By David Christopher Johnston

Mummy and Daddy think I’m just a silly little girl, but I’m more cleverer than they think. You see I know their secret, the one all the mummies and daddies try so hard to keep. I know the truth about Santa Claus.

It all started during our Easter school assembly. An old man with a white collar came to talk to us about this man named Jesus, who lived in the olden days and did all these good things like making water into Ribena and feeding people with a really big fish. When Jesus died all the people were sad, but because he was magic he came back to life again and made all the people happy. It was a really nice story, but it was really long and the old man’s boring voice made me sleepy; I had to hold my eyes open with my fingers to stay awake.

When the old man had finished, our Headmaster, Mr Pye, said we could ask questions. A boy in the third year got to ask a question first, although it wasn’t a proper question.

‘People can’t come back to life,’ he said.

‘That’s true,’ the old man said, ‘but Jesus is the son of God and he can do anything: even come back to life.’

I don’t think the boy believed the old man because he crossed his arms and pulled a grumpy face for the rest of assembly.

I put my hand in the air because I wanted to ask a question, too, but Mr Pye didn’t pick me for ages and I had to hold my arm up with my other hand to stop it from hurting. When Mr Pye finally pointed to me I had pins and needles.

‘Yes, Holly,’ he said.

‘If Easter is about Jesus, then why do we get chocolate eggs from the Easter Bunny?’ I said, trying to ignore my achy arm.

The old man laughed at me — which I thought was rude — then said something I didn’t really understand: ‘The Easter Bunny is just a silly children’s story designed to boost the confectionary industry, my child. The story of Jesus Christ is the real reason we celebrate Easter; it is, after all, the greatest story ever told.’

‘I think Frozen is the best story ever told,’ I said and everybody laughed — except for the old man, who looked very angry. Then Mr Pye shouted at me and told me to be stop being childish, which I didn’t understand either because I am a child.

When I got home later that day and told my Mummy what had happened she was not happy and said the old man was wrong and Mr Pye should not have yelled at me. She was cross all night.

‘I don’t see why they are bringing this vicar in to indoctrinate our children,’ Mummy said to Daddy at the dinner table.

‘I don’t think the old man’s name was Vicar, Mummy,’ I said with a mouth full of peas, but she didn’t hear me.

Daddy put down his knife and fork and held Mummy’s hand. ‘I understand why you are upset and it’s not something I am particularly comfortable with either, but you know how these schools are,’ he said. ‘I am sure it won’t do any harm, though; Holly is smart enough to work out what is real and what isn’t.’

‘It might do her harm!’ Mummy said, raising her voice. ‘I don’t want them teaching my daughter fairy tales about a man in the sky then mocking her when she asks if the Easter Bunny is real. I won’t have it! In fact, I’m going to ring them first thing tomorrow and—’

‘Is the Easter Bunny real, Mummy?’ I asked.

I think they had forgotten I was there because they both jumped and stared at me like I was a scary ghost. Then Daddy raised his eyebrows at Mummy in a funny way and she started to laugh.

‘Oh, let’s just tell her,’ Daddy said.

‘But she’s only six!’ Mummy said.

‘Yes but she’s a smart kid and I am sure she is going to work it out sooner or later.’

‘I am smart,’ I said, pointing at my five gold stars on the fridge.

Daddy smiled and rubbed my hair. ‘I know you are, which means there’s no fooling you at all. No, I am afraid the Easter Bunny is not real, sweetie.’

This was such a big surprise I almost fell off my chair. ‘But who brings our Easter eggs?’ I asked.

‘Well… Mummy and I do.’

‘But where do they come from?’

‘The shop.’

‘Oh, OK…’ I said, but now I was really confused: if the shop had the eggs all along then why was I only allowed to eat them at Easter?

‘But don’t worry about all that, Holly, and don’t worry about what happened today at school. I think you asked a very good question and I am proud of you,’ Daddy said, which made me smile and I forgot all about the Easter Bunny for the rest of the night.

The next day at school when I told my friends what Daddy had said they were really shocked. My best friend Angelica did not believe me at all and said my Daddy must have been joking.

‘If it was a joke he would have been laughing but he wasn’t laughing so it must have been the truth,’ I said.

