Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Love is all around us

Published:Sunday | February 7, 2016 | 2:00 AM

It was 10 a.m. as Matthew Grey, the mathematics teacher, drove into the schoolyard at All Saints High. He could hear the shouts of the children.

"He's going to jump! Oh my God! He's right at the edge! I can't look ... ."

Mr Grey looked up and there on the roof of the three-storey block of the eighth grade was 13-year-old Geoffrey Peart. He jumped out of the car and ran towards the screaming children. It was break time but no one was hungry.

"Sir, can't you stop him?" a boy pleaded. Terry Jones was Geoffrey's best friend since prep school. When you saw one, you saw the other. They were inseparable.

"I told him not to do anything stupid, but he wouldn't listen," Terry continued.

"Does his mother know?" Mr Grey asked one of the teachers standing in the crowd.

"We called her phone, but she didn't answer."

"She's probably in the operating theatre. Keep trying."

There was silence, and Mr Grey used the lull in the screams to talk to the boy.

"Geoffrey ... Can you hear me?"

The boy nodded.

"Why don't you come down? We can talk about it together."

He shook his head.

Geoffrey was perched precariously on the tiny ledge that ran around the roof of the Abigail Rhodes Block. The block had a sloping roof with a tower at its peak.

He looked down at his maths teacher and his classmates. He also saw the trio that tormented him every day, making his life a hell that he couldn't escape. He had never told his mother about their meanness. He felt too ashamed.

Geoffrey looked over their heads far into the distance. How he longed for it all to end. Of course, he would miss Terry, his mother, and Mr Grey. His maths teacher was always so kind to him. He always gave him a pat on his shoulder or a slap on the back. Mr Grey's smile said keep going, it will get better. But Geoffrey felt that he couldn't hold on any more ... . It was just too hard.

"Geoffrey! You get down here this minute!"

His mother's voice stung like a slap across his face, jolting him out of his thoughts. She was still wearing the hospital gown in which she had been working. She had rushed from the operating room when she learnt that he was on the roof of the eighth grade block.

When she left him at school he had seemed his usual self. He had reluctantly agreed to study for his French test instead of watching Terry play in the basketball finals. What had she missed? She had raised him single-handedly, but she knew that Geoffrey yearned for his dad. What else did she not know?

"We need to do something! That's my son up there ... ."

Dr Gordon turned to Mr Grey, distress etched on her face.

"We're doing all we can. The police and firemen are on their way. We just have to pray that he doesn't do anything rash!"

"You don't think he is serious, do you?"

They both looked at Geoffrey. He was climbing up the sloping roof and was heading for the tower at the very top.

"Bet you can't jump! Chicken!" shouted Andrew, one of the bullies in his class.

"Andrew, shut your big mouth!" Terry screamed, hitting Andrew full in the face.

Quick as a flash, the two were rolling in dirt. "Fight! Fight!" roared the students and a circle formed around them. Mr Grey had just separated the two when he heard Dr Gordon screaming.

Everyone watched in horror. Geoffrey had reached the top of the roof. As he grasped for the narrow ridge, his hand missed. He was sliding down the slope. There was nothing to grab. He was falling. Then he was at the narrow ledge that ran around the roof. His hands scrabbled and somehow they held firm. He hung there, his body swinging in the air.

The sirens of the fire truck and the police blared shrilly as they came to a screeching halt. Together, they brought a shaking Geoffrey down from the roof.

Easter holidays were over, and Mr Grey was now also Geoffrey's form teacher. Geoffrey was no longer in the same class with Andrew or his abusive friends.

"Geoffrey, are you OK?"

"Yes, sir. Much better."

"You know you can tell me anything. I will understand."

The boy nodded.

"Andrew and his friends call me names ... ."

"What names?"

"Like chichi, fish, b***** bwoy ... ."

Mr Grey placed his hand on Geoffrey's shoulder.

"Nobody loves me, not even God."

"That is not true, Geoffrey. Your mother loves you and so does Terry."

"But they don't know. You are the first person I have told."

"Tell them. They will understand. I understand. I love you just the way you are. So does God."