Chapter Three:

We Shall Not Meet Again


"Good morning, Mrs. Hope."

Anthony whispered the words into her ear. Johanna smiled. He inched closer to her, moving her hair away from her face. He kissed her nose, then the back of her neck. Johanna pushed herself onto her elbows, feeling the hair on her bare back shift. He adjusted himself around to kiss her neck.

"I know you said you didn't want anything for your birthday," he whispered, taking out a small box from his coat, "But I found this."

She looked up at him with crossed eyebrows. "Mr. Hope?"

"You have to take it," Anthony said, "I'm not aggressive usually, but you have to accept this."

Johanna yawned and sat up, adjusting the blanket over her chest. Anthony handed her a small box. She lifted the cover.

It was her reticule.

With her gasp, her eyes darted up to him. "How did you find it?"

"Turpin's house is practically abandoned. So I snuck in and found it." He kissed her head. Uncertain, he asked, "Do you like it?"

"Like it?" Johanna giggled. "Well, of course, I do! I love it!"

He responded by kissing her lips.

"I also found a ship that's leaving tomorrow. For Paris," his tone lowered, but Anthony still spoke with the same mirth, "I couldn't find one that leaves today."

"Then, we'll lie low."

Anthony nodded.

Johanna spent the rest of the morning lounging in bed. Her stomach was sharp with anxiety, but she tried to ignore it. She leaned on Anthony's shoulder as they flipped through Baedeker's London. The peephole into the city they never had to know. Once upon a time, they desired to see London for itself. All motivation to tour the city had disappeared when they ran. A book was the perfect way to experience the city without experiencing it at all.

As the sun came down, Johanna laid her head on Anthony's chest. He ran his hand through her hair, kissing her forehead. She closed her eyes and breathed in.

She smelled smoke.

Faint. She didn't realize it was smoke at first. But when she inhaled again, the scent became clearer. It was smoke. Johanna sat up. Their candles were out for the evening. It couldn't be here. The smell was distant.

"Anthony, do you smell that?" she asked, pushing him gently.

His eyelids fluttered. Within a few seconds, he recognized the smell. It was stronger. Anthony helped Johanna out of bed. He wrapped her shawl around her and threw his coat on.

"You go! I'll get what we need."

Johanna gripped his forearm. "No! I can't leave you."

Anthony glanced around the room and pressed his hand to the door. He grimaced as he pulled away.

"It's hot. The fire's near."

Johanna leaned on the wood, wincing as the hot contacted her skin. Anthony pushed. It wouldn't let them out. He looked around the room. Taking in the surroundings. He paused at the window. Anthony grabbed her hand and ran them over. It took both of them to push it open. Anthony stuck his head out.

"I won't fit," he said as he struggled out. Anthony looked her over. "You will."

Her knees wobbled as a breath hitched in her throat. "Anthony, I-I can't leave you! Please don't make me go alone. I need you."

"Johanna," Anthony whispered as he moved a lock of hair behind her ear. He kissed her forehead. "I'll be right there. I'll always find you. I promise."

She hesitated before allowing him to help her as much as he could. Johanna gripped onto his arm. Anthony lowered her almost to the ground. From there, she stepped down. A firefighter blocked her path with an arm, cautioning her back.

"My husband's in there," Johanna told him, "In the window. There." She gestured. "Save him. Please."

"Miss, you need to get away. We can't have any civilians here."

"But Anthony-"

"We'll try to get to him."

Johanna would rather he promise. With a glance at Anthony, who sent a smile - with unspoken fear, she turned around. Checking over her shoulder every few steps. Anthony was still there. Trapped as the building burned.

There were a few others waiting on the next street. Huddled together with their backs turned. Johanna didn't know there were any others staying at the inn besides their neighbor. It seemed too destitute. She shivered. Wrapping her shawl tighter around herself.

It wasn't the breeze that caused her teeth to chatter.

"They tol' us to go down ta'-"

A gust of wind interrupted the woman. The last she heard was something about a shop where they would gather everyone. Johanna followed the crowd blindly, bowing her head like a nun. The line of people slowed as they entered a shop.

"All right, then. Let's get you all settled."

Johanna knew that voice.

She looked back, but the small, desperate crowd wouldn't allow her to move past. With dread filling her chest, Johanna adjusted her shawl to block her face. She prayed Mrs. Lovett wouldn't recognize her. Before she had to chance to flee. A hand landed on her shoulder.

"Come in, miss," Mrs. Lovett said, "The firefighters won't be done for another hour or so."

Johanna coughed. "My husband . . ."

"He'll be all right. Give it time."

Mrs. Lovett reached out to take her shawl for her. Johanna blocked her with a hand.

"If you don't mind, ma'am, I'd rather keep it on," she said.

Mrs. Lovett's brow furrowed. "You won't get ta' eat with that covering yer face."

"I'm sure your pies are lovely, but I'm not in the right mood to enjoy them, Mrs. Lovett."

"How'd'you know my name?"

Panic ran through her veins, seizing her pounding heart.

"Sorry." Johanna gripped the shawl, turning her knuckles paper-white. "I assumed you were Mrs. Lovett of Mrs. Lovett's Meat Pie Euphorbium." She paused. "Was I incorrect?"

"You weren't."

