Eleanor Lovett was staring at herself in the dusty mirror of her room in a decadent seaside inn. A vision in white.
This was supposed to be the happiest day of her life. The day she finally married the man she's loved for 16 years, but as she looked at her own reflection, she couldn't help the sinking feeling that she was making a mistake. This was just what she wanted for so long, but somehow it didn't feel right.
Just a week ago he tried to kill her and her baby by tossing them into the blazing furnace where his previous victims had become nothing but ashes. That was the end he intended not just for her but their baby as well! And here she was, about to marry her almost murderer. But he seemed to have changed… He slipped and hit his head before he could push her inside and when Sweeney Todd woke up, he was almost like a different man altogether. The man she'd always dreamed would come back to her.
"Please, resist. I can't live without you" Nellie whispered into Sweeney's ear, but he didn't seem to hear her. She did not know how long she had spent like that, cradling the unconscious barber's head, hoping beyond hope for a miracle. Was it still night? He must have offered the Judge around midnight. Was dawn breaking outside? Nellie Lovett had completely lost track of time.
It didn't matter that he almost killed her before he passed out, she hadn't been able to leave him. That had always been Eleanor Lovett, loyal and devoted to a fault and she would gladly go down with the man she loved. She, who prided herself in her individuality and rationalism, could do nothing but watch as they took a back seat when it came to the demon barber. And where had that taken her? That bloody infuriating man never appreciated any of it, never loved her and never will.
And now… it wasn't just Nellie to consider, she acknowledged as she moved her hand to her still flat tummy. If only for the baby… she had to leave Sweeney behind and make her escape now. It wouldn't be long until the bobbies traced the Judge and the Beadle to her establishment, considering a complaint against the pie shop was one of the latter's tasks of the day and that must have been documented somewhere. Besides, if Sweeney woke up… could she be sure he wouldn't finish what he started? She needed to leave him, she needed to save her baby, their baby. Even if it broke her heart.
With uttermost care, she lifted his head and held it closer to her chest. Hot tears fell down her cheeks as she leant down to kiss him one last time. "I still love you, you bastard". But just before she gently moved his head off her lap, his obsidian eyes fluttered open and they immediately locked onto hers. "Nellie" he muttered softly, his face breaking into a small relieved smile. She had a hard time thinking this man would have been happy to see her burn to death just mere hours ago. His eyes were no longer cold and murderous but serene and he reminded her of a tortured hero who'd been starved off the company of his lover for far too long as he dealt with the tribulations of life. Perhaps she'd just read too many romantic novels and was confusing everything again. And then he said "I thought I lost you" and Nellie broke down crying, tightly hugging him.
He sounded so sincere, remorseful even, and she wanted with all her heart to believe him. Could there be a future for them? For the three of them? Could a family with the man she loved leave the realm of her dreams and become a reality? Sweeney pushed her softly so he could sit up, his eyes never leaving hers, and she could never resist their pull. Next thing she knew he was kissing her, of his own volition. Tenderly, sweetly… Was she dreaming? It simply was too good to be true.
Yet to both the barber and the baker, that kiss felt like sealing an unspoken promise. That they were going to be together forever. In sickness and in health. Till death does them part.
But that didn't change the fact that he'd tried to kill her, and their baby, and… Johanna as well. They'd ran into Johanna and her sailor at the harbour, as both couples were preparing to leave London. The lad was filled to the brim with gratitude for Mr. T. for helping him save his beloved and offered to take them to Bristol on the small but sturdy ship he'd rented. From there they could travel to almost anywhere in the world, he'd said. He and Johanna were to settle in Plymouth with his family.
While Nellie was quick to agree, eager to spend more time with the young lady she hadn't seen since she was a rosy-cheeked babe, Sweeney was more than reluctant. That struck her as odd. After all the sleepless nights he'd spent thinking about his darling daughter and all he'd done to save her from the Judge, not only had he not told her he was her father, he even seemed to shun her. Furthermore, Johanna too seemed to avoid him like the plague and Nellie knew it wasn't just her natural shyness. The girl seemed irreparably afraid of him.
Sweeney coolly brushed her off when she confronted him, like he'd done so many times in the past. But on the day they reached Plymouth and a perpetually seasick Johanna disembarked to stay with Anthony's mother for a few days as he completed the trip, she pulled an intrigued Nellie aside. "Beware of him, he's a madman, a merciless assassin" she'd told her, and Nellie raised her eyebrow. As far as she knew, Sweeney had not told her or the lad what befell the Judge. "While I was hidden waiting for Anthony, I saw him murder Judge Turpin, an old woman and he would have murdered me too had you not screamed. I was too scared to tell Anthony, but I must warn you. You're a good woman, Mrs. Lovett and I wouldn't want him to hurt you."
