A one-shot based on 7x17′s (Shoot) PR of Grace being accused of plagiarizing her college essay.
Note: I don’t write fiction often, but hey, I’m giving it a shot again. This is based on 7x17’s PR of Grace being accused of plagiarizing her college essay. Hope you enjoy!
If you’re looking for something less sad, you’ve come to the wrong place.
Also, I’m sorry if the way I portrayed Grace’s high school or the college application process was inaccurate, but for the direction I wanted to go, I needed to have the cushion of college to work through. The idea of Grace plagiarizing in order to work up conversation about not wanting to attend college was definitely on my mind but that’s just not how this turned out. I hope someone writes that fic though, because I would love it.
“I didn’t plagiarize, mom.”
Grace whispers, eyes downcast, when the college adviser leaves the room to collect some files.
Alicia replies automatically, yet she can’t shake the doubt from her mind, especially not after receiving her results last semester.
Grace looks up then, eyes watered and full of fire, realising:
“You don’t believe me, do you?”
Alicia inhales sharply then. She’s not sure she’s ready to have this conversation, not when she and her daughter have drifted so far recently – and especially not if she may have overheard the contents of her breakdown.
“Grace, I don’t want you to feel like I don’t trust you, but there were a lot of similarities. 90% according to TurnitIn….”
Grace glares angrily, barely able to control herself, but knowing, she can’t lash out here – that in her family – truth can only happen through closed doors (some of the time, anyway).
When they exit the building, Alicia is reeling. Grace demanded 10 minutes of privacy with the college adviser, and in that short period of time, she had reversed the school’s intentions to suspend her and take further action, instead stating she could continue to submit the essay.
As Alicia starts the engine to get home, she’s overwhelmed with the bitter realisation she may not know her daughter at all.
When they enter the apartment, she knows Grace will storm away quickly if she doesn’t speak, so:
“Grace. We need to talk.”
She stops, seemingly taking hours to turn around to face her – before unlocking her phone and practically throwing it on the table for Alicia to look at.
Grace Florrick: Practice Essay for College Writing Course
- Discuss an accomplishment which marks your transition from childhood to adulthood, and how you believe your selected colleges will further assist your transition.
As an individual who has experienced a unique set of circumstances while growing up – it’s incredibly hard to pinpoint a particular accomplishment which marked my transition. I could tell you about my experience as a secretary at a start-up law firm, where I secured 4 new clients because of my willingness to think creatively and successfully pitch to firms in need of legal representation. It’s an experience which marks my growth in a professional environment and is my greatest achievement from an external perspective, but my transition occurs in other ways. Being exposed to the media from a young age, I’ve learnt the importance of utilizing my words carefully and have pushed myself to become involved in extra-curricular activities such as debating to further enhance these skills. Having experienced the public and private schooling system, I find myself more invested in enrolling in a public university such as the University of Washington, as public education gave the opportunity to find myself and my faith, without a sense of judgement following my existence. It was a major change, but necessary.
Alicia wants to read the rest first, but Grace doesn’t want to hear her compliments right now. She’s utterly guilt-ridden and unable to glance at her daughter who produced an essay which she promised to read before submission, but she just couldn’t find the time.
“I don’t understand. How could the school think you plagiarized this?”
Grace shrugs, still upset over the ordeal.
“I guess they didn’t read it. The similarity percentage was too high to not be suspicious. I enrolled in a college writing course. I had to answer essay prompts to hone my skills. We had to submit it via TurnItIn, I didn’t realize the essay would be in their system.”
Before she can interrupt, Grace continues.
“I wasn’t doing too well in school, and I thought if I enrolled in a course like this – I wouldn’t need your help. I- didn’t want it, not if you weren’t even sure you liked me anymore.”
The words rush out of her mouth, and tears follow, walking from Alicia in order to regather her composure. She doesn’t want her mom to see her weak, doesn’t want her comfort. When her mom walks closer, she feels herself tense up, anticipating a cold hand on her shoulder. What she doesn’t know is Alicia feels Grace’s discomfort too, shying away before Grace is pushed too far. Grace breathes heavily, and hurries over to the fridge, searching for something (there’s nothing except frozen tacos), anything to calm her nerves. With nothing be found, all the pent up emotion starts tumbling out, her voice several octaves higher than usual as she fights through the tears which refuse to stop.
