A Leap in Belief by Brad Bennett
The teenage girl leaned forward, poised for her fall. Shrieking seagulls, and far-down sounds of pounding surf on jagged rocks, sang to her. Sprinkling sea mist caressed her face. The inviting pull of the sheer drop-off was working its sweet power. Yes, it would be easy now—close the eyes, lean forward, and float downwards into a dreaming forever peace, leaving this horrifying nightmare behind.
“Young lady, don’t do this!” Came a man’s voice from somewhere behind her. “Talk to me, okay?”
The rude intrusion broke her thoughts, destroying her suspended trance. She caught the man’s figure off to the side behind the railing. “Getaway! Don’t come any closer!" She warned him.”
He raised his hands, revealing his empty palms. “See, I’ve nothing with me. I’m too old to try and grab you, anyway. Please hear me out, I….”
“I SAID STAY AWAY!” she yelled—her body teetering over the abyss, her footing precarious on the slippery ledge wet from morning dew.
The man caught his breath—she was inches from death—wind whipping at her light sweater, “Listen to me,” he pleaded. “This cannot be the answer. Please talk to me!”
“Get back! Why? Why are you here? Get away from me!”
“What will this solve?”
“Everything. It can take all this shit away.”
“Away from what? Tell me.”
The girl fought to control her anguish. “The abuse, the teasing, the torment.” Her face contorted in anger. “I can’t take it anymore."
“What torment? Who did that to you?”
“Everybody scorns me. I want to die. How can I go on and be what they claim I am?”
“I’m listening; I care. You seem like a bright young person to me. Why would anyone hate you?”
“I’m lousy at school, the other kids make fun of me—they say that I’m stupid, awkward. I don’t belong.”
The man noticed the girl's footing was slipping, she could fall at any moment. “Yes, you do belong! You have a right to exist just as much as any of them.”
“No. I’ve no place here. I can’t take it anymore.”
“Have you told anybody this—your mom, dad? Do they know of these things?”
“What’s the use? They have no clue. How could they? Dad’s always away with his job. Mom’s constantly involved in her stupid little circles. They discount me.”
“You must tell them what has brought you to this.”
“Why? Nobody wants to hear about my sorry, pathetic existence.”
“Oh, yes, they do. Trust me, but they need to know about you. I want to know about you. My name is Gerald; what’s yours?”
“That’s a nice name, Mindy. Now please lean back towards the rail. It would break my heart if you fell.”
“Why? You don’t know me.”
“Oh, but I do. Your story is the same as mine.”
The young girl shook her head. “How?”
“Just lean back a bit, please! Then I will tell you.”
Mindy reached behind her, grasping for the railing, but she couldn’t find it. Her body teetered towards the edge.
“Back further, Mindy, you’re almost there!”
Her swaying hand found the rail. She grabbed it.
“Hold on tight!" The man pleaded. "Please don’t let go.”
“Why are you here? Why should you care about me?”
“You believe nobody knows how you feel. They laugh at you, want to hurt you? Make you want to hide, even to die! You believe this, don’t you?”
“Yes. Yes!" She cried out, “I can’t live with this pain anymore.” Tears gleamed down her face in the bright sun.
“Mindy, you still have a purposeful life ahead of you. Believe in that. I knew a boy your age. His name was Joey, and he did badly in school—he couldn’t mix with the other kids. Like you, he learned how it is to be rejected. But you can get stronger. Give yourself that chance. Joey didn’t, don’t be like him.”
“I can’t go back. There’s no other way out.” Mindy was sobbing uncontrollably now.
“Oh, but there is, you can solve these things. I can see you are sensitive, smart. There is a complete adventure before you—see it. You have plenty to live for, don’t let others destroy that promise.”
“I can’t go on!” she cried. “This pain is ripping my heart out. How, how can I go back?”
“By believing in yourself, ignoring the others’ insensitivity. Stop them from denying your right to be. You are NOT a failure, NOT a stupid person. You’re unique and have much to offer.”
“How can you know this?”
“Because I knew Joey. I realized what he was inside. He was full of hope and promise, and I can see that in you also. Don’t give in to ignorance and cruelty. Think of your mom, your dad. This will destroy them. They will make up for their mistakes if you give them that chance, trust me.”
At that very moment, a black and white police car drove up the hill and stopped nearby. Two officers, a tall male, and a younger female, got out. They approached the railing along the park’s cliff.
