Chapter 1: Aislynn
Chapter One : Aislynn
It was a happening time at Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s house. His family and friends were there celebrating his winning the 1998 Busch Series championship. "Here's to a successful start in the Busch Series," Dale, Sr. said. Everyone raised their glasses as Junior chuckled.
"Thanks, Dad," he said.
"You deserve it, Son," the older Earnhardt said, "Let's see if you can do it again next year." Everyone chuckled.
"No problem." They laughed as everyone clinked their glasses together. Just then the doorbell rang. Junior went to get up, but his father stopped him.
"I'll get it, Junior."
"Thanks, Dad." Dale Sr. headed to the front door and opened it, ignoring the chill of the November air. To his surprise, there was no one at the door. He heard a crying sound and looked down to see a baby in a car seat with a diaper bag sitting next to it.
"Oh, my God." He gently picked up the car seat and bag and gets inside, closing the door with his foot. "Junior, come in here please." Junior walked in with a stunned look on his face when he saw the baby in his father's arms.
"Dad, what is that baby doing here?" he asked.
"I don't know, but she is cold." Teresa Earnhardt walked in and immediately helped Dale Sr. with the baby.
"What was this child doing out in the cold?" she asked, wrapping the baby up in the blanket.
"I don't know," Dale Sr. said. Junior saw something on the diaper bag and pulled it off.
"There's a note." He saw it was addressed to him. "Hey, it's addressed to me," he said.
"Well, open it," his dad said. Junior opened the envelope and pulled a piece of paper out. A separate paper fell out and Kelley picked it up as Junior opened the letter and began to read.
"Dear Junior I can no longer deal with the responsibilities of motherhood. I am placing our baby in your care. Please take care of her. Sincerely, Chrissy"
The whole Earnhardt family was stunned. Junior was a father? "Who's Chrissy?" Teresa asked.
"An ex-girlfriend from last year," Junior said, "I brought her over for Christmas dinner, remember?" Dale, Sr. took the note from his son and read it over.
"You two had sex?" he asked.
"Yeah, but we used protection like you told me to."
"Well, one of the rubbers was a dud because I hold a little Earnhardt in my arms," Teresa said.
"What's that, Kelley?" Dale Sr. asked Kelley. Kelley unfolded the paper that she had.
"It's a birth certificate," she said. "It's got Dale listed as the father," she added. Junior took the certificate from his sister and read it over.
"Aislynn Michelle Earnhardt," he said. "She even has my name."
"How old is she?" Teresa asked.
"Birth date's listed as August 10th of this year," Junior said. "She's at least three months." He handed the certificate to his dad. "So, what now?" he asked. Teresa and Dale, Sr. look at each other before looking at Junior.
"Well, you can start by holding your daughter for the first time," Teresa said, as she handed Junior his daughter, making sure he was holding her right. "Make sure you're supporting her head."
"I remember from baby sitting Taylor, Teresa," he said.
"I knew that baby sitting would help him prepare for fatherhood," Dale, Sr. said, speaking of when Junior was stuck with baby sitting Taylor when she was a baby.
"I didn't know I'd be using it so soon," Junior said.
"Hey, Junior!" one of his friends called. "We're going to go."
"Good luck," they all said before leaving.
"Thanks." Dale, Sr. closed the door after the last of them left.
"You know Dale, we can give him Taylor's baby furniture," Teresa said.
"Good idea, but the rest he does on his own."
"She's your daughter, son." He picked up the diaper bag and handed it to him. "It's a long road ahead, Junior. Hope you can handle it."
"So do I," Junior said, taking the diaper bag.
Junior woke up that night to Aislynn's cries. He had put her in his room until his dad and Teresa came with the baby furniture in the morning. He crawled out of bed and headed over to the futon where the car seat sat. He gently picked her up, and checked her diaper. "Okay, I fed you ten minutes ago," he said. "Oh, I get it. You just needed to be held by your daddy." He sat down on the big rocking chair on the other side of his room and began to rock back and forth. He began to lightly hum a lullaby he remembered his mother sang to him. He would've sung it, but he was a terrible singer. His humming seemed to have worked, because soon Aislynn was fast asleep in his arms. He put her back in her temporary bed and crawled back into his bed. He fell asleep a few minutes later, only to be brought back to the living with Aislynn's cries again two hours later. This continued throughout the night with Aislynn needing a change, fed, or just to be held. By the morning, everything in the diaper bag was gone, and Teresa knew that, so when Junior opened the door that morning, she came in with her arms full of bags. "What's all this?" he asked.
"Diapers, formula, clothes and toys, silly. What else do you think?"
"Well, I ...." he started to say, but his dad came in with the crib. "I thought I was supposed to do this by myself."
"I tried to stop her, but it was too late," Dale, Sr. said, smiling.
"Where's my new granddaughter?" Teresa asked.
"My room, sleeping," Junior said and she hurried into his room. It wasn't long until both Earnhardt men heard her speaking in baby talk. "Was she like this with Taylor?" Dale, Sr. only nodded as they headed out to get the rest of the furniture.
Chapter 2: Adjusting
Dale Jr adjusts to single fatherhood.
Chapter Two: Adjusting
By the time Aislynn was 5 months, Junior was getting ready for the second year of his Busch career to start. He helped whenever he could, but most of his attention went to his daughter. The news was spread quickly that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was a single father. Most people didn't believe it and truth be told, some needed to see to believe. Like his fellow drivers. Junior was going over an appearance schedule when the doorbell rang. He quickly got up off the couch and answered the door to see Matt Kenseth.
"Wow, that was quick," Matt commented.
"I just put Aislynn down for her nap. I don't need her waking up," Junior said as Matt walked in.
"And I came to see her too." Junior chuckled as he closed the door.
"Well, she takes very short naps, so you won't be disappointed." They talked for ten minutes until Aislynn's cries filled the baby monitor. "See, I told you." Matt chuckled as Junior got up from the couch and headed into the nursery. He heard Aislynn's cries dwindle the minute Junior got into the room. Junior lifted Aislynn out of her crib and headed back into the living room.
"Wow, she sure calmed down," Matt said.
"Yeah, she knows her daddy." He turned so Matt could get a good look at her.
"She looks a lot like you."
"Thanks, I think," Junior said. Aislynn suddenly began to cry again, telling Junior that she was hungry. "Oop, someone's hungry." Matt stood up and walked over to Junior.
"I'll hold her for ya."
"Oh, thanks, that'd be great," Junior said knowing Matt has had some experience when his six year old son, Ross, was a baby. Matt took the "drool" cloth from Junior's shoulder and put it on his own before he took Aislynn. He followed Junior heading into the kitchen and watched Junior prepare the formula. "You think you and Katie will have any kids?" he asked.
"I don't know," Matt said. "Little Aislynn might persuade me to try and convince Katie to have one," he said. He and Junior chuckled as Junior got the bottle ready for Aislynn. "Ross needs a brother or sister."
"I agree," Junior said taking Aislynn from Matt.
"Man, this is for real."
"You and fatherhood."
"Yep, and this will take awhile to get used to."
"I thought I'd never live to see the day when you'd have a kid." Junior chuckled as he started to feed Aislynn. "Well, it was a pleasure to meet you, Miss Earnhardt," Matt said as he shook Aislynn's tiny hand. "See ya on the track, Dad."
"Yeah, sure," Junior said glaring at Matt as he left.
Junior had to hand it to himself. He can keep his cool in situations with Aislynn. Even in an emergency one. Two weeks before the start of the Busch Series, Aislynn woke Junior up after he had just changed and fed her. He got into the room quickly because her cries sounded different from all the other times. They sounded desperate. He pulled on a shirt and picked her up to feel how warm she was. "Oh, honey, you're burning up." He went to the bathroom and got the baby thermometer he got from his uncle as a baby gift and took her temperature. It showed 101.1. "Okay, let's get you to the hospital." Junior rushed Aislynn to the hospital and she was taken to the children's ward area. The pediatrician, Dr. Knolls, immediately went to work to get Aislynn's fever down. Junior called Teresa and Dale, Sr. right away and they said they'll be there as soon as they could. A nurse led Junior to window an hour later and Aislynn sat in a baby bed getting checked over by Dr. Knolls.
"Junior!" He looked over to see Dale, Sr. and Teresa coming down the hall. "We got your message," Dale Sr. said.
"Is she going to be okay?" Teresa asked.
"As far as I can see she will be," Junior said, "The doctor hasn't talked to me yet."
"Her temperature just shot straight up," was all he said.
"She'll be fine, Junebug," Dale, Sr. said. "You got her here right away." Junior nodded as Dr. Knolls came out.
"How is she, Dr. Knolls?" Junior asked.
"Aislynn is doing just fine," Dr. Knolls said. "We've given her some baby tylenol to get her fever down, which has gone down. I would like to keep Aislynn over night to observe her." Junior nodded. "I must say, you were extremely calm when you brought her in."
"Him? Calm?" Dale, Sr. asked.
"He was calm as a cucumber." Junior chuckled. "I would prefer you go home to get some rest. Aislynn is in very good hands here." Junior nodded.
"Okay, I will." Junior did go home, but he couldn't get to sleep. He was worried about Aislynn too much. He finally did go to sleep around 3 AM, after straightening Aislynn's room, twice.
In the morning he called his dad, telling him that he was going to check on Aislynn. Dale, Sr. told his son to take the morning off. When Junior got to the hospital, Dr. Knolls was ready. "She is doing a lot better, but I recommend that she rest for at least two weeks. No tossing her around or trips to the park. If she does go outside make sure that she's bundled up." Junior nodded. "If she gets another fever in the future, just give her a little bit of baby tylenol, but you know where to come if it doesn't go down."
"I know," he said. "When can I take her home?" he asked.
"In a couple of hours if you like." Junior nodded only wanting to get Aislynn into his arms. Junior won the Busch Series championship again that year while at the same time being a single father. Next year, he and Matt were heading to Winston Cup, and Junior couldn't wait to get that started.
Chapter 3: Rookie Season
Junior starts his rookie year in the Winston Cup Series.
Chapter Three: Rookie Season
It was the 2000 Winston Cup season, and Junior's rookie year. The press were around him like vultures trying to get anything out of him about Aislynn, who was now one and a half years old. His publicist, Jade, would get him away from them as soon as he could. Aislynn stayed with Kelley when Junior raced. He didn't want her exposed to the racing world yet. Junior had a good first half of his rookie season. He won at Texas, a track where he got his first Busch win. His father came up to tell him that he had to find his own way home, which Junior did. He won again at Richmond with his mother at the track watching him. She was his link with Aislynn back in North Carolina.
Celebration for both wins were long. It would usually be late until he got home. After the Richmond celebration, he headed home to Aislynn. After thanking Kelley for watching her again, he went to watch her sleep. Something he found himself doing alot. At 3 AM, when he was rocking her to sleep after she woke up, the doorbell rang. He gently put her down in her crib, and went to answer the door. He opened the door to see his current girlfriend, Tammy. "Tammy, what are you doing here?" he asked.
"I've come to congratulate you, Boo."
"It's 3 AM."
"So?" she said. "You gonna let me in?" Junior stepped aside, letting her by. He closed the door behind her, locking it.
"Why are you really here, Tammy?" He turned around, only to get pulled into a kiss. Tammy pulled away smiling. "Oh, okay." She giggled as she sat down. "Want something to drink?"
"Sure." Junior headed into the kitchen, glancing into the nursery as he went by. He pulled out two cokes from the fridge, and went back to the living room.
"Here ya go," he said handing her one of them. She took it, but gave him a look.
"What did you want?" he asked.
"A Bud," she said. "What else do you think?"
"I don't drink when my daughter's in the same house." he said. A forced chuckle came out of Tammy's mouth. "What?" he asked.
"You have a kid?"
"Yeah. Tammy, I told you that when we first started dating."
"I thought you was joking."
"No, I wasn't."
"You're a dad?" Junior nodded.
"Almost two years now." Tammy looked at her watch.
"Oh, look at the time," she said. "I should get going." Junior raised his eyebrows as Tammy got up from the couch. He walked her to the door, and opened it. "Junior, I think we should see other people."
"This isn't going to work out, you and me."
"Right, sure." Tammy walked out and Junior closed the door in her face. "Great. I got dumped because I'm a caring father," he said to himself.
During the week up to the Winston, Aislynn began to show signs of walking. Dale, Sr. would tell his son not to pressure her into walking, and that she'll do it when she was ready. Then the day before the Winston after practice, it happened. Junior was at home with Aislynn in his lap. He was doing her hair as Matt sat watching him. Junior looked over to Matt to see him trying not to laugh. "What?"
"Nothing. It's just that, if your fans could see you now. Braiding pigtails into your daughter's hair," he said. Junior chuckled. "Where did you learn to braid anyway?"
"Taylor." Matt chuckled.
"Hey, is she walking yet?"
"Not yet," Junior said securing a pigtail of strawberry blond hair.
"But she's almost two," Matt said, "Ross was walking before he was one and a half."
"Some kids need more time than Ross, Matt." Junior finished the second pigtail, and picked her up. "Okay, sweetie, you're beautiful." Aislynn then began to fuss in Junior's arms. "What?" Matt recognized the behavior.
"Ross did that before he wanted to try to walk," he said. Junior gestured to Matt to get in position to have Aislynn walk to him, and put her down facing Matt.
"Go on, angel," he said. "Go to Uncle Matt."
"Just encourage her." Junior slowly let go of Aislynn.
"Come on, sweetie." Aislynn took the first of her baby steps, before she began to fully walk.
"Oh, my God," Junior said, "she's walking." He and Matt were laughing as Aislynn made it all the way to her Uncle Matt. "I have to call my mom."
"Then she'll call Kelley," Matt said.
"Who'll tell Dad and Teresa." Junior picked up the phone and dialed his mom's number. It rang a few times before Brenda picked up. "Mom, guess what?"
"Aislynn's walking." Junior barely had time to pull the phone away from his ear as his mother screamed with joy.
"I'll call Kelley!!" she yelled before hanging up.
"I think she's excited," Junior said. Matt just chuckled as he held up Aislynn. About ten minutes later, Teresa and Dale, Sr. came into the house.
"We heard someone's walking." Teresa said.
"Yeah, watch," Matt said. He faced Aislynn toward her dad, and prompted her to walk. "Go to Daddy." Aislynn squealed as she began to walk over to Junior who's arms were stretched out.
"Come on, sweetie." Teresa and Dale, Sr. laughed as their granddaughter made it to her father.
"Oh, this is so precious," Teresa said as Aislynn squealed when Junior lifted her into the air.
Later that weekend, Junior added celebration by winning the Winston, and becoming the first rookie to win the all-star event. Dale, Sr. was there to congratulate him with a big hug as beer flew all over the place. Senior mentioned he was proud of Junior being able to race like this and raising a daughter at the same time. In Junior's interview, he mentioned; "This is just the cake for this weekend. The icing is that my daughter started to walk." The celebration lasted throughout the night. The rest of Junior's year wasn't as good. He finished 16th in points, and Matt Kenseth was named Rookie of the Year. Now it was a well deserved break, until the field returned to Daytona.
Chapter 4: Tragedy
A death in the family and a hard wreck prompts Junior to make out a will.
Chapter Four: Tragedy
Two and a half year old Aislynn Earnhardt peeked into her father's room. She held her teddy bear close and walked into the room, toward the bed. Junior heard the pitter patter of his daughter's slipper feet, knowing that she had heard him crying. His dad's death hit him hard
but he had to stay strong for Aislynn. "Daddy?" Junior sat up sniffling to see Aislynn pulling herself up onto his bed.
"What is it, baby?" he asked pulling her onto his lap.
"Honey, I'm not crying."
"What dis coming out your eyes?" Aislynn asked wiping a tear with her finger.
"Oh, those?" Junior asked as she pulled a tissue from the box and started to wipe the tears away.
"You miss gwandpa?" Junior nodded.
"Yes, angel, I do," he said taking the tissue from her when she was done wiping his tears. Aislynn then put her arms around her daddy's neck and gave him a hug.
"I do too," she said feeling her daddy hugged her back.
"I know you do, sweetie. I know," he said pulling out of the hug. He fixed her pigtails before giving her a kiss on the head. "Why don't you go back to bed?" he suggested.
"I stay with you," she said.
"Okay," he said. Aislynn snuggled herself under the covers with her dad and they both fell asleep.
On Wednesday, the funeral for Dale Earnhardt was held for only family members. Junior arrived with Aislynn in his arms. He slowly made his way up to the front where Teresa sat. He sat down and helped Aislynn take off her coat. Aislynn stayed on her father's lap for most of the service until it was time for him to give the eulogy. He handed Aislynn over to Teresa and went up to the podium. He cleared his throat before he began. "My father was a very strict father. He taught me how I can do things on my own. He made me start my racing career with my own money, something he had to do when he first started. He also taught me to start taking responsibilities. That speech came into play when Aislynn came into my life. My dad was the one who found her on my porch nearly two years ago. He made me baby-sit Taylor when she was little to get me experienced for fatherhood. It worked." There was a light chuckle. "I thought he was Superman, and the last place I thought he would die was a racetrack. He will always be with me on the track. Just not in the way I want him to be." Junior ended it before he couldn't, and he sat back down. Aislynn sat back on her daddy's lap, and gave him a hug when she saw tears coming out of his eyes. Junior pulled Aislynn into a hug. She was his rock to get through his dad's death, and he was hers.
The next day they were at the memorial service that was held for the friends, co-workers and fellow drivers. The burden of two funerals got the best of little Aislynn, and she started to cry during one of the driver's speeches. Junior picked her up, and took her out of the nave, her cries echoing off the walls. "Gwandpa!" she cried out. Junior gently rubbed her back as he took her to the back of the church. The two and a half year old cried for a good 15 minutes before calming down. At the reception, Aislynn was watched over by Ross and Taylor. The whole week was a drag, and the team just wanted to move on. The weekend at Rockingham was bad for Junior. He crashed hard on the first lap, eerily in the same fashion as his father had wrecked one week ago. Junior, still carrying the burden of his father's passing, finished in last place. He was just glad the day was done. Although Junior wasn't hurt, the crash brought in new perspectives for him about being a father. He wanted Aislynn to be provided for if something should happen to him.
That Monday, after the morning meetings, he paid a visit to his lawyer, Regina Mills, taking Kelley with him, about making up a will. Two hours, one will, and a trust fund in Aislynn's name later, Junior signed the will with Kelley as a witness. He and Regina shook hands, and Junior headed back to DEI to talk to Teresa. He gently knocked on the door of his stepmother's office. "Come in." Junior opened the door to see Teresa sitting at her desk. "Junior, where have you been all morning?" she asked.
"I was at my lawyer's office, making up a will."
"You made a will?" Junior nodded.
"The crash yesterday got me thinking, and I wanted Aislynn provided for if something should happen to me," he explained. "I named you Aislynn's guardian if anything happens to me."
"Oh, honey." Teresa got up from her seat. "What about your mother?" she asked.
"She was my first choice, but she said she thinks Aislynn should stay here with the family."
"I'd be honored, honey." She gave him a big hug. "I know if he was here he'd be proud of ya."
Five months later, it was time for the circuit to return to Daytona for the Pepsi 400. Aislynn watched as her dad packed a bag for himself Monday night. Jade cleared the week of appearances for him so he could go to Daytona early. As much as Aislynn enjoyed watching the races on TV with her Aunt Kelley, she decided that she wanted to start going to the races. "Daddy?" Junior turned around to look at his daughter.
"I wanna ask sometin'."
"Okay." He sat down on the bed and pulled her onto his lap. "Whatcha want?"
"I wanna go to Daytona wit you."
"You want to watch Daddy race?" Aislynn nodded. "Okay, you wanna go? You're going to go." The nearly three year old let out of shout of glee, and launched herself out of her father's lap to go pack for the weekend. Aislynn and Junior arrived in Daytona on Tuesday morning before there was even a camper in the infield. They spent the rest of that Tuesday at the beach, or at the condo owned by Teresa. The day before qualifying, Junior and Aislynn went to say hi to Dale Sr. They trudged up the steep embankment of Turn 4 and sat down, putting their backs against the wall. Aislynn had written a letter for her grandpa to put on his grave, but Junior thought of a better idea. She unfolded the note and cleared her throat before reading the note.
"Dear Gwandpa, I miss you lots, and wish you were here. Daddy miss you lots too. I get bigger day and day, and I getting more teeth." Junior chuckled. "Please watch over Daddy when he races. I hate to lose him too. I love ya, Gwandpa. Love, Aislynn. P.S. Daddy help me write this." Junior chuckled as Aislynn folded the letter up and put it back in her pocket.
"That was really nice, Aislynn."
"You tink Gwandpa hear?" Just then there was a slight breeze, and Junior smiled.
"Yeah, I think he did," he said, "and he said it's a certain young lady's bedtime." Aislynn squealed as he lifted her upside down, and proceeded to carry her down the embankment.
"Daddy!!" Aislynn squealed. Junior chuckled as he put her down in the grass and began to tickle her. "No tickle!" Aislynn said.
"Too late. I already started." Aislynn burst into a fit of giggles as her father tickled her.
The next day was qualifying, and Junior spent his every free moment with Aislynn. If he wasn't in the car, he was twirling Aislynn around in his arms, and lifting her high in the air. "Higher, Daddy!!" was what most drivers would hear, and other times he would be chasing her
around. The press enjoyed taking pictures of father and daughter. It was also Aislynn's first time out in public at a race. Junior had practice on Saturday, but didn't compete in the Busch race. He and Aislynn watched it from the condo. They went to bed early though to get up in time for the race the next day.
Chapter 5: Victory
Junior has victory at Daytona with Aislynn at his side.
Chapter Five: Victory
Junior woke up the next morning to the shouts of his daughter. "Time to get up, Daddy!!" she shouted as she ran into the room. She climbed onto the bed and jumped up and down. "Up, up, up, Daddy!!"
"Alright, alright," Junior said. "I'm up, Aislynn." Aislynn got off the bed and began to pull him by the arm.
"Driver meeting, Daddy!" she said.
"Alright, okay." They went into the bathroom, brushed their teeth, and got dressed. Aislynn put on a Bud shirt to show support for her dad. They finished their morning activities and headed to the driver's meeting. A security guard followed them closely to keep the fans at bay as Junior held Aislynn in his right arm as he signed autographs with his left. Every now and then Aislynn would help her dad and get something from a fan, and hold it for him before giving it back to the fan. It was really cute. Most of the fans were gone before Jade came up to them in a golf cart. "Hey, guys."
"Uncle Jade!!" They climbed onto the cart and Jade took off toward the building where the driver's meeting was taking place. They arrived with ten minutes to spare and Junior went in with Aislynn in his arms. He took off his hat and put it on her head, putting her down on the floor. "Be good," he said before he left her with Jade. He sat in the fourth row with Matt and the meeting was started. Junior sat there listening to the rules, and safety procedures that Helton went over. Helton also acknowledge this return to Daytona to be in Dale, Sr.'s memory. Junior gave him a nod of thanks. About halfway through the meeting, Aislynn made her way over to Junior after Jade became busy with another publicist. Junior lifted her up onto his lap and went back to listening to Helton. Suddenly, Aislynn raised her hand. "Questin," she said.
"Aislynn Michelle," Junior scolded her pulling her arm down. The other drivers chuckled as he gave her his pencil and paper. "Draw," he said. Aislynn did that for the rest of the meeting.
"Okay, that's it. Be safe out there," Helton said. The drivers shuffled out of the building and headed to their scheduled area. Junior and Aislynn headed to the merchandise trailer for the autographing session that Jade had set up. Aislynn looked on in aw at the long line of fans.
"Look, Daddy," she said pointing to them.
"Yeah, I see them," Junior said.
"Who are they?" she asked.
"They are fans of Daddy's who want his autograph," Junior said.
"Ohh," the toddler pondered as they were hurried into the merchandise trailer. He sat Aislynn to his right on the counter, and the session began. The fans would greet Junior, and sometimes Aislynn, making her shy, and she'd try to hide behind her daddy's arm. She did get over the shyness to help pass things to her dad to sign. The session was soon over, after two hours, and Junior began to get ready for the race.
Aislynn sat on top of the pit box with her Uncle Tony with her earphones tuned into her daddy's radio. She held his hat and sunglasses as the pre race activities were finishing up. "Think your dad's going to win?" Tony Sr. asked the toddler.
"Yes, I do," Aislynn said confidently.
"Well, you sound so confident in your dad," he said.
"Gwandpa watchtin him." Tony Sr. knew which grandpa she was talking about, and chuckled.
"He sure is, honey." Junior waved to Aislynn as he walked by with a crew member.
"Good luck, Daddy!!" she shouted. Junior climbed into his car, and gave the picture of Aislynn he had taped on the dash a glance. Aislynn was all smiles in the picture. He strapped himself in before getting his helmet on, and it wasn't long until he heard the "Gentlemen, start your engines!" line.
Through the day, mostly night, the #8 car was up front, leading the race every now and then. Junior made the final pass to win at the same corner his father crashed. He made it through with just two laps to go, and teammate, Michael Waltrip was right behind him. It was a story book fairy tale. Junior won the race with Michael watching his back, and the whole track went nuts. After doing his victory donuts, he stood up on the roof, and pumped his fists in the air. Tony Sr. brought Aislynn over to victory lane while Junior made his way over there. He was interviewed before Aislynn could get to him. He mentioned that Teresa was at home, and hoping she was enjoying this, cause they sure were.
Aislynn ran over to her dad who scooped her up in his big arms. It was a priceless moment between father and daughter, and the photographers took advantage of it. Flash bulbs went off like crazy as Aislynn gave her dad a big kiss. The celebration lasted throughout the night after Junior did the hat dance. He was anxious to get Aislynn home and he managed to sneak out of the condo, and to the airport with Jade's help.
