"This isn't going to work, and you know it." She shook her head as she picked up her coat.
"Alyssa, wait." Junior said, jumping up from the couch, where he had collapsed only minutes earlier. "What is this all about?"
"You are never here, Junior." She said softly. "You are married to that car and that race team. I swear, you don't even remember what I look like until you walk back in the door."
"That's not true!" He insisted, striding over to her and grabbing her arm. She wrenched it away and stepped backwards towards the front door. "You know how it is...I can't help it, Lyss. I'll be better."
"It's over." Alyssa said firmly.
"You'll regret this." He said softly.
"I'll regret being alone? I'll regret that you're always gone? I'll regret that you're like Peter Pan? I doubt it." She said, walking out the front door. He could only stare as she walked out of their house.
God, she hated packing.
She wiped her brow as she looked around the ruins of her living room. He had moved in with her, so it was her responsibility to move him out again. He was out of town. Again.
Darlington? Pocono? Somewhere that wasn't here.
She threw a pile of his clothes into a box and tossed in an errant pair of shoes. She wondered how long it would take him to unpack it all.
Or if he ever would.
He couldn't concentrate on anything. Qualifying in ten minutes and all he could think about was how cute she looked when she was programming the VCR or how she gripped her pillow when she was sleeping.
And what's with that Peter Pan comment?
She jumped at the knock on her door. Glancing at the clock, she saw it was 10:30 at night and she cautiously crept to the door. Looking threw the peephole, she saw a very...disgruntled looking Junior.
She opened the door slowly. "Hi."
"Hi?" He said, storming in. "You changed the locks? My key doesn't work!"
"You don't live here anymore, remember?" She reminded him, stepping away. She knew his temper, and she didn't want to be in range of it.
"Fine. If you're serious about this, where's my stuff?"
"I packed it up and put it in storage." She said calmly. "What did you expect me to do? Break into your old place and hang up everything nice and neat?"
"Why are we doing this?" He begged.
He threw the fifteenth magazine across the room and grabbed his phone. Her phone rang three times until she picked up.
"Did you put a gay porn magazine on the top of every single box you packed?" He demanded.
She choked back a laugh. "I don't know what you are talking about."
"Like hell." Junior growled. "Try explaining to your car chief why a copy of 'Hard Bodies' is on top of your box marked 'Kitchen Utensils'."
She hung up before she burst out laughing.
She missed him.
She swore she wouldn't do this.
Miss him. Wonder what he was doing. Picture him in her mind.
The breakup was for the best.
What kind of life would they have had? She had a job, she had friends, she had.
She couldn't live like this. Stay in their house alone all weekend while he went racing. She couldn't stand the echoes in the house, the empty feeling that permeated when he wasn't there. The feeling that she had been deserted.
What did he expect? She would be Susie Homemaker while he went and played at the track all weekend, or in the garage all week?
She couldn't do it. She loved him too much to be so far away from him so much.
She hated herself for missing him so much.
He wondered if she were seeing someone else.
She watched the TV screen in disbelief. His car flipped down the front stretch and her heart stopped. She didn't breathe. Tears rolled down her cheeks, even after he had climbed from the car with a broad grin and a wave to the fans. She touched the screen, as if she could reach out to him - reassure herself he was okay. But the tears didn't stop.
"I'm fine." He said, shifting from one foot to the other. "Thanks for calling." He couldn't believe he was nervous talking to her. It was Alyssa, after all.
The girl who had seen him spit milk from laughing so hard. The girl who had held his hand during his father's funeral. The girl who had been willing to try the sex-on-a-shower-curtain-with-baby-oil idea.
And he was nervous.
"The wreck looked so bad - I couldn't believe it..." She trailed off, nervously twisting the phone line around her finger.
"I'm fine." He repeated. "I miss you." He whispered.
"Be careful out there." She whispered.
She missed his laugh. God, he had a sexy laugh.
He didn't know where to go.
He felt so desperately alone. It was his father's birthday, and he always missed him so much this day. He didn't want to visit Teresa, he didn't want to go to the shop. But god, he didn't want to be alone.
He pulled his car into their driveway - her driveway, he reminded himself. There were lights on, so she was home. He fought with himself for over a minute before getting out of the car and walking to the front door.
She pulled it open before he knocked.
"I didn't know where to go." Junior whispered, apologetic.
She smiled gently and ushered him inside. "I know." She said. "Stay as long as you want." She squeezed his arm affectionately.
He fell asleep on the couch hours later, and she watched him sleep, wishing she could erase the pain from his face.
She'd said he wasn't there enough. That she didn't see him enough. That he was playing at being a man, at being a grown up.
Well, did she ever think he felt the same way? Hated leaving her and going to the airport? Hated all the personal appearances and autograph signings, simply because it meant time away from her?
He shook his head. He felt so stupid. Why didn't he think of this before?
She laughed every time she read his "best radio conversations" on the internet every Monday morning. She could hear his deep voice, his Carolinian accent in her head as she pictured him racing around the track every weekend, jabbering into the radio.
But her laughter kept turning into tears.
He knocked on her door and she opened it, surprised to see him. He looked so.serious.
He strode in and whirled around to face her.
"I have a plan." He announced.
"A plan for what?" She asked, confused.
"We're going to be together - no arguments. I love you, I need you, and god knows I miss you." Junior said in a rush. "So I've come up with a plan."
She looked at him dubiously.
"You come with me."
She cocked her head, confused.
"To the tracks. Every weekend." He said, as though explaining to a child.
She raised an eyebrow.
"I want you to be with me - no matter where we are." He said. "I never...I never wanted to let you in. I never wanted you at the track...well, for lots of reasons."
She looked at him expectantly.
"If something happened to me, I didn't want you there. To go through what Teresa did. If I sucked, I didn't want you to hear me cuss on the radio. If guys hit on you, I didn't want to see it." Junior admitted. "I liked having you to myself - I don't want to share. I loved coming home to you. It's what I lived for."
She sighed deeply.
"I love you." He whispered. "I want to come home."
"You can't just..." She snapped her fingers. "There's more than just taking me to the tracks."
"Like what?" He demanded.
"Like...I have a job." She said.
It was his turn to cock an eyebrow.
"Maybe I don't want to go." She tried.
"Maybe I don't like you any more." She said.
He slowly closed the distance between them. He stood only inches from her, and she inhaled his scent, could see the gleam in his eyes, could feel him watching her.
"Tell me you don't love me."
"I...I don't..." She stammered. His lips touched hers softly, hesitantly. His hands rested on her waist, his eyes closed.
"I want to come home." He whispered in her ear. "I couldn't breathe without you."
Her heart fluttered at his whispered words, and she squeezed her eyes shut while her heart and her head battled.
Her eyes met his and she smiled slightly.
"Welcome home." She whispered.