Chapter 3 of The Sound of Thunder
Pictures I took at Dega Oct 2010
Two weeks later, Angel found herself sitting on a jet plane bound for Birmingham, Alabama. It was the October race, and Dylan had begged her to be there. She hated missing the overtime, and had taken a vacation day so she could be there Friday. The phone conversation the night before had been brief. He kept trying to explain to her about his busy schedule, but she had been working twelve hour days to try to make up for the lost time anyhow. Honestly, she realized, she hadn’t even noticed. She had come home every day, talked to him shortly, made supper and went to bed.
She was excited about the trip and even more so about seeing Dylan again. She had decided the time had come to try and let the past go and move on, but she knew it was going to be hard. Every time she tried thinking of making love to Dylan, Mark’s face appeared before her and the guilt would edge in. This was her first plane trip and she was elated. She decided she loved it. Dylan’s assistant had gotten her a window seat and she was watching the land go by.
Happiness had never been a part of her life, she knew that. Her mother had died giving birth to her, and her dad had died two short weeks before she had met Mark. Daddy had raised her well. He had been a deacon at a local church and worked in Chicago in the shipping yards most of her life. He had died of lung cancer after six months of chemotherapy and she had never left his side. She had held his hand to the very last breath and she never regretted it, but ever since then the hole in her heart had been a mile wide.
When the accident had happened, she had broken down completely. All the counseling and anti-depressants in the world could not bridle her grief. She had blamed herself for the accident. If Mark and her hadn’t been arguing that day and she hadn’t been running such a high fever, perhaps, he would have never stopped the car.
The memory hit her like a ton of bricks and she felt a tear race down her cheek. They had been arguing about her latest miscarriage. Mark had been so angry. He had blamed her for the miscarriage, saying that she didn’t take care of herself well enough. The truth had been though, that after the twins, she had had five miscarriages. Four with her ex-husband John, and then the last one. The doctors blamed it on endometriosis. Mark blamed it on her.
Running a high fever of over a 105, Mark had come home from work early to take her to the emergency room. She had been having delusions from the fever. The doctors had recommended a D&C but she had put it off and it had given her a nasty uterus infection. She wouldn’t know this until days later when she regained consciousness. Her son had insisted on going along, holding her hand from the backseat as they had driven.
The last part of the accident was a mystery to her though. The police told her she had been thrown from the car when the semi hit them. The door appeared to already have been opened and she had always wondered if Mark hadn’t stopped because she was attempting to get out. The guilt was a constant companion and sometimes, she actually accepted it with open arms. Not today, she decided. Today was going to be a good day. Bad thoughts aside…
Upon arrival at the airport, she was greeted by a girl who looked to be about twenty-five. Long blonde hair and a model like figure made Angel grimace. The girl looked as though she starved herself. Angel hadn’t known what to expect but she had hoped that Dylan would meet her at the airport. Disappointment was evident on her face as the girl with the perfect face greeted her.
“Hello, I am Melissa, Dylan’s personal assistant. If you have all your bags, I will take you to the track. It’s about 35 to 40 minutes from here. I have arranged Dylan’s schedule so he can meet you there before practice. His schedule is heavy this weekend so don’t plan on much time with him.”
Overwhelmed, Angel grabbed her duffel bag and her purse and followed Melissa out the door. It was obvious, Melissa was not going to be friendly at all. The drive to the track was either instructional or silent. Angel listened as she explained to her about her credentials and her hot pass. Melissa also told her if Angel was around long enough that she would obtain a hard card.
The more the girl talked the more she realized that the whole thing had been rehearsed. She wondered what the blonde would be like if she wasn’t playing her part. She decided that this was part of her personality though and that she would probably never like the girl. Desperately trying to take in all the assistant had to say, Angel realized she had no clue as to what this NASCAR thing was really about.
She remembered going with her Dad as a child. Back then, things were definitely different. You bought a ticket. There wasn’t the security she was seeing as she entered the gate. Going to the pits wasn’t like proving your identity to the government. The drivers weren’t hidden behind chain link fences. She couldn’t believe how many things had changed.
Without a word, Melissa grabbed her bag and transferred it from the Explorer to a golf cart and they were heading directly to the garage. Credentials had been a nightmare and from what Angel could tell, the garage area wasn’t going to be much different. After checking her pit passes, the security people had moved aside to let her in.
Arriving at the garage area, Angel was overwhelmed by the number of people in the area. Fans and sponsors, crews and drivers were every where and none of them seemed to be a friendly face. It hit her all at once that the whole business was actually a bit terrifying. She scanned the crowd for Dylan but he was nowhere to be found.
Suddenly she found herself in his assigned garage area looking at several crew members. They were all staring at her curiously and she wondered to herself if she had entered another dimension. Without thinking, she voiced her thoughts. “What? Where’s the alien?”
