Ever since she was a little girl, Valerie was the most popular girl in school. In high school she was an honor student, the student council president and a member of her cheerleading squad.
Because of this, she had a lot of friends and many of the boys at school tried to win her heart. However, she paid no attention to her suitors, as she was serious about her studies and extracurricular activities, and barely had any free time left.
One day, her homeschool teacher introduced a new boy to the class.
“I’d like you all to meet Tom. He and his family recently moved to town,” Ms. Vasquez revealed.
“Hi, Tom,” said the class in unison.
The only empty seat was next to Valerie, so Tom walked down the aisle and sat there.
“Hi,” he said smiling at her as he sat down.
If Valerie was honest with herself, she actually found Tom attractive. He had light brown eyes, a fair complexion and wavy dark brown hair, like the surfers she looked at every time she went to the beach.
However, one look at her classmate and she knew he was not from a wealthy family. He was wearing a worn burgundy shirt, khaki shorts that looked like they had been with him for years, and dirty white shoes that seemed too small for his feet.
By her standards, Tom was poor and she didn’t want to associate with him. So, she did her best not to sound friendly.
“Hello,” she mumbled dryly in reply, without looking at Tom.
For the boy, it was love at first sight. He thought Valerie was absolutely ravishing and was determined to win her affections one way or another.
It came time for the prom and, as the young lady had turned down virtually every boy in her class, everyone had a date except her.
She rejected the soccer player in her class for being too arrogant, the chess player for being too nerdy, and the baker for being too feminine.
No one else had tried to ask her to the prom, and all the boys seemed to have dates, except Tom.
Just three days before the dance, he decided to ask Valerie in a creative way. After noticing her love of croissants, Tom showed up to class one day with a box of butter croissants. “This is for you,” he said, placing the box on the table.
Valerie was pleasantly surprised. “Thank you,” she said, trying to remain calm. “You can’t be attracted to him,” she thought, reminding herself that Tom was poor.
During recess, the young woman took one of the croissants and broke it in two. When she did, she saw a piece of paper rolled up inside the bread. She pulled it out and it said, “Do you want to go to the prom with me?”.
Valerie could feel her cheeks turning red.
“No!” she thought, “You can’t feel anything for him.”
“Then?” asked Tom as soon as he saw her read the paper. “What do you say?”
The teenager wanted to say no, simply because she knew Tom was poor. But a part of her also wanted to say yes, because she knew he was a good boy.
Despite her conflicting thoughts, Valerie decided to say yes, also because she knew no one else would ask her to the prom.
“I guess I can go with you,” she told Tom. “No one else in the class is without a date for the dance anyway, besides the two of us,” she added with a shrug.
Tom grinned. He didn’t care that it looked like Valerie had simply been forced to say yes to him: she was going to the prom with him anyway!
“Excellent!” the young man said, smiling. “I’ll pick you up Saturday at five o’clock,” he said before saying goodbye.
“You’d better put on a nice suit! I don’t want to be seen with someone wearing ugly clothes during prom,” she scoffed as he walked away.
On prom day, Valerie wore an expensive designer dress that she and her mother had bought from a shop after Tom asked her to be his date.
“Who’s the lucky boy?” asked Valerie’s mother.
“He’s the son of a businessman,” she lied. She knew her mother wouldn’t stop criticizing her if she found out that Tom was the son of the school cafeteria chef.
Valerie looked at herself in the mirror and looked at the beautiful navy blue dress she was wearing.
“This dress is very beautiful,” she said effusively.
“And so are you, sweetheart. Your makeup is beautiful. You did a great job,” her mother said. Then she hugged her.
A couple of minutes later, Tom arrived and rang the doorbell. Valerie felt her stomach twist. She didn’t know what to expect. Before she could get to the door, her mom had already opened it.
“Hi!” the woman said to Tom. “That sounds like a friendly greeting,” Valerie thought. He must be well dressed.
“Hello, ma’am. Good afternoon. Thank you for allowing me to take Valerie to the prom,” he said smiling and handing the girl’s mother a bouquet of three sunflowers.
