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? Alternate version of "Honey I'm Home." Just two strangers who locked eyes, who saw through each other, who connected?
AUTHOR'S NOTES: A chapter way overdue, I had several personal problems that I was dealing with over the holidays, including the death of my sister. Now I'm back at school, things are a bit better, and I was inspired to get off my ass and post after Cantata reviewed the story. Thanks!

Also, anyone going to Comic-Con? I just got my ticket and my costume is in the works...

Dedicated to my made-of-awesome beta reader, who just got a specially written story for her birthday, Megan. And to my sister, Autumn, who finally relented to the unending onslaught of cancer, December 10, 2010. I miss you.

All characters, storylines, and settings belong to me. And similarity to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

"Strip Mall Startled"
"Fresh Blood" by: Eels

Pierrot was watching her, obsessive, but it wasn't enough; it couldn't satisfy the cold hole in his stomach. He wanted to taste her fear again, but the essence of normal, everyday, run of the mill fear was no longer able to whet his appetite. He wanted to savor the slow rich burn of true terror on the curl of his tongue, like he was imbibing pure, smooth whiskey.

It had come a few times before – when he'd first spoke to her – when the lights of the truck had flashed in her eyes.

Now she'd dimmed to a dull hum of nerves and cold anxiety. It was just enough, just barely enough, to keep his attention. He was so tempted to dash out onto the street and feel someone else's dread…but the climax with this project had yet to wash over them both. This job required infinite patience, a lithe mind, a flair for the dramatic. Good thing he was the cat and she was the mouse.

Ellie was in a department store when she should have been at work. Technically it was called "playing hooky," but surely her reason for this was a good enough excuse. Three nights ago she'd been attacked by a madman dressed as a stage actor gone horribly wrong. Every day since then, she'd called in sick with the not-so-24-hr flu. She felt that, most of the time, her apartment was the safest place for her. Even there, however, an odd wakefulness plagued her incessantly.

Even though she'd left him dumb struck on the ground, she could still feel his eyes on her. When she brushed her teeth, when she watched television, when she ate the last of the very old TV dinners she had stocked in the freezer, she knew he was there. Paranoia and black-slashed white masks haunted her even in the bitter and unsatisfying sleep of the terrorized.

During her interim at her apartment, the thing that had disquieted Ellie the most occurred in her bathroom. Every morning when she woke up, her tubes of lipstick – all fifteen of them – were organized in alphabetical order by their color titles in a straight line along the front of her vanity mirror.

He was taking the most mundane of things and turning them into nightmares. And the lack of logic in it all was just as frustrating – the lack of puzzle pieces to fit it all together. There were never any indications as to what he would do next. all Ellie knew was that he watched her while she slept, in the only safe place she had left.

Just the sight of those little black tubes lined up and reflecting in her clear mirror chilled her; and every time she swept her hand along the counter and destroyed that perfect line, her heart jumped to her throat. Made her feel like there was a bunch of high wire clowns jumping about on the slippery, flesh encased bones of her spine. Each jolt from where their feet slipped about and their imaginary forms crashed into the line of her back transferred violent trips of motion to her body and let them run wild.

This knowledge had forced Ellie to realize the anonymity of a crowded public place, something she craved. Surely there wasn't a madman in the world who was bold enough to attack her in a public place. Surely he wouldn't find her if she was an invisible body in a crowd.

There were people everywhere in the popular mall – mothers with strollers; kids without parents; acne prone teens flashing their braces. 'The ditchers…' She thought uncharitably, hypocritically, sipping from an empty soda and watching for a still mask.

Although the noisy and energy-packed food court, and the make-up counter with its watchful salesgirls would have provided more confidence and security, Ellie instead headed for quieter realms. The flesh of her brain throbbed against the case of her skull, and she was in no mood for the screaming and jostling. The shoe department held the perfect number of patrons for protection and the equally perfect distraction. She needed to replace the heels she'd lost on…that night.

There was only one salesgirl meandering around the shoe department, glancing apathetically at the few customers trying on sneakers. Plenty of heels in her size sat on the shelves, so Ellie didn't bother with the sullen woman.

She sat down by a secluded wall under an overhang lined by sandals, five boxes of shoes, all heels in different shades of black. The need for something somber and serious was overwhelming. The bright red or yellow heels so reminiscent of "Sex and the City" were shunned, bereft of her usual admiring glances.

Ellie slipped on a pair of shoes, and stood up to look in the full-length mirror. Ignoring her unsightly jeans, she flexed her calf muscle and wriggled her toes. Too tight. She chucked them off uncaringly.

Pierrot watched her from behind a nearby stack of shoes, delighting in his girl's unwariness. She'd fairly prickled with uncertainness and nerves earlier, but her new carelessness left his mouth watering. The moment was ripe for terror.

He stood up, straightening the kinks in his back with a muffled groan, and remembered to duck down quick enough to avoid detection. But he'd spotted what he needed in that second, and it was not far away. Pierrot crept backwards, smirking with white teeth. He stopped though, when he ran into the lone salesgirl who'd so balefully ignored his earlier entrance, sans mask.

Such an offence, although relatively minor, was something he needed to repay in spades. Unfortunately, it was almost not worth it, as she hardly put up a fight as he tied and gagged her with nylon stockings from a nearby rack. At the very least, she'd reacted to his second face well enough when he took hold of her.

It was tricky business, dragging her behind the cash register.

