The Blood Runs Deeper
And in the Darkness
As her father got revenge on the man he despised most, Johanna and Anthony linked arms and ran.
Their pace increased at every turn. Every corner. The further they became, the scent of freedom became sweeter. Their gasps were the only sounds they dared made. For fear, they would get caught.
By whom? The beadle was dead, of that Johanna was certain. She caught a glance of the man on his way to the barbershop. Mr. Todd would have let him live. Turpin must have joined him in the afterlife. Her father must have taken care of him. The act of taking the Beadle's life would distract him. Preparing for Turpin's arrival would occupy his thoughts in the meantime. Mr. Todd should be reeling in delight. His satisfaction and newfound power would keep him from realizing she was gone. Johanna hoped.
It was ages ago, at least it seemed, when he told Johanna he couldn't stop killing. Not until he had his revenge. She couldn't help her doubt. Mr. Todd was a murderer. Bloodthirsty. He couldn't stop. Killers never stopped. Even if they made promises.
They continued down the streets. Johanna landed in a puddle, which splashed the bottom of her skirts. Anthony looked over his shoulder, throwing a weak smile her way. She grinned back. Despite the ache in her side.
They would be married within the week. That night, if it went all according to plan. Once they reached the docks, they slowed to a walk. With deep breaths, Anthony scanned the area for their ship. The harbor was nearly empty. Or bare for the London docks. He cocked his head and found the bulletin. He flipped through the papers posted. Frowning, he went through them again.
"Is that ours?" Johanna asked, gesturing to a boat.
"No." Anthony furrowed his brow again as he glanced through the informtion again. Johanna joined him at his side. Reading off the dates and ship names. When she recognized the ones Anthony mentioned, she jolted forward. But she faltered when she realized none of the names listed matched the one of their ship.
"Did we miss it?"
Anthony frowned, but nodded. "I was so sure . . ." He faced her. "I'm so sorry, Johanna. I-I don't know what happened. I thought we were so lucky to find a ship that left at this time." He gave a brief chuckle. "It was stupid of me to not double-check."
Her shoulders dropped. Johanna's hand shifted to grip Anthony's wrist. She chewed on her lower lip. Anthony looked back at her, patting her arm, and gave a small smile.
Obviously, Mr. Todd knew Anthony was a sailor. Johanna knew the story of how Anthony saved him from the depths of the sea. Almost by heart. The docks may be the first place he looked once, he realized. If he found them, it would seal her fate. An eternity in the demon barbershop, hopeless and without Anthony. The very thought made her shudder. She surveyed the area. As if the dim streetlight would give her direction.
"We can go back to your room at the inn, can't we?" Johanna suggested, "I don't want . . ." She trailed off, but Anthony nodded his understanding.
"Yes, yes. We'll go there." Anthony picked their suitcases off the ground and offered his elbow.
Johanna held onto his arm, tight, with a question to see if it was all right. He nodded and led them around a corner. The inn wasn't far from the harbor. Perfect place for a sailor to stay. It was far enough away from Fleet Street. Mr. Todd wouldn't think to check here. They hoped.
Anthony knocked on a door. After a few moments, an old man stumbled out. He peered up at the two, rubbing at his nightcap. He pointed at Anthony.
"Excuse me, Mr. Lynch, I was wondering if I could rent out my room for an extra night. Or get another one," Anthony said.
"It's late," Mr. Lynch snapped.
"I know, sir, and I apologize." Anthony shuffled through his pockets. He revealed a small stack of papers. "It's three pounds, correct?"
Mr. Lynch stared at the offering. He scowled but took the bills and began back into the room. Johanna looked at Anthony. She squeezed his arm. She couldn't imagine what she would do if she were in his situation. Johanna would have turned back if it weren't for Anthony. Mr. Lynch returned, waving a key in the air. Once he was close enough, Anthony took it.
"Same room," he said. He studied Anthony, noticing Johanna at his arm. She prepared herself for any vocal harassment. "I better not hear any complaints about you."
"You won't, sir. Thank you."
Mr. Lynch's scowl sank deeper. He slammed the door behind him.
"He seems like a cheery fellow," Johanna mumbled. Anthony laughed.
A man with a cigar leaned against the wall beside their door. Anthony nodded a greeting to him. The man grunted back. Johanna looked down as they passed him. Anthony sat their cases down as he fumbled with the key. He clicked a light, giving the room a dull yellow color.
