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 really big fish. When Jesus died all the people were sad, but because he was magic he came back to life and made all the people happy again. It was a really nice story, but it was very 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 his question first.
‘People can’t come back to life,’ he said, which wasn’t even a proper question.
‘That is 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 liked the old man’s answer because he crossed his arms and pulled a grumpy face for the rest of assembly.
I stuck my hand in the air because I wanted to ask a question, 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 to me.
‘If Easter is about Jesus, then why do we get chocolate eggs from the Easter Bunny?’ I said, rubbing 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 profits of the confectionary industry, my child. The story of Jesus Christ is the real reason we celebrate Easter. His story is the greatest story ever told.’
‘I think Frozen is the greatest story ever told,’ I said and everybody laughed even though I wasn’t telling a joke. Then the old man looked angry and Mr Pye shouted at me and told me to stop acting like a child, which I didn’t understand either because I am a child.
When I got home after school I told my Mummy what had happened and she was not happy and said the old man was wrong and that 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. ‘It’s not something I agree with either, but you know how these schools are,’ he said. ‘I am sure it won’t do any harm; Holly is bright enough to make her own mind up about God.’
‘It might do her harm!’ Mummy shouted. ‘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 the school 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. I am afraid the Easter Bunny is not real, sweetie.’
I was so surprised I almost fell off my chair. ‘But who brings our Easter eggs?’ I said.
‘Well… Mummy and I do.’
‘But where do they come from?’
‘The shop,’ Daddy said.
‘Oh… So then why am I only allowed to eat them at Easter?’
Daddy laughed. ‘Don’t worry about all that, and don’t worry about what happened today at school. I think you asked a very good question and I am proud of you.’ Then Daddy kissed me on the forehead which made me happy and I forgot about the Easter Bunny for the rest of the night.
The next day at school I told my friends what Daddy had said. My best friend Angelica did not believe me at all and said my Daddy must have been joking.
‘But he wasn’t laughing,’ I said.
‘Then he’s lying,’ Angelica said and everyone believed her over me, which wasn’t fair.
I didn’t talk about the Easter Bunny anymore after that.
Then in June my front tooth got wobbly and it fell out. I’d never lost a tooth before and when I showed Mummy she told me to put the tooth under my pillow before I went to sleep.
‘Why, Mummy?’ I said.
‘For the Tooth Fairy,’ Mummy said.
‘The Tooth Fairy! Who is she?’
‘The Tooth Fairy collects children’s teeth when they fall out and leaves you a shiny pound coin to say thank you.’
‘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,’ Mummy said. ‘She just keeps them safe.’
The Tooth Fairy seemed scary to me but I really wanted a shiny pound coin, so that night I did what Mummy told me and left my tooth under my pillow. And when I woke up in the morning my tooth was gone and there was a pound coin (but it wasn’t very shiny).
That day at school I asked my best friend Grace if she had heard of the Tooth Fairy.
‘Yes, the Tooth Fairy gave me five pounds for my teeth when they fell out. I’ve lost three already, you know,’ Grace said, opening her mouth to show me.
‘She only gave me a pound,’ I said, feeling sad and wondering why the Tooth Fairy liked Grace more than me – I brush my teeth almost every night.
Then a smelly boy called Nicholas heard us talking and said, ‘The Tooth Fairy isn’t real you idiots. Your parents put the money under your pillow and throw your tooth in the bin.’
‘That’s not true,’ Grace shouted at him.
‘Yes it is, my older brother told me! He saw my Daddy put the money under his pillow and take his tooth.’
We didn’t believe Nicholas as he always had snot around his nose and stains on his jumper, but Grace had another wobbly tooth and so she said when it fell out she would stay awake all night to see if Nicholas was telling the truth.
We had to wait a whole week before Grace’s tooth fell out while she was eating her sandwiches at lunchtime.
‘What happened?’ I whispered to her the next morning when our teacher, Mrs Miller, was writing on the chalkboard.
‘Nicholas was right, it was my Mummy who put the money under the pillow,’ she whispered back.
By breaktime 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 what 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.
Now we knew that the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy were not real, we talked about it every breaktime and even in class (except when Mrs Miller caught us). Me and Angelica and Grace started a special club called the Big Secrets Club and soon there were nine of us who met underneath the big acorn tree near the sand pits and talked about what other secrets our mummies and daddies were hiding from us. We even had a secret password.
By the time the acorns were falling off the big tree we had discovered lots more grownup secrets: 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 his face 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. Our mummies and daddies were telling us all sorts of fibs, but the worst fib of all was still to come.
‘I’ve been thinking,’ my best friend Mary said as we sat beneath the big tree on a sunny day. ‘If our mummies and daddies lied about the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, does that mean that Santa Claus is not real, either?’
‘No!’ we all cried, shaking our heads.
‘Our parents wouldn’t lie to us about Santa, that would be horrible,’ I said.
‘But how can Santa go to every house in the world in one night?’ Mary said. ‘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 bad 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.
