Sweeney was pacing through his room, thinking of the past again and considering his options to take revenge. It was dark in the barber shop: the last beams of sunlight had died hours ago and they weren't replaced by candles and oil lamps like in so many other houses in London.
The bell at the door jingled, causing Sweeney to look up immediately. Because of the late hour he knew the one who entered wouldn't be the Judge, yet he felt a jolt of disappointment going through his system when Mrs. Lovett stepped into the room.
"Good evening, Mr. T," she said cheerfully.
How he hated that. She always was so good humoured, as if life was enjoyable. It had once been for him, but not anymore, never, and he hated her for reminding him that life could be good.
She began working as usual, rubbing the wooden planks of the floor until all the blood was gone.
"Ya 'ungry, Mr. T?"
He didn't bother to answer this question of hers that annoyed him even more. She knew he couldn't eat, that he couldn't allow himself to satisfy his appetite – every part of luxury he enjoyed was like a betrayal to his wife, who wasn't there anymore to share those pleasures.
He pretended to ignore Mrs. Lovett, who looked up at him every few seconds, but in fact, his eyes followed her secretly. Not that he liked to look at her, not at all, but it was a fact that he was bored now since there was no one to kill (murdering Mrs. Lovett wasn't the most clever thing to do unfortunately, since she was the one who had to get rid of the bodies of his victims).
"Wot ya looking at?" she asked quietly, a sudden blush on her cheeks.
Inwardly Sweeney cursed himself because she had noticed that he was watching her.
"At the floor right in front of you," he grunted after a few seconds. "You missed a spot."
He pointed at the tiny splatter of blood which he luckily noticed just in time.
His landlady's face reddened even more; this time in embarrassment and disappointment.
Sweeney didn't want her to think that he had some sort of interest in her, because he hadn't, and all she would do was nagging about going to the park again and – could it get any worse? – living by the sea. She was so hopelessly naïve – just like he had been once, long ago.
"I bough' ya somethin,'" she said a few minutes later.
He pretended not to have heard her.
"Don't ya want ta know wot it is?" she asked when he didn't reply.
"No," he finally said, when the silence lasted so long that even he felt awkward because of it.
However, she looked so enthusiastic about whatever she had brought that even he felt he should show a little bit of curiosity. Only a little, of course.
"What is it?" he asked, trying to feign interest.
She smiled happily when he said it, and he almost wished he hadn't said anything, just so he wouldn't have to see that smile that made everything seem so cheerful, so alive, so beaut…
His entire body tensed when he realized he had just subconsciously considered something related to Mrs. Lovett beautiful. She didn't notice, and he was incredibly grateful for that.
She left the shop to get whatever she had brought for him, leaving him in the room by himself for a few minutes.
Although he tried to deny it, he felt suddenly lonely when she was away, and he had to admit to himself that he was looking forward to receive the thing that she was about to give him. No one had ever given him a present – except for Lucy. And she hadn't done so for fifteen, almost sixteen years.
He wondered how his landlady would try to cheer him up this time. Perhaps some meal she cooked especially for him, or… No, he thought when she entered his shop again, carrying a tray with green things in it. Not flowers. Those things that were supposed to cheer you up only reminded him of the old days, when he was taken away from Lucy near a huge flower shop.
"There ya are, Mr. T," Mrs. Lovett announced. "Ya know that I think ya should 'ave some flowers 'ere, to relieve the gloom. An' look wot I bought on the market today."
He cast one glance on the tiny green things that she put in the window-sill. To his surprise, the flowers didn't really look like what he had expected her to give him. Those were small and looked extremely fragile. For some reason, they slightly remembered him of Mrs. Lovett. If she could be compared to a flower, it'd certainly be those: tiny and vulnerable.
"They should manage 'ere," she said. "They can 'andle the cold, even if it's freezing like it is in yer room."
So they were strong too, Sweeney mused, having to admit that suited Mrs. Lovett as well. Without really giving himself permission to do so, he walked closer to the window-sill so he could see the flowers properly.
"What are they called?" he asked, unable to hide a hint of interest in his voice.
"Violets," she said, her eyes sparkling with joy because the demon barber seemed to like the flowers.
"They aren't blossoming yet," he noticed.
"O yes, they are," she replied. "Ya just don't see it yet – an' that's good thing, otherwise they'd be done flowering much earlier, and it would've cost me quite some more pennies. But thanks ta this littl' trick… Watch closely, Mr. T"
She reached for one of the plants and her fingers disappeared underneath the leaves. At first he didn't see what she was doing, but then Mrs. Lovett brought a still closed flower in sight that had been hidden underneath the green leaves before.
"See, Mr. T? An' wit' just a little' help…"
She hit the flower gently with her finger, and at first Sweeney thought she had broken it, but then, to his surprise, the flower opened, exposing its colours.
"Do ya see that?" she said proudly. "Just as good as all those others on the market, but I wouldn't 'ave gotten a discount."
But Sweeney didn't care about how much money they were worth; he stared at the flower in awe. For the first time in London, he saw something that he actually liked. The flowers weren't bright and cheerful in a fake way, like he had expected them to be, but they were dark blue, and a part of it was dark purple, almost black.
"They're beautiful," he heard himself muttering.
"Yes, love, ain't they?" Mrs. Lovett said, watching the barber instead of the flowers, her heart filled with joy because of his sudden interest for a living thing.
He gazed at the other flowers. She reached out for those, but he did that the same time. As their hands brushed, the woman had to suppress the urge to shudder at the sudden touch.
Sweeney didn't pull his hand away at the contact; instead he tried again to reach for the flower underneath the leaves, just like she had done.
He felt a small stem and he wanted to pull it from underneath the leaves, but he didn't do it gentle enough. With a soft breaking sound, the flower was separated from the plant.
