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    Broken Armor
    Roberta Lee Small
    When a woman places an ad in a newspaper seeking a wife for her son Agatha Sewell answers. This may be her only chance to get away from a domineering mother. She goes west. It is the late 1800s. Indians are being relocated to reservations. Should she have stayed at home with her mother?

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    book excerpt

      “Agatha!”  The shrill voice of her mother made Agatha wince. Hurriedly she tried fixing her long brown hair. It was naturally curly and hung down her back, half way to her waist. She ran the brush through it once more and began coiling it into a bun on top of her head.   “Agatha!” Irritation sounded in her voice.   Agatha let her hair fall down loose, put the hairbrush on the dresser and rushed down the hall to her mother’s room.    “I’m coming Mother!” she called.   “How long do I have to wait until I get my breakfast? I’ve been awake for hours!”     Hilda Sewell lay in bed with pillows propping her head and plump body up into a half sitting position.   “I’m sorry Mother, I was getting dressed.”   “Well you should have been up an hour ago. You know how I need my coffee in the morning.”   “You could get up, Mother, and get your own coffee.  The doctor said you should get up and start doing things.”  “What does he know?”  Her voice turned from shrill to whiny.  “My heart is too weak for me to get up.  Come fix my pillows.”   She fluffed the pillows and helped her mother sit up. Agatha’s hair fell forward. Hilda reached up and pulled it.   “Do something with that hair!” Her mother scowled at her. “You’re too old to wear your hair like a school girl. You need to braid it around your head like Drucilla.”   “I was fixing it when you called Mamma. Althea has long hair and she does not braid it around her head.”   “Well your sister has beautiful blond hair and yours is that awful mousy brown.  Besides she is younger than you and pretty enough that she looks good no matter how she wears her hair.”   “And I am not pretty?”  Agatha was finding it hard to keep back the tears.    “You don’t need me to tell you that.” She yanked the sheet from Agatha’s hands and pulled it up around her shoulders.  “Go look in the mirror at yourself.  Now go do something with that hair and get me something to eat,” she ordered.   Agatha wanted to cry. “I have feeling Mamma. Don’t you care about me at all?” She spoke the word to herself.  There was no need to ask. Her mother did not care about her.  She was a servant to the woman and even less than that. A servant at least would get paid and shown a little respect, and not constantly insulted or ridiculed. If only the woman would say please, once in awhile, or thank you. If only she would speak in a pleasant voice instead of demanding, ordering, and domineering. Agatha wanted to tell her to get up and wait on herself.  Arguing with her was a losing battle. For years she had been waiting on her mother.     Agatha went to her room.  Looking in the mirror, she wondered why she did not see herself as her mother saw her.  Her skin was fair. Dark brown eyes with long, thick lashes looked back at her. Her hair curled softly around her face. She had nice teeth and a pretty smile.  She pictured Althea who was three years younger than her. Althea had blond hair and blue eyes.  Yes, her sister was prettier than her but am I really as homely as my mother tells me I am?  Why do I not look so ugly to myself?” she moved closer to the mirror. . “I must be used to looking at myself, and see myself differently than others see me.”  She coiled her hair in a bun on top of her head.    Her mother must be right. She was not pretty.  It was bad enough wearing Drusilla’s hand me down clothes. She would never braid her hair and wrap it around her head like her aunt. With a sigh, she left her room and went down to the kitchen.   “If I could just run away!” How many times had she said that to herself? “If I had some money and a place to go. Perhaps I will hear from Mrs. Crawford. Oh, I pray that I will hear from her! I’m so unhappy!” Crying would do no good. She wiped the tears from her eyes and fixed a tray for her mother.    She would not let her mother see that she had hurt her feelings.  Sighing deeply, she carried breakfast to her.    “Althea and her husband are coming to dinner tonight,” said Hilda. “Fix something nice for them.”   She spread jelly on her toast, took a bite then drank a sip of coffee.  “Perhaps I will come down stairs for dinner tonight. I have not seen my baby girl for a long time. I do wish Harold would bring my daughter here more often. I miss her so.”   “I’m your daughter, too, Mamma. Would you miss me if I were gone?”   “No need to think about that.” Hilda took another bite of toast, swallowed and said. “I doubt if you will be going anywhere.” ”   “I guess you’re right Mamma. Where would I go?”  If I had a place to go I would d have been gone from here long ago, she thought.   Agatha would welcome the visit from Althea.  It would be nice to talk to someone besides her mother. “I will bake something, Mamma. I will need to go to the store and buy a few things.” She sat in a chair next to the bed waiting for her mother to finish her breakfast. No sense in making another trip up the stairs to fetch the tray and dirty dishes.  “I will go to the post office and pick up the mail when I am in town. Do you need anything?”    Hilda finished eating and handed her the tray. “Buy me some of those lemon drop candies I like so much.”   Agatha turned to go out the door.    “You are a good cook Agatha,” said Hilda.   Agatha wiped the tears from her eyes as she went down the stairs. That was the first kind thing her mother had said to her in a long time.   It did not take long to do the housework. She dusted the furniture, and dry mopped the hardwood floors. There were just the two of them in the house and Hilda had been spending most of her days in bed.  After she finished the dishes she went up stairs to make the beds. She made her bed first and then went into her mother’s room.    “It’s such a nice day Mamma. Would you like to get up and get dressed?  Perhaps you could sit out on the front porch for awhile and get some sun.”   Hilda still lay propped up against the pillows.   “I will get up in a little while. I will just lie here until you come back from town.  I mustn’t over do it you know.”   “The doctor said you did not need to be in bed. He said---”    “I don’t care what that fool doctor said. Go do your errands!”   Agatha went to the small barn that was attached to the house and hitched the horse to the carriage.  “Stay in bed for all I care,” she thought.  It would be nice to get out of the house for a little while.     Agatha
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