When the homeless man revealed who he really was, her boss’ face twisted in horror. She watched the smug sneer slide right off his face as the realization dawned on him.
He hadn’t just lost his reputation. He had lost everything. And he knew it. She had never dreamed that a simple act of kindness would have so many 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. She was dead set on making the delicious meal, but she couldn’t get something off of her mind.
She got home in a hurry and prepped for her cooking. But she kept it in her memory, the interaction with the homeless man.
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.
But Traci would soon learn some dire information that she wished she had before. 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.
It filled her heart with warmth just thinking about how the man would feel. Maybe he would even cry, and if he did, so would she.
Relieved To See Him
She walked back to where she first saw him. She was excited to finally give the man a meal he could look forward to.
Her heart fluttered as she rounded the corner, but she was relieved to see that the man was still there. But she still barely knew the man and would soon learn he wasn’t who he said he was.
“I’m Traci,” a nervous Traci smiled at the man. This close, she could see that he was of Middle Eastern descent. Traci felt anxiety flood her system. She was shy at the best of times, but this was on another level.
She thought stealing the ingredients from the restaurant was hard enough. Approaching and talking to him was more challenging. She just had to muster up the courage to talk to him.
Didn’t Go All That Way For Nothing
Still, she’d pressed on. She hadn’t cooked the meal and came all this way for nothing. She was too far in to give up now. But she couldn’t shake a strange feeling that something was wrong.
Her gut was screaming for her to turn and walk the other way. But she assumed it was her social anxiety getting the better of her. Little did she know that she was in more trouble than she ever could’ve imagined. What would this man do to her?
A Good Man
The man returned Traci’s greeting. But he was more pleasant than she could ever imagine. Too pleasant if you had to ask someone else. He asked her how her night and commute to work that morning were. But her anxiety was getting the better of her, and she missed the finer details.
The conversation quickly melted away all of her concerns. His smile reassured her, and the concerns she had felt just moments before quickly disappeared. She got the impression that he was a good man. However, he had secrets, and they would affect her before she knew it.
He even complimented her on her dress, saying she looked like she was about to own whatever the day would throw her way. She blushed. She wasn’t used to people complimenting her all that much.
She appreciated the compliments. In her mind, there was no doubt he was quite the gentleman back in his day. 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 would make it her mission to make sure that he was no longer down on his luck but had someone to look out for him. She would be that person and was more than willing to. But there was more to the man than met the eye. That was something she would learn the hard way.
Telling Her What She Needed To Know
Traci was impatient and could no longer keep the contents of her basket a secret. She knew he would freak out when he saw what she had. But she never expected him to react the way he did.
With a shaky hand, she presented her basket and showed the man its contents. The disbelief in his eyes told her everything she needed to know. Or so she thought. What did the man have planned for the aspiring chef who walked right into his trap?
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.
Traci could tell that the man hadn’t seen such a fantastic meal in a very long time. His eyes grew wide as he saw the bottle of wine that was in the basket. That was when she realized that she might’ve made a mistake. What had she done?
A Taste Of Wine
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.
It would have her questioning who he really was and how he got into this situation. Had she just made the biggest mistake of her life?
Traci doubted herself now. Had she made a mistake giving the man wine? She knew a lot of the homeless population ended up in an unfortunate situation because of addiction.
Sometimes, that addiction was alcohol. She remembered reading a news article about a man who was a gentle husband and father before he drank. Was this him? Was his problem also related to alcohol? Or did his secrets run deeper?
Traci remembered the article explaining that the man had been kicked out of his own home because his drinking turned him into a monster. She felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. Had she just unleashed something on her streets?
Traci was right about the fact that the man would become someone completely different once he tried the wine. But she never would’ve expected him to change the way he did.
Traci barely knew the man and maybe shouldn’t have assumed everything would be okay. Re-introducing him to alcoholism was the last thing on her mind when she put it in the basket.