“I didn’t plan to show you my essay. But when you asked for it that night, I was hoping you didn’t mean what you said to Lucca that day. You never got back to me. You wanted me to butt out of your life, I just never thought you wouldn’t want to be part of mine.”
There’s nothing else she can say right now, not when all she wants to do is say things she won’t mean – so she doesn’t. Grace grabs her phone off the counter, and slams the door when she enters her room.
She doesn’t intend to cry in those moments of privacy, knows that people expect her to be strong – that all the pent-up emotion is only something her mother is allowed to experience because she’s the ‘good daughter’ but she’s so tired and holding herself back to fulfill expectations of people who know nothing about her isn’t worth it.
It was an excellent day in the grand scheme of things. She had submitted her first few college admission essays and spent the day catching up with friends – old and new and returned home from school to hear her mom lashing out. It’s at that moment she forgets the sadness she felt when her mom didn’t manage to read her essay. She is seconds from rushing over and giving her the biggest hug she could, topped off with a few comforting words that made it clear that she wasn’t fighting that feeling alone – but that also made it clear Alicia had to fight to be okay. She’s already plotted out the bare bones of her speech – declaring it wasn’t about living for the people who needed her but wanting to live for herself too. When Grace hears her mom declare she’s not sure she likes her though, that need to be pillar of strength for her mom dissipates.
The guilt of not being there for her mother still touches her in that moment though. She doesn’t want to draw away from the fact her mom was hurting, so she lets Lucca comfort her, quietly sneaking out of the apartment with most of her books. In a rush, she manages to leave a ripped page from her notebook behind – a short entry scribbled minutes after she learned of the email and potential election rigging scandal.
She isn’t sure where she was headed at first, but the minute she’s on a bus, the answer becomes clear. Time to revisit friend she hadn’t really seen in a while, not until earlier that afternoon. Seeing her was a reminder of support system Grace had once, and why, even as they drifted apart, their friendship was about being there when they needed each other the most. It’s why she doesn’t go to her fathers’ – she doesn’t want to create another awkward relationship between her parents, only seeking the sanctuary that Shannon brought her when she originally sought something to cling to.
When she sits on the bus, she thinks of her college essay, reminds herself why education at a public university matters to her, even if it’s theoretically not the best option.
The public high school system encouraged me to apply for public colleges. It fostered my transition from childhood to adulthood, because for once, I was allowed to step outside my own perspective – through the help of a close friend – who encouraged me to seek my own place of comfort. It might seem ironic that I became religious under the public school system, but it’s truly not. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t being told how to act. I began to learn how to deal with unwanted attention – and it’s made me stronger. It meant I refused to let my opinions waver as quickly, and it’s a powerful tool which I gained. It’s made me recognize the importance of being certain about a choice, and applying for this college is that choice for me.
In the essay, she didn’t state she wanted to get out of Chicago, was incredibly desperate to leave her parents and rebuild without the weight of expectations on her shoulders. She didn’t mention that her mother has hurt her beyond belief, and part of her is chose this university to break the cycle – that despite loving her parents, she doesn’t want to turn out like them. She didn’t mention she would be happy to be a 30-40 hour drive away from her family – instead only briefly mentioning the sense of peace she felt when she arrived at their open day.
When she arrives at Shannon’s house, Shannon, upon glancing at Grace’s face, wraps her arms around Grace – offering all the silent support in a drawn-out hug. It’s really all Grace needs to feel okay for a few moments. A reassuring presence who holds her up when she can’t quite find the strength to do so on her own. It’s not permanent, but it’s enough for her to reveal the dozen things on her mind which lead her to this moment. She mentions her mom’s motto of the truth (‘we don’t lie to each other’, Grace quotes bitterly), when Alicia tried to defend not telling her about the emails (‘so that makes it okay to lie?’), her work with her mom over the last few months – finally feeling like her mom was letting her in because Grace was stronger than Alicia thought, to the words that had Grace spinning (‘was it about having two kids I’m not even sure I like anymore?’)
After a long silence, Shannon speaks.
“What your mom said, she didn’t mean it, you know.”
Maybe you’re right, Grace thinks, but she still said it.
“Your mom was there when you wanted to go to church. She made you promise not to give up on religion because of her.”
