“You traveled back in time?” Aisha took a sip of her whiskey.
“But how? You’re not even a time mage.”
“I… It’s long story, and I don’t think I should tell anyone how I managed it. Can you imagine what would happen if others figured it out. Would you trust people not to abuse the information? Honestly, I’m not even sure why it worked. Maybe because of how desperate I was. Or maybe because I got lucky. Now that I’m here, I am scared to do anything to alter the past. My past. So I’m staying away from anyone I knew.”
“Maybe you can’t change the past?”
“What do you mean?” Aisha’s response had taken her by surprise.
“Think about it. If you did change something, it could create a contradiction, a paradox. Since those are impossible, maybe it’s impossible to do anything that would cause one. Maybe, in your past, you were always here, always doing these things.”
“I’m not sure if that’s a brilliant or terrifying. But I also don’t want to test your hypothesis. If you’re wrong, I don’t want to think about the damage I might do.”
“So if you don’t want to change the past, why did you come back?”
“Because I didn’t think it through. A friend of mine had died. I – foolishly – thought I could come back and prevent it.”
“But you couldn’t? Then my idea . . .”
“I didn’t really try. I came back so far that he hadn’t yet met me. When I went to speak to him, he convinced me . . . He made me reflect on the dangers inherent in changing the past. So I said goodbye without saving him. He’s still out there. Alive. For now. And even if I decided to take the risk, he won’t let me.”
Julia choked out the last few words and fell silent. Research had kept her distracted, but talking about Jason made her heart hurt. She couldn’t talk to him. She couldn’t even talk to his ghost because he wasn’t dead yet. A deep sadness came over her.
“Hey, it’s okay.” Aisha reached out to touch her arm.
Julia realized tears were running down her cheeks. She wiped them away and tried to force a smile. “I didn’t realize how much grief I was holding in.”
“So now you’re stuck? You can’t get back to your own time?”
“That is another long story. I had to close off my way home. That’s why I became a recluse and need your help.”
Aisha laughed. “Well you have my help, but it’s not free.”
“I know. So are you satisfied with my explanation?”
“It’s an outlandish story, but for some reason I believe you. And you’re secret is safe with me.”
“Thank you, Aisha.”