuing to play with their new gifts. Dale and Marie began to set focus on dinner for later on that day, knowing the house would be full in a matter of hours.

Caught up in dressing her new dolls, Alyssa felt like she was having the perfect time in her little kid world. But when she heard a familiar ring from her dad’s cell phone, it didn’t take her long to drop her toys.

“I got it!” She announces immediately, walking over to the table and answering the facetime request. “Chasey!!” Chase immediately smiles back in return as her face fills the screen. “Merry Christmas!”

“Merry Christmas to you, too!” He replies back as Dale glances over, not surprised that he was messaging them. “Did you get lots of gifts?”

“Yes! I show you!!” She then carries the phone around the room, showing him everything that she got from Santa and her parents. “You get gifts?”

“Of course I did as I was a good boy, too. I also know that there’s a special gift you haven’t gotten yet.” Her eyes light up immediately. “Go look behind the cupboard in the dining room.” She sets the phone down, running there to look as she sees a pink box immediately. She grabs it, hurrying back with it as she sets it down on the ground. “You found it?”

“Can I open it, please?” He chuckles, nodding his head. He watches as she tears into the packaging, ripping through each layer as quick as she could, before reaching a box inside.

“Open that up…” She follows the instructions, immediately smiling as she pulls out the pink firesuit. She holds it up, looking it over, seeing the design that he had chosen, along with ‘Princess Alyssa’ along the belt line. She looks back in the box, seeing he had gotten a pair of pink skeleton gloves and racing shoes to match. “What do you think of that?” Chase knew she was almost too big for her current suit, and figured it was only fitting to spoil her for the next one.

“That’s awesome! It so pretty! Thank you Chasey!” He smiles back in return. “I have gift for you when you come home, okay?”

“Absolutely. I look forward to seeing it. Now, can I talk to your dad?”

“I go put on my new suit!” She then takes Dale the phone, handing it to him, before rushing back to the box to grab the suit.

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Moving Forward – Chapter 56: “I have something to tell you.”

Despite concerns surrounding whether Marie would get home in time, she ultimately made it home two days before Christmas. Dale was beyond thankful and glad for that as he didn’t know what he’d do if she wasn’t there for the holidays. She was also a great help wrapping presents.

There on Christmas eve, cookies and milk in hand, the pair sat by the tree wrapping the final gifts as they got them all set around. Dale’s eyes kept landing on her, a smile coming to his face, as a mix of thoughts flew through the mind.

He couldn’t wait to get married. He couldn’t get wait to spend the rest of their life together. He couldn’t wait for Christmas morning. He couldn’t wait to watch her daughters grow. He couldn’t wait for the travels that they’d get into together down the road.

He also had the thoughts of whether he was doing the right thing – wait no, he knew he was doing the right thing. But how was he supposed to tell her? Would she understand? When was the right time? How would she react?

“I have something to tell you,” he blurts out, before realizing it, as his hand comes up and lands on his mouth. He silently cursed himself as her eyes met his.

“I’m all ears,” she comments, curious as to what he had to say. She wondered if it dealt with their Christmas plans tomorrow – maybe they were going to have an unexpected guest, or maybe he forgot a gift. She also worried that it surrounded their wedding. What if some plan fell apart while she was away?

“With everything that has happened on track and away, I have been doing a lot of thinking lately. I’ve been pondering my career, whether I want to do this, and my future. What do I want from the rest of my life? Am I satisfied with what I’ve done so far? Where do I see myself five, 10 years from now? How do I see my family growing?” He was surprised how quickly and easily the words were coming to home as it just seemed to be pouring out of him. Maybe Chase was smarter with his advice than he thought. “I’m going to retire from racing at the end of this season.”

“Seriously? Are you sure absolutely certain about your decision?” Dale nods his head as he keeps his eyes on her, waiting to see what her response would be. “Is this driven by what happened? Are you scared of a reoccurance?” Dale shakes his head no, remembering the doctor’s words. “I don’t know what to say…..”

“The past two years, we’ve been through so much. I can’t even put into words everything that happened. From dealing with Mariela and what happened, to the wreck – it’s given me a new perspective. I’ve done this a long time, and I still love every minute, but I want to be there for my family. I want to raise my little girls. I want to have those special moments with you. I want to make it worthwhile.” She then puts down the gift that she was wrapping, moving closer to him, grabbing her hand with hers. She still wasn’t sure if she was ready to accept this yet.