Junior pulled his big red chevy truck up to the house and turned the engine off. He looked in the back to see Aislynn strapped in her car seat, sleeping peacefully. He climbed out of the car, walked around the other side and opened the car door. He unhooked Aislynn from her car seat, and gently lifted her into his arms. "Alright, angel, let's get you to bed." He shifted her to his right arm, and picked up their bags from the back seat. He closed the truck door with his foot and made his way to the back door. He put the bags down, and dug his keys out of his pocket. He unlocked the door and opened it, pulling the bags in along the ground. He took the keys out of the lock, and closed the door, locking it.
Junior left the bags where they were on the kitchen floor, and headed to Aislynn's room. He turned the little dresser lamp on, and put her onto her bed. He took her shoes off and pulled her other clothes off before putting her Blue's Clues pajamas on. He pulled the covers over her, gave her her favorite stuffed animal before placing a kiss on her forehead. "Sleep well, my little angel," he whispered before he turned the night light off and left the room. Junior sighed as he pulled the bags into his room and pulled his own clothes off. He put on his pj bottoms, something he started wearing since he became a father, and climbed into bed. He made sure the baby monitor was on before turning off his light and going to bed.
Chapter 6: Preschool
Aislynn's first day of preschool. Junior finds himself with a date and in need of a babysitter.
Aislynn's teacher is Mrs. Karr after my first teacher, my kindergarten teacher. She passed away about five years ago around the time I started writing this story and decided to honor her in a way.
Chapter Six: Preschool
Aislynn hid behind her dad's legs as he signed her into her preschool building. "Mrs. Karr's classroom is down the hall to the right," the secretary said with a smile.
"Thanks," he said. "Okay, munchkin, let's go." He picked her up and carried her down the hall to her room. The door was open so he stepped into the room. "Mrs. Karr?" A middle aged woman turned around.
"Hi, I'm Dale Earnhardt, Jr."
"Oh, yes," she said as they shook hands. "Your daughter is starting with us this year."
"Yes, this is Aislynn." He put Aislynn down on the floor, and Mrs. Karr got down on her knees.
"You are so cute, Aislynn." Aislynn giggled as she clung to Junior's leg. "I'm so glad you could join us." Aislynn just smiled as Junior got down to look at his daughter.
"Okay. Be good, listen to Mrs. Karr, and I'll see you in the afternoon, okay?" Aislynn nodded and they did a little nose rub before he gave her a kiss on the cheek. "Bye, angel."
"Bye, Daddy." Mrs. Karr took Aislynn's hand, and led her to the coat rack as Junior left the room. He began to leave, but went back to look into the room. Aislynn had gotten a name tag, and was playing with some of the other kids. He knew he had to leave, so he walked out of the building after signing himself out.
Junior spent most of his time with the crew working on the car for the weekend. He was a pain to work with that day. He kept looking at his watch every five minutes waiting for three o'clock to come around. Aislynn was expecting him to come at 3:30, and it would take him at least a half an hour to get there. Junior was under the car with Danny when he got called by Tony Sr. "Hey, Junior?" Junior sighed out as he rolled out from under the car, and looked at his uncle. "Just to let you know, it's three o'clock." Junior was up off the floor faster than the Posse has seen him move.
Junior arrived at the preschool with five minutes to spare. He signed himself in, ignoring the heavenly look from the teenaged receptionist. He smiled causing her to giggle as he left to get to Aislynn's classroom. He entered the room to get a huge "Daddy!!" before Aislynn came running over to him.
"Hey, munchkin." He lifted her up as Mrs. Karr came up to him with Aislynn's stuff. "She behave?" he asked.
"She was an angel," Mrs. Karr said, "which reminds me." She pulled out a packet of papers. "Every year this class puts on a Christmas play, and Aislynn grabbed the angel part. She has a few lines to remember by December 23rd."
"She'll have them remembered." Aislynn smiled.
"Okay." Junior took the papers and Aislynn's bag. "Bye Aislynn." Aislynn waved good-bye to her teacher as her father carried her out of the room. Outside of the room, Junior put her down and helped her get her coat on.
"So, you're going to be an angel?"
"Yep," she said proudly as he zipped up her coat. He put her little #8 hat on her head, and took her hand. "You call me an angel," she said.
"That's because you are," he said as he signed her out. "Okay, let's go." He picked her up, and they headed home.
Junior won the Talladega race (duh), and got Aislynn home in bed. The rest of the year went smoothly, he finished in the Top Ten in points, and prepared a speech to give at the banquet in December. He also helped Aislynn with her lines for the play. After the banquet, Aislynn was Junior's #1 priority. He spent every moment helping her with her lines. He took her to all the rehearsals, and was designated 'Favorite Parent' by the fellow classmates after he volunteered to do the snack bar during the intermission. It was also at the play where he met a young woman.
The play's final dress rehearsal was going on. Junior had left early after getting the list of parents who were bringing snacks for the snack bar, to go Christmas shopping. He came back to pick her up when he nearly ran into a woman carrying boxes of decorations. "Oh, God. I am so sorry." he said. He almost hit her with the door when he opened it.
"It's okay," she replied. He grabbed one of the boxes she had, and followed her to the practice room. "You're Aislynn's father, aren't you?"
"Yep, how'd you know?"
"She's a spitting image of you."
"Oh, God. Should I be worried?" The woman laughed. "Dale Earnhardt, Jr., but you can just call me Junior or Dale. Which ever one."
"I'm Emilee Knolls"
"Knolls?" he asked. She nodded with a smile.
"Dr. Emilee Knolls."
"You're the doctor who took care of Aislynn when she had the fever."
"Yeah, that was me." He put the box down where she told him to. "I was in my last year of school then."
"So, which one is yours?" he asked gesturing the to stage.
"My niece, Rebecca, the second cow," she said causing him to laugh. "So, how did Aislynn managed to get the angel part?" she asked.
"Well, believe it or not, Aislynn is an angel."
"I believe it." There was some silence until Junior spoke up.
"So, are you doing anything Friday night?" he asked.
"Friday?" Junior nodded.
"It's the 21st. There's no rehearsal, and I have five people on speed dial who can watch Aislynn."
"I'd love to."
"Really?" he asked. She nodded.
"It'll give me a chance to date people other than those my mother hooks me up with." Junior laughed.
"Pick ya up at seven?"
"Seven sounds great." He got directions to her house before Aislynn came running up in her angel costume.
"Hey, Kiddo," he said lifting her up. "See ya Friday."
"Yeah. See ya then." Emilee waved as Junior left with his angel.
"What Friday, Daddy?"
"Daddy has a date."
"A date?" Junior nodded. "Who watch me?"
"Oh, I think I can find someone." He strapped Aislynn into her car seat in the back of the truck, and they headed home.
Chapter 7: Daddy's Date
Junior's date and the unlucky person who gets to babysit Aislynn. Plus, Junior gets an interesting call Christmas morning.
Chapter Seven: Daddy's Date
"NO WAY!! ABSOLUTELY NOT!!" Kevin Harvick shouted. Junior had just asked him to baby-sit Aislynn on Friday.
"Come on, Kev," Junior said. "You adore Aislynn."
"Not when it's a Friday, and I already have things planned for me and Delana," Kevin said. "What about Matt?" he asked.
"He baby-sat last time," Junior said.
"Kelley?" Kevin asked.
"Out of town with Karsyn," Junior said shaking his head.
"Teresa?" he asked.
"She's Christmas shopping with Taylor," Junior said.
"Michael and Buffy?" he asked getting desperate.
"They have their kids to watch Friday," Junior said. " It's a family night for them," he added.
"You're the only one left," Junior said smiling.
"You're doing this because I'm a rookie, aren't you?"
"No, I'm not," Junior scoffed.
"What about Kurt?" Kevin asked causing Junior to throw a glare at him. "Okay, so maybe Kurt isn't the ideal baby-sitter, but...."
"I'm not letting that guy alone with my child," Junior said.
"And yet ya want to leave her alone with me?" Junior chuckled an evil chuckle. "Uh, no, I know that laugh."
"Who said you're going to be alone with her?" Junior said. "I already asked De if you'd be willing to baby-sit and wouldn't you know it, she said yes."
"Oh, fabulous," Kevin said sarcastically. "Now I can't back out of it," he added. "Why did you have to go and ask my wife, Junior?"
"Because I knew that you'd try to get out of it," Junior said. Kevin groaned. "Besides, this'll give you and De some practice for when you have your own kids," he chuckled. Kevin mocked Junior's laughing as the Budweiser driver left the room. "See ya Friday." Kevin forced a smile as he closed the door.
"Why me?" he asked to the ceiling. "Why me?!"
Friday night came a lot faster than what Kevin wanted and before he knew it he was getting pulled by his wife toward Junior's house. "Come on, Kevin. It's not going to be that bad," Delana said.
"Bad? This is Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s three year old daughter we're talking about," Kevin said. " It's going to be bad," he added. Delana scoffed at her husband's comment and rang the doorbell. Little Aislynn answered the door and smiled seeing her favorite uncle to torture standing there.
"Hi, Uncle Kevin," she said in a wicked tone. Kevin looked over to DeLana who was trying not to laugh. "Daddy, Uncle Kevin is here!!" she announced. Junior came into the living room, looking nice and suave as Kevin closed the door.
"Looking sharp, Junior," Delana said.
"Thanks, De," he said as he picked up Aislynn. "I also want to thank you for agreeing to watch Aislynn tonight."
"Oh, it's our pleasure," Delana said getting an eye roll from her husband as Junior turned to Aislynn.
"Okay, you be a good girl for Uncle Kevin and Aunt De okay?" Junior said to his daughter.
"Okay," Aislynn said. Kevin groaned getting an elbow in his gut from his wife. Junior handed Aislynn over to Kevin, and gave the house rules to them.
"In bed by 8:30, only one movie tonight, G rated and nothing too sweet for a snack."
"We'll be fine," Delana said. "Go have fun." Junior nodded and headed out to pick up Emilee.
Junior arrived at Emilee's at seven sharp, and was given a brief introduction to her mother. "Junior, this is mom. Mom, this is Junior. Okay, bye." Emilee grabbed Junior's hand and led him out of the house before her mom could say anything.
"Okay, that was weird," Junior said as they got into the car.
"If mom started to grill you, we would have never gotten out of the house," she said. Junior chuckled as he pulled out of the drive way. "Plus, I had to cancel a date she arranged to go out with you."
"Oh, I feel so special that you canceled to go out with me," he said.
"So, who did you sucker into baby-sitting?" she asked.
"I wouldn't say I suckered him into it," Junior said. "I asked his wife first, whom I knew was going to say yes, before I asked him," he said smiling.
"You sly fox you," Emilee said. Junior chuckled as they pulled up to the restaurant. They got in without a problem, and they were taken to their seat.
"I'm sure Kevin is having a blast," Junior said wickedly.
Delana came into the room to see Kevin playing with Aislynn's Leap Frog pad. "What are you doing?" she asked.
"I'm learning my ABC's," he said.
"Well, how about being helpful, and put 'Beauty and the Beast' in the VCR." Kevin put the Leap Frog down and hunted for the 'Beauty and the Beast' tape. He found it as Delana and Aislynn came back in with the popcorn and soda, juice for Aislynn. He put the tape in, and went back to his chair. He took the Leap Frog back, only to get it snatched away by Aislynn.
"Watch movie," she said in a commanding voice.
"Yes, Ma'am," he said giving her a small salute. Aislynn put her Leap Frog on the coffee table and settled next to Delana on the couch. 'Thanks, Junior. I'm whipped by both my wife and your kid,' he thought as he settled back into the chair to watch the movie.
Junior on the other hand, was having a great time. "So, what made you become a pediatrician?" he asked after they had ordered their food.
"I wanted to help kids," she said, "and to be a mentor."
"I bet the kids love you," he said.
"All my kids love me," she said bragging. "At the end of each visit, they get a lollipop to make them feel better," she said making it sound like a big thing.
"Do you think I could get a lollipop if I'm good?" he asked flirting. Emilee chuckled.
"Well, that'll depend on how good this date is," she said. "However, patients over twenty one go see an adult doctor." She laughed when he muttered 'shucks' under his breath. "But, you I think I'll make an exception." Junior chuckled as the appeitizers came.
"Do you have any kids?" he asked dipping a cheese stick into the sauce before taking a bite.
"Me? No, I just have the ones I take care of," she said taking a cheese stick too. Junior smiled. The subject turned to Junior's #1 girl, Aislynn. "So, where is Aislynn's mom?" Emilee asked.
"Don't know," Junior said shrugging.
"Really?" He nodded prompting her to ask what happened.
"Aislynn was abandoned by her mother when she was only 3 months," he said before taking a sip of Budwieser.
"Why would she do that?" Emilee asked.
"She left a note saying that she couldn't handle the pressures of motherhood anymore."
"And she thought you could handle it when you didn't know about Aislynn?" she asked in disbelief. Junior nodded causing Emilee to scoff. "What a woman," she said sarcastically before sipping her wine.
"She always thought of herself, and never others," Junior said playing with the napkin on his lap. "I'm just glad Aislynn's not turning out that way."
"Must be the good parenting that she's getting from her father," Emilee said smiling. Junior chuckled.
"Thanks," he said scratching his head.
"She is a bright young girl, Junior," Emilee said. "You're doing a terrific job."
"Thanks, again." Emilee chuckled as she saw his face turn a little like the car he drove. The food arrived and they ate with light conversation. They talked mostly about the play, and whether or not if Aislynn would freeze up on the stage. It wasn't long until the check arrived, and they paid it before leaving. They took a ride around town before Junior dropped Emilee back at her house.
"I had a wonderful time, Junior," she said.
"Me, too," he said. They leaned in closer together, and kissed goodnight. "Goodnight."
"Goodnight," she said. Emilee watched as Junior climbed into his car and started it up. He honked his horn as he drove away and she waved at him before going into her house. "Not bad for a first date," she muttered.
Aislynn never did freeze up on stage. She said her lines with pride as her daddy videotaped her. "Come see the baby Jesus," she said. "Come and see," she said making Junior one proud father. After the play, Christmas was the main event for Aislynn. She fell asleep during the ending hymn at the Christmas Eve service with all the candles. Junior had tucked her into bed, making sure she was snug as a bug in a rug. He spent an hour or so wrapping her presents before going to bed himself. The next morning, Aislynn came running into Junior's room totally pumped up. "Daddy, it's Christmas!! Wake up!" she shouted. She climbed onto the bed and jumped up and down. Junior grunted when she landed on him. "Come on, Daddy," she whined.
"Alright, alright," he finally said from under the sheets. "I'm up," he said throwing the sheets off him. Aislynn jumped off the bed, and ran into the living room. Junior was right behind her as she planted herself on the floor next to the presents. "Aren't you hungry?" he asked.
"No," she said shaking her head her pigtails flying in the air.
"Well, Daddy needs his coffee," he said as he lifted her up into his arms, taking her away from the presents.
"You always need coffee," she said. Junior sat her down on her seat, and poured her a bowl of the Winter Lucky Charms. After pouring some milk into it, Aislynn started to chow down as her father got himself a coffee mug. The coffee machine had already turned on, and had fresh brewed coffee waiting to be consumed.
"Finish eating breakfast," he said, "Then we can do presents."
"Okay," Aislynn said with a mouthful of Lucky Charms. Junior yawned as he poured coffee into his mug. He put some cream into it before taking a sip. The ringing of the phone pulled him out of vegetable state and he answered it.
"Junior, it's so good to hear from you," a voice he hadn't heard in years.
"Mrs. Krandell?" he asked wondering why on earth Chrissy's mother would be calling him.
"Yes, honey," she said in a god awful sweet voice. He always hated that about her, her voice. It was just too sweet and high.
"Uh, hi. It's nice to hear from you, too," he said. He really didn't know what to say.
"How's Chrissy?" Mrs. Krandell asked oblivious to the fact that she had a granddaughter sitting in his kitchen.
"What?" he asked.
"My daughter, silly," she said.
"Mrs. Krandell, I haven't heard from Chrissy in over four years," he said.
"Really?" she asked.
"Yeah," Junior said. " She said she moved out of state."
"Moved?" Mrs. Krandell asked. "Junior, Chrissy's been in rehab for over two years."
"Rehab?" he asked as Aislynn finished her cereal, and put the bowl in the sink. "Look, Mrs. Krandell, I have to go," he said.
"Okay, dear." Junior hung up the phone, and joined Aislynn in the living room.
"Can we start now, Daddy?" Aislynn asked.
"Yes, we can, baby." He handed her a present and they began their Christmas morning.
Chapter 8: No Club 'E'?
Aislynn gains a new uncle as her estranged mother tries to come back into her life.
Chapter Eight: No Club 'E'?
Aislynn made herself comfortable in her daddy's arms as he waited to qualify the car. They were at Daytona for the start of the 2002 season, and Aislynn said 'hi' to grandpa yesterday after writing another letter. That has become a tradition now for every visit to Daytona. Aislynn looked behind Junior and saw one of her many uncles. "Daddy! Uncle Jeffy!!" Junior turned around to see Jeff Gordon coming up with one of the rookie drivers, Jimmie Johnson.
"Hey, Jeff," he said.
"Hey, Junior," Jeff said back. Aislynn opened her arms to Jeff who gladly took her. "Hey, Jellybean, guess what I got for ya?" Aislynn pretended to think even though she already knew what her Uncle Jeffy had for her.
"Jellybean?" Jeff reached into his pocket, and pulled out a bag of jellybeans for her.
"You're right!" Aislynn let out a squeal of delight as she took the bag. Jimmie looked over to Junior to see him with his arms crossed, and glaring at Jeff.
"Why must you spoil my child?" he asked.
"Junior, as one of her many uncles, it is my duty to spoil her," Jeff said.
"Well in that case, you're fired," Junior said taking his daughter away from Jeff. The Dupont Chevy driver put a hurtful look on his face.
"I'm hurt, Junior," he said then looked over to Jimmie. "Oh, well. I'm sure I'll be yesterday's news when she starts calling Jimmie 'uncle'," he said causing Jimmie to chuckle. "Junior, this is Jimmie Johnson." The rookie driver shook hands with Junior.
"Pleasure to meet you, Junior," Jimmie said.
"Same here," Junior said shifting Aislynn in his arms.
"She is one cute girl," Jimmie said.
"Thanks, man," Junior said with a smile. He always loved it when people praised him about Aislynn, even when they just met her.
"How old?" Jimmie asked.
"Three and a half," Junior answered. Jimmie smiled as he watched Aislynn dig through the bag of jellybeans.
"So, I heard you got a club in your basement," he said.
"Not anymore," he said causing Jeff to spaz out.
"What?!" he shouted. He was looking forward to time in Club 'E' now that he and Brooke had split up. Jimmie tried very hard not to laugh. "You're getting rid of Club 'E'?" he asked. Junior nodded. "Why?" he asked. Junior chuckled as he shifted Aislynn in his arms.
"Jeff, I have a three year old in my house. What more do you want?" he asked.
"Are you at least having a farewell party before you do?" Jeff asked. Junior shook his head. "No?"
"It's being re-modeled as we speak," Junior said as Jeff let out a gasp.
"But, Club 'E' was ...."
"Will be nothing more than a family room by the end of March," he said. "Hopefully," he added causing Jimmie chuckled.
"Relax, Jeff," Jimmie said patting Jeff on the shoulder, " it's just a club."
"Club? This is Club 'E' we're talking about. Not some club," Jeff said. "I was looking forward to partying since Brooke and I split."
"I'll save a piece of it for you, Jeff," Junior said.
"Don't bother," he said.
"Hey, Junior, you going to qualify?!" Tony, Sr. asked.
"Yeah!" Junior shouted. He looked to Jeff to give him Aislynn, but the #24 driver put his hands up.
"As much as I love her, Junior, I'm in no mood to help you," he said before walking away.
"I'll hold her," Jimmie offered.
"Are you sure?" Junior asked. "She can be a handful," he added.
"I'm sure," he said. "I love kids." Junior handed Aislynn to Jimmie and hurried off to get into his car.
"Eighth," Aislynn said.
"What?" Jimmie asked.
"That's where he'll qualify," she said munching on a jellybean.
"Okay," he said. Jimmie stood there with Aislynn in his arms talking with her as Junior qualified his car. Aislynn was only off by three spots, but was happy her dad placed above her guess. "You qualified higher than her guess," Jimmie said giving Junior his little angel back.
"I did?" Junior asked. Aislynn nodded her head before digging into the jellybean bag again. "Thanks for holding her," he said.
"Anytime," Jimmie said.
"Can I take you up on that sometime in the future?" Junior asked.
"Sure," Jimmie said. "I'll give you my number later."
"Great," Junior said. "Oh, and don't worry about Jeff."
"I know. He'll get over it," Jimmie said. "Eventually," he added.
"So, I'll see ya later," Junior said walking backwards toward the car.
"Bye, Aislynn," Jimmie said waving to her.
"Bye, Uncle Jimmie!" she shouted. Junior howled with laughter as Jimmie just shrugged and walked back to his car.
The newly re-modeled family room was finished by the end of March and Aislynn couldn't wait to go into the room she was never allowed in. The TV and couches that sat right at the entrance were still there, as well as the mirrored wall on the far side. The whole floor was carpeted with new carpet, and more lights were added to the room. Aislynn's new play area sat over where the bar used to be and in the middle was the playhouse Junior had built for her in the shape of a dollhouse. It had stairs on the inside that led up to the top of the slide that ran along the side of the house. She loved it because it almost matched her castle outside in the back yard. There was a pool table, air hockey, a race car arcade game, and a Ms. Pacman game. Aislynn requested that one.
After the Talladega race, which Junior won, the Bud crew got together, and they went over to check out the new Club 'E'. "Come on, Uncle Tony," Aislynn said pulling the older Eury down the steps. "Come see my new house Daddy got me."
"All right, sweetie," Tony Sr. said. He was followed by Junior and the rest of the Posse.
"Oh, this is awesome," Tony Jr. said.
"Oh, he got the pool table," Troy Prince said as he and Danny Earnhardt headed over to it. Tony Jr. paid more attention to the air hockey game.
"I tried to get games that Aislynn could play," Junior said. " I might get a few more things in the future, but for now, this is okay."
"Skeet ball?" Troy suggested. Junior shrugged.
"I'll have to rearrange for that," he said
"We won't mind," he and Danny said together causing Junior chuckled. Aislynn was in her playhouse when she realized that Junior didn't show them her Ms. Pacman game. She slid down the slide, and landed on the soft bean bag on the bottom.
"Daddy!" Junior spun around to see Aislynn running over to him.
"What?" he asked thinking something was wrong with her.
"You didn't show 'em Ms. Pacman," she said.
"Oh, that's right, " he said relieved. Junior lifted Aislynn up to carry her over to Ms. Pacman. "This is hers," he said. "She said to me 'Daddy, if you get all these games than I'm going to have a game all to myself too.' So, she's got this," he said. Tony Sr. chuckled as Junior put Aislynn onto the step stool, and she began to play. The door bell rang, and Junior left to go get it. He opened the door to see the one person he hadn't expected. "Chrissy?"
"Hi, J," she said.
"What are you doing here?"
"I got my life back together," she said, " and I came for Aislynn." Junior let out a forced chuckle.
"Do you really think I'm just going to hand you my child to you after all these years?" he asked.
"Our child," she corrected, "and we can raise her together."
"Our child?" he asked. "I was the one who was raising her, and still am. You were never here, and there's no 'we'."
"I'm not giving Aislynn back to her mother who didn't want her in the first place, and I'm certainly not going to get back together with her alcoholic mother." Before Chrissy could get a word in, he slammed the door in her face.
Junior woke up in the early morning from a dream. It had began to rain and it was thundering and lighting. Knowing how much Aislynn hated thunderstorms, he got out of bed and went over to her roomto check on her. She was fast asleep, sucking her thumb and holding her teddy bear. Junior smiled as he pulled the covers over her, and placed a small kiss on her forehead. He headed back to his room, and climbed into bed. He put his head in the pillow and allowed the rain to lull him back to sleep.
Chapter 9: Custody
Chrissy sues for custody.
Chapter Nine: Custody
The next morning, Junior woke up to the sound of the doorbell. He groaned as he climbed out of bed and headed to the door. He opened it to see Chrissy again. "I was hoping I caught you before you left," she said.
"What do you want?" he asked annoyed that she didn't take the door in her face as a message.
"My daughter," she said.
"You never listen, do you?" he said getting angry.
"The birth certificate says I have a right as her mother," Chrissy said not giving up.
"And you gave up that right the second you abandoned her on my porch," he retorted.
"J..." she started to say.
"Don't 'J' me, Chrissy," Junior interrupted. "I'm not giving her back to you. She doesn't even know you," he said. "How well do you think she'll take it if she goes home with you?" he asked.
"She'll adjust!" Chrissy snapped.
"She's three years old!" Junior snapped back.
"Daddy?" Junior turned around hearing Aislynn's voice. She came into the room rubbing her eyes as she yawned. Chrissy smiled as Junior picked her up and she started coming into the house hoping to hold her daughter.
"Don't come into my house," Junior warned her causing her to stopped just at the doorway as Junior took Aislynn back to her room. He came back a few minutes later.
"She got big," she said.
"Yeah, kids do that," he said with a sarcastic tone.
"Look Junior, I want Aislynn back," she said clearly not backing down, "and I'm not taking 'no' for an answer."
"And like I said before, I'm not giving her back to you," he said.
"Fine! Be that way!" Chrissy said before leaving in a huff. Junior scoffed as he closed the door.
'Thought I'd never get rid of her.' he thought. He locked the door and went to get Aislynn ready for preschool.
By the time Wednesday rolled around, Junior had forgotten all about Chrissy, and had fallen into a routine for the week up to California. He would take Aislynn to preschool, then go to DEI for the morning. At three, he would pick her up, and spend the rest of the day with her. However it was on Wednesday, Junior got something he was hoping he would never get.
A man in a business suit with a package came to DEI looking for Junior and he wouldn't let anyone else sign for the package. It was Junior who had to sign for it. A DEI worker took him to the garage where Junior was with Tony, Jr. "Dale Earnhardt, Jr.?" Junior turned around hearing his name.
