Dorothy stood completely still and looked around, trying to regain her bearings. All of this universe jumping, besides making her feel completely discombobulated, wasn’t particularly easy physically, either. Suddenly, Dorothy had a vague recollection of a story about Cathy, the wonderful founder of Jixemitri, jumping from one universe to another in pursuit of Jim and Laura Ramsey.
No wonder she has a bad back, the young woman thought ruefully as she rubbed her own sore back. This is murder on the spine!
As she took stock of her surroundings, Dorothy surmised that she was in the Wheeler Game Preserve. At least, she hoped she was. I don’t want to get stuck in some strange forest with lions and tigers and bears, she thought.
She made her way carefully along a winding path and soon came to what looked to be an old, abandoned schoolhouse. "This must be the old schoolhouse where Trixie, Jim, and Brian spent the night during that blizzard," she murmured softly to herself as she approached the building. A warm, soft light glowed through one of the windows.
Suddenly feeling like Trixie in one of her many quests for clues, Dorothy stealthily snuck up to the window and looked inside, gasping at what she saw.
"Honey?" she said aloud. "With…Dan?" She backed up quickly from the window and stepped on a dry twig. She cringed as the twig snapped, the loud crack echoing in the silent woods.
No one will confuse me with Jim the woodsman! the young woman thought as she waited for the inevitable. Sure enough, she didn’t have long to wait. A pretty, teenaged girl with shoulder-length honey brown hair and a handsome, teenaged boy with chiseled features, smoldering eyes, and rock-hard pecs opened the door of the schoolhouse and peered out.
The startled looks on their faces might have been comical if Dorothy hadn’t been so mortified. "Hi," she said in a timid voice. "I’m rather lost, and I was hoping that maybe you could help me?"
Instantly, the confusion on Honey’s face disappeared, and a warm, friendly smile took its place. "Of course we’ll help you," she said in a friendly tone as she and Dan stepped outside together. "I’m Honey Wheeler, and this is my boyfriend, Dan Mangan."
Dorothy literally felt her knees go weak at the sight of Dan’s sexy smile, tossed casually her way. I thought this kind of thing only happened in books, Dorothy thought, immediately realizing the absurdity of that thought considering her current, uh, location.
Still feeling flustered by all of the traveling she had done and caught off-guard by the molten smile Dan was giving her, Dorothy blurted out, "I can see why you’re dating him and not Brian in this universe!"
Honey and Dan looked surprised for a moment and then laughed good-naturedly. "Well, I guess you’re not the average traveler to this area," Honey said, still smiling at the visitor. "So, you know about the different universes?"
Dorothy nodded, her cheeks still pink from embarrassment. How could I have just blurted that out? she berated herself silently. Out loud, she said, "Yes. My name is Dorothy, and I’m looking for a place called Jixemitri. It would also be wonderful if you could tell me which universe I’ve stumbled into."
"You’re in Dana’s Sapphire Days Universe," Dan supplied.
"Dana?" Dorothy said in surprise. "I thought Dana was traditional."
"So did she. Until Dan here started putting ideas in her head," Honey said with a sly smile in her boyfriend’s direction.
Dan casually put his arm around Honey’s shoulders. "I just couldn’t help myself."
"You see, Sapphire Days—or Sappy Days as it’s sometimes called—was supposed to be a very traditional universe. You know, Jim with Trixie, Mart with Di, me with Brian, and Dan with…well, I don’t know who Dana thought she was going to put Dan with. Anyway, Brian and I were supposed to get together around Christmas of my junior year at Sleepyside High. But Dan had other ideas, and, the next thing Dana knew, Dan was pursuing me." Honey looked up at the dark-haired young man beside her, her hazel eyes glowing with love. Her voice softened romantically as she said, "And I realized that I wanted to be pursued by Dan."
Honey turned back to Dorothy. "Sometimes, it’s a little weird between Brian and me, but he’s got a girlfriend named Lexi whom he’s very happy with, so it really has worked out well. And Dana, who thought she could never write non-traditional couples, has had her eyes opened!"
"But Dana is adamant about one thing. She knows that she’ll always have Jim and Trixie as a couple, no matter what. Even if they don’t start out together, they’ll be sure to end up together in Dana’s World," Dan stated.
"Could I meet Dana? Do you think she could tell me how to be a part of Jixemitri?" Dorothy asked eagerly.
Honey and Dan looked a bit uncomfortable. "Well, we never know when Dana’s going to be around. You see, her dog, whom she is unnaturally devoted to, has cancer, and that’s taking up her time nowadays," Honey explained, a hint of regret in her voice.
Dorothy tried to swallow the disappointment she felt at this news. "I understand. Do you think you could help me find Jixemitri?"
By the looks on their faces, Honey and Dan clearly wanted to help, after all that was their nature, but it was also clear that they didn’t know how.
"Do you know anything about Jix?" Dorothy asked, hating the desperation that she heard creeping into her voice. But, after jumping through countless universes and not finding Jix, she had to admit that she was becoming a bit discouraged. Would she ever make it to Jixemitri?
"Well, I know that Dana absolutely adores it there," Honey said, deep in thought as she tried to remember every detail that she could about Jixemitri.
"She thinks of it as her home away from home," Dan put in helpfully.
"She’s made some incredible friends there, and she loves all the support that the community always gives each other," Honey added.
Dorothy sighed, thinking of what Jixemitri must be like. "That’s what the other Jix authors have said. Jixemitri must be the most wonderful place on earth!"
"Dana thinks it is," Honey and Dan said at the same time and smiled at each other.
"Well, I won’t keep you any longer," Dorothy said, knowing that she had interrupted a romantic interlude. "Thanks for all of the information about Jix."
"I’m sorry that we couldn’t help you more," Honey said.
"Do you know where you’re going next?" Dan asked.
Dorothy shook her head. "I haven’t a clue. I’m hoping that—" She suddenly stopped as she realized that Dan and Honey were disappearing in a swirl of dark blue mist.
Or maybe it was she who was disappearing…
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