Sweeney felt something very unfamiliar when he looked at the broken stem. It took him seconds to recognize the sensation: guilt.
"I… I killed it," he muttered quietly.
"No, love, ya didn't. Don't worry 'bout it," Mrs. Lovett said reassuringly, not knowing if she should giggle or not because of the confused expression on his face. "It's just one flower, it'll 'ave more. There, do ya see it?"
She pointed at a few darker spots beneath the green; Sweeney presumed those dots would become new flowers later.
"Just let 'em grow fer a few days, maybe a week, and you'll see."
There were a lot of other plants, and Sweeney eyed them curiously. He could tell the colours of those were different and suddenly he just wanted to know how the other plants would look like if the flowers were opened. But he didn't dare to open them himself anymore, fearing that he would damage more of the flowers.
"Mrs. Lovett, can you…"
"Aw, love, I'm sure ya can do that yourself, too," she said. "It's easy. Let me show ya."
Before he could stop her, she was standing directly behind him and carefully took his hands in hers. In any other situation he would've pushed her away, but now it didn't really matter to him that his landlady was so near. She was only showing him the violets, after all, nothing more.
"Look, Mr. T," she said, while she guided his hands to the plant. "Ya jus' 'ave ta pick up a stalk, and move it upwards, without changing the angle; otherwise you'll break it."
With Mrs. Lovett's help, Sweeney reached for the stem as carefully as he could.
"Yes, like this," she said, moving his fingers until he had succeeded to pull one of the stalks from beneath the leaves that had covered the stem only seconds before.
She let his hand go and together they looked at the plant.
"An' now, tap yer finger against it," she said, almost whispering, when she pointed at the stem.
He did as she said, but he was so completely aware of her warm breath against his neck, that he almost broke the stalk again.
"That's it," she said triumphantly, bringing his attention back to the flower.
Sweeney stared at the flower which was opened because of the gentle touch. The colour of this one was different; this lighter shade of purple looked really lovely too.
The next minutes, they continued manipulating the natural grow process of the flowers. Sweeney was amazed by the diversity of the colours, and even more by the fact he felt so comfortable and at ease because of the work. His mind was nicely empty, and there was nothing he had to do worry about for the shortest time.
Mrs. Lovett's presence was, he found out, enjoyable, too. She was rather sweet when she fussed over the violets instead of over him. And she had been right: the flowers did relieve the gloom, both in his shop and in his own head; they chased away some of the darkness that lingered permanently in both places.
"And now?" he asked, when all the flowers were visible and decorated the windows-till of the huge window."
"Just enjoy 'em. Look at 'em every once an' a while, watch 'ow they grow..."
Sweeney nodded wisely, while he watched how the fragile flowers moved because of a soft gust of wind that entered the room through an open place between two planks of wood.
"Do they need water?"
"Of course they do," Mrs. Lovett said, trying not to giggle because of his ignorance.
"How often?" he asked, slightly confused now he realized that these were living things that needed attention and care.
"It depends on the weather; when it's warm, they need more water, but I think we don't have ta worry 'bout warmth in this place. They jus' need a littl' bit o' water every few days. And talking 'bout warmth: they can stand the cold, but they'd grow better if it was a littl' warmer."
The baker still couldn't believe that Sweeney Todd actually seemed to be interested in the violets, but of course she was very glad he took interest in something that wasn't about vengeance or death. Although she worried a bit about three of the violets: she should have known that dark red wasn't the right colour to calm down the demon barber.
As she realized this, she was for a second afraid that he only liked the violets because of the intriguing red colour some of them had. However, he eyed all the flowers, including the more cheerful ones, with the same attention and curiosity. In fact, he looked at them so intensely, that it almost reminded her of the way he usually looked at his razors.
Mrs. Lovett didn't want to interrupt this unexpected quiet moment. Before he would snap back to reality, she wanted to be gone: rather the memory of Sweeney Todd ignoring her and admiring the flowers, than him noticing her but threatening her. At least he seemed to be relaxed and at ease now. This sudden peacefulness would only last until the next customer arrived in his shop, but it was something good for a chance.
Mrs. Lovett walked to the door, daydreaming already: the memory of being so close to the barber and even holding his hands would dominate her thoughts for a very long time. But no matter how intensely she had enjoyed it, he probably didn't even realize how close they had been to each other; he hadn't cut her throat, after all.
"Mrs. Lovett?" Sweeney said, just before she opened the door to leave him. "I…"
He looked at her helplessly and once more her heart fluttered.
"I… I just want to… Thank you, Mrs. Lovett," he said finally.
"You're very welcome," she said quietly, almost unable to believe her own ears as he thanked her for some of her efforts at last. He would never realize her how much this meant to her, but she was happy now.
He cast one more glance on her, before he stared at the violets again, eyeing them as if they were some sort of treasure. She thought this was adorable and it didn't really matter to her anymore that he wasn't paying attention to her.
She walked outside again and when she was about to close the door, a sudden movement of Sweeney caught her attention. She was afraid that he would snap back to his old habits of brooding and pacing, so the surprise was even bigger when she realized that he was heading for the small heater that was in a corner of the barber shop. The combination of the demon barber and warmth was rather unusual, but when he lit some of the old pieces of wood with some forgotten matches that apparently were still lying there, she realized that he was trying to get some warmth in the room to let the plants grow.
Inwardly she melted when it dawned on her. He was going to look after the plants: he would nurse things instead of killing them. And maybe, maybe, there would come a day, that he would care for his landlady too, that he would warm her and look after her like those plants.
Perhaps, this would be the beginning of something fragile and small, but strong and beautiful at the same time. Something that could be wonderful if handled with care – just like the violets.