“We can have everything and make it worthwhile even if you did continue racing, though.  We’ve proven that we can balance it all….” Dale nodded his head, actually surprised how things came together as the year went on. It was insane at times, but they certainly knew how to make it work.

“I know. But I’ve done this now, at the Cup level alone, 17 years. Beyond that, I ran XFINITY two years, and Late Models. I’ve been doing this a long time. I’m ready for a change. I’m ready to take a new role with the ownership. I’m ready to have my summers and weekends to do things with you and the girls. I’m ready to be there for Alyssa more as she goes to school. I’m ready for the change, because frankly, I don’t want to miss these moments.” Marie smiles as she keeps hold of his hand, focusing her eyes to the ground as she feels them cloud over with liquid. How was she going to hold it together?

“If you’re confident and ready, then I fully support you and believe in your decision.” She finally allows herself to look up into his eyes, letting him see the tears. “I just don’t know if I’m ready for you to retire myself.” Dale was willing to accept that reaction as he was glad she wasn’t fighting him on it. He also understood the emotions, knowing she wouldn’t be the only one.

“I get it, and I understand. I’m ready for the tears, people telling me that I shouldn’t, and hopefully by year-end, everybody is on the same page.” She then lays her head against his shoulder.

“So you won’t be upset if I’m in a ball of tears at Homestead?” He laughs and shakes his head.

“I may be joining you in those tears – happy and sad mixed together, but teary.” She smiles, as she gives him a kiss.

“Now, how do you plan to tell everyone this big news?” He lets out a sigh as he looks back down at the gift he was wrapping. So far, he had been taking one step at a time, seeing how it went.

“Kelley and my mom are going to find out sometime between now and January. Rick is going to find out in February, and the world will learn the truth shortly after that.” She nods her head, accepting, knowing that’d give her time to come to grips with her own emotions. “Chase knows alrea-”

“So you told somebody before me?” Perhaps he shouldn’t have told her that minor detail.

“Chase caught me thinking about it one day a couple weeks ago, so he knew it was on the mind. When I was almost certain, I called him over to talk over the final details. I didn’t mean for the secret to just out there before you wanted.” She wanted to be upset and mad, but taking a deep breath, she couldn’t be neither. She understood toying with emotions, and was glad that he had taken the step of talking to someone.

“What was his reaction?” Dale shrugs his shoulders. Like Chase in a normal sense, he was cool as a cucumber. What more could he say?

“He didn’t really have much to say, except belief that this year was going to be a great season with lots of checkered flags so we sent off things on the right note.” Marie smiles as she was hoping for the same thing, wanting to put the second half of last year away as far as possible.

“I hope he’s right, because we need it…” Dale nods his head, in agreement, as he looks back down at the package.

“Now, right now, we need to finish wrapping.” She then lets out a sigh as she goes back to her spot on the floor, grabbing the roll of paper.

“For next year, can we just get this stuff store wrapped please?” Dale then chuckles as he grabs a piece of paper, sticking it to her back with a piece of tape.

“I couldn’t do that if you got it store wrapped, or this.” He grabs a bow, taking the covering off the sticky piece, and sticking it on her head. “For the record, you’re the only Christmas present that I need….”

“Careful with your words, or this package may not get wrapped.” He then chuckles as he snatches the wrapping paper away from her, pinning her down on the ground with a kiss on her lips.

“Do I look too concerned right now?” He then begins to slowly undo the buttons on his pajama top – which nicely matched hers and the kids – but she places her hand on top of his, bringing it up above his head.

“You’re ruining half of my fun…” He then looks at her cautiously, wondering what she was meaning in her words. Did she really want to wrap presents instead of this?

“How’s that?” He hoped he didn’t regret testing the waters after.

“Because I want to help you undress…” She then kisses his lips lightly as a devious grin immediately forms.

“I don’t have one problem with that…” She then stands up, holding her hand out and making him stand out with her. “What?”

“Well, we better take this to a private area. I wouldn’t want the kids finding us by accident, or maybe even Mr. Claus himself…” She then tugs on his hand, leading him down the hall into the office, shutting the door immediately behind them. She then immediately pins him against the edge of the desk, lips clashing with his, hands finding their way underneath the clothes. “Merry Christmas to me…”

Moving Forward – Chapter 55: “I have my decision…”

News – there will be a direct sequel to this story, and it will have a fun twist. That is all….