Tattered floral wallpaper hung on the wall. Noticeable holes exposed the brown wood. Holes exposed the wall. Small portraits of ghostly strangers hung on the walls. There was no pattern to where they were. Johanna presumed they were there to cover some tears. A small window, littered with cobwebs, hung above the bed. A walnut-brown quilt on the bed matched the unwelcoming atmosphere of the room.
Anthony placed their suitcases by the doorway as they stepped inside. He closed the door behind Johanna. She lingered, wringing her hands. There was only one bed. They weren't married. She bit her lip, studying the bed and its hideous covers.
"I'm sorry it turned out this way," Anthony said, "I meant for it to be . . ."
"To be different," Johanna finished for him. She smiled to prove she wasn't upset. Anxious, yes. But she tried to convince herself that Mr. Todd wouldn't find them here.
Her limbs were heavier than any stone. Though she caught herself before she collapsed onto the bed. Anthony noticed her hesitation. He took her hand and guided her to the bed. They both sat. Johanna's muscles thanked her. There was a pause as he glanced at the floor, then back at her. His expression was grim, sending jagged anxiety through her.
It was all right. Tonight hadn't gone as planned, but tomorrow, they would rise with the sun and board a ship. They would spend the night here.
Spend the night here.
Johanna recalled the words of Mr. Lynch, "I better not hear any complaints about you." She blushed.
The room was so small. Even smaller now that they were sitting on the bed together. There was hardly any space between them. Not that she felt uncomfortable around Anthony. Johanna felt safe around him. Her chest warmed at his voice and her heart fluttered when he smiled. But they were so close. Perhaps she could roll the extra blanket on the ground to make a bed. But she didn't trust that she wouldn't catch some illness from the carpet. Johanna twirled her thumbs together as her stomach knotted itself together. She cleared her throat, distracting Anthony from his thoughts. His look snapped to attention like a soldier.
"It'll be all right. We'll leave tomorrow. But in the meantime," She swallowed. "We're still unmarried," Johanna said. Her hands curled around her middle. "And there's only one bed and one room . . ."
Anthony furrowed his eyebrows at her. Dread settled in her stomach. This was humiliating as it was; she couldn't bear explaining further. But he jolted upwards in recognition. He paused to think. Johanna watched as he uncurled a sly smile.
"Well, there's one way to solve that." Anthony's eyes twinkled.
But what? They could rent another room, but the thought of leaving Anthony made her feel nauseous. If something happened to either of them, the other wouldn't know. Neither of them should sleep on that ground. She opened her mouth to explain this to him, but stopped at his expression.
Anthony wasn't talking about the bed issue.
"Well, there is usually a priest who's up at this hour," Johanna replied, grin widening.
They bolted from the bed, grabbing each other's hands. Anthony laughed.
"Since it'll be your wedding day,"- He dropped to an aristocratic drawl -"would my lady like to dress for the occasion?"
Johanna tapped her chin, maintaining the same posh atmosphere. "She would. But once she's done, her gentleman must promise to marry her as soon as possible."
"He promises." Anthony pressed a kiss to her knuckles. "Cross my heart and hope to die."
For her privacy, he waited outside the room as she changed. With giddiness, she looked through the dresses she brought. She pulled out one. The best dress out of the four she brought along. Violet with long, puffy sleeves decorated by lilacs. Johanna draped her shawl over her shoulders and clasped her hands in front of her as she exited the room. She gave a small smile and Anthony beamed at her. He took her hand and escorted her outside.
The nearest chapel reminded her of the one on Fleet Street. The building she spent hours staring at. They bounded up the stairs and entered through the enormous doors.
"Marry us," Anthony said to the priest. He took out a pair of rings. "Please, sir."
The priest looked at them. He glanced over at the clock, reading it was close to midnight. With a sigh, he agreed.
"Oh, thank you, sir!" Johanna exclaimed.
They recited their vows and pronounced man and wife as the clock rang twelve times. They kissed in front of the stained glass. Johanna smiled as they pulled away. They were married. Actually married now.
At that moment, they had no troubles. The world was nothing but kind. There was no Mr. Todd. No Judge Turpin. It was only Anthony and Johanna. Johanna and Anthony. Husband and wife. Their troubles melted away.
"I love you, Mrs. Hope," Anthony whispered, as they descended the stone steps.
Laughter pulsed through her at her new title. Johanna looked up at her husband and beamed. With no hesitation, she replied,
"I love you too, Mr. Hope."
Adrenaline rushed through them as they ran back to the inn. They laughed. Despite their anguish from before. Once back, they changed into their nightclothes with wide smiles that almost hurt. Johanna wiped away little tears of joy as she folded her dress back into her trunk. Anthony brushed her hair, sneaking kisses along her jawline. Her grin widened with each and she pecked his nose.
