I smile at the woman who has just finished showing us around the apartment. It's a reasonable size, perfect for how I had planned to set up shop. I turn to Lucy, who grins. The agreement passes between us without a word. "We'll take it," I say. "Thanks very much, Mrs Lovett." I hand her the money for a months rent, and watch as she leaves the room.
"Just call if ya need anythin'," she calls as the door closes.
As soon as she is gone, I pick Lucy up and spin her around, laughing with her. We've been looking for somewhere to live for so long, and this place is as good as any. "We'll be happy here, won't we, Ben?" she says.
"Of course we will, pet." I take her face in my hands and kiss her on the lips, and for that moment, there is just us, no one else exists, and I feel more peaceful than I ever have in my life.
We come back the next day, with a horse and carriage that holds all our things. Lucy's brother and his friend have come down from Boston to help us move in. Over the course of the morning, we carry everything up the stairs and into either the apartment or the shop. Together, the two other men and I somehow manage to get the double bed through the door. We are all laughing by the time we have done it, and Lucy throws herself down onto the mattress, stray bits off hair falling over her face. Her cheeks are pink from the work and the laughter, and she is so, so beautiful. She thanks her brother and his friend, hugging them both. I offer them money for their help, but they refuse, telling us that they will come back in a week to see how we're doing.
Lucy and I start unpacking boxes. All the familiar objects from our old house in the country, placed back in all their familiar places. There is a photo frame that unfolds to hold two photos. One is of us on our wedding day. Lucy's golden-white hair is loose, falling in a cascade of ringlets down her back. She is wearing a gorgeous white dress that fits her more than perfectly. With the afternoon sun shining behind her, she looks like an angel. She is just as beautiful as she always is, and ever since that day, there has been a twinkle in her blue eyes that has made her look even happier. I love her so much that it hurts. In the photo, I am standing next to her, in my opinion looking a little awkward in such a formal black suit. Lucy says I look handsome. I say I look happy.
The second photo is one of just Lucy. She is sitting under a tree, laughing, her face dappled from the shadows of the leaves above her. The sea is sparkling in the background, and I smile at the memory of the holiday we went on a just few weeks ago. I set the frame on the dresser in the shop area of the apartment, so that I can look at it while I work.
A pair of pale arms wrap around my waist, and I jump. Lucy chuckles behind me. "I was thinking," she says, "that maybe we could go into town for lunch? You know? It is a bit of a special occasion."
I turn to face her. "Of course, pet," I say. "Anything for you."
We both change out of the trousers and old shirts that we have been wearing, Lucy into a short, cotton dress that is the same blue as her eyes, while I change into a slightly less old shirt and a better pair of trousers. I noticed some people giving Lucy strange looks while we were moving in, because of what she was wearing. What do they know. She'll always be an angel to me.
We lock up and walk down Fleet Street, heading towards the district where most of the food shops are. We find one that sells Italian, the only mildly exotic place there seems to be, and since we have been to Italy together, we decide to share a pasta dish. It is full of tomato, spices, and covered with cheese. Afterwards, we go for a walk, trying to find the park, but with no luck. Lucy holds my hand, and I stick up advertisements for my new shop on telegraph poles as we go. By the time we get back to Fleet Street, it is 6:00, and the sun has set.
"Maybe we should have the Lovett's over for dinner?" I suggest to Lucy. "Since they're going to be our neighbours." So, we walk in and ask them. Mrs Lovett tells us that she will bring the food. Lucy laughs.
"Mrs Lovett, we invited you to dinner! We're supposed to feed you!"
The other woman smiles. "Ah, yes, Mrs Barker. But you see, I would so like you to try my pies."
"Please, call me Lucy. And you are . . ."
"Well, Nellie, I would be honoured to try your pies. But in return, your husband must come up some time and my Ben will give him a shave."
"And I won't even charge him for it," I add with a smile. I can see that Mrs Lovett is starting to crack. Despite the odd looks she was giving my wife earlier, she now cannot deny the fact that she is the most lovely woman she has ever met.
Nellie's husband reaches forward and shakes my hand. "Consider it done. Why don't we come up to yours and have a look at what you've done to it. We'll bring the pies."
Lucy takes my arm. "We'll go set the table."
Dinner is wonderful. Mrs Lovett brings up the most delicious beef and mushroom pot pies, and after we have polished them off, Lucy goes into the kitchen and brings out a surprise apple crumble for dessert. We tuck in, and upon having finished it, light candles and put them on the table. About an hour later, Mr and Mrs Lovett thank us and go back downstairs to their house.
Lucy gives me a knowing smile and goes to make tea. We take the candles into our room and sit in bed for a while, drinking our tea, reading, and chatting about the evening and the days to come. Lucy sighs. "We're so lucky, Ben. We have everything we could ever want."
I am silent. Lucy senses the sudden change in my mood and puts her cup of tea down. "What's wrong, Ben?"
"Well . . . I've been thinking about that."
"What?" she asks, bewildered.
"There's still one thing that we don't have. And I think that we're ready for it." I look at her and smile. "There's nothing wrong, love. I'm more than alright. You know what I'm talking about."
Lucy leans forward and kisses me. I move myself closer to her, pushing her arms up behind her head. The kisses deepen, her fingers tangle themselves in my hair. Suddenly, I realise what we are doing and stop. She looks up at me. We are both breathing heavily. "Wait," I say. "Are you sure? It's a big commitment."
Lucy has a soft look in her eyes. "I love you, Ben," she says.
"I love you too." She smiles ducking under my arm and blowing out the candles before reaching up in the dark to kiss me again. And that is the only answer I need.