Little did they realise just how big a part they would play in each others' lives.
Their friendship blossomed over online and phone conversations. They bonded over similarities, coincidences and even began confiding in each other.
Even after Rachel realised that Flo was married - a fact which she admits caused some disappointment on her part; "but it was on my facebook profile!" Flo protested - Rachel did not lose interest, content at just having her as a friend.
"I never pressured her, ever, to leave or whatever. Because I respect the sanctity of marriage and I don't want to be the reason somebody leaves something like a marriage," Rachel explained.
But it was a choice Flo had to face in the end. Rachel's presence in her life had forced her to look into herself and confront what was missing. She felt blessed that she married her best friend who sheltered her from the harsh realities of her own life. But it never felt as right as when she was with Rachel and she could no longer deny herself the life she wanted. When she found out that Rachel had slipped into depression, Flo decided that she had to be with her.
"If it makes you happy, just go" was her husband's response when she finally confessed to being gay. He even paid for her trip to Australia and helped fund her stay, where she can be with Rachel and work on getting better without having to worry about money. "We are still best buddies today," Flo says with a smile. And it is true. The couple hangs out with her now ex-husband Mike, a Singaporean, and his wife all the time. They became friends when they all stayed in Mike's house, which he graciously offered as shelter for the couple while Flo was waiting to get her flat.
Truly Madly Deeply
Life was not a bed of roses for Rachel at that time. She was going through a particularly bad patch of post traumatic stress, due to past abuse, and had been dealing with it alone. "It would have been less inviting to go back to an empty house than to have someone you love there waiting for you," she said about having Flo there.
For the next 9 months, the two girls went through ups and downs together, supporting each other in their moments of weakness and having the time of their lives when they were well.
It was not always pleasant. Regular electroshock (ECT) therapies were administered on Rachel during her hospital stays. It was a particularly harsh treatment and Flo made sure that she was present before and after the procedures. "She would be so scared about the ECT that she could not sleep the night before... and she comes out of ECT forgetting things..." Flo said. "I was afraid she would forget me." She remembers walking in the cold every morning to the hospital "I lost a total of 7 kgs!"
Rachel in turn helped Flo settle into a new life. She encouraged Flo to channel her emotions into journals and painting, a form of therapy which helped her in her darkest moments. Flo took to painting like fish to water and has not stopped since, building a body of work which she is looking to exhibit, like Rachel has done.
There were "normal" times too, like for any new dating couple. "We played ball in the yard, went to restaurants and had picnics in the park." Of course they also made out any chance they got. It was particularly liberating for Flo, "I went a bit mad!" she laughed.
When Flo and Rachel decided that Flo had to come back to Singapore. It was a difficult decision to make. As much as the relationship helped in motivating them both to get better, the road to recovery will require more than finding your soulmate in life. A trying time when the training wheels come off has arrived.
"I came back mainly because I was very very sick already, at a tipping point," Flo said. She found herself unable to take the moments when Rachel would succumb to her depression anymore. A mutual friend detected this and recommended that Flo came back and seek help.
She started seeing a psychiatrist the moment she got back and started putting her life back together in Singapore. She found a new job and started saving for a flat of her own.
Back in Australia, Rachel focused on getting well too, determined to take charge of her life. "In many ways, it was easier being nuts," she said. Getting back on track with life and friends proved to be a challenge she would have to take to fully recover. With this newfound direction, she channelled her energy into creating art which she later exhibited in her first show.
She got better, and she missed Flo.
In a move which seemed almost meant for a film script, Rachel eventually found herself doing what Flo had done for her. She left everything she knew and came to be with her, with hardly a clue or prospect.
And here they are now, in Singapore, together in another stage of their lives and relationship.
They currently live in Flo's new flat and spend quiet but blissful days together, or with family and friends.
Flo's family has accepted them after a rocky start.
"Don't bring your lifestyle into our home" was what Flo's father had told her when he first knew, but he is singing a different tune now. He welcomed Rachel to their Chinese New Year dinner recently, even buying a bottle of wine specially for her, something which he hardly does for anyone, according to Flo.
"No matter what, you will still be my daughter," he told her.
Rachel has found it a little hard to adjust to this mindset in Singapore. "In Australia, being gay is not as hush hush. Over here, there are so many things you cannot say or do."
"It's another level," explains Rachel.
The couple had a simple commitment ceremony with Flo's sister as a witness and they each now wear a ring set with an amethyst stone as a sign of the bond. Amethyst is Rachel's favourite stone.
"Actually I proposed to her when we were in Australia," Flo laughed. "I was half joking. I messaged her ' Marry me!' and she replied 'Yes.''"
Rachel, however meant it in all seriousness when she popped the question here. Even though her family is more open to the idea, there are still limits to the acceptance.
"My parents would love a big ceremony for us, but as far as my dad is concerned we are not wives to each other because it's not recognized by the church," says Rachel.
In spite of the prejudice and problems that may come from being so open with their relationship, the two speak passionately and candidly about it. Flo even gets worked up when anyone suggests that they kept their relationship secret, because Rachel is an important part of her life and who she is. She is "out and proud."
"F*** living a lie" was how she succinctly puts it.
Amidst the playful quibbles between the two, there are frequent interludes of encouragement and support when the other needs it, and the messages are very clear from both girls - that they are there for each other. No matter what problems come their way, they will deal with it together.
Neither of them have imagined such a union till they found each other. The commitment came as a necessity for their love and bond, Rachel explained. "It would be easy to say this is too hard and so I felt we needed the extra commitment to make sure that we both work extra hard at it."
With Rachel still looking for work so that she can stay here and help out with the household, there is no doubt that they will both have to work hard to maintain their relationship while they settle down. Rachel jokingly describes herself as a "tai tai" who has to keep flying back and forth between Australia and Singapore at the moment.
It is striking enough to hear of the struggles these two girls have endured just to be together, but it is the manner in which they have committed to each other that leaves the deepest impression. This is a marriage that is neither sanctioned by the state nor accepted by their faith. They have nothing to gain from it other than a promise. It is a testament to their resilience against anything that might erode the bond and a reminder that regardless of what life will deal out to them next, they will have each other.
That is a value of love that is transcendental. The type of love that will flourish even in the most barren of circumstances and change and empower a person's life.
"No, we don't celebrate anything that is 'commercialised'. If we want to do something nice for one another we do it regardless of which day it is," Rachel replied when I asked if they celebrated Valentines Day. I looked at the easel Rachel had bought for Flo, the wall painted in Rachel's favourite colour purple and the clay figurines they recently made together still displayed on the coffee table, and I could not help but agree. Any day can be Valentine's Day for them.