Recent commitments means one of our group cannot attend our once monthly DnD game for a few weeks. We are in the middle of a campaign, a close knit group and we are usually always present at every meeting (there's only 4 of us). In the player's absence, we have done a few non-DnD evenings but we're all itching to get back into it, so it's been decided we'll do a little mini quest to scratch the DnD itch whilst one of our group is away. The players do not want to re-roll new chars. They want to play as their existing PCs.
I am unsure how best to proceed.
I could carry on from where we left off in the story and just somehow explain the absence of the PC for a while. This will take some story manipulating and will definitely feel contrived in some respects. Or...
I could wind the clock back to an earlier time to do some quest that is assumed to have happened in the past but we just never actually looked at it before. Again, a little contrived but possible.
I would love to hear some of your experiences of handling this problem and any other ideas you may have for side quests that don't derail the main story but also don't require a whole lot of story wrangling.