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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7. Chapter 7

I was on the verge of passing out, my chest rising and falling rapidly as the needle came within inches of my wrist. A thin layer of sweat covered my forehead, and I looked towards Alexa, who was calm and beaming with excitement. 

 

"Girl, you're gonna be fine. Just breathe in and out," she reassured. 

 

"Am I gonna die?", I asked Jason, my tattoo artist. 

 

He laughed in amusement. 

 

"No, you won't die, Sophia. Just focus on something else."

 

"Ok." My breath left in a rush. 

 

"You ready?" He raised a brow. 

 

"Go for it."

 

He smiled, and the moment the needle came in contact with my skin, I yelped, my nails digging painfully into my thighs. 

 

Holy fuck, this hurt!

 

"You're doing great, Sophia," Jason said. 

 

I laughed nervously. 

 

At the end of our freshman year, Alexa and I made a pact that if we remained best friends throughout our undergraduate career, we'd get matching tattoos. So here we were, a week before our commencement at the tattoo shop in Dinkytown, about to have the word "Golden" permanently inked on the inside of our left wrist. 

 

The idea came to us one night at a bar in Stadium Village. I had spent six hours in my junior chemical engineering lab and felt like death, and Alexa had just returned from her semester-long study abroad trip to London. 

 

Once we both got into our majors sophomore year, we had very different schedules and barely got to see each other, despite being roommates in the same apartment we shared with two other girls. But through it all, we remained the best of friends. 

 

I was the shoulder she cried on during her rough break-up with Tristan, and whenever I had to pull an all-nighter to write an eighty-page lab report, she'd have a plate of breakfast and coffee waiting on the kitchen counter for me in the morning. 

 

Our friendship was golden--in fact, some of our friends had even started calling us "the golden girls" after the TV show, so that was what initially sparked the idea for our tattoo. Also, Minnesota's college mascot was the Golden Gopher, so "Golden" was the perfect word to capture our friendship and college memories; that's what we'd ended up deciding that night in the bar. 

 

"There, all done," Jason announced happily. 

 

I looked down at my wrist, where the word "Golden" was beautifully scripted then I glanced over at Alexa, and we both burst into tears. 

 

"Wanna go celebrate you not dying in that tattoo shop?", she asked once we were outside, our wrists all bandaged up. 

 

"Yes! Sally's Saloon sound good?"

 

Sally's was the bar where we had decided which tattoo to get last year. 

 

"You bet it does," she winked at me. 

 

It felt like yesterday when I first came to the university as a freshman, and now here I was, a senior about to graduate. There were so many times I'd debated switching my major--the rumors were true, chemical engineering was extremely challenging--but I ended up sticking with it because I loved what I did; those sleepless nights and hours spent in the labs were all worth it. 

 

My junior year, I had to quit my beloved barista job at Starbucks, so I could focus on my studies. That summer, I landed an internship with Cargill and from it, I'd gained a lot of valuable experience. 

 

This year, I'd started applying for jobs specifically in California to be near home, and after flying out for some interviews over spring break, I was hired by Abbott Laboratories to work as a process engineer. 

 

They were located in a town called Sylmar, thirty miles north of Los Angeles International Airport, and I'd officially start there next month. Lately, my dad had been researching apartments online since I was too busy to look myself, but once I got back to California, we'd both go apartment hunting together in Los Angeles. 

 

Alexa had decided business management simply wasn't enough for her, so she was graduating with a double major in marketing and management and would be working for Nike in New York City. I was so happy for her; she'd always dreamt of living in NYC. 

 

For four years, we've lived under the same roof, so now, the thought of us being on opposite coasts of the country was utterly heartbreaking. I was going to miss her so much--my golden girl. 

 

"What can I get you girls?", the bartender at Sally's asked once we were seated. And damn, he had a very nice face and body.

 

"Just a beer, please," I ordered. 

 

"Same for me," Alexa added. 

 

"Sounds good." He grinned, and I practically swooned. 

 

Gosh, I couldn't remember the last time I'd slept with a guy. It definitely had to have been at least a year. And Mr. Bartender here was looking too delicious in his tight black tshirt. 

 

"Just ask the guy for his number already," Alexa chided, playfully elbowing me in the ribs. 

 

"We'll see." I winked at her. 

 

"I mean, we only have less than two weeks left on this campus. Might as well make it count." She shrugged nonchalantly. 

 

The bartender came back with our beers, setting them down in front of us then he leaned forward on his elbows. 

 

"So, what's the special occasion?", he asked. 