Grace doesn’t know how to answer, so she holds out her palm and whispers:
Their hands are clasped, eyes shut as they speak.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the/ Courage to change the things I can, / And the wisdom to know the difference.”
It’s a prayer she’s told herself daily over the last few years, but it’s the first time in a long time she’s had someone there to believe in its power with her.
They sit next to each other for the next hour, the silence only broken with Shannon’s persistence to protect Grace from what she was starting to believe was the truth.
Right now, though, she doesn’t have Shannon. Instead, she’s curled up on her bed trying to regain control of herself, but ultimately failing. She’s hurting and she’s spent such a long time bottling her own feelings, she’s not sure she knows how to let it out. Maybe her mom’s not the only one who hasn’t taken care of her health.
Meanwhile, Alicia breathes uneasily, fighting the urge to drink the tequila stowed away at the back of the cupboard for ‘emergencies’. The words of Grace’s journal entry from months ago run through her mind – torturing her, forcing her to confront the fact she’s been taking the easy road out and it’s not fair on anyone.
I know people expect me to be in control all the time. Everyone wants me to be there for my mom – and I’ve tried. I didn’t want to start something big. I just wanted it to be okay that I supported my dad’s political rival because I believed in them, or that it hurt to have my mom lie to me about Will all those years ago. I wanted to believe it was okay to lie because it was ‘for the best’, but my parents weren’t supposed to lie to me.
“In here, we tell each other the truth.”
It may have been naïve for me to believe that, especially when our family was on such shaky ground those few years, but I held onto it because I needed to believe that on some level, we could still be a normal family. But these emails are just too much. It’s all becoming too much – I don’t want to feel like this, and if that means getting space from my parents to figure it out, I think it’s what I want.
She doesn’t want to be the reason the people she love are in pain, but from the endless secrets ever since the scandal seven years ago to the way she’s rejected her family over the last few months – this current fight is a long time coming.
The urge to drink is overwhelming – and there’s no presence to stop her. Quietly, she heads over to the cupboard, stumbling slightly on her three-inch heels, holding the bottle in her hand. She’s still not sure she wants to do this, but her body is on auto-pilot, having already selected her glass of choice.
It’s at that moment Grace reappears from her bedroom, the door squeaking as it opens, startling Alicia as she tries (and fails) to hide the bottle – Grace only sighing as she retreats to the living room.
Alicia almost considers not following her, but she knows she has to (whether it’s for her or Grace, though, she’s not really sure).
“I wasn’t going to drink.” Even as the words leave her lips, she hears how ridiculous they sound. This is her daughter. She feels like a kid whose hand was caught in a cookie jar, blushing at her need to instinctively lie. Somehow, after all the conversations about telling the truth – it started being about veiling the challenging truths, about filtering the truths she could share, and she’s not really sure when she mostly started lying. She’s not really sure when this happened – when she stopped being the person her daughter may not remember anymore – but it’s happened and reversing all the damage might be harder than she thinks.
She tries speaking again, but Grace has plastered on a blank face – and Alicia realizes words aren’t enough anymore.
She can’t be her mom’s hero anymore. That’s the only thought that races through Grace’s mind as she sits silently on the couch – only inches away from her mom but it may as well be an ocean. She fights the tears that are threatening to bubble to the surface, inhaling deeply – desperately hoping for the right words to come to her.
There are no right words for this. This is no right way to have this conversation and there’s definitely no right time. She could be called selfish or brave, or whatever her family and the world wants to think of the daughter of the First Lady of Illinois who would rather go to college 2000 miles away than be here. As much as her mom’s issues matters, so do hers. She knows the judgement will follow her no matter where she ends up, but she can always take solace in the fact that her mom has been called ‘selfish’ too. Grace knows her mom isn’t truly okay, not really, but she also knows she’s not okay either – and at some point, she’s going to put herself first.
“I love you, mom, but I’m hurting. I… can’t be around you right now. And I know you’re hurting too and I want you to be okay, but if you want to be okay – do it for you. Not for me or Zach, not for your firm, not for Lucca or anyone else.
She sees the tears form in her mom’s eyes, and Grace isn’t really sure she’s listening, but she’s done something. Grace resists the urge to hug her mom, knows there will be a proper goodbye – one where she’ll let her anger go for a few moments. She knows forgiveness matters, but she’s learning to put herself first too.