Oh he made me so MAD! He stole my drink of pineapple juice. And nobody ever steals my juice. Not even Mister Spanish-head. So I punch him, which starts a chain reaction of events. First he chokes on his drink, making him splutter and spill the juice down his white t-shirt, then he glares at me and pours the rest of the juice all over me. I naturally scream and pounce on him, pummelling him with my fists. He yells back at me and punches and tries to get me off him.

I feel strong hands lift me off the devil, but I still try to get at him.

"Vicson!" I hear my father's stern voice.

"Emmanuel!" His father's voice exclaims.

"What's going on you two?" Dad says.

"He stole my juice," I whine.

"She punch me," Emmanuel says with his strong accent, pointing his stupid little finger at me.

"He poured it all over me as well!" I exclaim, looking up at my dad who is looking at me as though he's trying not to laugh. "Daaadddd."

"I think you both need to say sorry to each other," he just said.

"But I didn't do anything!"

"Vicson," my dad says with a warning in his voice.

I sigh and turn to Emmanuel who is watching me with a stupid little smirk on his face.

"Sorry, Vicson," he says, making a little bow.

I narrow my eyes, wanting to punch him again.

"Yeah. Sorry," I mumble before stalking inside to tell Mummy all about how mean stinky-head is.

How would you feel if you knew that on the day after your eighteenth birthday, you would be marrying the kid who had stolen your juice and then poured it all over you?

Well, today is my 17th birthday and in exactly one year, I'm going to be doing exactly that. Marrying stinky-head himself.

And well however you would feel, I don't know because I'm me, and you are you and we are two separate entities with different thoughts, wants and emotions.

But me? Well, I think that it's only just hit me that I'm going to be getting married in a year...to a guy I haven't seen since I was 12 because he lives on the other side of the world. And I have absolutely no idea how I feel about it.

He's grown up a lot since that day. Well, we both have really. He's now 22 and finished university and working full time. And I'm still stuck at school in year 11.

Why are we going to be getting married? Glad you asked. Well, see, he's the heir to some old, grand family in Spain, and tradition states that he must have his bride chosen by his father. And my father agreed for one of his daughters to marry his best friend's eldest son. And so it came to be that I would marry Emmanuel.

I bet you thought arranged marriages didn't exist anymore. Well, you are very wrong my friend, because here I am telling you about mine, so *sticks out tongue*.

I roll out of bed on this summer morning and pull on a pair of bike shorts and singlet, like I do every morning. I clip my dog's lead on to her collar, and together we run out onto the quiet street.

The breeze whips through my hair as my feet hit the ground and the clicking sound of my dog's paws on the pavement interrupt the silence of the morning.

This year, my birthday won't be the same as it has been every year before. Instead of presents being given in the morning, it will be in the evening. And we won't have the family dinner because we will all be in a small hospital room, grouped around my father's bed.

A tear runs down my cheek as I think of how he looks these days. At first glance you would think he was in his late sixties, but he's barely 45. His blue eyes rarely twinkle with mischief as they once did and his hands can no longer squeeze quite as hard as they did once upon a time.

See, Dad has brain cancer. Some days he doesn't even recognise me or my family. I wonder if he will even remember whether or not it's my birthday.

The doctors tell us he only has a couple of weeks left, but that's what they said a month ago too.

Sometimes I don't want him to ever go, but other times when he's having a really bad day, I wish that he didn't have to live like this anymore.

I walk back through the front door, letting Kysa out into the backyard so he can cool down and have some water. I go into my room and pull on my school uniform, tying my hair back into the usual lazy ponytail. My books get stuffed into my shoulder bag and just as I'm looking for my shoes, there's a knock on the door.

"Come in," I call, pulling them out from underneath my bed.

"Happy birthday!" a deep voice says before I'm attacked from behind.

I laugh and swat my big brother away. "Get off you lunatic!"

"naww, aren't you grateful that I even remembered?" he grins, sitting on my bed.

Meet Lionel, aka Leo. He's my 19 year old brother/best friend. He's a spitting image of my father...well at least what my dad used to look like. He had the jet black hair and brown eyes with the kind of smile that had girls droppling as he walked past. But to me, he was simply the only person who got me. He was my only friend.

"Dude," I laugh. "You always remember. Why would this year be any different?"

He shrugs and fiddles with my teddybear. Pogo in case you were wondering.

"well, next year I shan't remember then, just to shake it up a little."

I smile and zip my bag up.

"Want a lift to school?" he asks.

"That would be great."

He nodded and left me to to getting ready for school, which involved searching desperately for my wallet before finding it on the shelf where I always keep it.