And Nellie was speechless. His own daughter… Perhaps she hadn't recognised her, for so many years had passed, but she looked painstakingly like the late Lucy Barker, yellow hair, fair skin and all. Since he hadn't finished the job while at sea, Nellie reckoned it had probably been a case of his blind uncontrolled rage and that he regretted it. It still made Nellie shudder. What would he do to her then? She, who mattered much less to him than Johanna, if anything at all.
"We're getting married when we get to Bristol. We're expecting a baby together, you see?" Nellie had said, as if that justified staying by such a dangerous man. Johanna had smiled sympathetically, aware of the stigma unmarried woman faced, even though she spent all her life in a golden cage. She'd nodded and wished her the best, but nevertheless told her that if she changed her mind, Nellie would always be welcome in Plymouth. That made her shed a tear. Despite growing up with a monster, despite sharing blood with another one, Johanna was so kind and noble. She wished her all the happiness in the world. She deserved it more than any of them.
As Nellie recalled her interaction with Johanna, she wondered not for the first time if she'd completely lost her mind. She knew how unpredictable Sweeney was and how disposable she was to him. He'd proven it to her when he had no qualms about pushing her into the bakehouse oven—and he was completely aware of his actions then—just because she lied, invalidating everything else she did for him. She simply must be crazy to marry him. And she had always known she wasn't the most conventionally sane person, because what kind of woman happily baked men into pies? It's all for love, she always told herself, but the booming business didn't hurt. Savings for her seaside dreams that now were to become a reality… if she married her own almost-murderer.
She thought of the child, did it really help her baby to have a father when said father had attempted to end his existence? Or was she just being selfish because she still stupidly loved the man? He'd never expressed any interest in children other than Johanna. When she told him she was expecting, the knowledge did not make any difference. He would kill his child like he wanted to kill her, and just thinking about it made Nellie unbelievably sad.
Then there was Toby, that sweet lad was desperate for kind of affection after all the horrors he lived in such a short life. It was clear he wanted, needed a family and that included a paternal figure to look up to. Yet Sweeney treated him with nothing but contempt, never showing a glimpse of paternal love towards him, as if he were only a nuisance. He would have killed him on that night had he not… No!, she stopped herself there. For blood too would have been on her hands and that was too painful to think about. And all Toby did was love her like a son, and she'd been a terrible mother to him. Choosing a man who wouldn't hesitate to kill her over sweet innocent boy who wanted nothing but to protect her.
She tried to focus on the practicality. Eminently practical yet appropriate as always, he'd told her before he attempted to toss them into the flames. She shook the image from her mind. This what was she wanted! A seaside wedding to legitimize her rumpled bedding and the fruit of them. He'd finally asked, got down on one knee and all as the sun set on the horizon, sinking itself in the deep blue sea and painting the sky in pretty reddish hues. She told herself there was emotion in his voice, willed herself to believe he did it because he was beginning to fall for her and wanted to be a father to his child. In reality, she was aware they were only marrying because they were travelling to the United States to start over.
It wasn't uncommon in port towns such as Bristol, to have gunshot weddings before the couples departed to America or anywhere else they saw fit to start a new life. Being married certainly made things easier in terms of paperwork, especially if there was a baby on the way. If it is born, that is. For all she knew its father could definitely kill it in a fit of madness. Again, she willed herself not to think about 'd easily found a priest willing to marry them and two witnesses she had befriended at the inn. The young and naive Mr and Mrs Denton. They were incredibly friendly and pleasant, yet she knew they probably wanted some companions to travel to America with, to help them out once they got there since they didn't even know how to read. Everyone always wanted something. Still, she remembered when she was like that, young and although never particularly naïve, she knew no fear.
And fear was all she knew now. Fear the police caught up with them, fear her baby would not make it, fear Sweeney's rare mood ended and he went back to being the cold blooded murderer she knew and threw them into an oven when he got the chance, to make her pay for lying about Lucy. The fire... every night when she closed her eyes, she saw the flames, hot and unforgiving; the look of pure hatred in her beloved's eyes, burning her soul like the flames would soon do her body.
But that was a thing of the past, she always told herself. She was fine, her baby was fine. Sweeney was different, after he hit his head. He was almost… a decent man. He wouldn't kill her; they were over Fleet Street. From now on, we will only look forward, he'd told her when he proposed, only two days after they burned the bodies of the Judge, the Beadle, and Lucy… He had to mean it. Thus, she would instinctively scoot closer, seeking refuge from the suffocating sensation in the coldness of his stiff embrace. Sometimes she would cry the tears she didn't allow herself to shed during the day, tears of frustration, of guilt for not appreciating how he was changing for her or how her dreams were finally coming true. She was sure it was her imagination, but she could swear she felt him pull her closer on some of those nights.
Her future husband. Her almost murderer. The father of her child. The man who she knew would never love her, not when he showed her that he really meant it when he said she deserved to die. In less than a week, he went from trying to burn her alive to waiting for her at the altar to formalise their lie. Because all her dreams of them living happily by the sea, taking gentle walks along the sea and spending passionate nights tangled together in the bedsheets when the sun went down and especially, him realising that he loved her, were nothing but stupid utopias. Their future would be much different.
