Osculation: A Beginners Guide
The following is a deleted chapter from The Lost Princess, which takes place somewhere in the second half of the story and was removed due to word count restraint and tonal conflict. It is unedited, and hasn’t been proof read.
‘Binah, I made some chapattis and Nutella for your friends before they go.’ Mrs Fae stepped into Binah’s library holding a tray of freshly baked treats, the sweet and doughy smell making Ollie’s mouth water. The resemblance between Binah and her mother was uncanny. They were both tiny, with huge cheek splitting grins and clear, dewy skin like polished oak, but while Binah had a labyrinth of curls spilling over her shoulder that seemed an extension of her powerful mind, her mother kept her hair short and out of the way.
Raphael, ever charming, instantly materialised at Mrs Fae’s side to lend her a hand, taking the tray and gifting her a butter-wouldn’t-melt smile. As soon as she left the room, Percy continued his last ditch attempt at teaching Ollie basic sign language, and it was clear to everyone, he was terrible at it.
‘Why am I so bad at this?’ A groan escaped him as he tried to remember the hand movements for ‘stupid’, curling his fist into a ball and slapping it against his open palm.
‘Well at least you’ve got that one right,’ Raphael teased, exchanging a smirk with Percy that had them both snorting.
‘The important thing is that you’re trying,’ Binah offered, helping herself to a hot chapatti, ‘It’s been scientifically proven that micro-learning is an effective technique, just fifteen minutes of study a day is all it takes to learn a new language.’
With as much enthusiasm as he could muster, Ollie made a thumbs up gesture and bounced it off his palm.
‘You’ll have it in no time,’ Percy signed back encouragingly, his sleepy eyes warm with good-humour, but Ollie still struggled to make sense of the hand movements.
They said their goodbyes, and he watched curiously as the two Rosewood boys disappeared out of site to journey back home. After their creepy Rosewood adventure, Binah had invited them to stay at her parents’ London townhouse – although it looked more like a mansion to Ollie. None of them wanted to be on their own after the spooky diary discovery and Ollie had been more than thrilled to spend more time with Binah. A day had turned into days and days had turned into weeks, and now he felt like he might disintegrate into nothing when he eventually had to go back to St Ives. His other life felt small, dollhouse people and furniture that could never be part of the real world.
‘Three weeks.’ Ollie stated, sitting up from the sunken, circular couch in the centre of the library. ‘three weeks left of summer holiday and then I’m gonna stop slacking off. This year I will buckle down and act like a Rosewood student.’ He’d decided, absolutely one hundred percent he would take up BSL as an afterschool class when the summer was over. The Rosewood students he’d met were all so talented and excited by learning new things, if he was going to keep up with Lottie he needed to be just as enthusiastic about improving himself. ‘I want to be just like you, Binah.’
Her name felt delicious on his tongue, her presence in the room like the allure of fresh baked cookies.
With curved bookshelves in an endless spiral or knowledge, Binah’s library was piled high with more books and plants than Ollie had ever seen. Up and up it went, a pillar of information and lush foliage, hanging plants and encyclopaedias, knowledge and nurturing, just like Binah.
‘You can’t be just like me,’ Binah didn’t look up from the glossy gossip magazine she was reading, although it seemed like an unusual choice for her. ‘For one, your hair isn’t nearly big enough so you’d have nowhere to hide all your secrets.’
‘Not a problem,’ He lay back again to take in the skylight above, evening light pouring over them in a citrine glow. ‘I don’t really have any secrets.’ A pang of regret struck his chest at his utter lack of mystery. Lottie had a million secrets, Binah had a million facts. All these Rosewood students were brimming with hidden depth while he was plain old straight-forward Ollie Moreno.
‘Ollie,’ Two owl like eyes appeared upside down above Ollie’s head, sunlight dripping around each curl of Binah’s hair. She eyed him curiously, like she was trying to extract some kind of information from his brain, and if he knew what it was, he was sure he would give it to her. ‘Do you have a crush on me?’
‘What?’ Ollie sat bolt upright again, and would have whacked Binah on the forehead if not for her quick reflexes. ‘I don’t… what?’
‘It’s the one thing I’m not very good at you see.’ There was not a hint of embarrassment on Binah’s face, just her usual pondering expression, and it made Ollie feel silly for going so red. ‘As far as I can tell, no one is very good at this sort of thing, which only makes me want to research it more.’’
‘Binah, I don’t know if-’
She cut him off before he had a chance to continue, her spectacles glinting in the light as she twirled a strand of hair thoughtfully. He wondered if anyone in the whole world had ever seen Binah Faye so unsure of something.
‘Lottie’s little royal triangle, for example, it utterly baffles me that everyone struggles so much to be straightforward with their feelings. I want to understand that feeling more; what makes it so complicated?’
A sharp pain in Ollie’s cheek let him know he’d been distractedly chewing the inside of his mouth. This was a lot of information to take on, and it sounded like Binah was saying there might be something going on between Lottie and the strange Princess and bodyguard he’d met. It was a thick, tangle of emotions, confusing but not in a furious way, more like the resolute uncertainty when one starts a new puzzle or game. If Lottie had feelings for anyone, that was her business and he’d wait until she told him herself… even if he was painfully nosy.
