Redman Gallagher and wife Drew kept putting off the decision but finally the twins pressed them for the verdict: Who would go on to college.
The parents argued, shouted, slammed doors and swore at each other.
"You'll be going to college Danny," said his sister. "Dad will wear mom down."
"But Blaze that's not fair. You are my academic superior and dad and mom have to admit that."
"To misquote, nothing is fair in love and war. We agreed not to negotiate with them and to accept their decision Danny."
"But you know dad favors me getting my degree in engineering design to work my way up in the company where he's a draftsman."
"Yes and what's so wrong with that? I'm supposed to graduate high school and go out and work and meet a rich guy eventually who'll support me while I sit at home and sew and read books."
"Yeah living mom's dream instead of being a cashier in the café like she has been for fifteen years."
Their mom came out of the dining room looking exhausted and crying.
"Go to your father please," she sobbed.
Their dad could capably act the role of tough guy and didn't mince words.
"You mother and I regret this decision but I feel we have no choice," he said. "Blaze I'm sorry but Danny goes to college."
"That's fine daddy. One of us was always going to lose."
She ran from the room and locked herself in her bedroom and began phoning her college-bound friends. High school graduation was seven months away.
The day after graduation Drew Gallagher went to her daughter's bedroom to find why Blaze (named Pansy at birth) had not answered the call to breakfast. She ran back to the kitchen waving a piece of paper and cried, "She's gone. She left to catch the night bus coming through at 5:00."
Hands shaking, Redman read out the note:
'Dear family. It's time to say goodbye. I'm off to make a career for myself. I'll be in touch, sooner or later. Thanks for everything guys. Actually mom and dad you made the right choice by sending Danny to college. He'd find it harder to make a success out in the big world alone than I will. Study hard and successfully Danny; mom watch your diet and dad stop drinking so heavily. Bye. I love you all. Blaze.'
"She's one tough female," Danny said. His father nodded and her mother wept.
* * *
A little over two years later Blaze graduated with an online associate degree in basic journalism while working in Minneapolis as a personal trainer in a leading women's gym. She was thoroughly conversant with all the programs the gym delivered to promote women's health and fitness training and dieting and had continued with swimming to build stamina.
Eight weeks later she was called to Chicago a few days after applying for a magazine writer's job on women's fitness and health.
The editor was almost rude to her.
"We don't recognize an associate degree in journalism, regarding a bachelor's as our minimum standard. Why you are being considered is because your involvement in fitness and women's health is rather impressive. Frankly you are the outstanding applicant for the position."
"Then hire me."
Mrs Curtis frowned and said that was rather impertinent.
Blaze made no effort to apologize.
The editor looked at her thoughtfully. "Give me one top reason why this magazine should hire you."
"Because as a writer I'd fit your readership profile. I've noted 27% of your readership falls in the 14-24 age group. That's exceptionally high and reflects the growing trend of younger people, principally females, to prefer power exercise and good nutrition over fad dieting including bad dieting like eating practically nothing."
Rachel Curtis worried about her 24-year old daughter's appalling eating habits, knew only too well was this young woman was on about. She said she couldn't fault that response as a persuasive answer.
"Look read our latest issue about to be distributed while I check with the group editor."
Fergus Hamill listened to Rachel present her dilemma about hiring this applicant who appeared to have everything going for her apart from the required level of education.
"Yeah well ask yourself why we have minimum standards."
"I have and that's why I'm here. It's rare for me to throw a recruitment poser at you."
"True and so handle it. Break the rule and go with instinct if that's how you see it. I must go; I'm late for a meeting."
"Thanks," Rachel said and almost added 'for nothing' but returning to her floor she realized that Fergus had steered her into the decision she should make. She entered the office and the attractive shorthaired blonde looked up.
Rachel smiled and asked, "When can you start?"
Drew Gallagher raced out to meet her husband who on the drive home had diverted to pick up Danny from college swimming training.
"Mom looks excited, she must be pregnant."
"Jesus Danny," snapped his startled father.
"Blaze is on her way home!" Drew yelled. "She'll stay three nights before starting a new job in Chicago as a magazine writer."