It had been four days since Marie had left to go back to Pitronia to help with the relief effort. The couple had been keeping in touch on a regular basis through constant phone calls and text messages, but it wasn’t the same.

They both wanted to be reunited together, and soon.

Marie had suggested for Dale to come down and join her, but he brushed off the offer. He didn’t want to pull Alyssa from school – even being kindergarten – as he wanted to keep that balance for her. Furthermore, there was still stuff to do around the house. That was why that afternoon, he was busy getting the tree situated and finding the ornaments so he and Alyssa could decorate it after.

“I knew you’d have a real tree,” Dale hears, smiling as he recognizes the voice immediately. He had asked Chase to stop by that afternoon when he got a chance. “Looks good, though.”

“Alyssa and I are going to decorate it tonight with a little help from Elsa,” he comments as Chase nods his head, accepting. It sounded like the perfect family activity.

“Have you heard anything from Marie?” Dale lets out a sigh, remembering their last conversation.

“There’s still so much to do. There’s people that lost their homes totally and need some place to stay, and there are others who have to do so much cleaning so it’s sustainable. It’s going to be another week at least.” Chase couldn’t help but look at the calendar.

“That’s pushing it close to Christmas….” Dale nods his head, having the same thought when she told him.

“We always like to test those Christmas boundaries, right?” Chase chuckles, remembering his own experience last year.

“Look at it this way. I didn’t go away these holidays so I will be home with my parents easily.” Dale smiles as he glances over. It was nice to be able to joke about that now. “What if she can’t get away by Christmas?”

“I told her there was no way around it, and she accepted. She’ll be here.” Dale then lets out a sigh as he takes a step back, plugging the lights in and pleased to see all the dead spots had been taken care of. “Now, I did call you over here for a reason, didn’t I?”

“I would assume so…” Dale unplugs the lights, setting the cord down, before turning around to face Chase.

“I have my decision about retirement moving forward.” Chase then looks on a little confused.

“And you’re telling me, because?” Dale crosses his arms as he walks over, sitting on the couch.

“I figured as my friend you deserved to know, and since you already knew I was thinking about it. Oh, and you’re the first.” Chase felt his stomach flip flop with that confession. He could already see where this was going.

“How soon?” Dale was intrigued at how quickly Chase picked up on what was set to happen.

“End of this year. I’m going to tell Rick in February and make my suggestion for my replacement, aka your new teammate.” Chase silently crossed his fingers, hoping some sanity was involved.

“Please tell me that you’re thinking clearly he-”

“Alex.” Chase stops, thinking it over. Alex Bowman wasn’t that bad of a guy. “The past two years, I’ve been through so much for Marie and my family. I can’t even put into words everything that happened. From dealing with her sister and what happened, to the wreck – it’s given me a new perspective. I’ve done this a long time, and I still love every minute, but I want to be there for my family. I want to raise my little girls. I want to have those special moments with Marie. I want to make it worthwhile.” Chase smiles, as he could see exactly where Dale was coming from immediately.

“I don’t blame you, to be honest. I can see how that would affect a person. I mean, I know how it can from what I went through.” Dale then glances towards the ground, taking a careful deep breath.

“I just don’t know how to tell Marie, my sister, or even Rick. I know my reasons and I know this is what I want. I just don’t know how to say it.” Chase wondered whether it was truly the right decision if Dale was having second thoughts.

“Are you 100% certain this is what you want to do? Because if you’re certain, it should just come easy…” Dale laughs, wishing that was the case.

“We were both certain that we needed to talk about what happened, and look at how long it took us both to do that. Good try, Chase.” Chase lets out a sigh, remembering that.

“I think you just need to sit her down when the time is right and tell her. Give her the reasons that you gave me, hear out her protests, and answer each question. If you’re patient and just let it come to you, it’ll work.” Dale nods his head, accepting.

“I hope. I just hope we have a better year, too.” Chase glances straight at Dale.

“It’s going to be a much better season than what we had. It’s going to go smoothly with checkered flags everywhere you look, beginning with Daytona. I believe in our team. You can get the job done, I know I can get the job done, and that’s all we need.” Dale smiles as he keeps his eyes locked on Chase.

“You continue to impress me, beyond just your driving. Don’t ever change…” Chase could only smile back in return.

“Why would I change what’s working for me?”

Moving Forward – Chapter 54: Reminiscing….

Dale sat in the church, glancing forward at the front, taking a deep breath.

It was only a matter of weeks before he’d be back there, standing right where he was looking, saying his vows, calling Marie his wife.

