Knuckles rapped against the front door. The sound made me flinch, and I sprayed hot glue across my tired fingertips.
“Christ’s sake,” I said, wiping my calluses dry. I hauled myself to my feet, grumbling. Nobody ever came knocking with good news, anymore.
I cracked the door enough to see the boy’s face. It was that kid, Manny or Marty or whatever, from the hotel. Smooth-skinned, pale-eyed, and even taller than me. An Outer Colony tourist, through and through. His face beamed with hope.
“Lucita’s busy,” I said, a bit too harshly.
His cheeks sank. Behind him, the rain fell on the Martian wetlands in a slow rhythm of big drops. In the center of our floating parking pad, a sleek double-seater sat on cooling vertical jets.
“The Dance is tonight. We’re all busy.”
He nodded. “I’m sorry, ma’am. Could you tell her–”
I shut the door, and shuffled back to my chair. The living room was a mess of faux feathers and polyester ribbon. It looked like a flock of plastic turkeys had dropped down the airshaft and exploded.
“Who was that?” Lucita stood in the hallway, eyebrow arched.
I waved a dismissive hand. “That boy. I told him you’re busy, because you are. We’ve still got all this lace to tie for the costumes, and we haven’t even strung the lights yet.”
I was making a move to sit down, but she stepped into the room and planted her hands on her hips. I wasn’t about to give her any extra height on me if this was gonna be a real argument, so I stood my ground.
“I’m not dancing,” she said.
“Like hell you aren’t.” I tried to keep my lip from twitching, the way it always does when I just said something I wish had come out nicer.
“It’s a stupid dance.”
“It’s your birthright. This is the Toloi Homestead, not some Daedalia slouch. Your grandmother was Mars’s greatest Rain Dancer–”
“Have you looked outside? It never stops raining. Maybe the dancing made sense back in New Mexico, or when Mars was still dry. But now the whole thing is a joke.”
I pursed my lips. Same damn argument as last year. Probably every year, since Thomas died.
“I don’t ask you to dance every day–”
“I’ve been slaving over these costumes for weeks. And the cleanup’s even worse!”
I rolled my eyes. The melodrama of youth. You’d think I was running a penal colony. “Why do you think Marty and the others are here to begin with? It ain’t the weather.”
“It’s Manny, Mother.” Her face ripened to a deep pink. “He’s from Callisto.”
“Whatever. If it weren’t for the Dance, he’d be vacationing on some Europan resort right now.”
That got her to bite her tongue. I seized the opportunity.
“You’d do yourself a favor to keep that boy at arm’s length. I know his type. He’s hunting for a native girl. Something exotic to take home and show off to his buddies.”
Lucita threw her arms up, and her fingertips grazed the ceiling. When my great-grandpa built this homestead, nobody could’ve imagined how tall we’d be in just a few generations on account of the lower gravity. Now all of us had to duck through doorways and make sure to keep our hair from getting sucked into the vents. Of course, nobody could’ve imagined we’d have to hoist the damn building onto stilts to keep it above the waters, either.
“How are you so sure?” she said. “You’ve never even given him a chance to talk.”
“I don’t have to. Already know what he’s gonna say.”
“He’s with the Brigade. He helps people, Mother. More than you can say for yourself.”
I drew in a breath to retort, but she beat me to it.
“I’m gonna enlist.”
I clenched my hands into fists, and I could feel the tiny aches in each joint. “Like hell you are. You belong here.”
“Nobody belongs here, anymore. The Outer Colonies–”
“The yuppies can have their Outer Colonies. Cultural black holes, every one of them.” I couldn’t believe we were having this conversation with the Dance just hours away.
“Mars is a complete failure,” she said.
“It’s our home. Always has been.”
Lucita eyed me skeptically, and I swore under my breath.
“Long as you or I can remember, at least. The answer is no. You’re not going anywhere. I need you here.”
“I’m an adult, I’ll do as I please. You can have your stupid backwater traditions.”
I was shaking so hard I couldn’t respond.
“Dad would be on my side,” she said. “He always was.”
That was all I could take. I pushed past her and stormed out the back, grabbing my coat and emergency gear on the way. Outside, at least nobody could tell my tears from the rain.