The night was nothing more than chaste kisses and caresses. Neither desired anything more.
When Johanna awoke, she was buried in the crook of Anthony's arm. Johanna woke up, buried in the crook of Anthony's arm. Her head rested on his chest, next to his hand. His ring was still on. She traced the engravings. A J and a B for her initials.
"Are you awake?" Anthony asked, suppressing a yawn.
"You don't have to wake up on my account," Johana said, "I was just admiring."
He propped himself up with his other arm. "Admiring what?"
Anthony beamed. "It's quite nice, isn't it?"
"Quite. And I don't think you look half-bad in it, either."
Johanna lifted herself off the bed, her tangled hair balancing across her shoulders. She ran a hand through the locks before standing. Anthony rose after her. The two waited. What did nearly married couples do now? Johanna shifted on her heels as she watched him open his trunk. He pulled out his articles of clothing.
Well, they were married now. And they shared a bed the previous night. It was all right if they dressed in front of each other. As they had last night. Then again, they were in the wake of euphoria.
She expected to blush but didn't feel any heat on her cheeks.
As Anthony buttoned a pair of trousers, Johanna grabbed her suitcase by the handle. He looked up, noticing the case. He took it for her and set it on the bed. She thanked him before shifting through the pile of clothes inside. She removed her nightgown. There. Easy. Nothing to fret about. She gathered her corset. But her fingers trembled as she began lacing the strings. She needed to hurry. Come on. Stop it. Her thoughts didn't help. Johanna squeezed her eyes shut.
"Can I help you?" Anthony asked, making her jump.
She flushed, imagining herself in her position against the wall. "Oh, yes, thank you," she said with a chuckle to hide her embarrassment.
Anthony took the stings, which she was hesitant to let go of. Johanna began instructing him through the process.
"That one goes through there."
"No. The one below it."
"Not that tight!"
With a few adjustments, her corset was on properly, or properly as could be. Johanna thanked him before adjusting the garment so it fit right. She climbed into her petticoats and clasped her dress buttons.
"I helped you with your corset," Anthony said, beaming. He leaned on the wall.
"Yes, you did," Johanna said, "And you did a wonderful job." She stepped into a shoe. To realize she'd forgotten to put on her stockings. Johanna looked through her things again, finding a pair. She plopped down on the bed but could not reach her feet. Johanna looked up at him. "Anthony, would you help me with my stockings?"
With a nod, he knelt down and pulled the material over her feet. Tying them off at the knee with a ribbon. He reached for her shoes, placing them on her feet as Cinderella's prince did with her. He helped her up.
"What should we do today?" Anthony asked.
"Well, we might check on when the boats are leaving. Or trains or other modes of transportation. ]We didn't even think about that last night," Johanna said, "Other than that . . . Well, I don't know what newlyweds do. Aside from . . . that."
"If we don't know what newlyweds do, we'll do what we wish. What can I get you for breakfast? It can be anything. Exotic fruit. Pastries. Pineapple. Anything you want."
Johanna giggled. "Anything?"
"I'll travel halfway around the world, but no further than that."
She stretched her arms across her knees. "Well, I wanted you to fetch me a passion fruit from New Zealand, but apparently since that's not possible,"- she paused -"I would like an entire cake, then. Just for myself."
"If my wife desires a cake, I will find a cake for her."
Anthony tucked her shawl around her shoulders before they stepped outside. The view of the docks and all the ladies with their hair tucked under their bonnets made Johanna hesitate. She muttered something, ducking back inside the room. She found her lightly used bonnet. There wasn't much use for it while she was living with Turpin. And Mr. Todd, for that matter. Johanna gathered her hair under the object and pulled it on her head.
They strolled through the streets, with their arms linked. Anthony quipped about the unusual items for sale and Johanna chuckled with him. The sun beamed above them. She undid her bonnet straps and tugged on them.
The streets were becoming more familiar. A nostalgic feeling loomed over her. But bitter and almost like a warning. They passed an old woman, stretching out her hands and begging for coins in a raspy voice. They hadn't found a bakery that sold cake this early. When asked, most bakers threw the two strange looks. They laughed at their own antics before leaving the bakery. As the roads and sellers were more recognizable, Johanna tugged on Anthony's sleeve.
"We don't have to find cake, Anthony," she said, "I was being silly, that's all."
He clasped his hand over her hand, holding his sleeve. "Silly or not, I'm in the mood for some now."
They rounded the corner. With a furrowed brow, Johanna looked at the street sign.