“This is for me!” she said surprised.
“Yes, ma’am,” the boy replied, smiling. “And this is for Valerie,” Tom said, looking directly at his partner for the dance as he walked down the stairs.
The butterflies in Valerie’s stomach grew more intense. She still couldn’t see Tom clearly, but she had a feeling he had passed his mother’s tests with flying colors.
“Well, are you a sweet boy?” said the young girl’s mom. “Please come in for a few pictures before you go off to enjoy your big night,” she said, insisting that he come in.
When he walked in, Valerie was shocked. Tom looked absolutely gorgeous in a blue colored suit, which matched her dress perfectly.
“Hi,” she said smiling, looking him straight in the eye.
“Hello, Valerie,” Tom replied, returning her smile. “You look beautiful.”
“You don’t look bad yourself,” she replied.
They smiled for a couple of pictures before leaving. To Valerie’s surprise, there was a nice motorcycle waiting for them outside.
“I thought we could go to prom in great style,” said the boy smiling.
“Do you have a motorcycle?” asked Valerie.
“No, it’s my older brother’s. He let me borrow it for today. Shall we go?” he replied.
Valerie nodded and rode the motorcycle with Tom. When they arrived at the prom, all eyes were on them.
“How unique!” said one of Valerie’s friends. “They came on a motorcycle!”.
“How cool, bro!” another classmate said to Tom.
Valerie was impressed and decided once and for all to give Tom a chance. She broke down her walls that night and got to know the boy on a deeper level.
They danced and gazed into each other’s eyes all night. Valerie could no longer deny the feeling she had for Tom. He was a handsome young man, and also incredibly kind and intelligent.
The girl didn’t want the night to end. Tom drove her back home on his brother’s motorcycle and walked her to the door.
“Thank you so much for tonight,” Tom told her. “I hope I didn’t disappoint you, and I hope you had a great time.”
Valerie smiled and gave Tom a kiss on the cheek. To him, that kiss said it all.
“Good night,” the girl said with a smile.
Months passed and Tom and Valerie graduated from high school. They both enrolled in the same college. Tom had earned a full scholarship for low-income families and Valerie had earned a full academic scholarship for her stellar grades.
Every day, the two of them would meet after school for dates. He used to walk her to her dorm room before heading to the café where he worked as a barista. He needed to work to help his parents pay the bills and to keep up with Valerie’s lifestyle.
During one of their walks to the dorm room, Tom proposed something that caught Valerie off guard.
“What do you say we move in together?” he asked.
Valerie was surprised because she knew his parents still needed him to help pay the bills, and his salary was enough to do that and save a little.
“You can’t afford to rent a whole apartment for us now that you’re working part-time, can you?” she told him.
“I’m about to do my internship at the Michelin-starred restaurant I told you about,” he reminded Valerie. “If I do well, they’ll absorb me as one of their chefs and I’ll earn well.”
“But for now, we just have to be a little more patient. I’m sorry, Valerie. I promise to give you the best in the world someday….”.
Months passed and Tom went out of town every two weeks to do his internship at a famous restaurant. Meanwhile, Valerie started hanging out more with her friends and going to parties organized by different school organizations.
At one of the parties she met a boy named Jeffrey. He was not afraid to show his interest in her, but at first, Valerie paid no attention to him for the sake of her relationship with Tom.
However, after a few more parties, she began to feel sympathy for Jeffrey and realized that she was starting to have feelings for him. Whenever Tom was away, she spent all her free time with Jeffrey.
When Tom’s internship ended, he was assigned the role of assistant chef. He got a bonus when he signed his contract with the restaurant, which gave him enough money to buy Valerie a simple ring.
While hanging out in her bedroom one night, Tom surprised her with a marriage proposal.
“We’ve been together for almost four years,” he said. “I would love to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?” he asked her, opening the ring box in his pocket.
Valerie looked at the ring and saw a diamond that looked to be no more than 0.3 carats.
“You’re kidding right?” she said in a mocking tone.
“I don’t understand,” Tom told her. “What’s going on?”