"Yes?" The man waved the package.
"I have a package for you," he said. "Sign here, please," he said giving Junior a clipboard and pen. Junior took them and signed his name for the package. The man handed the beige folder to him, taking the clipboard and tipped the pen to him. "Have a nice day. You've just been served."
"What?" he asked in disbelief.
"Hey, I just deliver the paperwork," the man said as he left. Tony, Jr. stood next to his cousin as he opened the folder. Junior took out some papers and read them over.
"I don't believe this," he said.
"What are they, Junior?" Tony Jr. asked.
"They're custody papers," Junior said handing them out to Tony, Jr.
"What?" Tony, Jr. asked grabbing them from his cousin.
"Chrissy's suing me for custody of Aislynn," Junior said.
"Can she do that?" Tony, Jr. asked.
"I don't know," Junior said as he shrugged taking the papers back. "I've got to call Regina." He headed up to his office, and dialed up Regina.
Junior paced his lawyer's office as she looked through the papers. Regina sighed as she put the papers down onto her desk. "So, can she do this?" he asked.
"She has the right to sue for custody, Junior," she said. "It's her right as the biological mother."
"I don't get this," he said. "She abandons Aislynn because she couldn't handle the pressures of motherhood, and now she wants her back?" he asked. Regina nodded.
"From the looks of this, she's suing for sole custody," she said. "Meaning ..." However, Junior knew what she was going to say.
"If she wins, Aislynn's stuck living with her," he said. " I'm not even sure if she's got a place to live," he added.
"Junior, sit down," Regina said. Junior sighed as he sat down in front of the desk.
"So what now?" he asked.
"We fight this," she said lifting the custody papers.
"How do most custody hearings go?" he asked.
"Well, depending on who the judge is..."
"Regina, just tell me."
"There's a 50-50 chance that you'll get sole custody, but like I said, it depends on the judge," she said.
"So, what you're saying is that if it's a female judge she might side with Chrissy," he said. Regina nodded.
"What we have to do is make the judge believe that Chrissy is an unfit mother, and that she shouldn't be allowed to have custody," Regina explained, " or anything for that matter," she added.
"Well, Chrissy abandoned Aislynn when she was just three months old. That's a start," Junior said.
"Don't worry. I'll bring that up when she's on the stand," Regina said. "Now, do you know where Chrissy was when you broke up?"
"No. She and I broke up after Christmas in '97," he said. "She said she was moving."
"What was she like when you were dating?" Regina asked.
"She was wild. She was having problems with her family and alcohol," Junior said. " I didn't know what I saw in her to begin with. Chrissy also had this problem with controlling her need for...." he said trailing off.
"Sex?" Regina quessed. Junior nodded. "So that's how little Aislynn came into the world," she teased.
"We used protection every time," he said turning red. "One of the rubbers must have been a dud." Regina chuckled.
"Well, the hearing is in one month. I'll need lists of people who can testify on your behalf."
"I can name five right now," he said. "Plus you have at least 45 people who can tell you that life on the road can be a good living for Aislynn," he added. Regina nodded. "I can I have that list to ya before we go to California."
"Okay," Regina said.
"Oh, do you think it's okay if I take Aislynn out of the state with me?" he asked. "She'll want to go to the race."
"I'll check with the judge for ya, and have that answer before you leave," she said. "Also, make sure that Jade has your schedule clear of appearances," she added.
"Any idea on how long this is going to take?"
"My guess, a couple of months, but you won't have to worry about missing races," she said. "I'll make sure that each court date is during a Tuesday or Wednesday." Junior nodded.
"I hate this," he said.
"You're not the only one," Regina said. "You should go home, Junior." Junior nodded as he stood up. "I'll call you when I need to brief you."
"Okay. I have to go pick up Aislynn from preschool anyway." Regina nodded as Junior left her office.
Chapter 10: Taken
Chrissy's lawyer plays dirty before the trial can get started.
Chapter Ten: Taken
The weekend at California was a doozy for Junior. DEI held a press conference for the fans, telling them that Junior is going to be in court for the next month, possibly longer. A judge allowed Junior to take Aislynn to California with him, but it wasn't fun for her. Every time they went out, the press would bother them. It got so bad, that Aislynn had to watch the race from the motor coach. Regina spent the weekend at the race as well, gathering information from the other drivers about Junior's relationship with Aislynn on the track. The race was going fairly well until Junior crashed hard with Kevin Harvick late in the race. At the infield care center, Regina sat with her client, making sure he was okay. She had everything she needed, but she didn't need her client in bad health.
On Wednesday, Junior was planning on spending the day with Aislynn after feeling much better than the last couple days. Jade had cleared his schedule of appearances that weren't that important for the hearing next week. He opened the door to the garage, and led Aislynn into it. "Are we gonna fix your car, Daddy?" she asked. Junior nodded.
"Yes, we are," he said. He pulled crate over to the old Camaro and set her on top of it. "Let's open this door to get a better look at things." He opened the garage door to let the sunlight pour into the room. He opened the hood of the car to show Aislynn the engine.
"Ohh, nice," she said. Junior began to show the different parts of the car, and explained what they do to keep the car running. They were so busy having a father-daughter moment, that they didn't see a blue car pull up the drive. Aislynn giggled as Junior showed her the dipstick in the oil. "That a funny name for it, Daddy." Junior laughed which was interrupted by an unfamiliar voice.
"Mr. Earnhardt?" Junior turned around to see a man and a woman standing in his drive. He told Aislynn to stay put as he walked up to them wiping his hands of the oil.
"Can I help you?" he asked. The man handed Junior a paper, and he read it over as Aislynn came up behind him. "No, you can't do this."
"I'm sorry, Mr. Earnhardt, but we're just doing our job," the man said. He nodded to the woman who approached Aislynn. Aislynn clung to her daddy's leg as the woman got down to her eye level.
"Aislynn, honey, you have to come with me now," she said prying Aislynn's hands off Junior's leg.
"No! I want to stay with my daddy!" Aislynn cried. The woman pulled her from her father's leg, and picked her up. "No! Daddy!" Junior tried to interfere but the man held him back.
"That is a court order, Mr. Earnhardt. I wouldn't do that if I were you." The woman ignored Aislynn's cries as she carried her to the car.
"I want my daddy! I want my daddy! Daddy!" Aislynn cried. The woman placed her in the car, and shut the door.
"You can't do this!" Junior shouted.
"The signature from the judge says we can," the man said as he went up to the car. Aislynn looked out the back window, crying out to her dad.
"Daddy!!" she shouted as the car was started and they drove away as Junior watched helplessly as his daughter was taken from him.
Junior immediately called Regina, who said to come on over. He arrived five minutes later, and threw the paper on her desk. "The trial hasn't even started yet and Aislynn been taken from me," he said as Regina scanned the paper. "What does that shit mean, Regina?
"Aislynn was removed so she wouldn't be bias to the trial," Regina said.
"What?" he asked.
"It's a lawyer term. Bias means to be judgmental or to have an influence on something. With Aislynn being three years old, the judge who signed this probably thought she won't understand what's going on, and she'll judge Chrissy or someone in the courtroom." Junior sighed as he sat down on a chair.
"So, what happens to Aislynn during the trial?" he asked.
"She'll remain with Social Services until the trial is over," Regina explained, "and whoever gets custody, Social Services will bring her to them."
"So, there's a chance I won't see her again?" he asked.
"I'm sorry, Junior, but yes, there is that chance." Junior groaned running his hand through his hair.
"It also says on that thing, that Aislynn's in danger if she stays in the house," he said. "She's been living in that house for almost four years, and if they removed her because of my accident on Sunday, they're a bunch of asses."
"Calm down, Junior," she said. " I'll get to the bottom of this." She looked to see who ordered the appeal, and saw a familiar name. "Jack Mortan," she said with disgust.
"You know him?" Junior asked.
"We went to law school together," she said. "He made a pass at me at some party, and I blew him off." She loooked up to see that Junior had gotten up, and was pacing. "Junior, go home. I'll handle this," she said. Junior nodded and left the office to go home.
Regina Mills was one pissed off attorney. She knew this appeal smelled of a certain jackass, and she wanted to get to the bottom of it. She barged into his office without even knocking. "What the hell were you thinking?" she asked.
"I'm sorry?" Jack asked.
"You had Aislynn Earnhardt removed from her home," she said waving the court order in the air.
"My client believed her daughter was unsafe in that home," Jack said.
"That is a bunch of bull!" Regina snapped.
"Careful, counselor," Jack warned.
"Aislynn Earnhardt's been living in that home for almost four years," she snapped.
"If you remember correctly, Dale, Jr. suffered a concussion due to his accident," Jack said. "My client didn't want her child traumatized should her father have reprecussions." Regina chuckled.
"Dale Earnhardt, Jr. would never harm his daughter, and don't tell me anything about Aislynn Earnhardt being traumatized," she said. "You weren't there when Social Services had to pry her forcefully off her father."
"You know, I love it when your accent gets thicker when your angry," he said.
"Watch it, Mortan," she warned, "Or I'll finish what I started when we first met."
"Well, my client wanted her daughter out of that house, and so did that judge," Jack said with a cheshire smile.
"I'll see you in court then," Regina said wanting to smack that smile off his face.
"Looking forward to it," Jack said as Regina slammed the door.
Junior ignored the doorbell as it rang for the tenth time. "JUNIOR!!" shouted Tony, Sr. "COME ON, OPEN UP!!" Junior never had a spare key outside, so he had to call Teresa. She came within minutes with her key to Junior's house, she unlocked the door and they went in.
"I'll handle this," she said. As she walked further into the house she felt uneasy. Usually they'd be greeted by Aislynn by now, but the three year old wasn't in sight. "Junior?" she called out. She looked into his room, but he wasn't there. She heard Tony, Sr. clear his
throat, and she turned around to see him pointing to Aislynn's room. He let her go in to see Junior sitting on Aislynn's bed. Junior heard Teresa enter the room, but kept his gaze out the window, fingering Aislynn's teddy bear. He felt the bed shift and he wiped the tears that were straining his face. "Junior, hey, what's wrong?" she asked.
"She's gone," he said his voice faltering.
"Who?" Teresa asked.
"Aislynn," he said.
"What? Where is she?" she asked.
"Social Services came and took her away," he said. "They took my baby!"
"Why?" Teresa asked.
"Regina said that the judge believed Aislynn would've been bias in the case, and that Chrissy didn't want her in this house while I was recovering from the concussion." Teresa rubbed her stepson's back as he sniffled. The last time he cried like this was when Dale, Sr. died.
"Junior, you'll get her back," she said. Junior nodded as he stood up.
"They just took her away from me, Teresa. They didn't even care how she reacted," he said. "All they said was that they were doing their job."
"You'll get her back," Teresa said again.
"Yeah, I know," he said sitting on the rocking chair. He had to pull himself together for Aislynn's sake.
Junior went on to Richmond to race, but finished poorly. He could barely concentrate knowing that Aislynn was crying herself to sleep every night because her father wasn't with her. Regina was beginning to fear for her client's health, and mentioned it to Teresa. The trial was starting the following Wednesday, and she needed him to have a clear head. Teresa convinced Emilee to look over Junior, who refused to go to the hospital, to give Junior a check up, mainly in the head. Monday night, Emilee knocked on Junior's door with her medical bag. The door opened to reveal a worn out Junior. "Hey," she said with a smile.
"Hey," he said back. "Come on in." He stepped aside to allow passage into his house. "What brings you to my humble home?" he asked closing the door.
"I'm making a house call," she said holding up her medical bag causing him to chuckle.
"I'm well over 21, Em," he said.
"I know, but Regina wants you to have a clear head on Wednesday, and so Teresa asked me to stop to by make sure you have one since you're a non hospital person." Junior chuckled as he sat down on the couch. She checked the main things for a concussion such as reflexes, and head movement. "Follow my finger," she said. She moved her finger around watching as his eyes followed it. "Good eye movement, and reflexes," she said. "Well, you seem fine to me."
"Really?" he asked.
"Yep," she said. "Fit as a fiddle."
"You're not saying that because I'm your boyfriend, are you?" he asked.
"No, Junior," she said smiling. She watched him slowly smile, and the man who was her boyfriend was there. "Finally, I got a smile."
"I just want this to be over," he said.
"It'll be over before you know it," she said cupping his face. Junior nodded before Emilee pulled him into a kiss. "Have you been sleeping?" she asked.
"I'm too worried about Aislynn," he said, "I don't know if she's hungry or sleeping or crying. She doesn't have her bear, and she sleeps with that thing every night."
"The social workers will take care of her," Emilee said.
"It better not be the ones who took her," Junior said. "Of course, by now she probably gave them so many bruises on their legs, they probaby gave her to someone else." Emilee chuckled. "Will you stay with me tonight?" he asked.
"Of course, I will," she said pulling him into another kiss. "You'll win this fight," she said. Junior nodded before clearing his throat.
"I need to sleep this off," he said. Emilee nodded knowing he just wanted Aislynn back in his arms.
Chapter 11: The Trial Part I
Let the custody battle begin!!
Chapter Eleven: The Trial Part I
Before Junior knew it, Wednesday had arrived, and it was time to go to court. Junior stood outside the courtroom with Regina waiting for the bailiff to allow them in. "What's going to happen today?" Junior asked.
"Well, Mr. Mortan and I will have our chances to give opening statements to explain everything," Regina said, "then we'll call witnesses." Junior nodded. He smiled seeing Teresa and Matt coming into the courthouse. Kelley and Brenda were also sceduled to testify on Junior's behalf, but Regina felt she only needed Matt and Teresa. Matt was going to testify to the life on the road for children, and how many of the drivers bring their children with them. Teresa was going to testify to Junior's early relationship with Aislynn, and his current lifestyle.
"Hey, Junior," Matt said. "We are here to help."
"Thanks," Junior said. Regina knew that if she needed more witnesses, she would call Brenda and Kelley to the stand.
"You two will have to stay out here until we call you up," she explained, "Although, we might not get to you today. They'll probably start with Chrissy's side."
"Okay," Teresa said as Matt nodded. They heard Junior sigh a heavily sigh. "Relax, Junior, it's going to be just fine," Teresa said. He nodded. He knew that, but he just wished he'd believe it.
"Regina Mills." The group turned to see Jack Mortan and Chrissy coming up. "Are you ready for court, Counselor?" he asked.
"Absolutely," Regina said.
"Confident, aren't we?" Jack asked as he ushered Chrissy along into the courtroom.
"Oh, Junior?" Chrissy called causing Junior looked over at his ex. "I'll make sure you get visitation rights," she said. Junior glared at her as she walked into the courtroom with her jack-ass lawyer.
"Junior, don't let her get to you," Regina said.
"I'm trying," he said.
"Well, try harder," Teresa said. Junior sighed as Regina led him into the courtroom.
Everyone was seated in their seats, and the judge, Amelia Gables, opened the court. "This courtroom is now in session. Mr. Mortan, you may begin," she said and Jack stood up.
"Thank you, Your Honor," Jack said before he began his opening statements. "We are here today to determine the custody of three year old, Aislynn Earnhardt. My client, Chrissy Krandell, should get custody. Why? Your Honor, I plan to show you that Chrissy is a loving mother who gave her child to the one person she knew she'd be safe with. Out of love, she gave Aislynn to her father, and went to go straighten her life out. I plan to show you that the life style in which Dale Earnhardt Jr. lives is unsuitable for Aislynn, and that she would be more happy living with her mother, Chrissy Krandell." Jack finished and sat down next to Chrissy who was smiling, trying to look like a decent mother.
"Miss Mills, you may begin with your opening statement," Judge Gables said.
"Thank you, Your Honor," Regina said standing up. " Mr. Mortan says that his client, Chrissy Krandell, gave Aislynn to her father, but I plan to show you through witness testimony that Aislynn was in fact abandoned on my client, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s front porch with a note saying that she couldn't handle the pressures of being a mother. Now, what kind of a loving mother is that? Those years ago, my client was getting ready to take his career to a high note, but had to adjust that career to fit his little girl into it. I plan to show you, Your Honor, that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. managed to raise his daughter, and keep his career intact at the same time, and that Aislynn is better off with her father, Dale Earnhardt, Jr." Regina sat down, and waited for the judge to proceed.
"Mr. Mortan, you may call your first witness," she said after taking in the opening statements.
"Thank you, Your Honor. I call Mrs. Louise Krandell to the stand." The doors opened and Chrissy's mother walked in. She was sworn in before she sat down. "Good morning, Mrs. Krandell," Jack said.
"Good morning," Louise said with a smile.
"Mrs. Krandell, how would you describe your daughter?" Mortan asked walking up to the witness stand.
"She is energetic, loving, and caring," she said with a smile.
"Did you think she was a good mother with Aislynn?" Mortan asked.
"Yes, I did, and I still do," she said, "even though she hasn't been in Aislynn's life for the last few years."
"Mrs. Krandell, you called Mr. Earnhardt on Christmas morning of the year 2001, correct?" Jack asked gesturing to Junior.
"Yes, I did," Louise said.
"Why?" he asked.
"I wanted to talk to Chrissy," she said.
"Did you think her and Mr. Earnhardt were living together?" Jack asked her.
"She told me that she was going to see him when she moved out," Louise said. " I had assumed she was moving in with him."
"Did you know that your daughter was pregnant?" he asked.
"Not until she came home in tears telling me that her and Junior broke up," Louise said, "and it was a shame too. I thought they made a good looking couple."
"In tears?" Jack asked. "What happened?"
"He broke up with her," she said. "She was devastated."
"Did she tell him she was pregnant?" Jack asked.
"Yes, she did," Louise said causing Junior to nudge Regina.
"What?" she asked in a hush whisper.
"Chrissy never told me she was pregnant," he whispered. "I didn't know about Aislynn until the night my dad found her on the porch." Regina nodded making a note of it in her notebook.
"After that Christmas, where did Chrissy go?" Jack asked.
"She went to her friend's house to live there," Louise said.
"Were you present at the hospital for your granddaughter's birth?" Jack asked walking back to his table.
"Yes, I was," she said. "I wasn't present in the birthing room, but I was in the hospital."
"Did you know of any problems that Chrissy had while pregnant or after?"
"No, she was a healthy young woman, Mr. Mortan," Louise said. "I taught her that drugs and alcohol were bad for her body. She's been clean and sober her whole life."
"Thank you," he said, "Your witness," he said to Regina who stood up, and walked to the front of her table.
"Mrs. Krandell, you said that your daughter has been clean and sober her whole life?" Regina asked.
"Yes," Louise said, "I raised her right."
"You're call to my client" Regina said folding her arms.
"Yes?" Louise asked.
"Can you recall the entire conversation?" she asked.
"Well, I told him that I wanted to talk to Chrissy," Louise said, " and he told me that she wasn't there."
"Continue, please, Mrs. Krandell."
"Well, he told me that he hadn't heard from her in four years, and he had thought she moved out of state," Louise continued. " I told him she was still in the state."
"So, you don't remember telling him that your daughter was in rehab?" Regina asked.
"Objection," Jack called.
"Overruled," Judge Gables said. "Mrs. Krandell, answer the question."
"It must of slipped my mind," Louise said chuckling.
"Does Chrissy have a job?" Regina asked.
"No, she doesn't," Mrs. Krandell said.
"Is she looking for one?" Regina asked walking up to the witness stand.
"Not that I know of," Louise said.
"Does she have a place to live?"
"She's living with me at my apartment," Louise said
"Is your apartment big enough for a three year old?" Regina asked.
"It's big enough," Louise said.
"Are you prepared for a three year old?" Regina asked. "Have you childproofed anything in your apartment?"
"Not yet," Louise said, "but Chrissy said she'll get her own place when she gets Aislynn."
"When she gets Aislynn?" Regina asked. "She's not doing anything to prepare for a three year old until after?"
"Well, I ..." Louise stuttered. "I don't know what Chrissy's plans are."
"After Aislynn was born, did your daughter's behaviour change?" Regina asked.
"She had a mild case of depression, but nothing serious," Louise said.
"Then why did she enter rehab again?" Regina asked. Louise sat her chair in silence and the judge had to speak up.
"Mrs. Krandell, please answer the question," she said.
"Well, she started drinking," Louise said.
"So, much for clean and sober," Regina said sarcastically.
"Objection!" Jack shouted.
"Withdrawn," Regina said. "Chrissy told you she told my client about the baby?" Louise nodded.
"Yes, she did," she said.
"My client didn't see Aislynn until your daughter left her on a porch," Regina said.
"Ms Mills," Gables warned.
"I'm sorry, Your Honor," Regina apologized. "Mrs. Krandell told the court that her daughter told my client she was pregnant. I'm just trying to straighten out the truth."
"Proceed," Gables said.
"Mrs. Krandell?" Regina asked. "Did Chrissy tell you she told Mr. Earnhardt she was pregnant, or did you lie?"
"She told me she told him," Louise said. "She would never lie to me," she said.
"On the night of December 10, 1998, what were your daughter's plans?"
"That was the night she signed herself into rehab," Louise said.
"Did she have a place for Aislynn?" Regina asked.
"Lily was going to take care of her," Louise said.
"Chrissy's best friend."
"So, you didn't know that your daughter left her daughter on Mr. Earnhardt's porch before going to rehab?" Regina asked.
"No, I didn't," Louise said shaking her head.
"Nothing further." Regina sat back down and sighed out.
"Nice job," Junior whispered to her.
"Thanks." Louise stepped down from the stand and sat behind Chrissy.
"Mr. Mortan, call your next witness," Gables said.
"I call Lily Hamilton to the stand," Jack said. Junior turned around to see Lily coming into the courtroom. She was sworn in before she sat down. "Miss Hamilton, you are Chrissy's best friend, correct?"
"Yes, that's correct."
"How steady did you think her relationship was with Mr. Earnhardt?" Jack asked.
"Not very steady," Lily said.
"He was always on the road for his racing career," Lily explained. " He had just started it when they began dating."
"You knew she was pregnant?" Jack asked.
"I was the first person she told," she said smiling.
"Why did she not tell Junior?" Jack asked.
"His career was on a high note," Lily said. "His father had just hired him to race a Busch Series car, and she didn't want to ruin it," she explained.
"You helped her get into rehab?" Jack sked.
"I drove her there both times," Lily said, " and picked her up when she was let out," she added.
"And you were there when she gave birth?" he asked.
"Yes. After that she went on the live with her mother," Lily said.
"Thank you." Regina stood up, and walked over to Lily.
"Lily, did you know that Chrissy started drinking again?" she asked.
"Not until I visited her one month after Aislynn was born," Lily said. "I told her she needed to go back to rehab."
"You drove her that night?"
"Yes, I did," Lily said.
"What did she do with Aislynn?" Regina asked.
"She was going to give her to Junior, but there was a slight snag in her plan," Lily said. "She ended up leaving Aislynn on the porch."
"So, the whole leaving her on the porch wasn't planned," Regina said crossing her arms.
"No, it wasn't," Lily said. "Honest," she said looking at the judge.
"Please tell the court what happened that night," Regina said.
"She called me around ten that night, saying she needed a ride to rehab," Lily said. " When I asked her about Aislynn, she said that we needed to stop by Junior's house on the way."
"What happened when you got to Junior's?" Regina asked.
"We immediately noticed all the cars around his house, and found out that he had won the Busch Series championship that year. There was a party going on," Lily explained.
"Go on," Regina said leaning against her table.
"Before we noticed all the cars, she told me she was going to tell Junior about Aislynn, and ask him if he could take care of her," Lily said.
"And after you saw all the cars?" Regina asked.
"She changed her mind, and wrote a small note instead, and went to the front door," Lily said. "She placed Aislynn on the front porch and rang the bell. When she heard someone coming up to the door, she ducked behind the bushes until the door was closed with Aislynn in the house."
"Thank you." Regina sat back down in her seat as Jack chewed out his client for more helpful information.
"Is there anyone else?" he asked Chrissy. She shook her head causing him to sigh in defeat. "I guess I'll have to rattle his witnesses."
"Mr. Mortan, do you have any other witnesses?" the judge asked.
"No, Your Honor," Jack said. "I request a short recess, Your Honor."
"How short, Mr. Mortan?" Gables asked.
"A couple of hours," he said.
"You'll settle for lunch," she said, "This court is in recess for one hour." She banged her gavel down on her desk, and stood up.
Regina and Junior stood up, and watched Jack escort Chrissy out of the courtroom.
"That went well?" Junior asked.
"It went very well," Regina said with a smile.
Chapter 12: The Trial Part II
The custody battle continues!
Chapter Twelve: The Trial Part II
After the lunch recess, it was time for Teresa and Matt to testify on Junior's behalf. "Ms Mills, you may call your first witness," Judge Gables said.
"Thank you, Your Honor," Regina said standing up. "I call Teresa Earnhardt to the stand." Teresa came into the courtroom, and sat down after being sworn in by the bailiff.
"Mrs. Earnhardt, what is your relationship to my client?" Regina asked.
"He's my stepson, and I'm also his boss," Teresa said.
"And to his daughter, Aislynn?" Regina asked with a smile.
"Mama Teresa," Teresa answered with a smile.
"How is Junior around Aislynn?" Regina questioned as she walked up to the witness stand.
"He careful, kind, and loving," Teresa said. "He's a wonderful father," she added giving Junior a smile.
"Do you remember the night you found Aislynn?" Regina asked.
"Yes. I remember it like it was yesterday," she said.
"Can you describe the night weather?"
"It was December, of course, and it was at least in the mid forties that night."
"Who found Aislynn?"
"Well, the doorbell rang, and my late husband, Dale Sr., went to go answer it," Teresa explained. "He called for Junior and I followed. There in Dale, Sr.'s arms was little Aislynn."
"What was Aislynn's attire that night?" Regina asked.
"She was in a pj set, and she was wrapped in a blanket that was worn and torn," Teresa said.
