Mrs. Lovett sighed contently as she enjoyed the scene around her. Finally, her dreams had come true. Since a few hours ago she was the proud owner of a cottage that was less than three hundred yards away from the sea. Right now, she was sitting at the beach, enjoying the sand and the warmth of the sun while she looked at Toby, who was playing near the sea.
Even Sweeney Todd was with her. Unfortunately, he was far from everything she had ever dreamt of. It was obvious that he wasn't enjoying their time together on the beach at all and he did everything he could do to remind her and most of all, he tried to spoil it for her. The baker didn't like to admit it, but he was doing a good job at that.
A few days ago, it had seemed such a good idea. After a tiring and dark winter that had continued until May, Mrs. Lovett had craved for a bit of sun and relaxation. Now that she was a rich woman, thanks to the sudden success of her pie shop, she could afford to go on a holiday. It was easy to persuade Toby to join her on vacation, but Mr. Todd was a different case. As always, he wanted to stay in his barber shop to be there just in case the Judge would finally come for a 'shave'.
At that point, Mrs. Lovett had been about to abandon all her holiday plans. What fun was it to go after all if the man she loved so much wouldn't come with her?
Fortunately, she had indirectly gotten help from an unexpected person. Rumor had it that Judge Turpin himself would leave London for a week to spend some time somewhere at the coast of the North Sea. Although no one knew exactly where the Judge would go, Sweeney was more than eager to leave his barber shop for a couple of days to accompany his landlady and her adoptive son on their holiday now he had this way the change to kill the man who had destroyed his life.
Of course, Mrs. Lovett was very pleased that he joined her, but she wasn't looking forward to see her wonderful and romantic vacation be turned into a massacre just in case the Judge would show up. That's why she had chosen to go to Harwich. According to Mrs. Ryan, whose cottage Mrs. Lovett had rented for five days, this was the ideal place to relax and rest. When the baker had asked a few subtle questions, she had found out that this place was so quiet, that she didn't have to expect to find more than six other tourists there.
Knowing the Judge would never go to such a place, the baker had gladly paid Mrs. Ryan forty pounds in exchange for the key of the cottage in Harwich that she owned.
Two days later, the baker and her two companions found themselves and their luggage in a train leaving London. Everyone, even Mr. Todd, was in high spirits – though the barber was looking forward to other things than Mrs. Lovett and Toby of course.
The misery had started when they arrived in Colchester. There was a problem with the railway after that station, so the last part of the train service to Harwich was suspended. And there the three of them were, stuck in a small industrial town on the English country side. Mrs. Lovett couldn't recall if it was Toby or Sweeney who had started nagging first. When they sat down on a bench near the station to glare daggers at her (in the barber's case) or look at her with huge and sad eyes (that was the way Toby expressed his unhappiness), Mrs. Lovett had remained practical and paid the owner of a coach to bring them to Harwich.
Thee uncomfortable hours and five pound later, they had finally arrived by the sea.
The salty water and the soft sand was as beautiful as Mrs. Lovett remembered from the early years of her childhood, when her aunt had taken her to the sea once. Even Sweeney Todd stopped talking about revenge for a while when he looked over the endless waves; the poor man probably remembered the journey he had made to Devil's Island and back.
Toby had immediately run to the beach to play there and the barber went to the centre of the village, half a mile away, to find any information about Judge Turpin, while Mrs. Lovett went to the cottage to take care of some tasks in the household first.
When that was done, she took a nice blanket to spend the last hours of the afternoon on the beach. She was enjoying the vacation thoroughly now that the sun warmed her skin and the sound of the waves reached her ears.
However, the fun had been over when Mr. Todd arrived. Unfortunately, he had found out very soon that the Judge wasn't spending his holiday in Harwich and when he had sat down in the sand, a few yards away from her, the dark glances he cast on her every few seconds, told her that he hold her responsible for that.
The nagging had started almost an hour ago, but it felt like a week. Mrs. Lovett simply ignored the barber's snarled remarks, knowing that it was no use arguing with him anyway.
"You knew the Judge wouldn't be here," the barber said, for the tenth time that hour.
Mrs. Lovett sighed inwardly.
