Chapter One- Howard Hits The Ceiling
With a smile on her face, Ellen Hartley stepped out of the elevator on the fifth floor, barely able to wait to tell everyone the great news that she had received. After looking for a job for so long, she might have just found herself a job that she was truly excited about, that would be truly challenging and provide her an opportunity for an actual career...not just a job to get by with. She finally reached the part of the hallway where her brother and boyfriend lived across from each other. Knowing that there was a good chance that Howard would be over at Bob's she immediately chose to knock on their door.
"Are Emily and Howard here?" she asked as soon as Bob opened the door. He felt odd about this...he was her brother after all, wasn't he worth saying hi too?
"Oh hey Ellen, what's new?" Emily asked, coming up behind her husband. "And Howard's here, he was just telling us about what he did at work today."
Ellen stepped inside as Bob closed the door. "I finally found an opening that I think could actually go somewhere," she announced to them.
"Really, finally!" Emily was enthused. She was truly happy to hear that Ellen had found a job she was excited about. She was starting to get worried that Ellen would start getting discouraged.
"This means you'll get to stay in Chicago!" Howard was ecstatic. He rushed toward his girlfriend as he came out of the den.
"Uh-actually, Howard..." she nervously started.
"What?" He was terrified now, she'd been talking about moving away and he hated the thought. Remember, he wanted to marry her.
"That's just it you see, this job is in Minneapolis."
"Minneapolis! What's in Minneapolis?! It's freezing there it snows all the time."
"It's freezing here and snows all the time here too Howard." Bob said dryly.
"Sure but we've got great beaches!"
"Minneapolis has a job for me, and Chicago doesn't," Ellen explained. It did pain her to see Howard this let down, but she had to do this. This was something that she was truly passionate about.
"Are you sure there's nothing here? Maybe you were just being too picky," Howard suggested.
"Too picky! Howard...I'm great at what I do, I love what I do...and being a file clerk just...isn't enough for me." Ellen explained. Bob smiled to himself, he secretly loved that his little sister was so passionate about her career...kind of like he was, except well he was Bob, no one recognized that he was passionate about anything because he was...level-headed.
"Aren't I enough for you?" Howard questioned.
"That's not fair Howard. I could never ask you to give up being a co-pilot," Ellen argued.
"Listen you two," Emily said, stepping before things got too uncomfortable. "Maybe we should all go out to dinner and..."
"I'm not very hungry Emily." Howard paused, he then left the apartment, allowing the door to almost slam behind him.
Ellen closed her eyes and took a deep breath, that's not how she had wanted that to go.
"Why can't he just be happy for me?" Ellen asked aloud.
Bob knew the answer to this but didn't want to say anything. 'It's because he's in love with you, you idiot.' He thought to himself. He knew how he'd feel if Emily had told him she was leaving him for a job in Minneapolis back when they were dating...he couldn't have possibly let her go, and if he had, he would've followed her.
"Just give him some time to calm down," Emily said, although, she knew that it would be a while before Howard got used to the idea. "Then maybe you can try talking to him."
"Yeah Emily, I think that's a good idea." Ellen agreed.
"How about some dinner sweetie, we have left overs." Ellen nodded, agreeing with this, Emily was always very motherly toward her, something she found both sweet and a little annoying. More than anything though, she hated having her happy mood shattered. She'd been so elated by her news, and now, one of the more important people in her life, wasn't even happy for her.
"How long do you think I should give him?" Ellen implored as she sat down at the table.
Bob shrugged. "If you wait around here long enough I know he'll be back," he said.
But Howard didn't come back. Bob was truly astounded, it was the first time, he thought, that Howard had actually stormed off without returning.
Mary Richards sat back down at her desk. It was the middle of the day and she was looking forward to a last minute lunch with Rhoda before she left town for New York. She was
still a little in denial about her best friend leaving. Things sure were poised to change...she'd heard a rumor, just a rumor about the station manager wanting a woman co-anchor for Ted. She was dying to know if it was true or not, but Mr. Grant had been busy...and even grumpier than usual all day, something which served as an indication to her that the rumor might be true. Mary jumped slightly as the door to Mr. Grant's office flew open.
"Mary!" he called out in his usual intimidating tone.
"Coming!" she responded. Quickly, she stood up and headed into his office. "Anything wrong Mr. Grant?" she implored, watching him as he sat at his desk, staring down at a letter. Mary's eyes wanted so badly to dart across the table and scan the document.
"Shut the door...I need to tell you something in confidence." He explained, preoccupied by the paper before him.
"Oh, well it's just Murray..." she tried to explain to him.
"He knows, it's Ted I'm worried about."
