Ronnie took a deep breath. She reminded herself that she shouldn’t be nervous. That Jim was her best friend. And that if she waited, stupid Kristen might ask him first and ruin everything. "So, prom."
Jim nodded. "The very first on Mars."
"Want to go with me?" Ronnie asked.
Jim laughed. "Isn’t the guy supposed to ask the girl?"
"Maybe on Earth. This is Mars."
"Well, do you want to go with me or not?"
"Of course I do."
Ronnie grinned. Take that, Kristen.
Jim’s mother pulled a box out from under their couch. "Your grandmother sent this from Earth. I gave her your measurements, so it should fit."
Jim pulled the box open and stared down at the fine black material. "What is it?"
"A tuxedo. For you to wear to prom."
"Mom, nobody else is going to be wearing a tuxedo."
"Then you’ll look better than everyone else. A black tux never goes out of style. Go on, try it on."
Jim sighed, but figured it’d be best to humor her. He pulled on the black pants, buttoned up the white shirt and red vest, and pulled the jacket on. He grabbed the untied bow tie let his mom deal with. Everything fit. He checked his reflection.
"Huh." He looked pretty good.
He wondered what Ronnie would think.
Ronnie burst into her family’s quarters. "Mom!" she shouted.
Her mother poked her head out of the kitchen. "What’s wrong, sweetie?"
"Jim’s grandma sent him a tux."
"That was sweet of her."
"No it wasn’t! It was terrible! Now what am I going to wear?"
She’d been planning on wearing her best dress—the one she wore to greet new people when they arrived on Mars. But Jim had seen her in that dozens of times. She needed something new. Something special.
It was their very first real date, after all.
Her mother tapped her lips. "I see your point."
Ronnie threw herself onto the couch. "This sucks."
"I have an idea." Her mom disappeared into her bedroom and came out few minutes later with a large storage box. "I can make you a new dress. I used to sew my own dresses all of the time."
Hope stirred in Ronnie’s chest. "Where will we get the fabric?"
Her mom pulled out a red satin dress trimmed with black ribbon out of the box. "I’ll start with this."
Ronnie’s hope faded. The dress was tiny. "I wore that when I was five."
"Yes, but the material is still good. I can reuse it."
"I can’t wear a mini dress to prom. Dad would flip."
"Go see if anyone else has any old clothes that they wouldn’t mind us repurposing."
Two hours and half the station later, Ronnie came back home loaded down with old clothes. She dumped them on the kitchen table. "Will any of this work?"
Her mom combed through the pile. She pulled out one deep red blouse and a black lace skirt. "These might."
Her mother sewed, and she refused to let Ronnie look at her handiwork.
"I want it to be a surprise," she said, closing the door in her face.
"I’d rather have some input!" Ronnie shouted through the door.
"You’re just going to have to trust me!"
Jim shifted his corsage from one hand to the other, wiped his palms on his tuxedo pants, and knocked on Ronnie’s door. Her dad answered. "Hey, Jim. Come on it. She’s almost ready." He crossed his arms over his chest. "She’s very… excited about this whole thing." He sighed. "We’re very fond of you Jim, and I trust that you won’t—disappoint her."
Jim gulped. "I—I wouldn’t dream of it, sir."
"Where are my shoes?" Ronnie ran down the stairs. Her hair was pinned up on top of her head and her eyes looked different. Bigger, somehow. And she looked incredible in her dress. It was long, and red, with black lace accents and a black ribbon belt.
"Oh, Jim! You’re here!" Ronnie froze on the stairs and blushed. "I didn’t realize. Well, what do you think?" She twirled for him. Her long skirt flowed around her ankles, and the back of the dress swooped down to just above her hips.
Jim stared. "You look amazing. Like a princess."
Ronnie’s mother came down the stairs. "Oh, look, you even match."
Ronnie grinned at him. "It was meant to be."
Jim held out the box of flowers. "My mom got us roses."
"Here, you wear this one on your wrist, and this one pins to me… somewhere."
"Let me help you with that," Ronnie’s mom said.
"No, I can do it." Ronnie stepped close to him. She smelled different—like perfume and hairspray. Her breath was warm on his cheek. He wondered if she could feel his heart beating through his jacket.
Ronnie’s mom turned to her dad. "What do you think of the dress?"
"Why doesn’t it have a back?"
Ronnie finished pinning the rose to Jim’s lapel. "Come on. Let’s go."
Jim and Ronnie swayed together in the decorated cafeteria. "Are you having fun?" he asked.
Ronnie nodded. Jim looked so handsome, and she loved dancing. And she had to admit, her mom had done a great job on the dress.
Someone tapped on Ronnie’s shoulder, and she looked back. Kristen smiled at her. "Can I cut in?"
Ronnie’s stomach dropped. Jim was so polite, and Kristen was his friend. He’d have to dance with her.
But his arms tightened around her. "Sorry, Kristen. We’re in the middle of something. Maybe later?"
Kristen blinked, and for a second, guilt warred with the joy in Ronnie’s belly. But Kristen just nodded. "Okay. Maybe later."
Jim twined his fingers through Ronnie’s. She liked his hands. She liked everything about him.
"What were we in the middle of?" she asked.
He kissed her. His lips were warm, and tasted like fruit punch.
"Oh," Ronnie said, after he pulled away.
"I couldn’t let you do that first, too, even if we are on Mars," he said.
Ronnie laid her head on his chest and listened to his heartbeat, and they danced.