NEXT EXIT, a Catherine Burr novel (previously published as Desires and Deceptions)
NEXT EXIT by Catherine Burr, author of the critically acclaimed novel Silicon Secrets, is a coming of age story is set in the early Silicon Valley years and explores the story of Marisa as she yearns for a better life. Through losses she suffers at an early age, it doesn’t seem possible that life could bring more hurt. Yet it does. Determined for a stronger future, she sets on a quest for affluence, even if it means hurting those she loves the most. Along her journey, secrets and lies are as abundant as the elusive lure of stock options of the wealthy in the valley. Whom can she trust? Anyone? She soon learns the path to riches is filled with greed, lust, and deceptions. She is not alone in her quest and wants it all, but at what cost?
“Marisa is a poor girl who seeks more out of life and the story follows her as she grows from bratty teenager to cranky wife and hurried mother who tries to keep up with the affluent high-tech lifestyle of the San Francisco Bay Area. Marisa gets sucked into all the riches she sees before her and the quick way to make a buck disillusions her, but not as much as she begins to doubt her relationship with her husband. This did have a surprise ending, an enjoyable trait to Catherine Burr novels.”
Marisa pulled her imitation Louis Vuitton suitcase down from the top shelf of her walk in closet knowing that she should have packed the night before. Promptness was never a strong point with her, but this time she had a good excuse; a reason that burned so deep into her soul that she would abandon everything that had ever been her life. A life for a life, not a great trade but sometimes life didn’t offer choices.
It was not even seven in the morning, not Marisa Chapman’s best time of day, and now as she took a moment to savor her strong black coffee, she wondered what in the hell she was doing. If only there was a pause button that she could press, so the events of the past twenty-four hours would stop replaying over-and-over in her mind.
Reaching into the pocket of her denim cut-offs, ones that hugged her well-toned hips as if they’d been custom fit, she pulled out an elasticized scrunchy. She gathered her long dark hair, the color of a moonless night, into a ponytail. If only she’d been able to look into a crystal ball. She would’ve seen that their time together didn’t mean forever. She wondered how long the secret would remain just that. How long until her family, the Valley, and the world, learned the truth.
She walked over to the wall and turned on the intercom.
“Girls, are you getting ready?”
Down the hall, the grandfather clock struck seven, the chimes echoed throughout their massive home.
“Girls! Do you hear me?”
“We know mother.” Their youthful voices were harmonic, as if singing in the choir for the private school they attended, rather, used to attend.
“When we get there, can we go to Rodeo Drive?” Sarah the shopper yelled out, as she sat cross-legged on the floor of the media room, the remote control glued to her fingers as she switched between MTV and the Cartoon Network.
“Is Daddy coming with us?” Elizabeth asked in between bites of Cheerios.
Marisa chose to ignore their inquiries; too many questions, too few answers. “Just get ready girls. Please.” Her voice cracked as if she were a teenage boy going through puberty. “And get the cat’s stuff ready too,” she added. God forbid if that shedding ball of fur get left behind; the poor thing would never get fed again.
The radio was tuned to a San Francisco based AM news talk station. Normally she enjoyed listening to the wisecracking duo who delivered the daily morning news with an air of light-heartedness, but this morning, for the moment, it was mere background noise.
The image of the ring in the little black velvet box sitting on her kitchen table was foremost in her mind. The container held the ring and all of its deceptions captive inside.
Reaching for her mug, she sipped her coffee and closed her eyes hoping the image of the tainted ring would go away. Would the Guatemalan blend clear her brain fog? Taking a sip, she forced herself to focus on what to pack, as time was of the essence.
In the past, she was discriminating in her selection of clothing but this time was different. This time she would not spend time laying out coordinating outfits. This time she would only pack comfort clothes. She would no longer fret over what to pack, ever again. She was only taking what she needed and would fit into one suitcase. The rest of her things could be sent for, or maybe not.
Marisa shook her head clear of the mindless fashion clutter and packed a couple of sweaters, one black strapless dress, three casual dresses, and a couple of sweatshirts and two pairs of jeans.
Next, she started clearing off the top of her dresser where she kept her favorite mementos. She could not leave without these, and she would never trust a mover with them. They weren’t just souvenirs, they represented her life.
Sure, she felt guilty about taking the coral from the reef off Maui, but she was so excited, and in love on that trip, that she wanted a solid remembrance. Like the purple glass vase she had watched being hand blown in a little village in Italy. A Japanese doll she had bought in Tokyo. A dried jasmine flower that had long since lost its scent, and of course, the two clay hand-prints that her girls each made in kindergarten, both of them were considered by her to be priceless pieces of art.
Marisa wrapped each of these treasures in tissue and packed them in between her clothes until there was only one memento left. A white porcelain figurine about eight inches tall of a woman holding two infants in her arms and it was her favorite. She picked up the statuette, turned it upside down, and removed the note from a hole in the bottom. She carefully unfolded the note and read it for what seemed like the thousandth time. It had once offered her so much comfort, but now as she read it, she realized it was meaningless.
“Darling, I am so sorry about the baby. Always remember that I love you. Please know that we are a perfect family, just the way we are. Love, T.”
Marisa’s eyes started to tear but she quickly wiped the salty moisture away. Losing the baby was just a blip on the radar, and she didn’t have time for a trip down memory lane. The longer she lingered, the more she realized she had to hurry; she had to get out of the house, out of town. Fast. How anybody could hide such secrets was inconceivable to her. How she could be fooled and led down a rosy path with lies was something she didn’t know how to reconcile. The only knew she knew was to run, before another life was lost. Too many secrets had been exposed, too much blood shed.
In the beginning, she and Terry wanted the same things, but it was the road getting there that Marisa was not prepared for. She did not know in the beginning that the land of opportunity, the land of gold, the town of Silicon, could so easily turn to rust. She didn’t know the secrets would run so deep under her own roof.
Needing a mental distraction, Marisa turned up the volume of the radio. A news bulletin came on. Maybe the Valley had already learned the truth.