"No coat or hat?" Regina asked.
"No, nothing," Teresa said. "Just a little diaper bag, and the car seat."
"No clothes other than the ones she was wearing?" Regina asked.
"None. I actually went to Walmart the next morning before Dale Sr. and I went to Junior's to get proper attire."
"Can you explain how Junior managed to hold up his career as a race car driver, and raise Aislynn?" Regina asked.
"Junior always had a baby-sitter for the weekends," Teresa explained.
"Why didn't he bring Aislynn to the tracks with him?"
"Because he didn't want her exposed to the media at such a early age," Teresa said as Regina walked back to her table.
"Who would baby-sit Aislynn when Junior was on the track?" she asked.
"His sister, Kelley, or if I wasn't at the track, I would baby-sit, and Brenda, Junior's mother, was also on hand to babysit."
"What would happen if he won a race?" Regina asked.
"Dale Sr. would relieve Kelley to watch Aislynn during his rookie year," Teresa said and Regina nodded. "After his death it has been either Kelley, Brenda or myself. Taylor, my daughter, babysat sometimes too."
"So, he pretty much has a lot people willing to baby sit?" Regina asked.
"He has five people on speed dial that baby sit Aislynn."
"Thank you." Regina sat down.
"Mrs. Earnhardt, your stepson has been known to be quite the womanizer," Jack said. "How is Aislynn reacting to all the unfamiliar women in the house?" he asked.
"That was a long time ago, Mr. Mortan," Teresa said. "Junior is no longer the womanizer that you claim him to be."
"How so?" he asked.
"He rarely dated after he got Aislynn," Teresa said, "and when he did, he always told them about Aislynn."
"How would they react?"
"Most felt uncomfortable dating a single father, especially if it was Junior. They usually broke up with him after he told them he was a father."
"What about the ones that understood?" Jack asked walking up to the witness stand.
"They stayed with him for a few months before they realized that a moment alone with Junior at his house is always interrupted by Aislynn," Teresa said.
"So, he's had no luck with women?" Jack asked.
"He's currently in a relationship now," she said.
"Emilee Knolls," Teresa said. Emilee sat in the courtroom with Brenda and Kelley. "She's a pediatrician."
"Aislynn's?" Jack asked.
"So, Junior is a full time dad?"
"Yes. He loves that little girl," Teresa said. "He'll do anything for her."
"Would he quit racing if it became too much?" Jack asked hoping to stump Teresa.
"In a heartbeat," Teresa answered smoothly. Jack smiled as he sat down. Regina saw him whispering to Chrissy, who wasn't looking too happy.
"Ms Mills, call your next witness," Gables said.
"I call Matt Kenseth to the stand." The doors swung open and Matt walked in. He was sworn in like Teresa was, and sat down. "Mr. Kenseth, how do you know my client?" Regina asked.
"We're best friends," Matt said, " and we've also been racing together since the Busch Series."
"So, you've watched Aislynn grow up?" Regina asked.
"Yes, I'm Uncle Matt," Matt said with a proud smile that got Regina smiling. Even Gables smiled a little, or at least Junior thought she did. "I was also one of Junior's main baby-sitters during Aislynn's infant years."
"You helped Junior with Aislynn during the time she was an infant?"
"Yes, that's correct."
"On a percentage, how dedicated is Junior to fatherhood?" Regina asked leaning on the table again.
"He puts us other fathers on the track to shame," Matt said. " I would say a hundred and ten percent."
"You have a son, correct?" Regina asked.
"Yes, I do," Matt said.
"Does he come to race tracks with you?"
"Whenever he can," Matt said. "His mother and I aren't together, so he comes to the races on the weekends he's with me."
"Do the other drivers bring their children with them?" she asked.
"Every weekend," Matt answered.
"Thank you." Regina sat down and gave Junior a reassuring smile as Jack stood up.
"Mr. Kenseth, were you expieranced to handle a newborn?"
"I took care of my son, Ross, throughout most of his infancy," Matt said. "His mother had gotten the flu two days after he had gotten home."
"Mr. Earnhardt is known to have a temper on the track." Matt nodded. "Does it ever show at home?"
"No, never," the DeWalt driver said. "He has never let his temper fly at home with Aislynn."
"How can the lifestyle of a race car driver benefit for any child?"
"It gives them a chance to see what their dad does for a living, and it also gives them a chance to get used to all the fans and see the different cities. Aislynn's a big hit with Junior's fans. They all love her."
"So, being a single father hasn't lost him any fans?" Jack asked obviously confused.
"No, it hasn't," Matt said. "In fact, he might have gained some fans after announcing he was a single father."
"Nothing further." Jack sat down, and began to talk to Chrissy. "This is not going well," he whispered to her.
"They're lying," she whispered back. "He's not what they all say he is."
"Ms Mills, do you have any other witnesses?" Gables asked.
"Not at this time, Your Honor." The judge nodded and turned to Jack.
"Mr. Mortan?" she asked.
"I have no more witnesses," he said.
"This court will reconvene next week at ten AM." The judge hit her gavel down and Regina gathered her papers together.
"So, what next?" Junior asked.
"Next week you and Chrissy will have a turn on the stand," Regina said and Junior nodded. He was getting closer and closer to having Aislynn back in his arms.
Chapter 13: A Visit
A surprise visit for father and daughter.
Chapter Thirteen: A Visit
The next Wednesday after the weekend race, Junior walked into the courtroom with Teresa and Kelley. Standing in front of the courtroom was Regina with a smile on her face. "Is there a good reason you're smiling?" he asked.
"I've got great news," she said, her smile getting bigger. "You're going to see Aislynn."
"I am?" Junior asked not believing it.
"He is?" Kelley and Teresa asked at the same time.
"How is that possible?" he asked. Regina pulled out a court paper from her briefcase.
"Jack gave this to the judge on Monday asking for supervised visits with Aislynn," she explained. "The judge is going to view five minute visits you and Chrissy have with Aislynn."
"Five minutes?" Junior asked. "That's it?"
"I'm afraid so," Regina said, "But this is good news for us, and will work in our favor."
"How so?" Teresa asked.
"Well, it's obvious that Junior has the better relationship with Aislynn than Chrissy," Regina said. "Aislynn won't know who Chrissy is, and from what I hear, Aislynn wants to see only one person."
"Me," Junior said.
"That's right, 'Daddy'," Regina said with a smile. "There's no way this will work in Chrissy's favor. This is a sad attempt, on Jack's part, to get the judge to see that Chrissy can be a good mother to Aislynn. You just keep you fingers crossed that Aislynn shows Chrissy a little bit of her Earnhardt spirit." Junior, Teresa and Kelley chuckled together.
"Oh, I know she will," he said.
"Count on it," Kelley said.
"You'll be led to a room with a mirror in it, but the mirror is actually a two way mirror," Regina said. "On the other side, Judge Gables, myself and Jack will supervise the visits. A social worker will bring Aislynn."
"Who's first?" Junior asked.
"Chrissy will be going first," Regina said, "so, sit out here, and a bailiff will come and get you."
"Alright," Junior said and he, Kelley and Teresa sat down on the benches.
Chrissy was led into the small room where she would be meeting Aislynn. She paced the floor nervously, and stopped in front of the "mirror" to make sure she looked okay. She wanted to look nice for her daughter to like her. The door opened and there stood Aislynn holding the social worker's hand. "Hi, Aislynn," she said, "How are you?" Aislynn remained in the doorway, unsure of who this person was, and then she remembered that she was the lady her daddy was yelling at the other day. When Aislynn still didn't move, the social worker had to push her into the room. She closed the door, leaving the three year old with Chrissy. "Do you know who I am, honey?" Chrissy asked.
"No," Aislynn said not wanting to talk the lady. "Where my daddy?" she asked.
"I don't know honey," Chrissy said, " but I'm your mother."
"I want my daddy," Aislynn said. " The lady said I was going to see him."
"He's busy right now."
"No, he not! My daddy always has time for me!" Aislynn shouted and sat herself in the corner of the room away from Chrissy. She was rejecting her and the judge was sighing.
"Give my client some time. The child will warm up to her," Jack said.
"Apparently not, Mr. Mortan. I'll give Ms. Krandell two more minutes, and if Aislynn hasn't "warmed up" to your client, I'm pulling the time." Chrissy tried to take Aislynn into her arms, but the little girl with Earnhardt spirit kicked her in the shin.
"Ouch!" Chrissy shouted.
"That's it, I've seen enough. Get Mr. Earnhardt ready for his time," the judge told the bailiff. The social worker came and got Aislynn who ran over to her, crying.
"I want my daddy!" Aislynn cried. "Daddy!"
Junior's head popped up when the bailiff arrived to escort him to the room. He felt like a caged animal in it with it being so small, and the judge watching from the other side of the "mirror". He suddenly felt very nervous, but didn't know why. The door opened up, and a crying Aislynn was carried into the room. "Aislynn?" Junior called to her. Aislynn's head perked up hearing her father's voice.
"DADDY!!" she shouted and she nearly launched herself out of the woman's arms, and ran into her father's opened ones. Once she was in them, Junior lifted her up as the social worker closed the door.
"Oh, baby, it's so good to see ya," Junior said holding in his tears.
"I missed you a lot, Daddy," the three year old said crying into her daddy's shoulder.
"I missed you too, Munchkin," he said aware that Aislynn had a death grip on his neck. "Munchkin, don't squeeze too tight or daddy'll suffocate."
"Sorry, Daddy," she said letting go of his neck. "Am I going home today?" she asked as they sat down.
"I don't know, baby," he said pulling her at arms length to get a good look at her. "You behaving for the lady?" he asked and Aislynn nodded her head.
"I don't like it at that place I staying at, Daddy," she said.
"Why not?" Junior asked.
"The other kids are mean to me," she said then proceeded to tell him what happened when she arrived at the foster home Social Services placed her in. She hadn't stopped crying when she arrived and the other kids picked on her for it. "One of the older kids said I was spoiled because you rich."
"Sweetie, you are not spoiled," Junior said, " much," he added causing Judge Gables to chuckle. Regina looked over at Jack with a smirk on her face. She was enjoying this as much as he was hating it. Aislynn then proceeded to tell Junior about the food, and how awful it tasted.
"The lady at the building doesn't cook very well," she said.
"Well, I promise you that you'll be home soon, okay?" he said.
"Pinky promise?" she asked with her big puppy eyes.
"Pinky promise." They shook pinkies. "Okay?" Aislynn nodded her head before hugging her dad tightly again. Before Junior knew it, the social worker was back to take Aislynn.
"I wanna stay with you, Daddy." Aislynn cries, tears falling down her face.
"You can't right now, okay? It's like when Daddy gets into his car to race Uncle Matt, and you can't get into it with me, remember?" Aislynn nodded her head sniffling as he stood up. Junior kissed Aislynn on the forehead, and gave her a hug before handing her to the woman. "Be good," he said.
"Okay, Daddy," Aislynn said. "I love you," she said waving.
"I love you too, Munchkin," Junior said as the door closed. Junior sat back down on the chair he was sitting on, and wiped the tear he realized was falling down his cheek. The door opened behind him, letting Regina in, and she placed her hand on his shoulder.
"Hey, you okay?" she asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine," he said took the offered tissue she had in her hand.
"Come on," she said. "Let's not have you break that pinky promise you just made with her." Junior chuckled and followed Regina out of the room.
Chapter 14: Testimony
Junior and Chrissy tell their sides of the story.
Chapter Fourteen: Testimony
Chrissy was the first to tell her side of the story( like there's much to tell). She was sworn in, and Jack began to question her. "Chrissy, when you first found out that you were pregnant, what was the first thing that went through your head?"
"I was frightened, and yet happy at the same time," she said with a smile.
"Why were you scared?" Jack asked.
"Well, Junior told me that he wouldn't be ready for kids when we dated," she said, " and that was the reason for using protection every time we had sex."
"And you were happy?" Jack asked.
"I was going to be a mother," Chrissy said. "Every woman's dream is to a mother."
"Why did you lie to your mother about Mr. Earnhardt breaking up with you?"
"I didn't need her pressuring me into marrying him," she explained. "I didn't want to ruin his career with the baby."
"Chrissy, you were in rehab during most of your pregnancy, correct?" Jack asked.
"Yes, that's correct. I sobered up just as I started my eighth month."
"Your friend Lily took you to the hospital when you were in labor?" he asked.
"Yes, she was also my breathing partner," Chrissy said smiling to Lily in the courtroom.
"Where did you go after Aislynn was born?" Jack asked.
"I moved in with Lily," she said.
"What made you go to Junior's that night in November?" Jack asked.
"Unfortunately I started drinking again," Chrissy said trying to sound apologetic. " Social Services threatened to take Aislynn away if I didn't sober up. Lily said she wouldn't be able take care of her, and neither could my mom," she said. " So, I went to Junior's to tell him about Aislynn."
"What happened when you got to Junior's house?"
"There were cars all over the place," she said. " He was having a party cause he won the Busch series championship that year."
"Why leave Aislynn the way you did?" Jack asked.
"I didn't want to embarrass myself in front of Junior's friends and family."
"Any other reasons?"
"I wanted Aislynn to have the best care. I loved her so much I left her with her father knowing that she would be taken care of, and now that I'm sobered up, I want a chance to take care of her the way a mother should."
"Thank you, Chrissy." Jack sat down as Regina began her questioning.
"You didn't want to embarrass yourself?" Regina asked. "That's why you left your daughter on the porch?"
"Unfortunately, yes,"Chrissy said.
"Do you have plans looking for a job in the future?" Regina asked.
"I do," Chrissy said.
"So, you're currently unemployed?" Regina asked walking up to the witness stand.
"Yes, I'm on welfare actually."
"Have you had a job at all since being pregant?" the red headed lawyer asked.
"I had a job at a bookstore," Chrissy said, "but the heavy lifting I was required to do put too much strain on my back. I quit."
"Why not ask Junior for help?" Chrissy lowered her head.
"I didn't think he'd help me."
"Why?" Regina asked.
"Because I thought he wouldn't want to put his career on the line," she said.
"But you did that anyway when you abandoned Aislynn."
"I know, and I'm sorry," Chrissy said looking at Junior.
"Why didn't you dress Aislynn warmer for the weather?" Regina asked.
"I, I thought it wasn't that cold," Chrissy said.
"It's different for a baby. Did you know that?" Chrissy didn't answer.
"Ms Krandell, answer the question," Gables said.
"It's okay, Your Honor. She doesn't have to," Regina said. "I have nothing further." Regina sat back down as Chrissy made her way to her seat.
"This court will recess for an one hour lunch," the judge said hitting her gavel.
Regina and Junior had lunch in her office. She thanked her assistant as she took the food from her. "Jack knows that Chrissy doesn't stand a chance," she said opening her chinese take out. Junior nodded taking chopsticks from her to eat his. "Once you're on the stand, you'll be comfortable with the questioning. Then when it's Jack's turn, it'll be over before you know it."
"How long do you think the judge will take to decide?" Junior asked.
"At least an hour at the most." Junior nodded as he put some noodles into his mouth.
"You know, in a way I kinda feel bad for Chrissy," he suddenly said.
"Why is that?" Regina asked.
"Well, she takes several trips to rehab to try and get herself sober," he said "and when she does, she has to have this big fight in court to get Aislynn back."
"But like you said before, why does she want Aislynn back after abandoning her on your porch in the first place?" Regina reminded him.
"Exactly," Junior said. "I mean, she thought she could settle this by showing up on my front door step telling me to give her Aislynn back."
"She did that first?"
"Well, I'll bring that up when I have you on the stand." Junior nodded. They finished their lunch before heading back to the courtroom.
"Mr. Earnhardt, is Aislynn happy at home?" Regina asked Junior.
"Objection!" Jack called out.
"On what grounds?" Regina asked. " Mr. Earnhardt's home was hers for nearly four years."
"Overruled," Gables called. "Mr. Mortan, please object to a question that makes sense."
"Sorry, Your Honor."
"You may answer the question, Mr. Earnhardt," the judge said.
"Yes, she is," Junior answered.
"Were you reluctant to take Aislynn at first?" his lawer asked.
"No," he answered. " My father always taught me responsibilities, and I had a responsibility to take care of Aislynn."
"Was the family supportive?" she asked with a smile.
"Yes, they were, and they still are," he said. Teresa, Taylor, Kelley, Brenda and the whole family were in the courtroom. As was Chrissy's family sitting on the other side, although, Junior's side was more filled up.
"Your line of work is very dangerous, correct?"
"Yes, it is," he said. "Every weekend."
"Do you have a will made up in case something does happen to you?" she asked.
"Yes, I do." Regina handed a copy of the will to the judge as Junior continued. "It states Teresa Earnhardt as Aislynn's legal guardian if I were to be killed in an accident on the track, or if anything happens to me for that matter."
"And you always have a baby-sitter?" Regina asked.
"Five on speed dial, and if I can't find a baby sitter, I cancel the event that I had planned." Regina nodded.
"Your main sponsor is Budweiser, which is an alcoholic beverage, correct?"
"Yes, that's correct."
"Do you drink when Aislynn's around?" Regina asked.
"No, never," Junior said shaking his head.
"How about in victory lane?" she asked. "Your crew has tendencies to let if fly all over the place," she added.
"The Bud crew knows that if they shoot beer when Aislynn's in Victory Lane, they'll have me to answer to," he said causing Regina and the entire courtroom to chuckle, even the judge. "Most of the time she's never there until it's after that," he added.
"After Ms Krandell broke up with you, when was the next time you saw her?" Regina asked.
"About the end of March," he said. "She showed up demanding that I give her Aislynn back."
"Was that the only time?" she asked.
"She showed up again the next day, demanding the same thing. She even saw Aislynn that time," he said causing Jack looked over at his client. Chrissy had told him that she never saw Aislynn until the visit in the room.
"What happened?" Regina asked.
"I picked Aislynn up and proceeded to take her back to her room," Junior said, " and Chrissy started to come into the house and I told her not to."
"And that was the last time you saw her until the first day in court?" she asked.
"Yes, that's correct," he said.
"Mr. Earnhardt," Jack began standing up, "you're known to have wild parties, right?"
"Yes, I was," Junior said.
"You even have a club in your basement?"
"If you're referring to Club 'E' that's now a family room," Junior said.
"What?" Jack asked.
"It was renovated in February, and was finished in March," Junior said.
"What about before?"
"Aislynn was never allowed down there, and if I had parties they were only birthday parties for myself or a friend," Junior said. "Aislynn would be with her aunt or grandma then."
"Do you drink your free beer at all?" Jack asked.
"Yes, I do," Junior said.
"Do you get drunk?" the lawyer asked.
"A couple of times before I got Aislynn, but when I became a father, I toned my drinking down," Junior expIained. "I only have one or two beers whenever she's not around."
"So, getting drunk is not a regular thing for you?"
"No, I rarely get drunk."
"Nothing further," Jack said having nother left the Budweiser driver and Junior got down off the stand and sat down. The judge went through her papers before ordering the court to be in recess until she decides. Regina sighed as she stood up.
"Now comes the hard part."
"What's that?" Junior asked.
"The waiting." She gathered her things and led Junior out of the courtroom. They headed to her office to wait for the judge to decide the verdict.
Chapter 15: Final Verdict
The judge makes her decision.
Chapter Fifteen: Final Verdict
Junior had never been so nervous in his life. They had just gotten word that the judge had made her decision, and they headed back to the courtroom. Chrissy and Jack were already there when they came into the room, and Jack approached Regina. "Ms Mills, my client would like to make a deal," he said causing Regina to chuckle.
"A little too late for that Mr. Mortan," she said. " I have a feeling that I'm going to like the judge's decision." Regina sat down as Junior strummed his fingers on the table. "Hey, relax, Junior," she said. "You've got this in the bag."
"All rise!!" the bailiff said. Everybody stood up as the judge made her way to her bench.
"You may be seated," she said. Everyone sat back down and put their attention to the judge. "A decision like this concerning a young child, is a difficult one," she started. "I've looked at both parents to determine which lifestyle would be better for the child. Her father has a job that allowed him to raise her for nearly four years. Her mother doesn't have a job, and I'm quite sure that even if things go your way Ms Krandell, you wouldn't have bothered looking for one," she said causing Chrissy to frown. " You have claimed that you loved your daughter with all your heart, but abandoning her in the frigid cold like you did, does not count for an act of love. Apparently you didn't want to keep her because you could of easily given her to Social Services to care for while you rehabilitated yourself." The judge looked at Junior. "Mr. Earnhardt is willing to quit his racing career if he has to, but from the way he explained his raising of Aislynn, I don't think he needs to. He puts his daughter first ahead of all other things, and arranged his career so he could raise her. Judging from the visits the child had with each parent, the child has a better relationship with her father," she said. "So, my decision is this, I'm granting full, sole custody of Aislynn Earnhardt to her father, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and no visitation rights are to be awarded to her mother, Chrissy Krandell." The judge hit her gavel. "Case ajourned," she said and she left the courtroom. Junior released the breath he realized he was holding, and gave Regina a big hug.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you," he said over and over again.
"Your welcome," Regina said. Junior looked over to the other side to see that Chrissy was crying as her mother tried to comfort her. Junior's family and friends all hugged him before they went outside to retrieve Aislynn.
Junior found himself pacing as they waited for Social Services to bring Aislynn to him. "What could possibly be taking so long?" he asked.
"Junior, you've won. Relax, they'll bring her," Matt said. Junior nodded and stopped pacing. Five minutes went by before he heard the one voice that brought joy to his heart.
"Daddy!!" Junior turned around to see Aislynn running up to him. "Daddy!" Junior got down on his knees, and caught her in his opened arms. He lifted her up, hugging her tightly.
"Oh, my baby. I'm so glad I got ya." He kissed her in the head before rubbing her back softly. "You okay?" he asked.
"Yeah, I fine, Daddy," Aislynn said. "Are we going home now?" she asked.
"Yes, we are going home, baby."
Junior took Aislynn home, and was greeted by Emilee who had to be at work. "Hey," Junior said seeing her coming out of the house.
"Hey, you two," Emilee greeted back.
"Emilee!" Aislynn shouted. "Pick up," Aislynn said telling Emilee to pick her up, and Emilee did that with Junior glaring at her.
"I wish people would stop spoiling my child," he said.
"Oh, Junior. All I did was pick her up," Emilee said. "Besides, you spoil her more than everybody else."
"I have a right to spoil her. I'm her father." Emilee chuckled as she put Aislynn down. "You want to watch a movie, munchkin?"
"Yeah, A Bug's Life!" Aislynn shouted, telling the two adults her movie choice. Junior chuckled as he got the 'A Bug's Life' DVD from the shelf. He popped it in, and pushed play.
"I'll call for pizza," he said. Aislynn just giggled as she settled herself down to watch the movie. She was happy to be home.
Junior stood in the doorway of his daughter's room watching her sleep. She had fallen asleep during the movie, like always. She was now tucked into her bed, hugging her teddy bear, and for some reason, not sucking her thumb. He walked up to her bed, and pulled the cover closer to her. He placed a gentle kiss on her forehead before leaving the room, turning her night light on to a lower brightness. "She asleep?" Emilee asked.
"Sound asleep." He sat next to her, and allowed her to rest her head on his lap. "I'm glad this thing is over," he said.
"Me too," Emilee said.
"All I want to do now is to move on with our lives," he said.
"You got my vote on that," she said Junior chuckled as he ran his fingers through her hair. "Hey, did you tell her about the Disney Cruise you have planned for before Christmas?"
"Not yet," he said. "I was going to wait until after things cooled down a bit. I've already informed Mrs. Karr about it."
"That's good," she said.
Several months went by before things actually did calm down. The circuit came back to Talladega, and everything looked to Junior. If he won, he would tie the record of straight wins at Talladega with Buddy Baker. Aislynn, who turned four last month in August, was going to the track to root for her daddy. Aunt Kelley was going with them to watch her. Practice went well, then they qualified. Junior started in pretty good spot. He spent the rest of his time with Aislynn. "Okay, I need to tell you something." Junior said bringing Aislynn onto his knee.
"Yeah, Daddy?" she asked.
"Remember that little vacation time Daddy gets after his racing is done?" Aislynn nodded her head. "Well, Daddy's going to take you with him, and we're going on that Disney Cruise." Aislynn shouted with glee.
"We are!? We going to see Mickey and Minnie and Goofy?"
"Yep, we are." Aislynn squealed again and gave her daddy a big hug.
"Thank you, Daddy!" she said. Everything was soon back to where it was before Chrissy came into the picture. Aislynn was happy where she was, and everyone around her enjoyed watching her. Although, she still tortures her Uncle Kevin. She also started calling the other rookie, 'Uncle Ryan', but he didn't mind. Ryan's girlfriend, Krissie, thought it was cute, and it would give Ryan practice for when they get down to having kids. Things went rather well for the Bud team. Junior won the race, and the No Bull million dollars for himself and a fan. The rest of the season was kinda slow for them. Since the custody hearing, Junior's racing had been a little off, and dropped out of the Top Ten during the summer. He managed to bring himself back up to 11th, but wouldn't get time to be on the stage. Which was good, since him and Aislynn were going to the cruise after Thanksgiving. They had their bags packed for days now, and soon it was time to leave.
Chapter 16: Back To Normal
Junior and Aislynn settle back into their lives after the trial.
Chapter Sixteen: Back to Normal
The cruise was the best thing Junior did for Aislynn. It was just the two of them, and they had the time of their lives. They took the DEI jet to Miami where a boat took them out to the ship. Aislynn loved Mickey, and Minnie. The well trusted employees of the cruise line had many activities for Aislynn to do without having her father around. That gave Junior time to do things for himself. They did go to the private island Disney owned. Captain Hook was there, and led them all on a treasure hunt. Before Aislynn knew it, the cruise was over, and the two of them headed home. Junior sighed as he entered their house. A DEI employee helped bring in the luggage. "Thanks, Rick," Junior said trying not to wake the sleeping Aislynn in his arms.
