by Melissa Goode

17 August 1977. Elvis died yesterday. It was the only story on the news. Jeff lay on top of me on the sofa while the television showed the world mourning.

‘He was only forty two years old,’ I said, while Jeff kissed my throat.

My skin was stretched tight as a drum from crying on and off all day.

‘I didn’t know his middle name was Aaron,’ I said.

Jeff put his hand over my mouth. ‘No more Elvis,’ he said.

Nan came down the hallway, whistling ‘Love me tender’. I pressed Jeff away from me. He sprang to the other end of the couch and pushed his hands over his face. I sat up and fluffed my hair.

Nan arrived in the doorway holding a piece of paper.

‘Jeff is allowed to be here,’ I said.

‘I know the rule, Angie, love,’ she said. ‘Anywhere, but the bedroom. As if young people need a bed.’ She shook her head.

Jeff snorted and laughed. ‘You said it, Mrs Hallows.’

Nan’s dark brown eyes met mine and I was petrified she would say something about Jeff, about his surfer hair, his torn jeans, his many brothers and sisters, his dead mother, his dad who may as well have lived at the pub.

‘Well, we’re in the front room,’ I said.

‘I know where you are, dear,’ Nan said. ‘I’m here too.’

She stepped into the room.

I sighed. ‘Do you need help with something?’ I said. Stealing all of the teaspoons from the kitchen and hiding them in your bedroom? Putting the kettle in the garden so none of us can find it for a week?

Nan stood in front of me, her neat, ancient, lace-up shoes close together. She handed me the piece of paper. ‘You’re old enough to see this.’

It looked like a birth certificate, but was headed ‘United Kingdom Adoption Registry’. The name of the child: Hannah McNally. The reason given by the birth mother for giving the child up for adoption: Best for baby to have a mother and father. The child had my birth date, 11 August 1961.

‘You don’t have a mother or father, not under this roof, and that is a crying shame,’ Nan said.

‘Mum’s at a memorial. For Elvis,’ I said, and it sounded like a plea.

Nan rolled her eyes. ‘For the love of God.’

Jeff took the piece of paper from me.

‘And my name’s Angie,’ I said. ‘Angie Hallows.’

‘It’s not though, is it?’ Nan said and she left. Her rounded shoulders, her mustard cardigan, her slow shuffle.

‘What? What?’ Jeff said, and then, softly, ‘Holy fuck.’ He stared at the piece of paper as if it was going to tell him something different.

On the television, people lit candles, hugged each other and wept. John Lennon said, ‘Long live the King’. Elvis sang ‘Amazing Grace’ to a packed arena. I leaned back against the sofa and closed my eyes. Elvis sang for me, just me.

Melissa Goode’s work has appeared in Best Australian Short StoriesNew World Writing, Cleaver MagazineBartleby Snopes, Pithead ChapelGravel, and Jellyfish Review among others. She has been a featured writer in Bang! One of her short stories has been made into a film by the production company, Jungle. She lives in Australia.

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