It just seemed like yesterday that everything began for them.

He remembered when they met each other. It wasn’t quite love at first sight, but he was intrigued by her after briefly coming across her at an autograph session. She was there accompanying a friend, stayed in the shadows as the friend took the panic biggest fan approach.

They then crossed paths once again later on at a local coffee shop. He stopped to grab something for Kelley – some order that she had sent him to bring to the shop for her and the girls. He was startled by seeing her as the lead cashier, immediately mind flashing back to the track. He remembered placing the order and leaving without a word, only to return the next day and place another order. He then found countless other reasons to keep returning, eventually sparking up a conversation. He eventually brought himself to ask her out to dinner, which she easily accepted.

From that dinner on, it seemed they just connected immediately. They found a bunch of things in common, immediately finding a connection that he had never felt with anybody before.

He remembered when she got pregnant with Alyssa, too. That wasn’t planned. It happened after one of their lovely spent nights together. He remembered Marie coming to him, telling him, scared and freaked out, wondering if a future was even possible. While he felt a panic himself, he remembered that he pulled her close in a hug, and assured her it’d work out, somehow. Scared and unsure through everything, he couldn’t help but smile at the little girl she had grown into.

The biggest turning point of the relationship had to be the fateful trip, news that broke him apart more than he could’ve imagined. There was also the flight, followed by the confessions of a secret life nobody could’ve envisioned, and the trip that allowed him to make his heart whole once again.

Taking a deep breath, they went through a lot from the trip out of the country to being reunited together, to the dramatics of Daytona and beyond. However, here they stood, stronger than ever. More importantly, everybody affected was truly beginning to find their place once again – including Chase. They said it took time to heal. Initially, Dale never believed that, but sitting there now, maybe he did.

His mind immediately flashed to the past race season, which started out so promising but it ended just like that in the flick of two fingers by a pair of crashes. He remembered the fear that coursed through him about possibly finding himself again. He remembered the worries of not being there like he wanted to be for both his daughters, and possible future children; they had discussed having one more together. The recovery process wasn’t easy, either.

Taking a deep breath, he knew that racing was his dear and true passion as he would do anything for it every day of the week. It had been his life for so many years now. But, looking back, seeing everything that had gone on – just merely in the past couple years, maybe they were reaching a climax.

What if it was time to step back, and focus on his family? What if it was time to step back, and find a change of pace? He could see him and Marie do other things together, possibly traveling with the kids, focusing more on the country, exploring avenues of life that they didn’t get to see now.

Maybe that big R word wasn’t so bad after all…..

“Oh no,” he hears, instantly startling him. “Please tell me you’re not having second thoughts….” He chuckles, watching TJ walk up the aisle to where he was sitting.

“I could never have second thoughts about marrying Marie,” he assures him. “I actually can’t wait until the wedding. I almost want to skip Christmas and say the vows. I don’t care what’s under the tree or the family dinner this year.” TJ chuckles, loving the excitement that he was seeing off of his best friend.

“So why are you here then?” Dale crosses his arms, knowing he could twist that question back on its face. Besides, he didn’t want to explain his reasons….

“Why are you here?” TJ glances back towards the doorway, where a bunch of the other guys stood and waved.

“We’re heading to the back field for a round of paintball. I thought I saw someone so I figured I’d check in…” Dale knew the explanation was reasonable. Now if he only had one to match….

“Well, I wish you the best of luck with tha-”

“You didn’t answer my question, Dale. Is everything okay?” Dale nods his head, as he glances forward. He knew he couldn’t face TJ and say this out loud.

“I’m just pondering if…..Just making sure that the wedding ideas are all in order in my thoughts. We’ve put so much into planning that I thought I’d sit here, think it through, and see if there’s something we missed.” There was no way that he could say it out loud, yet. Besides, if anybody was to know first, Marie had every right to be that person.

“I’m sure you guys didn’t miss a thing. Besides, it’s supposed to be a fun day of celebration. Relax, take a deep breath, and remember to enjoy it. It’s going to be amazing no matter what.” Dale simply gives TJ a smile in return, knowing that his best friend was right – on that topic. “Now, why don’t you come and try to kick our asses so you can get your mind off of the wedding for now?”

“Try and kick your asses? Well, well….” Dale then stands up and begins to follow TJ out. “Remember what happened the last time, right?”

“Not happening again….”

Moving Forward – Chapter 53: A Goodbye Present

Marie puts all of her bags together by the door, before glancing back at Dale.

