In a state of frozen inaction, Darell Scott stood completely motionless. Neither his thoughts nor his words were clear to him. He stared blankly at the $100,000 cheque he was grasping uneasily, seemingly provoking him to make a move.
The eight-year-old Jonathan Smith had been a close friend of Darell's for months, but Darell never could have imagined that their relationship would reach such a point. Was this a blessing in disguise? Or was it something that would end up changing his life forever?
His Go-To Eatery
In November 2018, Darell surprisingly learned that the waffle house he loved so dearly was now up for sale. Despite working all his life to accumulate savings to buy his very own house, he couldn't pass up this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
In spite of the fact that it would cost him everything he owned, it seemed like the ideal solution for him.
An Everyday Occurrence
Darell opened his checkbook right there and then, and over the following months, he had spent many hours renovating the place into an establishment he could be truly proud of. He met Jonathan, and his mother, Teresa, soon after.
Due to their frequent visits, Darell knew them as regulars. It didn't take long for him to start blossoming a friendship with 8-year-old Jonathan, with whom he shared a love of waffles.
Served Them Himself
Darell always made serving little Jonathan and his mother his primary concern when they arrived.
In addition to cracking jokes with the young man, he looked forward to listening to Jonathan's various interesting stories. Darell served them himself for other reasons tool. Both of these patrons were absolutely essential to the survival of his store. It would be impossible for him to make ends meet without their continual support.
The family never once gave Darell any reason to be apprehensive. It was always an absolute pleasure to work with them, and they tipped more than generously, especially when the father was around.
As a long-time trucker, he spent the majority of his time on the road. As a result, he always made the most of the little time he was able to spend with his family.
While Darell owned the shop, he slowly got to know the entire family individually. It was a great place to celebrate joyous occasions.
His experience with them had always been positive, even when the family was at their lowest point. Always making sure they had everything they could ask for, he was always a shoulder for them to cry on. He couldn't understand why all that changed on one harrowing 23rd of April.
Strange Early Hours
Theresa was in a very talkative mood when Jonathan and his mom arrived one particular morning. Her conversation with Darell delved far deeper than he had expected.
In the beginning, it was just chit-chat, but soon, Theresa would reveal her hidden motives.
The Hard Truth
Darell started hesitantly answering a series of extremely private questions, and there was no sign of her letting up. The questions would only get increasingly personal and uncomfortable for him to answer. In opposition to his many attempts to deviate from the overly-personal topic at hand, she would instantly rehash it and demand a response.
Darell kept a few skeletons in his closet, that he would do anything to prevent from becoming the talk of the town.
Lost For Words
Darell stood there reluctantly; he had absolutely no idea what to do. His words were totally ineffective against her, and he had no idea how to get the overly-inquisitive Theresa to respect his boundaries and halt her swarm of inappropriate questions.
As one of his best customers, he couldn't afford to lose her patronage. This was a truly challenging situation. Would Darell endure his impending exposure by allowing her to continue on; in the name of retaining his number-one customer? Or would he stand his ground and make his now infringed-upon boundaries known?
Lost The Battle
In defeat, he sat alongside Theresa and begrudgingly explained all that she would ask. He embarrassingly confessed to her that he had optimistically purchased the store and moved to Carberry with the very last of his hard-earned savings.
The situation wasn't going as well as he had hoped. All that mattered was that he was able to make ends meet.
After that, Theresa and her son left. Darell was shaken by the discussion, but he was sure he’d feel better in a couple of days.
However, that didn’t happen, and it wasn’t because of what he had exposed. Or was it? Darell was about to discover something that would have him questioning everything that had happened that day.
Quiet Few Weeks
Weeks had passed since Darell had that discussion with Theresa, and he hadn’t seen her or Jonathan since.
For any other restaurant manager, that wouldn’t be a concern, but for Darell, it was. They would usually come by every Saturday, and they often visited during the week as well. But it was like they vanished into thin air.
They Stopped Coming
A few more weeks passed, and by that time, Darell was incredibly concerned. The young mother and her small son were all he had in mind.
At first, he would come up with something that sounded logical, like ‘they went on vacation,’ and that would ease his mind for a few days. But by this point, he knew that there was far more to the story than he was letting himself believe.
He Wondered What Happened
Darell was starting to get concerned, and that happened because only two options remained. Either something terrible happened to them. Or his discussion with Theresa managed to push his best customers away.