Drew soon had the two guys aware that no it wasn't a trashy women's magazine as Redman had alleged. It was an influential magazine on personal living options and she'd be making two contributions for each monthly issue on fitness and nutrition plus assorted articles as assigned. Her pay as a new-start writer would be $33,000 plus annual bonus. Also she'd enrolled to convert her two-year degree into a four-year degree in media communications and might even continue another year for a master's.
The guys were impressed.
For two years Blaze had emailed her mother weekly and called once a month so they'd been aware she was safe and knew what she was doing. They had all gone to the airport to greet her early flight that morning and only Drew recognized her. Initially the guys wondered why Drew was yelling while running to a sweet looking blonde with a great body.
"Jesus," said her twin while her father was more genteel with, "Wow is that my daughter?"
* * *
'Slick Living Magazine' had five other staff writers, all female, and a dozen contributing writers. Still three months away from her 21st birthday, Blaze was the youngest on the payroll by nine years.
Those older people gawked at the racy-looking blonde in a forest green designer-copy dress. Only the fashion editor was better dressed and she smiled approvingly at Blaze.
Editor Curtis told Blaze to call her Rachel and took her around introducing her to the twenty-one people who worked in the office who included sub-editors, layout designers, computer graphic artists, general production people and advertising and accounts personnel. The magazine operated as a self-supporting unit to the point of printing in a complex business that including two radio a TV station, five regional community newspapers and nine magazines.
Blaze spent the first two days reading the office manual, reading articles in the computer archives of recent copies and talking to other people about what they did to familiarize herself with the magazine operation. Three issues were in various stages of production and on Blaze's third day she attended a meeting chaired by Rachel with the other five writers attending plus the chief sub-editor Gloria who was also the magazine's deputy-editor.
Blaze had picked up quite good knowledge of what was involved in an editorial planning meeting from her studies. But she found being in the room during a planning meeting was far more interesting that descriptive detail gleaned from study papers because of all of the interaction that at times became somewhat heated.
"Now Blaze your two assignments," said Rachel. "We have cooking pages of course, heaps of them, but we've not covered nutrition before so the field is wide open for you. Can you tell us what you'll write about?"
"Pardon me?" Rachel said, lifting her head sharply.
"I'll write about the wonder food for people who care for their bodies. There are many such foods and so I'll start with bananas."
Rachel smiled, "Oh I'd thought you were telling me to go bury my head."
Everyone laughed loudly.
"Oh no, if that were my intention I wouldn't have been that obscure," Blaze said and people looked startled but Rachel chuckled.
"And what about fitness?"
"I'll begin at the beginning with walking and include the latest in research findings and opinion and well-reasoned tips from experts. It will be probably a three-part series covering walking generally, techniques and finally clothing and footwear and choosing terrain."
"Gosh I hadn't realized walking could be approached in such a complicated way," said the over-weight Gloria.
"Everything we do is somewhat complicated," Blaze said lightly, and a couple of the women nodded.
"Well obviously our youngest team member by far is out to keep us on our toes," Rachel said with an intended pun and people laughed politely but looked at Blaze as if wondering could the flashy-looking kid with her fearless manner deliver or was it all mouth?
Blaze knew she could produce both articles with one hand tied behind her back although in both cases she would look on the web for latest information and talk to nationally recognized experts for both articles.
Mid-afternoon Rachel called Blaze to her office.
"Hi am I fired already?"
Blaze then saw a guy stand up and heard Rachel say, "Blaze has a rather irrepressible spirit Fergus."
"Oh hi Mr Hamill."
"You know me?" he said in surprise.
"No but you are the corporation's group editor and feature on the corporation's website and are the person who'll tick off my future salary increases and bonuses."
He smiled and held out his hand to shake and said welcome to the company and it was great to have someone about who appeared to be bright with a little fire.
"Yes it would appear great providing you are on the right side of me."
He grinned. Rachel looked appalled.
"Your name. I can't image a mother choosing to call her daughter Blaze."
"Oh very good. Actually thanks to mom I was called Pansy but at eight I rebelled."
"Pansy? Yes I can imagine how unsuitable that would seem for you and how you rebelled and went to the other extreme and chose Blaze. I had thought Blaze would be more suited to a redhead."
