Two Dreams Forgotten (And One Nightmare Remembered)
Toby, and the family he almost had. Mr T, Mrs Lovett, and the boy who wanted.
In the beginning, there was a dream.
There was this boy who might have been scrawny and underfed, but met a woman who raised only her voice and never her hand, who made wonderful meat pies ("here, love, take this penny and buy yourself something outside, the pies are for the customers") and let him drink all the gin he needed (to forget). She let him call her mum and sometimes even called him son, and it was all so, so perfect.
Upstairs lived a man that his new mum called Mr T and everyone else called Mr Todd, and he might have been quiet and dark and a little strange, but that first day he had told Mum to give him whatever he wanted, and the boy knew that somehow, Mr T had had something to do with Senor Pirelli's disappearance. He used to imagine Mr T standing over Senor Pirelli's slumped body, perhaps saying something like, "And never darken my doorway again" -
- until upstairs began to smell like blood, and that made the boy remember wrapping bleeding fingers that Senor Pirelli inflicted and cold dark nights when the gin made them all too quiet to fight back. ("Bad things happen at night," he'd begun to say to Mum once, but couldn't finish.) And he'd wondered how exactly Senor Pirelli had vanished.
Mr T, oh Mr Sweeney Todd, he wasn't unkind, but the boy's skin prickled when he brought himself to meet that strange, intense gaze, and the blades – those beautiful silver blades – gleamed like smiles in the darkness.
In the middle, there was a dream.
There was this boy who had found a mum if not a dad, and he'd stood before his new mum and told her that he would never let anything harm her, not while he was around, because this was love, wasn't it, the desire to protect.
Her eyes had been so sad and he'd thought, oh, poor Mum, poor Mrs Lovett, doesn't know what a monster she's got living upstairs, doesn't know that the man she's set her cap on isn't much of a man at all. But the boy knows what monsters look like ("demons will charm you with a smile," he says to her, thinking of Senor Pirelli and his slick grin) and he can't be forgotten again. He can't lose his family again.
And Mum had her own dreams too, he'd heard her whispering them to herself, dreams of a family of three living by a beach, a son and a mum and a dad. They weren't so far away from his own, really, he just had to show her the truth and they could go away, find that beach and that family and one day Mum would find someone who was worth her, and they could all live so happily ever after. But that wouldn't happen until Mr T went away.
The boy believed he would protect her, and kept thinking that right until he took his first bite of his Mum's cooking.
In the end, there were no dreams.
Mr Todd crouching over the body of an old woman and his voice crooning out a song Mum Mrs Lovett the devil's wife had once sung with her eyes so sad and her mouth so trembling and her hands so still, and he can feel the blade smiling in his fingers as Mr Todd bared his throat for his execution.
(When he wakes up he smiles through the tears and pretends he will forget one day.)
And sometimes he can still taste Mum's cooking on his tongue and hear her screaming in the oven like in every happy ending, but he still cried in his sewer and didn't know why, because she was as monstrous as Mr Todd but she'd taken him to the park and given him new clothes and kissed his forehead before he slept, and why, why, she'd saved kittens from Mrs Mooney's basket and given them names and fed them and let him pet them, he'd loved her --
(When he wakes up he screams and screams and screams, until they have to tie down the poor mad boy found wandering in the streets, his hands covered in blood and a barber's blade clutched to his chest.)