"Well okay," Mary obliged as she closed the door.
"I'm sure you're aware that you're the only woman around here," Lou stated, finally peeling his eyes away from the paper.
"Yes," Mary laughed. "I was well aware of that."
"So is the station manager, and he doesn't like that," Lou explained. "He wants me to find a woman co-anchor for Ted." Mary paused for a moment, she thought she was going to crack up laughing. The idea it was just funny, she loved the idea of having a woman co-anchor but what about Ted, he'd never go along with it...the station manager couldn't be serious...he knew Ted.
"Mr. Grant, what about Ted that..."
"He said replace Ted if he won't go along."
"Sure but he has a contract, right?"
"Up for renewal in a month and a half." Lou informed. He looked up and Mary turned when there was a knock at the door. "What is it?" Lou grunted.
"It's just me Lou. There's a Ms. Hartley here, she says she has an interview with you." Murray told them.
"Send her in."
"I guess I better go...I."
"Oh no Mary, you can stay, you're the executive-producer, you should help me decide."
"H-help you decide, oh no, I don't think..."
"Mary, it's easy. We ask her a few questions and decide whether or not she would do a good job. Right now with Ted in there, the standards aren't too high, so if she can read she's already ahead," he explained.
Ellen entered into the room. "Hi, I'm Ellen Hartley," she introduced herself.
Lou stood up and shook her hand. "Lou Grant, and this is our executive-producer Mary Richards," he stated.
Mary leaned over and shook her hand. "Hi, nice to meet you," she greeted with a smile.
"Nice to meet you too," Ellen returned and then sat down before Lou's desk. She went through her purse and pulled out a few papers. "Here's my resume, references," she said, handing them over to Lou.
Lou sat down with the papers and briefly looked them over. "What do you think Mary?" he questioned, holding the papers off to the side so that she could read them over his shoulder.
"Yeah, I would say everything looks good," she answered.
"Good," Lou replied as he set the papers down. He folded his hands and sighed, looking over the woman before him.
Mary thought that maybe they should actually ask some questions. She was beginning to think Lou would just hire this woman on the spot, just to irritate Ted. She was obviously far more competent than he.
"Why are you interested in being a co-anchor?" Mary asked.
"Well, I have a BA in journalism and starting out in the news, I thought maybe I could work my way up to a news writer or on the spot reporter," she explained.
Lou nodded. He then picked up a piece of paper off his desk. "Here, read this," he instructed.
Perplexed, Ellen took the paper and decided not to question it, not now when there was a chance for a job. "Dear Mr. Grant. It seems to me that the news room is filled with mostly men. I think in order to comply with equal rights..." she read aloud.
Lou stood up and snatched the paper out of her hands. "Congratulations, you got the job," he announced.
Ellen stood up and looked to him with confusion. "That's it?" she asked, not able to believe it. "Don't you have to ask me a few more questions, such as what I did before this, what makes me think that I'm right for this job?"
"Shouldn't we at least have her meet with Ted to see if they get along?" Mary questioned.
Lou looked back to her. "She'll meet him soon enough," he informed her.
Ellen smiled, not knowing how to take the comment that she had heard.
"Ms. Hartley, you can have the job if you want it...I think you'd make a great fit for WJM, class it up a bit."
"Mr. Grant, with all due respect, I really have to know what makes you think I'm right for..."
"Well, you asked the question, didn't you?" Mr. Grant asked. Mary never realized he valued humility before. Ellen thought maybe she understood this.
"Okay then, when do I start?" She asked.
"How about Monday?" He asked. "New week...new broadcast."
"I can do that." Ellen considered.
"Perfect." Mary smiled.
"Welcome to WJM, want some scotch?" Lou inquired, pouring himself a glass.
"No thank you," Ellen politely turned it down. "I have a lot to do, I have to go find a place to live and everything. To be honest, I didn't expect to get a job this quickly." Ellen thought her first job in junior high school wasn't even obtained that easily, which was funny because it had been given to her by one of her brothers.
Mary thought quickly. She knew the perfect place. But was it too weird to suggest that they become neighbors...and to virtually give away her best friend's apartment?
Ellen stood up and grabbed her purse. "Thank you very much," she said once again.
"Wait," Mary said, holding her hand up.
Ellen stopped halfway to the door. "What is it?"
Mary didn't feel quite right doing this, but she knew that Ellen was going to have a hard time finding a place and probably needed a friend too, besides it wasn't like she'd asked her if she wanted a glass of scotch, she glanced at Mr. Grant with slight disapproval, but he didn't seem to notice. "If you're free for lunch, I have an apartment that is going to be available if you're interested," she offered.
