The townhouse looked tall and imposing over the bleak London sky. It loomed over the other buildings, the infinite glass windows staring down at them in contempt, like a person she was familiar with. Much too familiar with for her tastes.
She took a deep breath. She had better get over with this now before she lost her nerve, or her lunch.
"The Judge will be in to see you shortly Mrs. Barker."
The maid did not offer her a seat in the parlour, or even ask to take her snow-drenched coat. Fallen women such as her weren't of any importance.
"I didn't expect you to come back so soon. Couldn't resist me?" He smirked.
She made a sharp 180 degree turn towards the voice behind her. "I have a request for you, my Lord."
"You have no right to make one."
"Yes, I do!" She screamed hysterically, "After all that has happened, I most certainly do!" He smiled sardonically.
"You should thank me for that. I saved you from the inevitable disappointments the future would have brought. If I had not intervened, you could have remained in a union that would have grown rancid, and I saved your husband from drink, and whatever other little vices plague your class. Now you will never have to worry about him ever laying a hand on you."
Of course, she would have given anything for Benjamin's soft touch, but that was now impossible.
Her fists were balled up so tightly that her knuckles were as white as paper. As difficult as it was, she had to keep herself composed. The judge fed off other people's weakness. She would not be trapped again, not this time.
"I…thank you for your compassion (she wanted to die as soon as she said those words), but you see, your lack of foresight has left me without a means to support my family." She nervously fumbled with her bonnet.
"Your husband should have thought about that before he forgot to pay his taxes. Why should I be responsible for your circumstances?"
Bored, he walked away from her. She followed him to the study. Once she was in, he closed the door. He sat down at his desk and opened one of the bottles nearby to pour himself a drink.
"Perhaps…I could make it worth your while?"
"There's no need. As flattering as your offer is, I'm done with you. You've lost your usefulness," he reminded her.
She hoped the good Lord would understand her actions.
He swore as the glass overflowed. Rubbing his temples, he sat there for a moment.
"Then take care of that."
"I can't afford it, remember?"
"Very well, I'll pay you a monthly allowance of twenty pounds. Take the money, and get out of my sight," he growled.
"I have a better idea. You don't have to pay me at all, and I'll get out of your way. All you have to do is look after my daughter, Johanna."
"Why would I do that? Taking in a convict's daughter would be suicide for my career."
"I think most people will see it as…philanthropy on your part. It'll be symbolic. You are like a 'father' to this city after all, and raising a girl from a lower class background into a lady is similar to your actions of 'refining' the city. The press will love it. And you know Her Majesty loves the actions of benevolent, kind distinguished men such as yourself. I wouldn't be surprised if she knighted you for your good deeds for the welfare of her subjects."
If there was one useful thing Lucy could do, she could talk. Hopefully, if she kept his ego inflated long enough, he would agree to all of her terms before even coming to his senses. The only problem would be trying to keep a straight face throughout the rest of the meeting.
"She better not be ugly."
"She's the most beautiful babe in the world, and I'm not saying this because I'm her mother. Look." She showed him the photograph taken of her family two months before this whole mess started. She hated how much happier her other self looked; it was like she was a different person.
"In fact, I think she is going to look exactly like me when she grows up." Turpin took the photo an examined it closely. When he was finished, she snatched the photograph and held on to it tightly.
"When do you want me to send someone?"
"Tonight." She needed time to prepare, though she knew she would never truly be prepared. She excused herself, and he let her hurry away without so much as a farewell.
Lucy hastily tied her bonnet back on as she headed back home. The cold air stung her nostrils and inflamed her bare, delicate fingers. She paid no attention to the busy people in their black hats and big coats, and did not bother apologizing when she mowed through six or seven financiers.
The rushed in through the front door, much to the disappointment of Mrs. Lovett, who so eagerly hoped that it was a customer. Dejected, she turned back to her pies.
"Lucy, I've been thinkin' abou' wot you said, and…I've made me mind. Times is gettin' hard, wot with a new pie shop openin' cross tha way. Me Albert's only gettin' sicker, and there's tha baby…"
Nellie and Albert were finally expecting. As much as she hated to admit it, Lucy felt resentful that Mrs. Lovett's life was beginning, while her's was reduced to shambles. Sometimes, she even wished something bad would happen to her landlady, so she wouldn't be the only one feeling miserable. Of course, she would quickly admonish herself afterwards for not being a good Christian, but now that felt useless. She was lost to God anyway, and there was nothing she could do about it.
"I need to make use of tha space. One more evenin's all you get, dearie. I'm sorry."
Lucy knew she wouldn't do this if Benjamin stayed. He always knew how to negotiate with her. Once, he even got a two month extension on the rent, though she never figured out how.
"I'll prepare my things right away," she replied sadly.
She climbed up the rickety stairs to the small apartment. She packed every baby dress and toy Johanna owned into a small bag. The baby had woken up from her nap by then, and she calmed the child with a lullaby. It was a beautiful, but melancholy song her mother sang to her when she was a baby. She sang it mindlessly as she glanced out the window. Turpin's men would arrive soon. Now that Johanna's arrangements were taken of, she had to settle her own.
She took out a small bottle hidden in her dress. Even though she was scared, the apothecary assured her that arsenic was tasteless, so wouldn't have to worry about that at least.
She poured the poison into a glass of wine. It was from the last dregs of the bottle they used at her wedding. She prayed and prayed, hoping that God would forgive her of all her sins, even though she may never forgive herself. A few tears slid down her cheek at the thought that her dear, sweet Benjamin was waiting for her in Heaven, but she would never see him because she would be burning for her sins. She took one long, deep breath, smelling the wine. Without hesitation, she gulped the bitter, acidic wine as it burned her throat. Remnants flowed out of the sides of her mouth. Her head throbbed painfully. She kneeled over and collapsed from pain as she went into convulsions. And then, everything went black.