"Now Mr. T, don't be silly. I had no idea the Judge wouldn't be here," she lied innocently. "How could I have known that?"
"Well, you're the one who chose this location and I'm sure you chose it for a reason."
"Of course I did… just look around you Mr. T. Don't you enjoy the sun and the water? Isn't the sand and the salty air just smashing?"
"No, it's not," he growled. "The Judge… I want to smash him. And besides… if you enjoy this terrible heat, just make sure Turpin sends you to Devil's Island. Lots of sand and sun there."
"Mr. T… don't spoil it. Just enjoy this little trip!"
The short growl that came from his direction told her that the conversation was over.
Although it had gone four o'clock already, the sun was still burning down on the beach and the three people who were still there. Mrs. Lovett had to admit that Sweeney was right at one point: the heat was quite discomforting. But there was a very easy way to cool down a bit. She was wearing her new bath suit after all and the sea was only a few steps away.
"I'm going to swim for a while," she announced, hoping he would say something that didn't include the words 'Judge' or 'vengeance'.
"Whatever you want, as long as you leave me out of it," he grunted.
The baker sighed; this wasn't the exact reply she wanted to hear either.
"Swimming would be good for you too, you know," she said. "You were complaining about the heat after all."
"No I wasn't."
"Yes you were."
The barber realized this could continue for a very long time, unless he agreed to go with her.
"Alright, alright," he growled. "But only for a few seconds. And after that, you'll leave me alone."
"Yes I will, Mr. T," she replied, glad that he was willing to accompany her at least once.
Together they walked the short distance to the sea. Mrs. Lovett looked at Toby, who was playing with a ball in the water already. He was in a part of the sea were the water reached only to his knees, just as the baker had told him. She didn't want the boy to drown after all.
She stopped to wave at the boy and Mr. Todd continued walking to the sea. Before Mrs. Lovett even realized what was happening, he was in the water already.
"Mr. T, wait for me!"
Forgetting about Toby, she ran to the water too and hurried after the barber, who had already started swimming and didn't look back when the baker called him again.
Not wanting to lose this chance of sharing an activity with the barber, Mrs. Lovett followed him into the water. Soon, the waves reached until her waist and she dived into the water to follow the barber. Wherever he was going, she wouldn't let him get away this easily.
After a few minutes, Mr. Todd finally stopped swimming, but he was still dozens of yards away form her. Mrs. Lovett swam with more force; as always, she wanted to be closer to the barber.
"You can swim as much as you want Mrs. Lovett but you'll never catch me!"
"Oh no?" the baker replied, having some trouble doing so because of the pressure of the water around her body.
No matter how weird and unexpected the situation was, Sweeney wasn't as bad tempered and aggressive as he usually was now that he was swimming and Mrs. Lovett recognized a chance if she saw one.
"I'm coming after you," she yelled mockingly to him.
"And what makes you think you can do that?"
Instead of answering he continued swimming away from the shore. Not wanting him to get rid of her that easily, she continued following him.
Every time a wave lifted her a bit higher, Mrs. Lovett could see the barber's head in the distance. Maybe it was just her imagination, but she seemed to come closer to him.
Ignoring her rapidly beating heart, she continued swimming, further and further away from the shore.
She was so much focused on maintaining her speed that she didn't notice at first that Sweeney wasn't swimming in front of her anymore.
Only when the waves became more violent and the stream that tugged at her body stronger, she realized something was wrong.
The baker turned around in the water to the shore. Or at least – in the direction the shore should be.
All she could see around her was water and the waves, which were becoming bigger and bigger, weren't helping either.
She turned around frantically, but there was not a single bit of land that she could see; there was nothing but greenish water around her.
Now Sweeney Todd wasn't directly on her mind anymore, she noticed how weakened her limbs had become. Even in the water they seemed to be too heavy to move.
If she would've been in any other situation she would've cursed the barber and her own foolishness, but now there was place for only one thing: panic.
Desperately she tried to decide from which direction she came, so she would at least know to where she had to swim, but it was impossible to orientate now wave after wave came crashing on her.
