A family with six children of various ages, with their mother and father, standing on a footpath with trees and bushes in the background.

Kylie and I first met at an event on Australia’s Sunshine Coast during the summer of 1996-1997. She was 18, based in Brisbane, and had just begun to date a guy somewhat seriously. I was 21, lived 800km away in Wamberal on the NSW Central Coast, and – strangely for a guy my age – was focused on finding someone to share my life with.

A few weeks after our initial meeting, by coincidence her family was holidaying on the Central Coast. Knowing we had “clicked” at our first meeting, Kylie reached out to say hi and I invited her on two dates while she was close by.

In the following weeks, with Kylie back in Brisbane, we spoke regularly on the phone (landline). I knew Kylie was great, but she was so far away, and I didn’t see anything happening between us.

She visited Sydney in April and I drove from the coast to meet her. This time we had the chance to spend a couple of days together – and share our first kiss. Just a peck on the lips in front of the fridge in my mum’s kitchen, but it was electric.

After Kylie returned to Brisbane, we continued to talk on the phone late into the night. Back then, with Telstra, it was $2 to talk for as long as you liked after 7pm.

Twelve days after our first kiss, I was in Sydney again with friends. After a couple of hours of conversation, they asked if I was going to talk about anything other than Kylie. I hadn’t realised it, but Kylie was all I wanted to talk about.

Bluntly, I said I wanted to talk to Kylie more than I wanted to talk to them, and ran to the payphone and called her. I mentioned it was 9pm and I had an 80-minute drive home. Would she still be awake and happy to talk when I got back at 10pm?

I tore up the F3, and all the way home I reflected on my friends’ observations: Kylie was all I wanted to talk about. Kylie was all I cared about. She dominated my thoughts, conversations and plans. I was smitten.

It was something close to 11pm when I dialled her number, and we talked until around 2am … when nature called. Kylie placed the handset down and disappeared. While she was gone I looked to the heavens and said aloud, “I’m going to ask this girl to marry me. Is this a good idea?”

As soon as the words left my mouth, something profound and expansive, elevating and thrilling, raced through my heart. I felt my chest might explode, and then I heard Kylie pick up the handset and place it to her ear.

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‘We knew it was right’: Justin and Kylie agreed to marry after knowing each other for just three months. They now have six children. Photograph: Tim Coulson

“Will you marry me?” I blurted it out. Softly but clumsily. And with a heart full of hope.

I was just about to take my first real job out of high school. I had limited education, next to no income, and no fixed address. But it felt so right.

There was a pause. One second. Two. Three. Had I made a mistake? This was crazy. Too soon! What was I thinking?

Then: a certain and definite “yes”.

We’d only known each other for three months, had seen each other in person twice, and kissed just once. But that night in separate cities, as we cradled our respective handsets in our necks, and twirled the phone cords through our fingers, we knew it was right.

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