"End of my shift."
While most people love returning home after a long day at work, Maddie preferred the quiet of the Tipton Hotel over the loud arguments of her parents. And when they weren't arguing, they were asking her why she hasn't moved out yet, why she hasn't found a man yet, etc, etc, etc. Yes, she was 31 and still living with her parents. No, she had not found a man yet but neither of those things were her fault! She had planned on moving out and going to college so many years ago but her parents could not afford it (shocker!). So, she had to take online classes. And she had dated plenty of men but they were all so lame! They were all either snooty douchebags who were too cool for Jane Austen or guys who only liked her because she reminded them of that hot blonde chick from High School Musical. She couldn't even remember the last time she went on a satisfying date.
"Well, why don't you have any friends?"
"Well, Mom, I did have friends. Plenty of friends. But they all left me to live on a fucking cruise. I even saved up money to visit them one time and they haven't spoken to me since!"
Of course she would never admit to that. She would lie and say that she still texted London and The Twins, and that they would try to visit her soon. The S.S. Tipton had been defunct for years. If they actually wanted to check in on her, they would've done so by now. But, whatever.
"I'm not bitter or anything" she tells herself. "Zack and Cody probably made new friends, Moseby was always just my boss, and London...Well, I guess I was never more to her than that poor chick who worked at her dad's hotel. Y'know, it's funny...I could've sworn I was more to her than that."
Maddie immediately realized she must stop this train of thought before she started bawling in the middle of the Tipton lobby. Because then her boss, Esteban, would come over and ask her what was wrong and she didn't want to put all her problems on him. No, the mature thing would be to do what she always did: suck it up and read Pride & Prejudice in her bed for the 519th time (but who's counting). Then again, she could always catch Carey Martin's show.
"Things aren't too busy so I could probably get a good seat." she thought to herself. Plus, she never got tired of watching Ms. Martin perform. Unlike the rest of the Tipton Hotel, Carey Martin has only gotten more beautiful with age though her gray hair and world-weary voice made her seem much older than she actually was. She had also always been there for Maddie since she was a teenager, becoming somewhat of a surrogate mother. Lord knows, ever since her own kids moved out, she needed to fulfill her maternal instinct somehow.
Whenever Ms. Martin came back from visiting them, she would always walk up to Maddie's stand and tell her:
"The Twins said hi."
Maddie knew this wasn't true, but the fact that Ms. Martin went out of her way to lie so Maddie felt better meant a lot. She and Esteban were always looking out for...it suddenly occurred to Maddie that Esteban was not at his desk, leaving all the hotel room keys unintended.
Maddie had frequently thought about this exact scenario, usually on one of the slow shifts where there wasn't much else to focus on. Of all the many tiny keys that adorned the wall behind Esteban's desk, there was only that caught Maddie's attention. The key to the Tipton Penthouse Suite. Without missing a beat, Maddie quickly scuttled over behind the desk and snatched that key before Esteban could come back. She scurried even quicker into one of the Tipton elevators and made sure it took her to the toppest floor. A wave of exhilaration had come over Maddie. She had been inside the Tipton Penthouse Suite many times as a teenager. But that was many years ago. Ever since the suite's only occupant left for sea, the only people allowed in there were the cleaning crew. Maddie wasn't sure what she was expecting to happen once she unlocked that door. Maybe she was hoping revisiting that bed room, where she had spent many nights, would give her some kind of closure. But there was an even sadder part of her that hoped against hope that she would open that door and find London Tipton reading an expensive shopping catalogue. Maybe London was hiding out in there to avoid all the publicity. Yeah, that's it. London's Dad had taken a controversial job at the White House. Maybe he put her there to keep her safe until everything blew over.
"London has been living in this room in secret for years and that's why she's never called me!"
Maddie's mind had run away from her. She was finally at the door. She slowly put in the key, turned the lock, and opened the door to find…...a dark empty penthouse suite covered in cobwebs. The cleaning crew had been slacking.
Maddie never returned home that night. Instead, she spent most of the night sobbing into London Tipton's expensive pillows.