Rating: K -- very mild
Comments: I suppose I took some liberties with the history here, but this is how I picture things after seeing the movie. It's Mrs. Lovett-centric. I don't think she really loved Mr. Todd... but then again, I'm just a bitter, cynical person.
"So… here's the property." The speaker was a well-dressed fellow, cleanly shaven save for a small patch of stubble above his upper lip. He gestured to the sparsely furnished front room.
Mrs. Lovett gave the room a quick glance, "It's nice."
"Cheap, too," the man drew in a deep breath, ready for the coming question.
She crossed her arms, "Why's that?"
"Well the previous owner, you see… well, there was a fire, is all." The gentleman pointed to rough blackened patches that decorated the walls. "And well, he said it was the Barker curse what done it."
"Barker curse?" She unfolded her arms and ran her fingertips along the nearest windowsill. A thick layer of dust came off on her finger.
"Yes, mum. It's quite famous here on Fleet Street, but unless you lived here, you wouldn't know. A Mr. Benjamin Barker used to own this building. He and his family lived in that little apartment upstairs. He ran his business in the space above this room."
"He was a quite accomplished barber," the man explained, "before he was deported."
She narrowed her eyes, "What for?"
"There's rumors about, but it happened three years ago, so nobody quite knows anymore."
"And the curse?"
"Well, y'see, his wife and child were taken in by the very man who banished Mr. Barker. People 'round here say Barker's angry spirit haunts this building, desperate for revenge an' all."
"Oh balderdash." She smiled and shook her head, "I'll take it."
"Shouldn't you discuss this with Mr. Lovett, mum?"
Mrs. Lovett clucked, "It's got a kitchen. He'll love it."
After the realtor had left, she cautiously climbed the creaking stairs to the overhead apartment. She paused on the landing and closed her eyes, trying to imagine what she might find at the top.
All that remained, as she found out, was blackened walls. Rather disappointed, she glanced out the window and down onto the street. The realtor's words returned to her and she returned downstairs. She exited her new establishment and rounded the corner. The stairs leading up to the old barbershop looked unstable, but her curiosity overruled her doubt. The old barber pole outside was dull and dirty and completely unappealing. Nobody had cleaned it, she decided, since Mr. Barker had gone away.
She grasped the handle and took a deep breath. The bell clanged noisily as she pushed the door open and stepped inside. This time she was rewarded with a treasure trove. There were a scorched dresser, baby crib – complete with blackened baby doll – and a shattered mirror.
Pulling one of the drawers out of the dresser yielded yet another surprise. A small picture frame lay discarded at the back corner. She stared at it for several silent moments. It was a family portrait, or so she decided, of Mr. Barker and his wife plus child.
"There was a barber and his wife," she whispered, "and he was beautiful."
She traced her thumb over the image of Benjamin Barker. He was handsome with his black curls neatly combed to his head and his smile was wide and open. Much more attractive than the man she was currently married to. Not that she could complain. Mr. Lovett treated her well enough.
She broke the glass on the picture frame and tucked the picture into her bosom. As she crossed the floor, she happened to notice a rather hollow thunk as she stepped on a particular floor board. After prying the board up, she found herself staring at a dusty box. Opening it revealed a row of clean silver blades. She let her fingers run over the handles and couldn't help but feel like she was a part of this Benjamin Barker's life. She knew his family. She knew his tools. Unwilling to intrude more than she had to, she settled the box back into its hiding place and left the room. As the bell on the door jingled as she left, she wiped the smile from her face.
Years passed by and no ill befell the new occupants of 186 Fleet Street. Mrs. Lovett began making her meat pies much to the delight of the other occupants of lower London. And for a while, life seemed bright.
And yet… Mrs. Lovett couldn't forget that mysterious figure that was Mr. Barker. Every night before joining Mr. Lovett in bed, she would peer at the age-worn photograph and sigh. It was quite romantic, she decided. A young man so in love with his wife that he would even be deported for her.
She had collected information over the years as people filtered in and out of her shop. Apparently the young barber's wife was quite the beauty herself and the desire of every man's secret heart. Unfortunately she was also the desire of one Judge Turpin. Mrs. Lovett despised and loved this man in turn. While he tore poor Mr. Barker away from everything precious, he had also created such a lovely story.
In the dark of the night, Mrs. Lovett would lie awake and dream of meeting this wretched soul, this Barker. He would be courteous and polite, the very image of a gentleman. And so even tempered. Although, she pondered, the years would probably wear on him, so perhaps prone to temper tantrums. If he ever returned – though she scarce let herself hope – he would come home to this very building.
And Mrs. Lovett would be able to give him a wonderful gift. She would produce his special razors and he would be grateful. He would pepper her face with delighted kisses and they would be happy.
It was one day, only two years after buying the building, that she met the other woman. She was busy pounding out a batch of dough when her door was pushed open and a sobbing woman entered.
