Chapter 1: Refresh

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‘Disgusting’ was the word he'd use to describe himself. ‘Stupid’ came in a close second. He was gravely disappointed with himself, as he always was, but even more so today. Was he seriously walking now, towards that horrid room in the vacant auditorium? Man, had he stooped low this time. Real low. When would she stop making him feel this way? Like he was a piece of shit? Better question: when would he stop answering to her demands? He didn’t know the answer. Didn’t want to know either. Because the answer hadn’t change and he doubted it ever would.

His hand rested on the knob, hesitating, halting, contemplating, before finally twisting it. He shouldn’t be surprised that the door was unlocked. She was waiting. That was clear enough. They'd made a deal after all.

A pang of unmistakable guilt hit his chest. A dread he’d been wanting to throw away, but couldn’t. Not until he could escape and leave all of it behind: the memories, the psychological torture, the aching feeling of guilt as he chose to be a bystander. All of the emotions he'd been suppressing came back in that very instant. As soon as he swung open the door, two familiar faces, one male and one female, turned in his direction, standing over the nearby desk. The blonde female’s eyes lit with recognition and a smile twisted on her lips, “Wow. You look awful.”

Yeah, nice to see you too, darling, he thought bitterly. Ravenna’s ravishing smile transitioned into a knowing smirk, “You’re late.”

“Just because you two were early doesn’t mean I'm late,” Winston snapped, as he glanced at the clock hanging in the far, dark corner of the wall, “It’s 7:35. Same time you told me to arrive.”

Ravenna’s smile grew devilishly wider and she nodded her head. He drank in his surroundings: the dim-lit storage room within the auditorium, the place he’d been wanting to forget over the summer. The place where unspeakable horrors had occurred last year. No. He wouldn’t think about that. School hadn’t even started yet, and he was already regretting his return.

The clearing of one’s throat broke the silence. The dark haired boy beside Ravenna finally made his presence known and reached his hand out, “Nice to see you, Winston. You look... tired, to say the least. Can’t really blame you though.”

Winston managed a smile, although slightly forced. He took Draven’s hand. Instinctively, he turned to Ravenna with his hand still welcoming, before quickly realizing what he was doing. She stared at him for a few seconds, face expressionless, head tilting at an angle, before taking his hand and grasping it. Too tightly.

Dammit. Fucking Ravenna.

Quickly dropping his hand from hers, Ravenna’s eyes skimmed his figure for half a second, examining him before her legendary bullshit smile made its comeback, “His jail sentence finally taking a toll on you?”

He blinked, “How’d you know?”

“Heck, Winston. Cain Sheldon’s arrest over the summer practically made headlines in the local newspaper. Two years? Two years?!” She sniggered in disbelief. “Have the cops lost their damn minds? He deserves a life sentence, not two years.”

Winston let out an aggravated sigh. There was no point in answering something that didn't require a response. Had it been any other day, he would've defended his best friend, but he was in no mood to argue with Ravenna. Not when he was vulnerable and she was vigilant.

Draven regarded him with sudden interest, “And what did they do to you?”

“Probation. Judge was ‘sympathetic’. Total of five months, starting in the beginning in June. I’ve got two months after this.” Somehow, it was much easier to answer Draven than Ravenna. Maybe because one was actually a decent person, not a manipulative, psychological tormenter. He shivered at the slightest glance of a suppressed memory.

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