"No problem, Junior. See ya later," Rick said before he closed the door behind him as Junior headed to Aislynn's room to put her to bed.
"Alright, munchkin." He carefully laid her down on her bed, and got her into her pajamas. "Sweet dreams, baby." He gave her a kiss on the forehead, and left her room, turning the night light on.
The cruise ship gave Junior a chance to do Christmas shopping for Aislynn while she was off with Mickey or Minnie. By the time the cruise was over, he had most of it done. There was only one week left until it was Christmas, and Junior and Aislynn were set to decorate the house. So they won't have to mess with the loose needles or the yucky water that keeps the tree living, Junior and Aislynn got a fake tree from Lowe's. That and several new decorations, like the icicle lights that hung from the roof. "Okay, baby girl, what colors are going to be on the tree this year?" he asked.
"Red and green," the four year old replied.
"Okay, red and green it is," Junior said as he picked up new red and green lights from the shelf and put them in the cart. Junior moved to get some ornaments and Aislynn looked behind her daddy and squealed when she saw her Uncle Jimmie.
"Uncle Jimmie!" she shouted. Junior turned around to see Jimmie pulling up beside them with his girlfriend, Chandra.
"Hey, bunny," Jimmie said giving Aislynn a hug. "What are you doing here?" he asked Junior.
"Well, Aislynn and I needed a new tree," Junior said pointing to the boxed blue spruce in the cart.
"A fake one this year?" Jimmie asked.
"Well, last year, Bud tried to drink the water that we use to keep the tree alive," Junior said with Aislynn making a face, " and we had a pine needle mess when we took it out of the house."
"Yeah, and it'll save you lot's of money," Jimmie pointed out.
"Like I need to save money," Junior joked.
"True," Jimmie commented. "Junior, this is Chandra, my girlfriend," he said gesturing to the blonde to his left, and Junior and Chandra shook hands.
"Nice to meet you," Chandra said.
"Likewise," Junior said.
"You pretty, Chanda," Aislynn said causing the adults to laugh.
"Thank you, Aislynn," Chandra said not bothering to correct the little girl on her name. "I didn't see you at the ceremonies," she said to Junior.
"I was away on a cruise with Aislynn," he said.
"The Disney cruise," Aislynn added.
"Oh, yes. If I don't say it was the Disney cruise then I am in a heap of trouble." Chandra and Jimmie laughed. Aislynn spent ten minutes telling them about the cruise from Minnie and Mickey to Captain Hook and the treasure hunt.
"And where was Dad?" Jimmie asked.
"Christmas shopping for a certain four year old," Junior answered and Aislynn raised her hand.
"That me," she said.
"And for a certain niece of mine," Junior said.
"That Karsyn, she my cousin," Aislynn explained to Chandra.
"Wow, Junior, sounds like you have a lot of girls in your life," she said.
"That I do," Junior said. "I got two moms, lots of grandmas, some aunts, two sisters, a niece, a daughter, and a girlfriend." Jimmie and Chandra laughed. They talked for several more minutes before they parted ways.
"Bye, Uncle Jimmie!" Aislynn shouted waving to Jimmie. Him and Chandra waved as Junior turned them down an aisle. Father and daughter finally got home, and started to set up the tree. The doorbell rang as Junior was setting up the tree. "Aislynn, can you get that?" Junior asked.
"Okay, Daddy," Aislynn said and went to the door to open it. Emilee stood there carrying McDonald's bags.
"Hey, honey." Emilee walked in, and headed to Junior. "Hey," she said as Aislynn closed the door.
"Hey." They kissed before Emilee showed him the food.
"I brought dinner," she said.
"Oh, you are a doll." Emilee giggled as she set the food on the table. "We're doing red and green this year."
"That'll look nice," Emilee said as Aislynn sat herself next to the table as she opened her Happy Meal. "Chicken nuggets for Aislynn."
"What do you say Aislynn?" Junior said trying to get Aislynn to remember her manners.
"Thank you," Aislynn said.
"You're welcome, sweetheart." Aislynn immediately dug into her nuggets before her dad came to get his food after getting the tree to sit up straight.
"Is it straight?" he asked Emilee. Emilee stood up to look at tree from a distant.
"Looks straight to me," she said. Junior chuckled as he began to unwrap his burger. They all ate in light conversation before they started to decorate the tree. "I think Aislynn was right to choose red and green this year," Emilee said after they finished with the tree.
"Me, too." Aislynn had long since fallen asleep, and was put to bed. It was just him and Emilee putting away the boxes for the decorations. "Can I ask you something?" he asked.
"Sure," she said. Junior pulled her down onto the couch, and took her hands into his.
"I'm not sure how to do this, but here it goes," he said. "I love you so much."
"I love you, too," she said smiling.
"You've been there for me and Aislynn through the trial, and through all my crashes and wrecks. I want to spend the rest of my life with you." He reached into his pocket, and pulled out a diamond ring. "Emilee Knolls, will you marry me?" Junior asked. Emilee gasped as he got down on one knee in front of her.
"Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes, and did I mention 'yes'?" Junior laughed as he put the ring on her finger, and planted a big wet one on her lips.
Announcing the engagement was put on hold for the Christmas dinner at his house. Christmas morning was full of Aislynn ripping the wrapping paper off her presents at record speed. Junior got her mostly Disney stuff, which she didn't mind, and besides the engagement ring for Emilee, Junior got her a pearl necklace with matching earrings. After their Christmas morning, they prepared for dinner which they volunteered to have so they could announce their engagement.
The dinner started shortly after all the guests arrived. Brenda, Junior's stepdad, Kelley, Karsyn, Kerry, his wife, Grandma Earnhardt, Teresa, Taylor, the Eurys and other members. Emilee looked to Junior who gave her a look, and she nodded her head. Junior stood up, clinking his glass. "Excuse me, may I have your attention please?" Everybody looked at Junior, causing him to get nervous all of a sudden. 'This is your family for crying out loud.' he thought to himself. "I would like to make an announcement. Now, you're probably wondering why Em and I volunteered to have the dinner this year. As you all know, Emilee and I have been dating for a year, and many people, mostly in the media, " he said causing everyone to chuckle, "have been questioning if we were getting married soon. Well, worry not, Emilee and I are now engaged." The table exploded into cheers, and whistles as Emilee stood up and showed off her ring. Everyone got back to their dinner, the women already starting to talk about the wedding.
After the dinner, presents were handed out. The wrapping never stood a chance with Aislynn or Karsyn. Teresa and Taylor gave Aislynn a new playground set. That would go out next to the castle playground she had. One by one, the guests began to leave. By the time Brenda had left, the last one of the guests, Aislynn was fast asleep. Emilee helped Junior put her to bed, turning her nightlight on and put her teddy bear into bed with her. She watched Junior pull the covers over his daughter and give her a kiss on her forehead. "Thanks for your help, Em," he said.
"No problem," she said. They walked out of Aislynn's room, and walked into his room. Junior barely had time to react when she pulled him by the belt onto the bed. He grunted when she landed on him. "I love you," she said.
"I love you, too," he said, "but you have a funny way of getting me in bed to show it." Emilee chuckled before they sealed their love with a kiss before a small voice pulled them apart.
"Daddy?" Junior sighed as he got off Emilee.
"I'll be right back," he said before heading to Aislynn's room.
"What's up, munchkin?" he asked.
"I thirsty," the little girl said.
"Okay, let's go." Junior lifted her up, and carried her to the bathroom to get her water. "You okay now?" he asked as she finished the glass of water. She nodded as she put the cup down. Junior lifted his daughter in his arms, and headed back to her room.
"Daddy, is Emilee my mom?"
"No, honey, she isn't," Junior told her putting her down on her bed.
"Then what is she?" she asked.
"She's your new mom," he said.
"Ohhh," the four year old pondered. "Well, that good, cuz I didn't like that other lady." Junior chuckled as he brushed some of her hair back. "I love you, Daddy," she said.
"I love you, too, munchkin," he said. He kissed her on the forehead, and pulled the covers up on her. "Sweet dreams, baby." He turned her light off leaving the night light on, and left the room. Junior returned to Emilee to find her asleep, and crawled into bed next to her. He kissed her on the temple before turning off the light, and falling asleep.
Chapter 17: Uncle Jimmie's Bad Day
Title pretty much explains it all.
Aislynn watched as Junior showed her how to tie her shoe. She giggled as he spoke to her as he did it. "You make a loop, tie it around, and pull through," he said as he finished. "There, now you try." Aislynn grabbed her laces, and began the process of tying them.
"Pull through," she said as she finished her laces.
"That was close enough," Junior said before he retied it.
"I'll never get it, Daddy," she whined sticking out her lower lip.
"Yes, you will," Junior said. "You can practice with Uncle Jimmie today." Aislynn nodded as she went to get her coat. Junior finally took Jimmie up on his offer to babysit Aislynn and called him up to watch Aislynn all day so he could spend some time with Emilee and help her plan the wedding. Jimmie agreed right away, and was on his way to pick Aislynn up. Junior even heard that Jimmie bought a car seat for his Silverado.
"Daddy, are you going to ask Emi to be my new mom?" Junior chuckled at the four year old's question and he took Aislynn by the shoulders.
"Maybe," he said getting her to giggle. The doorbell rang and Junior answered it to reveal Jimmie on the other end. "Hey, Jimmie."
"Uncle Jimmie!" Aislynn shouted as she ran over to him. Jimmie caught the four year old and lifted her up.
"Hey, bunny, ready to go?" Aislynn nodded. She loved the nickname her Uncle Jimmie called her. When Junior inquired why he called her 'bunny', Jimmie replied 'It's because she hops up and down like one.'
"Your coat, young lady," Junior said. Jimmie put her down, and helped her get her coat on. "Try not to spoil her too much today."
"Right," Jimmie said.
"And we are learning to tie our shoes," Junior added. Jimmie nodded as he picked up Aislynn. "Okay, be good for Uncle Jimmie," he said and Aislynn nodded, "and don't wander off from him," he added in regards to her habit of wandering off.
"Okay, daddy." Aislynn kissed her father on the cheek before Jimmie carried her to his car.
Jimmie's plans were to take Aislynn to the movies to see 'Finding Nemo', then off to the video aracde to play games before stopping at Aislynn's favorite ice cream place for an ice cream, and then finally he would take her home.
Aislynn enjoyed the movie, laughing every time Dorey forgot something or said something funny and she ate practically all the popcorn. After the movie, it was on to the arcade. They entered the arcade to find it fairly crowded and Jimmie picked Aislynn up so he wouldn't lose her. They played skeet ball, hit crocodiles with a hammer, and other cool games, air hockey, basketball. They even raced on a racing game, Jimmie working on the shifting gears, brake and gas pedal while Aislynn steered. They lost. Jimmie then attempted the crane game, but came up empty. Aislynn then spotted a Ms. Pacman game. "Uncle Jimmie, Ms. Pacman," she said. Knowing how much she loved that game, Jimmie allowed her to lead him to the game. "Let's play it," she said
"Okay, okay." Jimmie dug into his pocket looking for tokens, but came up empty. He looked around to see the nearest coin machine was across the room. "We need more tokens, let's go."
"No, someone might take the game," Aislynn said climbing onto the stool. "I'll save it for us." Jimmie sighed.
"Okay, but you stay here, okay?" he said. Aislynn nodded. "I'll just be across the room. Don't wander off." The nearly five year old nodded again and Jimmie went over to the machine to get tokens. He looked back to see Aislynn still watching the demo screen. He got to the machine, and looked back again to still see Aislynn before putting money in the machine. The tokens fell into the dish, and Jimmie gathered them into his hands. He walked back to the game counting the coins in his hands. "Okay, bunny..." He looked up to not see Aislynn at the game. "Aislynn?" he called out. He looked around the game thinking she had gotten down. "Aislynn?" he called out again. 'Oh, great, she wandered off.' he thought. He looked anywhere close to the game, but still couldn't find Aislynn. "Aislynn?!" His shouts drew some looks toward him. He asked several people if they saw her, but no one saw her. He finally went to the manager who called his employees to search the arcade. When the employees came back empty handed, the manager called the police.
The SVU detectives (think NBC SVU detectives Elliot and Olivia) were called in because Aislynn was just a little girl. Jimmie called Junior who left his date with Emilee and hurried down to the mall. "Jimmie!" Jimmie turned around to see Junior running up. The arcade was emptied for the detectives to work. "What happened?" Junior asked.
"Junior, I'm so sorry," he said, "I just turned my back for two seconds...."
"What happened?!" Junior demanded causing the Hendricks driver to jump.
"She's gone. Aislynn's gone," Jimmie said. "The detectives think someone snatched her while my back was turned. I'm so sorry, Junior."
"It's not your fault, Jimmie," Junior said, patting the Lowe's driver on the back, "I'm sorry I yelled at you."
"It's okay, and it is my fault," Jimmie said. "I shouldn't of left her by herself."
"Jimmie," Junior said taking the Lowe's driver by the shoulders to look in his eyes, "it's not your fault," he said that again. Jimmie nodded though he still felt somewhat responsible.
"Mr. Earnhardt?" Junior turned around to have a detective in his face. "I'm Detective Mabler, and this is my partner, Detective Jenson." Junior shook hands with them. "We'll be handling your daughter's case," Mabler said. He nodded as Jenson took Jimmie aside for questioning. "Mr. Earnhardt, can you think of anyone who'd want to take Aislynn?" Mabler asked.
"Her mother," Junior answered right away.
"You seem so sure about that," the detective said.
"Last year her mother sued for custody," Junior said, " and Aislynn ended up with me."
"What is this woman's name?" Mabler asked taking out his notepad.
"Chrissy Krandell. K-R-A-N-D-E-L-L." Mabler nodded as he wrote it down.
"Do you remember where she lived last?" he asked.
"Chrissy and I aren't on speaking terms, and things got even more distant after the hearing," Junior explained. " I haven't heard from Chrissy or her mother." The detective nodded writing everything down.
"Can you tell me what Aislynn had on today?"
"Hello Kitty tshirt, blue jeans, Hello Kitty shoes, and her little Budweiser jacket," Junior said, " and I braided her hair into pigtails today using her Hello Kitty barrettes." Mabler chuckled.
"Big Hello Kitty fan?" Mabler asked.
"You have no idea," Junior replied.
"We'll need a recent picture of her." Junior dug into his wallet, and found the Easter photo of Aislynn and him at Church that Kelley had taken. "We'll get this back to you," Mabler said, "and don't worry, we'll find your daughter."
Meanwhile, Detective Jenson was interviewing Jimmie. "Was there anything out of the ordinary when you went into the arcade? Anybody that followed you after the movie?" she asked.
"Not that I recall," Jimmie replied. "The arcade was pretty packed."
"Did you notice anyone suspicious?" she asked. Jimmie shook his head. "Tell me what happened when you had to get more tokens."
"I told Aislynn we needed more tokens, but she was afraid someone was going to take the game, so I let her sit on the stool, and watch the demo video while I went to get more tokens. I looked back twice to make sure she was there, and then I put my money into the machine I gathered the coins up, and walked back to the game. When I looked up, she wasn't on the stool. She has a habit of wandering off, so I looked for her, and when I couldn't find and people didn't see when I asked, I went to the manager. They called you guys when they couldn't find her."
"Who'd want to take Aislynn?" Jenson asked.
"My guess is her mother," Jimmie said.
"Aislynn's mother and Mr. Earnhardt are not together?" she asked.
"No," Jimmie said. "There was a huge custody battle last year for Aislynn, and Junior got custody while Chrissy was left in the dark."
"Left in the dark?"
"No visitation of any kind," Jimmie explained. "Aislynn didn't like Chrissy." Jenson nodded, writing down the information.
"What was Aislynn wearing today?" she asked. Jimmie sighed trying to think what Aislynn was wearing.
"Blue jeans, a Hello Kitty tshirt and her Hello Kitty shoes, and her little Budweiser jacket," he said. Jenson wrote the description down in her notepad.
"Thank you." Jimmie nodded. The detectives regrouped, sharing information, and they named Chrissy the main suspect.
The detectives went looking for Chrissy, but they couldn't find her. This rouse their suspicions of her even more, so they talked with her friends then went to her mother. "Mrs. Krandell, when was the last time you saw your daughter?" Jenson asked.
"It was the day after the custody hearing. She was really shaken up about it," Louise said.
"Was she mad that she didn't get custody?" Mabler asked.
"Not a lot," Louise said in an uneasy tone.
"Mrs. Krandell?" Mabler asked.
"Okay, Chrissy was furious," Louise said. "She believed Junior was an unfit parent because of his party animal ways."
"Junior changed though," Jenson said.
"She had it in her mind that it was all an act to impress the judge. She went crazy."
"Crazy?" Jenson asked.
"She started to become paranoid that Aislynn would want to be just like her dad," Louise said, "and she regretted ever leaving her with Junior."
"Where is she now?"Mabler asked.
"A couple weeks ago, she had the most psychotic episode I have ever seen. She became so temperamental, I had to call her doctor. She's in the mental hospital in Raleigh." The detectives sighed.
"Thank you, Mrs. Krandell," Mabler said. He and Jenson stood up.
"So much for Chrissy being a suspect,"Jenson said.
"She's not off the hook yet," Mabler said.
They checked with the hospital, and it turned out to be pointless. Chrissy had been put in a padded room, and kept under isolation. She's had no visitors, and wasn't permitted to use the phone. She was off the hook, for now. They had questioned the people who were in the arcade. One woman said that she saw a young blonde woman approach Aislynn from behind, but didn't actually see her take her. A little boy saw the woman carrying Aislynn out of the arcade through the fire escape. Aislynn looked like she was sleeping, and assumed that a mommy was taking her kid home. Of course, it was three in the afternoon at the time Aislynn was kidnapped, the detectives don't think Aislynn was sleeping. The detectives chased leads that led them to dead ends all the time, and decided to hand the cast over the FBI's Missing Persons agents.
A phone tap and Junior's home and work phone when they started the investigation. The detectives were at Junior's house when the call came. Junior answered the phone like he always did. "Hello?"
"Daddy?" a little voice said.
"Aislynn?" The detectives jumped up out of their seats. "Aislynn, is that you?"
"I'm scared, Daddy," Aislynn said sounding really frightened. "Please come get me, Daddy."
"Where are you, baby?"
"I don't know. It's really dark," she said. "I can't see."
"Just try honey. What can you see?" There was some silence before Aislynn came back to the phone.
"I can see a house. It looks like it's red and white." Suddenly, Aislynn cried out in fear.
"Aislynn?" The phone went dead. "Aislynn?" All Junior heard was a dial tone. He looked at the detectives. "Did you get a location?"
"Only that she's still in North Carolina," Jenson said.
"We'll have the state police on the look out." Martinez said. "They will not get out of the state." Junior nodded as he prayed that Aislynn was alright.
Chapter 18: A New Lead
A new lead in the FBI's investigation brings Aislynn closer to home.
Weeks went by since Aislynn called, and the FBI agents were beginning to worry. No ransom demand had been made, and the agents believed who ever took her had no plans of returning her. Jimmie was worried that they could possibly find Aislynn dead, but Junior told him to never think that, especially with Aislynn. Jimmie had been kicking himself since day of the kidnapping. He blamed himself for letting Aislynn by herself, but the stubborn Earnhardt in her refused to let him leave that game unattended. He would call Junior almost every day if there was anything new, and he would get the same answer every time. No. Those few weeks turned to months, until the FBI got a call from a State trooper at the border of West Virginia.
A young woman had been pulled over for speeding, and the trooper immediately noticed the little girl in the back, sleeping. When asked about the little girl, the woman said she was her daughter. The trooper had the woman turn off her engine, and took her registration and license. He went back to his car, and found a picture of Aislynn on the Amber Alert on his screen. There was an uncanning resemblance of Aislynn to the little girl in the car. He called for back up before he had the woman get out of her car. He began to question her about her daughter, asking her name and other things. The woman answered each one, but was getting antsy about the length of time this traffic stop was taking. She kept looking to the little girl in the car who was starting to wake up. "Look, is this going to take any longer? I have to get my daughter home," she said. She turned around when she had heard other sirens, and sighed out.
"Ma'am, are you aware that a little girl who looks exactly like your daughter was kidnapped two months ago?"
"No, I wasn't." The officer could tell she was lying. The little girl in the back seat began to cry, and the woman tried to go for her, but
the officer held her back. "My daughter is crying," she said.
"I want my daddy!" the little girl shouted. The back-up troopers arrived, and restrained the woman as he went over to the car. He opened
the door, and looked at the girl. "Can you take me to my daddy?" she asked.
"What's your name sweetheart?" he asked her.
"Aislynn Earnhardt," she said. "My daddy drives the Budweiser car on the race tracks." The trooper smiled, and lifted Aislynn into his arms.
"You're daddy has been so worried about you," he said.
"Can I go see him?" she asked.
"You sure can, sweetheart."
Aislynn was taken to the hospital to be checked over and Junior was notified immediately. He arrived at the hospital with FBI agents, Kent and Crisp. They were greeted by the troopers. "Is my baby, okay?" Junior asked.
"She's fine, Mr. Earnhardt," the trooper said. "I'm Trooper McManus." Junior and him shook hands. "The young woman who had Aislynn was identified as Lily Hamilton."
"Lily Hamilton?" Junior asked. McManus nodded.
"Do you know her?" Agent Crisp asked.
"She's Chrissy's best friend," Junior said.
"Miss Krandell is in a ward, there's no way she could've done something like this," Agent Kent said.
"Unless they planned it before she went into the ward," Crisp said.
"Miss Hamilton is at the station, and refusing to say anything without a lawyer," McManus said.
"She's going to need one after I'm through with her," Junior said.
"DADDY!!" Junior turned around to see Aislynn running toward him with a nurse in tow. He got down in time for her to catapult herself into his arms. He stood up, hugging her tightly. "Daddy, you're squishing me," she whined.
"Oh, I'm sorry, honey." He pulled Aislynn arms length to get a good look at her. "You okay?" he asked and she nodded. Junior looked to the nurse. "Nothing's wrong?" he asked her.
"Aside from the side effects from the medicine she was given, she'll be fine in a few days." Junior nodded and pulled Aislynn closer
to her. "You can sign her out over at the desk," the nurse said.
"Thanks." He headed over to the desk as the agents assessed an idea.
"Miss Hamilton is at the station if you want to talk to her," McManus said. "My theory, it was Miss Krandell's idea and she was just
following orders." Junior came back over from signing Aislynn out, and shook hands with the trooper.
"Thanks again," he said to Trooper McManus. "I can't thank you enough."
"There is one thing, Mr. Earnhardt," he said.
"Could I possibly get an autograph for my daughter?" McManus asked holding out a pen and pad causing to Junior chuckle.
"Sure," he said taking the pad and pen from him.
Lily sat in the interrogating room with her lawyer while the agents were planning to move on her. "How do you want to play it?" Crisp asked.
"Nice and slow," Kent said. He entered the room, and Lily looked up. "Good afternoon, Miss Hamilton," he said. "I'm Agent Kent, this is my
partner, Agent Crisp. We're with the FBI." The look of fear graced Lily's face.
"It was just a routine traffic stop, Agent Kent," the lawyer said. "My client did nothing wrong."
"Can your client explain why Aislynn Earnhardt was in her car?" Kent asked.
"Two months ago, Aislynn Earnhardt was kidnapped from an arcade at the Galleria in Mooresville. Your client claimed that she was her daughter when asked about her," Kent said.
"Aislynn has been returned to her father," Crisp said. "Miss Hamilton is facing kidnapping charges, Mr..."
"Mortan. Jack Mortan." (Yep, he's back)
"Was this your idea, Lily?" Kent asked.
"I have nothing to say," Lily said.
"You're willing to go to prison for your friend, or is there something we're missing?" Crisp asked.
"My client has nothing to say," Jack said.
"We're not finished. We did some digging, and found something interesting," Kent said. "Chrissy Krandell called your client two days before she went to the insane asylum. The call lasted for a good half hour."
"Just two friends enjoying a chat," Jack said.
"Two weeks after she went into the ward, Aislynn is taken from the video arcade," Crisp joined in. " We have an eyewitness who saw Miss Hamilton approach Aislynn, and video tape of the back fire exit. There's also another witness who saw your client carrying Aislynn out of the building."
"We also found out that Chrissy is being released from the ward tomorrow," Kent said. "Her nervous breakdown was all an act, wasn't it?"
Lily looked at Jack who was shaking his head.
"Don't say anything, Lily," he said
"It was her idea!" Lily shouted causing Jack to groan. "She was obsessed with Junior from the beginning."
"The beginning?" Kent asked.
"She saw him one time during the late model races, and became so infatuated with him. She wanted to bed him, and have his baby. She was crazy."
"Lily, calm down, and start from the beginning," Crisp said.
"She meet Junior during his late model racing career, and became so obsessed with him. She kept talking about how she wanted to have his baby and shit. She meet him again during the beginning of his Busch career in 97, and they were in bed together during the second date."
"She was really angry because every time they would have sex, he would always put on a condom," Lily explained. "She said that he told her that he wasn't ready for a family and that he barely knew her to do it without one."
"So, what did she do?" Kent asked.
"She got him drunk one night, and they had sex without protection, and she made sure it was close to her period before doing it, too," Lily
said. "She put off the morning sickness as the stomach flu, but when he brought her to his family's for Christmas, that's when she realized it was getting to be too much for her, so she broke up with him, and moved back in with her mother."
"And then?" Kent asked urging Lily to continue.
"Several months later Aislynn Michelle Earnhardt was born," Lily said.
"Why give Aislynn her father's last name?" Crisp asked.
"Chrissy was hoping to get Junior to marry her since she had his baby, but there was a bump in the plan. Chrissy started to suffer from
depression because Aislynn had her up all night. She began to drink heavily, and Social Services was threatening to take Aislynn away from her. She left her at Junior's house, and I took her to rehab."
"What happened after rehab?" Kent asked.
