SHORTS FROM THE SHELF features short serialized fiction by author Shannon Muir, administrator of SHANNON MUIR’S THE PULP AND MYSTERY SHELF, that may be later released as part of e-book or print collections. The story line featured currently is “Darque Designs,” the sixth installment of the Myanna Moore serial, which will run over the next several weekends. This is Part Three.

Myanna looked down at the photo. The picture featured Myanna, just barely eighteen, and a person she recognized instantly as Donnell, the person who originally set her on this path to find out if Darque was really her father. Together, they held hands. Both of them looked so tired and sad.

“I’m so huge!” Myanna said as her hands shook with the photos in them. “And with Donnell! No wonder my memories of him are so foggy, if you played with them!”

“You were young and foolish. The two of you thought you loved one another but Donnell soon realized he admired you and the physical matchup was great, but that you weren’t couple material. While you were enough for him, apparently he couldn’t satisfy your appetite. Donnell arranged to bring you to me.”

“Donnell used to work with Darque and Edana? Didn’t he suspect who you were?”

“My dear, he knew what he was doing. Not that I was Darque’s mother, but he knew about Darque’s past where he grew up and the lifestyle you could have here.”

“Lifestyle?” Myanna asked, puzzled.

Duana pointed to the pictures.

“Keep looking at the photos.”

Myanna looked at the next one. She wore an outfit that covered very little, with the man she’d seen in her visions as not her husband rubbing her belly. One thing that stood out to her was the very distinct bracelet she wore.”

“This is a picture of you and your Farmer. A married man who wanted more in his physical life, and a wife that wanted children.”

“Farmer?”

“It used to be a way of life here that a woman would pledge herself to years of a public affair and have children with him as part of that contract to be raised by his family. Most of the Farmer’s Daughters and Growers hierarchy has been taken apart in recent years, but in this town the Farmer bond is still used to publicly declare a woman is in a monogamous physical contract with someone not a spouse, usually for the same purposes.”

Duana pointed to the bracelet.

“Everyone knew you were lovers. You couldn’t keep your hands off one another. When Donnell’s children were born, you even planned to have others together. He really turned you on.”

Myanna tried to remember the man in the photos. She couldn’t recall anything about him.

“What happened?” she asked.

Again, Myanna encouraged her to go to the next photo. Three small headstones, all in a row. She couldn’t read the names through the tears.

“No,” she sobbed.

Now Duana produced something else from the drawer, a faded newspaper clipping. The headline read: JEALOUS WIFE RUNS OFF WITH HUSBAND AND MISTRESS’ NEWBORN TWINS.

“Were these mine, too?”

“You kept your promise of a good Farmer’s Daughter. You went out, had a few one night stands, and tried to help them try one more time. As soon as these ones survived, the wife got what she wanted and split. The husband I got to work for me. Then I put him out of his misery.”

Myanna could begin to sense the deeply suppressed anger that Darque’s mind games removed.

“How could you let this happen?”

“Child, you begged for our help, you were so devastated. It’s probably why you feel so empty and lost. It’s why I wanted so desperately to help you have another child that I would keep safe for you. That’s how I got involved to begin with, and the price I required for what you wished.”

“Even though I didn’t know you were my grandmother then?”

“Yes, you did. At that point, I told you all, even that you were the daughter of my son and Myanna Watson. But I also told you that if I fulfilled the desire you expressed, all the facts would be forgotten. You still agreed.”

Myanna looked over the photos again. Everything started to make too much sense now, including why she never questioned many of the facts she’d found. Perhaps, subconsciously, she’d always known.