“Mr Chill, she's asking for you again.”
Walker opened his eyes and allowed the barrier surrounding him to fade to a translucent shimmering in the air.
“I'm not here, David, I'm in Margush.”
“I'm sorry, Mr Chill, she says her people saw you come in.”
He should have known she'd put watchers outside. Typical Clem. It'd likely be bounty hunters soon.
“I'm in Margush. Go do your job.”
The Guild receptionist looked utterly miserable but somewhere inside him a bit of backbone locked in place and he shook his head.
“I'm sorry, Mr Chill. The councillors have said that we're not to assist you with this. It's not…the Guild does not endorse your behavior.”
Those fucks. Was this punishment for something? Maybe some of those busybodies he'd been herding had been running their mouths. The bosses didn't like their secrets getting public airing.
“I'm going to let her through Mr Chill.”
“I'm. Not. Here.”
He smelled her coming down the corridor. The melange of spices and perfumes always made him think of the time they had clambered into her mother's warehouse as nervous young teenagers and their furtive lovemaking had been abruptly interrupted when a bag of peppers tore beneath them and they'd almost died of sneezing.
Except of course, that hadn't happened. Not to him.
“Our daughter wants you home.”
He contemplated attempting the silent treatment but quickly abandoned the idea. Clem wasn't the sort to give up, not on a family matter. She'd be there yelling at him until next week's caravan left.
“She's not my daughter. You need to tell her that she doesn't have a dad. Or that he died. Or that he's missing. Whatever you want so long as it's not me.”
“Much as she deserves a better father, she only has the one and he's right here. Please Walker, you have to stop this. We don't care about your guild secrets or what some idiot scholars think. You are my husband, you are their father. None of the other Wayfinders are acting like this, you know? I've asked around. I've even checked with the damned Trailblazers in Strossbourg. You're the only one spouting this rubbish.”
“Clem, we've been over this: I saw the papers. I heard Councillors talking about it. Of course it's a secret. Ain't in their interests to spread the truth is it? Better for them for it to stay quiet; better for everyone maybe. But that doesn't make it right.”
“I just said I don't care!”
“I care though. I care that maybe tomorrow the world changes again and your real husband comes back. Or maybe it's not any realer, just that I'm gone and someone else fills the space I left, and you don't even know.”
She gripped his chin and tugged his eyes up to meet hers. To see her conviction.
“I would know Walker, I wouldn't just forget you. No matter what.”
“But you would. Just like you remember me now. Just like I remember you. It's all fake.”
“Then be a fake; we don't mind if you're a fraud. You're real enough for us now, and that's all that matters.”
His vision was clouded with tears and he could feel his muscles tensing to bring him to feet. To walk back down the familiar paths leading to the Spice district, to grab his children and bounce them in the air and hear their screams and giggles.
Clem snatched her hand back as his barrier flared menacingly, coiling around him like a serpent of crackling air.
“What you have now with the kids is real. It's True. But I'm not and I can't ever be, and if I go home then it will poison everything. Everything we feel for each other is based on a lie, and I won't let it grow any bigger than it is right now. I won't let my- those children build their lives on that lie. And I won't help you spread it into your future either.”
He could see the anger in Clem's eyes as she bent back towards him. Could see a plea or more likely a threat forming on her lips. He didn't have the strength to listen to it, to face her any longer. A moment's thought, a twist of the flux and he was plunged into darkness, his barrier now a solid shell blocking out the world outside.
He felt the impact of her fists for minutes and a then heavy blow that for a moment threatened his isolation. Perhaps she had broken a chair over his head? After that he felt nothing more- maybe some of the guards hearing the cries of rage had finally removed her or perhaps she was just waiting for him to emerge, not knowing that here in his element, in this place pretending to be a room, he could wait forever.
He knew he was a coward to act like this. But what choice did he he have? In all their years of marriage Clem had always won their arguments in the end.
Except of course, she never had.