Chapter 10: Dancing and Romancing

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Life was still going well for Don. He was still enjoying going to work, enjoying spending his days doing “sciencey” stuff and interacting with co-workers, and he was saving up simoleons to find his own place. For the first time he could remember, Don tucked his bonus away instead of blowing it on partying — all 192 simoleons were safely deposited in savings. When Moira invited Don for the weekend, he and Dominic, her husband, hit it off immediately. Dominic hosted dance parties at the Chalet Gardens and told Don he was welcome to stay with them and go the parties. Nearly every weekend after that, Don accompanied Johnny to Windenburg on the high-speed train. Things were getting serious between Johnny and his girlfriend, Candy. Don really liked her; she was fun and outgoing, and her younger sister, Yuki, was shy but warmed up once she got to know Don. In addition to his after work jogs, Don began practicing his dance moves for the dance parties. He looked forward to showing off his “arm charm” moves.

Don spent very little time in bars and lounges anymore. He wanted to avoid the Caliente women and Nancy Landgraab. His fooling around with Dina had angered Nancy, and Don knew she was one who would exact revenge.

After Don left the Caliente’s, Katrina had turned on him, letting him know he hadn’t paid the full price. “Nancy knows what you’ve done,” Katrina texted. “You haven’t seen the last of me and my wrath yet. You’ve crossed the wrong woman.” Don wasn’t sure if Katrina meant herself or Nancy, but though crossing Katrina was unpleasant, Don felt concerned about crossing the mob.

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One evening, Don tried out a new club in Windenburg. Windenburg was far away from the grasp of the Landgraabs, and Don realized as he walked into the lounge that being far away was one of the appeals to spending his weekends there. The place was dimly lit, kind of gloomy and mostly empty. Don ordered a drink tray and settled in for the “experience of a lifetime” as the bartender explained. A stunning raven-haired woman walked in. Don had finished a “cupid juice” and was feeling flirty. It had been too long since he had been in a relationship, even a one-night one. The woman sat down next to him and smiled. “I’ve never seen you here before,” she said.

“That’s because I’ve never been here before,” Don replied.

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She whispered in Don’s ear, and Don felt his old flirty ways returning.

Sure, she was surprised when he kissed her, but she didn’t reject him and was more than agreeable to Don’s advances. The two left the club and headed out back where they enjoyed flirting.

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And more.

The next morning, Don barely remembered the encounter, just glimmering red, a prickly bush and then a bright light. He didn’t even know who the woman was and figured he’d never see her again. Maybe he was ready to be in a relationship again, but if so, he wanted something different than he’d ever had. Even more important–to Don’s amazement–than romance was his success at the Labs. He quickly forgot about the random encounter, engrossed in the latest project.

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Cassandra and Don worked well together. She was brilliant and not prone to flirting with Don. He’d stopped trying to flirt after the second day, and the two became close colleagues and friends. Some days it seemed as though she had a grey cloud overhead, and Don found it challenging to cheer her up. He wanted Cassandra to like him, to approve of how smart he was. For the first time in his life, Don’s muscles and flashy smiles didn’t cause a woman to melt. Cassandra was interested in what Don had to say; she was interested in his ideas and his brains more than his muscles. Still Don kept to his workout routine faithfully after work every  because he enjoyed having a fit body. He was doing things now because he enjoyed them, not to impress others, and although this was strange, Don was liking it. He began to realize he was even improving his mind and work ethic because he liked it not to impress Cassandra — and Don didn’t realize that by doing so, Cassandra was growing more attracted to him.

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Cassandra began to invite Don to her home after work a couple evenings a week.  Her little brother had recently become a teen and was moody most of the time, Cassandra confessed. “You make me laugh. My home is so … well, it gets me down. You’ll bring a ray of sunshine to it!” Don thought there was more to her brother Alexander’s mood swings, though, since Cassandra’s dad moped around and her mom was never around.

