I don't own anything, except for a part of the plot and my own imagination.

No matter what

"Look what you are doing! You are ruining those pies!" Mr. Lovett shouted angrily to his wife. "You have to take them out of the oven after twenty minutes instead of staring out of… is it him AGAIN? What's wrong with you? Stop behaving like a fool every time Mr. Barker walks by. AND GET THOSE PIES OUT OF THE OVEN!"

She opened the door of the oven as fast as she could, causing it to bang against the wall, which made a horrible noise.

"You are totally useless, do you know that? I'm sick of it! You told me you could bake before we married, but all you do is daydreaming. Now make sure the customers have their pies, or the next time it'll be YOU who is hungry."

He walked out of the bakery and slammed the door behind him. When he was gone, Mrs. Lovett sat down on the floor and let her tears fall. How much she hated that man. She could bake, but not when Mr. Lovett was getting her on her nervous all the time, or when he was threatening her – or when she saw Mr. Barker, the man who had rented the attic above their store.

Since the moment she saw him for the firs time, when he was talking to Mr. Lovett about he rent, she had had a soft spot for him. In the months after that she found out she had a serious crush on him, and when the differences between her impatient and hot-tempered husband and the always kind and nice Mr. Barker became more obvious, she found herself hopelessly in love with him. She and Mr. Barker basically lived in the same house, yet it seemed like he came from the other side of the world. For Mr. Barker didn't live alone: he was happily married with his charming wife Lucy, who was pregnant with their first child. They looked like the happiest couple on earth, yet every time Mrs. Lovett saw Lucy Barker, she couldn't help but feel envy for the younger woman. How Mrs. Lovett wished to be married to Mr. Barker, carrying child…

The oven caused so much heat she couldn't stand to sit next to it any longer. Actually, she didn't want to stay in Mr. Lovett's house at all. Ignoring the angry customers, she left the bakery.

Outside she had to protect her eyes against the sun, which was very bright despite the tears which blurred her vision.

She had no idea where to go to; all she knew was that she wanted to be away from her husband so she could calm down.

"Mrs. Lovett! I haven't seen you for quite some…"

Lucy Barker stared at the other woman in shock.

"Mrs. Lovett! What's wrong? Did something happen?"

"No," she managed to say, hoping the woman would leave her alone. Benjamin Barker's wife was the last one she wanted to have around at this moment.

"Mrs. Lovett, please come in. You'll feel better when you drink some warm tea. It'll cheer you up, I'm sure."

"That's very nice of you," Mrs. Lovett said, forcing herself to hold back the tears, "but I don't want to bother you and…"

"Nonsense," Lucy Barker replied. "You're most welcome. I know you personally persuaded your husband to let us rent the room, we are grateful for that and we won't forget it. Now, please come in. Women need to help each other in these hard times."

Reluctantly Mrs. Lovett followed Lucy Barker to the Barker's home. She had never been there since the new tenants arrived, and she only knew it as the gray and depressing attic it had always been. Se gasped in surprise when she saw the colorful and cozy space it had become.

"It's beautiful," Mrs. Lovett said.

"Thanks, dear. We are very happy with it. Benjamin's shop is here and we can live in the smaller room next to it. It's perfect. Even when he is working, he is still close to me. But let's not talk about it. Please it down, Mrs. Lovett. Benjamin won't return for quite some time, he is visiting a friend who just became a father. I'm sure Benjamin needs some advise. With God's help we'll soon be proud parents too. He's a bit nervous about it but I'm sure he'll be a perfect father."

Lucy Barker was shining with happiness. She stepped to Mrs. Lovett, who couldn't help but stare to her belly.

"Do you want to feel?"

Mrs. Lovett blushed when Lucy Barker took her hand before she could answer.

"Don't be shy, only women her," she said reassuringly.

She undid a few buttons of her dress, so her belly was visible. She placed Mrs. Lovett hand against it.

"The baby moves," the future mother said in awe. "Can you feel it?"

Mrs. Lovett nodded.

"It kicks.." she whispered when she felt a movement beneath her fingers.

"My god..."

"Yes, isn't it amazing?" Lucy Barker said brightly.

Never she would understand how much it hurt the other women, who so desperately wanted to be the barber's wife.

"What's wrong, love? You look so pale."

She guided her to a chair where Mrs. Lovett almost on collapsed.

"I'll make you some tea, and then you can tell me what's wrong."

When Lucy was in another part of the attic, Mrs. Lovett scanned the shop and the living room freely so she didn't have to think about the baby too much. The furniture of the room wasn't how she liked it and the colors of the wall where a little to bright for her eyes that were used to her dimly lit shop, but except for that she would live so much there rather than downstairs.

