Chapter Twenty-Six:

Even Now

The day was uneventful. As the morning passed, Johanna began to feel the effects of her sleepless night. Her limbs were heavy and she could hardly keep her eyelids open. She persevered. Little Lucy needed her.

"Johanna," Anthony said. She jolted up, only realizing then, she'd almost fallen asleep. Again. "Why don't I watch Lucy? You need some rest."

"No-no. I'm fine."

He ran his hand through her hair. "Doesn't matter. You deserve a break and Lucy might not know that I'm her father otherwise."

She cracked a small smile at that.

"How about that?" Anthony continued, speaking in a soft voice.

Johanna yawned, looking back at Little Lucy. Anthony could handle her for a bit. Besides, Little Lucy should be asleep for the next hour or so. She just went down. But what if she did wake up again? Johanna couldn't sleep through that. She had to be there for her baby.

"I don't know . . ."

"Johanna, please. The lines under your eyes have lines. You look undead."

"Well, that's flattering."

Anthony snickered. Johanna glanced back at Little Lucy. Her body begged her to lie down or close her eyes. She wasn't sure how much longer she could stay awake. She stood to kick off her shoes.

"You know what to do if she wakes up?" Johanna asked. Her words were barely more than a mumble.

"I don't want to call myself an expert, but I do believe that I am an expert."

She smiled. Too exhausted to actually laugh. She would laugh when she woke up. Anthony squeezed her hand.

Moments after she her head met the pillow, she was asleep.

And that was when the crying began again.

"Oh, please don't wake up your mother."

She never heard Anthony sound so desperate before.

"She's very tired."

Was. The sunshine hitting Johanna's face felt like a hiss. She shook her head as she climbed out of bed, barely seeing anything through her sagging eyelids. Johanna reached out to take Little Lucy.

"Johanna, go back to sleep. I got her. It's okay."

I got her. I got her. Her eyes snapped open at that. The baby was crying. Clearly, she wasn't okay. Clearly, nothing was okay. Mrs. Lovett had customers downstairs that probably didn't come to the shop to hear a baby crying above them. Mr. Todd was shaving someone next door. A man who went out to get a shave to escape from his loud family at him from what Johanna could guess. Nothing was okay.

"She's crying!" Johanna snapped, "Clearly, it's not okay!"

She took Little Lucy back and settled back on the bed, humming every lullaby she could think of.

Anthony stared back at them. When she glanced up, hurt was clear in his eyes. It made her heart sore. Anthony turned away and left through the door.

Little Lucy shrieked. Johanna looked down at her. She never felt so helpless.

Johanna never rose her voice. On the rare occasion, she did, she directed her shouting at Mr. Todd. Or Toby, once. She never shouted at him before. But now that she had, it was hurtful. Not terrifying as the times she yelled at Mr. Todd. No. There were tears in his heart. Anthony couldn't shed those tears. They were ever present, even if he wished to hide them away. He couldn't.

Anthony took a seat at the table Toby was clearing off. He smiled at the lad, unable to uster anything more. What had he done wrong? He thought he was being a good husband by letting Johanna sleep.

He couldn't calm Lucy down.

No matter what he did. She didn't stop crying. Anthony went through everything Johanna did. He even went as far as to sing "Lavender's Blue" to her. He could never outmaster Johanna in song, but he didn't sound terrible. Was that it? Did Lucy hate his voice? She didn't like it when he held her, even though he held her the same way Johanna held her.

Mr. Todd came down the stairs. He never seemed to notice Anthony when he was down in the shop. Anthony didn't mind it after his relationship with Mr. Todd went rocky. It was as if they were always on a ship them two. The skies would be clear and the wind blowing fast and then they would run into a stormy patch where Mr. Todd was more than willing to throw Anthony off the boat, if need be.

Today, proved differently.

"What are you doing down here?" Mr. Todd asked.

Anthony glanced around the shop at who he could be talking to. There was no one in the general direction Mr. Todd was looking, except himself. He made eye-contact with the man, pointing to himself.

Mr. Todd slid into the seat across from him. "Is Johanna all right?"

Anthony nodded. "Just fine. And Lucy, too."

Mr. Todd seemed to relax - relax as well as Mr. Todd did. Which, wasn't much to say the least. But it was something.

Could he relate? Or give advice? Mr. Todd and Johanna didn't quite get along. They seemed to be for a while, but something happened and she was colder towards him again. Their relationship was icy.

"Mr. Todd, I think you could give me some advice. You see, I know you and Johanna don't exactly get along all the time - have the best relationship . . ." Anthony stopped. Had he gone too far? Reminding people of their poor relationships with their children wasn't exactly polite. He looked down. There goes his big mouth again. Too many times this happened. Too many.

"What's troubling you?"

