The knock at the door signaled the delivery Julia had been anticipating. Aisha was standing on the other side, her bag slung over her shoulder, smile wide on her face.
“Hey, stranger. Good to see your face.”
Nearly two years had passed since Julia had been trapped in the past. She had met Aisha shortly after her relocation to the other side of the country, and she had been providing Julia with supplies for over a year. The move, and relying on Aisha, was all to avoid having any impact on her own past.
Even before her move, Julia knew that no one was coming back for her. No matter how long it took them to figure out how to return, they could have always traveled back to the time she had closed the portal. That no one had appeared in the first few days after she was trapped meant she was on her own. If she wanted to get back to her proper time, she would have to do it herself. However, she had no real idea how to go about it. Instead, she threw herself into research, and Aisha was crucial to that.
“It hasn’t been that long, has it?” Julia stepped aside to let the other woman come in.
“Well, I tried to come by yesterday, but you weren’t here. Or you were ignoring me.” Aisha walked into the living room and sat down without waiting for an invitation. “So which was it?”
Julia sat down facing her. “I wasn’t ignoring you. You know better than that. I thought you weren’t coming until today, so I was visiting a friend.” Esther and Rook still wanted her to drop by now and then.
“I didn’t think you had any friends. Beside me, that is.”
“Very funny. I’ll have you know I am very popular.”
“So popular, you live alone in a cabin in the middle of nowhere.”
“Okay, okay.” Julia held up her hands in surrender. “I give. Your tongue is too sharp.”
Aisha’s smile widened, flashing her teeth. “Not just my tongue.”
Julia ignored that. “So what did you bring me this time.”
Aisha was brash and friendly, but there was more to her. Julia hadn’t gotten too far below the surface, but she valued the other woman’s company and friendship.
“The mundane supplies should be delivered tomorrow. As for the more interesting stuff…” Taking her bag off her shoulder, Aisha set it on the table and opened it. “First, and most obviously, more crystals.” She pulled out more than a dozen empty crystals and put them down on the table. “I was also able to track down the rarer ingredients you asked for.” She set five jars with different substances next to the crystals. “This one,” she held up a bottle containing a purple powder, “was the tricky one. Asking for ground quartz exposed to temporal magic raised more than a few eyebrows.”
“I appreciate the effort, Aisha. Were you able to track down any books?”
“There I struck out, I’m afraid. You have to know mages don’t write a lot of books.”
“I suppose not. Thanks anyway.” Julia had never asked if Aisha was actually a mage or not.
“However,” Aisha pulled out a file folder, “I did manage to track down some notes that might be usable. On mana, not temporal magic.”
Julia took the folder and began paging through it. “Aisha, this is wonderful. Anything helps. I cannot thank you enough.”
“Glad I could help.” She hesitated for a moment. “Can I ask you something?”
“Don’t worry, I’ve got your payment.” Julia looked up from the pages in the folder to hand six charged crystals to Aisha.
“Not that. Although, thank you.” She put the crystals in her bag. “I’ve been supplying you for a while, and I know it’s none of my business, but would you tell me what you’re up to? Your requests are always so specific, and I thought it might help if I knew what you were doing.”
Julia smiled. “You’re right, it’s none of your business. You want a beer?”
Aisha shrugged. “Sure. We can talk about the weather instead.”