“You’re asking me to marry you with THAT little ring? It’s smaller than a 1 cent coin,” Valerie said mockingly to Tom. “No! Absolutely not. If you can’t buy me a proper ring, how can I expect you to keep me for the rest of my life!!!”.
“Valerie…,” Tom said, hurt. “I told you I’d make it up to you when I got a good job,” he said in a sad tone. “I’m still a student, so I don’t have much money yet… but it won’t be like this forever,” he tried to explain.
Valerie shook her head.
“I can’t wait that long. I’m sorry, Tom,” she apologized. “I think we should break up.”
Tom was absolutely flabbergasted by what his beloved had just told him. He left Valerie’s bedroom feeling defeated and hurt that after all these years, she still could not accept his humble financial status.
After the breakup, the young man struggled to complete his studies and moved out of town after graduating. He worked for the five-star restaurant where he had done his internships and was doing everything he could to one day set up his own.
Meanwhile, Valerie ended up dating Jeffrey. They moved in together and, at first, he paid all the bills. They were married in a small, intimate ceremony, and all was well between the two of them.
But, shortly after the wedding, Jeffrey revealed that he had been fired from his job.
“I’m sorry, honey,” he told Valerie. “You’re going to have to support me while I decide what I want to do next…. I’m sure you and your parents don’t mind, do you?”
Valerie felt her heart sinking. She had a bad feeling about what was coming next, but agreed to support Jeffrey so he wouldn’t be angry.
Instead of getting a new job, he decided to open his own restaurant. He had no culinary experience whatsoever, but he believed that opening one would allow him to make a lot of money.
At first, the restaurant did well because Valerie made sure of it. She invested most of her money into the business, and made sure all her friends and family went to eat at the restaurant.
After a couple of months, customers started coming less and less. Jeffrey tried to ask Valerie for money, but she said she no longer had any because she had invested it all in her restaurant.
When the man realized that his wife could no longer support him, he left her for another woman and mailed her divorce papers. Valerie was heartbroken, because not only did she lose her husband, but also all her money.
Her parents were disappointed in her for letting Jeffrey go and refused to help her get back on her feet. She needed a job to pay off her debts, so she walked a strip of new restaurants downtown and applied as a waitress.
One particular restaurant was the only one with openings, but it only offered employment as a dishwasher. Desperate to earn money and pay off her debts, Valerie took it without hesitation.
As soon as she entered the back kitchen, she realized how successful the restaurant was with the amount of dishes she had to wash. The area was separate from the main kitchen, so she barely saw the chefs or their assistants.
One day, however, one of the chefs came into the back kitchen of the restaurant to take a breather. Valerie’s eyes widened when she saw it was Tom.
“Tom,” she said. “Do you work here? It’s me, Valerie.”
“Valerie? What are you doing here?” he asked, surprised. “This is my restaurant, I’m the owner,” he revealed.
The woman could feel tears filling her eyes and her throat tightening.
“I…I work here,” she said, lowering her head as her tears fell to the floor.
“I got a job as a dishwasher. I’m sorry, I didn’t know it was your restaurant,” she said, embarrassed.
Tom asked her what had happened and she told him everything from how she had met Jeffrey to how he had cheated on her and drained her savings.
“I’m sorry all this happened to you,” he said when she finished telling him.
“I guess I deserved it,” Valerie said with a shrug.
“When you turned down my marriage proposal, I was given the position of assistant chef at the Michelin-starred restaurant where I had done my internships.”
“After only a couple of months, I was able to save enough money to set up my own restaurant. Soon after, that restaurant was so successful that I set up this restaurant,” Tom explained.
“I was very heartbroken, Valerie,” Tom admitted. “I used my pain and anger to propel me to success. I never wanted to feel that insignificant again.”
Valerie could only imagine how great her life could have been if only she had chosen to stay with Tom. Now, however, it was too late and he no longer felt the same way about her.
Tom never asked Valerie to be with him again, but he offered to help her pay her debts. She repaid him by doing well at her job at the restaurant until she was slowly promoted to a management position after about a year.