Anthony looked back at Mr. Todd. So he wasn't angry with him. At least, not visibly angry.

"I don't think Lucy likes me very much."

"What makes you think that?"

"She clearly prefers Johanna to me." Anthony gestured. "I do everything Johanna does and Lucy still cries." He paused, wondering if Mr. Todd mistook his daughter for his wife sometimes. Or at first.

Mr. Todd continued to look at him. His gaze traveled to the stairs, then back.

"Give it time, son."

By the time Anthony returned back upstairs, Johanna and Lucy were asleep. Lucy was in her cot, wrapped up nicely, while Johanna had fallen asleep above it. She was sitting, but facing into the cot with her eyes closed. With a smile, Anthony pulled Johanna up from her position on the floor, carrying her like a bride. That couldn't have been very comfortable. He put her into bed, kissing her forehead.

Fully dressed, he laid next to her. It was the first time in ages (perhaps the first time ever), Johanna had fallen asleep before himself. He held her hand.

When he woke, he was buried in curls of yellow hair. Anthony found his way out. Johanna had taken up most of the bed, spreading herself across the mattress, as if she were a queen; while Anthony squeezed into a small section of the bed.

Lucy wailed.

Anthony and Johanna groaned.

He jumped out of bed first, noting his soreness after sleeping in his clothes. He ignored the feeling to get Lucy. Anthony cradled her in his arms - just the same way Johanna did.

She continued to cry.

"Give her to me," Johanna said, her voice musty with sleep.

"Are you-"

She nodded. "She won't go back to sleep, otherwise. It's fine."

Anthony didn't crawl back into bed after being dismissed. He took note of everything Johanna did to calm Lucy down. Obviously, he couldn't nurse her, but everything else, he'd done. At least, he thought he had done everything right.

Even though the crying stopped, Johanna didn't put Lucy back. Not yet. She let Lucy linger in her arms and snuggle into her chest.

"I'm sorry for snapping at you," Johanna whispered.

She didn't hate him.

Anthony slided onto the floor, from his place on the bed. He put his hand on her back. Johanna grinned at him. "I'm sorry for leaving."

She leaned into him, laying her head on his shoulder. "It's not your fault. I don't understand why Lucy . . ."

" . . . Doesn't like me?" Anthony kissed her crown. "Me neither. I guess, it might just take time." He paused. "I'm not surprised. I didn't carry her around for eight months. That was all you."

"I suppose." Johanna looked down. "I think she'll stay asleep now."

Anthony helped her tuck Lucy into bed. Cautiously, more cautious than he'd ever been before, he walked back to bed. He and Johanna cringed at a loud spring in the bed. But no crying came. Not even a whimper.

"Aren't you going to change?" Johanna asked, as he moved into the bed.

"What if I wake . . ." Anthony gestured his head at the cot.

Johanna shrugged.

And she fell asleep long before he did.

Cloudy skies greated her upon waking. Whispers traveled around the room. Johanna opened one eye. Anthony was kneeling over Little Lucy's crib, in a fresh pair of clothes. She couldn't imagine he felt nice with what he wore last night.

"Is it morning?" Johanna asked. If she didn't move, her muscles were going to kill her.

Anthony looked over at her. "I'm afraid it is."

With a light groan, Johanna pulled herself out of bed. Her stockings had fallen to her ankles. Using her toes, she shoved them off. She wobbled over to Anthony, sitting next to him.

"How was she?" Johanna asked.

"Good. Fine. Aside from when she woke up during the night, she hasn't woken up since. Though, I have to be honest, we did talk about you while you were asleep."

She lifted her eyebrows with a smirk. "Oh? All good things I hope."

"It turns out Lucy agrees with me. She looks more like you."

Little Lucy whimpered. Perhaps she was offended they were talking about her behind her back. Johanna held her. As soon as she did, Little Lucy fell asleep.

"We're back to that debate again?"

"If what Mrs. Lovett said was true, then she has to look more like you. You're Mr. Todd's daughter. He and I are of no relation. Besides, I think you have his eye shape."

She wrinkled her brow. "Me?"

"Yes and I stand by that claim."

Little Lucy made a sound. Johanna looked down to find a little hand had escaped the cloth. She banged the fist against her mother.

"Your father is very silly," Johanna said to her. Little Lucy cooed. "See? She agrees with me."

"But she was just agreeing with me a few moments ago."

Johanna tilted her chin down. "Well, clearly, she changed her mind."

"We don't know that. Maybe she was arguing with you. We'll have to ask."

She looked down again. "Lucy, do you look more like Mama or your father?"

But Little Lucy's eyes were closed.

Anthony chuckled. "She got bored."

"I suppose so."

There was a pause as Anthony took her back and placed her in her cradle. Little Lucy made a noise, making both parent pause and grimace. But she slumbered on. Johanna smiled.