Intuitively, she wanted to scream for help, but she saved her strength because she felt there wouldn't come any help, no matter how hard and long she screamed. Only Sweeney Todd was there and he certainly wouldn't come to rescue her. The only other person who had been near was Toby, but he had been so occupied with the game that he was playing that he probably hadn't seen her and Mr. T.
She saw a particularly big wave that was coming her way too late and before she knew what was happening, the water swept over her as if she was nothing but a small twig.
The baker fought to come up, but the sucking power of the water was too strong and she was dragged down. Even when the wave had passed, she was unable to reach the surface again and she was surrounded by the absolute silence of the water. All she could see was the surreal glittering of the sun in the water above her. So close, but yet, without reach.
Mrs. Lovett was holding her breath, but after only a few seconds her lungs were desperate for oxygen. Her mind knew it wouldn't make her difference, but her mouth opened to gasp for air anyway. All she swallowed was water, water and more water. She wanted to cough, she wanted to scream, she wanted to swim, but she couldn't do anything anymore. Desperately she tried to move her arms to come up for air, but the water was too strong.
Within seconds she started to lose consciousness. Her mind and body stopped struggling; both knew the end was inevitable. She would die here; a lonely grave in her beloved sea, without the man it was all about.
She drifted further away from the shore while her soul prepared to leave her body and the last part of her mind realized that she was going from unconsciousness to something worse.
However, before the journey was completed, two arms encircled her waist and carried her back to the light.
When they reached the surface, her saviour forced her lips open with his mouth to blow air into her lungs.
But Mrs. Lovett was unaware of it.
She wasn't in the sea anymore; she was floating now between white clouds, that seemed to be made of gold because of the wonderful light that was behind them, to a place that was unknown to her, but it was certainly better than the life she was leaving now.
She could almost feel Sweeney Todd's lips against hers. This was perfect already and she hadn't even reached her destination yet. She was leaving her life behind to go to a new place where a life with the man she loved seemed to be a real possibility. Her body relaxed and a light shudder went through her system.
"Don't you dare, Nellie, don't you dare," someone desperately said to her, but she didn't hear it. She was leaving this world and she didn't intend to go back.
When Mrs. Lovett became slightly aware of some things around her again, she had no idea where she was or in which dimension of time she found herself. She seemed to be weightless, and all she could see through her almost closed eyes was that there was almost complete darkness around her.
However, it was of greater importance that someone was holding her. Intuitively she knew who this person was and she sighed because she felt so perfectly happy.
When he felt that she was moving, Sweeney opened his eyes.
"Mrs. Lovett?" he asked, as if he just had seen a ghost.
"Who else?" she replied, rolling her eyes despite her weakness because the answer to his question was apparently so obvious.
Only then she felt that her hair was wet and that there was a towel wrapped around her.
"Wait a second. Where am I?"
"You're at the beach," he said quietly. "We arrived here today, do you remember?"
Automatically she nodded; she recalled how she had arrived there with the barber and Toby this afternoon. Sweeney was there, but the boy was no where to be seen.
"Where is Toby?" she asked, panicking, because her adoptive son wasn't as close to her as he usually was.
"He's sleeping in the cottage."
"The one you rented."
"Oh," she said, blinking her eyes slowly. "Yes I remember that too."
She moved her hand to touch her hair, which was one big mess. Then she saw that Sweeney was wearing a bath suit.
"What am I doing here?!"
"Don't you remember?"
She almost had to ask him to repeat what he had said, because his voice was so soft.
"What… what happened to me?"
"You were in the sea, Nellie. You were swimming, and…"
When he said the word 'sea', all the memories came crashing down on her like the huge waves themselves still toyed with her in the water.
"My God… was that real?" she asked, shocked, because it had all felt so vague, as if it was nothing but a bad dream.
"Yes. It was real."
"I… I thought I was dead."
"You almost were."
"But how can it be that I'm still…"
"I came after you to get you out of the water," he replied, again almost inaudible.
The baker looked at him again, wondering how it was possible that of all people this demon barber, who didn't know any kind of love or responsibility, had been the person who had saved her from drowning.
"And then I made sure that you spit out all the water you had swallowed and that your body wouldn't get too cold. You probably didn't notice it, but I did."
"May I ask why you made this… effort?"
