The “Real” Ending of “California”

I decided to complete the alternative ending assignment for my novel, California, because I finished the book with a need for more. I am going to tell the original ending since most of the class did not choose this book, so there will obviously be spoilers!

The Original:

They didn’t discuss his long hours. Or the talking-with-the-shower-running. Or how tightly he held her at night, arms straining to reach across her belly. On some days, there was a furtiveness to his movements, the way he looked left, then right, as he approached the house, the way, when one of Toni’s messengers came with new Correspondence, he let out an unnatural guffaw. “Well, here you are!” he’d say, like someone’s pathetic uncle. On other days, he acted so smooth and comfortable here that the world settled around them like water, filling the empty space. On smooth days, it was as if they’d always lived this life.

If at other times, things felt a little off, so be it. If something seemed wrong, if it seemed like he had something up his sleeve, she could ignore it. Whatever her husband had agreed to, he had the best interests of their family in mind.

Her job was not to ask any questions. She and the child, they would stay here.

“Good morning, beautiful,” he said now, coming toward her.

Julie stood up to kiss her husband. “Good morning, Gray,” she said.”

I had a few problems with this ending. For those who have not read this book, Frida and Cal were living together in the wilderness post-apocalypse for a long period of time. They eventually ran into another family, who died, and they discovered an entire colony of people that was being led by Frida’s brother, who they all thought had died. This colony had no children or babies, and Frida revealed her new pregnancy to everyone before her brother and husband had wanted her to, causing them to be violently removed. However, her brother found them a place to live in a new community that is much more technological advanced, but they had to change their names, she is now expected to conform to gender norms, and they are constantly being monitored.

This was not ending I had wanted, and I was frustrated that the novel ended with sudden name changes. Here is my new (and I think improved) ending:

Alternative Ending:

Frida and Cal lived in the Community for several weeks, having nightly discussions with the shower running so as not to be heard. Cal struggled to reach his arms around Frida’s stomach. Her due date is only two weeks away.

“I can’t do this anymore.” Frida said suddenly as they were lying in bed.

Cal sat up suddenly, and ushered her to the bathroom, where he turned on the shower. “What do you mean you can’t do this?” Cal said. “This is the only place we’re safe. You know they won’t let us back on the land.”

Frida looked down. “I know we aren’t safe there, but we were fine on our own for years. How can we be expected to suddenly become Julie and Gray? Will our child even know our real names?”

Cal sighed. “Probably not, but we don’t have the resources anymore. We won’t survive on our own, Frida. I know you miss your brother, but Micah and Toni risked everything so we could live here. We can’t go back to where we used to be. They killed Sandy’s entire family, and they’ll kill us too.”

“But August-” Frida began.

Cal glared. “When they killed Sandy’s family, he just waited outside. He won’t save us. I know you don’t like the idea of not being able to do as much, but you’re going to have to get used to it. I won’t put our child’s life in danger for convenience.”

Without a word, Frida turned off the shower and they both walked back to their room. They got into bed, and Frida whispered, “Good night, Gray” before turning off the light.

It’s obvious that Frida and Cal would be killed if they went back to their camp, and an infant likely would not survive with the limited food and resources the couple would have living on their own. Their only choice really is the Community, but my alternative ending highlighted Frida’s stubbornness. She often thinks impulsively, but still wants what is best for her family. The original ending made Frida seem submissive and ready for a life where her only roles are mother and wife. This is not the Frida I grew to love (and hate at times) throughout the novel. Frida and Cal are both strong people, and it would have been difficult to have these huge life changes within a matter of hours.

About the author: Samara

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