When it comes to sabotage, the Ivies are at the top of their class. Don’t miss the alternate ending for The Ivies! Beware: spoilers ahead.
The Ivies Alternate Ending by Alexa Donne
And I’d thought I was pretty skeptical to begin with. Then I got taken in by my roommate, her killer, Tipton, Sierra, Margot, Avery, Ethan. Every person in my life who had a secret, earth-shattering or otherwise, who kept it from me easily and as a matter of course.
As I walk the path to Bay, dragging my suitcase noisily behind me, it doesn’t feel like returning home. I’m an outsider here to visit. But that’s okay. I will finish the semester, get my diploma, and leave this all behind.
Of course, college will bring more of the same. Claflin is just one of the feeder schools to the elite universities to which I applied. I’ll never fit in, not really, but I have to keep pretending for as long as I can stand. This all has to have been worth it, to get to the other side in a better place than where I started.
“Olivia, hey, welcome back.” Paul and I stop in the middle of the quad.
“Hey. Finishing your shift?”
Now it’s awkward. What can I say? No students murdered on your watch while I was gone? Glad you kept your job! But if I cut and go, I’m just another spoiled Claflin brat who can’t deign to speak to the security staff.
“How are things in the office?” “Since, you know.”
Paul snorts. “Everyone’s still in denial. They can’t believe he’d do that! Such a nice guy.”
“You mean Cathy is in denial.”
We share a smile.
“I knew that guy was a perv. I’m glad he’s gone. What I can’t believe is he didn’t kill her. I was so sure. . . .”
It hits me like a thunderclap. “You were blackmailing Tipton! You sent those texts and emails the cops showed me.”
Though his cheeks are already chapped red by the cold, Paul flushes even deeper. He avoids my determined gaze. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
I piece it all together, everything suddenly so obvious. “Their hookup spot was the boathouse, and they’d meet in the middle of the night. You saw them on the security feeds. Had to have. The cameras went out that night, but none of the nights before that.
You knew. Why didn’t you tell anyone? A teacher was having sex with a student!”
“It wasn’t any of my business,” Paul mumbles.
I see it so clearly. The boys’ club. Two grown men tacitly supporting each other. Way to go, bro, scoring that young piece of ass.
Never mind the abuse of power.
Of course, several people knew about Tipton and didn’t put a stop to it. Margot, Avery, and Sierra. But Paul is an adult. They’re supposed to protect us.
“I felt guilty, like I could have stopped it. I was so sure it was him, but without the footage, there was no proof. I was just trying to help. And then it didn’t even matter. It was that douchebag kid St. Clair.” His face twists with derisive pleasure. “They were both hooking up with her in the same spot on different nights. All they would have had to do was ask me. No one realizes how much I see.”
Suddenly I don’t want to talk to Paul anymore. I feel slimy and gross, and not from hours of travel on a red-eye and a bus.
“See you later, Paul,” I say for the sake of politeness, already walking away. I need a shower and a nap, stat.
I tap into Bay and stop short at the security desk. There’s now a human being installed behind it. He’s middle-aged and balding and has kind eyes. He checks a screen in front of him, then my face, and asks to see my student ID for good measure. Then he waves me through, and I note the sign that has been affixed to the front of the station: security personnel on duty 24 hours a day.
Guess this is the new status quo. I imagine if I rolled over to the study room, I’d find the window alarmed again. There’s probably a padlock on the basement egress at Whitley. All our escape routes are sealed. Claflin will be keeping better track of us now, or else the money will dry up. Parents aren’t going to send their students to a school where they can be murdered.
Of course, the administration spinning the whole thing as a total anomaly, despite the increase in security measures. I read every email sent out to parents, as well as the old-fashioned glossy paper apology packet they mailed for good measure. They’ve had to do double duty, addressing not only the faculty member diddling a student but also the sociopathic student who actually did the murdering. It’s a fine dance, emphasizing that they could not in any way have known about Tyler or have prevented it, while not insulting the St. Clairs (who remain rich and powerful, even with Tyler’s “embarrassment”), and also pretending that they are taking steps to prevent the thing they say was not preventable.
Hence, more cameras, no blind spots, additional security personnel, and so on.
It was also hard to miss the BuzzFeed article. they’d kill to get in, the headline blared above a purposely pixelated picture of Tyler. The article profiled a whole generation obsessed with getting into the most prestigious schools, at any cost, with some very choice statements about Emma and the Ivies. Sure, Tyler’s the only one who murdered anyone for an edge in admissions, but the headline had a better ring in the plural. I was just thankful they didn’t name any of the Ivies specifically. But clearly several Claflin students had talked to the reporter. It was a scathing portrait.
While I’m sure the viral article’s not the primary reason, I do know the school has hired a staff psychologist who specializes in personality disorders. Claflin didn’t advertise her specialty, but I looked her up when they announced the hire. Jennifer Liang will have her work cut out for her, digging for more twisted minds among the storied elite. Tyler was only the most extreme case, pushed to the exactly right pressure point. Everyone here has a touch of narcissism about them.
