I felt like a wimp to be blubbering on the side of the road where the whole world could see, but I was too heartsick to care.
"Come on, W.," said Minerva. She laid her slender hand on my shoulder. "He'll get over it. It's not that big a deal."
I turned and glared at her. "What would YOU know about it?"
That startled her.
"I don't think," she said hesitantly, "I know what you mean."
"Of course not," I said. "What would you know about losing your best friend? Did you ever even HAVE a friend to lose?"
Minerva stepped back and gasped like I'd knocked the breath right out of her. Then she deliberately lifted her bike and turned around to leave. For a long moment, she just stood there with her back to me, then she turned her face back over her shoulder. It was streaked with tears.
"The answer to your question," she said. "Is no. Until now."
I felt like a balloon that had been jabbed with a needle. My anger whooshed out of me, and I felt small and flat. This whole thing was because of her, but it wasn't like she meant to do it. And now I had hurt her, really hurt her, to make her pay.
She mounted her bike and began to pedal away.
"Minerva!" I cried. "Wait! Please! I'm sorry! I'm really sorry. Please don't go."
She kept going.
"Friends don't leave!" I shouted. "You're my friend! Friends don't leave!"
She slowed to a stop, and turned to look back at me. For a long time she just stood there, as if deciding what to do.
"C'mon," I called. "Please come back."
She rode slowly back to me. And when she pulled up beside me, she said, "So you're the big expert on being friends, huh?"
"No, no, I don't think that," I said. "My mom always says being friends takes practice. That's why you get better at it, the older you get."
"Yeah, right," Minerva said. "That must be why grown-ups are so good at it."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Who do people usually hurt? NOT the ones they don't care about. No, it's always the ones they LOVE. You say you're my friend, but you just hurt me. Does THAT make any sense?"
Ashamed, I didn't know what to say.
"No," she answered her own question. "It's just stupid. And the more people say they care, the stupider they get. Take my parents. They said they loved each other, but they could never even figure out how to be friends."
"Did they fight?"
"Of course," she said. "They had to obey the law."
She smiled a thin smile. "I call it The Minerva Wimberly Law of Stupidity, and it goes like this: People are basically stupid. And love makes them even stupider."
I giggled nervously. She was joking. Right?
"Love makes people stupid?"
"StupiDER! It makes people do really stupid stuff they'd NEVER do if they weren't in love."
I shook my head and looked across the river. I didn't know it then, but this was the summer that I would prove the truth of Minerva's law.