Con Cariño (I Care About You)
by Aeris Tiniel Mirime

Notes: The title literally means "With Care" but a better translation is "I Care About You."
Disclaimer: Neither the Suite Life of Zack and Cody, nor the characters/events belong to me. They are property of Disney.

It was Maddie's sixteenth birthday. A time that most girls look forward to. But Maddie had been dreading this day all week. Dreading coming to work, because she knew she would have to see all the preparations for London's party - the party which was going to make hers seem like a total failure. She came through the front doors of the hotel, carrying her work clothes on a hangar. She did not stop to chat with her fellow employeees as she usually did, but headed straght for the restroom to change. She was going to get her job done quickly and clock out early, so she could prepare for her "fabulous" party. But she wouldn't make it there without at least one conversation.

"Hey there, Maddie!" Esteban called to her in his usual cheerful tone. "Happy birthday!"

"Thanks, but I don't see what's so happy about it," she said gloomily.

"Aw Maddie, you shouldn't talk like that," Esteban said. "I know Miss London is having her party tonight also, but think about the things that you are happy about. Your family will be at your party with you, and - "

"But you guys here are just as important to me," Maddie interrupted.

Seeing the sadness in her eyes, Esteban knew he had to do something to make her feel better. "Well," he started, "I can't speak for anyone else, but I want you to know that I would be there for you if..."

" didn't have to work tonight," Maddie finished for him.

"Sadly, yes. I am working overtime for Miss London's party."

"Yeah, well thanks anyway," she muttered, and stalked off for her counter. But she was stopped by Esteban's hand on her arm.

"Wait, I have something for you," he said, producing a small box gift wrapped in glossy white paper. "It's your birthday present."

"My birthday present? she asked, looking at him in surprise. She opened the box to reveal a shining silver bracelet with an "M" charm dangling from the chain. Shegasped, then smiled for what was probably the first time all day.

"Now that's the smile I like to see," he told her.

"Thank you Esteban. It's lovely!" she exclaimed, fastening it onto her right wrist. "I'm going to wear this tonight and even though you won't be there, everytime I see it I'll think of you."

"I'm glad," he said, pleased by her reaction. "Now go on and get to work."

"I will. Thanks again!" she cried, and scurried to the counter -a merked difference from the angry stomp she exhibited a few minutes previous. Her sixteenth birthday had just become a little bit sweeter, thanks to a thoughtful gift from a caring friend.