"Chrissy was out of rehab within a couple of years, and by then Junior was in his rookie year of Winston Cup. She didn't want Aislynn back when she was still a baby, so she decided to wait until Aislynn was older. In the meantime, she became obsessed with Junior all over again, keeping pictures and articles of him and Aislynn."
"How serious was the obsession?" Kent asked.
"She became a stalker. She used to take photographs in Boston, where she used to live, and she still had her long lens camera. She followed Junior and Aislynn throughout his racing career. She was even at Dale Sr.'s funeral taking pictures. She was sick, and needed help."
"What happened next?"
"She went to Junior's house during 2002, and said that she wanted Aislynn back, but Junior just slammed the door in her face, and that
made her mad. So, she sued for custody. After the trial didn't go her way, she decided to go to the extreme. She called me up, and asked if I was willing to help her in a plan. She said she'd pay me with money that was going to be left to her by her father, so I said okay, and she told me her plan."
"What was the plan?" Crisp asked.
"She was going to fake a nervous breakdown, and after a few weeks I was to take Aislynn to Boston by car. She planned to take Aislynn from there over to Canada, and then fly over to England or France. I asked her how she planned to do that if she was in the ward, and she said she was going to get better." Lily explained the rest of the plan to the agents, and they had enough to move on Chrissy.
Junior had taken Aislynn back to Moorseville, and decided that a little detour was needed. After stopping at McDonalds for food since Aislynn had been complaining about an empty stomach, Junior headed toward Hendricks Motorsports. "Where we going, Daddy?" Aislynn asked.
"Well, you're Uncle Jimmie has been worried sick since that lady took you, honey," Junior said. "I figured instead of calling him, why not just show him your back." Aislynn giggled sipping her milkshake from McDonalds. "He says it's his fault, ya know?"
"No, it my fault, Daddy," she said, "because I didn't want the game to be taken so I said I save it."
"It's not your fault either, Aislynn," he said looking at her in the mirror, "but, you make sure you tell your Uncle Jimmie it's not his either, okay?"
"Okay," Aislynn said. Arriving at Hendricks Motorsports, Junior and Aislynn walked into the lobby, and told the secretary that they were there to see Jimmie.
"Do you want me to tell him it's you?" she asked picking up the phone.
"Sure, but don't say she's here," he said pointing to Aislynn. "She's here as a surprise."
"Okay," she said. "You know, he's been moping around for the past two months since it happened," she said. "It'll be nice to see a smile on his face again." Junior chuckled as she called Chad Knaus' office.
Chad picked up his phone after it rang several times. Jimmie sat on the couch on the one side looking at some figures. "Sure, I'll bring him down," Chad said then hung up. "That was Rhonda," he said. "She says Dale, Jr.'s in the lobby. He wants to talk to you."
"Maybe it's about Aislynn," Jimmie said getting up off the couch. He and Chad walked to the lobby, on the way running into Jeff and Rick.
"Where's the fire?" Rick asked.
"Junior's in the lobby," Jimmie said, " and he wants to talk to me," he added and Jeff and Rick joined the two walking to the lobby. When they got to the stairs, they saw Junior leaning up against the front desk. What they didn't see was Aislynn hiding behind the desk. Junior gave them a wave as they came down the steps. "Hey, what's up?" Jimmie asked.
"I gotta surpise for ya," Junior said then Aislynn came running out from behind the desk.
"Aislynn!" Jimmie shouted.
"Uncle Jimmie!!" she shouted louder. Jimmie raced down the last four steps, and caught the running four year old in his arms. She giggled as he lifted her up, and gave her a big hug.
"Oh, they found you, bunny," Jimmie said. Jeff, Rick and Chad watched as their driver nearly came to tears hugging the little girl.
"He'll make a great father some day," Rick said. Jeff and Chad nodded in agreement.
"When did you get her back?" Jimmie asked as Junior walked up to them. Junior looked at his watch, thinking.
"Four hours ago," he said. "Aislynn has something she wants to say."
"What, bunny?" Jimmie asked.
"It wasn't your fault." Jimmie chuckled.
"Thanks, sweetie." Jimmie gave Aislynn one more hug before she was passed to Uncle Jeff, Uncle Rick and Uncle Chad.
"Hey, this is my daughter, right?" he asked.
"Right," they all said.
"Well, can I have her back?" he asked. Aislynn giggled as she walked over to her daddy.
"Can we go home now?" Aislynn asked.
"Sure, honey." Junior picked her up, they said goodbye and walked out of Hendricks Motorsports.
"BYE!!" she shouted, waving to them.
Chapter 19: Caught
A fugitive on the run is finally caught.
Five year old Aislynn sat in her father's lap as a movie played on TV. Junior's two friends, David O'Neal and Josh Snider, were sitting across the room conversing with each other. They were at Talladega, and preparing for Junior to win his fifth race in a row at the track. Aislynn had just arrived at the track with Kelley after finishing her first week of kindergarten. The FBI were in the process of finding Chrissy, who had disappeared from the face of the Earth. Junior didn't want to take any chances so he decided to move him and Aislynn into a bigger place. He bought at least 130 acres of land, and had a house built on it that was big enough for an extended family. Him and Emilee were planning on getting married in November after Thanksgiving, and with plans of a bigger family in the future, they needed more space. Josh and David watched as father and daughter interacted, forgetting about the movie on the TV. The camera crew that was following Junior around for the DVD he was making captured every moment. Aislynn was giggling as Junior tickled her relentlessly. "Daddy!" she shouted amongst giggles.
"Okay, I'll stop," Junior said and he put Aislynn back in her spot on the couch so she could get back to the movie, and the adults got back to talking.
"So, what kindergarten class is Aislynn in?" David asked.
"She's in Ms. Lilian's AM class," Junior said.
"The morning class?" Josh asked.
"She's up before seven, Josh," Junior said. "She's my alarm clock." Aislynn giggled as she got onto her daddy's lap. "Don't play football
with her when you take her outside."
"We were going to use that little pink ball of hers," David said. Aislynn ran to the back of the motor home, and came back with her pink
"Daddy, is Emi coming?" she asked.
"She's not coming until tomorrow," Junior answered his daughter. "She's going to spend the whole day with you while daddy does his things." Aislynn tossed the ball to Junior, and he caught it.
"Can I come with you to the Make a Wish thingy?" she asked getting a chuckle from everyone in the room.
"We'll see," Junior said getting ready to toss the ball back to her. "Ready?"
"Yeah." Junior tossed the ball to her, and she caught it. Dave and Josh clapped as she jumped up and down. "I caught it! I caught it!" Junior
chuckled as she ran over to her Uncle Dave. He lifted her up, and sat her on his lap. "Did you see me, Uncle Dave?" she asked.
"Sure did, sweetie," Dave said. "Let's go outside and play with it."
"Okay," she said. Aislynn jumped off Dave's lap, and headed outside. Dave and Josh followed her as Junior got ready for the interview with Brian Williams.
Junior sighed as he sat across from Williams. The camera crew noticed Junior's smiles every time Aislynn would giggle or laugh. Junior looked up to see them all watching him. "Oh, sorry about that," he apologized.
"No, don't apologize," Brian said. "How old is she?" he asked.
"Grow up fast don't they?" Brian asked.
"Yeah, there are times I wish she was still a baby," Junior admitted causing Brian chuckled.
"Wait until she is old enough to date," he said.
"Oh, God," Junior mumbled. The crew chuckled before Brian started the interview.
Aislynn giggle as Josh tossed her the ball. "Aislynn, what do you want to be when you grow up?" Dave asked.
"Daddy," she answered while looking at the camera man.
"You want to race cars like daddy does?" Josh asked. Aislynn nodded. "Think daddy'll let you?" The little girl shrugged her shoulders.
"I don't know," she said. Josh and Dave chuckled as she bounced the ball around. She saw her Uncle Jade, and immediately forgot about the ball. "Uncle Jade!!" She ran over to him followed by the camera as Jade comes.
"Uh, some news. We're, uh, starting from the back. The car was sixteenth inch too low in post qualifying inspection. So, it'll be just
like April coming from the back," he said to the camera.
"Now ya gotta break the news?" Kevin the cameraman asked.
"Yeah, I do," Jade said. Aislynn hurried over to her father. "Except it'll probably be Aislynn who tells him."
"Do you want us to follow you?"
"Yeah, follow me," Jade said as he hurried over to the motor coach. Junior was just finishing up his interview when Aislynn came over to
him. He said bye to Brian Williams, and picked up his daughter. "What's up, munchkin?" he asked.
"Sixteenth inch too low, Daddy," she said.
"I got threw out?" Aislynn nodded.
"That what Uncle Jade said," she said. Junior looked over to see Jade smiling.
"What's my little girl talking about?" he asked his publicist.
"You're starting 38th now," Jade said.
"They gave you a quarter inch tolerance..."
"Yeah, I blew that," Junior said. "Well, that's understandable. At least I learned something." He then shrugged his shoulders before saying. "Bummer." He put Aislynn down as Jade laughed.
"Yeah, well, Pops said, 'Well, now we'll put our good stuff in.' " Junior laughed as he and Aislynn walked over to some fans.
Aislynn laughed as Emilee and Junior swung her as they walked to Junior's car sitting in the 38th starting position. She had a blast yesterday. After spending practice sitting on Emilee's lap, the two of them watched Junior get beat by a kid at the EA Sports video
game. Then Aislynn tagged along with Junior to meet the Make a Wish kid. He was close to Aislynn's age, so she'd feel comfortable. She sat on Junior's lap as the kid gave Junior some stuff. The little boy gave Junior a necklace with a tooth on it. "An alligator tooth?" Junior
asked. The boy nodded as Junior held it for Aislynn to see.
"What an alwigator?" she asked.
"It's a really big reptile that has a pretty short temper," he said.
"Like Uncle Kevin?" she asked causing everyone to chuckle.
"Sorta," Junior said. "I'll put this in the car tomorrow, okay?" The boy nodded as his mom said 'Alright'.
"I'll make sure it is in the car," Aislynn said. The boy smiled as Aislynn put the necklace in her pocket, and the visit continued.
Junior got down to Aislynn's eye level to look at his daughter. "Be careful. Okay, daddy?" she said.
"I promise." Last week scared five year old Aislynn when Junior hit that wall in Dover and was knocked unconscious. At the care center,
Junior refused to go the hospital, but it was little Aislynn that convinced him to go get checked out.
"Pinky?" Aislynn asked. Junior chuckled.
"Pinky," he said hooking his pinky finger with hers. They did their father daughter nose rub before he gave her a kiss on the cheek. "Be
good for Emilee, okay?" Aislynn nodded and gave her daddy a hug.
"I love you, Daddy," she said.
"I love you, too, munchkin." Aislynn pulled back, and gave Junior the necklace with the alligator tooth on it. Junior chuckled as he took it
from her. "Thanks." He stood up to look at Emilee. "Any advice, doctor?" Emilee chuckled.
"Just be careful," she said.
"I promise," he said and they shared a kiss before Emilee picked up Aislynn and headed to the pit box. Junior ran most of the race a lap down because of a traffic jam on pit road, but he managed to get it back when Jimmie Johnson crashed. He was at Michael's bumper at the end of the race, and defended Michael's lead against Jeff Gordon and other hunger power guys. It was a DEI 1-2 finish with Mikey in the lead. After the race, Junior, Emilee, and Aislynn headed home in the DEI jet. They were staying in the new house now because of Chrissy. Aislynn was excited about her new room. It was decorated up with her favorite cartoon characters, and #8 decals. It was a room of an Earnhardt. Junior helped her get dressed in her Piglet pajamas, and got her tucked into bed. "Night, angel," he said before giving her a kiss on the forehead.
"Night, daddy," Aislynn said as he left the room. He turned her night light on on the way out, and closed the door. He sighed as he entered
his and Emilee's room. He pulled off his shirt as he entered the bathroom. Emilee picked up the deep sigh he gave out.
"Are you okay?" she asked. Junior poked his head out of the bathroom.
"I'm fine," he said. He pulled on an old t-shirt, and pj bottoms before crawling into bed with Emilee.
"You don't seem okay," she said.
"It's just that, she's out there, watching me. She's waiting for me to screw up so she can take Aislynn again." Emilee sighed, and knew that Junior was talking about Chrissy.
"They'll find her Junior, and besides, this place is totally protected," she said. "There are police units watching this place like a hawk."
"I know," he said. He settled closer to Emilee and they both fell asleep.
The next morning Aislynn was up and ready for kindergarten. Junior got her dressed and they headed to the kitchen for breakfast which Emilee was already making. "Morning, you two," she said as the two of them came down.
"Morning," Junior said before giving her a good morning kiss. Emilee gave Aislynn her breakfast. "Morning, sweetpea," she said.
"Morning, Emi." Aislynn immediately dug into her breakfast Junior poured himself some coffee as Emilee put some breakfast on a plate for him.
"Eat some breakfast," she said. The phone rang and Emilee picked it up. "Hello? Oh, hi, Buffy." She walked to the table with her breakfast. "Uh, huh, sure. We can be in today," she said. "Bye."
"What'd Buffy want?" Junior asked.
"She wants to fit you for your wedding tux today," Emilee said.
"Alrighty," he said.
"Daddy, am I going to have a pretty dress like Emi's?" Aislynn asked with her mouth full.
"Yes, you are, and don't talk with your mouth full," Junior said wiping her mouth. Aislynn finished her breakfast before heading back up the stairs to find her bag for kindergarten. Junior just finished his when she came bounding down the steps with her bag.
"I'm ready to go, Daddy," she announced.
"Ok." Junior downed the rest of his orange juice, and grabbed his keys. "See ya later," he told Emilee before giving her a kiss.
"See ya at the store," she said.
Junior took Aislynn to kindergarten aware of the unmarked police car sitting outside of the school building. He signed her in, and left her with her teacher, Ms. Lilian. He headed to DEI after that to rouse the guys a bit like he always did on Mondays. All they did was rouse him back asking him if he was nervous about the wedding yet. "Ask me again when it's the wedding." he said. He sat down in his office to go through some papers. It wasn't long when he heard his buzzer go off. "Yes?"
"Junior, the FBI is on line three for ya," the receptionist said.
"Thanks." He picked up the phone a pressed line three. "Hello?"
"Mr. Earnhardt, it's Agent Crisp."
"Please tell me that you caught her," Junior said.
"We caught her, but we need you to make a positive ID for us," Crisp said.
"Okay, I'll be down shortly." Junior hung up the phone, and made a quick call to Emilee saying he may be late for the fitting, and to make
sure she let Buffy know. Junior headed down to the FBI building in Charlotte, and was greeted by Agent Crisp.
"Junior, so glad you could come down," he said.
"Anything to help you do your job easier," Junior said and Crisp chuckled. "So, how'd you get her?" he asked.
"Well, the officers outside the school noticed a Ford Taurus following you into the school parking lot, and park just on the side. They ran
the plates, and they belonged to a Louise Krandell, Chrissy's mother. After you left, a dark brunette stepped out of the car and headed to
the building. According to the secretary, she tried to gain access to the building, but panic when she was asked for ID. She hurried back to the car, but by then the secretary called the officers outside who intercepted her."
"So, she was following me?" Junior asked.
"She may even know where your new house is, but saw the officers just outside of the gate." Junior groaned as Crisp led him into a small
room. Junior saw a window showing into another one, and saw Chrissy sitting in the room.
"Aside from getting her hair cut short and dyed brown that's Chrissy," Junior said. "She still has that bracelet," he added.
"What bracelet?" Crisp asked.
"I had a bracelet made for her birthday. It's got her name engraved on the inside, in cursive," Junior said. Crisp nodded and went into the
"I want my lawyer," Chrissy said.
"Mr. Mortan is on his way," he said.
"Then I have nothing to say."
"Would you please give me your bracelet, Ms. Krandell?" Crisp asked.
"No, and it's Mrs. Earnhardt," Chrissy said in a smug voice.
"I wasn't aware that you and Junior were married," the FBI agent said.
"He gave this bracelet just for me. It's like a wedding band," Chrissy said. "I also had his child."
"A child who legally belongs to him that you had kidnapped."
"You can't prove that," Chrissy said.
"Lily gave you up, Chrissy."
"She also told us how you got Junior drunk so you could get yourself pregnant, and that you planned to take Aislynn overseas with you after things didn't go your way in the hearing."
"Junior loves me. I gave his child life, and I gave her to him."
"Did you know that Junior's getting married?" Crisp asked.
"That so-called woman he's marrying is just after him for his money. He loves me, and only me."
"Not from where I sit," Crisp said. The door opened and in walked Jack Mortan.
"No more questions, Agent Crisp."
"Mr. Mortan, you can't have two clients in a federal case," Crisp said. "Either you're Ms. Krandell's lawyer or Ms. Hamilton's."
"I'm Ms. Krandell's. Lily Hamilton will have to get her own lawyer." On the other side of the glass, Junior had pulled out his cell phone,
and pressed speed dial.
"Regina, it's Junior," he said. "I'm in need of a huge favor."
Chapter 20: Wedding Bells
You are cordially invited....
The whole Chrissy ordeal was finally over. She got the maximum 15 years for kidnapping, thanks to the testimony from Lily, who got a lesser charge thanks to Regina. Aislynn and Junior could finally live in peace. Chrissy's sentencing came at the right time. After the sentencing, a couple weeks later was the wedding. The blessed day was going to take place in November before the ceremony in New York. Aislynn and Karsyn were going to share the responsibilities of flower girl while Emilee's little nephew was the ring bearer. It turned out to be a fairly nice day when Junior woke up the morning of the wedding. Aislynn was over at Kelley's with Emilee getting ready. He didn't need to do much since the ladies were going to take care of it. All he needed to do was show up, with his tux on. Junior climbed out of bed, and went downstairs for some breakfast. The one thing he needed to do was go over some paperwork. Although the Winston ceremony was in a few weeks, he was in third of the point standings. He needed to put together a speech, and give it to DEI so they can send it off to the right people. Junior sat down at his dining set, and began to eat his breakfast. It wasn't long before he heard the door open. His best man, David, came in followed by Josh. "Nervous?" David asked.
"About what?" Junior asked.
"The wedding," Josh said thinking Junior forgot his wedding.
"Oh, that's today," Junior said pretending to play dumb. Dave and Josh snickered as Junior put his dishes away. "Guys, relax," he said. "I
didn't forget, and I'm not nervous." They both stared at him with their 'yeah, right' glares. "I'll be nervous at the wedding."
"You should see Aislynn in her little dress, Junior," Josh said. "She looks so adorable."
"I bet she does," Junior said. He let out a hefty sigh as they sat down in the play station room.
"It seemed only yesterday she was going to preschool," Dave said. Junior chuckled.
"Yeah, they grow up fast," Junior said getting up, and walking over to the wall with pictures of Aislynn.
"Don't worry, Junior. You'll get to start over with the new baby," Dave said.
"Dave!" Josh suddenly said throwing a pillow at him as Junior turned around to look at his two best friends.
"What new baby?" he asked.
"Nothing," they both replied. Junior gave them the Earnhardt glare, crossing his arms.
"We over heard it while we were checking on Aislynn for you," Josh said.
"Emilee's pregnant," Dave said. "She found out yesterday."
"Kelley and her threatened to shoot us if we told you," Josh said, "but Dave here had to open his big mouth, and let it slip."
"It was an accident," Dave said.
"When was she going to tell me?" Junior asked.
"Your wedding night," Dave said. "Don't say anything, Junior, please?"
"I won't say anything, relax." They both sighed out in relief. "But if you two misbehave at the wedding..."
We won't, we won't," they both said.
With the wedding an hour away, Josh and Dave grabbed Junior and his tux, and got him down to the church. After making sure everything was in place, they escorted guests to their seats. Before Junior knew what was happening, his best man was hurrying him up to the alter. "Remember what I told you two," he said to Josh and Dave.
"We know, we know," they said.
The organ music started, and the first one out was Aislynn. She was cute as a button in her strappy lavender dress. She lightly threw flowers onto the floor as she walked down the aisle. She squealed when she saw her daddy. "Hi, daddy!" she shouted getting a chuckle from the crowd. Junior waved at his daughter as she was followed by his niece, Karsyn.
"Uncle Junior!" she shouted throwing her flowers onto the floor as well. The bridesmaids followed walking over the pink and white flowers Aislynn and Karsyn had thrown. The wedding march began, and everyone stood up to see Emilee with her father.
"Oh, my God," Junior muttered. Emilee had on an off-white off-the-shoulder dress with a long train. She saw Junior's reaction, and smiled. She leaned over to her father.
"Told ya he'd be speechless," she whispered to him.
"That you did, sweetie," he said. "That you did." Once at the front, Emilee handed her bouquet to her maid of honor, Karen, and her father gave her away to Junior. "You take care of my little girl, ya hear?"
"Yes, sir," Junior said. "Absolutely." Mr. Knolls smiled, and sat down. "Didn't know your dad was hard core."
"More than you know," Emilee whispered. The ceremony started without incident, and Junior and Emilee exchanged vows, then exchanged rings.
"I now pronouce you husband and wife," the pastor said. "You may now kiss the bride," he added said.
"I know that," Junior said and he lifted Emilee's veil, and placed a small kiss on her lips.
"Oh, come on, Junebug, you can do better than that!" his uncle, Tony, Sr. shouted. Per Tony Sr.'s request, he dipped Emilee and gave her a big wet one, getting a cheer from the guests.
The wedding reception was being held at a ball room in a fancy hotel, and the guests pour into it as the wedding party drove around town honking their horns. They arrived about hour later, and were introduced by the DJ. "Ladies and gentlemen, may I present Mr. and Mrs. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.!" The guests clapped as Junior and Emilee made their way into the reception hall. They headed to the wedding party table, and the party began.
The two families partied well into the night, and it wasn't until almost midnight when the first guests started to leave. Aislynn had fallen asleep on Teresa's lap, and Karsyn on Brenda's. "I think we should get these two to bed," Brenda said. Teresa agreed and they told
Junior they were taking the girls to their room.
"Thanks, Mom." Junior gave Brenda a kiss, and gave Aislynn a kiss on the head. "Night, sweet pea," he whispered.
"Night, daddy," a mumbled reply came. Emilee smiled as Teresa carried Aislynn out of the room. Junior looked back at Emilee.
"Well, almost everybody's gone, Mrs. Earnhardt," he said.
"Yes, they are, Mr. Earnhardt," she said.
"You ready to get out of here?" he asked.
"I thought you'd never ask," she said. With most of the guests gone, the two of them didn't have many people to say good-bye to. They had booked a room in advance, and headed up to that room.
Junior unlocked the door, and opened it before turning to Emilee. "Well, my blushing bride, it's time to carry you over the threshold." Emilee chuckled as Junior swept her off her feet, and carried her into the hotel room. "Lights, please." She reached over and turned the lights on. Once inside, Junior carefully put her down.
"Being a little cautious, are we?" she said.
"I have a confession to make," he said.
"Uh, oh. Should I be worried?"
"I know about the baby," he confessed.
"Who told you?" she asked in a stern voice.
"Dave let it slip this morning."
"Wait till I tell Kelley," she said. " We are going to kill them."
"Well, just so they don't kill me, because I promised I wouldn't tell you that they told me." Emilee chuckled. "Besides, you shouldn't kill someone when you're pregnant." Emilee sighed as she put her arms around Junior's neck.
"You're right," she said. "I'll just glare at them for several days before I let them have it." Junior chuckled.
"Were you always this feisty when we met, or did you get it with the marriage?" he asked.
"I think it came with the last name." They kissed before finally getting out of the uncomfortable clothing. Junior lay in bed watching Emilee getting dressed for bed. She wasn't showing that much, and he just had to ask.
"How far along are you?" he asked.
"Eight weeks," she said. "Give or take a day."
"Give or take a day?" he asked raising an eyebrow.
"The doctor wasn't quite sure," she said slipping into the bed. Junior put an arm around Emilee and placed his other hand on her stomach. "It's probably too early to feel the baby moving," she said.
"I know," Junior said, "but this is my first pregnancy. I wasn't with Chrissy during her pregnancy. I didn't get to see Aislynn on the ultrasound like she did, or hear her heartbeat for the first time. I wasn't even there when she was born."
"I want to be here through this pregnancy," he said. "I want to go to every doctor's appointment if I can. We can take lamaze classes...."
"Junior?" she interrupted.
"Let's just get through the night first, okay?"
"Okay." Junior kissed his new wife good night, and turned off the light. They fell asleep peacefully with Junior's hand resting safely were their baby grew.
Chapter 21: Daytona Victory Again
The Earnhardt family at Daytona.
Chapter Twenty-One: Daytona Victory Again
Five and a half year old Aislynn Earnhardt giggled as she was chased around pit road by her new uncle, Kasey Kahne. "Aislynn, come here, munchkin," Junior said. The little girl headed over to her father, who had her coat, with Kasey in tow. Junior bent down to his daughter and helped her put her coat on.
"Daddy, I don't want this on," she said.
"You're wearing this coat, young lady." Aislynn whined as Junior zipped her coat up. "That's my final word."
"Okay." Aislynn was not happy and she plopped herself on the ground.
"Aislynn Michelle, get up off the ground," he said in a stern voice.
"No," she said in the same tone. The Earnhardt temper in the toddler began to take effect.
"Now," Junior said in his stern voice again. His Earnhardt temper was coming out as well.
"Uncle Jimmie!" Aislynn got off the ground and sprinted toward her favorite uncle.
"I'm not finished with you, young lady!" Junior yelled after her.
"Uncle Jimmie, can I take my coat off?" she asked as he got down to her eye level.
"Uh.." Jimmie looked to Junior who was shaking his head 'no'. "No, sweetie. It's a little cold out today." Aislynn whined her disappointment that her favorite uncle let her down.
"Nobody wuves me today," she said. Junior lifted his daughter into his arms.
