Another customer flung open the barbershop's door. Toby turned to welcome him with a charming grin. But his smile deflated slightly as he stared at his newest patron.

The customer in question was a man, perhaps in his early thirties. Older than Toby. His step sprung with youthfulness. A woman with yellow curls stood next to him, eyeing the shop and biting her lower lip, a pale hand clung to her husband's arm.

It was not the wife causing Toby's hesitation. He'd dealt with wives before. Usually, his own wife convinced them to stay in the shop, rarely, though Toby had to convince them to leave the barbershop. He knew what tricks to play, he could be quite the charmer.

No, it wasn't the wife, the fragile little dove.

The man, her husband, looked . . . familiar.

He whispered something to his wife. Green eyes glanced back at him, clenching his hand, she nodded.

Toby recovered. He had a job to do.

"Good afternoon, sir," Toby said, nearing the couple, "May I take your coat?"

He noticed how his wife flinched as he removed the man's coat.

"Thank you," the man said. He smiled, squeezing his wife's hand as he slid in the chair.

"What will it be today?"

"Just a shave. Thank you, sir."

Toby nodded, collecting his razors. As he opened one, everything became a buzz behind him. Blurry, useless images. It was a relief he looked forward to with every customer. But the wife haunted him. This was his time, for heaven's sake! Can he not have this anymore? Yellow hair, pale face. He knew those features once; from somewhere. Toby had never seen this woman before, he was certain. Yet he recognized her.

"Please, excuse how jumpy I am," the wife said. Her voice was soft. Angelic. Like a nightingale. "We've had a bad experience with a barber before."

Her husband's eyes are concerned. Not for himself. All this worry is directed at this wife.

Toby cannot focus on this.

"Would you prefer to go downstairs? My wife owns the bakery below and she'll gladly-"

"No, thank you, sir." The pale fingers tighten their grip on the man's hand.

Not good. A wife this dedicated to her husband wouldn't want to witness the demise of her love.

But Toby nodded without a convincing comment to persaud her.

Minutes passed as Toby lathered the man's neck and swiped the razor down this throat. Never digging deep enough to cut. Closer now, he recognized more of his features. Blue eyes and a square jaw.

"Excuse me sir, but do I know you?" he asked, "I could swear I've seen you before."

Now shaking hands pause. Could this man read his mind? He stepped back, noticing how the wife had her head tilted.

"Perhaps, we've wandered by each other at the market," said Toby.

"Perhaps." He did not seem convinced.

Toby glanced back at the woman. One hand is resting on her belly and he notices she is with child.

His heart panged.

They wanted children - he and his wife. But their efforts were unfruitful or ended in tears and blood. This couple had everything Toby wanted. Sanity, a family, each other. He stepped forward, raising his razor to the man's neck again, planning to make him bleed. So what if the wife is right there? He'll kill her, too. And their child. They'll have nothing, just as he does.

But he didn't.

Toby continued shaving him. Casting glances at the wife every so often. She was always uneasy.

And he finished.

The man stood, examining the barber's work with a hand. He gave a nod with a smile. His wife helped him with his coat. Toby nodded back. Feeling nothing at all.

"What was your name, sir?"

"Anthony Hope," he said, "And my wife, Johanna."

Anthony Hope.

And he remembered.

That young man always bursting into Mr. Todd's shop. Toby never spoke to him. They hardly gave another attention.


Beautiful and pale and golden-haired. Mr. Todd's Johanna.

"Goodbye, sir."

And they left.

Toby stumbled back. His wife would be up here in a few moments, asking if he was alright. He hardly ever let customers go. She would apologize for being unable to separate them. Toby doesn't care. Memories flood back. He and Mrs. Lovett. He and Mr. Todd. Hearing the ghostly whisperings of one Johanna.

His wife did come, skirts flying up the stairs. She caressed his face with worry. This isn't like him, she says.

Whispers of lies he told her. It won't do any harm. His wife knew he was not himself. But there is a business she must return to.

That face, pale, framed with golden ringlets will forever haunt him.

He cannot escape.