This made them laugh at least and Melissa left with her bag, without even saying goodbye. “Nice,” she said out loud.
Doc Stevens leaned against the garage door, watching his crew making adjustments. He had worked for Hawk Racing for almost twenty years, and with Dylan McIntyre for the last ten. He took great pride in being a crew chief and had made it his life’s work. It had also given him great pride to see where his driver had come.
Michael Hawk, known to close friends as Hawkeye, had brought Dylan aboard when McIntyre had only been twenty-two years of age. Assigning him to Doc had probably been the best decision Hawkeye had ever made for Stevens had immediately taken the boy under his wing.
From the first race, Doc had had his hands full. If there was trouble abrew, it seemed the kid was always in the middle of it, but Doc never gave up. Finally, the year before Dylan had gotten them a championship.
Dylan had only been racing approximately four years in open wheel when he had come aboard and to say he was wet behind the ears didn’t quite to do him justice. He was a bundle of raw nerves, temper and talent and he had been a handful, even for the experienced Doc.
Many late nights had been spent on the phone with the youngster and many a hard weekday had been spent at the track testing. However, Dylan was not just quick-witted or good behind the wheel, he had been fantastic, scoring his first Busch Cup win after only three races. The amazing thing was that “Killer” hadn’t even known the difference between being tight and loose when he did it. Pit stops had been an even worse fiasco at first. Time after time the kid missed the pit stall completely. Keeping his speed down on entering was nearly impossible. Finally after several years, things had changed and the kid had learned how to drive.
That’s when Hawkeye had decided to move them all up to the Winston Cup. Sometimes, looking back, Doc had questioned Hawkeye’s decision because Dylan’s reaction to the sudden popularity had been nothing but a catastrophe. When the fans booed him, it affected Dylan for the rest of the race. When the media stepped over what Dylan considered his comfort zone, Dylan lashed out. Week after week the headlines always included his name. Very rarely was the publicity good either. The talented driver from Fort Wayne was making a name for himself all right, but it hadn’t been a good one. NASCAR officials had stepped in after his second season and had insisted something had to be done about the high strung boy and to everyone’s surprise, Dylan had went to counseling.
Years after the fact, most of the bad things were in the past, but the new name he had earned was just as bad in Doc’s eyes. Dating anything with legs and breasts, Dylan earned the title of NASCAR’s biggest playboy. It had actually gained him ground in popularity, mainly with the women for some unexplainable reason, but had given the whole crew a bad rap.
Doc was told about the latest addition to the dozens of women by Melissa the week before and figured she would be another one of his many bimbos. To his surprise, Dylan had told him just an hour before that he thought he was in love with this girl. Doc hadn’t taken him seriously at first, but the more Dylan ranted and raved about her, the more Doc realized that perhaps, Cupid had struck…
A hand touched Angel’s shoulder and she jumped a little. Expecting it to be Dylan, she turned with a grateful smile on her lips. To her disappointment it was a man in his early 40’s. He was dressed in the same uniform as the other guys were and he wore Oakley sunglasses as well. He was taller than Dylan, and had a bit of a beer belly. His eyes twinkled beneath his glasses as he said, “I’m Doc. Dylan’s crew chief. Don’t worry, it just takes a bit to get used to the chaos around here.”
The first friendly face she had encountered since getting on the plane, Angel sighed with relief.
“Dylan speaks highly of you. I am glad to finally meet you.” Angel had to talk loud to be heard above the roaring engines in the nearby corrals. “I feel really out of place!”
Putting his arm around her waist, he guided her out of the way of a group of guys pushing a car to be inspected. “Dylan will be here soon. They were doing an interview for some magazine. I should warn you though, because I am sure he hasn’t. His life is crazy. The demands on his schedule right now are incredible.”
“Yeah, Melissa warned me. In fact, judging by what she has told me I have now entered the pit of hell.” Angel grimaced.
This made Doc laugh out loud. “You met Sweet Melissa eh?”
“Sweet?” Angel asked. “She can be sweet?”
Doc laughing even harder stated. “We call her that because it is so far from the truth. Sarcastic witch is more like it, but she gets the job done and keeps Dylan in line.”
This caused Angel to laugh and she came to the conclusion she had made her first friend at the famous Dega…
Dylan was trying to avoid the reporters and the newspaper people as much as possible as he made his way to the garage area. Days like this, the flash of the cameras left him with a hundred black spots in his vision and a terrible need to lash out. He loved racing and the roar of the crowd, but the media he hated. The overwhelming crowds of people made him sick to his stomach and gave him a headache. Trying to be polite among the hordes of idiots had become hard work. Not to mention the fact of the matter was restrictor plate tracks were a thorn in his side to say the least.
