By Laura King
After Ellie washed her face, she looked up at her mirror and saw the pink post-it. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Ellie had a weird fascination with quotes. She loved the idea of someone saying a phrase so significant that it would be repeated over and over. Then again, it was ludicrous in practice. Was there anyone who could actually remember a quote exactly? She loved the Gandhi quote she was staring at, but never could remember the phrasing. Was it “Be the change you need to see in the world” or “Be the change you want to see in the world”? It was something Ellie didn’t understand, but still loved thinking that somehow the quote was part of her life.
It was one of those hippy we-can-fix-your-life-with-our-healing-powers shops that always seemed so appealing from the outside. As soon as Ellie stepped inside, she wanted to leave, but the guy behind the counter came up to her.
“Hi, there. What brings you here?” He said, blocking her exit.
“Nothing really,” she said, turning toward the shelf of books behind her.
“Well, let me know if you need anything,” the guy said, and moved back behind the register. “There are some great selections on the bottom shelf. Ones on yoga, horoscopes, you know, all those clichés.”
Ellie thanked him. The guy seemed out of place in this shop. His hair was clean cut, and his button up shirt with contrasting tie made it seem like he belonged more to Wall Street than a New Age bookstore. Before she left, Ellie picked up a book that caught her attention. Motivational Quotes and Other Things: Over 1,000 Quotes to Live By.
“Find any that speak to you?” The guy behind the counter asked.
“Yes, actually. I found a couple I like,” Ellie said, putting the book down and paid.
The guy stretched out his hand, “I’m Wade,” and handed Ellie her bag.
“Thanks for your help. You’re the bee’s knees,” she said, smiling as she left.
“So, if I were to ask you to tell me what Gandhi’s quote meant, what would you say?” Ellie and Wade had just sat down at dinner to celebrate moving in together.
Wade looked at his plate. He was finishing his green salad and picking through the vegetables in his pasta.
“Well, clearly you need to change things about yourself in order to do good things out in the world,” his voice trailed off. “Shit, I’m not being very clear. But you know? You need to know what kind of person you are before you can present yourself to the world.”
Ellie laughed. “Yeah, I guess. I was just wondering what you thought about it.” She took a bite of artichokes and capers from her pasta.
“I think the original quote is ‘Be the change you need to see in the world’. That’s what I mean. You start with yourself and then, figure out what needs to be changed.” Wade said, as he finished eating his pasta.
Ellie sipped her wine and gave him a half smile. “Yeah, I guess so. I was just wondering.”
Ellie twisted the ring around her finger with her thumb. It was an unfortunate and irritating habit she picked up once she got engaged. She never understood the purpose of a ring, but Wade insisted that she have one. She figured that since he spent the effort in picking out one, she would wear it. The white gold band matched all of her jewelry. Anything that was gold was hideous to her. One time Ellie received a gold necklace for her birthday and she gave it to her sister because she hated gold. She sighed. He did know her once.
Ellie was looking through some legal briefs when there was a knock on her door. Standing there was her receptionist, Jill, with a guy in a buttoned-up shirt, slacks, and a pair of Converse sneakers.
“Ellie, this is Jake, the law intern for the summer,” Jill said. “He’s going to help out for the next couple of months. Maybe you could show him some of what you do.”
“Sure,” Ellie said, motioning him to come in to her office.
“I’m Ellie. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Likewise,” Jake said, shaking her hand. He walked around for a few minutes.
“It’s nice in here. You have a lawyer’s office with a Zen vibe.”
“What are you talking about?” Ellie said, laughing.
He sat down and said, “Well, you have your post-it notes stuck to your computer screen with inspirational quotes all over it.” He paused. “That’s the Zen. Then you have a stack of briefs on your desk. That’s the lawyer thing.”
Jake had a confidence about him that Ellie never had when she was younger. He was eager and excited, the kind of person who loved coming to work and still believed he could make a difference.
“Ahh,” Ellie said. “Very observant. What can I say? I feel like I live here sometimes. Speaking of papers,” she said, pointing to her desk, “I do have some work to do.”
Jake stood up. “Thank you for showing me around. I think it’s going to be a great experience working here.”
Wade was in the kitchen making dinner and simultaneously watching a cooking show when Ellie walked in. The only thing he had going was pasta boiling and butter melting in a frying pan.
“What are you making?” she asked.
“Browned butter spaghetti with some Parmesan cheese for the side.”
Ellie opened the refrigerator. “I think I’m just going to order some food from the Italian place down the street. We can save your spaghetti for another time. I’m in the mood for pizza with garlic and artichokes.”
She was hoping she could spare Wade’s feelings by suggesting another option. Whenever he attempted to cook anything, Ellie would end up finishing it because it wasn’t seasoned right or cooked enough.
Wade stopped stirring the noodles and looked at her. “Why don’t you feel like pasta? I already started it. We can save pizza for another night.”
“I really want more than buttered noodles for dinner, but that’s okay. You eat what you want.”
As Ellie was looking up the number on her phone, Wade came up and sat next to her. He rested his head on her shoulder. “Why don’t we eat together anymore? I feel like you always want something else. Once in a while, I just want to enjoy a nice meal with you.”
“Why does me choosing to eat or not to eat what you cook turn into an issue?” Ellie said. Wade stood up and walked back into the kitchen. “I just think we have morphed into a distant couple. I just wanted to have dinner with you.”
Ellie felt her temper rising. She made it a practice to count to ten every time she was upset. When she reached ten, she set her phone down, grabbed some placemats and set the table.
