Saturday, October 10, 2015

Even Better Than Before: A New Excerpt

This is the story of Brent & Keri- old friends and soul mates

Earlier this year I wrote an as yet unpublished manuscript which is titled Even Better Than Before. The book is about a group of old friends having a fun and a fantastic reunion at a beach house. It is also about songwriting, romance, grace and redemption. But mostly it is a love story about two old friends who come to realize they are the very best part of each other's lives- even if they cannot be together. People have asked me where the title comes from. It comes from this scene which takes place about midway through the story. Enjoy- and let me know if you are intrigued and would like to read more...     

     It was just after 1:30 am when Billy slipped into the room he was sharing with Brent. He and Cassie had stayed out on the beach for a couple of hours, talking, laughing and making love. Brent was still wide awake, contemplating the events of the day and night. “Everything good, bro?” he said to his late arriving roommate. “I think so, “Billy responded. “I’m afraid Cassie and I are getting in pretty deep this weekend. And this time it’s not just sex.” Brent couldn’t help but chuckle, but he knew his old friend was being sincere. “She’s a great girl. A free spirit for sure, but with a heart of gold.” Billy sat up in the bed. “I know there’s a little history between you two, but I’ve never really known what. Care to share?” Brent sat up as well. “Yeah, it’s a pretty short story. There was a period of time, before she met Justin, when I used to ask her out on occasion. She always said no, that she didn’t want to do anything that might mess up our friendship. Story of my life, right? I accepted that; I just thought she and I could have a lot of fun as a couple. Then one Sunday afternoon after one of our epic football games over at the middle school she went back to the apartment with us and hung out a while- as she often did. I did notice that she seemed particularly flirty that day, but I didn’t really think anything of it. It was Cassie. This was during the period of time when I was off and on with that girl Amanda…remember her?” Billy shook his head. “Oh yeah…I remember Amanda. Hot as a firecracker and dumb as a stump!” They both laughed. “Yes,” Brent continued, “that was her. Anyway, we had been out the night before and decided to give our relationship a real shot and see if there was anything there worth holding on to. Cassie got home that Sunday night and called me. After a bunch of small talk she got around to the point. She had been thinking about it. Maybe we should try dating after all. We just seemed so comfortable together. I explained that while I still liked the idea, the timing was terrible. I had just committed to Amanda. She was dating Justin already. I told her we should wait and see what might happen. And you know the rest.” Billy studied the face of his friend. “So you guys never hooked up at all?” Brent smiled. “Nope, bro. Not even a drunken one-nighter.” 

Billy cringed at those words. Only months after Brent left for Nashville, with the pain of being left behind still a fresh wound in his soul, Billy and Keri had gone out on the town with a few other friends. There had been a lot of drinking and a lot of crying on each other’s shoulders about how much they missed Brent and how complicated his leaving had been. They wound up back at Billy’s apartment, and Keri spent the night. The next morning they immediately regretted what they had done and agreed that Brent should never find out. But, as almost always happens when secrets are kept among friends, he did. He was crushed by what felt like a massive betrayal. Billy knew that he had asked Keri to come live with him in Nashville. Billy also knew that his feelings for her ran very deep. Was it just payback for not taking Billy to Nashville with him? At the time Brent had seriously wondered about that very point. Both Billy and Keri passed it off as “just a drunken one-nighter.” Brent had never been certain. And now he had just pushed Billy’s buttons on the subject yet again. “Dude,” Billy began, “you have no idea how sorry I was- how sorry we both were- that us sleeping together ever happened. She was not one of my typical conquests. It was just a case of two very good friends who were hurting and had too much to drink. It messed me up for a while. And I’m afraid her guilt and pain over that night was what drove her to get serious with Mark. It was a bad night. Just a really bad night.” Brent could feel the remorse in Billy’s body language and hear it in his voice. “No worries, Bro. Shit happens. We both know that. Like you said before about the Nashville thing, it’s water under the bridge. We move on.” Billy stood and began to pace around the bedroom. “Thanks Brent. That means a lot. This whole thing with Cassandra has me thinking a lot about moving on. There is a huge part of me that thinks I may be ready to settle down, to actually grow up. I want to be with her all the time. And that scares me.” Brent smiled at his friend. “Yeah, it makes me a little nervous as well to hear you talking like that. But I know what you mean. I want to move on too, to actually start life over again, and to start my life with Keri. I just don’t know if it’s in the cards.” Billy stopped pacing and glared at Brent. “It has to be in the cards, dude. You two actually are soul mates. And I am starting to believe me and Cass are too.  It’s not just a song anymore. We’ve all shared so many great times and so many incredible moments. Our history is full of great stories. But what if all that stuff was only a prelude? What if the next chapter is not about re-living a past we loved, it’s about living a life that is even better than before?” Brent pondered those words for a moment and then responded. “Yeah. What if?” There was a moment of silence, and suddenly Brent sprang to his feet, a wild look of inspiration in his eyes. “Billy- what was the last thing you said?” Billy thought for a second and then replied, “What if all of this is about living a life that is even better than before? Is that the one you mean?” Brent grabbed his buddy and hugged him. “Yes! That’s the one. Even better than before. Bro, that’s a song just waiting to be written! Grab your guitar. We’ve got work to do.”  ~ Carl Jones


  1. Anonymous10/10/2015

    Carl, I was privileged to receive a copy of the manuscript back in February and I have read it twice. The story is fun and interesting, but it also has great depth. The descriptions of the various relationships- solid friendships, tested friendships, good marriages, rocky marriages and the whole concept of "soul mates" - are so thought provoking. This excerpt is a perfect example. I hope those who haven't read the whole thing will request a (free!) copy today. It's a great read. And you can't help but believe in a fairy tale version of true love when you read the story of Brent and Keri. Thanks bro. ~ Chris Cooper

  2. Thanks, Chris. Glad you enjoyed it and found some depth in it as well. That's the dream!


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