Author's Note: This story essentially started as a joke. If you have consumed enough pop culture, you've probably seen a scenario where one character has a baby after something not-that-great happens. Maybe her friend or husband died. Maybe the apocalypse happened. Whatever the case, she names the kid Hope or Joy or something like that, to symbolize…hope or joy or something like that. I don't mind this trope—I actually think it's pretty nice, if overused—but it occurred to me that the Barker-Hope Marriage Alliance couldn't do such a thing without looking ridiculous. And God knows they've been through the kind of awful shit that calls for a symbolically-named baby. Anyway, the thing ended up a bit more serious than I intended, because it's Sweeney Todd fanfiction, Jake.
Disclaimer: I don't own Sweeney Todd.
Warnings: Mentions of child abuse and neglect, including Judge Turpin's canonical messed-up treatment of Johanna. Pregnancy and conflicted feelings about it. References to a brothel. Also, Johanna and Anthony are doing it, although not in explicit detail.
"I think I'm going to have a baby," Johanna whispered one night, after they'd gone to bed and snuffed out the candle. She'd suspected she was with child since that morning, but the news felt too intimate to reveal in the light. Lovemaking was not so mysterious; she'd seen it in the judge's books and could do it, unembarrassed, with the candle still burning. All she knew of pregnancy, though, were a few remarks that she'd overheard from servants. It was impossible to discuss something so private, so unknown, where anybody could see.
"What?" Anthony asked sleepily. Then he sat right up. "Johanna, that's wonderful! How long do you think it's been?"
"Four months, I think," she said. She was fairly sure she'd conceived in Plymouth, right before they'd left for New York City. That had been their second attempt at a wedding night; the first one, in London, had failed because she'd started crying and he hadn't wanted to go on with it. For the first time, she asked herself if the news was wonderful. She hadn't examined her feeling about the baby yet; it was just a new, unknowable thing, completely foreign to the life she'd led previously. Now she realized how poor they were, how unprepared. "You know, Anthony," she said, trying to make the words sound light, "I've never known anyone who had a baby. Not up close."
"Neither have I," he said, and their words sat between them, heavy and dark. Raucous piano music from the brothel across the street drifted into their stuffy boardinghouse room, mocking them. Oh, Susanna, oh, do not cry for me. Anthony lay back down and, after a moment of hesitation, she nestled against him. She wasn't entirely used to affection that didn't conceal a host of ulterior motives.
"What are we going to do?" she asked. "We don't have much money. I don't even know if the landlady will let us live here with a baby."
"She has to," he said, although he sounded uncertain. "We're married. Most married people have babies, don't they? Anyway, we've saved a little. It'll turn out fine."
"I suppose you're right," she said, thinking of his shipyard job and her mending. Neither brought in much, but they were better off than they'd been a month ago. Then another problem occurred to her. "We're going to have to think of a name."
"Hmm," he said. He was quiet for a minute or two before asking, "What do you think we should name it?"
"If it's a girl, I don't want her named after me," she said without thinking. The words came out so vehemently that even she was taken aback. "I don't want her to be like me," she tried to explain. "I want her to grow up happy."
She started to cry. She couldn't help it. Presently, she felt Anthony's hand stroke her hair.
"She'll grow up happy," he assured her. "We'll make sure of it." After a moment, he added, "But if it's a boy, I don't think we should name him Johanna, either."
She laughed, tears still in her eyes, and fell asleep soon after.
"I don't think I want it named after me, either," Anthony said the next morning, as they got dressed to eat breakfast downstairs with the other boarders. He gave no explanation. He just went on buttoning his trousers. Johanna didn't press for a reason. Secretly, she was relieved. His qualifications as a namesake weren't up for question; he was the only man she really loved, respected, and liked. It was just that he was supposed to be Anthony. It would be strange for the new baby to be an Anthony as well.
"That would be confusing," she agreed. "Would you come over here and help me pin up my hair, please?"
They sat down to breakfast with the loud couple from upstairs, the placid German girl from across the hall, the gentleman with the strange mustache, and the landlady, who constantly offered them strange herbal concoctions from her medicine cabinet. Throughout the meal, Johanna stole glances at Anthony, who grinned back at her.
We are going to have a baby, she thought, and nobody else at this table knows it. She had to bite her lip to keep from laughing.
"What do you find so amusing, Mrs. Hope?" the landlady demanded. She didn't like Johanna, who had once made the mistake of asking whether it was advisable to take a medicine that shared so many ingredients with rat poison.
"Nothing, Mrs. Porter," she replied. "I was just thinking of something I read in the newspaper earlier."
"You don't get the newspaper," Mrs. Porter pointed out, accurately enough.
"I was making faces at her, Mrs. Porter," Anthony cut in, before Johanna had to come up with another explanation. "It was my fault. I'm sorry."
"You're too young to be married," Mrs. Porter sighed, but the edge had gone from her voice. "Both of you are."