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Mortimer seemed lonely in the dreary mansion. Alexander hung out in his bedroom, Bella was often gone, and Cassandra was always playing her violin (or chess with Don). Don had always been a good listener, and Mortimer was happy to have someone with whom he could share his sad life story. Don learned that the Goth family was “old money” in Willow Creek and that his wife hoped Cassandra would marry into one of the other “old money” families. He expressed how much he and his wife were in love, but Don found it odd she was never around. Mortimer did not seem to be good at reading situations; he was too caught up in his melancholy ways and his writing to notice what went on at home. It was obvious even to Alexander that his sister was falling for Don.

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With new experiences at work nearly every day and weekends in Windenburg, Don had plenty to keep him interested. Cassandra began going with him, dancing at the Chalet until daybreak. They were now spending most of their time together, and Don knew he was falling in love.

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Somehow, though, Don managed to stay focused on work. He truly wanted to make lives better for Sims. He’d seen enough of the seedy and shady, the homelessness and hunger, to appreciate what FutureSim Labs was trying to accomplish. He knew the importance of living an active, healthy life and not rummaging for food or surviving off of cheap bar grub, and the serum he and Cassandra were developing could alleviate hunger. It was all a process of trial and error.

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Over time, it became apparent that Don and Cassandra were attracted to one another both physically and mentally, and they were rarely out of each other’s company. Don loved the way Cassandra would embrace him or kiss him when they saw each other. He accepted when Cassandra asked if he’d be her boyfriend.

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Johnny had proposed to Candy, cheerfully sharing plans of an outdoor wedding. “Don, old buddy, I think it’s finally our time,” Johnny happily told him one evening when they were both home. “I’m going to move in with Candy after the wedding at Myshuno Meadows, and you can have this old trailer.”

“I couldn’t do that!” Don was surprised.

“Of course you could. And you will. Promise me, though, that you won’t stay here too long. You deserve a better place. You’ve already been promoted twice.”

Don promised. He knew he was on track for becoming a “serum sequencer,” which meant a §9 an hour raise plus a hefty bonus.

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The wedding ceremony at Myshuno Meadows was a memorable day. It was truly romantic and beautiful to watch as they exchanged their vows, surrounded by friends, co-workers and family. Don felt something was missing in his life as he saw the way the newlyweds looked at one another. He glanced over at Cassandra, and she smiled back. Don’s heart beat furiously.

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As Johnny and Candy shared the first slice of cake, the pianist played in the background, and the guests cheered. Even after the reception ended, guests lingered on the romantic grounds. Moira and Dominic strolled hand in hand around the lovely park, while single guests flirted with one another. Romance was definitely in the air, swirling into Don’s lungs as he breathed deeply, coursing through his blood.

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“This is the most beautiful wedding,” Cassandra told Don. She pulled him in and kissed him. “It is,” Don thought. “And so are you,” he said aloud. “Woman, not wedding. The most beautiful woman.”

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“I want to remember this afternoon always.” Don pulled out his phone and took a photo of the two of them. He never wanted to feel anything but this love and romance, and he was sure Cassandra was the one he’d been waiting for his entire life.

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This was spontaneous, definitely unseen and unplanned. But the past was over, the future unknown, and Cassandra was his present. Don got down on one knee and pulled out a ring he had carried with him for a very long time. “Cassandra,” Don said, holding up the glittering ring, “will you marry me? I know my grandmother would want you to have her ring. It’s not as big or expensive as your family could afford, but I’m giving it to you with my love.”

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“I accept!” Cassandra replied. “I don’t care about money, you know that. Just you and our work at the labs. Or,” she stammered, “I’d say let’s get married right now, but what about waiting until after our breakthrough?”

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Don agreed. He could wait to marry a woman like Cassandra. He’d have more time to find a proper home, save more money, get a promotion — and to get the Goths to like him better. Just thinking about the list made Don’s head spin. Cassandra pulled him in close, “Don’t worry about any of that,” she whispered, “as you always say, let’s just live in the moment.”

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