Her boss’ face twisted in horror as the homeless man revealed his identity. She watched his smug grin disappear as soon as he realized what had happened.
He’d lost more than his reputation; he’d lost everything. And he was aware of it. She had never imagined that a simple act of kindness could have such far-reaching consequences.
Traci Bamm from California had big dreams, but they would have to wait.
Working long shifts as a waitress was just enough to pay the bills, and she barely had enough time to attend her nighttime classes. Still, today she was thankful for what she had. After all, her situation could be a lot worse.
A Sad Situation
Traci noticed a homeless man who had been sitting outside the restaurant she worked at. He’d been there a few days now, and seeing him broke her heart.
Maybe it was the way he shared his food with the stray cats and dogs in the alleyway… or the way he always smiled and greeted her when she walked past. There was something about him that touched her deeply. She wanted to help, but her boss would try to put a stop to that.
Michelin Star Restaurant
Traci worked as a waitress at one of California’s most prestigious restaurants. The chef had two Michelin Stars under his belt and was determined to keep them.
He was also the owner. Although his food was excellent, he had an inflated ego, refused to delegate, and micromanaged his staff with an iron fist. He was the stuff of nightmares. As long as Traci stayed out of his way, it suited her just fine.
She was studying to be a chef. Although she loved working around food, her job was a means to an end – the experience she was getting in the Michelin Star restaurant was invaluable.
But, when she saw the homeless man who had taken up residence outside, working in such a high-end restaurant was also a major source of guilt for Traci.
The restaurant was booming. Rich diners would arrive dressed to the nines and had no qualms about dropping hundreds of dollars for the most lavish meals.
Traci couldn’t bear the thought that, while the rich dined out and ordered Champagne, a homeless man slept just a few feet away on the street with an empty belly. She had to do something.
Life On The Streets
At first glance, the homeless man looked like any other man who had fallen on hard times. But Traci noticed that he always greeted everyone who passed with a smile and tried to engage with them.
The strange thing was, he didn’t ask anyone for money, a job, food, or clothes – he genuinely looked like he just wanted to speak to somebody. One day, Traci couldn’t ignore her feelings anymore.
Coming Up With A Plan
More than anything else, Traci wanted to help the homeless man. But she had no money to give him – all of it went to her studies and rent.
Since she made and ate most of her meals at the restaurant (a perk of her job), she didn’t even have extra food to give him. But she knew what she wanted to do. The only problem was her boss – who wouldn’t even permit her to give him food scraps. He could never find out.
A Labor Of Love
Traci wanted her kind gesture to be a labor of love. She couldn’t give him money, but there was one thing that only she could do for him.
Since she was an aspiring chef, it made sense to put her skills to use and show the homeless man that someone cared enough to make him a meal. Getting the ingredients would be the risky part.
Taking A Huge Risk
Traci planned on borrowing a few ingredients from the restaurant’s stores and replacing them when she got her paycheck. She wanted the homeless man to taste something luxurious… something he had never tasted before.
If she was caught stealing before she could replace what she’d taken, she could be fired or arrested. Her boss wouldn’t even think twice. But now that the idea was firmly in her head, there was no going back.
Traci made sure her boss was preoccupied with a busy lunch service before she enacted her plan. She could hear the frantic clattering of pots and pans as he barked orders and swore at his sous chef. It was now or never.
She snuck into the pantry and selected two black truffles, a handful of fresh chanterelle mushrooms, eggs, and a bottle of Marcassin Chardonnay. She’d probably have to pick up a few more shifts so she could afford to replace them, but it would be worth it. Then, she heard her boss’ voice.
Traci’s heart began to pound out of her chest. Her boss was right outside, and she couldn’t escape. If he saw what she had, it would all be over.
She wasn’t even allowed to be in here. She prepared for the worst – she’d be screamed at, fired on the spot, and possibly hauled to jail for stealing. She was trapped.
Traci’s first instinct was to tuck her ill-gotten goods into her pockets and apron, but the bottle wouldn’t fit. The neck hung out accusingly.
Her eyes darted around, looking for somewhere to hide if her boss came in. She tried not to make a sound as she listened to his heavy footsteps. When she heard him walk away, she almost cried with relief. When she was sure he was gone, she dashed out the door.
Cooking From Her Heart
Traci hid the expensive ingredients in a bag in her locker for the duration of her shift. When it was finally over, she couldn’t get out of the restaurant fast enough.
As she lovingly fried the chanterelle mushrooms and kneaded the pasta dough in her apartment, she couldn’t stop thinking about what the homeless man’s face would look like when she presented him with the meal. Little did she know, the man hadn’t been entirely truthful to her.
Delivering The Meal
Traci plated up the homemade pasta and shaved the black truffles on top. She got out a crystal wineglass and packed everything neatly in a basket. Tonight, the homeless man would eat like a king.
