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The invitation taunted Sophie when she got home. She had left it on the side table just inside the main door and, every evening, had to walk past its heavy cream card, embossed with the logo of one of Singapore’s most famous charities. Maybe she should have turned it upside down, so the heavy black letters couldn’t be seen, but she hadn’t thought of that when she’d first ripped open the thick envelope.
Your presence is requested...
The plastic shopping bags knocked against her shins as she walked the short distance to the kitchen. Lifting, she put them on the counter and patiently began unpacking the contents, moving each item to its designated place—fresh vegetables to the crisper, that brand of frozen wonton that she now considered her personal addiction to the freezer, various tinned goods to the overhead cupboard she’d designated as her mini-pantry.
Washing her hands afterwards, she pulled out a frypan and set it to heat on one of the stove’s gas rings.
It hadn’t always been like this. At one time, the most difficult decision to make was which restaurant to eat at. But that was when Tim was around. Ambitious, astute Tim. When he was playing at being an investment banker, he could charm the birds from the trees.
“You have to play the part, Sophie love,” he’d say in his deep baritone. “There’s nothing like success to attract success.”
And he was right. It had paid for a large black-and-white colonial house they’d rented in one of Singapore’s most exclusive eastern suburbs. It had also paid for a driver, and credit cards with unlimited spending. It had paid for photos in glossy social magazines, where she could always be seen in the latest fashion, direct from the catwalks in Paris or Milan. But what it hadn’t paid for was the prescience to know that it was all going to crumble into the ground when the economic crisis engulfed the small island-state like a paper tsunami, decimating careers with one broad stroke of red ink.
Even now, two years later, she still couldn’t believe how their lives, which had taken years—decades even—to build up, could be obliterated in the space of a few days.
...at the third annual Masked & Masquerade Ball...
With steady hands, Sophie quickly brought together an assortment of ingredients—the all-important garlic, chopped spring onions and greens, juicy prawns—and set them to fry. The aroma of food hitting the hot oil filled the small kitchen. Even after years of living in Asia, she loved the salivating, savoury smell of it. In quick succession, she added noodles, then an oyster-based sauce, mixed it together and slid the whole thing into a shallow, white porcelain bowl. There was a brief scramble while she tried to find a matching pair of chopsticks in the cutlery drawer, then she settled at the dining table.
When the economic crisis hit, more than Tim’s job was affected. It was as if their entire lives had been steamrolled, then held up to the light to see what had survived. Not much did. Not even their marriage.
...to be held at the Singleton...