"That would be great," Ellen smiled.
"Okay, if you want to wait outside for a moment, we can leave as soon as I'm done here," Mary said.
"All right," Ellen replied.
As soon as Ellen left, Mary turned to Lou, crossing her arms. "I like her, but don't you think we should have at least asked her a few more questions. Let her meet Ted...know what she was getting herself into."
"Mary we don't want to chase her away, besides, that's the beautiful thing." Lou laughed. "If they dont' get along, we'll just fire Ted." Mary sighed and got up to walk out of the office, at least she liked Ellen. "Oh and Mary..."
"What Mr. Grant?" She turned to ask just as she was about to turn the doorknob.
"Let's keep this a secret from Ted till Monday's newscast." He smiled.
She wondered how she'd possibly accomplish this, but just simply nodded. She left her boss to his scotch and walked back out into the newsroom to meet Ellen who she found happily chatting with Murray. It was then that Mary knew, with all certainty that Ted was going to be slowly pushed out of his job if he didn't change some of his pre-set attitudes.
"Oh hi Murray, whose this pretty little thing." Ted said, walking into the newsroom from the hall, just as Mary was leaving Lou's office. Expressions like this always made Ellen unreasonably angry. "Hi, I'm Ted Baxter, the anchorman." He emphasized proudly. "Are you the new secretary...I've been telling Lou we needed a new one."
"New secretary that's, that's very cute." Ellen giggled.
Mary watched carefully. On one hand, she wanted to follow Lou's order to keep Ted from finding out, on the other, she knew it was important to give Ellen the space to stand her own ground when it came to Ted. Being the new woman in a place of power in the workplace was hard. She'd know. It had taken her a while to earn respect, particularly from Ted.
"No Ted, I uh..." She laughed. "I'm Ellen Hartley, you know, the anchorwoman." She tried her best to copy his intonation here. "Have you been telling Lou we needed a new one of those too? See you Monday. Nice meeting you Murray."
"Same here!" The bald-headed news writer was delighted now.
"Still up for lunch Mary?" Ellen asked confidently. Mary beamed, what a marvelous performance, it was though she'd been there for years.
"Just let me grab my coat." Mary smiled. Ellen left to wait outside WJM's big frosted glass doors and Mary quickly grabbed her coat.
"Mary! Are you just going to go out to lunch with that woman and let her talk to me that way! I'll get you fired, you'll never secretarial in this town again."
"Secretarial. So that's the word." Murray thought aloud.
"Ted! You know very well I'm the executive-producer, it's more likely that I'd have you fired." She said calmly as she slipped on her coat and grabbed her purse. "See you later Murr."
"I-I can't believe she-s, she's turned on us Murr."
"Turned on who Ted?" Murray was annoyed as usual, he really liked Ellen...much more than he'd ever like Ted, and after only knowing her a grand total of five minutes.
"Actually Ted, if anyone's turned on you, it's not Mary, it's me," he corrected. Neither of them had noticed Lou standing in the door of his office.
"I can't have it Lou! A female anchorwoman, it's just not right...it's sacrilege! And me, a co-anchor? I'm Ted Baxter! Could you imagine Walter Cronkite with a female co-anchor, Lou?"
"Yeah but Ted, no one could fill Cronkite's shoes...but for you, eh it would take a chimp with an accordion." Murray reminded.
"So this is the place, what do you think?" Rhoda asked, she'd just finished showing her tiny hot pink abode to Mary's new friend...gee that felt weird. She'd never expected Mary to replace her so soon or in quite this way.
"Oh, I love it...it's a little tiny, a little bit on the...pink side." Ellen assessed. She thought Carol Kester, her brother's secretary, and her former roommate of just a few days, would be more comfortable living there, but she could live with it for a while too.
"Great! And I'm so glad to have had the chance to rent this place before Phyllis could. And Mary, here you are, giving away my stuff before I'm even gone." She teased.
"Rhoda!" Mary replied, feeling bad as it was.
Rhoda laughed. "Don't worry about it kid," she assured her. Even though it felt a bit off, she was glad that Mary would at least have someone there. "I'd rather someone up here in my place with you rather than leave you stuck with Phyllis," she joked. Mary could understand what she meant. The idea of being stuck alone with Phyllis was a bit daunting. She sometimes wondered how poor Bess had survived all these years.
Rhoda then turned to Ellen. "So what do you think? Ya gonna take it?" She implored.
Ellen took another look around the place. "Well, I guess it could work. I mean, it is only me here," she reasoned out loud. She turned to Mary and Rhoda and smiled. "I'll take it."