Bump drafting had never been his specialty and it always seemed that other drivers loved it when he was behind them pushing them forward, but no one seemed to want to return the favor. Restrictor plate races had become a sore spot for him over the years. The media loved to bring up past incidents and accidents at Talledega and Daytona, but he usually had a smart comment for them. Today was different though. Today Angel was coming.
As he got closer to the garage area, he watched as Doc guided Angel out of the way. He couldn’t hear the conversation, but soon they were both laughing and Dylan sighed with relief of his own. He had been afraid of how she would take this scenario. The dirt tracks weren’t like the NASCAR insanity that was for sure. A reporter asked him a question then, and he quickly replied, “No comment. I’m busy. Excuse me.”
Dylan pushed past the reporter and his cameraman to get to her. From the look on her face, she still wasn’t at ease and all he could think about was wrapping his arms around her and embracing her with a bear hug. Since he had met her, the days spent without her were empty and cold. Looking at her now, he realized he had returned his glass to half full.
She looked up and saw him just then, and the look on her face made his heart melt. He was crazy in love with this girl. He grabbed her with such fierceness it raised her off the ground. “Damn, I missed you girl. “
He didn’t give her a chance to reply as he kissed her. Suddenly, he felt as though the garage area had disappeared. It was only the two of them. Then, through his closed eyes, he saw the cameras flashing and it brought him back to reality…
Angel felt him let go of her and then under his breath, she heard him cussing. He looked over at Doc and said, “Sometimes I forget I am no longer allowed a moment. Damn people.”
Doc slapped him on the shoulder. “That’s the price of fame Killer. I would think you would have gotten used to it by now.’
Exasperation in his voice, Dylan replied. “I will never get used to never having any privacy. Besides, why does racing have to cost you your whole damn life?”
It suddenly dawned on Angel that all those camera flashes meant that kiss was going to be all over the place. Cringing, she moved closer to him, wishing she could disappear. The thought of her picture online and in magazines made her gag.
Heresy was bad enough, she thought to herself. They all were talking about her and the famous driver who had come to see her. Whispers at work had turned to out right gossiping at the local grocery store. She valued her privacy and the whole town talking about her was bad enough. Mark’s grandmother had called her the week before to tell her how disgusting she was. For that information to reach the nursing home in Lovedale told her how far the talk had gone.
Angel was a private person. She enjoyed the anonymity she had. The realization that she was no longer anonymous hit her like a brick. She drew a long breath and once again, tried to disappear.
Dylan trying to see Angel’s reaction, leaned over the car in front of him. Paul, a crew member, was explaining an adjustment they meant to make before he ran qualifying and the crowd gathering outside with cameras were making it impossible to watch her. He could tell that the cameras had affected her adversely. He watched as she tried to make herself small. Soon enough, he knew, the questions would start firing off. If not from the television people, then the news and the fans.
He wanted so badly to protect her from all this, but he couldn’t at the moment. Practice would start in less than fifteen minutes and he had to get ready. Besides, he needed some water. The uniform, even though it was around his waist at the moment, was suffocating him. The Alabama heat was excruciating. He turned around and grabbed a bottle of water from the nearby cooler. Drinking quickly, he put his arm around Angel.
“Hang in there babe.” He hadn’t prepared her for this and he was subconsciously beating himself to death over it. He should have explained his schedule for the weekend, but then she might not have come, he thought. She certainly wasn’t comfortable, but at the moment he had bigger fish to fry.
At the track, Dylan was all about racing. He took his job as a driver seriously and hated being bothered by the outside world when all he had on his mind was his hunger to win. He would give her an explanation later, but right now, he couldn’t talk to her much or give her any attention. He climbed into his car and started getting his safety gear in place and on…
For the rest of the day, Angel felt like a puppy following him around, trying to stay out of the way and be close by when he called for her. He was a totally different person here, she concluded. She had watched him dodge fans, news people, cameras and other cars. He talked to his crew members and a few fellow drivers, but other than short three word comments, he didn’t say much to her. She felt more alone than she had in a long time. At least he was close by, she told herself, and besides, she had been warned.
After practice, he had done an interview with the Speed Channel and with ESPN. Then they had gone to do a quick commercial for some car chemical company. He had an appearance scheduled at a local car dealer for later that night. He had explained the day but she hadn’t heard half of it over the roar of the engine. She just kept close by and followed him.
Melissa was right, this was crazy. She turned her thoughts over in her mind as fast as she could, trying not to think too much. They had dinner at his bus, which consisted of a lot of carbohydrates for the race the next day. She picked at her food, not feeling hungry. The heat had gotten to her a little but, but the truth was her stomach was doing somersaults. She had never had such a bad case of nerves in her life.
He had taken her out into the pit area to sign some autographs as was his tradition and then they were back in the garage area for yet another practice. She stood on top of the hauler for both practices. Trying to learn what she could so she could participate in the conversation later.
