Friday, February 3, 2018 – Winter Showdown – California
Chase takes a deep breath as he waits for Ricky to come out of the airport.
He had told Sarina that morning that Ricky had changed his mind, deciding to come out and watch that weekend’s event despite not being up to anything. He wasn’t about to speak about everything – still fearing that he was making a big deal out of nothing, and not wanting to scare her. He did warn her not once, but twice, before leaving to be careful. Though knowing she’d be busy with practice and surrounded by the team, it also gave him that extra security.
He watches as the back door opens, instantly looking back as he watches Ricky throw a bag in. He then smiles as Ricky gets in the passenger seat beside them, and they head out.
“How was your flight out?” Chase wonders as Ricky glances over.
“Not bad, considering it was a last minute deal,” Ricky answers as Chase nods his head. There were no words to express his appreciation.
“Listen, I really appreciate you coming out. Whatever I owe you, just tell me and I’ll pay ya back for su-”
“Just tell me what’s going on.” Chase takes a deep breath as they sit at the stop light, tapping his fingers on the wheel.
“I don’t know if it’s coincidence, de ja vu, someone just trying to mess with my head – or something is really goi-”
“Chase, I can’t tell you my take and help you if you don’t just tell me. Spit it out, man!” Seeing Chase nervous about talking about something with him, Ricky could already sense it was probably more than Chase was trying to make it out to be.
“I went up to the grandstands to watch practice yesterday, and there was a folded up piece of paper with my name on it. I opened it and there were some of Chris’ most memorable lines written on it.” Ricky then glances over a little confused. “Now, these lines everybody would know because I said them as part of my court testimony – they were the lines that I told you I’d never forge-”
“They’ll just take me away, and try to help me, but they won’t be able to like those times before?” Chase’s grip on the steering wheel increases a little as he nods his head. “Alright, take a deep breath…” Ricky glances out the window as he lets out a sigh. “So you’re thinking someone knew you’d go up there because that’s what you always do, and left the note to screw with you. Frankly, their plan is working because you froze up as soon as I said those words out loud. But obviously, I can see why you’d think it may be more.”
“It’s not the only thing that happened, either. I went to get ice last night – and the ice machine on my floor was not working. So I went down to the main floor, and I could hear a bunch of girls talking. Some of the words they said took me right back to the Hooters Pageant when I met Allison for the first time. I peaked and got a glimpse of them all, but I didn’t recognize her.” Ricky slowly nods his head as he sits back in the seat. “Now, it could be coincidence because those are just common words. But if you combine both of those togeth-”
“I can understand you’re freaked out. Now, have you told Sarina?” Chase shakes his head no. “Of course not. Have you told Kyle?” Chase shakes his head once again. “Why not?”
“Because what if I’m making a big deal out of noth-”
“But what if something is going on? It’s always better to safe than sorry, and the more eyes you have on the situation, the better. Secondly, if they could possibly be out for Sarina, it’d be best if she knew what was going on so she could be on the look-out for odd situations. You always talk about how you guys trust each other about anything, and you’re proud that she’s gotten to the point she can tell you stuff. Well buddy, it’s time for you to reciprocate that behavior.” Chase lets out a sigh as he turns the corner.
“Are you mad that I just called you instead?” Ricky shakes his head no.
“Actually, I’m glad that you called me – so that way I can help you deal with this properly. The only way to handle it is to be deal with it, right?” Chase nods his head. “When we get to the track, let’s watch practice and then tell both Sarina and Kyl-”
“Right before qualifying? Do you really want to throw off their game?” Ricky lets out a sigh as he looks over at Chase.
“What’s more important? Starting well tomorrow or their life? You decide.”
After parking in the lot and getting Ricky’s pass for the weekend, the pair made their way into the track grounds. With having arrived after the first practice started, it was an easy decision to watch the session from the grandstands.
A keen eye on both ends of the speedway, the pair watched each car make laps carefully, glancing at the tires as they came out to see if they were a sticker set, while checking handling through the middle of the corner. With each lap being made, certain things were pointed out by both – including a little slide form one driver, to how it appeared another got stronger with each lap put in the books.
As the session neared conclusion, Chase pulled out his phone, loading the live lap times to see where everybody stood.
“Gonna take a bet she was making qualifying runs?” Ricky questions as he takes his off the speedway and looks over. Chase looks over, with a nod and a smile.