He didn’t know what it was, but he knew he needed to act. However, he would receive the surprise of a lifetime before things could get to that.
One Busy Morning
Darell started formulating a plan the next morning. But his planning was interrupted when the first customers walked into the store.
Within an hour, the entire store was filled with people. It was unlike anything Darell had ever seen before. And that presented a whole new set of challenges. Darell didn’t have the manpower to deal with so many people.
Running Like Nuts
At that point, he was a two-man crew. He was out serving customers while his wife was in the kitchen preparing meals. And there was no way they could handle a fully packed waffle house.
Darell was running like a madman. He was collecting one table’s orders while he was delivering food to another. It was insane.
The Door Opened
But then something happened that had Darell’s eyes glued on the door. The bell rang, and he saw little Jonathan rushing in. He was followed by his mother and father.
Darell let out a sigh of relief and immediately approached them. Theresa greeted him as if nothing had happened. And he quickly pulled a table from the back so they would have a place to sit.
The Usual Service
Since Theresa acted like nothing had happened, Darell did the same. He gave them the same service they usually received. And tried to keep the other customers happy at the same time.
But that was no easy task, and Darell couldn’t help but wonder how he was going to pull it all off. The complaints were already starting to come in, and if he didn’t act fast, he would lose a lot of money.
Something Strange Was Going On
As Darell was collecting and dropping off food, he realized that something weird was going on with the Smith family. Theresa kept looking at him while she was talking to her husband.
And little Jonathan kept pointing to the bathroom. Darell wondered what they were talking about, but deep down, he knew it wasn’t a good sign.
Theresa’s husband, Angelo, gave Darell a look that sent a chill down his spine. And because of that, Darell became incredibly nervous.
But when the man stood up and walked to the bathroom, Darell felt the blood freezing in his veins. At that moment, his biggest secret was hiding in there, and he couldn’t afford to have it revealed, especially not in front of all his customers.
Couldn’t Stop Him
Darell tried his best to stop Angelo, but there was nothing he could do. The man was too fast, and there were customers calling from every corner.
Darell just had to accept his fate and live with the consequences of his actions. He never meant for things to go that far. He never wanted the town folk to know what he was up to. But there was no stopping the truth now.
More Customers Flood In
With a heavy heart, Darell kept serving his customers, but to his astonishment, more people flooded through the door. It was so bad that he didn’t have enough chairs or tables to offer them.
Darell could tell trouble was on the horizon, and it would be coming from different fronts. But there was only so much he could do.
The youngsters who had just arrived took a seat wherever they could find out. And Darnell was afraid the rest of his customers would complain about that.
But they didn’t seem to care. They just greeted each other and started placing their orders. It was an odd sight. Something Darell had never seen before, but he wasn’t going to complain.
Asking For The Bill
Darell was starting to wonder if the entire town had decided to visit his shop on that particular day. But he was drawn from his musings when Theresa motioned for the bill.
That was even stranger than his shop being filled to the brim since they hadn’t ordered anything to eat yet. When the family usually came, they would spend at least an hour. But this time, it seemed like they just wanted to leave.
What Was Happening?
Angelo was back at the table, and it didn’t seem like he saw Darell’s secret at all. Was he losing it? Or was his guilt playing tricks on his mind?
Darell wasn’t sure. But he did know that a secret like his couldn’t be missed. So Angelo must’ve seen it. Why was he acting indifferent?
Not Sure What To Think
Darell swallowed the lump in his throat as he approached the table. He had no idea what to expect, but it wasn’t like he could refuse their request because of his own insecurities.
He had to keep treating the family the same way as he always did. And when it came to the rest, he’d just have to wait and see how it played out.
He swallowed his pride and gave them the bill. Theresa put a few notes in there, but before she handed it over, she gave Jonathan a knowing look and handed him the folder.
Jonathan laughed as he slipped an envelope into the cover. But when Darell saw what it contained, his heart skipped a beat.
What Was It?
The little boy encouraged Darell to open it. But the man was afraid of what he would find. That whole day had been one disaster after another, and he no longer had the strength to deal with unexpected problems.
But little Jonathan was persistent. And there was no way Darell could refuse his favorite customer. So he opened the envelope and found a cheque inside.
It Can’t Be
Darell stared at the cheque and rubbed his eyes. He couldn’t believe that there were five zeros after the one. There must’ve been some kind of mistake.
