DISCLAIMER: I do not own Helen Quilly or James Hammerton. They belong to Paramount Home Entertainment, Peter Howitt, John Hannah, Gwyneth Paltrow, and the writers and creators of Sliding Doors. Also, I do not own Starbucks, even though I wish I did.

No One Expects The Spanish Inquisition
Elizabeth Routledge

Helen walked down the hospital corridor. She was surprised at how little grief she felt at losing the baby. Maybe it was because she didn't want a baby that shared half of its genetic coding with that bastard. Probably if the father hadn't been such a prick she would have been entirely cut up. Seeing the lift doors closing, she went forward quickly and put out a hand to stop them. She must have looked more depressed than she thought, because she heard a Scottish, male voice say,

'Cheer up, it might never happen. You know what the Monty Python boys say.'

'No one expects the Spanish inquisition.' Their eyes locked, and Helen automatically looked away. Spluttering, she tried to bring herself back to earth. 'So what, um, what are you in for?' she asked.

'My mother's just died,' he said. Right. Helen studied her shoes. Great conversation stopper. He spoke again. 'She had been ill for a long time, it's better this way. What about you?'

'I - I had a miscarriage yesterday,' she mumbled. As the lift started to slow down, she felt a need to explain. 'I went for a job interview, but my boyfriend was there, and it turns out that - well, he was fucking her, for want of a better way to put it, and I fell down the stairs outside her apartment. I just finished with him now,' she ended, jerking her head backwards.

'I'm sorry.'

'Don't be.' They stepped out into the hospital lobby, and she shook her hair out of her face. 'It was never going to work out, I can see that now.'

'So you're…'


'James. So now you're free and single, and I no longer have to pretend that my ex-wife and I are still together for my mum's sake, I suppose there's nothing illegal in my asking you out for coffee.' He smiled at her. 'I'm relatively harmless.'

Taking her first good look at him, Helen realized that he was actually quite cute. Two months ago she probably wouldn't even have considered it, but her recent experiences had taught her to seize the day, and, mustering a smile, she looked him straight in the eye. 'That'd be nice.'

There was a Starbucks across from the hospital, and they walked in there. Pulling his wallet out, James briefly cast his eye across the menu. 'Tall latte, and a, uh…'

'Tall americano,' she filled in.

'Will that be to go?'

'No,' he said. 'We'll have it in here.'

'That's three twenty-five, please.'

Helen started looking in her pocket for some money, but James waved it off and handed over a five pound note. As they carried their coffees over to a table near the window, she put her bag down on the floor. 'You didn't have to do that.'

'My treat.'

Deciding that it was hardly worth arguing over, she pulled her coat off and sat down. She quickly realized that James was quite a talker. Within twenty minutes, she had been given his life story, his likes and dislikes, and his candid opinion of Japanese tourists. He finally ground to a halt and wound up with, 'So, what do you do?'

'Me?' She hesitated, taking a drink of her black, unsweetened coffee. 'In the daytime, I deliver sandwiches, and at night, I'm a waitrss. I used to work in PR,' she blurted, 'But I got fired, and nobody seems to be hiring anyone anymore.' Her final word trailed off. The glasses. It clicked. That was the day she had got fired, and missed the Tube. If she had caught it, maybe she wouldn't have spent the last few months bowing to his every need while he fitted time with her around sex with that slut. Talk about what ifs.

She drained the dregs of her coffee, and they walked out into the crisp London air, and she heard James.

'Give me your number, maybe we can go out properly sometime.'

And she heard herself saying, 'I'd like that.'

Then they both spoke at the same time. 'Have I…' They laughed. 'You go.' Fast, before it could happen again, Helen repeated,

'You go.'

'Have we met somewhere before?'

'I don't know.' Nine times out of ten, she would think it was a pick up line, but the truth was, she had been going to say the same thing. She could hardly believe the next thing that came out of her mouth. 'Maybe we were lovers in a previous life.'

James leaned in to kiss her, but looked thoughtful. 'Maybe we were.'