She made her wishes at 7:07 and tapped her thumbs together seven times for good luck. Seven erratic beats on the heart monitor, seven faceless nurses only recognized by the varying squeak of seven pairs of orthopedic shoes.
She met Stephen when he was seven years old. Stephen, who told her that are seven wonders of the ancient world, but there are also seven deadly sins. Seven days in a week. He’d lean against the wall outside the chorus room, casually mention that there were seven notes in the do re mi scale. Stephen informed her that a person can think seven times faster than they can write, which explained a lot, as far as he was concerned.
He taught her the seven times tables first, because “those are the most important, and if you don’t know what six times seven is, you’ll never get anywhere in life.” (As far as she could tell, he was right.) They discovered that there are seven colors in the visible human spectrum after years of drawing painstaking rainbows.
Seven hours spent “studying” in the library, brushing eyelashes and waxing poetic. Seven kisses pressed like afterthoughts and postscripts on her forehead. Seven inhalations, exhalations, in, out, every one memorized like a prayer. After they argued, Stephen could be counted on to appear seven or so odd hours later, making frantic apologies and fingering the arch of his nose. Even the heart he carved around their names in the tree in his backyard was harsh and angular, like two sevens intersecting.
She lives her life in measured intervals, beats, numerically, enumerating memories, counting. Always seven, inevitably, seven.
Before he died, Stephen told her that the average human lifespan is 77 years. He called it poetic irony that instead, he would die at 17. She told him that he was morbid, and he just laughed and laughed.
Seven days spent at his bedside. Seven hours of nervous pacing. Seven minutes of sunlight slanting through Venetian blinds. Seven seconds for quiet last words.
Seven was his favorite number.