Even though that money could save him from all his troubles, he couldn’t accept it. He didn’t live in a world where opportunities like that fell into people’s laps.
Refusing To Accept
The moment Angelo got up and left, Darell pushed the cheque back into the envelope and handed it to Jonathan. “I don’t know what this is, but I can’t accept it,” he said.
Darell was about to walk away when the bell rang again. And this time, he was caught completely off guard. The sight of nine police officers walking into his shop was nothing to joke about.
And the worst part was that Angelo was with them. That confirmed that the trucker had indeed found his secret in the bathroom.
There would be no other reason for him to come in with nine police officers. “I can explain,” Darell said, lifting his hands into the air. “I swear it’s not what it looks like.”
Nine Police Officers
“What would you like to explain?” the one officer asked as he took a seat at a nearby table. His eyes were burning into Darell, and he could only pray that it wasn’t as bad as it looked.
“What you found… It’s not what you think,” Darell stammered. “I didn’t want it to be that way. But we had no other choice.”
Care To Explain?
“If it’s not what he thinks, then what it is?” another officer asked. Darell didn’t know how to answer that question. If he told them the truth, he’d be admitting what he had done.
But there was no way he could cover his tracks. What Angelo saw cannot be unseen. And he can’t prevent the officers from following up on the lead, either.
He Didn’t Understand
Darell was in a state of shock. He didn’t understand anything that was going on around him. The day had started so well.
There were so many customers, which meant he’d finally be able to make some profit. And then he saw Johnathan and Theresa… But now… Now he had no idea where he was standing.
The Friendly Little Boy
Jonathan pulled Darell’s sleeve and slipped the cheque into the pocket of his apron. It made him look and feel even more guilty. What would the officers think if they saw a little boy giving him so much money?
Was there some kind of conspiracy against him? Was this family trying to ruin everything he had managed to build?
What Was Happening?
The entire waffle house was quiet when Angelo stood up and walked to the bathroom. Darell was sweating profusely. His heart was beating in his throat. And he was silently begging the man to stop.
There would be no denying it once he stepped through that door. His secret would be exposed to everyone, and he’d have to give up everything he had worked so hard for.
Darell felt like he was going to be sick. But then Theresa got up, and she said something that would turn his world upside down.
“Johnny found your secret a few weeks ago, and we decided that it was time for you to come clean.” Her words were like a punch to the gut, but Darell could no longer avoid the inevitable.
Angelo walked out of the bathroom holding Darell’s son, Lucien’s, hand. Darell felt the tears welling in his eyes as Theresa continued. “You gave everything up for a chance at a new life,” she said as she lifted his son into her arms.
“But it didn’t work out the way you planned, did it?” Darell shook his head, unable to speak.
Feeling The Heat
“You and your family have been living in the restaurant because you couldn’t afford to rent a home. But that’s all over now,” Theresa added as Darell’s wife stepped out of the kitchen.
“Why don’t you tell these people what happened?” Theresa asked, making Darell feel worse than ever before. He wished he could avoid that, but it seemed like he no longer had a choice.
His Tragic Tale
Darell took a seat next to Jonathan and wiped the tears from his eyes. And as if the faucet had been turned on, the words started spilling from his mouth.
Darell started with the day his son was born. It had been the best and worst day of his entire life. On that day, he lost his job - the only source of income the young family had.
Not So Many Options
Darell tried everything he could think of to find a job. He only had a limited amount of savings, and that was supposed to go toward a house.
However, at that point, he had no choice but to start using it so his wife and child could have what they needed. And that’s when he saw it.
Darell was scouring the local newspaper with the hopes of finding a job when he saw the ad for the diner. It was further from the city, in a small neighborhood that was practically self-contained.
It wasn’t exactly what he was looking for, but it was an opportunity. He’d visited the place with his wife on occasion, and he loved it. But was it really the thing for them?
Not Much Of A Choice
Darell and his wife had spoken about it for weeks. They had just enough money to buy the place and open it. But if it went downhill, they would lose everything.
Darell was reluctant, but his wife convinced him to go for it. It wasn’t like he was finding any jobs, and he loved the place, so it would be a win-win.
She started coming up with ideas and plans about how to run the place. And the more she spoke, the more enthusiastic Darell became. He’d always dreamed of owning a business, and this was his shot.
But the risk always played in the back of his mind, so it took him a while to make up his mind.
