My Saving Grace

Despite losing her mother when she was ten, Sophia Grace Weston has the life most kids dream of. Growing up, she had a loving father and was always surrounded by the most privileged people, but when she enters college, a brief encounter with Chase Lincoln reveals that life isn't easy for everyone like her. In fact, life can go spiraling downwards in just the blink of an eye. And when that happens, sometimes all you can do is pray for a saving grace.

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3. Chapter 3

I spent the next two days studying for my physics midterm and getting additional help from both my professor and TA. The last midterm we'd had a couple of weeks ago, I'd totally bombed, so it was crucial that I did better on this one.

 

"You look like you could use a break from all of this studying," Alexa remarked when she saw me at one of the tables in the library. 

 

I closed my laptop and gave her a tired smile. 

 

"My brain feels like it's going to burst. God, why does physics have to be so hard?", I groaned, dropping my head on the table as I rubbed my temples. 

 

"At least this is your final semester of it," she pointed out. 

 

"Thank the lord."

 

She smiled reassuringly at me then began putting my things into my backpack for me. Meanwhile, my stomach started growling loudly, and I realized that I hadn't eaten a single thing since breakfast. One look out the window told me that it had to be six already at least. 

 

"Let's get some food into that tummy of yours," Alexa said. 

 

"Ok. Where should we go?"

 

"You up for some Chinese?"

 

"Cream cheese wontons sound amazing right now, actually." 

 

"Chinese it is then." She beamed. 

 

The two of us left the library then took the campus connector over to a Chinese restaurant in Dinkytown. Unfortunately, when we got there, the place was packed. People were standing by the door, waiting for a spot to sit.

 

"Excuse me, how long is the wait?", Alexa asked the host. He glanced at his tablet. 

 

"About forty minutes."

 

"That long? For a table for two?"

 

"Yes. There's others waiting for a table for two, too, you know," he stated pointedly. 

 

"Can you please give us the first available table? My friend here hasn't eaten since this morning, and she's craving cream cheese wontons, and she has a midterm tomorrow morning," Alexa said, her voice raised. I immediately tugged on her sleeve. 

 

"Um, we can just go somewhere else," I muttered. 

 

"My wife and I were the first ones here. They can have our table when it's available," a man offered. 

 

We both turned around to face him. 

 

"Are you sure?", I asked. 

 

"Yeah, of course. I was a college student here, too, years ago. Chinese was always my go-to food." He grinned. 

 

"You girls go right ahead. We're not too hungry right now," his wife added with a friendly smile. 

 

We both thanked the couple. 

 

"No worries. Good luck on your midterm," the man said. 

 

Within five minutes, Alexa and I were seated at a table. 

 

"Gosh, the people here are so sweet," I remarked. 

 

"Well, it is 'Minnesota nice' for a reason." She smiled. 

 

After a huge dinner that consisted of fried rice, shrimp, vegetable stir-fry, and of course, cream cheese wontons, we walked back to our residence hall. A sinking feeling developed in my chest when we passed by Chase's building as I thought of everything he'd told me two days ago. 

 

"You OK there, Soph?", Alexa asked. 

 

"Just worried about the physics midterm." It wasn't really a lie, but I didn't want to tell her about Chase quite yet. 

 

"You'll do fine." She gave my hand a reassuring squeeze. 

 

I sure hoped so...

 

The next morning, Alexa and I woke up at seven then walked over to West Bank after breakfast for our midterm. Unlike me, she was perfectly calm and relaxed. 

 

"Good luck, bestie," she said as we settled into our exam seats. 

 

"You, too."

 

Once the proctors began handing out the exam documents, I went through my mental prep and forced my nerves aside. 

 

The minutes ticked by, and at last, we were told to begin. I was able to answer some of the multiple choice questions, but as soon as the free response problems came, I panicked. 

 

For ten minutes, I just stared at both of the problems, not having a clue where to begin. In front of me, the clock read 9:05, which meant that I only had fifteen minutes left. Crap!