‘Then he’s lying,’ Angelica said and everyone in my class believed her over me. It wasn’t fair and it made me sad.

After a few weeks, though, I forgot all about the Easter Bunny. Then in June my front tooth got wobbly and a week later it fell out. I’d never lost a tooth before. When I showed Daddy he told me to put the tooth under my pillow before I went to sleep.

‘Why under my pillow, Daddy?’ I said. It seemed like such a silly thing to do.

‘So the Tooth Fairy can collect it in the night and leave you a shiny pound coin to say thank you,’ Daddy said.

I had never heard of this Tooth Fairy lady before but Daddy said her job was to collect all the children’s teeth when they fell out and take them back to her fairy castle. It didn’t sound like a very nice job to me.

‘Urgh! That’s horrible,’ I said. ‘What does she do with all the teeth?’

‘Erm… I don’t think she does anything with them, sweetie. She just keeps them safe for the children,’ Daddy said.

I really didn’t want this stranger to come into my bedroom while I was sleeping but I did want the shiny pound coin, so that night I did what Daddy said and when I woke up in the morning my tooth was gone and there was an old, dirty pound coin in its place (I guess the Tooth Fairy must have run out of shiny ones).

The next day in the school playground I asked my best friend Grace, who had lost three teeth already, if she had heard of the Tooth Fairy.

‘Of course I know the Tooth Fairy! She gave me five pounds for each of my teeth,’ Grace said, opening her mouth so I could see the holes where her teeth used to be.

‘She only gave me a pound,’ I said in a sad voice, wondering why the Tooth Fairy liked Grace more. I brush my teeth almost every night.

A smelly boy called Nicholas heard us talking and butted in. ‘The Tooth Fairy isn’t real you idiots,’ he said. ‘Your parents just put money under your pillow and throw your tooth in the bin.’

‘That’s not true,’ Grace said.

‘Yes it is, my older brother told me; he saw my Daddy put the money under his pillow and in the morning his tooth was in the bin by the toilet.’

We didn’t want to believe Nicholas as he always had snot around his nose and stains on his jumper, but if the Easter Bunny wasn’t real then surely it was possible that the Tooth Fairy might be pretend, too. In fact, it made more sense to me than a fairy collecting gross teeth for no reason. So Grace and I promised that the next time one of us lost a tooth we would stay awake all night to find out the truth.

We didn’t have to wait long: the next week one of Grace’s teeth started to wobble at school and fell out when she got home.

‘What happened?’ I whispered to her the next morning in class when our teacher, Mrs Miller, was writing on the board.

‘Nicholas was right,’ she whispered in my ear. ‘It was my Mummy who put the money under the pillow.’

By lunch time our whole class was talking about it. A boy named Gabriel, who had two wobbly teeth, got so upset he started crying and told the dinner lady, Miss Willis, who told me off for telling stories. I tried to explain to her about Grace’s Mummy but she wouldn’t listen and said I had to go in the Time Out Zone for ten minutes. It wasn’t fair but I didn’t mind because all the other children finally believed me and that was most important.

‘I’m sorry I didn’t believe you about the Easter Bunny,’ Angelica said when my time out was over. ‘Your Daddy was right.’

‘It’s OK, I forgived you ages ago,’ I said and we hugged.

After that I wondered about many things. If the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy were pretend, and our mummies and daddies were in on the secret, what other secrets were they hiding from us? Me and Grace and Angelica talked about it every break time, lunch time and even in class (except when Mrs Miller caught us). We started a special club called the Big Secrets Club and soon there were nine of us who met at break times underneath the big acorn tree near the sand pits. We had a secret password and everything.

By the time the acorns were falling off the big tree we had completed lots of secret experiments and discovered loads more grownup secrets, too: Carol’s hair was really curly even though she didn’t eat her crusts; Noel pulled lots of funny faces on a windy day but he wasn’t stuck that way; and Angelica kissed one of the frogs in the school pond but it didn’t turn into a handsome prince. Grace’s older sister even told us that babies were made when a boy and girl kissed using their tongues — yuk!; they weren’t delivered by a stork like my Mummy said, or growed in a cabbage patch like Noel’s Daddy said.

It was clear that our mummies and daddies were telling us all sorts of fibs, yet the worst fib of all was still to come.