"Can you handle her for a minute more? I want to run downstairs," she said.

"Go ahead. But if Lucy wakes you, we'll probably talk about you again."

Johanna laughed. "That's a risk I can take."

She left, pausing for a moment outside the door before she went down the stairs. The buzz of the customers caused a shy wave to fall over her. Johanna took quiet steps to avoid being seen. She glanced out the window.

The beggar was not there.

As much as Johanna fought it, her hopes sank. There wasn't any reason she would be there. The police took her away ages ago. She was likely dead or in prison somewhere. They wouldn't let her roam free.

Her mother died a miserable beggar. Nobody knew who she was or that she had a family she adored. She hooded her face and sang songs of the mad. Yet she was a mother. With her daughter just out of reach.

That beggar was someone's mother once. But she was far out of reach.

There were so many questions Johanna wanted to ask her. Sometimes, she imagined she was able to ask the beggar those questions. The beggar would take her hand. She had a a firm grip. She'd pat the backside of her hand then give an answer. The answers were always vague. In fact, in her daydreams, Johanna never heard anything. The beggar only moved her lips instead.

The beggar. Johanna didn't even know her name. She never asked.

She was just a beggar. It didn't matter. Didn't it?

Her mother was just a beggar.

"Is that you?"

Johanna turned, finding a customer looking at her. She gave a shy wave. The customer - a woman with an infant - beamed.

"It is you!" the woman exclaimed, pulling out a chair, "Come, come. Sit."

Little Lucy and Anthony were upstairs.

"I'm afraid I can't, ma'am," Johanna said, "I do apologize."

"That's all right. I'll catch you another time."

As Johanna turned back up the stairs, she heard the woman speaking to the man across from her. Her husband, she assumed. Her voice was low yet had to be loud enough to carry through.

"That was that one girl who works here. Don't know why she doesn't anymore."

"Maybe she had her baby, dear. You weren't working after you had Tom."

"Well, that was mostly because you were afraid to let me get out of bed."

She laughed as her voice faded out of view.

Johanna didn't look where she was going. She stepped and landed on a foot. When she looked up, she was facing a man's chest. Flushing, she backed away, muttering an apology. The man studied her.

"What are you doing up here?" he questioned, as if he were a copper, "You don't look like you'd be Mr. Todd's next customer."

"Oh, I'm not, sir," Johanna said, "I'm just Mr. Todd's daughter."

The man wrinkled his nose. "You don't look like Mr. Todd."

"Well." She tugged on a lock of hair. "Apparently my daughter does. If you'll excuse me, sir."

She ducked into their room. Closing the door with a sigh. Anthony looked up at her. He sat on the floor, next to the bassinet.

"Did it go all right?" he wondered.

"Fine, I suppose. I bumped into one of Mr. Todd's customers who didn't believe I was his daughter." She gave another sigh, glancing at him. She backed away from the door. "How long have you been like that?"

"Since you've been gone."

Johanna quirked an eyebrow.

"I had this thought: what if Lucy fell out while I wasn't looking? All parents say that things happen whenever they aren't looking, so I decided it would be best if I sat right here."

She thought it over. "All right, then. That's . . . normal."

"Never said it wasn't."

Johanna sank to the floor next to him. She traced a finger along Little Lucy's cheek with a small smile.

"She's warm enough?"

"It looks like it. Lucy hasn't told me otherwise."

Johanna yawned. "I don't know why I'm already tired again. I just took a nap." She laughed, but was interrupted by another yawn.

"So go back to sleep. Lucy and I will take care of things. We're quite good at it."

"But she'll need to be fed soon."

Anthony helped her up. They stepped to the bed. Johanna sunk down on the mattress, despite telling herself not to. She shouldn't be tired. This was only encouraging her exhaustion.

"I'll wake you when she needs to be." Anthony kissed her head. "For now, relax."

Johanna tugged on his sleeve. "You should sleep, too. You're going out soon. Goodness knows you'll need some good rest."

"But if I sleep, then who will take care of Lucy?"

"Both of us. We'll just be having"- She yawned again -"Sleeping time."

"Sleeping time does sound nice. But I'm afraid I'll have to pass. The last time I had my thoughts to myself, I nearly made myself mad with different scenarios that Lucy could get hurt. Besides, when I'm gone, you'll be on your own to take care of her. You need to rest up."

"Darling, the last time you were by yourself with just your thoughts, you were watching Lucy."

Anthony considered this. Johanna snickered. He squeezed his eyes and looked at her as she burst into laughter.

"Sorry," she said, as she calmed down. She breathed in a deep breath. "I suppose I'm just tired."

"Then rest."

And she did.

I'm going out of town on Saturday and I'll be gone for about three weeks so I want to get the last (!) chapter up before then! I'll try my best.

Thanks for reading!