A knock at the door meant Aisha had arrived. She was the only visitor Julia had had since getting stuck in the past. No one else knew she was here. So it was more than surprising when she saw someone else on the other side of the door. It was the black-haired man from their attempted robbery the year before.
“You are a hard person to find.”
His demeanor was casual, unthreatening, but Julia saw danger everywhere. She immediately began summoning a portal, but the man held out a hand to try to interrupt her.
“Wait. I just want to talk. Honest. Please, just let me explain.”
He sounded sincere, but people with ill-intent rarely announced it. Still, if he had found her this time, Julia reasoned, he could probably do so again. Maybe it was worth the risk to see what she could learn.
“Fine. Outside.” Indicating the two chairs she kept on the porch, she shut and locked the door. It would do much if he was determined to get inside, but she wanted him to know that she wasn’t going to drop her guard.
He sat in the chair closest to the edge of the porch and waited for her to sit before speaking.
“Thank you for hearing me out.”
“You didn’t exactly give me a choice, showing up at my home like this. Who are you?”
“Oh, are we exchanging names? Are you going to tell me yours?”
“Probably not,” she admitted.
“Then I hope you won’t be offended if I don’t share mine. I was trying to stop… a friend… from going further down a bad path. I put out rumors there was a book… he would want. I was hoping to lure him out. You and your companion caught me by surprise.” The way he said ‘friend’ suggested that he wasn’t sure he should be using the word.
“So we walked into a trap not meant for us.”
“Essentially. Why were you interested in the book?”
“I wanted it for my research.”
Julia felt like they were circling one another, each giving only enough information to draw the other out.
“Your research? You weren’t there on behalf of someone else?” He seemed surprised by her answer.
“I’m not working for anyone.”
“What about your companion? Is she working for someone else?”
“She’s working for me. Are you going to tell me what this is all about? Why you tracked me down after a year? How you tracked me down? Or are you just trying to get some information for nothing?”
“I wanted to be certain you weren’t there on behalf of… my friend. But I was also curious about you. You seem… out of place.”
“Well, there was no one else behind our attempt on the book. And I’m not about to tell a complete stranger anything about myself. So thank you for stopping by. Don’t come back.” Julia stood, and walked to the door.
He looked as though he would object but seemed to think better of it. “Very well. I appreciate your time.” Before he stepped off the porch, he turned to face her. “A bit of advice from a complete stranger. Your research involving time magic? Give it up. I’ve seen people hurt by it.” With that, he walked away.
It hadn’t sounded like a threat; rather, it seemed to be genuine concern. Julia wasn’t sure what to make of it.
A short time later, Aisha arrived. “How’s it going?”
“I think it’s time for me to move,” Julia said.
Aisha looked sad for just a moment before she reasserted a placid expression. “Does that mean you’ve solved the problem?”
After a moment of confusion, Julia realized there was misunderstanding. “No, no. You’re still stuck with me. I meant literally; I need to move. That mage, the one from our book heist? He showed up here.”
Relief changed to concern in an instant. “Are you okay? What happened? How did you get rid of him?”
“Everything’s fine, but I don’t know for how long.” Julia gave her a quick summary of the visit. “Even though he left, I don’t like the idea of someone else knowing where to find me. I didn’t even want anyone to know about me.”
“So you’re leaving the cabin?” Aisha looked around wistfully.
“No. I’m just going to move the cabin into a pocket space. That way, no one can find it. I should have done it years ago, but it felt like overkill. Not so much now.”
“If no one can find it, then how…”
“I was hoping you’d come with me. I have room. And I can always make more. We can also work out a way for you to come and go for your business in the outside world.”
Aisha was quiet for long enough that Julia started to get nervous. “I’m sorry. That was too much. I can just figure out a way for you to come by when…”
Putting a finger to Julia’s lips, Aisha broke into a smile. “Stop. Of course I’ll go with you. I’m just happy you’re not leaving yet.”