It’s always two.
I just know things are going to happen. I used to joke that I could predict the future from the images that flash through my mind. Two towels draped over a lawn chair, two suitcases in a hotel bedroom. But the images are always just two of something. Never any other number. And they always come true.
The first time I realized it, I was five years old, driving to the doctor’s office. We had just stopped at a light when I told Mama that two cars had crashed at the next intersection. Sure enough, when she peered out of the windshield at the next stop, there had been two cars, a black SUV and a white sedan, hoods smoking, metal crumpled in, and windows smashed. When Mama had asked me how I had known, I had just shrugged, saying that I saw it.
Ever since then, we tested the theory and it was always right. I saw the two red lights on the way to school as I brushed my teeth. I saw the two Christmas cards in the mail, one from Mama’s friend, one from mine, as the mail truck drove down the street.
Whenever I brought it up, it was always laughed off, brushed off as a coincidence. “It’s just random, Mei,” people would say to me. “Association after the fact. You saw two of something and you thought you knew it would happen after it did.” But that didn't explain how I saw the two fallen trees on my driveway before I looked out the window. Or how I saw Mr. Smith writing the two essay assignments on the board in ninth grade even before I even got to school. It didn't explain how they always come true.
Mama always told me I was lucky that it was two. “Two is a good number, Mei,” she would say. “Two is harmony. Good things always come in pairs.” She would always praise me, telling me my strange ability was a gift, even though she got exasperated when I pestered her, knowing that she had bought two bags of candy from the store.
It started to not seem like a gift after a while. I woke up knowing two men would attack Baba, but even as I rushed downstairs to tell Mama to find him, I was too late to stop it. I also knew the two of us would be standing in the waiting room when he finally was pronounced dead.
I tried to stop it. I ignored the images of two, always two, never anything else, flashing in my mind, but I couldn’t stop it. I could see the twos dancing in front of my mind and they always came true. Two cars in my driveway, Mama’s and the new one she bought me for my sixteenth birthday. The two twos on the door of my new apartment, number 224. It was always two. At last, I gave up, unable to ignore it, determined to use my special power to my own advantage as much as I could.
The alarm clock rings twice before I slam my hand on the snooze button, cutting off the shrill piercing sound. As I sit up, stretching, my senses tingle and the image of two sheets of paper flash before my mind. Two red A’s inked against the white. I can’t help but smile, relief surging through me.
I can hardly sit still during the lecture, anticipation rushing through me as I envision the two red A’s.
“Mei, I’m really proud of you,” Professor Jones says as he hands back my quizzes.
“Thank you,” I respond, pleased with myself as I turn over the papers, the red letters staring back at me just like I knew they would.
As I heft my bag over my shoulder, two flashes before my eyes again. Two emails. I stop in the hallway, leaning against the wall as I pull out my phone. True as always, two emails are sitting in my inbox. One of them is from Lily, my close friend, inviting me to a get-together next month. I grin as I reply, saying I’m excited to attend. The other, my heart skips a beat as I stare at the words open-mouthed, is the message I’ve been anxiously awaiting for several months.
Dear Mei Wang, February, 2nd, 2020
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted into the University Honors Program. The orientation dates will be sent to you in the next few days. Please let me know which one works best for you. If you have any questions, please let me know.
I give a little jump, squealing with joy. A few people turn to look at me and I duck my head, cheeks hurting from smiling so much. I have to fight the urge to skip down the hallway, but I make it onto the street, heading toward the parking lot. I can’t believe it, my mind races. I’ll have to email Mama and tell her.
I stop at the crosswalk, my finger hovering over the send button when, for the first time, four flashes before my eyes. I frown, recalling the image. No, there are definitely four. Four missed phone calls, though I can’t tell who they’re from.
I cross the street, but I’m not quite paying attention, musing the strangeness of the sudden four. Four. Four, my mind whizzes. I try to puzzle out what it means as I cross the street with the crowd. It’s never been four. It’s always been two. Four must be good, I reason at last. Since it’s double twos. All the twos today have been good. First the grades, then the acceptance, so the next one must be amazing, especially since there are two twos. What could the four missed phone calls mean?
I let my thoughts wander as I start the car. What could the four missed phone calls mean? What could that mean? Maybe I won the lottery. Or got a free trip to the Bahamas. I laugh to myself as I push away the ludicrous ideas, though, in my heart, I know something good is going to happen today. Two twos! What a surprise. I send the email to my mother. Mama, something awesome happened!
The first fat raindrops splash on my windshield as I drive toward my apartment, stopping at the red light. Lightning arcs from the sky to my left, thunder rumbling soon afterward. I drum my fingers on the steering wheel as my phone rings to my side.
“Come on,” I mutter as the light turns green. I flick on my windshield wipers as my phone rings again. I ignore it, but my heart rate picks up. Are these the four calls? I glance over as my phone rings a third time, the caller ID flashing Mama. Three phone calls, a voice whispers in the back of my head. The image from earlier flashes through my mind. Four missed phone calls. Anticipation sends shivers down my spine as I stare at my reflection in the now black phone screen. The light turns green before me, making me look up in surprise as the fourth phone call lights up my phone screen. I glance down at the screen as I shoot across the intersection before I see a white blur out of the corner of my eye. Something crashes into the side of my car as I slam on the brakes, tires skidding on the wet pavement, horns blaring around me. A strangled scream escapes from my lips as the seatbelt tightens around me, the car spinning out of control.
I must have blacked out because when I drift back into consciousness, I hear the faint sound of sirens growing louder and louder. My head spins as I struggle to sit up, warm blood trickling down my forehead, the smell of iron and gasoline greeting me. I struggle to move, but I can’t, the agony piercing through my skull making it impossible to do so. Four, a voice whispers in my mind. It was four. Not two.
My mind flashes back to one of Mama’s lectures on numbers. “Four is bad, Mei. Four means unlucky. Never get anything in fours.”
I tried to argue back then, kicking my heels on the stool. “But Mama, how is a number bad? What do numbers even mean?”
She merely frowned at me. “You, Mei, should know better than anyone how important numbers are. Two is harmony and luck. Four is death.”
As the darkness seeps into my vision, the world goes silent around me as if I was underwater. I realize that she must have been right, the two times she told me this.