It was my best friend Mary who first made the discovery, when we was sitting beneath the big tree on a sunny day.

‘I’ve been thinking,’ she said, twirling her blonde hair with her finger. ‘If all these things our mummies and daddies have told us are not true, then does that mean that Santa Claus is make believe, too?’

‘No!’ we all cried, shaking our heads. That wasn’t possible, of course Santa was real.

‘Fibbing about the Tooth Fairy and where babies come from is one thing, Mary,’ I said. ‘But our parents wouldn’t lie to us about Santa. That would be evil.’

‘I’m not sure,’ Mary said. ‘There are lots of things about Santa that don’t make sense when you think about it. Like how could he go to every house in the world in one night? There isn’t enough time.’

‘There is for Santa because his sleigh is really fast,’ a small first year boy named Eull said. We had decided to let him join the Big Secrets Club because he had no friends and we felt sad for him.

‘But when I went to Disney World with my Mummy and Daddy it took nine hours on the plane to get there, and planes go way faster than reindeer,’ Mary said. ‘So how could Santa get to every house in the world in one night without a plane?’

It was a really good point; I hadn’t thought of it before.

‘Because his reindeer are magic,’ Eull said.

‘Don’t be stupid,’ Mary said. ‘Only babies believe in magic.’

I didn’t want to believe that Santa Claus wasn’t real, but we all agreed that the Big Secrets Club had to investigate. So when Mummy next read me a bedtime story, I tried my best to find more answers.

‘Mummy, do you know how we leave a mince pie and a carrot and a Guinness for Santa and Rudolph on Christmas Eve?’ I said.

‘Yes, Holly,’ Mummy said.

‘Well, how can Santa eat that many pies without being sick?’

‘Well, maybe he doesn’t eat them all at once but saves some so he can eat them over Christmas.’

I had been ready for this answer, so I had saved the best question for last. ‘But how can he drink so much and drive the sleigh? When Uncle Michael drinked and drived the Police told him off and he wasn’t allowed to drive for two whole years! If that happened to Santa he wouldn’t be able to deliver the presents and Christmas would be ruined for everyone. Also, surely he would need to wee all the time.’

Mummy smiled at me. ‘Those are really good questions, sweetie. I guess it must be because Santa is magic.’ Then she changed the subject.

That’s when I knew Mummy was hiding something because everyone knows magic is not real. I told my friends at the next Big Secrets Club meeting.

‘I had the same thing too!’ Noel said. ‘I asked my Daddy why the reindeer don’t get tired doing all that flying and he just said it was magic and changed the subject.’

‘Me too!’ Grace said. ‘I asked Mummy how Santa could fit down our chimney when we don’t have a chimney and only have a pretend fire and she said, “because he was magic”. Then she told me to go to sleep.’

‘They must think we are all stupid kids,’ Mary said, throwing her woolly hat on the wet floor.

Our mummies and daddies were clearly all in this together and we felt very angry that they were lying to us. Angelica said they all belonged on the naughty list and I agreed with her.

Then I started to feel sad because without Santa all the fun and happiness at Christmas would go away and it would be rubbish: just yukky brussels sprouts and having to play with my annoying cousins. The rest of my friends started to feel sad too and we didn’t want to meet anymore or talk about it, so we stopped the Big Secrets Club. Every day I wished I’d never found out about the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy, or Santa, at all.

Then in late November, Angelica rushed into the playground with a red face and said she had amazing news. After she got her breath back she told us that her older brother, Danny, had seen her crying last night and asked what was wrong. She had told him about the Big Secrets Club and what we had found out about Santa, but what Danny told her next made all of our mouths fall on the floor.

‘Listen Angelica,’ Danny had said to her. ‘I’m going to tell you a secret about Santa Claus, but you have to promise me that you won’t tell anyone. You see I made a promise when I was thirteen years old to take this secret to my grave, so I will get into trouble if anyone finds out.’

‘I promise I won’t tell,’ Angelica said, wiping tears from her eyes.

Danny leaned forward and whispered the secret in her ear. ‘I promise you Santa is real, Angelica. I’ve met him.’

‘Rubbish,’ Noel said, interrupting Angelica’s nice story. ‘Why would Santa visit your brother?’