“Don’t I get warning anymore?” He questions as he glances towards the bags, before matching her eyes.

“I wish I would’ve gotten more warning,” she answers as she pulls him close to her. “But that’s how crisis situations work. Nobody could’ve expected that storm to hit as bad…”  He nods his head, accepting. He felt bad when they heard the news of the storm practically taking out a good 40% of Pitronia in one clean sweep.

“Just promise me you’ll be careful. I hate to see you traveling right now with these storms.” She then rubs his shoulders, understanding his concerns. She didn’t feel perfectly great about this, either.

“I’ll be careful and make sure to not fly if it’s too dangerous, and watch where I walk, and not do anything stupid. Just think – once this is over, you will have me all to yourself through Christmas, to the wedding, and afterwards.” He licks his lips as he picks her up in a quick sweep, with her legs wrapping around him.

“You don’t want to know all that I have planned for you….” A smirk forms on her face as she had a couple thoughts of her own in mind.

“I think I can figure a bunch of those ideas out, and I wouldn’t complain one bit.” He smiles as he pins her back against the wall, kissing her lips in a quick sweep. “Dale…”

“I can’t resist you. I need you…” Her hands find their way under the back of his shirt, lifting it up slightly.

“I need you, too…” He then backs off the kiss, letting his tongue run down the length of her neck as she digs her nails into his back.

“I knew you needed me…” He sucks on her neck lightly, as she feels her back arching.

“Oh God….” He then moves down her neck to her shoulder, quickly flinging her shirt over her head. His tongue then finds his way to her bra strap, twirling around it, before slipping it down her arm.

“That’s right…” He then slips the other shoulder strap off, before letting his tongue trace the edge of her shoulder. She knew she should be focused on getting out there timely, but she couldn’t leave without this. She needed something to hold her over while she was gone.

“Why are you so damn captivating?”

“Because I know how much you love me, you’re going to miss me, and this…” He then sucks on her breast nipple.

“Oh damn Ralphie!” He laughs, loving when she used that name. Keeping her held against the wall with his hands, her legs loosen around his waist as he slips down lower, letting his tongue now twirl around her belly button, causing a laugh to escape.

“Does that tickle?” He then does it again.

“Yes but it feels so nice….”

“You just love me licking you,” he says before licking her along the waist line.

“God Dale, why are you teasing?” She knew that she needed him more and more with second that passes.

“Because I love the look on your face.” He then slips her underwear off, before proceeding to continue to lick her waist line.

“God….” His tongue then finds it way down her thigh, followed by back up and across her slit. “Dale…”

“What would you like?” She glances straight into his dark blue eyes, knowing there was only one answer.

“Fuck me, here and now, please and thank you….” He laughs, knowing that he had her right where he wanted her. He then slips two fingers up inside of her, motioning them around as her body craves even more. She was trying with all her might to stay flat back against the wall, but her body kept arching down and towards him. “Fuck….”

“Oh that’s what I plan on doing to you.” He then begins to move his fingers deeper inside of her.

“Mmm…” She then begins to move her hips out against his hand, wishing that they would’ve changed locations so it could be his cock instead.

“Damn Marie you feel nice….” She then reaches her hand out and below, brushing it along the bulge forming in his jeans.

“That’s cause I want you.” He glances down, smirk forming as he looks back up into her eyes.

“Oh really?” She gives the waistband a flick, inserting her fingers underneath and brushing them against him. “And why should I give into you?”

“Because if you don’t, I may have to take charge of the situation…” She then drops both his jeans and underwear in a quick sweep, rubbing his cock once again with her hand gently.

“Damn you…” She laughs, knowing that she now had him where she wanted him in return.

“You know you want to. A Goodbye present is always nice, right?” He knew he couldn’t resist any longer, picking her up and carrying her to the front room, laying her down on the couch, before pushing himself deep into her. “Halleluiah!”

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

“Was that worth it?” She questions as he lays on top of her, worn out.

“Every single minute,” he answers as he slowly gets up, allowing her to stand up. She grabs her discarded clothes from the hallway, putting them back on. “I should’ve let you go. You needed to catch your flight and go. You have a disaster to attend to…”

“I don’t regret a single moment, Dale. I needed that…” She then leans in and kisses his lips, before fixing her hair. “That’s my reminder of what’s waiting for me when I get back and how much I am looking forward to calling you my husband.”

