Things will get better

Submitted into Contest #45 in response to: Write a story about inaction.... view prompt




“Will you stop complaining already? I mean, I’m not saying things don’t suck, but they’ll get better eventually. This stuff just takes time.”

“Excuse me?” Janet looked at her friend. “How much more time should pass before things will magically start getting better?” She asked sharply.

“Whoa”, Maggie threw up her hands. “Easy there. I’m just saying, we’ve already come a long way. Things are so much better now than they were, like, a hundred years ago.” Janet was staring at her, brows furrowed, lips tightly pursed, not saying a word. Maggie smiled.

“Don’t be angry, Jan. Being angry at things you can’t change only leads to stress, and you really don’t need any more stress in your life! Let’s just go watch a movie or something, take your mind off of things.”

Janet was silent for a moment. “Yeah. No." She cleared her throat. "I’m not really feeling up for a movie right now.”

“That’s okay, we can do something else. What did you have in mind?” Maggie smiled brightly, open to any suggestions. Janet ran a hand through her hair and sighed.

“You… you just don’t get it, do you Maggie? Nothing’s ever going to change, not really, as long as people like you won’t even admit that change needs work. It won’t just get better. How many people need to be murdered for their skin colour for you to see that this is unacceptable? How m-” She was suddenly cut off by Maggie, whose cheeks had turned red.

Excuse me?” She huffed. “Are you calling me racist? Me? Really? Wow. That’s horrible, Jan. You know, I'd expected better of you. I don’t hate black people! You know that. How could I? We’re friends, aren’t we?!” Janet took a small step back, because Maggie had stepped right into her personal space. “I can’t believe you, Jan. I really thought we were friends.” Indignant, Maggie turned around and stalked out of Janet’s room, slamming the door behind her. Janet sank down on her bed and rubbed her eyes. Her hands were shaking a little.


Maggie turned the TV off. She’d seen enough of the protest that was going on right now. Sure, it was for a good cause, but the reality was that this protest would inconvenience a lot of people. And what if they started looting? She shook her head and grabbed her phone, texting her friend Lily to ask if she wanted to hang out. It took Lily a long time to respond; long enough for Maggie to get bored scrolling through her various social media feeds. When the reply finally came, it wasn’t the answer she’d been expecting.

           “Sorry, I can’t! I’m at the protest w/ Janet! xoxo”

           Maggie scoffed. Not only were they part of that pointless protest, they hadn’t even asked her to come along. Some friends she had. She left Lily’s text unanswered, and messaged Matt instead. He always made time for her.


Janet was crying. Lily was trying to console her, but she didn’t really have any words of comfort. Maggie was watching them from a corner of the couch, across the room. Most people present were in various stages of upset; pacing; cursing; staring into space, defeated. They'd come together to watch the elections. They hadn’t actually thought he’d win.

           When a space opened up near the two girls, Maggie moved down the couch and stretched out her hand to pat Janet’s knee.

           “It’ll be alright, you know.” She said, trying to sound soothing. “It’s only politics.”

           Janet looked up, her face tear-streaked, eyes filled with disbelief. She looked down and slowly removed Maggie’s hand from her knee.

           “Hey! Don’t be mad at me! I didn’t vote for him!” Maggie was getting tired of being blamed for all these things that had nothing to do with her.

           “No. You didn’t vote at all.” Lily’s voice was icy, and her gaze was piercing. Maggie had never seen her friend – round-faced, blue-eyed, still-looking-like-she-was-teenager Lily – give anyone a look like that. Let alone her. 

           “Yeah, I mean, come on. Who was I supposed to vote for? Hilary? We can do better than that.”

           “Really? Can we?” Lily pointed at the TV. “Is that better?”

           Maggie chewed her lip. She had the distinct feeling there was no good answer to that question. Or no honest one that wouldn’t somehow make her seem like the bad guy again. She was really starting to get tired of feeling like the bad guy. She shook her head, slowly.

           “No. But he might not be too bad. Maybe he’ll surprise us.” Two pairs of eyes stared at her in disbelief. She shifted uncomfortably, aware that more stares were burning into her back from across the room. “Well, he might! Maybe things will get better.”

           “I think you should leave.” They were the first words Janet had spoken in a couple of hours.

           A lot of replies shot through Maggie’s head, but she swallowed the things she really wanted to say. She'd be the bigger person. “Fine.” She said curtly, and got up. “I’m tired of never being good enough for you guys anyway.” She walked away, and didn’t look back.


More protests. Protests everywhere. You couldn’t turn on the TV, or open Twitter, or do anything, really, without being bombarded by images of protestors. Stories of police brutality. Op-eds. Companies posting statements and promising to be better. Can’t we go back to our regularly scheduled programming now? Maggie lamented. All this outrage was just… exhausting. Sure, things were bad. She’d never deny that. But did the protests have to go on this long? It was all just kinda depressing. She scrolled through her Insta feed, stopping and moving back up when she realised she’d spotted a familiar face. When she looked closer at the picture, she realised there were two familiar faces: Lily, looking shocked and angry, the bottom half of her face covered by a mouth mask, and Janet, whom she hadn’t recognised at first, probably because of the blood dripping down her cheeks. Her mouth mask was in her left hand, her right hand was covering a wound on her forehead.

           “This is what rubber bullets do.” Read the description.

Maggie swallowed hard. She hadn’t spoken to them in while, but despite everything, she still considered them her friends. And it hurt, seeing them like this. It really did. But it was a risk they’d chosen to take. They didn’t have to attend a protest like that. Her finger hovered over the little heart button for a while, but then she made up her mind and started scrolling again. Things weren’t always going to be like this. No point encouraging people to put themselves at risk for something that was bound to change anyway. The world was always moving forward, wasn’t it? And Maggie was sure that it’d keep doing just that. These things just took time. Change didn’t happen overnight, but things would get better, eventually.

She kept scrolling until she found a post that wasn’t protest-related. Finally. She really needed a break from all these reminders of what was going on out there. Who could deal with being confronted with these things all day long? That was exhausting. She curled up tighter on the couch, and put the protests out of her mind. No point wasting all her energy on focusing on these events that did nothing but make her feel worried, and uneasy, and maybe, sometimes, even slightly guilty. Things would get better.


June 13, 2020 00:15

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VJ Hamilton
16:42 Jun 21, 2020

Hi Marjolein, I like your use of realistic dialog to present the theme. The year-indications are a nice device to introduce snapshots of the developing issues. And then you wound up with the counter-example person, who is still clued out. Thanks for a great read!


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Ari .
02:16 Jun 18, 2020

I did see a couple of issues with dialogue punctuation, but it's just capitalization and a misplaced comma. Coming into the story, I didn't expect much. That I admit. I saw errors right off the bat, and I was expecting to see more. And then I didn't. This story was a thrilling ride, and I very nearly felt a physical blow from the not-so-far past. I never would have guessed where this story would have led, and I'm more than pleased by where it took me. It was a daring piece. I do have one additional comment to make - Please keep...


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