Like he had heard her suppressed thoughts, the subject of her daydreams entered the room.

Benjamin Barker walked straight to his wife and hugged her tightly. He didn't notice his landlady, and Lucy seemed to have forgotten Mrs. Lovett as well.

"What's this?" he muttered when he noticed the still partly unbuttoned dress. "You really can't wait, can you?"

She smiled and placed his hand against her belly, just like she had done with Mrs. Lovett's only minutes before.

The couple stood their in bliss for what felt like an eternity. Mrs. Lovett was so envious and happy for them at the same time, that she seemed to burst. Even if she would've done so, the Barkers probably wouldn't have noticed, so lost they were in each other's eyes. They kissed tenderly. Mrs. Lovett would have given a lot, if not everything, to swap places with Lucy at that moment.

He deepened the kiss and her hands disappeared underneath his clothes. Only when he started to completely unbutton her dress and she opened her eyes for a few seconds, she spotted their guest who was watching all their movements.

"Benjamin," she said slightly panicking, "stop it! I forgot to mention, but we have a visitor!"

They let each other go and looked to the third person in the room. Lucy blushed, but her husband looked like nothing special had happened.

"Mrs. Lovett," he said politely. "We have to pay the rent only next week, haven't we?"

"Yes sir," she mumbled.

It was a good thing she was sitting, for her entire body went weak under his full attention.

Lucy was making tea, maybe to hide her embarrassment, and Mr. Barker sat down on the couch which was next to the chair Mrs. Lovett was sitting on.

Suddenly another person entered the room. This time it was a little blond haired girl.

"Auntie Lucy!" the girl cried, "Mummy asks you to come to her. She doesn't feel well!"

Lucy immediately put down the tea cups and hurried towards the kid.

"Do you know what's wrong with her?"

"No, but she feels sick and asks you to come."

Lucy buttoned her dress again and put on a cloak within a few seconds. She hurried towards the door while taking the girl's hand.

"My sister is ill again, Benjamin. Don't expect me to be back before… well. It can be very late."

One last kiss and they quickly left the room, leaving Mrs. Lovett and Benjamin Barker together.

"I hope her sister will be alright. She's a good woman, and the only family member Lucy has left," he said more to himself than to her.

Absentmindedly he finished preparing the tea. When he saw the second cup that was standing there, he noticed Mrs. Lovett again. He offered her a cup of tea which she took nervously. Being alone with Benjamin Barker in the same room was enough to let her heart race.

Silently they drank their tea. It seemed to have a calming effect on him, but Mrs. Lovett couldn't relax that easily. She realized how horrible she must look: Mr. Barker was nicely dressed, but she was still wearing her dirty working dress and she was covered with flour.

"I don't want to be impolite, but can I ask you why Lucy invited you here? I've never seen you here before, so your visit is quite unexpected."

"Well, I…"

The memory of the mean way her husband treated her was enough for her sadness to return.

The sob she tried to hold back caught Benjamin's attention and finally he seemed to realize she was actually there instead that he was worrying about his sister-in-law, or thinking about his wife or their baby.

"O, Mrs. Lovett, I'm so sorry… forgive my bluntness…"

He guided her from the chair to the more comfortable couch, where he let her sat down next to him.

"What happened, Mrs. Lovett? What's wrong?"

"It's nothing" she said, not wanting to trouble him with her unhappiness when he had so much worries himself.

"Of course there is something wrong… look at you… there's tears and flour all over your face…"

He offered her his handkerchief, but she was too dumbfounded to accept it. Instead of withdrawing it, he wiped her face clean himself. Her eyes where closed and she had trouble controlling herself.

"You can tell me…"

His kind words were too much for her after all the years she had known nothing but indifference.

"My … my husband…" she sobbed. "He…"

"What does he do to you? Doe she hurt you? Doe he beat you? Whatever he does, if you're reluctant to tell… your secret is safe with me."

"It's not that, Mr. Barker. He's just so mean. He's always nagging and complaining about me, and it gets worse every day. I'm afraid that one day he'll start beating me, maybe when he's drunk. I'm afraid of him, Mr. Barker."

He put his hand on her shoulder to comfort her. She shuddered when he did so.

"Don't be afraid of me, Mrs. Lovett."

"I'm not scared of you… I'm just.. not used to friendliness anymore."

And of course especially not by the man who she secretly loved so much, but she would never tell him. He cared so much for his wife, and she didn't want to ruin that happiness, no matter how much she was in love with him.