 

"We're graduating next week. And we just got matching tattoos," I replied, showing him my bandaged wrist. 

 

"Wow, congratulations, ladies." He smiled, revealing a dimple, and I was done for. 

 

"To graduating college baby-free and drug-free," Alexa toasted, raising her glass. 

 

I burst out laughing, clinking my glass with hers. 

 

We spent the next twenty minutes or so chatting (and flirting) with the bartender, whose name was Dean, and when he returned with the receipts, I was thrilled to see that'd he written his number on mine. 

 

"Guess we know whose bed you'll be in tonight. Did you see the way he was looking at you?", Alexa spoke on our way back to our apartment. 

 

I blushed. 

 

"Yes."

 

"You gonna call him?"

 

"Definitely. Gosh, I feel like such a slut."

 

"Girl, you are not a slut. And you deserve to have fun. You've worked so hard these past four years."

 

"I wonder what he looks like underneath that tshirt..."

 

"Guess you'll find out tonight." Alexa said, waggling her eyebrows, and we both giggled like immature schoolgirls.

 

***

 

Today was the day I'd always dreamt of--my college graduation. There were many times throughout my undergraduate career where I'd thought I wouldn't make it, especially after receiving a low score on an exam or lab report. But that only fueled my drive to work even harder. 

 

My final senior chemical engineering lab was graded just two days ago, and the score I received was high enough to allow me to graduate with honors. I couldn't have been more proud of what I'd accomplished. 

 

It was a beautiful, spring night, and all of the flowers and cherry blossoms on campus were in full bloom. For the past four years, Minnesota had been my home, and although I was excited to be back in California, I was also sad to leave. I'd met so many amazing people here, visited so many beautiful places in my free time, and most importantly, received an outstanding education. 

 

For the commencement, I'd decided to curl my hair and wear a pair of heels, and the dress I had on was a white lace one my grandma had bought me recently. As usual, Alexa did my makeup. Her commencement was tomorrow, since she was in the school of management, so tonight, she was here supporting me. 

 

We were all standing in an organized fashion behind the curtain at Mariucci Arena, awaiting the signal to proceed to our seats. The graduating college of science and engineering class was approximately 950 students this year, an all-time high. 

 

Eventually, we began to walk out in two separate lines as the university band played "Pomp and Circumstance," the classic graduation tune. I'd never known that was the name of it until recently. 

 

My eyes roamed over the faces of thousands of hopeful parents, and I spotted my family seated on the left. I smiled, giving them a wave, and my older brother cheered loudly, pumping his fist in the air. Alexa blew me a kiss, and I laughed, blowing one right back at her.

 

My father, brother, and grandparents had flown in two days ago from California to attend, and my grandma, Elizabeth, and my uncle Justin and his wife, Lauren, were also here. 

 

The only missing face was my mother's. 

 

Already, I could feel my emotions surfacing, but I forced myself to remain smiling. Today was supposed to be a happy day. 

 

The moment I reached my seat, I sighed in relief, thankful to not have to walk in my heels for at least another half hour. The ceremony began with a speech from the university president and Dean of the engineering college. Even the state senator was present to give a speech. 

 

At last, the time came for students to be called to the stage to receive their diploma covers; our official diplomas would be sent to us later in the mail. It felt like an eternity until my name was announced, and I had to stop for a moment to soak it all in. 

 

"Sophia Weston. Chemical engineering."

 

I heard the sound of my family whistling and cheering in the background, and with my head held high, I walked up the stage and approached the Dean. 

 

"Congratulations, Sophia," he said with a smile, firmly shaking my hand as he handed me my diploma cover.

 

"Thank you, sir."

 

As soon as the cover was in the palm of my hand, I looked up to the ceiling. 

 

"This is for you, mom," I whispered. 

 

And on the walk back to my seat, I finally allowed the tears to fall. 

 

Our student commencement speaker was none other than Chemistry Caleb. He'd finally turned his life around junior year and took his studies seriously. Although I'd never accepted any of his date proposals, I was proud of him. 

 

At the end, we all threw our caps in the air, and I hugged my friends, Kelly and Olivia, whom I'd remained close to since freshman year. 

 

"So, do I finally get to hug you now, Sophia?", a familiar male voice asked. 


I turned around to see Caleb standing there with a hopeful grin on his face. 

 

"Yes, you do." I smiled. 

 

And next thing I knew, I was crushed against his chest as he gave me the biggest bear hug. 

 

"I'm gonna remember this moment forever," he spoke into my ear. I laughed. 

