Caroline Fuller was 28, new to the area and recently divorced when she signed up for a membership on GothicMatch.com, an online meeting place for singles who are interested in goth music and culture. She’d already tried mainstream sites, but she says the folks she met there “were weirder.”
James Olson was in a relationship when he got a GothicMatch.com message from Fuller saying she was looking for people who could show her around. Though he wasn’t looking for dates, he’d maintained a profile to keep up with favorite DJs who used the site to post information about upcoming parties.
“But I was like, ‘I know what it’s like to go someplace completely new, all by yourself, knowing nobody,’ ” says Olson, a software developer originally from Wisconsin. “So I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll help you out. But not romantically.’”
They began e-mailing. In some ways Olson’s romantic involvement took the pressure off, says Fuller, who worked in communications for the Air Force. “I was like, ‘At least I have somebody I can talk to,’ ” she recalls. “And I don’t have the expectation that I have to look a certain way or act a certain way. I can just be who I am, which is really cool.”
After several weeks of online communication, Olson offered to teach Fuller how to make spinach lasagna. At his apartment, she carelessly dumped ingredients into the bowl and huffed at his corrections. “She seemed like somebody who was hurt,” he says. “And in all my previous relationships, I was cheated on, I was hurt a lot. So I know what it feels like to feel like your heart’s been ripped out.”
She was facing divorce, loneliness and a tough time at work. “I just had all this stress on me,” she says. “And really was just not happy with life in general.”
Olson was convinced that he could bring out the spark of kindness he was sure was buried in Fuller. They became friends and Olson introduced Fuller to his girlfriend, who was living in New Jersey.
In the fall of 2006, Fuller deployed to Iraq. She and Olson spoke by phone at least once a week. “Iraq actually put me in a happier place,” she says. “It made me understand the importance of human connection. I was there over Christmas and New Year’s. So it just really made me appreciate having somebody to share those things with.”
By the time she returned in early 2007, Olson’s relationship had deteriorated. He hadn’t seen his girlfriend in months.
Soon after coming home to Columbia, Fuller, now 35, stepped on a piece of glass that she couldn’t remove from her toe. As blood pooled around her, she called Olson for help. He rushed her to the hospital, where she lay with an IV in her arm.
“I’ve never done anything like that for anybody else,” says Olson, now 33. “I like to help other people if somebody really needs it, but I felt like I wanted to do it. She’s laying there, I’m like, ‘I don’t know why, but I love her. She’s not in the best condition. She’s not looking all dressed up or anything, but I love her.’ ”
Olson says that when his girlfriend declined to spend Valentine’s Day with him, they broke up. He called Fuller. In the midst of a winter storm, they met for Indian food and slid down a snowy hill to the restaurant. Back at his apartment, in front of the fireplace, she kissed him.
Almost immediately they became a couple. With Olson, Fuller was once again able to put her heart on the line. “He made me feel like that was a safe thing to do. We were kind of on a level playing field because he’d been hurt so badly and I’d been hurt so badly,” she says. “But we trusted each other enough.”
That August they bought a house together, although Fuller remained in her apartment through the New Year to ease her cat into the adjustment. A couple months after finally moving in, she received orders to deploy to Iraq.
While away, her grandmother died. That fall, Olson accompanied her to check on her grandfather in Florida.They found him living in shambles and spent two days cleaning his home. “It was really important to me. Anybody who would sit there and clean grease off of a stove that was two inches thick — especially for someone that is not your family and that you don't know. I was like, ‘Ohhh, he’s a keeper,’ ” she says.
In November 2008 they visited Hawaii and stayed at Volcanoes National Park. Outside their cabin, he asked her to marry him. In the middle of the ring was an amethyst (her favorite gem) surrounded by diamonds, his birthstone. “The symbolism is, ‘You’re the center of my world and I’m here to support you,’ ” he says.
It took Olson and Fuller several years to save for the wedding they wanted. And on May 26, they were married at Baltimore’s Chase Court, a 19th-century, Gothic-style stone building that was once a parish house. Olson and Fuller’s wrists were bound in a traditional handfasting ritual representing their unity. At the end of the ceremony, they jumped the broom and proceeded on to a reception that included a cake shaped like a castle, complete with dragon and moat.
“I think we get each other on a level that not a lot of other people truly get each other,” Fuller said before the wedding. “It seems like we’ve taken so long to get to this point. Now that it’s here it’s like, ‘Wow. We made it.’ ”
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