"Yeah, they do," he said. He gave her to Kasey motioning him to keep her coat on. Kasey nodded, and walked away with Aislynn. Up in the booth, Benny, Allen and Wally watched Junior and Aislynn interact on the tv screens.
"Boy, that boy sure has changed," Benny said. "He goes from being a bachelor to a single father to a grown up, matured young man to a married man in little over five years."
"Not to mention he and his new wife are expecting a little one in June," Allen said.
"That's right," Wally said.
"Everybody remembers the fight Junior had to put up to keep Aislynn," Benny said. They all nodded.
Kasey Kahne had long given Aislynn back to Junior, and was surprised to hear the struggle Junior had raising her. "Junior couldn't hack all the crying in the long hours into the night?" he asked his teammate, Jeremy Mayfield.
"No. Aislynn's mother sued for custody back in 2002. The trial lasted for close to a month. Junior got custody, but the next summer, I think in May, Aislynn was kidnapped by her mother's friend, and there was this whole thing about how Aislynn's mother was obsessed with Junior from the beginning. She had this big plan to be a part of Junior's life because she had his child, but things went down the toilet."
"He didn't tell us the details. Only family and his close friends know the actual story." Jeremy said. "Matt Kenseth might know. He testified on Junior's behalf during the trial, and he is one of Aislynn's favorite uncles."
"So, things are back to normal?"
"Yeah. By the time Aislynn's mother gets out of jail, Aislynn will be twenty, maybe twenty-one."
Junior turned around when someone tapped him on the shoulder to see Jimmie. "So, how'd the ultrasound go?" he asked.
"Good, uh, the baby's nice and strong. Got a good heartbeat."
"Yeah, but we don't want to know what the sex is yet."
"Well, it has to be a boy, cause you already have a girl."
"That's what Emilee said." Jimmie and Junior chuckled.
"So, were you nervous?"
"Well, it was my first ultrasound, so I was a little nervous. The doctor talked me through it, and everything went very smoothly." The two qualified before they went their separate ways. Aislynn fell asleep as Junior arrived to the rv, and he put her to bed. Tomorrow was going to be a busy day; for everbody.
The family woke up early Sunday morning to visit Turn Four. Aislynn read a letter she wrote for Dale Sr. and introduced her mom, and baby sibling. She was excited for Junior cause she had a gut feeling. The normal gut feeling any five year old would get. Junior and Emilee told Aislynn about the baby inside Emilee, and that she was going to be a big sister one day. Aislynn wanted the exact date so she could count down to it. Of course they reminded her that the baby may be early, or it may even be late. She sounded a little disappointed when they told her this, but she hoped the baby didn't forget to come. The race started out like any restrictor plate race for DEI, Junior leading it. Emilee and Aislynn watched with anticipation as Junior lead a majority of the race before Tony Stewart took the lead as they came down pit road. Junior then spent almost all the race in second place, never getting out of the top five before he made a pass all on his own with twenty laps to go. The crowd and Aislynn went nuts as Junior led the last laps and crossed the finish line as the winner of the Daytona 500.
"Yeah, Daddy!!!!" Aislynn yelled out into the radio.
"WOOOOHOOOO!!!" was all the little girl heard on the radio. Aislynn smiled at her mom causing Emilee to smile back. Emilee did her best to carry Aislynn to victory lane before Taylor took her. They stood back as Junior pulled the car into victory lane. Everybody took their turn to hug him, and Taylor handed him Aislynn and the little girl gave him kiss on the cheek. Emilee and Junior hugged and kissed before the news crew got to him. As he talked about the race, Aislynn noticed a string of confetti around her father's neck. She began to pull it off him as he talked to Marty. She giggled as he began to help her.
"This young lady staying up with you?"
"Are you kidding? She's going to bed at her bedtime."
"Daddy!" Aislynn whined.
"That's enough out of you. I put up with your whining for the past two weeks." Marty laughed and asked Junior his last question. After answering it, Junior was let go, for the time being. The post race celebration including the hat dance ended late afternoon, and the family headed back to their trailer. Aislynn was put to bed, and Junior and Emilee spent the better part of the evening cuddled up on the couch with Junior's hand resting on her belly.
"You're not going to rest, are you?" she asked.
"Nope. He's moving, and I want to feel every bit of it." Emilee giggled as he put his other hand on her stomach.
"All this attention is too much." she said.
"Ah, you love it." Junior said. "You'll love it even more when I win the Busch race." Emilee laughed out. "What?"
"Just cause you're leading the race, doesn't mean you'll win it."
"I never bet."
"Excuse me?" Emilee said. "Are calling your five month pregnant wife scared?"
"I'm regretting it at the moment." She chuckled as he drummed his fingers on her stomach. "Do you think you'll let it pass for me to sleep on the bed? I do need my beauty rest for tomorrow."
"You snore. I'm the one that needs the beauty rest."
"Alright, sorry about that."
"Don't be. I appreciate you worrying about me." Junior chuckled.
"I love you, sweetheart."
"I love you too." They kissed softly before they got up and went to bed.
After winning the Busch race, Junior was scheduled for Regis and Kelly the next day, and David Letterman that night. Aislynn wanted to watch both shows, and got up early, but Emilee told her that the Regis show was on while she would be at school. At the sound of her disappointment, Emilee promised the five year old that she would tape it. Junior waited patiently in the green room of the Regis and Kelly show. He sighed out as he watched the TV screen. It wasn't long till he was asked to come up to the entrance. "Ladies and gentlemen, the winner of the 2004 Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.!" The crowd went nuts as Junior came out and waved to the crowd. He shook hands with Regis and hugged Kelly before he sat down. The cheers died down and they started talking. "Well, first off, I want to congratulate you on winning the Daytona 500." Regis said.
"And I also want to congratulate you on getting married during the off season." The crowd cheered.
"So how's married life?" Kelly asked.
"You're also having a baby." Regis said.
"Yeah, we're really excited about that." Junior said. "Uh, baby's due in May, sometime around the Richmond race. I gotta ways to go yet."
"How is Aislynn taking it?" Regis asked.
"She's ready to fulfill her big sister duties." The audience laughed.
"Now, how old is Aislynn?" Kelly asked.
"She's five years old, and attending kindergarten at Mooresville Elementary, and loving every minute."
"She's not worried about you and Emilee, is it?" Junior nodded. "She's not worried that you and Emilee are going to spend more time with the baby than her?"
"Well, for the past five years, Aislynn was the center of attention in my life, and I think it's time for a change. She'll probably want to help out with the baby."
"Do you know if the baby's a boy or a girl?" Junior shook his head.
"We're waiting for the birth."
"You got names picked out yet?"
"We have some picked out."
"So, back to why you are here." Regis said. They talked for several minutes with Regis complaining about Letterman not inviting him to dinner.
Junior sighed as he walked into his house Wednesday morning. He was tired, hungry, and hadn't slept in two days. He wanted to eat, take a shower, and go to bed. Unfortunately, that wasn't going to happen when Aislynn bounded down the steps. "Daddy!!"
"Hey, munchkin." Junior lifted his daughter into his arms.
"Are you taking me to school?"
"Oh, honey, Daddy hasn't slept in two days. Emilee's gonna take you."
"Okay." Junior put her down as Emilee came downstairs.
"You look exhausted." she said.
"I feel exhausted." They kissed softly.
"Go take a shower, and you can come down for breakfast."
"Ah, a shower." Junior walked up the steps, and headed into the bathroom. After a nice shower, Junior headed downstairs to find breakfast in the microwave, and Emilee and Aislynn already gone. He ate his breakfast before heading upstairs, and fell down on the bed. He was asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.
Chapter 22: Blessed Event
The newest addition to the Earnhardt family arrives.
Five year old Aislynn Earnhardt let out a sigh of boredom as she swung her legs back and forth. Today was the day she was going to be a big sister. Her mom and dad announced that they were going to the hospital to encouraged her little brother to come into the the world. They had settled on the name Lee James Earnhardt after much discussion with Aislynn who wanted to name her new baby brother after her favorite uncle. Said favortie uncle, Jimmie Johnson, sat across from Aislynn, trying to get a read on his 'niece'. "Hey, bunny, what's up?" he asked.
"Is Lee here yet?" she asked.
"He probably won't be here for another couple of hours, Aislynn," Jimmie said. Kelley sat next to Jimmie reading a magazine, trying to hide the smile gracing her face. Emilee's mom, JoAnne, sat next to Brenda and her husband, Ed Knolls sat next to her. Aislynn had been excited all week when Junior and Emilee set an appointment to induce labor.
"It's been a couple of hours already," Aislynn complained.
"You're just going to have to be patient," Kelley said. "Babies take awhile," she added. Aislynn sighed out again as she got up from her seat. "Why don't you go over and play with Karsyn?" she suggested.
"Okay," Aislynn said before going over to where Karsyn was playing. Brenda sat in the waiting room too, and stood up with a sigh to match Aislynn's.
"Aislynn's right," she said. "It's been hours. I hope nothing's wrong."
"Don't worry, mom," Kelley said, "Emilee's got that Earnhardt spirit now."
"Right," Ed said. "There's nothing my little girl can't handle."
Meanwhile, in the delivery room .................
Emilee groaned in pain as she pushed with all her might. Junior was by her side, holding her hand, and clenching his teeth as she squeezed it at every contraction. "Oh, Em, honey, you're hurting my hand," he said.
"Serves you right, you bastard!" Emilee snapped.
"Don't worry, honey, " the head nurse said. "They always say that."
"Right," Junior said as Emilee squeezed his hand again.
"Good job, Emilee," Dr. Kittan said. "Hard parts over, the head is out." Emilee rested, using the breathing she learned from the lamaze classes she and Junior took together. "Okay, next contraction, you're going to push." She nodded and got ready for the next contraction. Junior was getting ready as well, flexing his hand before she clasped down on it.
"Oh, sh ..." he started to say.
"No swearing!" Emilee snapped.
"You've said plenty swear words already," he said.
"I'm entitled to it!" she snapped again.
"I see a shoulder!" Dr. Loken announced. "He's coming." Emilee groaned out as she pushed the hardest in her life. "He's here!" The cries of their son reached their ears. "Would you like to cut the umbilical cord, Dad?" she asked Junior.
"I'd thought you'd never ask," he said. Emilee laughed out as Junior took the scissors, and cut their son's cord. Then the two of them watched with smiles as the nurses cleaned him up.
" Eight pounds, seven ounces," the nurse announced. "He's a big boy." She wrapped him in a blue blanket and carried him over to his parents. She carefully placed him into his mother's arms as his father knelt next to the bed.
"He's beautiful, Em," he said.
"Yeah, he is," she said. The bright blue eyed baby looked up at his parents making the baby noises that they always do. "I believe those are your eyes, Junior."
"Yeah, they do look like mine," he said.
"You want to hold your son?" she asked.
"Of course, I do," he said. Emilee handed Lee to his father, and watched him interact with him. "Hey, Lee," Junior said to his son. "You had quite an adventure today, huh?" Emilee laughed. "It's not over yet, though. You still got to meet your big sister, Aislynn."
Aislynn held tight to her father's hand as he led her down the hall to her mother's room. She was going to meet her baby brother for the first time. She was excited. In her right hand she clutched a blue bear for her brother. "Now remember, Lee's just a baby," he said.
"I know, Daddy," she said. "I can't toss him like my pink ball."
"Right, or any other ball you have."
I know," she said. Junior opened the door to Emilee's hospital room where she was breast feeding Lee.
"Whoa, feeding time," Junior said shutting to the door behind him. Emilee just chuckled as she finished feeding Lee.
"Hi, Aislynn," Emilee said.
"Hi, Mommy." Emilee smiled hearing her daughter call her 'mommy'. She officially adopted Aislynn two months ago, even though Aislynn called her 'mommy' after marrying Junior. "Ready to see your baby brother?" she asked.
"She's been ready," Junior said hoisting his daughter onto his wife's bed. Aislynn sat in awe looking at her brother. She reached over and let him grasp her finger.
"He's so small," she said looking at Lee's tiny hands.
"Believe it or not you were that small too," Junior said causing his daughter to giggle. "Looks like you and Lee both have the same death grip on things. I remember you doing that to my finger once."
"Was I really this small?" she asked.
"Sure," Junior said, " but you got big." Just then Lee let out a tiny yawn making Aislynn smile.
"He's tired," she said.
"He had a big day," Emilee said.
"When can we bring him home?" Aislynn asked.
"A couple of days," Junior said. "Doctors need to make sure he's all healthy before he comes home to us." Aislynn continued to let her baby brother grasp her finger. She couldn't wait until he came home.
Aislynn looked out the window to see her dad and mom pulling up in the truck. "He's here!" she shouted running to get her Aunt Kelley. "Lee's here, Aunt Kelley," she said.
"Okay, sweetie," Kelley said putting Karsyn down. The two cousins held hands as they walked outside onto the porch as Emilee arrived at the steps.
"Hey, Aislynn," Emilee said.
"Where's Lee?" the nearly six year old asked.
"Your daddy's got him." Emilee lowerd herself into the swinging bench.
"You look beat, Em," Kelley said sitting next to her sister in law.
"I am." Junior came up on the porch with their son in his carseat. Aislynn and Karsyn were right behind him wanting to see the new baby.
"Okay, now remember, girls," he said as he sat down on the hammock, " Lee's just a baby and he's not to be manhandled too much."
"Okay," the girls said in unison as they sat down next to the baby seat.
"He's so small," Karsyn said. The two girls looked at the baby as the adults had conversation.
"I wish this weekend you didn't have to race," Emilee said. "It'll be tough without you."
"I know, hon," Junior said. "I wish I didn't have to race. I want to spend as much time with you guys as I can."
"We'll be okay, Junior," she said.
"I'll be with her," Kelley said, "and you'll have Aislynn with you."
"That's right, Daddy," Aislynn said. Junior smiled at his daughter.
"All right," he said. "I feel better." Kelley and Emylee laughed.
Aislynn crawled onto the bed with her dad and found him sleeping peacefully. It was probably the first full night of sleep he's gotten since her baby brother came home. They were in their hotel room nearby Richmond Speedway after Junior had qualified fourth for the race. "Daddy?"
"Hm?" Junior grunted hearing his daughter's voice.
"Are you awake?" she asked.
"I am now," he said. "What is it?" he asked.
"Do you think Mommy's okay with Lee?"
"Sure, why do you ask?"
"He cries a lot."
"You cried a lot, too," he said, "and I didn't have mom with me. I raised you myself."
"Why did you do it yourself?" she asked. Junior sighed as he sat up to look at his daughter. He knew she was going to ask this one of these days, but he wasn't expecting her to ask this soon.
"I was hoping to wait until you were older to explain this," he said.
"I am older." She stood up pointing to her head. "I grew two inches this month." Junior chuckled as he sat her back down.
"All right," he said. "Do you remember that lady last year?"
"No," she said shaking her head.
"Her name was Chrissy. She tried to get custody of you?"
"Okay, I remember her now," she said. "I didn't like her, did I?"
"No, you didn't. Even though you call Emilee 'mom', Chrissy is your mother, biologically."
"Were you together?" she asked.
"For a time, but we parted ways before you were born," he explained. "Then Poppa Dale found you on my front porch. You were three months old."
"A baby?" she asked.
"Yep, and I raised you with some help from Poppa Dale and Aunt Kelly, Aunt Taylor, Mama Brenda and Mama Teresa."
"What do I call her?" she asked.
"Who? Chrissy?" Aislynn nodded. "It's up to you, Munchkin, but you don't have to call her anything. Why don't you sleep on it?" Aislynn nodded and went back to bed.
"WHOO HOO!! YEAH, DADDY!!" Aislynn shouted into the mic as Junior crossed the finish line at Ricmond Speedway.
"How about that!" Daryll Waltrip shouted. "He becomes a dad and then wins the race!"
Junior did a few victory donuts, before pulling into Victory Lane. Aislynn was carried by her cousin, Tony, Jr. to her father after all the comotion with the beer let up. "Way to go, Daddy," she said.
"Hey, baby girl," he said taking her into his arms.
"Daddy, I'm a big girl now," she said. "Don't call me, 'baby'."
"Sorry, sweetie." Junior kissed his daughter on her forehead. His little girl was growing up.
Chapter 23: A Fiery Crash
A terrible crash has the Earnhardt family biting their nails.
Aislynn ran down the stairs as fast as she could after her mom told her that her daddy was on the phone. She got the phone from Emilee who chuckled as Aislynn sat herself down on a chair. "Hi, Daddy," she said.
"How's my munchkin?" Junior asked.
"I'm good," she said. "Mommy, Lee and me are going to the park with Aunt Kelley and Karsyn."
"Sounds like fun." Junior looked to see Jade signaling him it was time to go.
"You have fun with Uncle Jimmie yesterday?" Junior asked.
"I did," she said. "I got fitted for my flower girl dress," she said proudly. She jumped at the chance at being a flower girl again, especially for her Uncle Jimmie's wedding. "I like Chandra," she said. "She's pretty in her wedding dress."
"Oh, did you tell Uncle Jimmie?"
"Yeah," Aislynn said. "I think I made him more nervous though and it's not even December yet." Junior chuckled.
"Look, sweetie, put your mom back on."
"Okay, I love you, Daddy," she said before giving the phone back to Emilee.
"You going to practice now?" she asked.
"Yeah, Jade's bugging me to get off the phone," he said.
"Well, be careful and I love you."
"I love you too, and I will be careful, I promise." He closed the phone and handed it to Jade.
"So, how's the family?" he asked.
"Great, I miss them." Jade chuckled as Junior got geared up to get into his ALMS Corvette. It was practice time. Junior climbed into the yellow corvette and headed onto the track. He drove around, getting good practice time, everything going great until about hlafyway through.
Junior lost control of his corvette and impacted the wall. The car lost fuel and somehow it was ignited, and the car burst into flames. Junior was dazed, but came to immediately feeling like he was trapped in a room of fire. He unstrapped himself and managed to pull himself out of the care. One of the track crewman came over and helped him away from the car. The other crewman put out the car as paramedics came over to help Dale. Jade was there as they put him a stretcher and Junior grabbed his collar. "Who did it?" he asked.
"What?" Jade asked.
"Who pulled me from the wreck?" he asked. "Find the guy who pulled me from the car."
"Junior, there was no one," Jade said. "You pulled yourself out."
"Sir, we have to get him to the hospital," the paramedic said. Jade nodded and allowed them to laod Junior into the car. He pulled out his cellphone and called Teresa.
"Teresa Earnhardt," Teresa said answering her phone.
"Teresa, it's Jade," Jade said. "Something happened to Junior."
"What happened?" Teresa went pale as Jade explained what happened to Junior. "Oh, my god. Is he all right?"
"They're taking him to University Hospital," Jade said. "It looks like he's going to have burns, but I don't know how bad."
"Okay. Keep me updated Jade. I gotta call, Emilee."
"Will do." Teresa hung up and dialed Emilee's phone number as Tony Jr. walked into her office.
"I saw the crash on TV," he said. "Is Junior okay?"
"Jade said he might have burns but won't know how serious until they get the hospital," Teresa said. "Come on, Em, pick up."
At the park ....
"Aislynn, be careful," Emilee said as her cellphone rang. She reached into her pocket and pulled it out.
"Who is it?" Kelley asked rocking Lee.
"It's Teresa," she said flipping open the phone. "Teresa?" Emilee listened to Teresa explain the situation and went pale like the other woman had earlier. "Oh, my god," she muttered looking over to Aislynn who was gently pushing a three year old Karsyn on the child swing.
"Em, what's wrong?" Kelley asked putting Lee in the stroller.
"It's Junior," Emilee said. "Uh, what going to happen, Teresa?"
"I'll get the jet fueled and ready for you and Aislynn if you want to bring her," Teresa said. "Brenda had called and said she wanted to go to so she'll be with you. She's on her way here."
"Okay, I'll be there soon." Emilee hung up and looked to Kelley.
"Junior wrecked in his practice in California," she said. "Teresa said there was a fire."
"Oh, my god."
"I'm going to take Aislynn with me, but can you watch Lee?"
"Of course." Emilee grabbed her bag and went over to the swing set.
"Aislynn, honey, we have to go," she said.
"Aw, Mom, we just got here," Aislynn said.
"We're going to Daddy," Emilee said.
"We are?" she asked. "Is something wrong?"
"You're daddy was in an accident," Emilee explained. "He's going to be at a hospital when we get there and grandma's coming with us."
"Is he hurt?"
"I don't know, sweetie." Emilee picked up Aislynn and headed back to Kelley. "Aunt Kelley's going to watch Lee."
"Go, go, go," Kelley said.
Several hours later ..........
Junior looked over to see the door open and saw Emilee holding Aislynn. "Hey, how are my girls?" he asked.
"Okay, Daddy," Aislynn said. Emilee helped her onto a chair and Aislynn held her father's hand. "Mommy said you got burned up."
"Yeah, but just on my legs and neck, munchkin," he said. "The rest of me is okay." Aislynn looked down at her daddy's legs, but they were covered up.
"Does it hurt?" she asked.
"No, I'm okay right now." Aislynn nodded.
"Aislynn, why don't you go to grandma," Emilee said. "I want to talk to Daddy."
"Okay," Aislynn said. "I love you, Daddy," she said before placing a kiss on Junior's cheek.
"I love you, too, munchkin." Aislynn got down from the chair and went out side the room where Brenda was waiting. Emilee turned to her husband laying on the hospital bed.
"You said you were going to be careful," she said.
"Oops," Junior said trying to lighten the mood. It worked cause he heard Emilee chuckle lightly. "I'm sorry, Em."
"I don't know what happened," he said. "I lost control of the car and I hit the wall. I was dazed a little bit then all of a sudden the inside of the car was like an oven."
"Jade said you said that someone pulled you out of the car," she said.
"I swear to you, Em, that someone pulled me from that car," he said. "It wasn't just me pulling myself out of it."
"Your dad?" she asked.
"Maybe." Emilee held his hand as she sniffled slightly. "Em, you okay?"
"He may be gone, Junior, but he's still watching over you," she said causing Junior to smile. "He knows how much that little girl loves you."
"She worships the ground I walk on." Emilee chuckled. "He wouldn't let me leave her now," he said. "He'd kick my ass."
"You're right," she said. "Have you seen the crash on TV yet?"
"No, I haven't."
"You have no idea how close I came to losing you," she said at the brink of tears.
"Hey, baby, don't cry," he said.
"I'm not," she said her voice cracking. Junior wiped away a tear with his thumb and pulled Emilee down and they lightly kissed.
The Next Day ..............
Junior was home the next day and Jade had canceled all his appearances for that week. The prescription that the doctor had given him eased his pain and he slept most of his time at home. They had several well wishers from DEI and other drivers. Aislynn even had her classmates sign a get well card for Junior. She couldn't wait to give it to him as she hopped off the bus and met with her mother and brother. "Mommy, look what I made for Daddy," she said handing Emilee the card. Emilee opened the card, pausing on the walkway and looked at it.
"Oh, Aislynn, this is beautiful," she said, "and you got your schoolmates to sign it too."
"You're daddy'll love it," she said. "He's sleeping right now, but you can give it to him when he wakes up."
"Okay," Aislynn said sounding disappointed. They walked up to the house and headed in.
"How about a snack?" Emilee asked setting Lee up in the living room in his play pen.
"Okay," Aislynn said pulling herself up onto her favorite seat in the kitchen. She placed the card she made onto the seat next to her and waited patiently for her snack. After her snack of apples and juice, Aislynn headed upstairs.
"Remember what I said about your father," Emilee said.
"I know," Aislynn said going into her room. A few minutes later, Aislynn stuck her head out to see where her mom was and saw she was in the living room with Lee. She slowly crept down the hall, with her hand made card, and quietly went into her dad's room. Light snoring from the inside told Aislynn that her father was fast asleep. She walked up to the bed and placed her card on the bed side table before carefully climbing onto the bed. Junior shifted slightly but remained asleep and Aislynn looked her daddy over. He wore sweat pants so his legs wouldn't hurt much. His neck was still wrapped up and the burn on his chin was out in the open for her to see. She made a face looking at it and lowered herself to her daddy's chest to hear his heartbeat. She laid herself down, laying her arms on him, and just laid there with her daddy. " I love you, Daddy," she said as she listened to her daddy's heartbeat.
Junior woke up a half hour later to see his daughter asleep with him in bed. He chuckled as he watched her sleep, her head in his chest. He looked over to the bed side table to see a card. Being careful not to wake her, he reached over and took it from the table. On the front it said, 'Get Well Soon, Daddy! Love, Aislynn! . He flipped it open to see, 'get wells' from Aislynn's class mates and her teacher. He chuckled before putting it back on the table. "I love you, Aislynn," he said. He set his head back on the pillow and closed his eyes. He didn't intend on falling back asleep, but he did.
Emilee came into the bedroom and found father and daughter fast asleep and couldn't pass up the photo op. She grabbed her camera from on top her vanity and snapped a picture of the two. The flash woke up Aislynn who yawned widely. "Did you take a picture, Mom?"
"Yeah, I did," Emilee said. "Come on, let's let your daddy sleep."
"Okay." Aislynn slowly got out of bed and left the room with her mom. Neither of them saw Junior open his eyes and watch his wife and daughter leave the room.
Chapter 24: Baby's First Christmas
The Earnhardts celebrate their first Christmas with Baby Lee.
Christmastime at the Earnhardt house was always a special time. This was extra special because it was Lee's first Christmas. After the Johnson wedding in the Caribbean, which Aislynn was in as flower girl, along with a niece of Chandra's, the Earnhardt family went about shopping and decorating the house. Aislynn insisted on icicle lights on the roof, so Junior found himself up on the roof with Kerry hanging the lights from the gutters. Of course, they couldn't be the plain clear ones. They had to be the multicolor ones that randomly sparkle. Each window had candelabras in them with blue and gold lights because the tree was blue and gold this year. The banister on the stair had a string of red lights and tinsel wrapped around it. Aislynn then put fake poinsettas around the lights to "Make it pretty", she had said. Emilee had unpacked all her Christmas decorations out and placed them where ever she could in the house. Aislynn's room had multicolor lights hanging from her ceiling. Outside, there was a giant snowglobe with a snowman inside it blown up as well as a snowman made by Aislynn a couple days ago.