"Is there anything you need?"

She wanted to say 'yes', but she felt he would never talk to her again if he knew she desperately wanted to replace his wife.

"I don't need anything, Mr. Barker."

"If the is anything you need, just tell me, and I'll try to help you."

Of course he didn't mean it the way she did him to.

"Thank you. I appreciate that very much,' she said however, while trying to smile.

They looked at each other, not knowing what to do or say. The awkward silence was interrupted by Mrs. Lovett.

"I shall go home. Thanks for the tea and your kindness. It means a lot to me… More than you think."

"Don't be ridiculous. I can tell you don't want to return downstairs, and I don't have to do anything since there are no customers. Please stay here. It's better than being alone."

Mrs. Lovett nodded, not knowing whether his offer was a good or a bad thing. She sat down again, next to him on the couch.

They started a conversation about some general subjects like their stores and customers, but after a while they talked about more personal things.

Chatting with him made her feel more at ease than she could have ever imagined. He was a charming and very kind man indeed. Soon it felt like they had known each other very well all their life. Now the ambiance was so relaxed and friendly, Mrs. Lovett desperately wanted to tell him what she felt for him. But he talked about Lucy with so much love and affection that she couldn't bring herself to do so, knowing she would probably ruin their newly found friendship by doing so.

Every time they accidentally touched the other or looked each other in the eyes, Mrs. Lovett tried to hide her joy and excitement that.

They had been talking for hours; it was getting dark outside already. Mrs. Lovett, who had got up early that morning in order to have finished baking the first pies when the early customers would come, couldn't suppress yawn.

"I bet you woke up very early this morning," Benjamin said.

"At five o'clock. But I didn't sleep well before that, I almost never do. I'm too restless."

"You look tired indeed, but it's not only that. You are really afraid of your husband, aren't you? Poor woman. Come here, you need some comfort."

She allowed him quite nervously to come closer to her, not knowing what to expect and what his intentions where.

When he wrapped his strong arms around her and she laid her head on his shoulder, it felt like she was in heaven. He softly massaged her back to comfort her. Tears welled in her eyes, this time not because of her sadness but because of enjoyment. If the rest of her life would be reduced to the warmth and safeness she was in now, she would be perfectly happy with it.

Her mouth was so close to his neck; it would be so easy for her to touch his skin with her lips… It was almost too hard to resist, but she forbade herself to do it because she knew what the consequences would be. She could never show him what her true feelings for him were. She loved him so much she wanted him to be happy, and if that was with Lucy instead of her she would accept that – or try at least, for it was very hard.

She forced herself not to think of that and she sighed contently while she totally surrendered to the heavenly illusion he was hers.

"Benjamin, Benjamin!"

Lucy ran upstairs and burst in the room, and Benjamin immediately walked to her. Mrs. Lovett remained sitting like she had awaken too quickly from a beautiful dream. His smell lingered and the imprint from his body was still on the couch, but that was the only evidence he had ever been close to her.

"How's your sister?" he asked worriedly.

Lucy was catching her breath but smiled with joy.

"She isn't sick, not at all. She's pregnant!"

Benjamin smiled at hearing the news.

"Not only we will have a child, but my sister will have a baby too!"

She was simply radiating with joy. She hugged and kissed her husband, ignoring Mrs. Lovett, who didn't know if she should be laughing or crying when she saw how happy Mr. Barker's was with the other women. However, it was rather obvious her presence wasn't wanted anymore.

"Goodbye Mr. Barker," she said to the man whose hands were on his wife's belly again.

He didn't notice her anymore; just like Mrs. Lovett had expected.

Silently she left the room, not wanting to disturb their happiness.

Half a minute later she entered her own living room, lingering one second in the doorway to remember Benjamin Barker's warmth and tenderness.

"Shut the door, it's freezing outside!" Mr. Lovett's angry voice brought her back to reality. "And where have you been anyway? I had to attend the customers MYSELF!"

"I'm sorry Albert," she said, trying to sound like she meant it. "I was upstairs, to help Mrs. Barker."

"Like she wants your 'help'. Now clean the shop and SHUT THAT DOOR."

Mrs. Lovett did as she was told, while sighing deeply. How she hated the man her parents had forced her to marry.

When she was cleaning the tables of the pie shop, she thought again of the man she did love. The man who was so close and far away at the same time. Benjamin Barker. A husband, a future father, and secretly loved by his landlady.

She knew they would never be together. But no matter what would happen, her heart would forever belong to him.