Ten years ago, on my seventh birthday, my father disappeared.

No, he didn't leave, leaving would imply suitcases and empty drawers, and the late birthday cards filled with ten-dollar bills stuffed inside. Leaving would imply he was unhappy with mother and me, or that he found a new love elsewhere. None of that was true. He also did not die, because we would have heard about it. There was no car crash, no body, no police mingling about the scene of a brutal killer. It all happened very quickly.

On my seventh birthday, my father took me to the park, one of my favorite places to go at the time. It was a lonely little park in the middle of nowhere, with a running trail and a misty green pond surrounded by pine trees. We were at the edge of the pond, feeding the ducks, when I hear the jingle of an ice cream truck in the parking lot over the hill. When I begged my father to get me a Fudgesicle, he laughed, handed me a few bills, and said he would catch up with me when I dashed off.

That was the last time I saw him.

Later, when the police searched the area, they discovered his shoes at the edge of the water, but nothing else. They sent divers into the pond, but it was barely ten feet down, and they found nothing but branches and mud at the bottom. My father…disappeared without a trace.

For months afterward, I had reoccurring nightmares about standing on top of that hill, looking down and seeing my father walk into the pond. As the water closed over his head, I could hear the ice cream truck singing in the background, a slow, eerie song with no words I could almost understand. Every time I tried to listen to them, however, I would wake up.

Not long after my father's disappearance, my mother began drinking and gambling. She would come home with different behaviors, one day coming home with a present for me and the happiest smile on her face, but most days, she would just tell me to go to my room. Eventually, my mother couldn't afford to pay for anything. She gambled away all our savings money and borrowed from banks and the wealthy. When she was thrown in jail, my aunt took me under her wing and we moved out to a tiny hick town in the middle of the Louisiana bayou. I always knew deep down, my mother was drinking to get away from something.

It would be ten years before I discovered what.

My name…is Zella Lucious.

In less than twenty-four hours, I'll be seventeen years old. My sweet sixteen wasn't as great as I planned. It was suppose to be the age when girls become princesses and fall in love and go to dances and proms and such. Countless stories, songs, and poems have been written about that age, but not mine. I was almost seventeen years old.

I knew it wouldn't be that way for me.

The morning before my birthday, I woke up, showered and rummaged through my dresser for something to wear. Normally, I'd just grab whatever was clean-ish on the floor, but today was special.

I was new to Sweet Amoris still, but there was someone who had caught my eye.

Today was the day Castiel Valentino would finally notice me. I wanted to look perfect. My wardrobe was average, it wasn't dainty or lacking of popular attire, but I had nice clothes. Well, I guess Castiel will have to be wowed with my natural grace and charm, unless I don't make an idiot of myself in front of him.

I finally slipped into a nice pair of blue skinny jeans, a white tank top under a gold and red flowered shirt with a white laced cardigan, before dragging a brush through my jet black hair. My hair is straight and thick, unlike some girls with very fine hair that did that floating thing where it looked like they jabbed their finger into an electrical outlet. It was also long, almost down to my waist. Fixing a headband into my hair I went downstairs.

Ethan, my new 'uncle', sat the table, drinking coffee and leafing through the morning newspaper, which reads more like our high school gossip column than a real news source. "Five legged calf born on Patterson's farm," It screamed; you get the idea. "Where's Auntie?" I asked, opening the cabinet doors, Ethan ignored me and sipped his coffee.

I scoured the boxes of cereal for the one I liked, wondering if my Aunt remembered to pick it up.

Of course she hadn't.

Nothing but fiber squares and disgusting raisin bran. Was it so hard to remember Coco Pebbles? "Where did Auntie go?" I asked, a bit louder this time. Ethan jerked his head form the newspaper and finally lookd at me. His lazy brown eyes, like those of a cow, registered a mild surprise. "Oh, hello, Zelda." He said calmly. Ethan always called me Zelda, it was close to Zella, but I wasn't that helpless elf princess.

I sighed a repeated my question for the third time.

"She went to an early quilting club today so you have to take the bus to school." He murmured, retreating back to his paper. "She won't be back for another few hours."

I always took the bus. I just wanted to remind Auntie that she was supposed to take me to get my driver's permit this weekend. With Ethan, it was hopeless. I could tell him something fourteen different times and he'd forget the moment I left the room. It wasn't that Ethan was malicious, or even stupid, but Auntie seemed truly happy with him but every time I spoke to him, he would look at me with genuine surprise, as if he'd forgotten I lived here too. I grabbed a bagel from the top of the fridge and chewed it, keeping an eye on the clock. Alistair, our Egyptian Mau, wandered in and rubbed against my legs. I kneeled down and scratched behind his ears and he purrs happily. I loved this cat.

"Hey, Ethan, I bet you can't guess what tomorrow is." I say with a smile on my face. "Hmmm?" He didn't look up from his paper. "I don't know, Zel. If you have plans for tomorrow, discuss it with your aunt." He says and that struck me angrily. I knew it. Auntie and Ethan would completely forget my birthday tomorrow. I wouldn't get a card, or a cake, or even a "happy birthday" from anyone.

Back in my room, I grabbed books, homework, gym clothes and the Ipod I spent a year saving up for, despite Ethan's disdain of those "useless, brain-numbing gadgets."

Ethan dislikes technology and acts as if it was still the eighteenth century, but I was glad my aunt let me bring my Xbox to entertain me, it was the only thing that kept me sane. I loved video gaming. I loved video gaming so much that sometimes, I wished my life would become something as amazing as those games.