This was no ordinary fling. Hell, it wasn’t even a fling! It was love at first sight with the two of us and we couldn’t stay away from each other! He was in town for a race and needed to wind down somewhere. He said that he already knew of me but it was vaguely; I was no Lisa Leslie or Cheryl Swoopes! But he told me he had been watching me all night and was glad that I made my way to the bar.
Charlotte was a bit giddy about the relationship; she saw that I was genuinely happy and that made her content. It was Jackson who had the problem, oddly. He kept telling me that I was moving too fast with him and that he didn’t trust him. Whenever I asked for specifics, he would never tell me. “I just do” was always his answer. I didn’t know what was going on with him but I damn sure wasn’t buying that excuse!
It was a shame that this never happened before; I had no idea if I should’ve heeded his words or not! You couldn’t tell my heart that; after three months, Darren and I were more than comfortable telling each other “I love you”. Was it too early? Maybe. But it felt so right! And besides, he was exceptional in the bed!
We felt that it was high time I met his family… well, more like I was getting forced to meet his family. He told me that he couldn’t stop talking about me at least in front of his dad and one day, he ordered Dee to invite me over for dinner. Our season was over with so I had the free time to travel. I was nervous as I landed in Kentucky. Part of it was because I would be meeting Darren’s family. The other? In three days, his dad would be dead.
Anyone else in my position would’ve done so much to be able to have some sort of financial security. Like buy stocks in something or create things before their original creator. Bet on sports games. I just felt that it was bad enough I was tampering with my own time line! How did I feel tampering with the fate of others? What if things were meant to happen? I would feel awful if I sat there and just… let it happen. I thought about what could I do, in all honesty? For years to come after his death, people said that the only things that would’ve saved him were a better helmet and harness; they redesigned the harnesses a year after his death and the redesign for the helmets came two years after that. So, saying something would possibly have his family look at me like I was a freak. I was at a crossroads.
By the time I was introduced and warmly accepted, I made the decision to try to throw out some sort of hint. If Mr. L didn’t catch on or decided not to listen… then he would’ve sealed his own fate, not me. He had asked me to join him on the porch after a great dinner. He gave Darren an evil look when he tried to join; with that, he immediately went right back into the house! I smiled nervously as he offered a beer.
“You drink beer?”
“Yes… but…” I couldn’t help frowning at the can of Busch. “I really don’t like Busch.”
“Good; you speak your mind,” he smiled at me. Mr. L rummaged through the cooler and offered me a bottle of Budweiser. “Only used to doing this with his sisters’ boyfriends. Can’t tell you how many of ‘em would take whatever I gave ‘em. Knew right then and there, they weren’t worth a pile of shit!” he took a sip of his beer. I popped mine open and did the same, giggling. “So, you should know that I look out for the well-being of my children…”
“Yes, sir.” it was weird. He scared me shitless but at the same time, I was a bit comfortable around him.
“I know that they’re grown but well, we’re the Ellerbees. Gotta make sure that they ain’t bringing anyone in who’s out to do ‘em dirty.”
“Understandable.” I nodded. He looked at me and gave me another smile.
“So, I usually like to meet folks before we invite them over for dinner like this. But, Darren talked about you nonstop and… then moment I laid eyes on you, I liked you. You’re different; you’re respectful but not because you wanted to impress me. I can tell that’s how you were raised. A bonus that you’re southern! From Texas but hey, we all have our flaws!” he joked and I laughed. I had heard it so many times and never took it seriously. I was proud to be a Texan and no one could make me feel any different! “Has Darren invited you to watch him race?”
“… No.” it dawned on me that he never did. Again, I had to pretend that I didn’t know him as well as I did so he probably thought that NASCAR didn’t interest me.
“Well, I’m inviting you to watch the both of us this weekend! You free?”
“Yeah. I’d love to watch you two,” I gave him a genuine smile. He nodded and we sat in silence for a while. “You… be careful Sunday…” I muttered. It was the lamest clue anyone could give but I couldn’t think of any other way to say it!
I expected… I had no idea what to expect. Definitely not the look he gave me, a serious one as he studied me.
“You getting bad vibes about Sunday?” he asked a bit grimly. I fiddled with the neck of my beer bottle.
“I… I don’t know. Maybe,” I finally looked at him. “… Yeah. I am. Just… be careful. Don’t… don’t be so willing to take the lead when you think it matters…” okay, a bit more than giving out a hint! I left it at that and was glad that he looked as if he was soaking it all in before taking another swig of beer.
Darren had no clue that I would be there until I showed up before the race started. He gave his dad a surprised look but put his attention towards me. I smiled widely.
“He invited me… something you should’ve done!” I playfully poked him on his side. He smirked.
“Didn’t think you were interested in racing…”
“I’m interested in you and this is what you do. It’s a total package deal.”
“Hmm; true.” those blue eyes gleamed at me. Before I knew it, he had his arm wrapped around my waist. Darren pulled me into a loving kiss, one that had me melting. I gathered my composure enough to smile at his steadily reddening face.
“Have fun out there.”
“Fun? Darling, this is racing!”
“This is war…” I accidentally said it with him; it would be his trademark saying. It didn’t freak him out; Darren’s smile widened and he gave me another leg wobbling kiss.
“This is why I love you.” he breathed as our foreheads touched. Damn; if only he didn’t have a race to enter; when he got like that, a minute later, we’d be naked and wrestling in between the sheets!
“I love you, too. You best be going…”
“I suppose. See you in a bit.” he caressed my chin as if he debated on another kiss. He better not; he wouldn’t make it to his car! Darren smiled and simply left, giving my heart a chance to beat normally!
It didn’t take long for it be racing once more. Things were going as planned at Talladega however I wouldn’t know if Mr. L would heed my words until the last lap. In my former past, him and Walter Dustin would be dueling for first. Mr. L, forever the aggressive driver, would push and try to cut Walter off, in turn provoking him to push him into the wall. The problem would be that Mr. L would hit the wall head on, instantly snapping his neck and killing him.
It all played out in slow motion. The two were neck-to-neck, vying for first. I couldn’t hear anything except the rapid beating of my heart. I held my breath when Mr. L started to push more for the lead. No; he didn’t listen to me! A tear escaped before I could stop it; he was going to die. I tried so hard to warn him but it was all for nothing. I couldn’t watch it, not in person.
The crowd gasped and I knew he had hit the wall; I heard it. I forced myself to look… and my tears flowed. He hadn’t hit the wall head on but… sideways. He still continued to race and placed third. And my tears wouldn’t stop.
Darren tried to figure out why I was crying as hard as I was when I caught up with him afterwards. I had no idea how I made it down there, I was shaking so hard! Mr. L ran up to us and immediately grabbed me. He hugged me as tight as he could, his chest heaving as he silently wept.
“I don’t know how you knew. But you saved me. Thank you…” his choked up whispers made me cry more. I had no idea how long we held each other but Mr. L finally let me go and looked dead at Darren. “You better hold on to this one; she’s a damn angel!” he didn’t hide the fact that he was crying. And, that was our little secret between the two of us.