The ball's stitching was coming loose.

2-42. 2-43. 2-44. 2-45. 2-46.

The leather panels were slowly pulling apart.

2-47. 2-48. 2-49.

There was some kind of black thing beneath. He'd never actually seen the inside of a soccer ball. It seemed like a pretty ridiculous notion, he had handled them so often.

2-50. 2-51. 2-52.

He always thought that the ball was full of white, fluffy cotton, light but packed firm. Yielding. The stuff of pillows and mattress and sweet sleep. On hot summer days, there wasn't much of a difference between a pillow and his soccer ball. Both supported his head, when he was in a mood for napping. And both were the home of his dreams.

2-53. 2-54.2-55. 2-56.

He should stop soon. His leg was past the point of numb, and the ball, well the ball was having a rough time of it. But this was his addiction. His coping mechanism. And it was a year of hard kicks.

2-57. 2-58. 2-59. 2-60.

Things might have been different, if he had been a man of a different sport. Had he chosen tennis, perhaps, there would be nothing, no pain. Tennis balls, do they come apart? They're so easily interchangeable anyway. He never would have had the one, the only one. Tennis balls come in packs. They're easily forgettable.

And anyone who plays tennis knows that love means nothing.

Or perhaps if he hadn't chosen a team sport- a sport where he's so easily lost in the fray of movement and faces, part of a collective entity instead of a single shinning individual. Maybe if he had chosen the high jump-

But no, he had chosen a game of heat, passion, blood, and futile, hard hitting kicks.

He had chosen a game that kept him chasing after an ever moving target.

2-61. 2-62. 2-63. 2-64. 2-65. 2-66. 2.67. 2-68. 2-69. 2-70.

He wanted to blame something. Blame his sport. Blame his heart. Blame Sano. Blame anyone but her, even though she was the one rolling away from him, speeding ever closer to another net.

2-71. 2-72. 2-73. 2-74. 2-75. 2-76. 2-77.

Even when she's gone, gone from him, gone from Sano, her preference for him still haunted, still lingered everywhere. The letters. The smug smile. The dazed look.

He wanted to be happy.

He wanted to wish them well.

2-78. 2-79. 2-80. 2-81.

He smiled.

He teased, congratulated. Laughed.

2-82. 2-83. 2-84.

Another stich comes undone.

Pretty soon it's going to fall apart.