Sarah and I met four and a half years back on a Harry Potter fan site. She was Professora Blake, I was Lily Lives On. We didn't have faces, we had avatars- I'm not sure what mine was, but her's was a painting of a lady.
We discussed all things Harry Potter, then graduated to writing and discussing fan-fiction, and somewhere along the way started sharing and discovering more personal things about each other. We did a lot of crazy stuff, like being invovled in the online trial of a fictional character, and creating complicated theories about how the Harry Potter series would end.
About three years back, some of us started an online forum for writers, with the intention of motivating each other to keep writing. That met with limited success (only book has come out of the community, and only one other person has completed a book), but somewhere along the line, we became really good friends.
It wasn't just Sarah - it was a whole lot of others, who I first encoutered as an avatar, then got to know as a person, and over time started trusting as a friend. But Sarah was the first of them that I got to meet.
She finally made it to India for a series of lectures, and we met for lunch. Strangely, I wasn't at all apprehensive about meeting her. I knew that the problem would not be what to talk about, but how to stop and pull away. And it was just that- the hours melted away, and if I didn't have to get back to work, I am not sure I would have wanted the afternoon to end.
Someday, I know I will meet all the friends I have made online, but even if I don't, I'm not going to fret. If Sarah's any indication, the people I know online are exactly the same people they are in real life, so knowing them online is enough too.