Her heart fluttered as she rounded the corner, but she was relieved to see that the man was still there.
“I’m Traci,” a nervous Traci smiled at the man. This close, she could see that he was of Middle Eastern descent.
She thought stealing the ingredients from the restaurant was hard enough. Approaching and talking to him was more challenging. Still, she’d pressed on. She was too far in to give up now. Little did she know the kind of trouble she was brewing for herself.
A Good Man
The man returned Traci’s greeting. But he was more pleasant than she could ever imagine. He asked her how her night and commute to work that morning were.
He even complimented her on her dress, saying she looked like she was about to own whatever the day would throw her way. But behind his smile and compliments was a secret that would shatter Traci’s world.
I Have Seen You
Traci told the man about her experience at the restaurant, stating that she’d seen the man outside for weeks. She couldn’t handle the thought of him being alone here, so she wanted to help.
She presented her basket and showed the man its contents. The disbelief in his eyes told her everything she needed to know.
Is This Mine?
The man couldn’t believe what was going on. He asked over and over again if the food was his. When Traci said yes, he dug in, savoring everything she had cooked for him.
He started with the wine, taking a whiff from the glass before swirling it around and sipping. He swooshed it inside his mouth for a few seconds and swallowed. But then he did the unexpected.
A Different Man
The man ate the food in the most refined manner Traci had ever seen. He even wiped his mouth before talking to her, and each word he spoke showed that he was a different man from what he was letting on.
The man ate each bite with closed eyes, smiling and grinning. He complimented Traci’s cooking, telling her it had been a while since he tasted such good food. But there was more.
He’s An Expert
He commented on Traci’s ingredients, telling her what she could have used more or less. He even had something to say about her wine pairing, terming it a perfect choice for such a meal.
When he was done, Traci packed up everything and hurried into the restaurant. She’d spend the rest of the week stealing ingredients and feeding the man. But each time she did so, her mind would race with questions.
With each meal Traci offered, the homeless man would show expert prowess in fine dining. Something wasn’t adding up. The man’s knowledge was more than that of the ordinary Joe.
Traci couldn’t understand it. She thanked the man for enjoying her cooking and quickly collected everything when he was done. She was sure he was hiding something from her.
The Questions Pile Up
Traci started spending her days wondering who the man was. She couldn’t put her finger on it. She replayed everything she’d seen and heard. Who was the man, and why was he masquerading as homeless?
One day, Traci decided she’d question him after her shift. Maybe the man was under the employ of her boss, and she was stealing food to feed him.
Who Are You?
Traci raced to the man as soon as her shift was over. “Who are you,” she asked with her brows drawn close. She couldn’t believe she’d been stealing ingredients for him without knowing who he was.
The man smiled, asking her to take a deep breath. The sun was already setting behind him, lighting the street a deep orange. The man would spill everything.
“I used to be someone important,” the man began. “From overseas. I loved life’s good things: money, big houses, good food, parties, and fast cars.”
His smile waned, “But I was sad and miserable. When you have status, suddenly, you cease being human. Everybody treats you like an object. Everything slowly loses meaning.” But that didn’t explain why he was living on the street.
Power And Status
“I left everything behind,” continued the man. “I donated what I could and moved to America to be this,” he patted his rags as if to emphasize the point.
“Without anything to my name, power, and status, I could finally feel human again. Seen.” His lips curled, and his glossy eyes shot past Traci as if he was looking back at his past. What he said next left her speechless.
“I have been out in the world for two years,” the man shared. “In all that time, you are the only one who’s approached me out of her own volition.”
“More than that, you went out of your way to cook me delicious meals. And don’t think I didn’t notice the expensive ingredients you used,” he smiled. “I have a proposition.”
An Offer You Can’t Refuse
“Eating your food for the past few days has given me an idea,” the man said. “How would you feel about running your own place? A restaurant dedicated to feeding the homeless and needy?”
Traci stepped back. She tilted her head to the side, wondering if any of this was genuinely happening. “I know how outrageous it sounds,” the man chuckled. “Can I use your phone, please?”
Traci handed her phone over, and the man Googled something before handing it back. On her screen was a picture of some Middle Eastern oligarch and royalty- a man in his early thirties with the exact likeness of the homeless man before her.
“I still have reach back home,” he said. “I could fund your project, help you build, and stand with you until you are strong enough to run independently.”
Kindness All Over The World
Traci couldn’t believe it. The man asked for her phone again and called someone. The next day, Traci didn’t find him in his usual spot on the street. But some hours into her shift, a convoy of expensive SUVs pulled up the restaurant’s driveway.
The homeless man walked out of one of them. He was clean and sharply dressed, surrounded by bodyguards and women dressed in suits. He asked for Traci by name, saying, “Come help me spread kindness to the world.”
Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.