“Top of the board!” He lets out as Ricky just shakes his head in return.
“That doesn’t surprise me at all…..”
“The boss was 15th quickest in race trim.” Ricky nods his head in response, as Kyle had looked nice and smooth through both of his laps.
“Now, are you ready to tell them?” Chase looks over, caught off-guard by the comment.
“I thought you said after practi-”
“I didn’t necessarily say after both sessions, and do I need to repeat my question for you?” Chase lets out a sigh as he looks out at the track. “If you don’t want to tell them, I will gladly do it for you. But, it will sound better coming from you – especially to Sarina, because she’ll see another layer of that trust you have together.” He knew he would do anything for and protect to her, and he knew he couldn’t keep putting this off.
“Alright, fine.” Chase then begins making his way down the stairs, with Ricky in toe. Eyes focused forward, he didn’t notice the banana that was slid out onto the step, with his foot landing on it. As soon as it did, it flung forward, sending him back on his ass, before sliding down the remaining steps. “Fuck!”
“Chase!” Ricky lets out, hurrying down afterwards, though taking glances in both directions to see if there was a source of where it came from. “Chase? Are you okay?”
“Sore…” Ricky holds out a hand, helping him up as a couple security officials make their way over. “I’m okay….” He then goes to take a step away from them, though a pain shoots up through his leg, causing him to almost fall – with Ricky grabbing him from behind in the process.
“Easy…..” Ricky slowly sets him down on the bench, while taking another glance around. Suddenly, the idea of coincidence didn’t sit well with him.
After consulting with the security officials and medical staff, they made it clear that they’d keep a watch out for anybody causing trouble, and make sure garbage was picked up efficiently. Although his knee was pretty sore, and hard to stand on right now, it wasn’t believed to be broken. They released him, with the promise to take care of himself and get checked out later if needed.
Ricky carefully helps him through the crossover gate and across the track, before they make their way over to Sarina’s hauler. Ricky finds a chair, sitting him down in it, before getting another to put his leg up.
“What happened?” Sarina asks as she walks over, arms crossed, though feeling every bit of concern.
“Do you have any ice?” Ricky questions, not even paying attention to her concern. Kyle, having witnessed Ricky taking care of him, had already grabbed a small plastic bag, and put a couple cubes in it from the cooler, bringing it over.
“So now we can’t balance on our own two feet?” Kyle questions as Chase glances up at him. “How do we trust you to drive a racecar if you can’t walk straight?” Chase just rolls his eyes in response as Ricky crosses his arms. “Why do I have a bad feeling about this looking between you both?”
“Because your jokes are falling on deaf ears right now.” Kyle looks between them intrigued, before focusing his eyes on Chase. “This wasn’t just a simple stumble, and I think something may goin-”
“Ricky!” Chase cuts him off as it was now Ricky’s turn to be surprised at him.
“You just fell down the grandstands because of a banana peel and you want to pretend nothing is going on?” Ricky questions, now catching more intrigue from Kyle and Sarina. “Okay, that’s fine. It’s your decision after all.”
“What the hell is going on?” Sarina now wonders, arms crossed as she looks between the pair.
Unable to lie to her straight in the face, Chase went through describing everything that had happened in the past 24 hours, and the reason for calling Ricky.
“So you were afraid to tell me?” Sarina questions, having come to her own realization as Chase lets out a sigh.
“I was thinking I may have been over-reacting, and I didn’t want you to worry if I was,” Chase answers as she nods her head, accepting.
“So trying to save me from worrying is better than protecting your ass from something happening? Okay, that makes sense.” Chase glances down at the ground.
“I screwed up, okay? I let my own fear and worry of your reaction and not wanting to hurt you stand in the way of probably doing the right thing. instead of going to you, I went to Ricky. I get that it hurts and stings and whatever because of our trust together, but I promise you that I love you and trust you. I just….” Chase takes a deep breath as he focuses on her. “I know how much everything has hurt you. I know how much everything that happened upset you and how emotionally trying it has been. I didn’t want you to suffer more.”
“Chase, what matters to me most of all is that we’re both safe and okay. I will suffer through whatever I need to emotionally to damn well make sure that you’re okay. I mean, look at what you did for me. It’s only the tip of the iceberg in paying you bac-”
“You don’t nee-”
“I don’t care what you say, but I will forever be grateful for everything that you’ve done for me, been through for us, and will always want to give that back to you in return.” She then leans down, kissing his lips. “I love you, I care about you, and nothing will change that.”