Christmas shopping for the kids was done and all Junior needed to do was shop for Emilee. He took Aislynn with him.
Junior entered Zales jewelry store ( AN: I've seen way too many Zales commercials.) with Aisylnn behind him. "Okay, you're going to help me pick out a really nice necklace for mommy," he said picking her up.
"Okay," Aislynn said. She looked at the necklaces her daddy pointed to and saw a circle pendant with diamonds. "I like that one," she said.
"That one?" he asked. Aislynn nodded and Junior signaled an employee. "Hello."
"Hello, sir," she said. "How can I help you?"
"I'd like to see that necklace, please."
"Certainly," she said unlocking the case. She put the necklace on a black cushion to show it off better. "Something for your wife, Mr. Earnhardt?" she asked.
"Yep," he said. "You sure Mommy will like that?" he asked.
"Yes, Daddy," Aislynn said. "Buy it already." Junior chuckled telling the lady he'll take it.
"All right," she said. "Gift wrap?"
"No, that's okay," Junior said putting Aislynn down. "Stay in the store and don't break anything."
"Okay, Daddy," Aislynn said. She took to looking at the pretty rings in the case as Junior went to pay for the necklace.
"She is getting so big, Junior," the lady said.
"Thanks," he said looking at her name tag. "Brandie," he added seeing her name.
"How is she taking to the baby?"
"Like a duck to water," he said. "She loves her baby brother."
"I wish my oldest had taken to his little sister like that," she said taking the tag off the necklace. "It took him two months to like her." Junior chuckled as she rang up his purchase. He slid his credit card through the machine and took his purchase after she handed him the receipt. "I hope she likes it," she said. "Have a nice day, Junior."
"You, too." He collected Aislynn from the rings and they did some more shopping for Emilee. They got her a new sweater, a book she had been wanting, a handbag, a calendar to hang in her office and some dish towels because Aislynn said the ones she used to dry the dishes with were old.
Christmas morning came sooner than the Earnhardts expected and Aislynn came pounding into the room. "Wake up! Wake up!" she shouted. "It's Christmas! It's Christmas!" Junior and Emilee got up out of bed and restrained Aislynn. "Present time?" she asked.
"Breakfast first," Junior said causing his daughter to groan in disappointment. He led her downstairs as Emilee went to get Lee. Aislynn had cereal as Emilee gave Lee some milk. Junior helped himself to some ceral as well as Aislynn put her bowl into the sink.
"Can we do presents now?" she asked. Emilee chuckled as she put the empty bottle into the sink.
"Not until everyone is done with breakfast," he said still eating his cereal. He slowly chewed, making Aislynn groan in despair.
"Daddy, you're doing that on purpose." Emilee chuckled as she burped Lee.
"Come on, Junior," she said. "Let's not keep making Aislynn wait."
"Yeah," Aislynn said. Junior chuckled as he put the bowl away in the sink.
"All right," he said. "It's present time," he announced.
"Finally!" Aislynn shouted and ran into the living room where the tree was placed. "Can I play Santa this year?" Aislynn asked.
"You were Santa last year," Junior said.
"I was?" Aislynn asked.
"Yes, you were," Emilee said. "It's your daddy's turn to be Santa this year."
"Okay," she said. Junior sat on the floor and reached under the tree for Aislynn's first present.
"This is from you Uncle Jimmie and Aunt Chandra," he said. "They say it's something from the place they went to on their honeymoon." Aislynn ripped the paper off the package and opened the box to find a swimsuit with a hula skirt.
"I got a hula skirt, Daddy," she said.
"Yeah, you did," Junior said. Aislynn set it aside as Junior handed Emilee a present. He took Lee from her so she could open it. She opened it to find the dish towels that Aislynn suggested getting.
"Your old ones have holes in them, Mommy," she said. Emilee chuckled. Junior found one for him and opened it slightly faster than Emilee did.
"Oh, a new wallet," he said. He took a whif of the fresh leather and sighed deeply. "Oooo, that smelled nice."
"Junior, set an example for your daughter," Emilee said. "You do not need to be getting high off of leather in front of her."
"I found one for Lee," Aislynn said pulling a box out from under the tree. She handed it to Junior who set it in front of his seven month old son. The infant batted at the box before finding the bow pretty interesting and pulled it off.
"Not bad for his first present," Junior said causing Emilee to chuckle. Lee lost interest in the bow and found the end of the wrapping paper. With no hesitation, he grabbed it babbling in his baby nonsense and gave it a great big yank. He giggled at the tearing sounds as his dad helped him finish off the rest of the paper. "Oh, wow, Lee, your first car."
"Junior, I cannot believe you got him that," Emilee said looking at the Fisher Price scooter.
"Don't worry, Em," he said. "It's for when he's older. I just couldn't pass it up."
One by one presents were unwrapped until there was onlu one left and Aislynn knew who it was for. Junior took the small box out from under the tree and handed it to Emilee. She took the box and unwrapped it, gasping to see it was a jewelry box. She opened it to see the necklace that Aislynn had picked out. "Oh, Junior, it's beautiful," she said giving him a kiss.
"I can't take full credit," he said. "Aislynn helped me pick it out."
"You did?" she asked Aislynn who was nodding. "Thank you, Aislynn." She gave her daughter a kiss too and pulled out the necklace. Junior helped her put it on and gave her a Christmas kiss.
"I'd say this was a successful first family Christmas, wouldn't you?" he asked.
"Absolutely," she said.
After picking up the wrapping paper and throwing it away, with Emilee insisting they save the bows, they got dressed up and headed to Brenda's house. Kelley was there already with Karsyn and she and Aislynn headed off into their own little world while Lee had the privilege of being passed from female to female. There was ham, mashed potatoes, creamed corn, cresent rolls and for dessert, Brenda's famous pumpkin spiced chocolate chip cookies and cherry pie. Presents were exchanged through a hilarious game where Junior, Kelley and Kerry kept coming around to the same gift because they wanted it. The game finally ended with Kelley being victorious. Turns out that the box was empty except for writing tablets and pens. Junior ended up with an assorted meat tray and Kerry got a cookie jar. When Kelley tried to trade with Kerry, he held his cookie jar back saying 'Too late!' Their stepdad each gave them a gift. Junior nearly drooled over the new grill he had gotten.
The day turned to night, and Junior and Emilee decided to hurry their family home. After piling all the new gifts into the truck, they headed home. Aislynn didn't want to go to bed and expressed the need to stay awake.
"I don't want to go to bed," she said as her daddy tucked her in.
"Why not?" Junior asked his daughter.
"Because the sooner I go to sleep, the sooner Christmas will end."
"Don't worry, sweetie," Junior said. "We have another Christmas tomorrow, remember?"
"Yeah," she said. They were going to go to Teresa and Taylor's house tomorrow.
"Okay," he said urging her to lay down. "Try to get some sleep. Tomorrow's another big day. Good night, munchkin."
"Night, Daddy," Aislynn said before putting her head down and closing her eyes. Junior quietly left the room and headed downstairs to where Emilee was sitting in the living room.
"I wish Christmas wasn't ending so quickly," she said.
"You're starting to sound like, Aislynn," he said.
"Your mom and sister had suggested Christmas dinner be over here next year," she said.
"They did?" he asked. "What did you say?"
" 'Ask me again in six months'," she said causing Junior to chuckle. Christmas at the Earnhardts slowly came to a stop as Emilee and Junior headed upstairs to bed.
Chapter 25: Aislynn's Eighth
Junior and Emilee brace themselves for the party of the year.
Aislynn woke up bright and early on the morning of August 10, 2006. She was eight years old today. She hopped out of bed and headed down the hall to her parents' room. As usual, they were still sleeping. "Daddy, Mommy, wake up!!" Junior grunted, rolling over to see his now eight year old daughter at the foot of the bed.
"What?" he asked still groggy.
"You know what," she said putting her hands on his hips.
"Oh, it's your birthday isn't it?" he asked. Emilee groaned next to Junior, rolling over.
"Junior, stop teasing," she said before rolling back over and falling back to sleep.
"Mom," Aislynn whined.
"Aislynn, it's five in the morning," her father said. "Please, go back to bed for another five hours or until your mother or I get up, okay?" he asked.
"Okay," she said leaving the room with a pout. She made her way to her room and climbed back onto her bed. She fell back asleep only to be woken up by her two year old brother.
"Aisy," he cried. She got up to see him trying to get on her bed.
"What are you doing, Lee?" she asked getting him up onto it.
"Birthday!" he shouted.
"Yeah, it's my birthday."
"Not until two, Lee," she said.
" 'Kay," he said. "I stay here?"
"Sure," Aislynn said and her brother got under the covers with her. When Junior came into the room, he found his two children sleeping. He leaned against the door, chuckling softly.
"Junior, I can't find ...." Emilee said coming to the room, but Junior silenced her and pointed into Aislynn's room. She looked in and chuckled softly. "I wish my camera wasn't downstairs."
"Em, you can't get every photo op that happens in this house," Junior said.
"I know," she said. “Looks like Lee's escaped from his crib again.”
“I don't know how he's bypassing everything we do to make sure he doesn't,” Junior said. “We've childproofed that crib at least five times already.”
“We'll just have to get him a child bed then,” she said. "You better wake them up." Junior reluctantly went into his daughter's room to wake her and her brother up.
"Aislynn," he said shaking her slightly. Aislynn woke up and Junior took his two year old son from underneath the covers. "It's time to get up now," he said. Lee woke up to find himself in his father's arm.
"I hungry," he said.
"Your mom's got breakfast in the kitchen," he said. "Let's go." Aislynn hurried down the stairs and found her mother making breakfast.
"Hi, mom," she said climbing onto a seat.
"Morning, honey," she said. "Happy Birthday."
"You ready for your party?" she asked.
"It's not until the afternoon, Mom," Aislynn said.
"I know, but it's going to take all morning to get ready for," Emilee said. "It's your eighth birthday sweetie."
"The big eight," Junior said coming down the stairs with Lee in his arms.
"Mommy!" Lee shouted. Junior sat Lee in his high chair and went over to get some coffee. "Party!!"
"It's not your party, Lee," Aislynn said.
"Aislynn," Junior scolded.
"Sorry, Daddy," Aislynn said. Just then the doorbell rang and Junior went over to answer it. It was Kelley ready to take Aislynn to the zoo to keep her occupied for the day. "I don't understand why I have to go. I know about the party," she said.
"Yes," Junior said, "but we don't need you watching us setting up your party, telling us we are doing it wrong."
"Besides, there are some surprises you are not supposed to see."
"Okay," she said before taking off towards her aunt. "Let's go."
"Has she had breakfast yet?" she asked. The Earnhardts shook their head and Kelley sighed out. "Well, I guess I'll take care of that." Junior and Emilee laughed as Kelley walked after her niece.
"We're going to the zoo, Karsyn," Aislynn said.
"I know," the four year old said.
At the zoo, after a quick stop at McDonald's, Aislynn and Karsyn dragged Kelley along to see the monkeys first.
Karsyn was scared of the gorilla, but Aislynn got him to wave at her and she giggled. After the monkeys, they just walked through the zoo and only stopped at the animals they wanted to look at.
Back at the Earnhardt house, Junior was getting the mail from the mailman. “Thanks, Bill,” he said.
“Welcome, Junior,” Bill said. “Wish a 'Happy Birthday' to that girl of yours,” he said.
“I will.” Junior headed back up the drive in the golf cart and parked it behind the house. Heading up the steps, he filed through the mail and stopped in front of the door. One name popped out at him. Chrissy Krandell. “Oh shit,” he muttered seeing the envelope was addressed to Aislynn. He gave out a sigh and headed into the house. “She did it again,” he said showing Emylee the bright purple envelope. “Another birthday card for Aislynn.”
“She went to jail, Junior,” Emilee said. “Do you really expect her to do damage from in there?” she asked.
“No, but this is Chrissy we're talking about,” he said. “She isn't exactly stable right now,” he said.
“Look, Junior, you can't stop her from trying to communicate with her daughter,” Emilee said. “She can send cards.”
“I just wish that woman would get it through her head that Aislynn doesn't want anything to do with her,” Junior snapped. “She may be able to send cards, but I intercept them.”
“Dale, you're not throwing those away are you?” she asked.
“How dumb do you think I am?” he asked her. “I'm not throwing them away. I'm just hoarding them until Aislynn's old enough to decide for herself whether or not she wants to know her.”
“And when will that be?” Emilee asked.
“When she's eighteen and an adult.” Emilee sighed as he walked into his office and put the mail on his desk before hearing a car door slam. Looking out the window, he saw Aislynn and Karsyn running up to the house with Kelley behind them.
Arriving back to the Earnhardt home, Aislynn saw several balloons of purple and lime green taped to the railings. Streamers swung in the air with the wind. Aislynn and Karsyn were bouncing up and down in their car seats. “Look at all the balloons, Aislynn,” Karsyn said. Kelley parked the car and Aislynn unhooked herself from her seat before helping Karsyn with hers.
“Come on, Karsyn,” she said helping the four year old out of the car. The two ran hand in hand to the house with Kelley walking after them. Inside was a vision of a magical forest. Aislynn was going through a Tinkerbell phase this past year, so Emilee and Junior decided to decorate up the house as a rainforest and had Tinkerbell and friends hidden around in the 'forest'. They were going to have a game for the kids on who can find all of the fairies.
“Do you like it, Aislynn?” Junior asked.
“I love it, Daddy,” Aislynn said running up to her father putting her arms around his waist and giving him a big Aislynn Earnhardt hug.
“I'm so glad you do, Angel,” Junior said. “All right, you're friends are going to be here soon. Go upstairs and get ready. There's an outfit picked out for you already,” he said.
“Okay,” she said before running upstairs with Karsyn right behind her. Fifteen minutes later she was dressed and was downstairs wearing her purple and lime green fairy costume making her look like Tinkerbell on her birthday balloons. “I'm ready!” she shouted as she came tearing down the stairs. Karsyn was a bit slower than her as she took the steps one at a time. She was also dressed up in a fairy costume of pink and purple. When she entered the 'Playstation' room as her father used to call it, she found one of her friends already there.
“Tracy, you made it!” she shouted and a blonde girl came up to Aislynn. They have been best friends since the start of kindergarten.
“My mom just dropped me off,” Tracy said. She was dressed in a black and pink fairy outfit and was just as wired as Aislynn was. That was just what the Earnhardts needed. Wired eight year olds. Just then the doorbell rang again and another friend of Aislynn's came barreling into the house in a blur of red and pink.
“This is going to be a long day,” Junior muttered to Emilee. She only smiled and nodded her agreement.
Aislynn, her five friends from school and Karsyn had a blast. All were dressed up like fairies, they trolled around the forest in the house, looking for the fairies in a scavenger hunt. Then outside, they jumped on the trampoline until they got tired of that. There was a pinata full of candy that was literally smacked to pieces.
The last party guest left and Emilee sat on the sofa next to Junior with a sigh. “Oh, sweet Lord,” she said.
“You said a mouth full, Babe,” he putting his arm around his wife. Just then the birthday girl came into the room with a smile.
“Daddy, can I have some of your office paper to write 'Thank you's' to everybody.
“Sure thing, Angel,” he said. “Why don't you go on in there and get some?” he suggested without thinking. She nodded and hurried into her daddy's office. She found the paper, but then saw a purple envelope with her name on it. She didn't recognize the name on it and decided to see if her Daddy could tell her who it was from. Running into the living room, she found her mom and dad still on the sofa.
“Dad, who's this from?” she asked causing her father to freeze seeing the envelope. Junior cursed himself for not putting the card away. He had completely forgotten about it when the party started.
“This is from Chrissy,” he said. “You remember who Chrissy is?” he asked and she nodded.
“Yeah, she was that mean lady from that custody trial when I was little,” she said. “You said that she's my real mom, but that she was sick and wasn't allowed to have me,” she said. Junior nodded and gestured for his daughter to come over. As she walked over to her father, Emilee got up and walked out of the room, letting Junior handling this one. Aislynn allowed her father to lift her up and sit her down next to him.
“She's been sending you cards for your birthday since she went to jail.”
“Why did she go to jail?”
“She had you kidnapped,” he said. “Remember that day Uncle Jimmie had you? The arcade?”
“Oh, that was a really bad day for Uncle Jimmie,” Aislynn said. “So, why does she send them to me still?”
“Well, believe it or not kiddo, she still loves ya,” Junior said. “Now, I've been keeping them for you until you're 18.”
“That's when you're an adult and you can make choices for yourself,” Junior explained. “Now, when you turn eighteen, you can read these if you want. Heck, you can even visit your mother in jail if you want, but I'd rather you didn't have any interaction with her until you're old enough to decipher that yourself.”
“Okay,” she said before getting down from the sofa. “I don't think I want to see her just yet,” she decided.
“That's all right,” Junior said. “You can go when you feel like it.” She nodded before hurrying off to write up her cards. Emilee came back in after putting Lee down and crossed her arms.
“You handled that well,” she said.
“Yeah,” he said.
“So did she.”
“Yep,” he said. “Guess she's doing all right with growing up.”
“Now what?” she asked causing him to sigh.
“I'm going to keep them for her and give them to her on her eighteenth birthday and we'll go from there,” he said. “Can't hide them from forever anymore,” he said.
“She's growing up faster I think,” she said.
“Well, she did skip a grade,” Junior said. “She's a lot smarter than anyone I've known in my family and she certainly didn't get her brains from that mother of hers. Oh, did I say that out loud?” he asked.
“Yeah, but I know who ya meant,” she said before kissing him softly. “Want to have another one?” she asked.
“Another what?” Junior asked.
“Another baby, silly,” she said. “There's a fourth bedroom at the end of the hall,” she said as a matter of fact.
“Hmm, another baby,” he pondered. “Does that mean we'll have more sex than usual?” he asked causing her to hit him in the arm.
Chapter 26: Epilouge: Years Later
Years later, Aislynn makes a decision about her birth mother.
North Carolina State Ward Prison (one for the loonies)
Eighteen year old Aislynn Michelle Earnhardt sat nervously in her father's Chevy Suburban. He sat beside her in the driver's seat and watched her tapping her fingers on her thighs. They had been sitting in the parking lot of the State Ward Prison where Chrissy was serving a fifteen year sentence for kidnapping Aislynn. She had come up for parole a couple of years ago, but the warden found a detailed plan to kidnap Aislynn again who was fifteen at the time and denied it. Now, Aislynn was an adult and she wanted to see the woman who had kidnapped her all those years ago and confront her. However, now that she and her father were there, she was having second thoughts. “I can go in with you,” he offered.
“That will just make her freak out,” she said. “If she sees me by myself she won't know who I am until I tell her.”
“Yeah,” he said. “Last time she saw you you were five years,” he said. “You grew up so fast,” he said.
“Dad, are you getting sentimental on me?” she asked causing him to chuckle.
“Look, she's going to say things to you that she's been saying for years.”
“I know, Dad, that she's a loon,” Aislynn said. “She's in here. That's proof enough.”
“Like I said before, she'll be behind glass, the staff knows who you are, so they're taking that extra step to protect you from her.”
“Okay,” she said.
“I'll walk you in and if you want I can stay in the entrance way.”
“I think I'll go in by myself,” she said. Junior nodded before she unbuckled her seat belt and opened the door. “I won't stay long. I imagine she'll go nuts when she knows it's me.”
“I love you, you know that, right?” he asked.
“I know, Daddy,” she said. “I love you too.” Junior smiled as she got out of the SUV and headed inside.
Of all the years Chrissy's been in this place, she hadn't had one visitor who wasn't her lawyer. Her mother stopped coming years ago. Her best friend never started. She had no friends. Not even on the inside. So she wondered, who could be visiting her. When her guard escorted her into the visiting area, she couldn't tell who was there for her. She was brought to a booth with glass in between. On the other side was a young woman with strawberry blonde hair who looked a little bit familiar. Then again, she had just taken her meds. She could be imagining it. The guard removed her shackles and the young woman picked up her phone, prompting her to pick hers up as wel. “Do I know you?” she asked her southern accent drawl coming through.
“Uh, sort of,” the woman said. She seemed nervous. “I wanted to at least see you before I went off to college,” she said.
“You must be a fan or something,” Chrissy said.
“I get a few letters in the mail who praise me for what I did. Getting pregnant by Dale Jr and becoming his baby mama. Unfortunately for them, I’m not a baby mama.”
“What are you then?”
“I'm his wife,” Chrissy said.
'Yep, still crazy,' Aislynn thought. “His wife is Emylee.”
“Oh, you are a fan then. I can't believe you got through the guards,” Chrissy said.
“No, I’m not a fan. I’m a relative of yours,” Aislynn said.
“Not sure what you mean by that. I don't have sisters or female cousins this close. No family of mine would visit their crazy redneck cousin or daughter in here anymore.”
“I would think that a mother would know her own child,” Aislynn snapped at her in her own southern drawl. She sounded more Earnhardt though. Aislynn watched as Chrissy's demeanor changed; drastically.
“Aislynn, oh, sweet heart. You've gotten so big,” she said pawing at the glass.
“It's called growing up.”
“I know I haven't been around and I blame your father for that, but now it's all better.”
“You blame Dad for all of this?” Aislynn asked, her Earnhardt temper flaring up a bit.
“Well, he took you away from me.”
“You abandoned me on his porch,” she said.
“I tried to get you back.”
“I have vague memories of those days, but I remember that I didn't know you or liked you back then.”
“You didn't know me because your father kept you from me,” Chrissy said.
“Funny, I don't remember you in my life until that day in the tiny room, when I kicked you in the shin,” Aislynn said. It was all coming back to her.
“Things would've been better if that judge had just given you to me,” Chrissy said.
“And when things didn't go your way you kidnapped me,” Aislynn said causing Chrissy to bang her hand on the counter. An orderly stepped forward, but Aislynn waved him off.
“Your father is telling you lies about me. Everything I did was out of love. I loved you, Aislynn. I still love you.”
“You sure had a funny way of showing it,” Aislynn commented sarcastically.
“Don't talke to me that way. I am your mother.”
“No, you're not,” she said shocking Chrissy. “You're just the woman who birthed me. You were never, in any way, a mother to me. I have a mother and her name is Dr. Emylee Knolls-Earnhardt. She and my dad have been married for nearly fourteen years. She was the one who raised me into this young woman you see before you. You are not my mother, Ms Krandell.”
“No, no, no! He's brainwashed you! You're my daughter!” she shouted.
“Good bye, Ms Krandell,” Aislynn said before hanging up the phone.
“No! Pick that phone back up! We are not done!” Chrissy shouted as Aislynn stood up and began to walk away from her. Orderlies had to hold her to prevent her from breaking down the barrier. “You are my daughter! Don't you walk away from me like I am nothing! You are my flesh and blood! Mine! Aislynn! Come back!” she shouted as she was dragged to the back rooms.
Aislynn never looked back.
Junior looked up when he saw Aislynn walk out of the ward. “You okay?” he asked as she climbed into the car.
“You were right, Daddy. She's never going to get better. She's an absolute psycho.” Junior let out a sigh as he started to car. “I just hope her psychological problems aren't heritedary,” she said causing her father to chuckled.
“You have nothing to worry about, sweetheart. You are as sane as you can be. Just remember, you're Earnhardt. We have our own psychological problems.” It was Aislynn's turn to chuckle.
“Yeah, but ours won't get us tossed into here,” she said as they pulled away.
Seven Years Later............
Aislynn stood at the back of a church, wearing a white wedding dress. It was the most important day of her life. She was getting married. She couldn't believe it. She found a guy who was not intimidated by her father. Aislynn met Oliver while attending Duke University. They were in the same Political Science class in their sophomore year. They made an instant connection. Turned out that Oliver was a North Caroline native. He lived in the beach side city of Wilmington. He came from a first class family. His mother was a lawyer and his father was an ER doctor. He was studying to become a lawyer. Aislynn was studying to become a doctor. Political Science was to fill a hole in her schedule. They dated for the rest of college before he went to law school in Harvard and she went to med school, staying at Duke University. They reconnected after three years apart. Their first date after reuniting, he proposed to her.
Now she stood, waiting for her father to walk her down the aisle. The door opened and she turned to see her dad walk in. Dale Earnhardt, Jr's aged, but defined face softened at the sight of his daughter. “Oh, munchkin, you look absolutely beautiful,” he said.
“You really think so?” she asked.
“I'm your father. Would I lie to you?” he asked as he put his hat down. Aislynn chuckled as her father came up to her. “I'm so proud of you,” he said.
“I'm glad you like Oliver,” she said.
“I wouldn't be letting him marry you if I didn't.” Aislynn chuckled as her father fixed a jewel in her hair. “I remember when we went to pick out this dress in New York. You were ever a Southern belle that day.”
“I had to have what I wanted,” she said.
“And you did. I was just glad I was there to see you pick it out.”
“I wanted you to be there, Daddy. It wouldn't have felt right,” Aislynn said. “Sure, Emylee, Granny, Teresa, Aunt Taylor, Aunt Kelly and Karsyn were there, but you practically raised me all by myself. You had to be there.”
“I know.” There was a knock on the door and they both looked to see Emylee coming in.
“Are we ready?” she asked. “There's a whole church of people waiting to see the daughter of Dale Earnhardt, Jr walk down the aisle and get married.”
“I'm ready,” Aislynn said as Emylee handed her her bouquet of white lilies and pink roses.
“I'll let the girls know,” she said before giving Aislynn a kiss on the cheek and then headed out. Junior headed over to the chair where he had put his hat and retrieved it.
“All right. Let's get you down the aisle to your fiance,” he said. Aislynn lifted up her skirt and walked over to her father.
“Lead the way, Dad,” she said with a smile.