Pacing only increased her anxiety so she busied her mind straightening the runner on the floor and dusting the hall table with the edge of her apron. She glanced at the clock.
He was three minutes late. He had never been late. What if he didn't show today?
A figure darkened the frosted panes of glass in the front door. Only a short rap could be heard before she yanked the door open. At the sight of the familiar navy suit and black case, her anxiety eased and her perfect hostess persona regained control.
"Mr. Smith! I was getting worried. It's not like you to run late." She stepped to the side to allow his entrance.
He bowed his head in apology. "I'm sorry to hear you were worried. I had some trouble with my previous appointment that I wasn't anticipating." He made his way down the hall to their usual meeting place at the kitchen table. "I'm disappointed in myself for the oversight. First appointments tend to run over the allotted time. I'm sure I can find some way to make up for disrupting your morning." He patted the black case he set on the table.
"Oh, I'm sure that won't be needed," she replied, but her eyes followed the case like a child told to not ask grandma for the gifts stashed in her purse.
Mr. Smith's long, elegant fingers deftly flipped open the latches on his black case. "All the same, why don't you tell me how we can improve your life this week."
"Actually, I think I'm very close to reaching a balanced state. I didn't think we would ever get there. I was beginning to wonder if you were just feeding me lines to keep you coming back." She gasped at her own admission and felt her face warm with embarrassment. "I didn't mean to imply that you..."
"It's quite all right. Most of my job is to keep your trust until you achieve your balanced state. You aren't the first to question the process, but I'm grateful you persevered." He opened the sleek case in front of him. Rows of glass vials lined up neatly against the velvet lining housed a rainbow of pharmaceutical options. "I believe you said you are close, but not quite there so we have room for improvement."
"Well, just a little. I've noticed that little things cause more agitation than they should. A dish left in the sink, a toy on the floor or..."
"Or an appointment running late?"
She lowered her head feeling ashamed of her earlier display. However, the entryway was quite clean and pulled together now as a result of her nervous energy. "I thought the Allcam was meant to take care of that sort of thing?"
Mr. Smith nodded slowly as he carefully examined the options in his case. "Unfortunately, The Company has noticed an issue with Allcam recently. It starts out quite effective, but over time clients are building a tolerance to it's properties."
"So it's not just me?" she straightened back up with an eagerness in her voice.
"Not at all. The Company has found an alternative that is being received very well and yielding positive results among my clients." He pried a vial filled with violet capsules from its bed. "Luxcious," he proclaimed as he set the vial in front of her. "A marked improvement over the Allcam formula. I think if we add this to your regiment, you will see quite a difference before I'm back next week."
"Add? I thought you implied the Allcam wasn't working?" She picked up the vial and held it with reverence. New options were always fascinating to her. So much potential for improvement in a tiny pill.
"The Company has discovered an interesting benefit of Allcam. It was never it's intended purpose, but beneficial to our clients all the same. It has cosmetic uses, improving skin tone primarily. I've noticed you have more of a glow to your face." He examined her face with his clinical, gray eyes. "Yes, there is a difference there. I would suggest keeping the Allcam, but of course that is just a suggestion. It won't have any effect on your balanced state."
She touched her cheek and smiled. She had noticed the change, but attributed it to the peace from her balanced state. "What a nice surprise! Of course I'll keep it then."
"Very good. Now what about the rest of the family?" He began plucking out various vials that already comprised their daily routine. They would need the supply replenished in addition to any other changes.
"Well the kids have been taking their dailies and I haven't heard so much as a sniffle in months. The only issue is the window between the end of the school day and dinner time. They seem so unfocused and almost rambunctious. I can't get them to settle into their homework or do their chores as efficiently as I would like."
Mr. Smith tapped a manicured nail against his bottom lip. "This isn't uncommon. Fortunately, I think we might have something to help." He reached for a vial, but this one contained a liquid and was topped with a dosage dropper. "Five drops in a glass of water each day when they arrive home from school. It needs about twenty minutes to take effect, but I think you will be pleased with the results."
He held the vial out to her, and she accepted it with a wary look. "What does it taste like?"
"A very pleasant berry flavor. We tried several flavors and this one was the best received. It's like a refreshing, fruity drink that a child's palate appreciates."
She nodded in agreement, her hesitation resolved. "I'm willing to try anything." She set the vial next to the growing collection in front of her.
"And your husband?"
She cleared her throat and nervously shifted in her seat.
"Is something wrong?"
She forced a smile and shrugged. "I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong. I've explained it to him so many times, but he just refuses his dailies. He says its unnecessary and that...," she took a deep breath. "He says it's just a way of the government controlling us. He thinks the company is actually run by the government and is some sort of conspiracy." She met Mr. Smith's disapproving gaze and felt the need to defend her husband. "He had a difficult start in life and is suspicious of anything new. I'll keep working on him."
Mr. Smith reached across the table and patted her hand with sympathy. "It's alright. I think as men we are genetically more stubborn. You haven't done anything wrong. It's a shame that he is missing out on a better life."
She breathed a sigh of relief. "I don't know what to do about it though."
"The solution is actually simpler than you think. Does he take coffee in the morning?"
"His dailies are a capsule filled with granules. Simply open it up and add it to his morning coffee. The flavor of the beverage is strong enough to mask any taste of the granules, and they dissolve completely. In just a few days you should see a noticeable improvement in his demeanor. In a week or two he should be more open to discussing a full regiment."
Her shoulders relaxed with the promise of a new plan. "That could work. I'll start tomorrow then."
"So I take it you won't need more of these this week?" He picked up a vial of gray capsules that was among the others in front of her.
"No, I have enough for the week." She grinned as she collected the other vials. "However, next week I should need a refill."
"I'm sure you will." He snapped his case shut and rose to his feet. "Always a pleasure to see you. Until next week?" He headed towards the front door without waiting for her response.
He paused before exiting through the door and turned to smile at his eager client. "Absolutely. I think the issues that held me up this morning will have been resolved by next week's appointment."
She watched him as he walked down the brick walkway leading to his car provided by The Company. The corporate logo was elegantly painted on the side of the door with the motto "Offering Better Living Through Chemistry."
Her neighbor across the street caught her attention with a frantic wave at Mr. Smith. He was due for his next appointment.