Despite her busy schedule Sarah secretly enjoyed one lavish indulgence whenever she could: her private aromatic garden. The garden was laid out on a smooth platform overlooking the ocean, the east edge of which ended with a pair of winding stone stairs that embraced a small fountain like parentheses. The stairs ended half buried in the sand of the beach and from them a path meandered between palm trees and ferns to the edge of the water. On the west side of the garden a flagstone path flanked by white gardenias led through a narrow gate in a stone garden wall to the cloister of the Prayer Hall.

Between these two edges lay the delightful garden where Sarah snuck out to think, putter around, breathe in the humid air of Terra Two and watch the kids play on the beach.

Solomon followed her like a shadow in all her pursuits and since Sarah found reasons to come back to the garden the cat became a constant feature of it too, pretending to rest under its benches with eyes half closed, ready to pounce at anything that moved or rustled.

The contrast between the luscious green of the tropical plants and the burnt sienna of the planet’s soil made everything look so healthy and vibrant that Sarah often wondered if the genetic modifications alone enabled their extensive lifespan or the planet itself had something to do with it.

The design of the garden was a simple four square with a glazed ceramic birdbath at the center and immaculate white bougainvillea spilling over the top of the wall. Pear trees and jasmine guarded the remaining edge and shaded a couple of stone benches bleached by the heat of the suns and the salt of the ocean. The pear trees served as tutors for the thick vanilla orchids whose fragrance dripped from above, rich and heavy in the humid air.

The flower beds were covered by a thick matting of aloe vera planted for medicinal use but which looked neatly manicured due to the regular harvesting of its leaves. When in bloom the flowers echoed the reddish soil and their pendulous, translucent buds could almost be mistaken for one of the ubiquitous pieces of ceramic art that embellished the grounds of every home on their island.

When it rained Sarah sat on the large lanai that opened the lounge to the garden. She sat on a carved teak bench, so finely polished that one could almost see one’s reflection, really close to the ground, between a openwork wood coffer filled with curing vanilla beans and a large basket of dried hot peppers. Sometimes she brought the marble mortar and pestle Sys had made for her to grind turmeric or cloves by hand as she let her mind be refreshed by the song of the rain and the jingle of the glass chimes.