Tony kissed his sister-in-law on the cheek. "Good to see you, Sam," he muttered.
"Same to you, Tony. Be good to yourself," Sam whispered. She leaned back out of their hug and hastily ran her fingers through her long brown hair. She pursed her lips and looked at the house behind Tony, observing it for the last time. She and her husband, Dan, would be moving out of Chicago and to London, her hometown. They wouldn't see Tony and his family again for probably at least a year.
Sam turned to Dan, who had just finished saying goodbye to Tony's wife, Linda, and was exchanging a bro-hug with his brother.
"G'bye, Linda!" Sam said cheerfully, wrapping her arms around the redhead. Linda smiled and said a few heartfelt words, before letting go.
Sam crouched on the ground and smiled at her niece and nephew, Jenny and Kurtis. Jenny looked like she was about to cry as threw herself into Sam, and Kurtis simply shrugged a good bye, looking at his younger sister like he was wondering if she was adopted.
Sam grinned and pulled Jenny into a hug, trying not to ruin the young girl's bouncy blond curls. "I'll see you soon!" She said, hoping that would raise Jenny's spirits. Jenny simply sobbed louder.
Sam sighed and opened her purse, pulling out a ten dollar bill. "Here," she said, handing Jenny the money. "Now please stop crying."
"Whoa, we get ten bucks if we start crying?! Can I have in on this deal?!" Kurtis jumped in, suddenly very interested in his aunt.
Sam rolled her eyes playfully and handed Kurtis a ten dollar bill of his own. His eyes widened.
"Wait, seriously?!" He ran his fingers through his strawberry blond hair, causing it to spike up in unusual places. "Gee, thanks!"
Sam smiled and stood up, giving Linda one more hug before turning to Dan, who nodded that it was time.
Sam bit her lip. "Well, good--"
"CANYON!" Kurtis bellowed suddenly. Sam and Dan looked over their shoulders to see what Kurtis was yelling about, and Linda sighed exasperatedly and Tony rolled his eyes, muttering, "That Boy."
A boy a bit younger than Kurtis but older than Jenny was making his way towards the house. He had wavy brown-black hair and glasses as well as a goofy smile that was annoyingly wide.
"Who?" Dan asked, raising an eyebrow and turning to his brother.
Tony sighed. "Neighbor kid."
Sam winced. She couldn't take anymore of this kid's freakishly cheerful vibe. She turned back to Linda.
"Well, I guess that's our cue to-"
"KURTIS!!" Canyon yelled. He ran over and high fived Kurtis. "Good to see you!" Canyon glanced at Jenny and gave her a quirky smile. "Madam."
"Ahh, MOM!" Jenny cried, her eyes widening with horror as she bolted back inside the house, ignoring the fact that her aunt and uncle were leaving in a few minutes.
Linda pinched the bridge of her nose. "Canyon, please don't flirt with Jenny. We've gone over this."
"THAT WASN'T FLIRTING!!" Canyon practically screamed. "I JUST SAID HI!"
It was then that it occurred to Sam that this kid's natural voice was a yell. She winced again as Canyon opened his mouth to speak once more.
“KURTIS, DO YOU WANT TO COME OVER TO MY HOUSE AND PLAY WAR?!” Canyon asked.
Kurtis shook his head, rumpling his messy hair. “First I must bid my relatives farewell,” he muttered.
“Yeah, we should really be goin-”
“OKAY, I’LL WAIT.” Canyon interrupted Dan, shouting at the top of his lungs. Kurtis nodded, cringing slightly, breathing a barely heard “sorry.”
Dan shot Canyon an annoyed glance and turned to Tony. “Okay, Sam and I-”
“WHO’S SAM?” Canyon blurted out. Tony looked as if he wanted to strangle him.
Tony did his best to keep his tone even as he pointed to Sam and said “That one.”
Canyon glanced at the woman and nodded, smiling as he realized. He extended his hand. “G’day, madam.”
If he had a hat he would have tipped it.
And somehow his gentlemanly manners made Sam want to choke him even more.
She knew, of course, she couldn’t possibly do that, and cursed herself for even imagining that. She was a lovely woman. She’d loved everyone before. So why was she suddenly having the urge to strangle this boy? A child, even more!
Sam forced her lips to smile, trying to make it shift into a true smile. But it still came out forced as she shook Canyon’s hand, gripping it with such a strength that Canyon had to yank it away.
“WOW, LADY, YOU HAVE A STRONG GRIP. GOOD FOR YOU,” he said, smiling again. “WHERE YA GOING? ON VACATION? TO TOKYO? THE BAHAMAS? I ONCE WENT TO THE-”
“London!” Sam said sharply, stopping Canyon from continuing. She breathed a sigh of relief when he stopped and looked at her wide eyed. Sam couldn’t tell if his eyes were huge because he was amazed that she was going to London or looking at her like how-dare-you-interrupt-me?
Sam’s feelings eased when Canyon confirmed one of her theories as he yelled, “LONDON? COOOOL. ARE YOU GOING TO SEE BIG BEN?”
Dan nodded and wrapped his hands around Sam’s arm. “Yup, in fact, we were just saying goodbye when you showed up.”
The emphasis Dan put on the word ‘you’ would’ve felt like a punch in the gut if Canyon had been listening.
But he didn’t seem to notice.
Either that or he ignored it.
“KURTIS,” Canyon continued, turning back to the boy with mussed strawberry-blond hair. “ARE WE PREPARED TO ENTER THE BATTLEFIELD NOW?”
“Dude, I need to wave my uncle and aunt off first.”
“RIIIGHT.” Canyon glanced, unimpressed, at Sam and Dan. His eyes narrowed ever so slightly, but it seemed only Kurtis took any notice.
Tony clapped his hands to break the silence. “Well! It was great seeing you guys again!” he nodded at Sam and Dan. “I hope London is-”
“THAT REMINDS ME,” Canyon bellowed, interrupting once more. “YOU NEVER ANSWERED MY QUESTION.”
Sam raised an eyebrow as the boy looked directly at her. “Y-you had a question…?”
“YEAH. ARE YOU GOING TO SEE BIG BEN?”
“Oh. Sorry, I thought that was rhetorical,” Sam murmured, feeling her temper slowly rise.
“IS THAT A YES?”
“Yes.” Sam said through gritted teeth. Linda must have sensed her anger because she put an arm around Sam’s shoulder and whispered, “You’re going to leave momentarily.”
Sam stiffened and turned to face Linda. “Thank you for having us over we have to leave now-”
“DOES THAT MEAN KURTIS CAN COME AND PLAY WAR NOW?” Canyon yelled.
Smoke poured out of Sam’s ears as she faked a smile and said sweetly to Canyon, “YES. Now you can run along, far, far away from here and go play War.” She shot Kurtis a glare that said If-you-don’t-go-play-war-with-this- nuisance-I-will-kill-you.
Kurtis frowned and muttered a lame good-bye before joining Canyon on his trek down the sidewalk.
Sam released a mangled sigh-moan as she patted Tony on the back. “Good to see you. Thanks again. Good bye now.”
She seized Dan’s arm and led him down the driveway.
“Crazy neighbor,” he muttered.
“Crazy neighborhood.” Sam corrected, watching a girl with neon green hair skateboard past them.
“That goodbye took long enough,” Dan observed as he climbed into the driver's seat.
“Yeah, I can only imagine we’d have been there all day if that Canyon kid didn’t go away.” Sam noted.
“I wonder why his name was Canyon,” Dan said.
Sam smirked. “Probably because they can hear him all the way over in the Grand Canyon.”