If Rosie finally committed to her promise to leave work on time, she wouldn't be rushing to the nearest station to catch her train back home. She wouldn't be stuck standing with her face inches away from the automated doors. She wouldn't end up drenched when rain suddenly started pouring down hard.
However, Rosie had never kept her promise to herself before. And as much as she wanted to, she still couldn't. Not with how everything had been at work.
Don't think about work now, Rosie reminded herself.
So instead, she focused on the gloomy view of a never-ending sea of concrete dwellings, rushing past her sight. The fast train and the heavy downpour made it difficult to see the details. But Rosie had every little nook and alleyway, tree, and faded wall paint committed to memory.
Despite the blurry window in front of her, she was still able to catch a glimpse of the yellow school bus that always stopped in front of a silky oak tree that towered in front of an old bookshop. And for a moment, she was envious of the kids disembarking the bus, fully covered with their raincoats and bright umbrellas.
She must be twice their age but she still couldn't remember bringing her own umbrella until it was too late. She can only blame herself now.
"Next stop. Burwood." The electronic female voice echoed in the carriage.
Rosie didn't realise that she had been standing for half an hour already. She took a quick glance at her back. The whole carriage was still completely packed despite stopping by several stations since she got on.
Slowly, she started feeling her legs getting tired and numb. Rosie tried to lift one leg and stretch it out. But the congested space didn't allow her. And to make things worse, she had to endure the growing mixture of bodily odour that was creeping into her nostrils. Then again, she should be grateful instead of whining since the dense crowd gave her saturated body a bit of warmth.
She took a deep breath to calm herself down. Just a few more minutes...
And sure enough, a few minutes later, "Last stop, Liverpool."
By the time the train came to a final halt, the carriage was still half full. However, she managed to find an empty seat a few stops before and was finally able to rest her sore feet. Rosie was not surprised. Most of the commuters coming back from the city lived this far, if not farther.
The rain, although calmer and lighter, was still pouring when Rosie stepped out of the train. She couldn't help but shiver as the first few drops hit her damp clothes. A few seconds later, her almost dry, messy hair was soaking wet again as she slowly made her way back home.
On a good, sunny day, a ten-minute walk from the train station to the shared house where she currently lives seemed near. But on a dull and wet late afternoon like this, the walk felt like forever.
She clenched her teeth even harder and tried to hold back her tears. She was determined not to break down. Not now. And definitely not in the next few years.
Despite the seemingly endless misery and trials she's had, Rosie was gonna make it. She was sure of it.
When Rosie finally reached the front door of the house, she was drenched and drained. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally.
Rosie fished out her key from her bag and slid it in the keyhole. When Rosie pushed the heavy door open, the long hallway was dark and empty as usual.
There were five of them living in the house. But they barely knew one another. Other than a casual Hello or How's your day in the kitchen, they never really had any genuine conversations. Rosie only knew their names and their jobs.
Alan was a cook at a local Italian restaurant. Despite not having any educational background or professional experience with Italian cuisine, he could still whip up a decent pasta dish. Rosie asked him once how he could cook so well. All he responded was, "Masterchef."
Kristy was like her—a fresh-of-the-boat with two jobs, cleaning offices and houses. When Rosie first moved in, she thought she and Kristy would end up becoming friends. They had a lot in common out of everyone else in the house. But that never happened. And it wasn't any of their fault. They were just two different people with their own bustling lives.
Rick worked at a men's clothing store. He's possibly the most easy-going housemate. Rosie would sometimes find him in the lounge room, watching some anime. And most of those times, he'd have his girlfriend, Mandy, come over.
Harry works at a cacao farm an hour and a half away. Out of the five of them, Rosie believed him to be the most hardworking in the house. She was almost certain he worked seven days a week. He would be gone by six in the morning and be back at home almost twelve hours later. She rarely got to sit down and talk to him for more than a minute since she started living with them. But Harry always brought chocolate blocks from the factory on the farm that didn't pass their quality check. And everyone was extremely grateful to him for that.
The thought immediately snapped Rosie back to her cold and wet state. She was starving and she only wanted one dish at this precise moment. So she quickly scrambled her way to the bathroom and got rid of her wet clothes. She turned the water on and soon, hot steam was filling the whole room.
Rosie sighed in relief as the warm water hit her skin. It had been a long and tiring day. And although it had been like most days since she arrived in this country, for some reason, Rosie felt it a bit more today. Loneliness.
The unwanted feeling just made Rosie crave the dish even more. She had never made it before. But her mum knew she would want to eat it one day. So she gave her a handwritten note before she left—a brief instruction on how to make her comforting chocolate rice porridge.
After her shower, it didn't take long for Rosie to find her mum's note. She held the creased paper in hand and read the recipe.
It was simple and direct.
Champorado: Dark chocolate. Glutinous rice. Sugar. Evaporated milk, Rosie read the one-line list of ingredients.
No measurements. No long instructions. A usual for her mum.
Wash the rice. Cook the rice for fifteen minutes. Stir occasionally.
Rosie scooped a cup of glutinous rice, she had placed at the far back of the cupboard, and poured it on the pot.
As the rice cooked, Rosie grabbed a block of dark chocolate from the stash that Harry made in their little pantry. Her eyes also caught glimpse of a half-empty bag of dark cocoa powder and decided to grab it. With the knife, she roughly chopped the block into little pieces as she watched the pot of cooking rice slowly come to a low boil.
Turn off the stove. Mix sugar, chocolate and milk in the rice porridge.
Rosie did exactly what was written. She grabbed the handle of the pot and placed it on a rack on the counter.
Rosie she tossed the chopped chocolate, half a cup of the cocoa powder, and milk into the porridge. Then, she poured a spoonful of brown sugar in the mixture. Finally, she stirred the pot until the chocolate melted into the porridge, painting the dish its glossy, dark colour. No measurements. Just with intuition. Just like how her mum would make it.
The bittersweet smell started filling the kitchen. And Rosie could barely hold on any longer. So she quickly grabbed a bowl and a spoon. She scooped a decent amount of the porridge from the pot into her bowl. Then she poured a bit of milk on top, just as how she always liked it.
When she finally sat down on the stool in front of the counter, the rain had finally stopped, leaving only a few drops trailing down the grimy windows. The steam of the porridge kissed Rosie's cheeks as she brought a spoonful up to her face.
She took the first bite.
One thing Rosie realised: she will most probably not be able to replicate how her mum made the porridge. But this first bowl of champorado that she made on her own was close enough.
A rush of emotions flooded her as she devoured her heartwarming porridge. Sadness. Fear. Nostalgia. Warmth. Relief.
For a brief moment, Rosie was taken back to the years back when her life was simpler and had no hardships. Back to the time when she was young and naive, unaware of the unforgiving world.
Rosie glanced at her mum’s note as she took another warm bite. Enjoy, langga. I love you.
It was fleeting and almost unreal. But for a short period of consuming a nice, warm bowl of chocolate rice porridge, Rosie was back in the warm embrace of her mum.
A/N: The term langga is a Cebuano (a Filipino dialect) endearment that means “dearest” or “love”.
Based on a true story.