‘It’s my Achilles heel, love, and I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do.’ She looked at him, eyes narrowing again, trying to probe that information from his mind again. ‘I thought I might study you, and how you behaved around me, but I’m still just as confused.’ Her eyelids closed slowly in thought, a meditative pose consuming her body like she was trying to think her way out of something. A snort of laughter very nearly escaped him, it was funny, that the smartest girl in the known universe could be so baffled by simple teenage emotion. But it was also sad, and he could see that it was troubling her greatly, and for the first time, in maybe her whole life, Binah might actually need someone else’s help for a change.
‘Binah,’ Ollie began, lowering his voice a little. ‘I think with things like love and crushes, you can’t really know anything. You just have to let it happen. People need to fumble about and make mistakes, that’s kind of the point. There’s no science behind it, and most importantly,’ The call to reach out and touch her was excruciating, but he resisted, not wanting to disturb their happy slice of friendship without her permission. Instead, he waited for her to look at him, her gaze still dripping with intrigue. ‘Most importantly, it’s not your responsibility to sort it out for everyone. You don’t have to be helpful all the time for people to like you.’ As the words tumbled out of his mouth, Ollie almost lost track of who they were for, a painful ache spreading through his body from his heart. These were words he should have said to Lottie years ago, but he never realised that’s what he wanted to say. ‘I can see why you and Lottie became friends.’ The smile he mustered was filled with sweetness, a warm sticky dessert that could cheer anyone up.
Binah returned the gesture, letting the syrupy feeling take over, melting away any deep, untangle-able thoughts, if only for a little time.
‘Ollie.’ She said his name like a eureka moment, an unwavering determination and it nearly made him jump, but that was not at all the most shocking part. ‘May I kiss you?’
‘Errr,’ It was the only thing Ollie could manage to say, feeling very much like the universe was playing a trick on him.
‘It’s absolutely fine if not,’ Binah added calmly, much more calm that Ollie.
‘I mean, yes, it’s just, I thought you weren’t interested in stuff like that?’ Ollie’s eyes were blinking furiously, trying to make some sense of what was happening. One second he’d been giving Binah the best advice he’d ever given anyone in his life, and now he was floundering like a fish on land.
‘I’m not repulsed by these sorts of things;’ She said, matter-of-factly, as if she were leading a class. ‘I’d say I’m more inquisitive. They’re not important to me but I’m not disgusted by them.’ Her little hands moved to her face to push her glasses up, magnifying her eyes even more. ‘And I suppose if I’m going to have my first kiss, It’s sensible to have it with a nice person like you.’
First kiss! That was an awful lot of pressure. What if he was terrible and put her off kissing for life? Or what if he enjoyed it and she didn’t? A million ‘what ifs’ exploded in his head, his palms going clammy as his breath sped up, and then he stopped, and looked at her.
Binah was the weirdest person he’d ever met and by far the smartest. She existed in a whole different dimension, a plane of thought he could never understand, yet the moment they’d started hanging out, he never felt stupid or intimidated, only excited to get a glimpse into her wonderful mind. Her magic power of knowledge was a gift she shared with everyone. Binah was a tiny little Athena, but she was also a normal teenager, confused and curious and kind, and he very, very much wanted her to kiss him.
‘Yes please.’ He could have kicked himself, it sounded so unenthusiastic. ‘I mean, yes, I’d like that.’
She smiled up at him, shuffling closer on the round, white couch until they were shoulder to shoulder, but it still felt as though there were an endless sea between them. The world turned dark as both of them closed their eyes, leaning in slowly like waves meeting the shore. The moment their lips touched, Ollie felt the ocean crash around him. She tasted like honey and salt, her soft petal lips a warm sandy beach that conjured up memories of eating ice cream and popcorn on the peer. His hand moved instinctively to cup her cheek, smooth, plump skin warm under his touch. Ollie had kissed lots of girls in his life, but he’d never realised it could be so, well, nice. It felt like more than a kiss, like they were sharing something special, every second making a million fireworks go off in his head, and he just hoped she felt the same way.
‘I see.’ Binah said, a little breathless as they pulled away, and it took all Ollie’s will power not to follow her lips. ‘So that’s what all the fuss about osculation is.’
The tingle lingered on Ollie’s lips, and he struggled to see how she was able to talk after what he’d just experienced.
‘I’ve never had a kiss like that.’ Ollie said, his voice a murmur of what it had been.
‘I’m afraid I have nothing to compare it to.’ Binah replied, her hand resting on his knee. The words pulled him out of his trance. Blinking away the soporific effect, he looked at her, really looked at her, how her glasses were ever so slightly tilted now, and her lips a little puffy from the kiss.
‘I enjoyed it.’ He said, frankly, ‘And I hope you did too, even if it’s not really your thing, it’s O.K if you didn’t, thanks for, you know, thanks.’ He cringed at his own clumsy words but Binah didn’t seem to mind.
‘I did enjoy it.’ She gifted him one of her enchanting smiles that instantly made him feel better. ‘But most importantly,’ she added, still grinning. ‘I understand what you meant now.’
‘How so?’ Ollie’s nosiness returned, his eyebrows knitting together in interest. Readjusting her glasses and smoothing down her hair, Binah turned away in thought again.
‘It’s messy, and confusing, and I think, maybe, that’s what people like about it.’ She smiled again, but this time, it was gentle and pondering. ‘It’s out of their control.’