absolution

It ended the way it had started: on a soccer field.

No one said anything for a long time; Catherine didn't know where to begin and Jack didn't know if he would ever be able to find his own conclusion. Idly, Catherine kicked a ball between her ankles, watching the black hexagons spin and twirl, remembering that first day when it was just the two of them, before it all got so far out of hand.

"I'd say I'm sorry," she managed eventually. "But I don't think it would help any."

He didn't look at her. "It might."

"I'm sorry," she said, instantly, voice breaking. But she didn't cry. Her tears would do nothing to help her case, she knew that. "Coach. I'm so sorry."

He shook his head, digging his hands deep into his pockets, eyes fastened to the soccer ball between them. The truth was, everything inside of him was torn: Addie's words (and it was she that had made him come, she that decided that he needed the closure), her big dark eyes as she murmured you both need absolution; Reverend Marsh, slamming the door in his face and hissing go to hell; and even Gillian Durnam, coy smile twisting her lips and breasts close enough to kiss.

"Do you still play?" He asked, nodding at the soccer ball after a long pause, unable to forgive her but unable to feel angry anymore.

Catherine bit the bottom of her lip-- a habit he'd noticed the very first day she tried out for his team. She shook her head. "I don't deserve it," she whispered, finally looking at him. "You gave me soccer, and it left with you."

The metaphor was flimsy and pathetic, but Jack couldn't help but feel slight disappointment. She'd been good, maybe the best he'd ever coached. She was all untapped athletic talent that he'd been on the verge of setting loose. "You should start again," he told her, reaching out tentatively with his toes and pulling the ball towards him.

Maybe Addie was right. Maybe it was time to let go.

Catherine started, eyes flying wide open as she looked at him with the same expression she wore before that first game: bright and filled with hope.

"Coach," she began, tears gathering. "Jack." She laughed wetly. "God, I don't even know what to call you anymore."

Jack hesitated.

He wanted to put it all behind him. He wanted to go home to Addie-- beautiful, loving, faithful Addie-- and close his eyes and never hear anything but her voice ever again. He wanted to walk away from this tiny creature who'd had more power than either of them had ever realized. He wanted--

Catherine swiped at her eyes, angry at herself, visibly not wanting to cry in front of him. Trying to be strong. Looking so much like Addie that his heart constricted.

Jack took a deep breath and gently nudged the soccer ball back at him. "Let's start with Mr. St. Bride for now," he said as she instinctively trapped the ball between her ankles.

"Do you remember how to bicycle?"

And at Catherine's nod, they began to play.