"If Walls Could Talk"
Johanna had only been staying with Mrs. Lovett and Mr. Todd for four days and she already found their behavior towards one another bizarre. While she had only seen the pair together briefly over these last few days, their relationship was unlike anything she had ever witnessed between two people that were supposedly neighbors and, according to Mrs. Lovett, "old friends".
They spoke in hushed whispers, and she heard only bits and pieces of their persistent bickering. Their conversations were mainly one-sided, with Mrs. Lovett doing most of the talking but it was when they weren't talking that she found most striking. They seemed to communicate in glances as if they always knew what the other was thinking and she found their apparent "secret language" baffling.
Despite seeing him in passing and the few nods he had given her, Mr. Todd still remained a mystery to Johanna. The barber seemed to rarely leave his shop, so she was surprised when Mrs. Lovett informed her that he had stepped out this morning to replenish his tonsorial supplies.
Johanna had become Mrs. Lovett's shadow these last few days so she used the barber's absence as an opportunity to go and tidy up his shop.
Mrs. Lovett was no stranger to graphic and gory scenes so the thought never occurred to her that bringing Johanna back up to the scene of her crime might not be the best thing for her until she saw the color drain from the girl's face as soon as they walked into the room.
Mrs. Lovett suddenly felt very apologetic. "Oh, I'm sorry, dear. I don't know what I was thinking. We can go back downstairs."
"No," she said quickly, "it's fine. I'm fine."
"You're sure?" Mrs. Lovett asked, putting a hand on her shoulder.
Johanna had been actively trying to keep the incident with the beadle as far back in her mind as she possibly could, despite it being a very fresh wound. However, the baker's voice faded away as Johanna's thoughts recalled the look of terror on Beadle Bamford's face as she plunged the razor into his neck.
Johanna's face held the same deadpan expression as her father when he was lost in thought and Mrs. Lovett almost insisted that they go back downstairs anyway notwithstanding the girl's pursuit to be brave but the unyielding look of determination in Johanna's eyes told her that perhaps this is what the girl needed.
The young girl snapped out of it and looked at the unfamiliar look of concern in the baker's eyes. "I'm fine, really. After all, it's just a room."
Mrs. Lovett almost scoffed at that sentiment for if these walls could talk they would tell the story of a family undone, ripped apart by tragedy. It also went without saying that Johanna needn't know that the beadle wasn't the only man to draw his last breath within these very walls.
"If you say so, love." Mrs. Lovett said before setting her sights on the entirety of the room. Mr. Todd's cot was made up neatly in the corner and aside from a few dirty teacups and the usual layer of dust, she found it relatively well-kept.
In truth, Mrs. Lovett wasn't expecting much of a mess, she merely missed the barber and wanted to feel closer to him somehow which was why she felt guilty for bringing Johanna up with her in the first place considering her reaction.
Now that Johanna was staying with them, she saw the barber even less than she did before. While she appreciated Johanna's company, she knew the girl's presence alone made Mr. Todd uncomfortable, to say the least, and she missed being able to make up excuses to come visit him throughout the day.
She took a deep breath, savoring the smell of her beloved barber. Even when he was in Australia she could feel his presence lingering in every corner of this room and she wondered how someone could be so absent and yet everywhere all at once.
While Mrs. Lovett started to dust around the room, Johanna wandered over to oddly mirrorless vanity. She could have sworn when she was up here last time the mirror was perfectly intact, in fact, she distinctly remembered it being so.
Johanna's attention then fell to the framed pictures of a woman and child she had forgotten about until now. She knew Mrs. Lovett was a widow and realized that she hadn't given much thought as to whether or not Mr. Todd had been married or not. Although the cantankerous barber didn't strike her as much of a family man the photos made it appear as though he had been.
Having found herself struck with a sudden curiosity, she turned to Mrs. Lovett. "Forgive me as I know it isn't any of my business, but, is Mr. Todd married?"
Not expecting such a question, Mrs. Lovett paused what she was doing and tentatively thought of her answer.
"He was." She replied, deciding it best to be as vague as possible without making it seem like she was hiding something.
"Is this her?" Johanna showed Mrs. Lovett the picture. "She's beautiful. Is this their child?"
Mrs. Lovett tried to hide her discomfort and maintain her composure all while regretting coming up here altogether. "Yes, it is."
"What happened to them?" Johanna asked, her eyes still fixated on the photographs, the prospect of a man as unfriendly as Mr. Todd having a wife and child was surprising to her.
"Mr. Todd is a very private man, love. Perhaps we should go back downstairs." Mrs. Lovett tried to shrug her off but Johanna wasn't relenting.
"Did they pass on?"
Mrs. Lovett sighed and before she could answer, the door to the shop opened, and who stood at the door was no other than the barber himself.
"What are you doing up here?" Mr. Todd spoke quietly, his demeanor went from being caught off guard to loathsome in seconds.
Now Mrs. Lovett really regretted her decision to come up here. "I just figured I'd do some tidying up while you were out, Mista T. We'll be on our way now." She sounded nervous as she gestured to Johanna to follow her.
The baker went to move past him only for him to grab her by the arm. Mrs. Lovett looked at him in fright.
He kept his voice low but Johanna could still make out every word.
"What was she doing with that?" He sounded as though the mere act of her looking at the photos was a crime itself, leaving Johanna more confused than ever.
"She was only looking, I promise." Mrs. Lovett whispered, looking at him with pleading eyes. She didn't want the situation to escalate further for she knew he had been particularly testy since he hadn't been able to "tend" to his customers the way he preferred as killing had become more of an emotional release for him than it was "practice".
Mr. Todd glared at her and searched the baker's face for any sign of deceit.
A meek voice came from the other side of the room. "Please, sir. It was not my intention to overstep."
As if remembering Johanna's presence entirely, Mr. Todd released Mrs. Lovett from his grip and turned away from them. "Just don't do it again." He said gruffly.
Mrs. Lovett grabbed Johanna's hand and the two left the room without another word, leaving the barber to brood in peace.
A/N: This chapter is much shorter than I had anticipated as it only includes one scene. I did, however, decide to post it anyway to show you that I have not abandoned this story. Life has just been very busy and tiring lately so I have not had a lot of time or energy to write, unfortunately. That being said, I'd like to thank Ally & Milly for their continued support and for those of you that took the time to read this. Stay tuned, I promise there is so much more in store!