Mrs. Lovett hesitated but backed down. She gestured to a table where Johanna sat. She propped her elbows against the table. Holding up the shawl was causing her arms to tingle. Johanna watched as the others enjoyed their pies. Some dried tears while others assured them it wasn't a big fire. Their loved ones would be fine. Johanna tried to focus on their soothing words instead of Mrs. Lovett whispering to Toby. Her stomach spun as she saw him run up the stairs.

He returned with Mr. Todd.

Johanna's muscles turned frigid. She couldn't sip at the water in front of her. Everyone around her was loud. So loud.

Mr. Todd climbed down the stairs. His eyes landed on her. He made his way to the table.

Run.

"Your shawl is lovely, miss," he said in a low voice.

Johanna cleared her throat. "Thank you, sir."

"Mind if I take a look?" Mr. Todd paused. "Johanna."

Everything froze.

Johanna could only hear her breaths. The chatter from before was gone. The fear trembling within her and the shivers in her stomach overtook her. She pulled the shawl entirely over herself. Her weak shield.

"You must be exhausted, Miss Todd, after all that running you did. Allow me to assist you."

Mr. Todd hoisted her up. She tripped. He wrapped an arm around her waist to keep her balanced. A weak moan escaped her.

"And that fire must've tired you out."

"Anthony . . ." Johanna mumbled, "Let me wait for him, please. I need to make sure he's all right."

Mr. Todd ignored her.

He dragged her back to the apartment. And Johanna was too exhausted to fight. She was the ruins of the burned inn. Still and exhausted.

Little tears streamed down her cheeks when they arrived. She turned to Mr. Todd before he closed the door on her.

"You're just like him," Johanna said.

That stopped Mr. Todd.

"Who?"

His dark tone didn't assuage her.

"Turpin."

For a moment, he stood there. Making no movement. Johanna took shaky breaths as she stared back at him. She knew she went too far. But the similarities between the two were burned into her mind. A low growl ripped from his throat. Mr. Todd tightened his grip on the door.

"I'm nothing like that man!"

Johanna pursed her lips. "Both of you locked me up. Both of you tormented Anthony. Both of you claimed to be a father, yet acted like a tyrant. You're more like your deceased enemy than you think."

"He took you away from me!" Mr. Todd shouted, "He took you away and raped your mother. Your mother took poison because of him. I would never . . ." He hesitated. His expression darkened. As if he was haunted by the things of his past. "I could've never seen you again because of him. I'm not losing you."

Johanna parted her lips, but couldn't say anything after his words. Mr. Todd glared after her. He slammed the door.

She ran to the window but saw no sign of the fire.

"I'll be right here, Anthony."

He didn't come in the morning.

Toby brought up her breakfast, chattering away a mile a minute. He said he was glad she was back. It warmed her heart, giving her some relief; though she didn't ask why. He whispered something about a customer he didn't like. Almost as if he hadn't mentioned the customer at all, Toby turned to talking about the treats he was fond of most. Johanna almost didn't catch the transition.

"I didn't get much good tastin' things at the poorhouse," Toby said, "So I gotta taste 'em all ta see which one's the best."

Johanna smiled at his innocence.

"Pastries were always my favorite sweet food," she replied, "Followed by . . . cake."

Anthony was going to find her a cake for breakfast. If it weren't for her silly request, she wouldn't be here. They could be in France. Looking at cottages in the countryside.

"Cake and pastries. Hmm. Next time Mum gives me money, I'll try those."

"Save room for dessert," Johanna joked with a smile. Toby laughed.

Even as she joked, she couldn't escape her apprehension.

Anthony was not back the next night.

Mr. Todd came up to check on her later that evening. They avoided eye contact and bringing up their argument. When Johanna asked about Anthony, his muscles tightened. She pursed her lips.

"I have a right to know," Johanna snapped, "I am his wife."

He glared. "There's been no news."

There wasn't any news for a week. And another.

Johanna was working at another sampler. For this one, however, she lost most of her motivation. She only continued to distract herself from her worry about Anthony. She heard the creak of the stairs. Moments later, Mr. Todd entered the room. Johanna propped herself up against the wall. She set her sampler by her side.

"Mrs. Lovett," he said, standing rigid by the door, "Could use some extra help in the shop." He paused. "Would you be interested in helping her?"

Freedom. Not a lot. Not even close to what Johanna wished for. But it was more than what she had now. She would be in the shop with other people. She would be one step closer to escape. From there, Johanna could plot a way to get out.

"Absolutely," she said, "Thank you."

Though, deep inside, Johanna realized Mr. Todd let her work there because Anthony hadn't been spotted for a week and now that he was out of the way, Mr. Todd felt he could give more freedoms to her.

It was almost sickening.

She started the next day. Her first exposure to production, really. Johanna was raised as a lady whose hands wouldn't see a day of work. When she got close to the oven, Mrs. Lovett yelled at her. She pulled her over.

"Under no circumstances are you,"-she pointed at Johanna-"to go in there."

Johanna opened her mouth, intending to ask why, but the flame in Mrs. Lovett's eyes chased her away.

There was a permanent ache in her chest for Anthony.

Perhaps he'd been killed. Trampled by a horse. Gone away to sea again. Thrown in debtor's jail.