Damon sank to his knees before flopping back on the grass, his arms extended. The warm spring sun flowed over him like the hands of a sublime masseur, gentling and calming nerves worn shadow-thin by months of stress.

He turned his head away from the sun, opened his eyes. Far above, a bird circled without moving its outstretched wings. He sat up, settled into a comfortable position, took a deep breath, closed his eyes again, slowly let out the breath and emptied his mind.

+

Somewhere, far away, a phone timer was chirping. Not a loud sound, it took a couple of repetitions to penetrate, get his attention.

His eyes still closed, he rolled his shoulders, took a deep breath and smiled at the sound of leaves in the breeze. He felt better, more relaxed.

Opening his eyes, he gave a slight gasp of surprise. Seated in front of him now, almost within reach, was a woman, also sitting in lotus. Older than he by some years, the woman was also dressed in hospital scrubs. She’d taken off her shoes and Damon was struck by the simplicity, almost the innocence, of the image she presented. As he watched, a bird flying overhead cast a momentary shadow on the sunlit sole of one foot.

+

The hospital grounds around them were quiet, disturbed only by the sounds of birds.

The estate had originally been a wedding present to his young bride from Peter Addison, an industrial baron in the late 1800s. It became their full-time home, for the woman was soon expecting and her doctors recommended peaceful surroundings.

Emiline Addison had died in c***dbirth, along with the son she had been carrying. In mourning for the rest of his years, Addison never remarried, instead devoting his spare time to the house and grounds.

Over the years, he spent a small fortune importing and arranging plants from around the world, creating and lovingly tending acres of flowers, trees, fountains and even a small waterfall. It was his legacy to a wife who had died before it was properly begun.

Addison’s will directed the bulk of his estate be used for the foundation of a medical college specializing in obstetrics; the rambling, three-story Gothic Revival house he’d built for his bride became its first campus. The once-small college had since grown into a major teaching hospital and, while it had expanded far beyond obstetrics, the head of that department was still, by custom and common understanding, first among equals.

The main facility was now housed in a very modern eight-story tower. The original house still existed 125 years later, but was now used for primarily for administration, with some of its original facilities – the grand and high-ceilinged main hall in particular – sometimes rented out for weddings and other special occasions.

Peter Addison lived on however in more than just the hospital. Despite the occasional legal challenge, that part of his will requiring the preservation and maintenance of his beloved greenery was still in force. Indeed, Addison College now derived a not-inconsequential portion of its income from charging admission to the gardens. They were a popular site for tourists and local residents alike and in good weather were generally filled with appreciative crowds.