I find two cringe-worthy things at my dorm room door.
First, people have decorated it like it’s a locker at Homecoming, but the messaging is all grief porn, and they’ve forgotten I live here, too. Someone’s cut out big bubble letters that say rip, EMMA! we’ll miss you! and there are pastel streamers everywhere. How soon is too soon to tear this all down and not seem like a sociopath myself?
The other thing is not a thing but a person. The last person I want to see right now.
“Hey,” Ethan says with a grimace, also eyeing the door. At least, I hope that is what the grimace is for.
It could be me. I am travel gross, and Paul’s caused a sour expression that I can feel still pulling down my brow, the corners of my mouth. I’d banked on slipping in unseen this early in the morning, so I could settle myself and emotionally prepare. I’m supposed to have Claflin-ready mental armor on before facing these sorts of social pressures.
I’ve waited for Emma on the group text so many times. Thought she’d find something stupid funny and open our old chat window.
Now I dump my suitcase in the corner by the closet and collapse onto my bed, facing the vacuum of Emma once again. Ethan takes a seat on the bare blue-pinstripe mattress, and we smile nervously at each other. We’ve exchanged some texts, thoughtful and polite. How did my police interview go? How was the train ride back to Connecticut? But it’s been nearly two weeks and a lot has been left unsaid.
“You must be relieved that Katherine Montfort is a major ballbuster.” Wow, I guess I’m a bit bitter. It’s not my best opening salvo. But Ethan laughs.
“Honestly, yes.” Then he squirms. We’re both thinking about it now. Avery’s mom was true to her word, pulling whatever strings rich people like her get to pull. All I know is Cataldo hasn’t told a soul about the SAT scheme. Avery said it’s been carefully excised from the interview transcripts and everything. A professional cover-up.
“I thought about giving the money back, but that would make it worse, probably. So it’s just sitting in my bank account like a lump.”
“You’ll use it for Harvard?”
“I haven’t decided yet. I’ll hear from my Canadian schools in the spring. I’ll figure it out then.”
“I just wish you’d been honest with me,” I say, practically in a whisper. I can’t look at him. I concentrate on my hands.
“That I was involved in a criminal enterprise? That would have gone over well.”
“I don’t know. I liked you a lot, so you’d be surprised.”
“You really liked me?”
The hope in his voice makes my stomach go topsy-turvy. My eyes snap up to his. “I thought it was obvious.”
“No, not completely obvious.” Ethan bounces his knee, gazing across at me. Then he pops up, crosses the space between us, and sits down next to me. “Now I won’t feel like it’s an interrogation.”
He bumps my shoulder playfully. “And let’s be real. If I’d told you, you would have assumed I was the killer and freaked out. Avery had a fraction of the motive and you launched an entire investigation.”
“Uh, given what we came to find out about the actual motive of the actual killer, I’d say Avery had just the right kind of motive. Theoretically, I mean. The motive I invented for her.”
“So you see why I didn’t tell you? It was too hard to explain. And I wanted you to keep liking me.”
Our hands are inches apart, casually resting on the bedspread.
“I figured it out eventually.” Ethan’s fingers brush mine.
“And now . . . ?” I hold my breath, unsure what I want to hear.
“Take it slow?” Ethan says. I release my breath, relieved. “We should probably get to know each other outside the context of a murder investigation.”
I can’t help but laugh. “Right? I’ll be less of a basket case . . . I hope. And I’m no longer an Ivy, so who knows if you’ll even like me when I’m not an intense, anxious mess.”
“What do you mean you’re not an Ivy?”
“Well, college admissions is over. There’s no need to sociopathically sabotage our peers anymore. So we’re dropping the name. Not the friendship. As such. Really, it’s weird how . . . chill everyone has become since getting into school. Well, not Avery, but Tyler getting locked up has done wonders for her personality. That and I think she’s finally given up on making her mother happy.”
“We’re now bonded together by murder, so yes.” Ethan blinks at me. I blink back. “Okay, wow, I’m making jokes about Emma. I am a terrible person.”
Ethan shrugs, refreshingly judgment-free. “Some people deal with trauma with humor.”
“I’m sure that will reassure the school psychologist. I’ve been ordered to see her until graduation.”
“Same,” Ethan says. “I think everyone who was at the party got that order.”
“Or everyone connected to me? Headmistress Fitzgerald was so concerned, she called me at home. I think she thought I was the leak to the press. She grilled me. Because I have to be the weak link, as the outsider.”
Ethan goes sheepish all of a sudden, drawing into himself, ducking his head.
He coughs. “So I might have talked to that BuzzFeed reporter.”
“What the fuck!”