That was the case until his wife took him to see the waffle house in person. It was love at first sight. He could picture himself serving the customers and making a living.
His mind was made up. They called the agent on the spot and made their offer. It was accepted the next day, and within a month, they were exactly where they wanted to be. But there was a problem.
Even though they had invested all their money into buying the property and stock for the first month, they weren’t getting any customers.
Darell tried everything he could think of, but the business was off to a slow start. Then he met Theresa and Jonathan, and things started looking up. They were his first customers, and because of them, a few people followed.
Weeks turned into months, and even though the shop wasn’t making much, it was making enough to keep going. The couple could buy stock, and because of that, they could keep the flow going.
But sadly, they weren’t making enough. Without a cent to spend, they ended up living in the waffle house. It wasn’t just their source of income. It was also their home.
Why The Bathroom?
The couple didn’t want their young son to bother people, so they tried to keep him out of the dining room. But they couldn’t keep him in the kitchen since it was too dangerous.
And since they didn’t have many customers, they decided to let him play in the bathroom. They set up a nice little corner in there with all his toys and a sleeping area. And every so often, Darell would go check on him.
The Safest Place
The truth was that it was the safest place for the toddler to be. All the stalls were locked, and the door could only be opened from the outside. Plus, Darell had put a sign-up saying it was out of order.
But somehow, little Jonathan managed to get in, and he blew the lid on everything Darell tried to keep under the rug.
“Are you going to arrest me now?” Darell asked, feeling as defeated as ever. “We didn’t come here to arrest you, Darell,” one of the officers said. “We came because Theresa asked us to.”
Theresa rubbed Darell’s back as she took a seat next to him. And she finally revealed where she and Jonathan were when they stopped coming.
What Did She Do?
When Jonathan told Theresa what he had found, she decided to uncover the truth. She spoke to Darell, forced some information out of him, and made up her mind.
Feeling incredibly guilty about how the community had been treating his shop, she confided in her best friend, who came up with the perfect solution-getting the community involved.
A Friend Of A Friend
Theresa’s friend just happened to be the wife of one of the officers. She had gone to him and asked him how the Police Department could help Darell out of his troubles.
Her husband then spoke to the chief of police, who put together a small team of nine officers who would go out and spread Darell’s story.
A Plan In Motion
The local mayor heard the tale, and he offered to lend a hand. So with the help of the city and their local law enforcement, Theresa managed to collect the money Jonathan had given Darell.
But that wasn’t all she managed to do for the town’s newest residents. What Theresa was about to say would blow Darell away.
A Helping Hand
The money wasn’t meant to buy Darell and his family a house. Oh no, Theresa had a different plan for that.
She had spoken to the local municipality and arranged a permit to build on top of the diner. After that, Angelo arranged for a few of his fellow truckers to help in the building process. But those were only some of the people who were in the diner that day.
A Few Waiters?
All the youngsters who had come on that day were there for a reason. They had agreed to help Darell manage his shop and his shifts.
At least two, if not four, of them, would come in every morning to help him get the place back on its feet. And they would do it free of charge.
Too Good To Be True
At that point, Darell couldn’t hold back his tears. These people, this community, have done so much for him. And he had no idea how he would ever be able to pay them back.
In his entire life, no one had helped him as much as Theresa did. She went above and beyond to get him everything he needed. She was a saving grace.
Couldn’t Hold Back
Not knowing how else he could thank the woman, he gave her a tight hug. But there was still one thing she needed to do before she could accept his gratitude.
The construction of his house would take a while, so Theresa offered to let Darell and his family stay in her home until it was complete. After that, her work would be done.
The Start Of Something New
Darell spent the next few months trying to show Theresa how much he appreciated her support. But it didn’t matter what he did. He still felt like he owed her.
So he offered her the only thing he could, a managerial position in his store. Theresa gladly accepted, and from that point on, their friendship grew even more.
A Massive Shift
The waffle house was finally picking up. All the youngsters who worked there brought their friends over to try “the best waffles in town.” The truckers stopped by every time they had to pass through.
And the residents made the waffle house their new Sunday spot. It was exactly what Darell was hoping for, and he couldn’t be prouder.
But one day, Theresa said something that got Darell thinking. She suggested expansion, but not just in any old way. Her idea was food trucks.
She wanted to put one in every truck stop within a 100-mile radius because she wanted all the truckers to have a taste of home wherever they were. Darell loved the idea.
In order 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 or places or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.