When she was sure nobody else was looking, Johanna stuck her tongue out at Anthony. He burst out laughing. Mrs. Porter and the other boarders stared at him.
"I don't know," he said. Tears streamed from his eyes. "I just don't know."
Johanna serenely buttered her toast.
"Is there anyone else you don't want the baby named after?" Anthony asked that night. He sat at their little desk, with a sheet of paper in front of him and a pen in his hand. Johanna was perched on the edge of their bed, doing the last of the mending. She sometimes reflected that theirs was a strange household because, while both of them could sew, neither could cook.
"Joseph," she said, naming her guardian. After a moment, she added, "Benjamin and Lucy." She felt a twinge of guilt. Her natural parents had been good people once upon a time. Still, theirs was no legacy to leave a child. Besides, she'd never known them. They had little to do with her. She often told that to herself, especially when sorrow or anger threatened to overwhelm her. "Simon," she continued, with far less reluctance. That was Beadle Bamford's first name. "Jonas Fogg." She glanced at Anthony, who was scribbling furiously. "Is there anyone you don't want?"
His pen stopped. For a long moment, he stared at the paper, apparently deep in thought.
"Richard," he finally said. "I sailed with him for a few years. Nobody else was too bad, but he was a nasty piece of work."
He resumed writing. Johanna watched him uneasily. His eyes were fixed on the paper and his face had gone dark red. She'd never seen him look that way before. Suddenly, she realized how little she knew about him. He was from Plymouth and had been all around the world. He liked peppermints, wanted a cat, and loved her. She had no idea why he hated this Richard so much, though, or even who his parents were.
"Were you ever in love?" she asked him. "Before me, I mean."
He looked up from the paper with a bemused expression.
"Yes, once," he replied. "A couple of years before I met you. It ended rather badly, but I'm glad for it now."
"So am I," she said softly. She tried to picture the girl and conjured up a vision of curly dark hair, flashing eyes, and a rakish smile. She wasn't jealous; she knew Anthony loved her, not this long-gone girl. Still, it gave her a kind of pang that he'd felt that way about somebody else. "I love you, too."
His face lit up. She found herself wishing that she could say it more often, so he wouldn't look so desperately happy the rare times that she did. The trouble was that she didn't know much about love. Her guardian had been the only person to show her affection, but he'd poisoned it so thoroughly that she couldn't even trust her childhood memories of him. What she had with Anthony was good and sweet, but it was also painfully new. She didn't quite know what to do with it.
"Do you think it's safe?" he asked, staring doubtfully at her abdomen, which was slightly rounded beneath her nightgown. "Where is the baby, exactly? Could I hurt it if we…?"
"I don't know," she admitted. "I've never heard of…"
She trailed off and sighed. They couldn't even bring themselves to talk about coupling in actual words. There was no chance of them figuring out whether a pregnant woman could safely make love. She glanced down at Anthony's drawers. His male organ was valiantly trying to assert itself through the linen.
His male organ, she thought. She pictured a church organ with a mustache and bit down on her lower lip. She'd been so afraid of it on her wedding night; she'd thought it so unfair that even a good, gentle man like Anthony had to have this big awful thing between his legs. Now, though, she regarded it with a mixture of fascination and amusement, as though it were an endearingly ugly pet. It was so strange-looking and it clearly didn't care what Anthony wanted. Here he was, worrying about hurting the baby, but it stood up like it didn't have a care in the world.
Her frustration came to a boil. She was tired of not being able to name things, whether they were sex acts or emotions or babies.
"Take off your drawers," she said abruptly. Anthony started. She didn't wonder at that; it was the first time she'd demanded anything like that.
"Jo…" He licked his lips, almost certainly unaware that he was doing so. "We still don't know."
"Anthony, we've done this nearly every night since Plymouth," she said. "If we haven't hurt the baby yet, we're not going to."
"Well, when you put it that way…"
He didn't even bother untying the drawstring.
A few hours later, she woke up with Anthony's hand still on her breast. She carefully disengaged it, rose from the bed, and went to sit on the windowsill. The lights of the brothel burned bright and the music, oddly sweet despite the tinny piano, floated from across the street. I love Corrina, tell the world I do, and I pray every night she'll learn to love me, too.
"I'm here," she replied. He muttered something about the candle, even though she'd snuffed it out, and then fell silent. After a moment, she said, "Anthony?"
"How did your parents decide on your name?"
He shifted around to face her, suddenly wide awake. She couldn't see his expression by the moon or the lights on the street, but it was several seconds before he spoke.
"I don't know," he finally said. "I never told you, but I'm…well, I was a foundling. At the orphanage, they said somebody found me wandering in the street when I was three or so. I don't remember anything before I came there."
She just looked at him for a while, even though she couldn't really see his face. She'd been married to him for nearly five months and never known he was a foundling. She'd never even asked about his parents. And they were going to have a child together in another five months.
