Laughing away at Ian Cook’s joke, I couldn’t help but secretly swoon. I was 14 and my sister Jo had introduced us.
We lived in England at the time and he was in the year below me at school, with Jo. With his handsome face and oppy hair, all the girls liked him. And thanks to Jo, a few weeks later he and I became an item. Whether it was going for walks or playing pool, we did everything together.
We even talked about getting married, and one night, after Ian, then 15, had walked me home, I told my mum, Vera and dad, Alan.
‘We want to get engaged,’ I grinned.
‘No Carolyn, you’re too young,’ Mum said.
‘That’s so unfair, I love him,’ I cried.
Ian’s parents forbade it too, but we knew one day it would happen. Then, when we’d been together for two years, we were at Ian’s place when we overheard his parents talking about Australia.
We just couldn’t see how we'd make our relationship work through, so we reluctantly split up. So crushed, I didn’t even date anyone else for another two years.
Then, one Saturday night in 2010, Jo and I were getting ready to go out when I checked my emails.
‘Jo, look at this!’ I said in shock.
I had a message on Friends Reunited from an Ian Cook.
‘Do you think it’s the Ian Cook?’ I said.
‘Open it and see!’ she laughed.
Replying immediately, I wrote, I do, is that really you Ian?
And, after that, we were messaging all the time.
Ian told me he’d been married but they’d split up and he didn’t have kids.
When I asked him to send me a recent photo, my heart fluttered. At 45, he obviously looked older than when I’d last seen him, but he was still the boy I’d fallen in love with.
We talked about meeting somewhere for a holiday, but I had an idea.
‘Why don’t I just come to Australia?’ I said.
We’d been apart 31 years, but I just knew it was going to work this time. He was the love of my life. So, just five months after his first message, I quit my job and jetted to the other side of the world.
And at the airport we ran into each other’s arms. Ian had taken a few weeks off work, so we got to spend some quality time together exploring. We even got each other’s names tattooed on our wrists.
That Christmas, Ian surprised me with a ring and a note that read, Will you marry me?
‘Yes!’ I gasped.
All my family came over for our wedding in 2014 – 35 years after we first fell in love. I felt so lucky and I still do. Before, I never believed in fate, but I’ve since changed my mind.
Read the full story in this week's issue of that's life.