"Mum, we don't…" her words trailed off as she noticed that this other lady was not listening, but rather muttering under her breath.
"Please," the woman approached the counter, eyes casting in all directions nervously, "I need…" She licked her lips and bit down on her lower lip. "I need to hide a moment."
"We don't condone no criminals here, mum." Mrs. Lovett responded; her grip on her rolling pin tightened considerably.
"I'm not a criminal." The woman straightened up slightly. "I'm Lucy. Lucy Barker… I lived here many years ago. I just… I just didn't know where else to go."
"You're his wife." Mrs. Lovett stared hard at the woman in front of her. Frankly, she didn't know what Mr. Barker would have seen in this woman. The years had not been kind to the lady in the picture. Her hair had become frayed and had grayed in several patches. Her clothing was torn and dirty. Her face was wrinkled and aged.
"Get out." Mrs. Lovett could not say what inspired her to be so cruel to such a beaten creature, but she couldn't let her rival stay in this building. What if, she tremored, what if he came back and found his lovely wife alive? Where would that leave her? This Lucy was not going to stain the image of her perfect future.
Lucy's mouth gaped slightly, "I…"
Mrs. Lovett went back to her pies as her conscience scolded her actions. She could vaguely hear her door shut again and she tried to push the event from her mind. It worked for a few days, until word drifted in that Lucy Barker had poisoned herself. Not dead, mind you, her customer warned as he selected a meat pie, just bloody crazy. For a brief moment, Mrs. Lovett felt guilt flood through her, but she didn't let it hurt her for long. It was not her fault. It was Lucy's. Lucy chose to do that to herself.
And besides, life for Mrs. Lovett was wonderful in comparison.
But the days did not stay so wonderful. She found her husband dead beside her one morning, not that she minded. With him out of the picture, she could one day be happy with Benjamin. Along with this death, though, came a rise in the price in meat. Suddenly her meat pies were sub par and not worth the time of day.
Her shop gathered dust and the insects invaded day by day. Soon enough she was trying to thrust her excess pies upon the beggars, and even they wouldn't eat them. Occasionally she would spot Lucy Barker staring at her from across the street, mumbling obscenities and crock. She would shoo the crazy woman away and forget that the unwelcome intrusion disturbed her day.
And twelve years after buying the property on Fleet Street, she met him.
He strode in off the street with his massive bag on his back and she knew it was him as soon as he sat on her bench. Her heart raced as she touched his shoulders, forcing him to stay and eat a pie. It was a meager offering, but she could hardly think straight. All the waiting had finally paid off.
Of course he had to ask about Lucy, but she'd had many years to think this through. A way of distorting the truth without lying.
"She poisoned herself. Arsenic from the apothecary 'round the corner. I tried to stop her but…"
And he'd accepted that answer, albeit with dead eyes and a cold demeanor. All in good time, she promised herself. He'd come around. Her lips turned up at the corners as she realized that her gift was still stashed up away upstairs. That would certainly bring him to her. And so she'd given him back his beloved razors. Yet…
Instead of being grateful, he'd thrown her out like trash. But still she comforted herself. He was still in shock. After he'd gotten that nasty revenge out of his system, he would love her, of that she was sure. All those years of waiting and dreaming just couldn't be wrong.
She knocked cautiously on his door one evening several months after his return. Her shop was back on its feet and his revenge was nearly complete. While the Judge was still out of grasp, he was still on his way. While he scared her sometimes – he was quite like a caged tiger at times – she knew he was still the man she had fallen in love with, the man in that portrait.
"Go away…" His voice was low and hollow, and she ignored his command.
"Come now, love." She pushed the door open and stepped inside. She grimaced at the sight in front of her.
His back was to her, but she could see the bloodstains up his sleeves. The trapdoor was open beside him. There was a faint splash of blood at the base of the chair. She shut the door behind herself as she crossed into the room.
"Mr. T., what am I going to do with you?"
She was fully prepared for his lack of an answer.
"Well, you should come have something to eat. Yore just skin an' bones."
"Whatever you say." He shook his hands slowly. Meticulously, he wiped his favored blade on a white cloth. He tossed the cloth down the trapdoor before letting the foot-lever up. The door clacked shut and the seat righted itself.
She was hurt by his lack of interest but didn't mention it. "So you'll eat?"
"Mm." He went to his dresser and stared at an ancient picture of his wife and daughter.
"Mr. Todd…" She sighed. The look in eye was so soft when he looked at that picture and she knew what he must be thinking. He wanted so desperately to have them again. No matter how he got there, he needed his family back. He couldn't remember them, but he remembered how warm he felt with them.
She reached out but hesitated a scant centimeter from his shoulder. Changing her mind, she brought the hand to her chest and tilted her head to the ground.
"It's difficult, innit, Mr. Todd. Bein' in love with an idea…"
And of course he didn't respond.