 

Remembering that partial credit was always available, I started scribbling down equations but had no idea how they related to the problem. Then as I read the words more carefully, I realized that we'd done a similar problem before during lecture. 

 

Just when I was about to write out the first step, my TA yelled "Time's up!"

 

Goddammit!

 

Frustrated, I threw my pencil onto the table and watched as it rolled off the corner and onto the floor. 

 

Grabbing my things, I briskly walked down the steps to turn in my test.

 

"How'd it go for you, Sophia?", my TA asked as I handed him the papers. 

 

I shook my head, forcing myself not to cry. 

 

He gave me a sympathetic look, and and that made me feel even worse. My TA was the sweetest guy and had gone out of his way to help me, but I still managed to fail in the end. 

 

"Have a good weekend," I managed to say to him before making my way out of the auditorium. 

 

"Hey, Sophia, wait up!"

 

I turned around to see Alexa rushing towards me. One look at my face, and she could tell how I was feeling. 

 

"What's wrong?", she asked. 

 

"I completely bombed that exam."

 

She frowned. 

 

"Cheer up, it's just one exam."

 

I couldn't help myself, I just snapped. 

 

"That's easy for you to say. This class has no effect on your GPA. If I fail physics this semester, I might not even get accepted to my major!"

 

"Sophia, listen to me---"

 

"I'll see you later," I said curtly, cutting her off, then left as quickly as I could, away from this building that housed all my failures.  

 

I kept on walking, my vision blurred by tears, and it wasn't until I reached Dinkytown twenty minutes later that I realized what I wanted. 

 

Chase's company. 

 

Choking back a sob, I burst through the door, only to realize that the building was completely empty. Tossing my backpack on the ground, I fell onto the pile of blankets in the corner and sat there crying for a good five minutes when Chase came walking in, drinking from a bottle of beer. 

 

He turned towards me, his brows furrowed in confusion and when he got close enough, I grabbed the bottle from his hand and took a large swig, letting the alcohol numb me. 

 

"Hey, what the hell are you doing?", he demanded, reaching for his bottle but I yanked my hand away from his grasp. Next thing I knew, I was choking on the beer from drinking too quickly. 

 

Chase gave me a good slap on the back, and I hugged my knees to my chest, feeling slightly dizzy. I was never much of a drinker. 

 

"My life is over...," I mumbled dejectedly, rocking back and forth on the floor. 

 

"What on earth are you talking about?", Chase asked, sitting down next to me. 

 

"I fucking bombed my physics exam just now."

 

Chase went from looking confused to absolutely outraged. 

 

"An exam? Are you fucking kidding me, Sophia Grace?" He threw his hands in the air. 

 

"Why are you yelling?"

 

"You bomb an exam, so you think your life is over and that drinking is gonna solve all your problems?"

 

I instantly became defensive. 

 

"You don't understand! I failed the last exam we had as well."

 

"So what? There's worse things in life than failing a college class, princess," he said, his expression hard.

 

"It's just not fair; my grades were never this low in high school."

 

He sighed in exasperation. 

 

"You think life is always gonna go easy on you?"

 

"I don't need to hear a life lesson right now, Chase," I grumbled, reaching for the bottle of beer, but he yanked it out of my grasp.

 

"Enough. I'm not gonna sit here and watch you get wasted," he said with a look of disgust. 

 

"Just one more---"

 

"No. You need to grow up, Sophia Grace. Failing an exam doesn't mean you can drink to oblivion. It means you need to work harder." His tone was stern. 

 

I grew silent, simply listening to his words.

 

"Alcohol seems like an easy way to forget about your problems, but in the long run, it screws up your entire life. You have so much potential, Sophia Grace. I'd hate to see you just throw it all away," he said, looking straight into my eyes. 

 

"I promise you, Chase, I don't ever drink...well, only at parties. But I'm just so frustrated. No matter how much I study and ask for help, I still do bad on tests." 

 

"That must be annoying, huh?"

 

"It is!"

 

"I've never gone to college, so I wouldn't know, but I guarantee you, drinking isn't gonna help anything. Believe me, princess, if I could redo the past three years of my life, I would." 