‘But Santa’s reindeer are magic,’ Eull said.
‘Don’t be stupid,’ Mary said to Eull. ‘Only babies believe in magic.’
I still believed that Santa Claus was real, but we agreed that the Big Secrets Club had to investigate. So I asked my Daddy when he next read me a bedtime story.
‘Daddy, 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, sweetie,’ Daddy said.
‘Well, how can Santa eat that many pies without being sick?’
Daddy smiled. ‘I think he saves some so he can eat them after Christmas.’
‘But then how can he drink so much beer and drive the sleigh? When Uncle Michael drinked and drived the Police said 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.’
Daddy rubbed my head. ‘Those are really good questions, Holly. I guess it must be because Santa is magic.’ Then Daddy said it was bedtime and turned the light off before I could ask anything more questions.
I told my friends what Daddy had said at the Big Secrets Club meeting the next day.
‘The same thing happened to me!’ Noel said. ‘I asked my Daddy why the reindeer don’t get tired flying so far and he just said it was magic and changed the subject.’
‘Me too!’ Grace shouted. ‘I asked Mummy how Santa could fit down our chimney when we don’t have a chimney and she said, “because he was magic”, then she told me to stop asking silly questions.’
‘They must think we are just silly babies,’ Mary said, throwing her woolly hat on the wet floor.
‘I think they all belong on the Naughty List,’ Angelica said. We all agreed.
‘But Santa must be real,’ Eull said. ‘If he isn’t then Christmas is just yukky brussels sprouts and having to kiss my old grandma who smells of smoke.’
Then I started to cry and everyone else cried too. ‘I don’t want to be in the Big Secrets Club anymore,’ I said as I wiped tears from my face.
We stopped the Big Secrets Club after that because we didn’t want to talk about grownup secrets anymore. I wished I’d never found out about the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy, or Santa, at all.
Then one morning in late November when Angelica got to school she ran across the playground to me and Mary and gave us both a big hug. Her face was red and she was out of breath.
‘I have amazing news to tell everyone!’ she shouted.
Angelica said that her older brother, Danny, had seen her crying last night and asked what was wrong, so she had told him all about the Big Secrets Club and what we had found out about Santa. What Danny had said then to Angelica surprised us all.
‘Listen Angelica, 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 keep this secret forever, so I will get into trouble if Santa finds out,’ Danny had said to her.
‘I promise I won’t tell,’ Angelica had said back, wiping tears from her eyes.
Danny leaned forward and whispered the secret in Angelica’s ear. ‘Santa Claus is real, Angelica. I’ve met him.’
‘Rubbish,’ Noel said, butting in in the middle of Angelica’s 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 their younger brothers and sisters.’
‘And what secret is that?’ I said.
Angelica smiled. ‘That Santa doesn’t deliver all the presents on Christmas Eve himself! You were right Mary, there isn’t enough time.’
‘Then who puts the presents under the Christmas tree?’ Mary said.
‘Danny says our parents do it,’ Angelica said.
‘No!’ we all said at the same time.
‘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 is crazy,’ Grace said, shaking her head.
‘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,’ Noel said. ‘They must be wrapping presents for Santa… And I must have lots of presents this year, too, because their door is always locked.’ He clapped his hands with joy.
‘But what about the mince pies?’ Grace said.
‘Our mummies and daddies eat them,’ Angelica said.
‘I knew it,’ I cried, ‘Santa can’t eat them all!’
After that we all held hands and danced around the playground. Angelica’s news that Santa Claus was real was the best news ever.
That day we told all the children in our school the truth about Santa Claus 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 God’s birthday (but we ignored him because he was always saying silly things like that).
I found my presents in Mummy’s office cupboard the week before Christmas; I sneaked into the room when she was taking a bath. There were six presents for me wrapped in red paper with big yellow bows. I couldn’t wait to open them.
‘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 are.’ I had nine gold stars on the fridge now and wanted ten.
‘I don’t think you should,’ Carol said.
‘Why not?’ I said.
‘Because our mummies and daddies work hard all year to help Santa deliver the presents. I don’t want to upset them or end up on the Naughty List.’
‘Me neither,’ I said.
So that weekend I went with Mummy to see Santa Claus at the shopping centre, I wrote him a letter and posted it in the letter box at the end of our street, and before I went to bed on Christmas Eve, me and Daddy left a mince pie, a carrot, and a pint of Guinness by the fire for Santa and Rudolph. But even though I knew Santa wasn’t going to climb down my chimney, I still couldn’t sleep. I wished for sleighbells 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 bestest voice.
Mummy sighed. ‘Come on now, it is well past your bedtime and you should be asleep. 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, trying not to giggle. ‘I promise I will go to sleep straight away.’
‘OK, that’s a good girl. Sweet dreams, and Merry Christmas.’
‘Merry Christmas, Mummy,’ I said as she closed the door.
Before I closed my eyes I turned to the glow-in-the-dark Santa Claus on my bedside table that Grandma had got me the year before.
‘I know the truth about you, Santa,’ 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.