TITLE: Oh My Darling
AUTHOR: Late March
GENRE: Suspense, Horror
SYNOPSIS: What if Ellie and James were never married? What if James was just born that way? What if they were just two strangers... An alternate version of 'Honey I'm Home.' Just two strangers, who locked eyes, who saw through each other, who connected?
AUTHOR'S NOTES: I told you! I told you I'd be posting an alternate version of HIH. This is completely finished, completely written, and the relationship is rendered under completely different circumstances. So...What do you guys think?

This story is dedicated to my made-of-awesome beta reader, Megan, and to Bill Nye the Science Guy, simply because. Yes. Bill Nye.

"Body Joke"
"The Point of No Return" by Andrew Lloyd Webber (Phantom of the Opera)

Ellie was walking home after work one day, alone. The night was dark enough to spook her into carrying her keys in her hand and mace in her big black purse – overstuffed and filled to the brim. Every movement in the shadows scared her, frightened her, heightened her sense of paranoia.

Anything out of place was enough to set her alarms off. A sewer rat, hungry and greedy, scurrying down one of Bay City's many alleys. A drunk kicking an empty beer can. The quick silver flash of the moon in a puddle. The weakly flickering lights of a far away bar. Anything out of place from her point-of-view.

'Shit.' She thought as her feet first halted and then back tracked to stand in front of the grimy side street she'd just passed. Was that a body?

Carefully, Ellie inched her way forward, her fingers tightening around her keys till her knuckles were white, eyes glued to the limp body. A halo of light from a lone street lamp illuminated half of the creature, and the person's white suit shone too brightly, like a masquerading devil. The light was like a pair of wings, that puddle on the ground and drew her in. Her heart began to beat in her chest, a rapid tattoo against the cavity wall. Her lungs expanded over and over, quicker and quicker in sync with the tempo of her rising anxiety.

What if it was a dead body? What was she supposed to do if it was – stand there staring at some gory wound till the police arrived? It certainly looked like a dead body. There was no movement, no obvious signs of violence, and those were usually signs of death.

She paused as another thought came to mind; it might be a robber just waiting for someone to come and investigate the sighting of a "body" so that they could vandalize their victim. The white suit though, that stuck in her mind, and didn't quite seem like something a common robber would wear. Ellie dug her umbrella out of her purse and hefted it up high as a makeshift weapon, just in case.

"Sir?" She called out timidly. Her nervous brain imagined a twitch of the hand, a shift in the fabric. There was no other movement though, and she immediately resolved to stop watching so many horror movies involving zombies and vampires. "Are you alright sir?"

There was no answer. Still, the body didn't move, even as she got closer and closer to it. Finally, Ellie whispered, "Sir?" and poked it in the ribs with the end of her umbrella. The closer she got, the more she could see that it was definitely a him, with no softness anywhere and only hard lines. And a mask. Definitely a mask.

No response. Putting her umbrella and keys away, she took the time to study the man on the ground, intrigued by what she rationalized as his costume. 'It's not like he's going anywhere. I can always call the police in a few minutes.' She tilted her head silently.

Whatever it was – curiosity, disgust, horror – Ellie could not take her eyes from the unmoving man. He was the oddest looking man she'd ever seen, almost a supernatural creature in the half circle of light. At first she thought that he was wearing a Venetian mask, and coupled with his white zoot suit, she thought he looked like someone Captain America or Superman would fight. 'Superman! Captain America! God, I'm going crazy; they aren't even real!' She giggled nervously at her cartoonish thoughts.

Still, the man did look like something out of a classic comic book. His clothes, unsullied by blood, were certainly outlandish. The old fashioned suit hadn't been in style since before WWII, with a much looser fit than was currently in style. His shoes, made of shining white leather, looked like imitations of straight jackets with their large silver buckles and straps. Only the glinting silver chain that hung crookedly off of his left hip was vaguely in style with the gritty, organized crime population.

And for a moment, that thought stopped Ellie, made her think she'd just found the victim of a mob hit. 'No,' She shook the notion off with some difficulty. 'Not enough blood.'

The man's head was the most outlandish of all though. His mask was broad and unwieldy, and although she couldn't figure out from afar what it was made of, it looked heavy. The semi-matte white of the mask that shadowed the entirety of his face was clean and fine, with bold black calligraphic designs around the eyes and mouth. Above the mask, hair dyed tar black was slicked back with grease in a smooth cap on his head, and fine flaxen roots crept up his hairline like eerie wisps of smoke.

The stark contrasts of his outfit almost struck a romantic note, a throwback to the 30s. But the black leather of his gloves, so tightly adhered to his skin, ruined the image. Those, those were cruel gloves.

The mask had been dislodged though, just a bit. Enough for Ellie to see a strip of smooth skin at his jaw line. Just enough to arouse her curiosity, and inspire in her the need to take off the mask, open up the forbidden.

Slowly, she walked forward till she knelt down, and her knees were centimeters from his side. Curiosity lighting her skin, she ran the back of her hand over the contour of the mask, the skin on the back of her hand reacting to the cold of it. Her fingertips slid along the edge of the mask too, back and forth, back and forth; her thumb rubbed at the patch of skin at his jaw.

Carefully, Ellie lifted up the mask from top to bottom, and sucked in a deep breath of pity when she finished. On the side of his face were many, many scars – vertical, thin slits in his skin that had long since healed over as fresh pink skin. Some long, some short, they edged his face and his jaw with anger and a past pain. Ellie ran a fingertip along one, and was studying a particularly nasty scar by his ear when she felt someone watching her.

She looked up to see his eyes open, staring at her. They were beautiful eyes – a deep, soulless, bottomless green that would have been stunning if only they didn't completely lack warmth.

The man sat up, pushing her away and as he did, he felt the cool night air on the skin of his face. No longer protected by the shield of the mask, he was completely exposed to the wind, and her horrified gaze. His face grew dark and angry as he scrambled over to a puddle, hoping to discern his visage in the moonlight and prove himself wrong.

Even though sprinkling raindrops of cold water blurred his image, he knew what she'd done. The sensitivity to the temperature and elements. The taste of fresh air on his lips. Vision that was unlimited by the mask. He slid to his feet, and Ellie scrambled to stand up too, not wanting him to have an advantage over her.

Even with both of them standing he loomed over her, an immense figure, much larger than he had seemed on the ground. Her face contorted in fear but his features melted into a dangerous smile. "My, my, my," He said in a sing-song voice, despite his gruff tone. "What a mistake you've made tonight, bunny rabbit. What a mistake. " He licked his lips, clenched his fists. "Pierrot will have fun with you tonight." He began to laugh, high pitched and insane.

She screamed.

What do you guys think? Hows the fact that they begin as strangers workin' for ya? I'm extremely curious! It's only the first chapter, so I swear that it will get better! And so, please, please review. It would be a wonderful reward for myself and my beta, and I would be eternally grateful!