Presented by SHANNON MUIR’S INFINITE HOUSE OF BOOKS

SPONTANEOUS CHOICES SHORTS features short serialized fiction by author Shannon Muir, that may be later released as part of e-book or print collections. In 2019, these serials will appear every second and fourth Thursday (and fifth Thursdays as they occur) beginning January 17, 2019. The story line featured over the next sixteen days is “A Spontaneous Kind of Mystery,” featuring the return of Marnie and Zane. This is part 14 of 16.

With Zane at the wheel of the car, Marnie went back to Aubryville – the town where she’d first met Blake – and they went to the address they’d found. Marnie knocked on the door, while Zane waited nearby in the car just in case.  A woman in her 40s answered the door, which reassured Marnie she likely had the right house.

“My name’s Marnie Hawkin. I work for TrentonDeviceMed.”

Lara shook Marnie’s hand.

“I’m Lara. Pleased to meet you. I’m surprised you came here though, to our little town. I’m no longer active in nursing, only volunteering in hospice care.”

“Lara, I’m actually trying to locate someone I believe is your son. Do  you have a son named Colby that goes to community college now?” Marnie asked Lara. “I understand he started going when in high school through some sort of bridge program.”

“One of my sons is named Colby,” she said. “My younger one. I have an older son named Jared and as well as a daughter, who is my oldest child. Colby isn’t here, though, nor does he have any interest in the medical profession.”

Marnie watched Lara’s look change from friendly to highly suspicious.

“Who did you say you were?”

“Marnie Hawklin from TrentonDeviceMed. I’m looking for Colby not for professional reasons, but personal ones. One thing I’d like to do for my sister’s kids is help them build a family tree of who they are related to. Their father is Clif Royale.”

Lara slammed the door.

“Go away!” she shouted from the other side. “I never want to hear the name Royale again!”

“So the Royales messed with you as well,” Marnie said. “My sister was betrayed by her now ex-husband Clif. It turned out our mother was married to a Royale who beat his infant son to death. Those of us with ties to the Royales should stick together, Lara.”

Lara cautiously opened the door.

“I remember hearing about that. I’m sorry, Marnie. Being a Royale, or even having Royales in your life, really does lead to heartbreak.”

Manrie noticed Lara wasn’t inviting her in. She wouldn’t push it.

“Can you at least tell me about how Colby fits in to all this?”

“My husband Jared had only been dead a few months when I got the assignment to care for Hampton Royale. I’d met Jared while I was in school, helping to assist his wife unofficially as she struggled with an illness while I worked at the local grocery store here in Aubryville. It’s a complicated story, but we ended up falling for one another, getting married, and having two children, though there’s a bit of an age gap between our daughter and Jared Junior. It didn’t change that Jared was twenty years older than I was and died in his sixties. Our son Jared Junior just started kindergarten, so I needed to go back to work. While Jared Jr and his sister were in school, I commuted the the big city to work a day shift caring for Hampton Royale.  I wasn’t ready, and really not ready to be helping a charming older man. He got to me in all the ways I was weak, played to my desires for security and comfort, and when I realized I’d be having a child with him, I left.”

“He didn’t provide for Colby in his will?”

“He did, and I thought Colby would be all taken care of,” Lara admitted. “I reassured him that he could have any future he wanted once he turned eighteen. Boy, was I wrong. In the intervening years, Colby’s older brother Clif manipulated things so he got nothing. Colby spent his whole life not planning out what to do with his life, and suddenly didn’t know what to do. My son was so frustrated and angry, and I didn’t know how to help him.”

“What did he do?” Marnie asked.

“He got a job starting last summer at a new bookstore in town, trying to build a normal life for himself. Yet every day, he struggled with it. Colby knew he’d been destined for better, or at least, I’d raised him to believe that. It’s all my fault.”

Marnie could see that Lara needed comfort, but as a stranger it would be rather awkward for her to give it.

“I’ve taken enough of your time, Lara.  And I’m so sorry, for everything.”

“I hope your family has better luck coming out of the shadows of the Royales than my family,” Lara told her.