“Go to them, Mindy!” Gerald pleaded to her. “Leave this place of death. Go back to the living. Do it now!”
“Are you okay, miss?” the woman officer asked as she neared. “Please come away from the edge.”
Mindy hesitated, her hands trembling on the railing. The policeman sensing her indecision, rushed forward, reached over the fence, and grasped Mindy away from the drop-off. The policewoman wrapped her arms around the distraught girl, holding her tight—reassuring her she would be okay. She nodded to her partner, and he pulled out his cell and made a call for a support group.
They began walking back toward the car—the woman still clasping the girl. “I’m Nancy,” she told the shaken teen. “Do you have any ID?”
Mindy fumbled in her jeans. She produced her school pass.
“Mindy, we’ll have some people take you home now, okay?”
“No! I want to be with Gerald. I want to talk to him.”
“Who is Gerald?” the woman asked.
“The man, the person I was talking to.”
“Honey, we didn’t notice anybody with you.”
“There was an older man with me; he talked to me!” Mindy’s voice was insistent. “He told me he knew a boy named Joey, whose life was just like mine.”
“Nancy looked at the police officer, “Jim, have you heard of a Gerald or a boy named Joey from around here?”
The policeman hesitated. “A… Gerald? No, sorry, Nancy. I haven’t.”
“Mindy, are you certain this man was with you?”
“YES!” She cried out. “He was here, he talked to me. You have to believe me.” Tears welled up in her eyes again.
“Don't worry,” Nancy held the girl tight. “I’m sure Gerald had to leave. We just didn’t see him, did we, Jim?”
“That’s right,” Jim agreed. “Mindy, we were focused on you. That’s why we didn’t notice him. You were the only thing we cared about.”
Soon a van, with a Youth Services logo on its side, pulled up and parked next to the police cruiser. Two women in plain clothes got out and approached the distraught teen. They introduced themselves to Mindy, said they worked with kids just like her. But now she must go home with them and talk to her mom and dad—they would help them to understand her problems.
But Mindy was still upset; she didn’t want to leave yet. “Please find Gerald,” she sobbed, her voice broken. “I want to say goodbye to him.”
“You should go home with these people now,” Nancy told her, "but don’t you worry, we’ll find Gerald and tell him you got home safely.”
Mindy climbed up into the van with the two women. Jim and Nancy waved goodbye to them as they drove back down the mountain parkway.
Nancy and Jim got back into their squad car to continue their park patrol, but Jim seemed edgy. He glanced at his seatmate; his voice nervous and apologetic. "Um, ‘how bout we drive down to the café in town?” he said. “I know it’s too early for lunch, but I need a break. This whole incident’s bothering me.”
“Oh? What’s going on?”
The officer was noticeably shaking, “I’ll tell you when we get there.”
The server took their orders and hurried away. Nancy picked up her coffee and studied her partners, somewhat pale face. “Okay, what’s going on, Jim? It’s not like you to go hinky on a suicide job?”
“I’m sorry, Nancy, I couldn’t discuss this in the girl’s presence. But I do know this man Gerald.”
“What? No way. How?”
Jim set his coffee down, his voice low and serious. “Many years ago, before you and I started working together, my partner then and I met a kid named Joey. We discovered him standing on that same cliff ledge Mindy was standing on today.”
“I couldn’t talk the boy away from the edge, and he was too far away for me to grab him. We were getting desperate. We even contacted his dad—he worked somewhere downtown. The poor man was rushing through traffic to get there while I pleaded with the kid to wait. But just minutes before the father arrived, the boy jumped.”
“Oh my God, Jim! You never mentioned this to me before.”
“It gets worse, Nancy. That boy’s father’s name was Gerald. I’ll never forget the man’s tragic grief.”
“Oh, no!” Nancy was silent for a moment, trying to fathom this terrible story. “Jim, could that father have been there today?
“No, Nancy, that’s not possible. Gerald died of a heart attack soon after. That was over eighteen years ago!”
“But how? How could Mindy have known about Joey and Gerald? This all happened before she was even born?”
“It’s an unexplained phenomenon, Nancy. That’s all I can answer.”
Nancy nodded. Then she smiled. “Yes, and that is how it must remain on our report, Jim. An unexplained but beautiful phenomenon.”
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