Ch.1 My Bonus

My day had started like any other day: getting up at 5:30 after a restless night of sleep, going for a run while listening to my iPOD, hoping in the shower, having breakfast and getting ready to go to work.

By 7 am I was at the one place I could count on, in front of the microscope counting cells for the latest experiment Sam had conjured up. Don't get me wrong, I love my work. For me it was perfect job. I could come in and work and work without anyone else bothering me. I've spent hours in this place, even weekends. I don't even remember when was the last time that coming to the lab wasn't part of my normal routine. It was my safe place, the only safe place I had left.

"Ok, Bella, we need to talk." I heard Sam say as I turned around from the microscope.

"Yes?" I replied.

"I've decided something for you." He simply stated. "You ARE taking a break from this and you ARE going on a vacation!"

Sam has been telling me the same lines every day for the past 4 months and I just answered the same way every time: "I don't have anything else to do and you know it. Besides, you know that your lab can't function without me. I'm the best assistant you've had and you can't live without me."

Sam gave me a hard look. It made me think, just for a second, that this time he was serious. He grabbed a stool and brought it next to mine, exhaled and looked at me with tired eyes.

"Bella, I'm serious this time. You have been spending every imaginable moment in this lab. You even come here on the weekends, which although gets work done, is not healthy for you. You have been working so hard that all our experiments are done and now it's just a matter of getting the data analyzed and submitting the results to the journal."

"I can help with that." I replied while looking down at my hands. I new that this conversation was turning into something I didn't want and I felt powerless.

"Bella, Bella, Bella" Sam said while softly placing his hand on mine. "You need a break from this, it's been 2 years since you started working for me and in all that time you have not taken even a sick day, not to mention even a holiday off. You are exhausted and I only want the best for you. You are taking a 2 week vacation and that is final!"

I didn't know what to say. I felt my strength dwindle for a second and my head had started spinning. I was cornered. I had been following the motions for so long that to know that I would be left with nothing to do for 2 weeks was making me dizzy.

Sam immediately grabbed my arm and asked: "Are you ok?"

I nodded quickly:" Yeah, yeah, just a little lightheaded that's all."

Sam said: "Bella, there's nothing to worry about, everything in the lab will be the same when you come back from your trip."

"My… trip?!?" I replied.

"Yeah, I figured that if I didn't force you to leave the state, somehow you will still show up here every morning. Take it as a long overdue bonus. I got you a fully paid trip to my beach house in California. I made arrangements and got you everything you will need. I want you to know how much I appreciate everything you've done for me and for the lab and I thought those 2 weeks in the sun could be a good start." Sam simply replied.

I looked up and saw the tenderness in his look, he was really worried and I didn't know what to say. My head was not working properly, I couldn't even fathom what all of this meant. 2 weeks, alone with nothing to do but think. My worst nightmare!

I don't even know how my mouth opened to say "Ok."

"Ok, really? That's great!" Sam replied. "Let me get you your itinerary and the rest of the things." Sam got up and darted to his office.

I was left alone for a minute. I had no one to turn to now. Had it really been 2 years since then, since I left? How could I possibly deal with 2 weeks of silence, the thing I dreaded the most. Maybe it was time I dealt with the ghosts from the past. God only knew how exhausted I was. And the beach didn't sound that bad, I could catch up with my reading and even call my parents.

How long had it been since I spoke to Charlie? I think it had been Christmas. He had argued with me because I refused to go visit him in Forks or Renee in Jacksonville. I had come up with the excuse of an overdue experiment, but Charlie knew better.

"Bells, you don't have to lie to me" Charlie had said over the phone. I could hear the sadness in his voice.

"No, dad, I'm not lying, there IS an experiment that I have to finish and I can't leave…….. I'm sorry." It was all I could say.

"Bells, it's ok if you don't want to come here because it reminds you of him, or talk to your mom about him, but don't use lab work as an excuse." Charlie replied.

How had he known that it was painful still? That I couldn't even say his name or think of him or see anything that reminded me of him?

"Dad, I…… just can't." I said in the verge of tears.

"It's ok Bells, you'll get over Jacob one of these days."

Jacob, he had said it. A flush on anger, rage, sorrow, misery and despair flushed through me all at once.

"Don't say HIS name!" I yelled at the receiver.

"I'm sorry Bells, it just slipped. We won't talk about him anymore. I just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas that's all. I didn't mean to upset you." Charlie replied.

"It's ok Dad, it's ok" Although it wasn't. "Merry Christmas to you too" and I just hung up.

"Bella, here's all the info. Your plane leaves tomorrow afternoon, so I guess you should take the rest of the day to go over all the papers and start packing." Sam said.

I snapped out of and replied: "But so soon? I was in the middle of counting cells and I can't just leave the lab without getting things organized!"

"Bella, there's nothing to get organized around here since you are a neat freak and those cells are fine if you leave them, they won't miss you, much. I'm not an art display in here you know! I know how to run MY lab. Go and get all your things ready. I'll be dropping you off in the airport myself just to make sure you get on that plane. So see you tomorrow" Sam finished saying while getting up, putting a pair of latex gloves on and moving over to the microscope.

I was speechless again, I had to go home and pack, I knew this. But the uncertainty of leaving my safe place was unnerving. I know I had lost the battle and that there was nothing I could say or do to make Sam change his mind. I got up from the stool, grabbed the envelope he had placed in the lab bench and left the room without saying goodbye.