Grumbles. Tina’s stomach has been grumbling for hours now. No surprise there, actually. Her last meal was 48 hours ago. Two more hours until her shift ends. Fortunately, today is payday. She can finally buy food for her and her five little devils waiting at home. Just a thought of that made a smile creep to her face.

Time passed a lot slower than usual. However, eventhough her shift has technically ended, Tina cannot go home yet as there is still one toilet that needs to be cleaned. She stayed for another unpaid 20 minutes, but she didn’t mind since she would be receiving two weeks worth of salary today.

She immediately went to the office after finishing the last toilet. With her arms crossed in front of her, she approached the desk.

“Stop,” the secretary said “you”ll get the desk dirty.”
“Uhmm, can I-”
“Your salary. Yes. Yes,” the secretary told her while giving a white envelope “200 dollars for two weeks of work.”
“Yes, ma’am!” Tina replied with a huge grin plastered on her face “Thank you, ma’am!”

After gathering her stuff, she walks towards home trying to save what little salary she received. What should she buy for dinner, she thought. She should buy something special. After all, she finally received her salary and her children has been eating rice and soy sauce for the past few days. She decided to buy and bring home some noodles and canned corn beef. It will be a fun night, she thought. Then her stomach grumbled and she was reminded of her hunger.

She stopped by a nearby general store to buy the canned corn beef, noodles, and a piece of biscuit for her. That’s already 10 dollars. Way out of budget, but it doesn’t matter since her children will surely be happy.

Upon arriving home, she tried to open the creaking door as silent as she could. Rather than surprising her children, she’s the one caught off guard. The lights were turned off, stones littered the floor, and there’s no one to be found. Her heart started beating faster. She turned on the lights and ran inside.

“Surprise!” five little voices said unison.
“Ahhh~” Tina screamed “You naughty little rascals!”
“We got Mama~ We got Mama~” the kids started singing.
“Settle down. I bought food,” Tina told them.
“Woahh! what did you buy, Mama?” asked the only girl of the five.
“I bought some noodles and corned beef!” Tina proudly announced while raising the plastic bag she’s been holding “Go and play first. I’ll just cook the corned beef.”

Tina went to their tiny dirty kitchen and started cooking. After a few minutes she called the kids to prepare the plates. The kids cleared up the stones on the floor and placed down the rice, noodles, and plates. After a quick prayer, they immediately dug in. Tina watched them closely while smiling and tears pooling at the side of her eyes.

“Gai! Stop eating everything and leave some for Mama!” the eldest barked.
“It’s okay, ganta. I’m still full,” Tina told him “Go on and have your fill too.”


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