But maybe… it could be better? She never dared to dream about children, she had convinced herself that those were not in the cards. She had accepted the fact that she never would have one, believing herself to be barren after her late husband forced her to abort when he suspected her child was not his. It really had been her own fault her first one died, for being unfaithful in the first place with a man who only used her—not unlike the one you are about to marry, her mind protested but she promptly shut it up. All in all, she was definitely not a virtuous woman to expect the grace of God to fall upon her and bless her with a child. But He did. It did happen, and she should be the happiest woman on earth. A baby made from love, at least on her part, like she always dreamed of. Benjamin Barker's baby. No, even better, Sweeney Todd's.
Her maternal instincts kicked with full force. She was having a baby and she was about to marry a man that had barely acknowledged said baby, a man who tried to kill them for goodness's 'd told her he was sorry, the first time he'd ever apologised to her. He told her he wanted to move on with her, to America, away from all the ghosts that plagued them on Fleet Street and that had been music to her foolish ears and her gullible heart that dreamed of her love finally being returned. But her mind knew he didn't love her, never would now that he knew she lied and he killed the love of his life as a result. If anything, he was just marrying her and taking responsibility for her child so he wouldn't be alone for the rest of his miserable existence.
And yet, other thoughts began to cross her mind. He'd fooled her before, just before he tried to murder them, by telling her all her dreams could be a reality. How could she know he wasn't doing the same now? A crueller scheme of bigger magnitude, for this was no longer just words. She was wearing white of all colours as she got ready to marry him three days before they departed for New York. Perhaps he wouldn't be there when she arrived at the church, he had found himself a delicate woman with yellow hair and left them so she too experienced the sting of betrayal. As if she never had…
Her colourful imagination did not stop there. Perhaps he was indeed there, waiting with his razors in tow, ready to stick one into her, into her heart and womb after she said "I do", giving her what she'd always dreamed of and snatching in in the blink of an eye. Or he would throw the altar's candle on this ugly pawn shop dress so she would finally burn in hell. Perhaps he'd be kind enough wait until the wedding night, to shag her one last time and when she was asleep just carry her downstairs to toss her into that lovely chimney in the middle of the foyer.
Oh, the images of the fire. Still so vivid on her mind, getting closer and closer. She could almost feel herself getting hot, as if the bakehouse oven was again behind her, his cold obsidian eyes full of hatred, not a glimpse of pity for the woman who helped him get his revenge, who gave him a home, hot meals every day and her own body if he so desired. And nor had he pity for their child. It's innocent… she'd said, and he had not batted an eye. And Toby… you chose that demon who will never love you over your son, are you going to make the same mistake again? It was becoming increasingly harder to breath, and she feared she was going to pass out right then. No, I have to leave, I can't do this. For me and my child, her mind insisted as the bride-to-be exited her room and the inn where she and the groom were staying.
In the meantime, said groom waited impatiently at the altar. She should be here already, the thought. He knew about the tradition of the bride being late, but she was almost twenty minutes late and he was growing paranoid. He knew Nellie wanted nothing but to marry him, to legally become Mrs. Todd. That legitimacy was important to her, so Sweeney shut down his own reservations and proposed to her one night on Anthony's ship. He even bought her a ring when they got to Bristol, a pretty ruby ring he planned to give to her tonight, on their wedding night.
Despite himself he was looking forward to it, to make love to his beautiful wife, completely naked save for his ring on her finger. She would finally be his legally, her and their child would carry his name. He was doing right by her and their baby and he realised that it did not fill him with trepidation or regret like he always feared, but with anticipation. He wanted it too. But Nellie was nowhere to be seen and now a full half an hour had passed. Something must have happened, he rationalised. And with his friends in tow, he went out to look for his bride. He would not let anybody harm her.
Outside, Nellie was almost running around like a headless chicken. It was awfully hot, the scorching sun burning her skin, making her feel as if she were in that blasted oven… The train station, she thought, holding onto her rationality before her brewing panic attack got the best of her. But she simply did not know where it was, for there were no signs, and she did not want to ask the bobbies. She chose a random street that looked important enough to lead to the station, but when she rounded the corner, there was the church. All ways lead to hell, it seemed.
She saw Sweeney Todd exit the building and decidedly approach her with a gleaming razor in his hand. That was it, he was going to kill her. He was probably rabid with anger that she made him look like a fool by not showing up. Tears fell from her eyes as she ran in the opposite direction. She could hear him running after her, and he was much faster and he was not wearing a stupidly heavy dress. She was hyperventilating, her heart beating wildly. People stare at the runaway bride, but no one tried to help her. It's over, she thought as her vision became blurry.
"Eleanor" was the last thing she heard before it all turned black.
A/N: Welcome to a new Sweenett adventure following the events of my previous fic Caught Somewhere in Time. If you read this, please let me know what you think! xxx