Angel wasn’t one to bite her nails, but on the way to the dealership she found herself doing it. Dylan looked at her concerned and then asked her why. “Nerves, I guess. I don’t know how you keep this pace up sweetie.” She answered quietly.
She was out of her element, there was no doubt about it. They sat in the back of the red Ford Explorer. There was a driver up front with a bodyguard in the passenger seat, and one with them in the back. She told herself, it was worth it. She was with him after all. There were women who would give their legs to be in her position, but in the back of her mind, she knew this was miserable…
Dylan sat down at the signing and began autographing everything handed to him. It was such a ritual for him, he really didn’t even think about it anymore. He talked briefly with each fan as much as he could, but Melissa was always standing over him, telling him he only had so much time. He hated being pushed, but he knew she was right. Angel was sitting off to the right and whenever he looked over at her, she would smile. He wondered how she was handling it all, but he figured, by the way she kept chewing her nails, that she was miserable.
He asked himself if she would be handle this life style but then put it at the back of his mind as he finished up the autographs. Cameras had gone off constantly through the two hours he sat there, and he had a million black spots in front of his eyes. Truthfully, he realized, part of what he liked about the appearance wasn’t meeting the different people, but how he could just let his mind go blank for awhile.
A girl had given him a nude picture of herself, and he had laughed it off. Another girl had slipped him her phone number. He really loved the attention but knew that 90% of the women he met like this wouldn’t last a day. There were beautiful girls who always wanted a body part signed, but he would no longer sign anything attached to a person. He had signed babies, breasts, foreheads, arms and other body parts and he found it distasteful and disgusting.
His wrist had started to burn about halfway through and he had asked Melissa to get him his magnetic wrist bracelet. It always helped to keep him from cramping. Angel had been handing him Sharpies as one would start to wear out and he needed another. The whole thing was mind jarring he though as he watched her. Yet, the smile never stopped flashing at him when he looked her way or squeezed her hand under the table…
Finally, they had made it back to the bus around midnight. Angel had sat at the table while Dylan took a much needed shower and she had actually laid her head on it and fallen asleep. She was exhausted. The pace they had kept all day was excruciating and he had told her in the truck on the way back that tomorrow would be no different. They were going to a nearby dirt track, just down the road the next night and he was planning on racing.
She woke with a start when he put his hand on her shoulder. “Baby, if you want the shower it’s open. I’m gonna watch some tube if that’s all right with you.”
“Not a problem,” she whispered. “I think a shower is just what I need. Wow, what a long day.” She stumbled towards the back of the bus.
After taking a hot shower, she felt a bit revitalized and hoped to spend a few minutes with him. She put her pajamas on and headed towards the front to find him waiting for her on a wrap around couch. He was laying on it with his hand behind his head and was apparently totally relaxed.
She sat down near him, feeling a bit nervous for the first time. He sat up and put his arm behind her. “Feel better sweetheart?” He asked, pulling her head around so he could look at her.
“Yes, I do.” Before the last word was out, he was kissing her more passionately than ever before. She felt like the world had suddenly stopped as her heart began to beat in time with his.
He ran his fingers through her damp hair then, leaning his forehead against hers and looking into her eyes. “Do you think you can handle this? I mean it can be crazy. Some weeks I only make it home for a day if at all. There are constant people asking me for an autograph and privacy is a hard package to acquire.”
She smiled at him. “I think so. As long as I am near you. Are you hinting at what I think you are hinting at or am I off kilter?” She responded.
“As soon as you can, I want you on the road with me. I know it’s soon, but Angel, I don’t have time for courting. I am totally in love with you and there is no better way to do it. Your daughter can continue to attend school or we can get her a tutor. Think about it this weekend and Sunday after the commotion dies down, you can give me your answer.”
Shocked, she looked deep into his eyes and realized she already knew the answer. She needed him. He made her feel alive again. She would follow him to the end of the earth no matter what. It was going to be hard, and she wasn’t sure how well she would handle it but it was what she wanted.
“Look, I won’t have you working in that sweatshop anymore. You are above that for one thing. Secondly, it would look bad on me. I have an appearance to keep up. Please understand what I am saying. I want you to get your stuff out of that apartment and you can move the stuff down to Fort Wayne. I have another home in North Carolina where we will spend a lot of time. That is if you are crazy enough to give up your life to follow me.”
Without another word, she kissed him. He pulled her close to him. She could feel his arm muscles flex as he lifted her up and carried her to his bed in the back. He laid her down softly on his comforter, her head falling on the pillow behind her. His mouth covered hers as she felt him becoming aroused against her leg.
She reached down beneath his boxers and took his manliness in her hands. She stroked it as he breathed hard against her neck. “I want to make love to you Angel. Can I please?”
“Yes, she whispered, as he reached over and shut out the light on the nightstand.