"Give me time Mr Hamill. Colors can change."
He laughed and invited Blaze to call him Fergus. "I regret not rebelling over my name."
"I find it much more acceptable than Pansy but of course I'm not the one pinned with it. Have you anything you wish to ask or may I go? I have a call to a Dr Eric Goss who may call me between lectures and..."
"No there is nothing else. I just wished to meet you wondering what a young woman called Blaze would look like. I didn't wish to be rude and stare at you from a distance. Rachel has good vibes about you. I find I now possess similar feeling."
"Why thank you. I'll work to not disappoint. Bye Fergus. Rachel should I send Louise in with coffee?"
When Blaze had left the room Rachel said, "Obviously she hit you with a thump."
"And what makes you think that?"
"Only Gloria and I in this department call you Fergus."
"Well yes but both of us have a feeling about that young girl don't we?"
"God she really has hit on you."
"Shhh Rachel. I don't wish your outrageous allegations to reach the ears of my wife."
"Omigod. You are thinking about her as the inaugural editor of 'Undeniably Young Magazine'?"
"Actually the planning team yesterday opted for a name change to 'Celebrating Youth Magazine'."
"Oh great, that's an improved title Fergus. I had advised in feedback that the word 'undeniably' is an ugly word and has negative connotations."
"Yes and you were not alone in that thinking and that's why we invite feedback on our initiatives. Where's the fucking coffee?"
"Patience please, here's Louise now."
"Good. Please bring our prospective editor along as fast as you can. I'll need her involved in planning in two months from now if her potential becomes apparent by then otherwise we'll look elsewhere."
"And I have to find a replacement."
"Yes it's tough being an editor isn't it?"
The young office assistant entering said, "Good afternoon Mr Hamill."
"Oh hi Louise."
The receptionist looked startled that the boss editor knew her name.
* * *
Blaze Gallagher was introduced to readers inside the cover of 'Racy Living Magazine' as a new staff writer with pointers to her two contributions. Other people in the office had already congratulated her for the readability of her features. At Rachel's request Blaze had researched and updated a main feature article on eating disorders of the young and had almost completed a follow-up on eating disorders of the elderly.
Rachel invited Blaze to her home for a Sunday lunch with her husband and daughter Pru and Rachel had started a conversation about healthy eating.
Pru had stood and asked to be excused, saying the conversation was making her feel sick.
"Sit down Pru," Blaze ordered that the startled woman sat down before her brain had called "Rebel.
"You can't order me around like that in my own home."
Blaze motioned to Rachel to stay out of it.
"Pru I'm sorry. Obviously I've been set-up being invited here because I know a lot about nutrition. But listen, I've noticed you have eaten virtually nothing and if you eat the same way over breakfast and will only pick at dinner you are long-term doing irreparable harm to you body although your mind rejects such comment when people tell you that."
"If you say so."
"Pru do you wish to marry one day and have children?"
"Would you accept that if you continue to starve your body like you are doing now there's a chance that your expected child will die in the womb?"
Pru burst into tears and Rachel, tears in her eyes, said, "Omigod, you can't tell her that."
"I just did Rachel. Please stay out of this."
"Pru I'm just an everyday 20-year old. You'll know more than I do about most things but I know about body and nutrition. I can't force you to change but I can give you information that could change the way you think about yourself and that could change your eating habits for the better. If you accept me as your adviser I promise you there is no way you'll get fat. You'll just become fit and healthy and LOOK fit and healthy. At present you look almost unwell, with an unhealthy pallor. You must know how you look. I want you to join the gym I go to and it's not far from here. I suggest you and join me there three mornings a week at 7:00."
"Then you'll have breakfast at the gym with me and eat what I say. And then for the rest of the day what you eat or don't eat is your choice, at least initially. This is only the start. Eventually we will meet at the gym twice a week and go on runs three a week or swim when the weather deteriorates. What is your response to that?"
Pru looked confused and finally said, "Yes I will try to do what you ask. I want to bear healthy babies."
Blaze said, "Good. So it's gym from this Saturday. I'll book you in for your assessment."
