Excerpt from The Story of Jax and Dylan

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DYLAN WASN’T sure about this whole Facebook thing. He used the Internet for work and to play the occasional mind-numbing game before bed, but he wasn’t much of a computer guy. He didn’t like people knowing his business. On the other hand, now that Tom lived several states away, his younger brother had assured him that this was an easier way to keep in touch than plain old e-mails and phone calls and texting.

Dylan wasn’t convinced, but he figured it was worth a shot. Besides, Tom had also said it was a great way to reconnect with old friends, and there were a couple of people Dylan wouldn’t mind looking up. He wasn’t a reunion guy, but there were one or two individuals he’d like to know what happened to.

He got his profile set up and did a search for Tom. Tom had walked him through that much, but Dylan didn’t put up a picture yet. He thought he’d lurk for a little bit before he went putting the aged version of himself out there for others to see. He wanted to see how others had fared first. For the time being, his page only said “Dylan Holt” with the default silhouette picture.

Once he found Tom and sent the friendship request, he took a little while to browse Tom’s page. There wasn’t a lot to it right then, other than a picture of Tom in between haircuts, looking adorably lame with his normally short bangs flopped into his big brown eyes. Tom said Dylan would be able to see more once they were friends, because of the privacy settings. Dylan had instructions on how to do that for himself, after he had anything to make public or private.

When he was done looking at Tom, he typed a new name into the search bar. If Rosie Harker was on Facebook, apparently she’d gotten married, because her name wasn’t coming up. It was probably just as well, Dylan thought. She was his first and he’d never forgotten her, but it wasn’t like they’d have too much to say.

Next he typed in “Donny Moulange,” and there he was, Dylan’s old football buddy. He looked older and larger now, and he had a full beard, but Dylan knew his face right away. Apparently Donny had married his high school sweetheart, Angie, and they had two kids. Dylan smiled and sent him a friend request. Donny had more stuff visible on his page than Tom did, so Dylan took a minute to look around.

Then he clicked into the search bar one more time, to look up the name he most wanted to find. There was only one result, which wasn’t that surprising. There was also no picture, which was disappointing since Dylan really wanted to see if those eyes were the same blue-gray as he remembered and whether that thick dark-brown hair was still a perpetual mess. Dylan sat and stared at the name for a long time before he clicked it.

Jaxon Luther had been Dylan’s best friend for all four years of high school. They’d spent countless nights in each other’s rooms, in Dylan’s old convertible Dart GTS, or hanging out at the pool hall with Donny and the restof their crowd. It had all been amazing until the night before senior prom, when Dylan got wasted and did something stupid. Mom had packed up him and Tom the day after graduation, two weeks later, and he and Jax hadn’t spoken since.

Dylan had never had another friend quite like Jax. He scrolled through what little there was to see on Jax’s page. There were a few pictures of places he’d been and some inspirational images, but there was virtually no personal information. Still no pictures of Jax, with his full lips and strong chin, either. He hadn’t listed a job or a relationship or anything like that. Guy hadn’t even put down his birthday—though Dylan remembered it anyway. To this day on November 16, he still got a little bit sad.

His finger hovered over the mouse, leaving the cursor over the friend requestbutton for a long time. He had decided not to click it, unsure of the welcome he was likely to get. Right before he slid the mouse away, his phone rang with a ringtone he’d never heard before. It startled him so badly his finger pressed the button and the damage was done.

“Dammit!” he swore at the screen before he picked up the phone. “Thomas, I thought the whole point of the Facebook thing was so I didn’t have to talk to you,” he snapped.

“What, and miss out on knowing my ringtone scared the crap out of you?”

“Yeah, and I ended up sending a friend request when I didn’t want to, so thanks for that.”

Tom must have heard something in Dylan’s voice, because all teasing was gone from his when he asked, “Friend request to who?”

Dylan sighed. “To Jax.”

“Oh. Shit, I’m really sorry, man. But hey, maybe it won’t be so bad. He could accept, you know. It’s not outside the realm of possibility. High school was a long time ago.”

“Yeah. I guess. Not like it matters anyway, right? Long time ago, like you said. Sent one to Donny too.”

“Cool. Oh, hey, fair warning? Garrett is on Facebook, so… you know he’ll seeyour name when I accept your request unless you block him.”

Dylan contemplated the idea for about fifteen seconds before saying, “Nah, I kinda miss the little dude. He was weird, but he meant well.”

“Yeah, he’s a good guy. Um… so are you gonna add Melissa on there?”

“Uh, that’d be a no. I don’t think friending my ex-wife on Facebook is a thing I’m gonna do.”

“Okay, just asking. Some people do that, you know. I’m kinda, you know,friends with her already.”

