The area was still fenced off.

Jody stood as close as was legally possible without a decon suit. Her business was over. It had taken 3 weeks to clean the forecourt.

It may have been a suicide bomber – no one could tell. The bodies melted to the chairs and then each other.

Tests showed that it was ugly. Looking at them, fused together, one multi-limbed mass of flesh, bleeding and oozing poison into the paving slabs could have told them that.

The bar was meant to be an investment. A chance to build a future for her and her kids.

The bomb put an end to that.

And during Shopmas. She sighed.

The streets should be full of people spending, buying stuff, and buying stuff at her shop. It was a lousy location, anyway. An island in the middle of a river. Great for passing trade.

“Yeah, right.  Passing trade, my arse. If your passing trade happens to be on a boat crossing the river.”

“Or on the river.” She remembered the salesman’s words. “There’s a lot of trade along this river.”

God. Was she ever dumb. In summer there was loads of trade – except on the Hot Days. Still, if people braved the UV she had a bunch of shielding fitted on the windows and the terrace.

The other 4 months it was rain, snow or ash.

She punched a number and spoke into her spime. “Yeah, I need a Taxi. Can you triangulate.”

She waited.

“Yeah – I know where it is. Yeah, I know what happened – I own the place. I’m here now. No, you don’t need a de-con. No. It’s perfectly safe. No. Don’t you DARE HANG….”

Fifteen calls later she found a private hire company. All she wanted to do was to go across the river. They insisted on full price, so she insisted they took her home. Weighing up potential contamination over time they gave her a free ride across the river.

She stood at the river’s edge and looked back the past eight years of her life – Bar Damron.

Her shitty ex had laughed his worthless arse off at that name. Said it sounded like a robot from one of his grand-dad’s shows. And not a cool robot – some clunky thing that would have wobbled as it walked and made “beep beep” noises.

Kicked him out.

Not before he paid for the lousy robot, though.

She smiled. The robot had made the place.

She walked through the streets towards the neon day of the mall. There’d be people there. She just needed to see normality before heading home to insurance claims, loss of earnings and her two kids.

She stopped. Eight years. She had the papers brought into the hospital. Signed the day her youngest was born.

An hour later and the first ash fell. She’d just sat and watched her place. The lights came on, as usual. She’d cried then. It wasn’t the money. It was…her place. And now it was gone.

She stood up and fitted her filtration mask, zipping up environment coat up. She wiped the tears away, in case the ash hit i t, melted and entered her skin.

She finally made her way towards the mall. Just for a coffee.

People would ask, after they’d had a few, where she got the name for the robot.

“It’s named after my two sons.” That always embarrassed them and they always bought more.

She walked to the bend in the road, stole one last glance at the robot above the roof, it’s name across its chest, before turning and hurrying towards the smell of coffee.