“Not as much as I can’t wait to call you my wife. I love you, be safe, and call me if you need me. Oh, and call to check in, too.”

“I love you, too….always.” She then gives him one final kiss before heading out the door with her bags in toe.

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 51: Banquet

Dale walks into the small hotel bathroom, his jaw dropping immediately as he looks at her.

“Oh no…” She says as she sees his reaction. “What’s wrong?” He immediately wipes the look off his face as he looks her up and down.

“Not a single damn thing in the world,” he tells her. “You look beyond beautiful, stunning, amazing. I don’t even know how I got so lucky to be spoiled by you.” She smiles as she looks back at the mirror once again, checking on her hair. After spending all morning getting it put up right, she didn’t want it to fall out now.

“Does it look good? Is it okay?” He nods his head yes as he walks up behind her.

“You look amazing, perfect. Every piece of your hair is in the right place, and every inch of this dress is just beyond perfect. You look great.” She nods her head, accepting as she turns around carefully to face him.

“You look quite stunning yourself.” She rubs his arms, taking a careful glance into his blue eyes as she takes a deep breath. “Are you ready for this?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?” She smiles, keeping her eyes locked on his. She wanted a glimpse into his soul.

“This is the first time that you’re going to see everybody since everything that happened. I just want to make sure you’re ready to face everyone, and not feeling anxious or anything.” He nods his head, accepting his concerns. Why was it she could read everything no matter where he hid those reactions?

“I’m a little nervous, okay? I don’t know they’re going to react, and I don’t know what they’re going to say. But hey, that’s mostly friends down there and I’m here tonight to hang out with my friends, my team, and my charming lady.” She chuckles as she leans in for a kiss.

“Know I’ll be right there by your side all night long…” He nods his head, squeezing her hand with his.

“We could always go for a party for two instead…” She chuckles as he pins her back against the bathroom wall. “I mean, I wouldn’t mind tasting those lips once again….”

“I wouldn’t mind seeing what lies beneath that tuxedo, either.” He brings his lips to hers once again as she runs her hands underneath the back of his jacket, gripping onto him as their lips clash together.

“Why are you so irresistible?” He then runs his tongue down her cheek to her chin, sucking lightly.

“Dale…” He looks back up into her eyes. “We have a banquet, remember?” They then hear a knock on the door, and instantly Dale curses to himself. “Let’s get the door….”

“They can stay out there all nigh-”

“That’s our daughter, remember?” Dale lets out a sigh as he backs off, heading out to the door and opening it. He immediately smiled as his heart felt completely full at the sight before him.

“Wow Daddy….” Alyssa lets out as she enters the hotel room. “You all dress up!” Dale nods his head as his eyes follow her through the room.

“I have to dress up for tonight as everybody is dressing up,” Dale states as he fixes the crinkle in his shirt after the make-out session. “That dress looks absolutely amazing on you!” She then smiles brightly as she twirls around in the middle of the room.

“It’s blue like Chasey car!” He chuckles as he looks back towards Chase, who was still standing at the doorway.

“So you couldn’t find a date for the second year in a row?” Chase smiles as he looks towards Alyssa.

“I thought I got the cutest date in the whole wide world if you ask me,” he comments as she runs back over to him. “I mean, can you get cuter than this?”

“You both look amazing,” Marie comments as she snaps a photo on her phone.

“Forget us – you look absolutely great!” She smiles as she gives him a quick bow. “Do you think mommy and daddy are ready to go with us to the banquet?” Alyssa looks over, nodding her head yes.

“Let’s go party!” She lets out with a big jump for joy.

“Are you sure you can handle her tonight?” Dale questions as they head out of the hotel room.

“Absolutely,” Chase answers. “The crew guys love her already so she’ll fit right in. Besides, I need to share my trophy with my lucky charm.” Alyssa looks up in surprise.

“Trophy?” She questions and Chase immediately covers his mouth.

“Oh no – did I give it away?” She nods her head yes as a big smile forms on her face.

“You get trophy?” Chase nods her head as they swing arms together. “Cool! Does Daddy, too?” Chase smiles, nodding his head with a glance back at Dale. “Yay!”

“Now, can you a good big girl and walk the red carpet, smiling for photos, and talking to people with me?” She nods her head yes. “Because if you do, I may have an awesome surprise for you later.”

“Clue?” He shakes his head no, which results in a pout from him. “Please?”

“Don’t worry – you’ll love it.” They then get into the elevator together, set for a fun night ahead of them.