He was in the process of stuffing her into the shelves when a customer impatiently rang the bell at the sales station, waiting for service. They could see someone moving behind the register, but could not see exactly who it was. Pierrot and the salesgirl – her name tag read Janet – stared at each other for a moment before he slipped his mask off, grinned, and stood up from behind the register.

The customer's eyes widened exponentially at the sight of him, and she took an uncertain step back. The sight of his face, his scars, was startling enough, and his clothing was anything but orthodox; she should have taken two steps back.

"Good day, Madam. Were you able to find everything you wanted?" His voice sounded out a bad imitation of a Bronx accent, and he rang the customer up with ease. All those minimum wage retail jobs as a teenager were finally paying off. Simultaneously, he nudged the captive salesgirl into silence during the encounter.

Pierrot knelt down to pat the salesgirl's cheek before ducking away silently, coming closer and closer to his target.

Ellie had already gone through three pairs of shoes. The first was too tight, the second too loose, and the third was too gray to be called black. Her breath rushed out in a forlorn sigh; this was torture. She hated the actual shopping for shoes, but loved the buying – the rush that came with the swipe of a credit card. The gray shoes were tossed in a box as she reached back for the next pair. She froze, though, when her hand came up with something unexpected.

Instead of black, one-inch pumps, she held four-inch stiletto heels that weren't black in any sense of the word. They were white, faux patent leather, with tiny red dots all over them. She twisted around to see where they had come from and discovered that all of her black shoes were gone, replaced by a mountain of stilettos; some were grass green, others a garish plaid, and there was even a paisley pair. She clapped her hands over her mouth to contain a shriek when a purple pair dropped into the pile.

Her neck creaked painfully as she searched frantically for her tormentor. But strangely, there was no hint of depreciating smile. No glimpse of white leather shoes or bright suit. She breathed a sigh of relief at the absence and noticed rows of bright shoes on the wall behind her. They must have just fallen down without her realizing it, she rationalized.

Ellie turned her back to face the mirror and the shoe she was still holding. It didn't look too bad – it looked rather…stylish actually. She spent a moment admiring the way it looked before tossing it back into the pile again. Her hand came up with a plaid pair of stilettos. They were purple, shot through with yellow and green and the tiniest bit of pink, and slipped onto her feet like a dream.

Her fingers were still running along the edges of the shoes and fingering the skin of her ankles when she looked back into the mirror…where she wasn't alone.

The madman stood behind her, and she could see that his big hands were resting on her shoulders and his body was pressed aggressively against her back. It was strange how she couldn't feel any of that.

The growing pinch of pain in her collarbone woke her completely to the situation, sending signals down her spine to her limbs in warning. Ellie's stiletto clad foot kicked back under the bench on instinct, trying to reach and wound him. Instead, he hooked his leg around her foot in an effective trap. Suddenly, he had her arms behind her back, her back arched under the terrible pressure and her whole body pitched forward in a dangerously precarious position.

Ellie opened her mouth again but his cheek was pressed against hers, halting her in icy terror. Pierrot chuckled almost boyishly, and she imagined blinding white teeth behind the mask to match his clothing. The movement of his cheek against hers was discordant as he spoke. "Now, now funny one. Not a sound please. Promise you will only speak softly, darling."

Their eyes looked at each other through the mirror, and their connection strengthened and solidified. Now, no matter how long he left her alone or she lay dead in the ground, one would always be in the other's mind. Tormenting the other until they destroyed themselves. Lurking, creeping, slithering over the groves of the brain. Or haunting, teasing, evoking savory feelings. Endless, it was all an endless pattern.

Her head bobbed back and forth in a nod, unwilling to anger him right then. He rubbed his cheek primitively against hers. "I am waiting bunny. Ask me your question. Do you want to know why?"

Even she could see the surprise bloom on her face. "I…yes. Why? What did I do?" She forced out without screeching them.

Pierrot laughed. "Nothing pet. Nothing. But sometimes, you do not need to do anything."

It wasn't a true answer, and they both knew it. "Won't you ever leave me alone?" She gasped out, feeling tears bite at the corner of her eyes.


Ellie stared up at him in the mirror, trying to find some crack in his defenses so that she could forge on and destroy him. Shatter him and impact his life. Pierrot caught her looking at him and tilted his head slowly, giving her the impression that he was smiling under the mask. Impenetrable, the white and black design covering his face revealed nothing but an abyss and dark, unruffled eyes.

It seemed that they stayed that way, touching, connecting that way – his hands on her arms and her foot on his leg – for a very long time. But then in a sudden, instantaneous movement he let her go. Her balance deserted her and left her flailing. Ellie fell forward off the bench with a grunt.

She slammed into the full-length mirror in a way that was not unlike how male rams fight for dominance in the wild. She was lucky that the glass didn't crack, as her force was so great that the shelf of shoes the mirror was anchored to shook alarmingly.

Her whole head ached, and a thin trickle of blood was on her forehead, but she still whipped around to look at him. He was smothered in a blanket of solemnity, the total opposite of before. Ellie thought that he would attack her again, the madness within his eyes was so great. But instead he withdrew one hand from his glove, the palm and fingers of it covered in black ink. placed one hand on a free spot of wall. The man placed his hand against the divider and began to write – and the letters dripped like gruesome memories.


With a tip of his hand to her as a way of goodbye, he vanished.

Please tell me what you think! Thanks again to Cantata for reviewing! Your music suggestions were awesome!