"But tomorrow morning I shall arrive here in running gear and we'll go on our first walk-jog together, right."
Pru nodded firmly and said yes.
"And I have your word on that?"
"Good girl. Now let's talk about sex or if that's too radical then let's discuss films."
By the time the update on eating disorders of the young was published, Pru was eating with great self-control and the walk-jog routine had become all jogging and at the gym she was on her fixed cycle as long as Blaze was and was working out on light weights and loving it.
"God I feel good," she'd told Blaze only yesterday.
Blaze had gone out to dinner with Pru and her charming accountant boyfriend Jerry and the next time they went out together Jerry brought along Steve, a pal from his office, and suddenly Blaze had a guy she liked, breaking a long sequence of duds that she'd forged into dates herself.
Life had become good for Blaze. She was now writing a major feature in each issue and whispers in the office about Blaze possessing only a 2-year degree (stated on her web-page profile on the magazine's website) had long been buried by the accolades she was receiving.
She went home for her 21st birthday and told her very impressed parents that it was likely she'd complete her two-year studies inside eighteen months. She and her twin brother were so happy to be reunited again.
"And what about romance?" asked her mom. "You never talk about it."
"His name in Steve."
"Ah Blaze and Steve, that sounds good together."
"Mom it's not THAT serious," Blaze protested.
* * *
Rachel arrived at Blaze's desk and said, "Please down tools and come with me."
They went up seven floors to the executive meeting room where Fergus, who was alone, said hi to Rachel and kissed Blaze.
"Are you aiming to seduce me?"
Rachel looked horrified. Fergus just smiled and said, "I've had good reports about you, very good reports. That greeting was a congratulatory kiss."
"Thanks. May I go now, I have work to do?"
"Sit down please ladies. Now while this unedited DVD video is running I'll pour coffee."
The film introduced the planning group, showed then at meetings, and then ran through story-board presentations that outlined the concepts of a new magazine code named 'Fergie's Mag for the Young.'
The DVD ended with a team meeting where the name for the magazine was to be decided.
"I believe 'Undeniably Young Magazine' has a quality ring to it," said the director of group advertising.
"Oh god," Blaze cried.
The debate over name continued with Fergus entering to join in discussion. Finally he asked were they are agreed to changing the name to 'Celebrating Youth Magazine' and they all smiled and said yes.
"Oh god," Blaze groaned. "What a patronizing name."
Rachel nodded to Blaze when she found Fergus wasn't looking.
Fergus switched the electric motors on to roll up the blinds. "And what's wrong with that name?" he asked, appearing a little rattled.
"It's so patronizing, obviously coined by a committee of older people.
"Then what do you suggest?"
"Give me a moment," she said, walking to the windows to look out at the cityscape.
"I'm sorry Fergus, on of Blaze's qualities is her ability to be challenging."
"She's a fucking tough bitch that's all. I don't want her tamed."
Blaze returned. "The best I can do is to borrow from film and music, 'Forever Young Magazine'."
"Omigod Fergus, it has that timeless quality magazine tittles must have and the word 'young' signals where in the marketplace the magazine is positioned."
"I agree and also it's ambivalent about young as an age group. I'll get our legal department to check out on any rights to that name and if we can register it. Oh boy this is a big leap forward. I had worried about that other name after agreeing to it. What do you think of the magazine concept Blaze?"
"What I've seen is okay but a little honeyed. It needs to project a more decisive, hard-hitting image if you want it to really sell and be passed around."
"We do. Will you accept the position of foundation editor?"
"Now you really are trying something on," Blaze grinned.
"Blaze I'm only recently married to my second wife."
"I know," she smiled. "Actually right now my first loyalty is to Rachel."
Rachel responded instantly. "Accept darling. Big chances like this don't come up often."
For five seconds Blaze stared at them both and then, "Okay you guys appear confident in me. I accept."
"Right thanks and thanks for supporting me in this Rachel. You start Monday Blaze. Call Mrs Oaks in corporate HR for an appointment time. She will brief you about everything and then call in one of our attorneys to negotiate job conditions and pay. We think a base rate of $60,000 sounds about right with your lack of experience. As sales build so will your salary."