It glared down at her.
"Anthony!" she hissed, "Anthony."
He glanced at her. She pointed.
Johanna didn't realize she was gripping his forearm. Her insides froze. Anthony turned and made eye contact with her. She gave a slow nod as the wind picked up. Her voice caught in her throat. The two turned around and began back.
They were slow but kept a steady pace, in case they needed to run. They wandered through the streets against the wind. Dark clouds swirled across the blue skies. Blocking the welcoming sun.
Her bonnet straps came undone and flew off her head. Johanna reached out to catch it, as it drifted out of reach. She pulled on Anthony's hand as she chased the bonnet. She snatched it back. Tugging it on her head. Finally catching it. Anthony didn't wait to take her hand again and walk back. Too obvious.
She looked in front of her. "Wait, wait! Anthony!"
He turned and read.
Mrs. Lovett's Meat Pie Emporium.
A lump rose in her throat as she released a shaky breath. Johanna broke into a run, allowing her bonnet to fall again. She released Anthony's hand as her palms slipped through his. There was no time. There was something behind her. A shadow. A ghost.
"Excuse me, miss, I think you dropped this."
It was him.
Anthony remained facing forward, hanging his head. He became an ice sculpture. Johanna shifted her face, enough to make it seem she wasn't hiding, but not enough to expose herself. She reached for her bonnet. Instead, Mr. Todd titled her shin at him. She squeezed her eyes shut. As if it could save herself.
Mr. Todd said nothing.
She turned to run. To fight. To do anything. But she couldn't in a blind panic. Her heart slammed against her chest.
He grabbed both of her shoulders, tearing her away from Anthony. Wait. No. She wouldn't let him. Johanna struggled. Mr. Todd began back to the shop. Johanna rammed her hand into his fingers, giving weak noises. Prying until she was free.
Johanna ran towards Anthony, who reached for her. Mr. Todd was faster.
He caught one wrist. Then the other. Pinning them behind her back so she could reach out. Mr. Todd took long strides. Johanna huffed. She dug her heels into the ground to slow him. Only slightly. He purged on.
Anthony caught up to them. She called his name out in a whisper. Mr. Todd titled his head. He lifted her so that her toes were dragging across the ground.
"Pray sir, give an old woman a penny."
A beggar swooped in front of Anthony, cupping out her hands. Blocking his path back to her. Johanna called his name again. Mr. Todd dragged her into an alleyway. Holding his hand over her mouth. Johanna pushed his arm away, but to no avail. They waited. Mr. Todd looked through a hole in the fence.
Anthony was gone.
Mr. Todd dragged her towards the shop. There were only a few customers outside, who Mrs. Lovett was quick to distract. He relaxed his grip to her waist as he unlocked the door. He nearly pushed her inside. To hide her. She fell to her knees.
"This is kidnapping . . ." Johanna said, with a shaky breath. She gazed up at him. "You could go to prison for this."
Then again, Mr. Todd had been to prison. And they could jail him again for an assortment of reasons.
"It's not," he snapped at her, "You fall under my care. You're my daughter. I'm the one who keeps you off the street." He turned around to glare out the window. Searching for Anthony, she guessed.
"I'm not under your care any longer. I'm married to Anthony. He's my husband." The words flowed easily out of her. Johanna rolled her shoulder back.
Mr. Todd turned around with blazing eyes. "What?"
Johanna faltered and her lower lip quivered, but she maintained her confident facade. She held up her hand, showing off the gold band on her fourth finger. Mr. Todd grabbed her fingertips. He examined the ring. Hesitant before pushing the ring back.
"He's gone now. That puts you in my care."
"I'd rather be on the streets than with you."
Mr. Todd's expression faltered from anger and defense to hurt. She had never seen him this way. Even with her confidence, his eyes stabbed through her. No. This was her chance. She would walk down those stairs. Find Anthony. Be safe.
With that, Johanna rose and neared the door. Mr. Todd flickered back to his senses. He stepped in front of the door. It was hopeless. She knew. Johanna closed her eyes. Perhaps, if she closed her eyes, she would wake up in bed with Anthony. It was foolish. It was childish. She understood. When Johanna reopened her eyes, Mr. Todd was there. Not Anthony's smile. He stared at her as he shut the door.
With the click of a lock.
This is my first real multi-chapter fic on here and I'm very excited. I have all of the chapters already written out. My plan is to edit one a week and get them up by the following weekend. If there are any warnings, I'll try to include them at the end of every chapter with a note at the beginning to say that there are warnings. That way, nothing is spoiled.
Thank you so much for reading!