She just wanted to do something nice for him. But the transformation that took place before her eyes would leave a lasting impact on her for years to come. He truly would turn into a different kind of man, and it was all her fault. What had she done?
A Different Man
The man ate the food in the most refined manner Traci had ever seen. She couldn’t believe what she was witnessing. She expected him to turn into a monster once he drank the wine and started eating, but it was the complete opposite.
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. But this incident was just scratching the surface. It showed that he wasn’t who everyone thought he was. But what did that mean? Who was he really?
Compliments To Her Cooking
It was clear that this man may have ended up in poverty, but that’s not where he started. Was he the heir to a wealthy family that was then swindled out of their fortune? Or was he some kind of royal?
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 to this situation than met the eye. Traci would uncover the truth soon enough.
He’s An Expert
He commented on Traci’s ingredients, telling her where 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.
A shiver shot down her spine. She could never have expected him to be able to tell her things like that. He seemed to know even more about food and wine than she did. That left only one question in her mind. Who was he, really?
When he was done, Traci packed up everything and hurried into the restaurant. But as she finished up the rest of her shift, she couldn’t help but think about how different the man was.
The entire time she worked, she was distracted by the events that unfolded earlier. She couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more to this homeless man. He was clearly hiding something from her, and she needed to get it out of him. Her need to help was quickly replaced by a burning curiosity. And she would do whatever it took to uncover his secrets.
Thoughts Of Confrontation
It was clear that he wasn’t the unassuming homeless man she thought he was. He was a fascinating character that seemed to deserve better than he had. Not that anyone deserved to be homeless, but something seemed unique about him.
She knew she couldn’t let her anxiety get the best of her this time. She had to figure out who he was once and for all. But to do so, she had to ask him directly, and she’d have to make sure he wasn’t lying. Would she succeed?
Asking About Him
Traci finished her shift and got ready to head home. But before doing that, she spent a few minutes asking her colleagues if they knew anything about the homeless man outside.
She asked around, assuming that they would at least know something about him or his situation. He was sitting across from the restaurant every day. Maybe he had a history with the place? There was only one way to find out for sure.
Met With Disappointment
She asked everyone at the restaurant but was only met with disappointment. None of her coworkers had ever interacted with the man. Some of them didn’t even know that a homeless man sat across from their place of work. Traci found that disheartening.
She couldn’t think of anyone else to ask, but she felt it strange that no one had even noticed the man with the secrets outside. What was really going on?
With no information forthcoming, Traci counted her losses and let the topic go. Still, she made sure to do another run in the restaurant’s store, grabbing a few supplies for her next masterpiece.
Walking out of the restaurant, she found the man sitting in his spot. With a quick goodbye, she hurried home, ready to start the night.
A Busy Night
The night was busy for Traci, who, after reaching her house, took a quick shower and started preparing her meals. For her dinner, she went with a simple ramen bowl, throwing in her favorite condiments to create the explosive flavor she was going for.
After dinner, she cleaned up the kitchen and laid out the ingredients she’d brought from the restaurant. It was time for her to cook for her new friend.
Wanting To Test Him
Traci decided that she needed to figure out more about the man before she confronted him. She hoped to find that out through another reaction from him. She brainstormed and decided the best bet would be through another meal.
Now she just had to find one that would prompt feedback from the homeless man. Then, she’d find out what he was hiding.
The Ultimate Food
For Traci’s next project, she wanted to make the ultimate Beef Wellington with red wine sauce. Laid before her were slices of prosciutto, chestnut mushrooms, beef filet, flour, eggs, red wine, and olive oil, all of which she’d taken from the restaurant.
This would be the fanciest meal she could cook on her own. This would surely seal the deal and crack the case wide open. At least, she thought it would.
Getting The Other Ingredients
She grabbed the rest of the ingredients, a roasting tray, and a food processor. She was about to have some fun in her kitchen. If the man felt like a king while eating her last meal, she’d ensure he felt like an emperor while eating the next.