 

"Congratulations on your speech, by the way. It was very well written."

 

"Thanks, Soph."

 

After saying goodbye to all of the friends I'd made throughout the years, I went to search for my family. A huge smile lit up my face when I saw my father carrying a large bouquet of flowers, and I ran into his awaiting arms, ignoring the pain in my feet. 

 

"Congrats, grad!" He hugged me tightly, and I clutched his suit jacket as a sob tore at my throat. 

 

"I love you, dad."

 

"I love you, too, kiddo." He kissed my forehead. 

 

"I-I wish mom were here."

 

"I do, too. She'd be very proud of you, Sophia. Just like I am."

 

"Hey, where's my hug?", my older brother, Nick, said playfully. He was with his girlfriend, Alyssa.

 

"Don't worry, I didn't forget you."

 

I pulled him into a massive bear hug, so it was all three of us--me, Nick, and my dad. 

 

"Oh my gosh, you guys are the cutest," Alexa gushed, pulling out her phone to take pictures of us. 

 

I released my dad and brother then directed my attention to my best friend in the whole wide world. 

 

"Girl, you are gonna make such a hot chemical engineer," Alexa said, growing teary-eyed. 

 

"And you are gonna send Nike's sales skyrocketing to the moon."

 

We hugged each other tightly, and the tears shed were bittersweet. 

 

After taking pictures with Alexa and the rest of my family, we began following the crowd of people out of the arena. 

 

"We're gonna miss having you in Minnesota, dear," my grandma, Elizabeth, said. Everytime I looked at her, I was struck by how much my mom resembled her. 

 

"I'm gonna miss you, too, granny. And Uncle Justin."

 

"You're welcome to come crash at my cabin anytime you want," my uncle remarked with a grin. I smiled. 

 

We stopped several times to talk to professors I'd had and done research with during my time at the university. As soon as we stepped outside, Alexa tapped me on the shoulder. 

 

"Look who's heading our way," she said, nodding towards the main entrance, where a very familiar person was exiting. 

 

"Oh my gosh, it's Sam!"

 

"I'll leave you two to talk." She winked at me then walked over to where my family was.

 

He caught my eye, and the moment he was standing right in front of me, I didn't know whether to shake his hand or hug him. So, I opted for the latter, and to my relief, he hugged me back. 

 

"Wow, Sam, I never thought I'd ever see you again!"

 

"My younger sister graduated today, and I saw you heading out with your family just now. Congrats, Sophia!"

 

"Thank you."

 

We pulled apart, and I took in his appearance. Besides growing a beard, my former physics TA hadn't changed much. He was still the nice, adorable Sam I knew. 

 

"I didn't know you had a younger sister," I said. 

 

"I think I mentioned her once during lab."

 

"Oh, I probably just wasn't paying attention." 

 

He smiled, rubbing the back of his neck.

 

"I never got the chance to say this, but you were one of the greatest students I ever had, Sophia. I really admired your will to succeed. And if you ever need a reference for future jobs, feel free to contact me."

 

"That's so sweet of you, Sam. And I'm actually gonna start working for Abbott in Los Angeles next month."

 

"You are? That's incredible. See, I knew right from the moment I met you that you were going places in the future."

 

I blushed, just like I always did around Sam. 

 

At that moment, a pretty brunette appeared at his side, and his arm went around her waist. 

 

"Amy, this is Sophia. Sophia was a student of mine back when I taught physics," he introduced. I smiled, shaking Amy's hand. "Amy is my fiancé."

 

"It's nice to meet you, Sophia. Congratulations on graduating," Amy spoke with a genuine smile on her face. 

 

"Thank you."

 

I talked to the two of them about my career goals, and they briefly told me how they'd met. In the end, I came to the conclusion that Amy was an extremely nice woman. Sam deserved someone nice in his life, and I was so happy for him. 

 

Before running to meet up with my parents, I turned around for a final glance at Mariucci Arena--the location of both my freshman convocation and senior commencement. For a moment, I stood there, remembering the girl I was four years ago. 

 

I thought flunking a physics test would ruin all my dreams, but someone taught me to be grateful for the opportunities I had and to work even harder when faced with failure. He'd only been present in my life for a week, but the impact he'd had on me was everlasting.

 

Then I walked away, ready to start the new chapter of my life. 

 

 

 

A/N-For those of you who haven't already read "Sealed With a Vow," I highly recommend that you do; it's the story of Sophia's parents, Claire and Derek(: And like always, remember to like and comment!

 
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