“You’re saying you saw someone who looked like me?” Julia tried her best to sound confused.
“Don’t insult me. I procure items and information. I know what I saw.”
How should she answer? A lie would be better, perhaps, but what lie even made sense? Julia remembered how she got into this situation: Thomas and his secrets. Was this any different? She was trying to preserve the past, make as few waves as possible. She told herself she was doing the right thing, but that was what Thomas believed about his own secrets. Keeping the truth hidden had caused so many problems, and she didn’t want to follow Thomas’s example.
“We can go inside and see her if you don’t believe me.”
“No!” Aisha’s suggestion surprised her, and she panicked at the prospect of confronting her past self.
“So are you going to explain?”
“Why were you even here? Were you investigating me?”
“Don’t change the subject. If you won’t tell me, maybe she will.”
“Okay, okay.” She didn’t want Aisha making the situation worse. “Can we talk back at my cabin? I don’t anyone, especially her, to see me.”
Aisha stared at her for a minute, seemingly trying to decide if she could trust Julia. “Fine, but if you don’t come clean, I’ll be coming back here.”
“Fair enough.” Julia opened a portal and stepped through.
Back in her cabin, Julia fell into an armchair. “I’d offer you something to drink, but you’d probably just accuse me of stalling.”
Aisha sat down facing her but said nothing.
“I’m not sure how to explain this, but I must ask that you keep this a secret. Telling you is dangerous. If it were to get further than us, I can’t imagine what damage it might do.”
“Okay.” Aisha sounded skeptical.
“That woman you saw, the one at the bar, that was me. About twelve years ago. Or rather, I am her, twelve years from now.”
“What does that mean?” Aisha’s confusion was obvious.
“I traveled back in time. She belongs here; I don’t.”
“Time travel? That’s impossible. No wizard has ever managed it. And you’re not a time mage. You really expect me to believe this?”
“I don’t know what I expect.” Julia didn’t even want to tell Aisha any of this, much less try to convince her of it. “You wanted to know what was going on, this is what’s going on.”
“I thought maybe a twin sister, or even a clone, but this . . .”
“Those would have been good stories. But I am choosing to respect you, to trust you with the truth.”
“Thanks, I guess. But still . . .”
“I’m trying to avoid screwing up the past. I need her life to stay the same, so that my past doesn’t change. So please don’t talk to the other me. Please.”
There was several moments of silence before Aisha responded. “I think I will have that drink now. Something strong, please.”