The trip to school is uneventful, my brother yabbering away at me about some new job he had. I'm going to put money in him getting bored with it in 2 weeks, 3 weeks max. The tall spires of the school I go to come into view, and with them the feeling of dread that always accompanies them.

As I walk through the gates, I watch as friends greet each other with hugs and kisses. Everyday I see these things, but no one ever comes up to me, no matter how much I want them to.

With a sigh, I climb the staircase to get to my locker before maths.

The day passes more or less the same as every other school day that has preceded it. Class 1, recess sitting alone, class 2, get bumped into like I'm invinsible on way to next class, class 3, lunch studying in the library, class 4, and then a sprint out of school to catch the empty tram home.

Normally I don't let my school-life get to me, but as I walk the 2 kilometres home from the tram-stop, I find tears running down my cheeks.

No one, not one person had spoken a word to me all day, let alone wished me a happy birthday.

What's so wrong with me anyway?

I let myself into the empty house and go straight to the mirror hanging on the door of my wardrobe.

I look myself up and down and try to see what they all find so repulsive in me.

I'm not fat, in fact I think I'm too thin weighing in at only 54 kg. No acne, not even a sighting of a pimple on my face. Is it the freckles which are splashed across my nose and cheeks? Is my hair too curly? Or too long reaching the small of my back? Or is it the muddy brown colour?

I sigh and stare at my reflection, but it just stares back at me with hazel eyes.

Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm not someone who's worth acknowledging.

I move away from the mirror and start my homework. Who needs friends anyway?

"Not me, that's for sure," I tell myself, rubbing away the stupid tears from my eyes.
Mum comes home from work a couple of hours later and together we head into the hospital to visit Dad.

"How was your day at school?" Mum asks.

I shrug. "Alright. No one talked to me though."

"That's good," she says, and I wonder if she was even actually listening to me.

I sigh and stare out the window. Mum never understands me, and she hasn't ever since Dad got sick.

We drive around the lot of the hospital, finally finding a park before trekking to dad's hospital room.

Leo is already there, and when I enter Dad gives me a big grin.

"Happy Birthday, Sweetheart."

I couldn't help smiling back. I then kiss his cheek and sit beside him.

"Gift time," he announces. "I, 2, 3! Happy Birthday to you! Happy..."

I look around at my family singing to me, and my day suddenly doesn't seem so bad.

Lionel gives me the James Morrison CD I had wanted, and Mum gives me a digital camera.

"Happy Birthday, Vicson," Dad says, handing me a big box.

I rais an eyebrow at the size of it.

"Don't complain, and just open it," he chuckles.

I open the lid with a small smile and inside is a large photo album.

There are pictures of Mum and Dad's wedding, me and Lionel growing up and all sorts of photos. And there are many pages left to fill.

"For your own memories," he says to me quietly, a small tear in his eye. "I'm sorry I won't be there to see my baby girl grow up."

My throat chokes up, making it impossible for me to form any words. But he understands and gently squeezes my hand.

"Don't forget that I'll always be here though," he says, placing my hand over my heart. "I'm like Mufasa. I'll always be watching over you."

I give a watery laugh at him comparing himself to the yellow lion from my favourite movie.

We stay with him until about 8:30 before saying our goodbyes.

"Hope you had a good birthday," he says to me as I give him a hug. "Sweet dreams baby girl."

As I walk out the door, I take a mental photograph of him in my mind just in case...just in case it is the last time.

The ride home is silent, and I spend it flicking through the photo album.

I stop on a pair of photos that have me and Emmanuel in them. They were taken the day that I had last seen him, just before he went back to Spain.

We were in the backyard and he was giving me a piggyback in the first one, both of us laughing at the camera. The next was where we were both on the grass after overbalancing, and Em was being 'attacked' by our dog that was washing his face.

I crack a small smile at the memory. Those had been good times. Times when Dad hadn't been sick. Times when I had been happy.

I close the album as we pull into the driveway.

Sitting on my bed 20 minutes later, PJ's on and hair in a study bun, I check my phone after being in the hospital.

I frown when I see I have a voice message. Who had called me?

"Hola Vicson. It is Em. Happy Birthday! I hope you have a good day and we will talk soon, si? Take care, Angelito."

I smile at the sound of the heavy accented voice of Emmanuel. He had remembered, and even thought to call me.

Then my stomach did a little flip.

One year until I marry him. 356 days. 257 sleeps. One year.

Thankyou for reading!

This is based on my story, with a little bit of creative license here and there, but not much at all.

Please review. Constructive criticism is always welcome. More to come soon...