They say – and by ‘they’, I mean, of course, Saffy – that you never really know someone till you’ve travelled with them or actually lived with them.
“It’s so true,” she insisted the other day.
We were having afternoon tea at the Ritz-Carlton. Barney Chen held us up for a good five minutes as he insisted on Instagramming all the food that arrived at our table.
“Oh, seriously, who cares?” Amanda sighed. “You have, like, fifty followers!”
“Yes, but those fifty are influencers!” Barney rumbled, his ridiculously large biceps rolling under his tight teeshirt as he fiddled with the filters on his phone.
“They got take antibiotic or not?” Sharyn asked through a mouthful of chocolate cake.
“Influencers, Shazz, not influenza!” said Saffy, who is fluent in Sharyn-speak.
“Oh, issit?” Sharyn continued munching, the living embodiment of bo-chap.
“Anyway, as I was saying,” Saffy continued, her bosom inflating as it warmed up to the theme, “do you remember Betty Wong?”
Amanda frowned. “Why does that name sound so familiar?”
“She was Saffy’s best friend before she met us,” I told her.
“That’s the one,” Saffy said. “We were inseparable! We did everything together. Well, everything except conceive a child!”
“Aiyoh!” Sharyn coughed up some chocolate crumbs into her napkin.
One year, to celebrate her birthday, Betty invited a group of friends, including Saffy, to Bangkok. Due to a combination of budget, room availability and the sheer need of some women to talk through the night, Betty ended up sharing a room with Saffy.
“We were in Bangkok for four days and Betty brought one pair of panties!” Saffy announced in ringing tones that caused the passing waiter to pause and cock his head in our direction.
“Oh,” Amanda said.
“And she didn’t wash it every night either!” Saffy added, anxious that everyone was clear about the point of her story.
“Yes, yes, we get it!” Amanda snapped, as Sharyn put down her smoked salmon finger sandwich and pushed the plate away.
“And at the end of the trip,” Saffy went on, “she cut out a triangular patch from, you know, the front of those panties, and wrapped them up separately in newspaper. She threw one in the hotel bathroom bin and one in a bin outside the Boots chemist in Sukhumvit! Can you imagine?” she wondered aloud.
“Why are you telling us this truly vile story?” Amanda asked.
“Well, all that time I hung out with her, I had no idea!”
“To be fair, no one would!” I told her.
“We came back to Singapore and I stopped talking to her!”
“Aiyah, you so siew hey! Liddat oh-so can stop talking to someone! Give chance, mah!”
“I moved offices because of Betty. It’s how I ended up at Ong, Yi & Wu and met you! All of you, in fact!”
“Oh, issit?” Sharyn turned pink with pleasure. “Aiyah, I good luck, lor!”
“Well, in that case,” Barney said, raising his flute of champagne, “let’s drink a toast to Betty Wong and her Cut Up Panties!”
“Yes, cheers!” Saffy said. “Actually, doesn’t that sound like the title of a Nancy Drew novel?”
They also say that the universe moves in mysterious ways. A few days later, Saffy received a Facebook message from none other than Betty Wong.
“Oh. My. God!” Saffy moaned. “How is this possible?”
Barney said this is what happens when you talk about someone. “Karma knows!” he said, his voice rumbling like a landslide.
“She said she’s been out of touch because she moved to Los Angeles and now she’s moving back to Singapore and wants to reconnect! Seriously? Isn’t that a bit rude?”
“I want to meet her!” I said. “She sounds like good material for my column!”
Saffy gave me a baleful glare. “She’s gonna give you plenty of material because she wants to stay with us for a week while she sorts out her new flat!”
When she heard about it, Amanda put her foot down. “Absolutely not! If she doesn’t wash her panties for four days, imagine what else she doesn’t wash!”
Saffy began to say that it can’t get much worse than unwashed panties when she caught Amanda’s knowing eye, and her slow-moving panicked brain finally caught up. ‘Oh. Ewwww!”
“Tell her my parents are here, so the guest room is taken,” Amanda instructed.
“She’ll probably say she can sleep on the couch,” Saffy moaned.
Which, as it turns out, is exactly what happened. Amanda says no one is sleeping on the couch. “She can sleep with you in your room!”
Saffy says she’s never been so stressed in her life.
“Wait till day four,” I suggested.