‘It’s not rubbish,’ Angelica said. ‘Santa did visit him! Danny says Santa visits every child on their thirteenth birthday and makes them promise not to tell his secret to the younger children.’

‘And what secret is that?’ I said.

‘That Santa doesn’t deliver all the presents on Christmas Eve himself! You were right Mary, there just isn’t enough time.’

‘Then who puts the presents under the tree,’ Mary asked.

‘Danny says our parents do it,’ Angelica replied.

‘No!’ we all said at the same time; the idea was more bonkers than dinner without pudding after.

‘Yes!’ Angelica cried. ‘Santa and the elves make all the toys at the North Pole and then they send them to Amazon, who deliver the presents to our mummies and daddies in plain brown boxes so we can’t see what they are. Then they take the presents upstairs and wrap them before hiding them in a cupboard. And on Christmas Eve they put them under the tree when we are asleep.’

‘That sounds crazy,’ Grace said, shaking her head.

‘No it makes sense, actually,’ said Noel. ‘That must be why my Mummy and Daddy lock their bedroom door at night and whenever I try to come in they shout at me to go away because they are busy. They’re not busy, they’re just wrapping presents for Santa… And I must have lots of presents this year, too, because their door is always locked.’ He did a little jump for joy.

‘But what about the mince pies?’ Grace said.

‘The parents eat them,’ Angelica said.

‘I knew it,’ I cried, although that was a fib. Angelica’s news was so great that I wanted to sing and dance around the playground. Santa Claus was real after all!

We told Santa’s secret to all the children in our school but not everyone believed us: some said Santa delivered all the presents himself; others said he had a team of elves who helped him; and one boy called Joseph said Santa wasn’t real at all and Christmas was about celebrating God’s birthday (but we ignored him because he was always saying stupid things like that).

I found my presents in Mummy’s office cupboard the week before Christmas, when she was taking a bath. There were six presents for me, all wrapped in red paper with big yellow bows. I couldn’t wait to open them but knew I had to resist.

‘I was thinking of telling my Mummy and Daddy what we know,’ I said to my best friend Carol on the last day of school before Christmas. ‘I think they would be proud of how clever we have been.’ I had nine gold stars on the fridge now and wanted to make it ten.

‘I don’t think you should,’ Carol said.

‘Why not?’ I said.

‘Because our mummies and daddies have put so much work in all year to help Santa deliver and wrap the presents that it will upset them. I don’t want to upset my Mummy and Daddy, and I definitely don’t want to end up on Santa’s naughty list.’

‘Me neither,’ I said. Carol was very smart.

So that weekend I went with Mummy to see Santa at the shopping centre in our town, even though I knew it was not the real Santa; I wrote a letter to him and posted it in the letter box at the end of our street, even though I knew he had already made my presents; and before I went to bed on Christmas Eve, Daddy and I left a mince pie, a carrot and a pint of Guinness on the side by the fire for Santa and Rudolph, like we do every year. And even though I knew Santa wouldn’t be climbing down my chimney, I still couldn’t sleep a wink. Despite all I had found out I still hoped to hear the sound of sleigh bells outside my window.

As I lay there counting reindeer, my bedroom door opened a little bit.

‘Are you asleep, Holly?’ Mummy said.

‘Yes,’ I said in my most convincing voice.

Mummy sighed. ‘Come on Holly, it is well past your bedtime and you should be asleep now. If you don’t go to sleep then Santa won’t bring you any presents; you don’t want that to happen, do you?’

‘No, Mummy,’ I said, thinking about the presents in the cupboard and trying not to laugh. ‘I promise I will go to sleep straight away.’

‘OK, that’s a good girl. Sweet dreams, sweetie. Merry Christmas.’

‘Merry Christmas, Mummy,’ I said as she closed the door.

I turned to the toy glow-in-the-dark Santa Claus on my bedside table before I closed my eyes.

‘I know the truth about you,’ I whispered. ‘But don’t worry, your secret is safe with me.’

Silly Mummy and Daddy.



Copyright © 2020 David Christopher Johnston.

David Christopher Johnston hereby asserts and gives notice of his right under s.77 and s.78 of the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work of fiction. All moral rights are asserted.

All rights reserved. No part of this work of fiction may be reproduced or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior permission of the author. This story is a work of fiction and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.