But, if I am honest with myself, that’s not all that happened then. I had always remembered that New Year’s Day as a time of happiness and laughter. Yet now I realise that perhaps there were adult tears I failed to notice, I was so intent on making mischief.
When did it occur to me and why did I do it? I think it was seeing the spare envelopes on the windowsill in the dining room, when I finished breakfast. I didn’t tell Amy. I didn’t tell anyone. I was breathless with excitement, suppressing my giggles, as I sneaked upstairs and filled the envelopes with folded paper, then sealed them. They looked exactly the same as the ones handed to my mother earlier. And later, while the adults were having a final coffee after breakfast, I quietly slipped through the kitchen and did the switch.
It seemed terribly funny to me at the time. I suppose I imagined revealing my trick just as the box was finally sealed, or telling Amy upstairs later and showing her my haul so we could snigger over the letters in secret. But in the end I didn’t do either. I saw their faces, my parents and the others, saw how serious they were about the whole process of sealing the box then burying it. And suddenly, it no longer seemed so funny.
Once everyone had left, once I was alone in my bedroom that night, I opened the envelopes and read the letters with a torch under the covers. I didn’t really understand them then. How could I, a girl of just eleven. But even I knew that those letters were never meant to be read and even I knew I could never tell anyone what I had done. I hid them in the secret compartment in the bottom of the musical jewellery box I had been given for my ninth birthday and never looked at them again.