“I love you, too.” He then pulls her close, kissing her lips back in return, before she sits down beside him.
“Alright, before you both get too lovey gushy, who could be behind this – if it’s not a coincidence?” Kyle interrupts, grabbing everyone’s attention. They hadn’t expected him to come out with the comment of the day.
“Chris and Bethany are both in jail, which leaves Allison,” Ricky answers as Kyle crosses his arms.
“She was let loose with nothing?” Both Chase and Sarina nod their heads in return. Chase then takes his phone back out, seeing the cracked screen now from the fall.
“Second year in a row here I’ve done that,” he comments, unlocking it anyway. He then goes into his images, pulling up one in particular, before handing it over to Kyle.
“I’m not a genius,” Kyle starts as he hands the phone back. “What the hell am I supposed to see behind the spider web?”
“Restraining order. If I see her anywhere near me, I have the choice to get her arres-”
“Given the events, that shouldn’t be a choice anymore.” Chase nods his head in agreement.
“There’s also Shelley,” Sarina states as everybody looks towards her. “She didn’t seem too happy either time we spoke to her. I mean, she isn’t the type to do anything – but you just never know. What if she plans to torment us until we let Chris go?”
“There’s no way I’m agre-” Chase starts as Sarina places a hand carefully on his leg.
“I didn’t say we were going to agree to those terms, if that’s the case. I don’t believe it because that’s not her, anyway.”
“Regardless, we should all promise to be extra careful and just keep an eye out, okay?” Kyle offers and everybody nods their head in return. “And Chase, when the ice melts, there’s more in the cooler so feel free to steal some.”
“Thanks,” Chase comments as he glances down at his knee, seeing some swelling already there.
“Least you didn’t break your ribs this year,” Ricky offers as Chase glances over at him. “Too soon?” Chase simply flips the bird in return as Ricky laughs. “So no talk of tungsten or ribs – got it.”
“I still like you, but that could change….” Ricky chuckles as he kneels down to Chase’s level.
“Face it – there’s only a few that will put up with you. It’s in your best interest to keep me around.” Ricky then takes out his phone, glancing over a message, sending one back in response. “Besides, I could’ve been at the Winter Meltdown tomorrow, but instead I am here.”
“Wait – you were supposed to be at the Meltdown and I pulled you away from that?” Ricky nods his head. “Dude, why didn’t you tell me? You didn’t have to come dow-”
“Who would’ve been here to convince you to do the right thing? Who would’ve helped you when you fell?” Chase lets out a sigh.
“But you still didn’t need to drop everything for me. I mean, your new deal is more importan-”
“Your life or racing – what’s bigger? Besides, once I explained things over, they’ll understood so it’s not a problem at all. Just excuse me if you see me texting a lot of tips over the phone all day.” Chase sits back in the chair as he shakes his head.
“You didn’t have to do this for me, Ricky, really, but thank you. It means a lot to me.” Ricky looks over with a smile.
“I told you that I always have your back and I would do anything for you. That’s not gonna change – ever.”
For the rest of the day, Chase chilled out in the chair, icing his knee off and on while keeping a close eye on the on-track action. Thankfully, nothing else strange occurred either.
The second practice went smoothly with Kyle topping the charts, with Sarina mid-pack due to working on getting the car comfortable for the long green flag runs. While they never got it exactly perfect, it was better than when they started by the end of the session and she felt confident going into tomorrow’s main event.
The qualifying session to finish the day also brought smiles, as she qualified 11th with the boss up in fourth. It wasn’t the top-10 start they envisioned, but it was something to work with for 300 laps.
Despite his pleas, Kyle and Ricky both made certain that Chase did get his knee checked out, having seen the swelling. Thankfully, it was nothing too serious – nothing broken, and would simply heal over the next couple of days with rest, heat and ice.
“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of him tonight,” Sarina comments as she lays on the bed beside him. Kyle and Ricky had helped them back to the room, wanting to make sure they were safe and careful.
“I don’t wanna know!” Ricky immediately lets out as he hurries out of the room to a simple eye roll from Sarina.
“Just remember that gloves are important at all times,” Kyle adds with a wink before following Ricky out.
“Can you believe them?” She questions as Chase just lets out a sigh. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“I’m okay, as long as I have you by my side,” he comments, as she gets comfortable beside him.