“You know, I’ve always loved you in that dress.” Wade said, as he came up behind Ellie and helped her zip up her navy dress.
Ellie looked at herself in the mirror. This was a dress she wore to very special occasions at work, including this new promotion. She looked tired and worn down from all the extra work she had been doing. The diamond earrings she was putting on helped her feel like she looked somewhat pretty.
“Are you sure you want to go,” she said. She was putting on her shoes, ready to leave. “I know how you hate socializing with lawyers. And seriously, I’m going to be there all of an hour.”
Wade came back into their bedroom. “Of course, I’m going to be there. It’s important. I’ll just drink a lot,” he said, laughing.
“Okay, but promise me you’ll at least try,” she said, turning off the light as they left.
Jake was standing outside Ellie’s office door, convincing her to go to dinner.
“Let me take you to this one place,” he said. He and Ellie had been working late the past couple of months on a case.
Ellie fidgeted her lip. “I don’t know. I might just stay here, so I can finish this work.”
Jake sat down. “Please let me buy you dinner. My internship is almost over and I owe you so much gratitude for showing me all the ropes.”
Ellie looked down at all her papers. “Okay, but I don’t want to be gone that long. I really just want to finish and go home.”
“Deal. I know a place with the best burgers. It’s probably going to be the most fat you will consume all week,” he said.
“Mind if I ask you a question?” He was waiting for Ellie to get her stuff together.
“I think you’ll ask anyway,” she said.
“What is it about that Gandhi quote you like?”
She looked at him and paused for a moment.
“I like the principle of it. It’s a reminder to me to always care. Sometimes when I’m working, I feel myself slip into a mindless state. I need to know that if I care, I am making the slightest bit of difference.”
“Hmm, I don’t know how I feel about it,” he said. “I don’t know if I believe that one person can change the world for the better. I think that somewhere down the line, someone will get screwed inevitably.”
She pursed her lips. “Maybe. But if I can make sure that I am honest, that’s one step closer to an overall change.”
Ellie looked at Jake sitting across from her. Even though he seemed so comfortable and sure of himself, he had a lot of growing up to do.
Ellie was sandwiched between Wade and another coworker when Jake came over.
“Wade,” Ellie said, turning to him, “this is our company intern for the summer. “Jake, this is Wade.”
Jake motioned his hand out for a shake, “Nice to meet you, Wade.”
Wade didn’t extend his hand, instead offering a wave. “Likewise. The pleasure’s mine.”
Jake stood there and said, “Ellie tells me you are starting to think about a wedding date.”
“Yes, it’s about time.” Wade said. “Ellie spends so much time at work though, so you probably know more than I do.”
Ellie made eye contact with Jake. Wade was still laughing at his joke, when Ellie excused herself and walked toward the bar.
Wade followed right behind.
“What are you doing?” She said. “I thought you said you could manage to make small talk with my coworkers, but what was that?”
“I was making small talk.”
Ellie took a sip of her rum and coke. “What you were doing was embarrassing me in front of my intern.”
Wade apologized and went to grab their things from the table.
Ellie looked at Jake, who was across the room. He looked even younger with his hair combed forward. He smiled at her, and she returned it. There were still so many hearts he had to break.
“So, do you see yourself getting married, ever?” Wade asked.
Ellie brushed her hair back with her fingers and tucked it behind her ear. “Well,” she said, “I could see myself in a committed relationship, but I don’t know if marriage is right for me. I want a family, but the idea of marriage scares me.”
Wade looked at her. “It scares you?”
She sighed. “The idea of something so legal and binding about love shouldn’t exist.”
“Aren’t you a lawyer?”
“Yes, and that’s why it scares me.” Ellie took another sip of her wine. “If you love someone, you don’t need a court document to show it. It will show for itself.”
Wade fumbled his fork in the leftover tiramisu. “I could definitely see that. You, Ellie, are free. That’s what I like about you. You don’t hold to the conventions of society. But I’m sorry to say, you’ll change your mind. You’ll want to marry me someday. In fact, you’ll ask me to marry you.”
Ellie smiled and took the last bite of dessert.
After fiddling with her ring, Ellie got up off her bed, and went to find Wade. He was sitting at their kitchen table scrunching his nose and running his fingers along the edge of the table. She took a seat across the table from him. It looked like Wade was thinking more thoughts than he could handle.
“Wade,” Ellie’s voice echoed, “we need to have this discussion.”
He looked at her with his brown eyes and furrowed eyebrows. It was always the look that made Ellie feel sorry for everything.
“I think we’ve changed,” he finally said. “We are different people, but in a good way.”
Ellie nodded. Her head was pounding, and her attempt to lessen the pain by massaging her temples wasn’t helping.
“Do you remember our first date?”
He shook his head.
Ellie had her hands out on the table. “I asked you what you wanted in life and you said you wanted to go back to school, get your MBA, and focus more on the business side of life. I laughed at you because I thought you were trying to seem less like a hipster than your store. It seemed like a way to make yourself seem normal.”
Wade cracked a smile.
“We can’t be together and have what we want. I don’t exactly know what I want but I don’t think it’s this.”
Wade and Ellie looked at each other. After a couple of minutes of not speaking, Wade said, “We can’t handle each other anymore.”
Ellie slid her ring off her finger. “I thought of you when I saw this quote.” The book Ellie bought from Wade’s store was opened to a page. On the page said: “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken-Oscar Wilde.”