Chapter 18: The Final Straw

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He shouldn't have done it. It was simple as that. He shouldn't have confided in Winston or visited Ravenna. He should've just kept it to himself like a smart, rational person. But Griffin was never smart and he never tried to be. He was reckless, foolish, and plain stupid sometimes, so he made no move to hide it. He embraced it, just like he accepted most things without struggle. Most things. But there were times where it was harder to embrace certain facts. When it became too difficult to handle, he did what he did best: denying the truth.

People always said that denial was a natural defense mechanism. And Griffin had used it to defend his walls whenever they were at the verge of crumbling. Crack after crack. As natural as people said it was, it didn't feel normal to Griffin. For so many years of his very satisfying life, he'd never had to force himself to be happy, because he always was. He didn't need to force optimism; it was just in his blood. But ever since the end of last year, the feeling began to wiggle into him: denial, so cunning and smooth, almost unnoticeable the first time it came around.

But then summer arrived, which allowed him to rest, to space himself away from Ravenna and the Inquisitors as a whole. Even to this day, he wasn't sure if those two detached months of summer vacation were a blessing or a plain curse. Sometimes, he thought it was the latter.

But either way, it didn't matter. The damage was done. So when he came back in the beginning of junior year, he didn't quite understand what he felt when he first met up with Ravenna, Draven, and Winston. Sure, he was smiling and happy, but there was something different beneath his skin. Some aching feeling that clawed for attention, but he chose to ignore it. Was it the right move? To suppress such bothering emotions that he himself could not understand?

So when he walked into the storage room for the Inquisitors meeting that afternoon, Ravenna greeted him with a pat on the shoulder and a brief smile. By the time the room had filled with a total of 15 members, Winston gave him a warm, gentle look. What for?

Ravenna lifted her hand for silence and that was when the meeting began.

"So, the purpose of this meeting," she shot a glare in Winston's direction, "is to discuss something that should've been addressed in the beginning of the year. But essentially less is more, isn't it?"

A murmuring wave of agreement washed over the crowd. Ravenna gave a look of smug approval, "I understand that there are five positions still open, ever since our five seniors left for graduation last year. I also understand that there are five positions max, not minimum. Correct?" She glanced in Draven's direction.

"Yes," he responded, looking over the clipboard roster in his hand.

"Right. So, that's what I wanted to discuss. The open replacements. Now, I'll be completely truthful. I haven't been actively searching for potential candidates. But that doesn't mean I don't already have one in mind."

"Who?" Winston shot in.

"I'll tell you who. Once you keep your impatient mouth shut for once in your life."

Winston scowled, then sunk back into his seat, folding his arms across his chest. Griffin hated when they fought; it always made him feel like the middleman in a tug of war. Did Draven feel the same way? Or was it just him?

Ravenna turned her cold, emotionless glare away from Winston, "Anyway, I know not all of you will agree with this decision. But if I say he works, he works. Gavin Strongheart, that sophomore kid."

Silence stretched for several seconds. Griffin darted his eyes from Ravenna, then to the audience, then back at her. Sensing his movements, Ravenna's gaze shifted to him, expressionless and in control. He instinctively curled his fist and tucked it behind him, shrugging off the feeling that raged his bones.

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