 

The look of anguish was clear in his blue eyes. Now more than ever, I was desperate to know what had gone on in his life since he left home.

 

"What did you do?", I asked quietly. 

 

"I was a coward. I took the easy way out. That night ruined me, Sophia Grace. I wanted to forget about it, forget about the past few years with Joseph, my father's death...everything. It felt like I'd fallen into a deep, dark hole. My friend's older brother was a heroin dealer, so I went to him."

 

"You started using heroin?" My eyes widened in shock, and out of natural instinct, I slightly shifted away from him.

 

"Yeah...I did. Next thing I knew, I was dealing, and I made a shit ton of cash out of it, too. For the first time in my life, I had my own place and car. But then one day, things got out of hand. 

 

"There was a death of a man in the neighborhood--heroin overdose reporters said. Sophia...I was the one who sold him his heroin." He pointed at his chest, looking absolutely torn. 

 

"Oh my god..." I was utterly speechless. 

 

"I wasn't just a heroin addict; I was a killer. How on earth was I supposed to live with myself anymore?"

 

His words ripped me apart on the inside, and I couldn't stop the tears from falling. I felt so conflicted, unsure whether to hate him for what he'd done or feel sorry for him. 

 

"The next day, I told the guy in charge of our heroin business that I wanted to quit, but he wouldn't let me go unless I paid my debt."

 

"How much did you owe him?", I managed to ask. 

 

"A lot. I had to sell both my house and car. Then I put myself in rehab. I got out just two weeks ago and ended up here."

 

Before I knew what I was doing, my arms were around Chase's neck, and I began crying onto his shoulder. His body tensed, shocked at the contact, then he hugged me back, rubbing his hand up and down my spine.  

 

"Don't cry for me, princess. I don't deserve your tears." His voice was a pained whisper. 

 

"I know where you are now isn't much, but God I'm so thankful you made it here."

 

He pulled away from me, reaching out to wipe away my tears with his calloused fingers. And once again, I noticed his bruised knuckles. 

 

"Where did these come from?", I asked, grabbing his hand. 

 

"I may have punched the wall once or twice out of anger and shame," he replied with a guilty expression. "I've been trying to forget about the past, but it's hard to when I'm constantly reminded of it."

 

"What do you mean?", I asked. 

 

Slowly, he pulled up his shirt sleeve, and I gasped at the scars that covered his otherwise smooth forearm.

 

"They're ugly, I know. But I put myself in this position. Now enough about me, I want to know more about you."

 

He turned to face me, a hopeful expression on his face, and I couldn't help but smile through my tears.

 

"What do you want to know?"

 

"Anything you're willing to tell me."

 

"OK then. Hmm let's see here. I'm from California, and I came to this university to study chemical engineering," I said, stretching out my legs to make myself more comfortable. 

 

"See, I knew you were smart," Chase commented with a grin. I blushed.

 

"Just curious, you're from here, right?", I asked. 

 

"Yup. Minnesota born and raised."

 

"That's what I thought. Anyway, at home, it's just me, my older brother, and my dad. I guess you can say we're a pretty big deal."

 

"How so?"

 

"Ever stayed at a Weston hotel before?"

 

"Once or twice back when my father was alive," he replied. 

 

"Well, the CEO, Derek Weston, is my dad," I said, beaming with pride. I always loved talking about my father. 

 

"Are you kidding me? See, I knew you were a rich, spoiled princess." His tone was teasing. And this time, I laughed. 

 

We spent the next half hour chatting about our hobbies, interests, and families. It felt nice getting to talk about my mom. However, the highlight of our conversation had to be when he revealed that he used to star in musicals back in middle school and high school. 

 

I was utterly fascinated by Chase Lincoln. He was no longer just some 'homeless man,'; he was my friend, and I wouldn't be lying if I said that I liked him...maybe even a little bit too much. 

 

 

 

A/N- Hope you guys are enjoying this story so far! Remember to like and comment!

 
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