Despite the situation, this was Mrs. Lovett's most urgent question. She was desperate to know why exactly the barber had rescued her instead of leaving her to drown, like she had expected him to do. Despite her fantasies, she wasn't that naïve; she knew how Mr. Todd thought of her, no matter how much she wished his opinion of her to be the opposite.
"I... I had to," the barber spoke, while he stared off into the distance as if his landlady wasn't there. "I challenged you and thus it was my fault that you swam too far. I just wanted to tire you enough to let you shut up for a while. I didn't realize that the streams in the sea were so powerful. It was hard, even for me, to get closer to the shore; luckily I turned back in time. You just kept swimming and at first I thought you were trying to… I don't know. I kept swimming back and when I was on the beach again, I didn't see you anymore. So I went back to the sea again look for you."
"You went back?" Mrs. Lovett said, a bit sarcastically, because she couldn't believe what she was hearing. He was telling her that he had saved her as if it was the most normal thing in the world.
"Yes," he replied, while he stared at the ground. "I couldn't just let you drown there. I felt… guilty. You were dying and that was my fault. I knew I wouldn't be able to forgive myself if I wouldn't do all I could to rescue you."
If this day hadn't been so bizarre already, she wouldn't have believed what Sweeney had just said. Aside from the fact she wasn't aware he could actually feel something like guilt, the things he had said to her were so kind that they almost seemed a declaration of love, considering the person who spoke them.
She shifted uncomfortable, not knowing how to handle this sudden unexpected situation. However, Mr. Todd kept holding her tightly.
"Don't move," he whispered in her ear. "You're safe. We just have to make sure you won't catch a cold."
To make this statement clear, he wrapped his arms tighter around her. Mrs. Lovett smiled a bit when he did this and she mused what an absurd day this was. First of all she had finally gone back to the sea, then she had almost drowned and now Sweeney Todd was suddenly expressing his concerns about her well-being. This made it much easier to forget the memories of the horrifying state of near-death that she had been in for a few minutes and instead of recalling the fear she had experienced, she found herself thinking of nothing but Sweeney Todd.
She relaxed slowly and she let her head rest on his shoulder while she took deep breaths of air, both thoroughly enjoying the fact that she could smell the barber and the fact that she was able to breath in the first place.
"You're an excellent swimmer," she said after a few minutes of a comfortable silence, speaking aloud what she had thought when they were both in the sea and everything had just been some kind of silly game.
"Of course I am," he replied, which a much kinder voice than usually. "How else do you think I could get away from Devil's Island?"
"I'm sorry," she muttered, not wanting to ruin the moment by remembering him of his banishment.
"It's quite alright," he said. "You just have to practice."
"I don't think I ever want to come close to water again," Mrs. Lovett said, shuddering at the mere thought of water surrounding her.
"Don't be silly," he said. "You should try swimming again. Or before you know it, you'll never dare to go into the water again."
"That doesn't sound so bad," Mrs. Lovett sighed.
"Not now maybe," the barber objected, "but there'll come a day when you might regret it and then it is too late. It wouldn't be nice to go to the sea if you can't swim there, would it?"
Mrs. Lovett remained silent, knowing he was right but not having the courage to come close to water one more time.
"Don't be afraid," he muttered in her ear, "I'll be there to look after you."
Subconsciously, Mrs. Lovett smiled. This was a nice proposal; suddenly the sea didn't seem so intimidating anymore at all. What could be scary when the 'demon' barber was at her side after all?
"You'll look after me?" she repeated.
"Yes, I will," he replied.
"You'll stay with me all the time?"
"You won't complain or ignore me?"
"No, I won't," the barber said, after only a short moment of hesitation.
"You won't swim away once I'm in the water?"
"No, I won't," he said again.
If she wouldn't have known better, she'd sworn that she heard him laugh softly, almost sweetly.
Taking another deep breath, she closed her eyes to sleep. She suddenly couldn't wait to try to go swimming again, with the barber this time instead of against him, but she didn't mind her current situation either. She was lying against Sweeney's chest; she could hear the firm beating of his heart beneath her and he was still holding her.
When she slowly drifted into sleep, Mrs. Lovett realized that his vacation probably wouldn't end as bad as it had started after all.