“I didn’t mention my mom is a journalist?” He chuckles awkwardly. “A friend of a friend put together that I attended Claflin and got in touch. . . . Listen, I saw it as spin control. They already knew about the Ivies, and I just . . . pointed out like any good journalist that they’d be sued to high heaven if they printed your names. So they didn’t.”
I eye him with some calculation. He’s just so damn earnest. It’s hard to be mad at him. I groan. “Well, you told me at the first proper opportunity, and you saved my ass, so I can’t even be that mad at you. But I’ve got your number, Ethan Kendall. You are a dark horse. Unpredictable.”
“No Canadian Ken?”
“Who told you?”
“I have my sources.” He grins, but there’s a momentary grimace. Just the slightest flinch.
Emma. Wing-womaning from beyond the grave. She’ll haunt me forever. The specter of a complicated friend, a great roommate, a terrible Mario Kart player. And she cheated, though not on me. And she lied to us all.
I’ll miss her.
The mood in the dining hall is markedly different from ED day. That was a hundred anxious, intense teenagers sweating through their crisp white Claflin shirts and snapping at each other over salad. No one is sweating today. (They wouldn’t; Claflin has state-of-the-art AC.) Even those who are disappointed not to have gotten into their first choice are relieved to just know.
Know they’re going somewhere. Everyone has gotten into at least one school they could see themselves attending. Claflin guarantees it—unofficially, of course, in sly conversations with parents before they sign on the dotted line. Every Claflin student lands somewhere wonderfully elite.
I am no exception.
I will be attending Boston University in the fall. It’s a top-40 school (gasp), but top 3 for journalism programs. I started out Harvard or bust and ended up too exhausted by everything that happened to care the way I used to. As long as the journalism program is top-notch, the name brand of my school shouldn’t matter.
Really, BU gave me the most money. More than Harvard, even. That’s the only thing that swayed my mom to go with my choice.
I suspect, regardless, she will whisper “But Harvard!” at me wistfully at every holiday for the foreseeable future. But Harvard, indeed. Ethan’s going. He had to fess up to his dad about the SAT scam to explain the money in his bank account, but the financial cushion helped to persuade his parents to go with the astronomically expensive American option over McGill. Personally, I think he’s bonkers to give up McGill—one of the best universities in the world at a fraction of the cost—but every time we talk about it, he says something stupidly romantic about wanting to be close to me and I blush furiously and kiss him silly.
Plot twist: the Ivies are mostly not attending Ivies. Sierra is the sole exception, because you do not look the gift horse that is Yale in the mouth. Margot got into the University of Michigan and strong-armed her parents into supporting her decision to go there over Princeton. It involved a trip to see Ashley Park on Broadway and a PowerPoint presentation about her path from Michigan to the Great White Way and a Tony nomination.
Avery will be attending Stanford. They say it is a West Coast Ivy, which is ridiculous. Because can’t we all agree at this point that the distinction of Ivies vs. non-Ivies is incredibly absurd?
It’s not worth ourselves over. Anyway, Avery’s mom is pleased as punch even though it’s not Harvard.
“That relationship’s not healthy.” Sierra steals a French fry off Avery’s plate. Sometimes she texts a picture of her non salad meals to her mom just to get a reaction.
“Do any of us have healthy relationships with our parents? I manipulate mine all the time,” Margot says. I’m impressed she has the guts to admit it.
“Liv’s mom is normal. I like her.” Avery spent spring break at my house and let my mom dote on her. Tyler’s out on bail, and Mrs. Montfort still hasn’t divorced Mr. St. Clair, so Avery refuses to go home. Her bio-dad offered to let her stay with him in London with his new(er) family, but she chose me, which was flattering. I took her to a 7-Eleven and insisted on Slurpees. She acted horrified by the plebeian cultural staple, but I think she secretly enjoyed it.
“My mom is intense,” I counter. “I mean, I love her, but I don’t know if you could call her normal.”
“The question at hand is ‘healthy,’ ” Avery emphasizes, “and I think you have a healthy relationship. Neither of you hates each other, and she hasn’t committed any crimes on your behalf.”
“That we know of,” I quip. “Give her time.”
Sierra gets up for a drink refill, and Margot and Avery break off to discuss some drama involving their favorite actor. I just sit back, finish my sandwich. I love us like this, talking like normal friends. Not planning sabotage or obsessing about prestige. For just a second, I wish it had always been like this. But then the fantasy slips through my fingers like sand. Who would we even be in that alternate-universe timeline?
I’m an anxious, judgmental, driven, competitive mess. I can’t divorce my worst impulses from who I am. Can’t imagine Avery without her bitch streak, which I love and hate at turns. Margot without the bear trap. Sierra without her impressive underhandedness.
This version of us will crystalize, form the basis of who we become. All I can hope is we become more thoughtful, softer versions of ourselves. The Ivies will be a footnote in our backstory, something we laugh about in twenty years at our high school reunion. We’ll toast to Emma and reminisce about what hellions we were.
I will always hate being an Ivy.
But I wouldn’t have it any other way.