"Did you know your name when they took you in?" she asked. She wasn't sure what else to say.
"Part of it," he replied, in a voice so quiet she had to strain to hear it. "I called myself 'Ant' and they decided it stood for 'Anthony.'"
He didn't say that "Ant" might have stood for nothing but itself. He didn't need to. Johanna thought of a child, little and underfoot and abandoned, and knew which possibility was more likely. The people at the orphanage had been kind.
"What about your last name?" she asked, so his last answer wouldn't hang in the air between them.
"Oh, there were plenty of Hopes at the orphanage," he answered, a little more easily. "Hopewells, too, and Makepeaces and Lovejoys. They did that with first names as well. So many of the girls were Grace or Faith or something like that." He hesitated before adding, "I swear I didn't mean to deceive you. I just…"
"I know," she said. She couldn't help but understand; she hadn't told him about the peephole, after all. "It makes no difference to me."
"I don't know why I didn't mention it before," he went on. Then he sighed. "No, I know why. I don't have a real name, but I gave the one I had to you. I feel like I've tricked you."
She'd never heard him so tired or low, even after the disaster on Fleet Street. Then, he'd answered the policemen's questions, pale but businesslike, and helped her get her affairs in order. He really believes I might leave him over this, she thought. She left the windowsill and lay down beside him.
"It's real enough for me," she said, "and it'll be real enough for the baby. Anyway, I didn't marry you for your name."
"All the same, I should've told you," he argued, but he sounded less fretful already. He pulled her close to him. "I'm sorry I didn't, Jo."
"You just did," she said. A few seconds passed before she had an idea. "I think I know what we should name the baby."
"Charity," she said. She had to pinch her own hip beneath the blanket to maintain a serious tone, but she managed it. "Charity Mercy Hope. Wouldn't that be nice?"
"It would be lovely," he agreed. Her blood ran cold as she realized that he might not have gotten the joke. Then he added, "But it would be even better if we named her Charity Mercy Faith Grace Hope."
"Charity Mercy Faith Grace Prudence Patience Hope," she suggested. He started shaking beside her. "No, Charity Mercy Faith Grace Prudence Patience Chastity Temperance Joy Hope."
"Stop it, Jo," he gasped. "What if it's…what if it's a boy?"
"Well, then, we'll simply name him Earnest Frank," she replied.
"Our dear little Earnest Hope."
Anthony couldn't form a coherent sentence for five minutes after that.
He came home from the shipyard the next day with a rectangular package.
"It's a present," he explained. She put down the shirt she'd been mending and took the parcel.
"What for?" she asked, examining it with her hands. It felt enticingly like books.
"Oh, well, you know," he said, and blushed. She wondered at him; he could talk about the baby once they were in bed or even after dinner, but late afternoon was apparently too gauche.
"I see," she said primly. Then she opened the package, careful not to damage too much of the paper in case she needed it later. Inside were two volumes: Jane Eyre and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. "Oh, Anthony, how lovely!"
"I didn't know what you'd like," he said, looking embarrassed, "but they're both going like hotcakes. Besides, one's a novel and the other's a true story, so…well, I suppose I was hedging my bets. Are you sure you like them?"
"They're wonderful," she told him. She placed the books side by side in her lap and traced the spines. "I've heard so much about them, too. Jane Eyre was the novel of last season, and even I know about Frederick Douglass."
She flipped the Douglass book open to the first chapter and started reading. I was born in Tuckahoe, near Hillsborough, and about twelve miles from Easton, in Talbot county, Maryland…
There were so many names in the world. They came from the people she knew, the books she read, and even the songs in the brothel. She thought about them all as she lay in bed that night, with Anthony breathing evenly beside her.
I hardly feel the snow, Lorena, somebody sang across the street. I know the darkness soon will pass. And she knew that the song was right. She had five months to find a name for the baby. It would be a good name, fine and strong, for this child who could be anyone.
Author's Note: I set this fic around 1848. Jane Eyre came out in 1847 and was a sensation. Frederick Douglass published his first autobiography in 1845; he toured Ireland and Britain starting the same year, and so many people came to hear him speak that it was crazy. Johanna and Anthony's boardinghouse is based on the one in Ruth Hall, an 1854 novel about a widow who overcomes her enemies and poverty through journalism and awesomeness. Ruth Hall also lives across the street from a brothel when she's at her most desperate.
The songs coming from the brothel are a definite stretch, historically speaking. "Oh, Susanna!" was published in 1848, but "Lorena" didn't exist until almost ten years later. "Corrina, Corrina" was first recorded in 1928, but it probably existed long before that. Anyway, if such anachronisms are good enough for Joseph O'Connor, they're good enough for me. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Also, I've heard that it's usually safe for a pregnant woman to have sex, but please don't rely on Sweeney Todd fanfiction for medical advice! That's such a bad idea! Consult your doctor if you are pregnant and want to have sex!