The room was her entire world now. She could not leave it. In the corner of her room was a window into a different world - an interesting, exciting world which, since her panic attack, she could not visit in person. This window was called "computer screen".
One December evening, just after Christmas and five weeks after her confinement in her room had begun, there were three people in the room; the girl, her mother and the boyfriend.
The girl was checking her emails. "Look Mum," she said, "look at this email. It's from my old boss."
The mother looked at the screen. The boyfriend, curious, looked too. The email read;
"Hi there! How are you? Everyone has been asking how you are. Did you have a nice Christmas? Any exciting presents? It's been quite boring here. Pretty quiet since Christmas. The place isn't the same without you - Robert."
"Oooooh!" said the mother with a giggle. "Perhaps he fancied you!"
"Funny message from a boss" said the suspicious boyfriend, somewhat grumpily.
Mmmmmm... I wonder... Is he interested in me? He hasn't ever shown it. And...if he is...how do I feel about that?... The girl's head was full of thoughts. And possibilities! She resolved to email him later, when she was once again on her own.
And that emailed reply was the start of many emails and the birth of a tentative e-romance.
I was the author of the email, the "old boss" and my wife Marie was the girl. These seven words changed my life - "The place isn't the same without you." They weren't meant to indicate any romantic purpose. The purpose was to try to cheer Marie up by letting her know that her workmates were missing her. However, before long, the messages I was sending Marie contained hints (just hints, because I didn't want to expose myself to rejection) of romantic intent - and I even promised in a jovial fashion that I would give Marie a kiss when she came back to work - thinking "I should be so lucky!".
There were many nights of emails and online chat, but in all honesty I can say that I thought that it was all just the stuff of fantasy - like most of the chat on the internet. It was sometime later that I learned that Marie's level of agoraphobia had confined her to her bedroom, although she did share with me that she wasn't able to leave her family home.
One evening I got an email from Marie telling me that she had gone out in the car with her parents to visit an aunt. It wasn't exactly exciting, but I was pleased to learn this because it looked like Marie's agoraphobia was loosening its hold on her.
The next afternoon I was sitting at my desk in my office when the door opened and very much to my surprise, Marie stepped into the room. There was a short, pregnant pause...then -
"Are you going to give me the kiss you promised?" asked Marie.
I had my arms around her one second later, and my first chaste kiss led on to another, much more passionate one..
It's a pretty ordinary family - there's me and my wife, 2 small children, 5 adult children all of whom have left home, 8 grandchildren, one great grandchild and one dog.
Mum has agoraphobia and monophobia with a little bit of OCD thrown in. She's my 3rd wife and younger than my oldest daughter... One of my adult children has an Autism Spectrum Disorder and minor learning difficulties.
Okay...perhaps it's not such a normal family after all!
Feel free to post comments to me or Marie - or if you prefer, you can email us (see my profile).