She was nearly finished, and she couldn’t help but feel like she had accomplished something. Traci knew he wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation of the finer things in life. It was a lot of effort, but it would be worth it if she got the answers she sought.
Going To Bed
After toiling in the kitchen for hours, Traci finally went to bed. Her apartment was blanketed with the most savory and sweet aroma she’d ever experienced. She couldn’t wait for the man to taste her food.
As she had done before, she packed the food neatly in her basket, along with the Broccolini she’d spent the morning roasting, some parsnip purée, and asparagus.
She spent thirty minutes at her post before going for lunch. With a wide smile, she carried her basket to the homeless man. He waved at her as she approached, clearly happy to see her again.
He couldn’t believe that she’d brought food for him again. He received it with his smile holding fast and even asked if she could join him this time.
Eating With Him
Traci had never thought about eating the meals she made for the man with him. Yet, she knew the only thing more heartwarming than cooking for someone was sharing the meal with them.
She nodded eagerly, and the man unwrapped the hot food. He gasped as the sweet aroma hit his nose, eternally thankful for all Traci had done for him. But like before, his whole demeanor changed the second the food entered his mouth.
He’s Two In One
The man before Traci was no longer homeless. His mannerisms were completely different, from how he held his cutlery to how he drank from his glass.
But although he seemed different, the kindness in his eyes never wavered. As he had the previous day, he held conversations with Traci that made her question everything she thought she knew about him.
Today, the man asked about Traci’s dreams and aspirations. She told him that she wanted to make food that people would eat and smile about. She wanted to bring joy into the world with her cooking.
The man said he expected her to say she wanted to become a celebrated chef or something across those lines. He told her she had what it took to make that dream a reality. So why didn’t she want it?
Passion And Fame
Traci shared that although most chefs were passionate about food, the fame got to their heads, and they forgot what made them follow that path in the first place. Although she saw nothing wrong with being a celebrated chef, it had never been in her cards.
“I’d rather own a food cart that serves everyone at an affordable price than a five-star restaurant that bars people from enjoying the food,” she said with a smile. The man couldn’t believe it.
His Opinion Of Her
“You are rare, Traci,” he said mid-chew. His lips curled as he swallowed the food. “I have never met someone like you.”
Their conversations always went down that path, with Traci surprising the man with her answers and the man smiling before saying she was rare. As for Traci, she’d spend the rest of the week stealing ingredients and feeding him. 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 about whom 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. That would land her in a position she never thought she’d be in.
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. He was about to spill all the beans.
“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. I could be seen.” His lips curled, and his glossy eyes shot past Traci as if he were 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 to 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. Afterward, he bade her goodnight as if he hadn’t just turned her world upside down.
Unlike most evenings where Traci would be the one to leave him on the street, the man got up, collected his effects, and left a dumbfounded Traci there. What was happening?
Traci couldn’t sleep that night. She couldn’t even cook for the next day’s meal, although she had all her ingredients.
As she lay on her bed, two things became clear. She needed to come clean about what she’d been doing to her boss. She knew she’d be fired or possibly end up in police custody. But that was the consequence of her actions.
Turning Her Uniform In
She woke up early the next day and hurried to work. But the homeless man was not in his usual spot on the street. Traci hurried inside and asked if she could speak with her boss.
She had already turned in her uniform, knowing being fired would be the least she’d receive for her activities. But something happened before her boss fired her.
Traci’s boss was fuming when he heard what she’d been doing. He was about to fire her when a convoy of expensive SUVs pulled into the restaurant’s driveway.
A solemn quietness took over the restaurant, with everyone’s eyes glued to the vehicles. Traci already knew what was happening, but she couldn’t believe it.
The homeless man walked out of one of the vehicles. 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.”
Traci’s boss’ mouth fell open as Traci walked away with the man. She called a few of her close workmates, and each dropped what they were doing to join her.
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.