Dylan sighed again. “Of course you are. Still no, though. Did you need anything, or were you only calling to—” Dylan cut himself off as a little red one appeared at the top of the page. “What’s the little globe mean?”

“Those are your notifications, like when someone accepts your friend request or likes something you posted.”

Dylan clicked the button, and his heart started pounding.

Jaxon Luther has accepted your friend request.

“He, uh… he accepted. Jax. Jax did. The, uh, the friend thing.”

“Oh, yeah? Well, all right, man. See? That’s great. Oh, hey, uh, I got another call. Can I call you back?”

“Sure thing, Tom. Later. Love you.” Dylan was barely paying attention at that point, though.

He clicked Jax’s page again, but there was nothing more showing than there had been before. That was weird, right? Or maybe he was new to this like Dylan was. From the pictures he had posted, it looked like maybe that wasthe case. They’d all been put up within the last few weeks.

He debated sending a message. Tom had explained to him that there was a chat feature, but Dylan thought a regular message would be fine. He clicked the button and typed a brief missive.

Hey, man! Wasn’t sure you would accept. Glad you did. Long time no talk, huh? How are things?

To Dylan’s surprise, when he hit send, a message box popped up in the bottom corner, indicating that he had started a chat conversation. He briefly scanned the chat sidebar, and it showed that Jax was actually online. His heartbeat spiked again at the thought that they might actually have a live chat, after all these years of radio silence. Adrenaline shot through him whenhe heard the noise indicating he’d gotten a reply.

>Hello, Dylan. It has been a long time. Things are good. How are you?

Dylan sat there for a long moment, considering. Jax hadn’t mentioned the stuff from back then, and Dylan wasn’t sure if he should. Maybe it was time to try apologizing again. Jax hadn’t accepted his apologies at the time, but maybe he’d had time to forgive. If he was talking to him now, surely that was the case.

I’m pretty good, Jax. Can’t complain. Listen, about what happened back then… I’m sorry. I should’ve known better. It wasn’t my finest moment.

Dylan bit his thumbnail as he waited for a response. Tom hadn’t mentioned how nerve-wracking “instant” communication was, especially when you could see the other person type and then stop and type again.

>Nor mine, Dylan. It’s fine. I’m sorry too. I overreacted. I realize now that you were confused. Weren’t we all? 🙂

Man, I’m glad to hear you say that. It’s bothered me all these years. Especially since we moved right after and never got to work it all out, you know? You were the best friend I ever had.

>I’ve felt the same! But let’s talk about better things. Tell me what you’ve been doing with your life all these years. I am going to presume you did notbecome the rock god you always dreamed of being or I’d have heard about you 🙂

Dylan laughed out loud at that. He’d almost forgotten about that particular dream.

Nah, turns out it helps to be able to sing and/or play an instrument. Who knew? Ha-ha.

I do classic car restoration, actually. I’m sorta famous in those circles, though. Remember my old Dodge Dart? I still have it. Other than that, I was marriedfor a while, but that didn’t work out. No kids or anything. How about you? I assume no great American novel or I’d have heard about YOU. 🙂

>LOL I have heard those talents help in the music business, yes. Glad you’re doing something you love, though. Sorry to hear that marriage didn’t suit you. And actually, I am a writer, I simply use a pseudonym. 😛

You write books? What books? I wanna read ’em!

>Ha-ha… no. I write under a pseudonym for a reason. 😛

Seriously? Are they books I’d have heard of, at least?

>Possibly. My first one was rather… controversial. Most of my work is…strictly for adults, so they don’t exactly make the bestseller list.

Jax writes porn! HA-HA-HA. Man, that is too awesome!!

I am so glad you approve. 😉 Listen, I have to go, my editor is calling. I hope we’ll talk again?

Definitely!

The chat bar showed Jax going offline. Dylan closed the page. Then he sat there at his desk smiling for a minute. He couldn’t believe he’d just spent ten minutes talking to Jax Luther for the first time in ten years. It felt good. They’d finally cleared the air. He sent Tom a text, letting him know as much.

Tom didn’t respond right away, but that was all right. He had a life now, and that was good. Dylan, on the other hand, had none—and a whole lonely weekend to himself to contemplate it. He got up and got a beer, relocating to the couch. After a few minutes of self-pity, he got up and opened Facebook again. He had realized he didn’t want to miss it if Jax came back online.

When he got back to the couch, his phone rang that horrible tone again. He’d have to figure out how to change it back.

“You’d better tell me how to change this stupid ringtone, Thomas. It’s loud enough to break the sound barrier.”

“Fine. So you talked to Jax? How was it?”

“Man, you know? It was like no time had passed. Same old jokey rhythm we always had. We both apologized and then talked about what’s been happening since. He’s a writer now, dude!”

“Wow, that’s great. I’m glad to hear it. You gonna talk to him again?”

