When she was little Ann Marie’s father used to take her for long rambling walks every Sunday afternoon in the woods above her placid Alpine village. These walks were a particular treat as her father’s position as a Customs Officer left him little time to devote to domestic affairs.
One sunny afternoon they found themselves in a clearing where an ancient tree stump was ringed with red and white toadstools. Her father explained this was the court of the Fairy Queen herself and perhaps if they sat quietly on the stump, the fairies might come and array themselves on the toadstools chattering away in all their gossamer finery.
Ann Marie sat solemn with concentration until the evening air brought goose bumps to her dangling legs and her father suggested that as the Fairy Queen was obviously paying a social call somewhere else in the forest, it would be better to come back another day.
Next Sunday, try as they might, they just could not locate the clearing. While this only added to the mystique and the credibility of the location, Ann Marie’s insistence on continuing the search every week and her disappointed silence all the way home caused her father to regret his uncharacteristic flight of fancy.
After weeks of her silent reproaches, he applied for a slot on the Sunday Rota, which surprised his colleagues as his seniority effectively freed him from weekend work.
When Ann Marie was old enough to search the forest on her own she could barely remember the yearning that had impelled her desperate quest through the pines. But she never shook off the feeling that something more tangible than a Fairy Queen’s court had been lost on the tree lined slopes above her childhood home.