Chapter 28: The Stakes Are High!

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October 6th 2015

The bright, harsh, artificial light illuminates the scene before me. The rough sound is exemplifying the Doppler effect to the finest. The entire place reeks of sweat, beer, dried mud and burnt rubber. The drunk man next to me shouts profanities as he watches his chance of winning, slip more and more.

However, I can't help but join in on the screaming of fans chanting "Ryder!" Over and over again. A strange sense of pride swells inside me. I may never had imagined this morning, when I woke up in Damian's bed, I'd be here. Hell, I never imagined I'd be here ever in my life. For crying out loud this is illegal! But I can't help but relish each moment, absorbing the atmosphere and all of this chaos to the max.

I'm enjoying every moment, supporting Ash Ryder, at a drag car race.

___________________________*previously this evening*_____________________

"I don't want to go back to Kate's" I Moan.

"Why not?" Ash asks annoyance apparent in his tone.

"I don't want to relive everything that just happen, it's too humiliating and still raw. You know Kate, she'll want an explanation." I say sheepishly, dropping my gaze to the floor.

I can feel Ash's gaze on me. He's waiting expectantly. He refuses to leave me here walking the streets alone, but he says he has somewhere important he has to be in fifteen. By the way his phone keeps ringing it just be urgent and he's getting aggravated.

"Urgh, get on" he grumbles as he straddles his motorcycle and tosses his helmet at me. I clumsily grasp it. I Swallow the lump in my throat, but realising my only other options is go to the party again or to Kate's, I strap it on and climb on too.

We drive for exactly twelve minutes, zooming past the town, at an alarming rate. we eventually arrive at what looks like a garage. Ash quickly mounts off the motorcycle.

Two large men and redhead girl approach him. They all have an edge to them. Confident, all dressed in leather, the men show muscle and tattoos peeking here and there from under their clothes. The girl strides with them, looking slightly more approachable, but still as empowering. I guess that's the power of women, they truly can be both sweet and cruel at the same time- a skill men just can't ever get the handle of. "Where the hell have you been man? The race starts in seven!" One of the guy demand as he embraces Ash in brotherly hug.

"I got caught up with something. I herd some news today and I just had to make sure everything was going to be okay" I'm guessing Ash must be talking about the rumours and he wanted to make sure I was okay. I can't help but feel my heart swell at that.

"Well you better get ready, they're Gonna call all racers any minute now"

"Who's that?" the female nods toward me. Ash awkwardly scratches the nape of his neck and mumbles-" oh, that's Noah. I need you to look out for him while I race. You know how much I need this one."

The one who hasn't spoken yet demands"why the hell is he here Ash?" Growling his words. But Ash doesn't flinch at his harshness.

"Uh, he had no where else to go?" He shrugs making his statement sound more of a question. It's strange seeing Ash a little intimidated or talking to people for the fact. He's just strolling around school, with some different girl on his arm, or walking alone. Causing other students  part like the Red Sea near him. Yet here he was almost being normal if there was anything normal about this situation. "Just look after him okay!"

"We will Ry, we will" the girl says calmly and assuringly. She smiles sweetly at Ash, placing her hand gently on his bicep. Which causes the guy who yelled before to aggressively grunt, but for some odd reason- I don't think it's about me.

Ash quickly disappears for his 'race' entrusting me with these three strangers. They all stare at me as I stare at them. The seeming nicer guy, who greeted Ash first is the one to break the silence. "The only people from ash's school to ever come here is-"
"Let me guess:Kate?" I finish for him.
"Well, yeah and Lexi." Lexi? I'm about to question that one but I don't get a chance to cause the girl takes my arm and begins introducing everyone. "Hey I'm scarlet, that's Mason and the aggro one is Reece." I'm guessing you can tell who is Mason and who is Reece. "Anyway, we better take our seats." She says dragging me with her.
"Our seats?" I question.
"At the track"
She stares at me and then gently starts to chuckle. "do you know why we are here?"
"Um, no" I reply dumbly. "Something about race I'm  guessing since  you've all mentioned that" I say trying to seem intuitive. She just chuckles more.
"Cmon, I'll explain once were seated"

We walk behind the mechanic garage, to a parking lot that's completely filled. At the back I notice there's a gate and that's where we are headed. After taking the seats, where I'm squashed between some drunk dude and Scarlet and Reece next to her. Mason left us saying he had to go check something or other. Scarlet resumed her explanation.

"We're at a drag race"
"Yeah I can kind of grasp that now. But why?"
"To support Ash" she says as if it's the most obvious thing.
"He's competing?" I question not comprehending this new information.
"Hell yeah he is, he's the best street racer in town, hell I bet in the state"
"So he enjoys racing?" I feel really slow at the moment but I don't care.
"Well yeah, Ry loves it. But he does it for the money. Do you know about his home life?"
"Yeah he looks after his siblings right?"
"Aww yeah they are the cutest. They adore Ry, pretty much everyone I know adores Ry." She laughs which causes Reece to grunt again. I'm seriously sensing some tension here...
"Anyway, he needs racing to get a few extra bits of cash, I mean he works a part time job as a mechanic already but he does this to get cash fast."
"So if he wins he gets money?"
"Well yeah, but not the way you think. If you win the race you get a pink slip which can sometimes be money, sometimes be a new car, sometimes a bike. It depends on the calibra of the race. The real money comes from  the inter competition betting. Competitors bet amongst themselves for their wins. If they beat their opponent the opponent has to cough up."
"So he's betting with people that he'll beat them"
"He's betting one person to win" she corrects me.
"Tony Stame. He's not from here. No one here is dumb enough to bet against Ry"
"Ash that good?"
"Good?" She scoffs. "Hell yes, Ash Ryder is amazing!" She exclaims. Whilst Reece just snorts at that and grumbles somethings incoherently. Both Scarlett and I choose to ignore him though.
"Anyway Tony's known to be good too, like really good. So he's a cocky bastard and bets high stakes so he can win big. He's here for this race just to out show Ry. But there's no way he's going to win, Ry has this in the bag." She smiles fondly, she really does seem nice.
"So, he really needs the cash and this is his chance so he could win really big?"
"Exactly, it's over two months worth of rent for him, he's putting on the line, but if he wins he will have food for the twins and rent for the next few months sorted. It would just be such a nice piece of mind for him. He has it so hard at the moment." I can imagine. The mood turns solemn and is slightly distracting. But the race has begun and we all glue are eyes to the track below us. Scarlett points out Ash's steel grey Gullarado, and like lightening he's off. Neck in neck with, who I assume is Tony.
"You said 'if' I though Ash has this in the bag?" I joke, lightening the atmosphere.
"Oh he does, but I don't Always want to appear cocky about one of my best friends" best friends, huh? Are all of them best friends? Is this who Ash really is?

I don't get to ponder these thoughts too much as the race heats up. There's a few collisions but Ash and tony are way in the lead. They really are only racing between each other. Like Scarlett says everyone, does love Ash. It seems almost the entire crowd is chanting "Ryder!".

Which brings me to where you met me. In the bright, harsh artificial light......

"Yessss!!!!" The crowd uproars. All three of us: Scarlett, Reece and I cheer in celebration. "Did you ever doubt he'd win?" Mason says quietly in my ear materialising out of nowhere all of a sudden.
"No, no I didn't." I say confidently.

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