“He said he wants to, but he didn’t say when he’s usually on or anything, so I don’t know when we’ll do that.”

“You know, you can get an app for your phone so you know right away when people send you messages.”

“Yeah?”

So Tom spent the next several minutes giving Dylan more technology lessons about his phone. Dylan downloaded the app and then went back to his computer, to see if there were other people he could think of to add. He found Garrett on Tom’s page, now that Tom had also accepted his friend request. He saw a couple of the guys from work and added them, along with his old pal Emma.

He hadn’t seen her in a couple of years, but they still called each other now and then. He sent her a message too, asking how surprised she was to see him on social media. At least he thought that was the phrase for what Facebook was. If not, it was too late, because he’d already sent it. He shrugged it off and decided he’d added enough people for now.

He debated putting a photo up. He sort of wanted to, but it meant taking apicture, probably. Then he decided to scroll through his phone and see if there was one on there. He found one Tom had taken only a few months back that he thought would work. His spiky blond hair wasn’t too messy in it, and it showed off the ice green of his eyes to good effect—while hiding the lines that were starting to mar his forehead. He uploaded it and then chose another for his cover photo. He used a picture of the Dart.

After that, he sort of gave up on Facebook and went back to sit on the couch and watch TV. He found some good reruns and watched them on low volume until he fell asleep. He was in the middle of a dream about the sitcom he’d been watching when an unfamiliar noise woke him. He was disoriented until the noise sounded again, and he realized his phone was lighting up. The Facebook app said he had three messages from Jax.

>On again or still on?

>I know you used to be a night owl, but I don’t know what you’re like these days 🙂

>Oh, hey, nice picture! Have you aged at all? 😛

Dylan was confused until he remembered he had left Facebook open on his laptop, so he supposed he was still showing as online.

Actually, I’d dozed off on the couch. I’m still a night owl usually, just not tonight 😉 I have definitely aged! Not as much as some people. But, hey, let’s see you! Has Father Time been kind or cruel to young Jaxon, I wonder? 😛

>I don’t like the idea of posting my face for the world to see. But here, I will send one to you. How’s that?

It took a few moments, but suddenly there was a picture of Jax, looking almost exactly as Dylan remembered him. His unkempt black hair, which he’d never been able to control, still set off his blue-gray eyes. His jaw was broader, and there was more facial hair, but otherwise he’d barely changed. Dylan smiled at his phone, equal parts nostalgia and sadness.

Wow, Jax. You’ve aged even less than I have! Looking good, compadre, ha-ha.

>Well, if you say so. All I see are lines on my face. Poppy says I’m too hard on myself, though. Of course, the poor girl grew up here in Ashland City, so….

Wait. You’re still in Tennessee?

>It is possible to have a writing career and live in Tennessee, you know. :/ Where are you these days?

I just meant you always talked about getting out. Anyway: Dude, I’m in Nashville! Moved here a few years ago. We could go get coffee or something sometime…. You know, if you wanted. If not, that’s cool.

>I’d really like that, Dylan. I don’t suppose you’re free tomorrow for lunch? After that I’m booked solid for nearly a month.

Hell yeah I’m free tomorrow! Just tell me when and where, man.

They made plans and talked for a while about old times. Mostly they stuck to topics that had nothing to do with the last days of their friendship, and Dylan was glad. It was really strange and kind of wonderful how easily they had fallen into their old pattern of talking. Jax was still pretty much the same guy he’d always been, except better. It was nice knowing there was some consistency in the world.

>So how is Tom? Last time I talked to him was the day after graduation. I assume he’s stopped dyeing his hair?;)

He’s good! Haha, yeah, just plain strawberry blond these days. He’s in his last year of medical school… wait, you talked to him the day we left?

>He called to tell me what was happening. And to convince me to call you.

I never knew that! I wish… I wish you had. Or I had. Or something.

>I did. You didn’t answer, and you nevercalled back.

Dylan was incredulous until he remembered. He’d thrown his cell phone against the wall and shattered it. Fearing his Mom’s wrath, he hadn’t told anyone. He’d waited till they got to Missouri and pretended he’d left it behind.

I forgot until now, but I broke my phone that morning. Tom didn’t know. I was mad about moving and… everything, and I just threw it against the wall and it broke into a bunch of pieces. I never knew you called me. I was too scared to call you.

>Being eighteen really sucked, didn’t it? Wasn’t at all like they promised in the brochure. :/

Ha-ha, no, Jax, it really wasn’t like they promised.

But hey, if we’re getting together forlunch, I should probably hit the bed. I got stuff to do beforehand, so…. Man, it’s been good catching up.

>It has been very good, Dylan. I lookforward to more of it tomorrow. Good night 🙂

Night, Jax. 🙂

 

 

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