Sam Derrick was the son of a trucker and a diner waitress, which sounded a bit like a honky-tonk song. His parents were loving and hardworking, but they had six children, and money was tight.
Luckily for Sam, he was a talented baseball player, and when he finished high school he had the offer of a partial scholarship at a university in Charlotte, N.C. It wasn’t the full ride Sam had been hoping for, but it could work.
The first thing Sam did when he moved to Charlotte was to look for work. He found employment at a bustling restaurant close to the university, which meant he could pick up extra shifts.
Sam had helped out at his mom’s diner during the weekends and summers, so he was experienced, courteous and efficient. He quickly became a favorite with the manager and with the regular clients.
After he had been working there for three years, a pretty blond with a sunny smile started coming in regularly in the afternoons. After several days of admiring the girl, Sam finally saw his chance.
The table she usually sat in was occupied and the girl had to sit in Sam’s station. If she had impressed Sam at a distance, close up she dazzled him. He stood beside the table order pad in hand gaping like a fish.
The girl glanced up from her menu and stared right back. She was just as stunned as Sam. Somehow she managed to order, and he fumbled through her meal, blushing. The usually suave Sam was clumsy and tongue-tied.
When Sam brought her the bill, she touched his hand. “I’m sorry, but do I know you?”
Sam was stunned. “No, I’m sure we haven’t met before.”
“I feel I’ve known you all my life, like I’ve been waiting…” the girl said.
Sam added dreamily: “Waiting for you…”
The girl laughed happily. “I’m Lesley. Please, can you sit down?”
Sam shook his head. “Sorry, against the rules.” He grinned, “I’m Sam, and my shift ends in half an hour.”
When Sam left the restaurant Lesley was waiting for him outside at the wheel of a cute little fire-engine red convertible. It was their first date but far from their last. Over the next three months, Lesley and Sam were inseparable.
Before the end of term, one of Sam’s fellow students, John Crane, told him he was going to Europe for the summer with his parents and his girlfriend. Would Sam be interested in housesitting their place in the Hamptons? The job was paid and involved only light maintenance of the garden.
Sam was overjoyed. He could spend the entire summer with Lesley, and still earn enough to pay his living expenses for his next and final semester. He asked Lesley to spend the summer with him in the Hamptons and she agreed
Their summer was idyllic. and by the end of it, Sam was sure Lesley was his soulmate, the woman he wanted to be with for the rest of his life. The return to Charlotte only meant that their future together would start even sooner.
Sam had a plan. He had applied for several jobs and was hoping his brilliant marks would open doors for him, so he could start looking for an apartment. and ask Lesley to marry him.
A week after their return to Charlotte, Sam sent Lesley a text and asked if he could pick her up at her parents’ so they could talk about the future. Lesley’s answer was short: YES. No affectionate message, nothing.
Sam walked up to the door of her luxurious home and rang the bell. A tall, distinguished man in his fifties opened the door. Sam started to introduce himself but the man cut him short. “Lesley isn’t here. Let me make things clear, I think it will be easier for you both. I’m a wealthy man. I own a chain of restaurants, and Lesley is used to a certain kind of life.”
“Yes, Sir,” Sam said, “I know that…”
The man interrupted Sam. “I know you care for her, and she tells me she does care for you, but she also realizes it can’t be more than a summer romance. Lesley is a sensible girl. She knows what she needs.”
Sam was deadly pale. “I see. And did you have any part in helping her decide what she needs?”
The man shook his head slowly. “I asked her if she loved you enough to be poor with you. She didn’t.”
Sam nodded. “I see. Thank you, Sir.”
A few days later, Sam saw Lesley walking on the street with a friend, and he approached her. “Lesley,” he said, “Please talk to me…”
Lesley turned pale. “I have nothing to say to you, Sam, my father told you everything.”
“I love you, I promise you you will lack for nothing…”
“You can’t give me the life I want Sam. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Please leave me alone.” And Lesley turned and walked away. It would be 12 years before she saw Sam Derrick again.
In those 12 years, Lesley married a handsome young man who was a friend of the family and went through the pain of losing her father. She inherited the business, but neither she nor her husband were very good business people.
They ran through his trust fund and her inheritance, splurged on boats, cars, and high living instead of reinvesting in the restaurants, and before long they were on the verge of bankruptcy. They were desperate to sell the business to rid themselves of their massive debt, but the offers were few.
Finally, to their relief, they received an offer from a huge company that offered them $3 million. It was three times the best offer they had received so far and would clear their debt, so they accepted.
On the day Lesley and her husband were to sign the contract to hand over her father’s business, they had a meeting with the buyer’s vice president, a Mr. Crane.
Mr. Crane clearly expressed his disapproval of the purchase and indicated that his CEO had made the decision to buy and offer what Crane felt was an exorbitant price on his own.
Crane went over the contract with Lesley, making sure everything was as per the original verbal agreement. After Lesley had signed, he made a brief call. Within minutes, the door opened, and a tall distinguished man in a beautifully tailored suit walked in.
Lesley couldn’t believe her eyes. It was Sam Derrick. “Sam!” she gasped, “What are you doing here?”
But Sam just walked up to the table, signed the contract, and left without saying a word. Lesley was dazed. “Who…Who is that?” she asked Crane.
Crane sighed. “Well, that man is a business legend! I was in college with him, and now I work for him, and I still don’t know how he does it. He’s a genius.”
“But…How did he make his money?”
Crane smiled. “There’s this story…Not that I believe it, but they say that he was turned down by a woman he loved because he was poor…So he has dedicated his life to making money. And that’s all he does. The man is a machine.”
Lesley went back to the small apartment she had rented with her husband, paid off her debts. There was very little money left, so she started looking for work. Her husband sank into depression and started drinking.
It was hard, backbreaking work, but for the first time, Lesley was earning her keep and more importantly, finally growing up. She made friends, people who worked just as hard as she did, and some days she discovered she was content, almost happy.
One evening, she walked up to a table to take an order and found herself looking into Sam’s eyes. The same strange feeling flooded over her again. “Sam…Sir, how may I serve you?”
Sam quietly ordered two coffees, and Lesley walked away shaking. When she came back with his order, he was still alone. “Oh! Would you like me to come back when your date arrives?”
Sam shook his head and smiled. “I think she’s here already. Would you sit down and have a cup of coffee with me?”
Lesley looked nervously over her shoulder. “My boss… We’re not supposed to…”
Sam grinned and looked just like the carefree student he once was. “I have that covered!”
Lesley sat and the two drank their coffee and talked quietly about the past, the pain and the disillusionment their years apart had brought them both. Looking into Sam’s eyes, Lesley knew that one day they would talk about the future.