Guiltless

On the 11th of January 1937 Johnathon Ignes is born. He is a suitable weight, in good health...but different from all the other babies in the ward, because he is born immune to guilt. 2 years and 235 days later, worldwide war breaks out.
Sent away as an evacuee, Johnathon grows up away from his mother, and meets Erebus, a cheeky paperboy. Erebus too, has no guilt, and under his influence, Johnathon grows up into a monster.
This is the story of how that monster, became a leader.
- The prequel to 'Souls' (but will make sense if you haven't read it) -

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49. Chapter 48

Adele’s parents were exactly as you’d expect them to be. Bubbly, energetic, cheeky, and full of laughter...but also caring and empathetic. Adele’s father, Richard, was where she got her chocolate brown eyes from, though they’d didn’t seem to have the same melting effect as hers. Adele’s mother, Helen, had the same curly ginger hair, which bounced against her shoulders when she moved. What Johnathon noticed the most however, was the way in which they held her. The extra second their hugs lasted, the tight grips when they held her hand, it was as if there were reluctant to let go of her. Adele too, seemed to hold them close at any opportunity. It was that sort of family compassion that Johnathon had never gotten to experience, and it fascinated him greatly.

“So...what do you do for a living Johnathon?” Richard asked him. They were having lunch at a small harbourside restaurant, it was one of Adele’s favourites apparently.

“I do some work part time as a mechanic, thanks to Adele” Johnathon informed him, smiling at his girlfriend as he spoke.

“It must be tough living off that sort of pay” Richard sighed in a light-hearted manner, as if he thought his pity would make Johnathon chuckle.

“I still have some money from my previous lifestyle, and my housemate takes care of the rent.” Johnathon shrugged. He noticed Adele grimacing in the corner of his eye. Whether this was due to the reference to his darkest times or Erebus was unclear. He could hardly return all the money he’d stolen, what if he was caught? Besides, some of his riches were due to Eloise funding his leadership. And just because he lived with Erebus didn’t mean he liked him.

“That’s awfully kind of him.” Helen remarked, Johnathon bit his lip. It felt odd to hear the word ‘kind’ in a sentence about Erebus, awful maybe, but not kind. When he looked at Adele, he noticed she had the same expression.

“What about you two? What do you both do for a living?” Johnathon changed the topic.

“I’m a builder, and Helen is a journalist.” Richard announced. “In fact, I’m doing a lot of work at this harbourside at the moment, there’s a bundle of houseboats that need some work.”

“You and your houseboats…” Adele trailed off, chuckling at some inside joke. Johnathon looked at her, confused, but she just winked.

“He’s been working on those houseboats for years.” Helen clarified, “He can never find enough people to help him with them, they all think it’s a lost cause.”

“I’ll show them…” Richard grumbled immediately after his wife spoke, “Those boats will be magnificent.” Johnathon admired his fire and drive,  commitment to work was something you rarely saw in a person. He also felt a lingering curiosity to see these houseboats, so he could witness just what sort of state they were in, and decided whether or not Richard was a genius, delusional, or both.

“Did I tell you about Valery?” Helen changed the topic, directing the question at Adele.

“No, what about her?” Concern crept into Adele’s voice. Johnathon let out a small sigh, she was so easily alarmed.

“Her granddaughter Emma recently outed herself as one of those Soul things to the family,” Helen had a wincing face as she spoke, a bit like a dried prune, “Emma’s only eight, she thinks she’s one of the ones who can’t forget things...it’s quite tragic really, Valerie was in pieces when she told me.” Adele cast a quick glance at Johnathon, who had his fists balled under the table.

“Why was Valerie so upset?” Adele tread carefully, her voice quieter than before.

“I’m not all that sure,” Helen shook her head, “She thinks it’s a disaster, that she’ll never be able to show her face in public again. You know what she’s like, so over dramatic, so set in her ways…”

“What about Tina? Emma’s mum.” Adele blurted suddenly, worried about Johnathon’s stiff posture.

“Oh Tina’s fine!” Helen waved her hand in a casual gesture, “She’s perfectly happy with Emma the way she is. Have you spoken to Tina recently? You two used to be joined at the hip.”

“Not recently, no.” Adele relaxed, leaning back in her seat, “But I might soon, just to see how she’s getting on.”

“Good” Helen smiled warmly, just as the bill arrived. They settled it between them, and left the restaurant. Johnathon wasn’t grudging against Helen for her comments, but he knew if he bumped into Valeria he’d give her a good smack in the face. Adele took his hand in hers, and they walked around the harbour.

The scenery in Dustwood was a lot more picturesque than the last time Johnathon had visited the area. The dim, damp alleyway had been replaced with a vibrant array of blue, green, grey, and white.

“Ah, here they are.” Richard suddenly exclaimed. Johnathon turned, and saw three broken down boathouses. The planks of wood were joined by half-screwed nails, and the doors hung off the hinges. The colouring was unpolished and faint, so much so that the original colour was unclear. A green spread of algae outlined the perimeter of the boats, contrasting with the flaky brown. They were so battered that it seemed they were held together by PVA glue.

“...And this is them after years of work?” Johnathon whispered to Adele, causing her to chuckle light-heartedly. He didn’t mean for Richard to overhear, but he did, fortunately, he took no offense.

“You haven’t seen the forth one yet, the fourth one is my favourite,” Richard shook his finger at Johnathon, rounding the corner to where the final houseboat lay. “Two layers, solid oak, a larger surface area, and lots of potential…” Johnathon prepared himself to see another pile of wooden planks floating on water, but when he turned the corner, he saw something else entirely.

Though the fourth houseboat still needed a lot of work, it was undoubtedly better than the rest. It had two floors, and unlike the others, it included windows. It was much larger too, and the shape was more square-like, though it was technically still rectangular. The wood had a distinct dark oak colouring, which shines slightly as though it were polished regularly.

“It’s stunning” Johnathon murmured.

“Don’t encourage him!” Helen laughed, Richard took no notice of her, and walked up closer to the boat.

“With a little bit more manpower I could make this beauty a treasure.” He decided, touching the exterior with his hand. Johnathon didn’t quite realise what he was saying when he spoke.

“I could help.” he offered. Everyone looked at him, slightly shocked.

“Really? You sure?” Richard checked.

“Of course, I have a lot of free time during the week, and if I quit my mechanic job I could do this full time.” Johnathon nodded

“I should warn you, I can’t afford to pay you well” Richard grimaced, embarrassment tarnishing his expression.

“That’s alright,” Johnathon didn’t care about the money, “How about instead of paying me we make some sort of a deal?”

“What do you have in mind?” Johnathon thought for a moment, what did he want that Richard could give him? He looked to Adele for an idea, but she was also clueless, he looked back at Richard and the houseboat behind him, and then, it hit him.

“In return for my help with all four of the houseboats, you give me a good deal on the fourth one.” Johnathon suggested.

“You want to buy the houseboat?” Helen’s tone was slightly disgusted, maybe she assumed Johnathon would have higher standards.

“Yes, for me and Adele. We could live here together in Dustwood, and leave Cantumville behind. We could start up a life together.” Johnathon justified his decision.

“Sounds good to me” Richard grinned, shaking Johnathon’s hand. Adele, who had been silent all that time, embraced him in a warm hug.

“You really want to start up a life with me?” She spoke quietly into his ear.

“I’ve always wanted that, so why wait any longer?” Was Johnathon’s reply.

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