Summary: Some scenes from the life of Anthony Hope, eternal optimistic and sailor boy extraordinaire.
Warnings: Mentions of rape in later chapters, along with one scene where it actually happens. It's not graphic, but still. There's some death and nonsexual violence, too, but not more than there is in the movie.
Disclaimer: Own Sweeney Todd and/or its characters? Me? How delightfully absurd!
Chapter One: Labor
Portsmouth, England, 1841
Anthony Hope closed his eyes. He wanted just a few more seconds of peace, a few more seconds to dream about his future life. Someday, he would see the world and all its wonders. London, he figured, would be a good start. In all his fourteen years, he had never left Portsmouth.
Someday, he would be a sailor.
"Anthony! Come quick!"
He tore himself from his reverie. Yet again, he found himself sitting on the wooden bench outside his crowded, dirty home. A parade of pigs marched before his eyes, grunting and squealing. No doubt they were on their way to the slaughterhouse.
Suddenly, he knew that something was very wrong. The voice belonged to his mother, and it had an edge to it that he didn't like. Quickly, he rose and ran into the house.
His mother returned his slack-jawed stare helplessly. She was leaning over their wooden table, her face contorted with pain. Beads of sweat formed on her forehead. Except for her stomach, she was as skinny as a stewed witch. Anthony fought a wave of nausea. Ever since her last two pregnancies, she had been in terrible pain. Yet his father kept forcing it on her. He said that he wanted another boy, as if he ever looked twice at the one he had.
"Go get your father," she gasped, her thin legs buckling beneath her. Anthony surveyed the room, his heart beating so hard that he thought it might kill him. Maggie, his twelve-year-old sister, shot him a pleading look from the stove, where she was boiling a pot of water. Seven-year-old Kate cradled Rose, the baby, on her lap. They both looked close to tears. Lizzy, age four, was already bawling.
"I'll get the surgeon," he told his mother. She shook her head frantically.
"No, your father," she insisted.
"All right," he agreed reluctantly. They wouldn't have been able to pay the fee, anyway. He turned to his sisters. "Maggie, take care of Mum, would you? Kate, you look after Rose and Lizzy. I'll be right back."
As he dashed through the streets, he tried to ignore the fear in the back of his mind. He wasn't afraid of the baby being stillborn. That had happened twice before. Both times had left them all feeling empty and sick, but it wouldn't be the worst thing. She won't die, he told himself. She had lived through childbirth many times before. She just couldn't die.
He found his father in the nearest tavern, hovering over a pint of ale. Until eight years ago, he had been in the Royal Navy. Then an injury to his leg disqualified him from service. Since then, he had spent many afternoons in this manner. Anthony tried not to resent this; he understood that his father was suited to very little else. But he could still see his sisters' patched, worn-out dresses, donated from the church. He could still taste cabbage soup in his mouth, night after night, except for the nights when he had nothing at all. And he could never forget the look on his mother's face from just a few minutes ago.
"Dad," he said. His father turned to him, bleary-eyed and grinning. Anthony could smell the drink on his breath. "You need to come home. Mum wants you."
"Is it a boy?" he demanded.
"It's not going to be anything, Dad, not if she doesn't get some help."
"I'll be on my way, boy. Once I finish this drink…" He regarded the pint lovingly, tracing the rim with his finger. "Here, keep me company for a while."
Anthony slammed his fist on the bar, right next to his father's drink. The liquid sloshed over the rim and onto the table.
"Are you crazy, boy? I paid money for that!"
"No!" Anthony shouted. "You need to come right now!"
With that, the tavern's owner grabbed Anthony by the collar and threw him into the street. The other patrons, including Anthony's father, laughed at the spectacle.
Anthony picked himself up and dusted off the front of his pants. He knew that he would smart all over the next morning. But he had no time to think of that now. He had to run for the surgeon. Mr. Hicks, the only one he knew, lived a few streets away.
It still felt like centuries before he reached the surgeon's. He knocked and knocked, as if that would help. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Hicks looked slightly irritated when he finally opened the door.
"Do you mind, lad? I can hear one knock as well as twenty."
"Please, sir. My mother…my mother…"
He was out of breath now. Mr. Hicks gave him a sympathetic look.
"I'll come," he said. "I'm sure you can pay me back somehow."
She was dead by the time they arrived.
"I'm sorry," Maggie sobbed. She put her arms around Anthony, who stood there like a statue. "I tried. I really tried. Look at me, Anthony. Please look at me."
"I'm sure you did," Mr. Hicks murmured, looking over the squalid room. It smelled of birth and death. "What about the baby?"
Maggie cried harder. Anthony felt her tears drench the front of his shirt.
"Has it been born yet?" Mr. Hicks persisted.
Maggie loosened her grip on Anthony and shook her head violently. Mr. Hicks stepped towards her and put his hand on her head.
"You know, Maggie," he said gently, "there are ways of saving a baby in this situation. Did you ever hear how Julius Caesar was born?"
"No," she replied. Her voice wavered, but her sobs subsided. "Do you think…?"
"We'll have to start immediately," he interrupted her. "I see you've already boiled a pot of water. Clever girl. We can use that to sterilize my knives."
Anthony wandered outside and sat on the wooden bench. More than ever, he wanted to be on a ship, with the ocean rolling beneath his feet. Portsmouth could never be anything but a reminder of his failure.
He closed his eyes and saw nothing but blue.
Author's Note: This gets less depressing, I promise. I have a debilitating need for attention, so please review!