It had been six months since the mysterious man picked Sally up from that sad excuse of a bar, and brought her to the Kit Kat Klub. She was new to Berlin. A charismatic flower that radiated naiveté, her talent and ambition to perform merely the price of admission into his world of uninhibited debauchery. She had inquired his name, but was offered no more than a smirk and a chucking reply, “Call me Em,” like it was the most natural thing in the world. So she did. He was terribly interesting, and quickly became the only person she could confide in, the only person she could call her friend.
The morals in the club were loose, gin and cigarettes freely available, encouraging the easy dreamlike haze that surrounded the performers. In the spare moments between rehearsal and performing, Sally swore that time stood still. On one particular afternoon she found herself dazed and confused as to how Em had found his way to her bed. He was lounging, taking idle sips from a bottle he likely had been nursing for hours. Gazing into the distance, eyes emotionless. She'd asked him once, what was so bad to have drained his spark?
“The world is disappointing, my doll,” he had answered, “and I long to forget it.”
As the hours waned, noises from backstage grew louder. The comfortable silence they once shared was interrupted by sounds of expectations, their responsibilities that were momentarily forgotten piercing the veil of tranquility. Reigniting the miserable creature, back to his intoxicatingly sunny disposition. Em straightened and turned to her, ready to talk. When he looked at her, it was like no one or nothing else mattered.
“You know Max is enchanted by you,” he finally said. Not so much a statement as it was a heavily implied fact.
Sally was aware that Cabaret singers were disposable. They both knew it was best for everyone if she worked her way into Max’s good books. Into his bed. Having the favour of the Master of Ceremonies was one thing, but protection from the club owner was entirely different.
Sally sighed, rolling off the bed, reattaching her stockings to the garter. “I’m not sure if that's what I want. I'm perfectly happy with you my dear, and all the other girls. Max is dreadfully depressing.” A burst of laughter barely concealing the nerves behind her words. She strode past Em, kissing his cheek as she passed, his eyes following her as she fashioned her shoes and gathered her things to leave for the stage.
Stage lights highlighted the sheen of sweat on Em’s brow. The meticulously applied makeup, melted and smeared, distorting the man and blurring him with the witty, crass devil who came to play on dark nights like this. This was the version of him Sally desired most. The energy of the club still vibrating in their veins, gin shared among company, his face transfixed on hers.
Anything was possible in these rare moments. Chaste kisses dissolving in frantic tumblings, drunken bodies writhing in pleasure and living as if the world didn't extend past the sanctuary of the club. They'd fall into narrow beds, whispering secrets that only the stillness of night was privy to hearing.
It had been a few weeks since she had any real interaction with Em. After moving her belongings into Max’s suite, it became an unspoken rule that she no longer engaged in the hedonism of the company. She was his to have, pleasure, and keep floating in a substance induced high. This high, however was waning and the gnawing loneliness lead Sally down to Em’s quarters. His room was dark, stale smoke and the crackle of the gramophone the only indications that he was present. As she approached closer to the bed it was evident he wasn't alone.
“So, Sally Bowles,” he hissed out of the darkness. “What can I do you for?” His all-consuming eyes lifted to met hers. The body beside stirred at the sudden intrusion, sleepy groans filling the pause before Sally whispered a quiet “I missed you.”
He nodded. “Would you like me to ask him to leave?”
The word yes lingered, not quite on the tip of her tongue, but close enough that it must have registered on her face. Because before she could compose her own selfish wishes, and babble some rational response, the sleeping form was nudged, and a singular curt word was spoken; “Go.” Bobby, or maybe it was Victor, stumbled to his feet, gathering the clothing on the floor in a huff. As he passed the blushing flower at the foot of the bed, he barely met her eyes, murmuring a string of curses under his breath and disappeared down the hall.
Whenever she came around no one else seemed to matter more. She often wondered if this was actually true, or if this was one of the many masks Em wore. He knew how and who to charm, an electrical pull meant for them, and only them. Alcohol mainly helped her to forget these musings. Either way, it didn't matter; she loved him. She loved who she was with him, as dangerous and destructive as it was. He was her safety.
It was this need to self destruct that had Sally climbing into his lap. The reason why she always ended back in the same spot, kept running from one lover after the other, it was because... because she was looking for someone who could make her feel whole like he could. Yet, she couldn’t have him, he was mist, smoke that would surround but never lasted long.
“Em, please,” her voice was trembling with fear and arousal. Slowly, he dragged his thumb across her painted lips, gently pressing in, making her eyes widen.
“You look more desperate than you do after too much gin, and darling let me tell you, you are positively insatiable when you drink to excess.”
They both knew that if Max discovered what she was doing, he'd kick her out of his bed, which in turn was also kicking her out of the club. Em kissed her neck, whispered in her ear, “What a deceitful game you play, my Liebling. Shall I indulge you? You know you make me so hot.”
She nodded. Shrugging the delicate satin strap of her negligee off her slender shoulder. Arching into his touch, searching for the euphoria that only could be found in his body, in those blown eyes. Em wet his dry lips. He was acutely aware of how Sally’s stockings were rubbing against his exposed thighs. His hands trailed from her gaunt collarbone, down to the small of her waist, pressing her frame tight against his.
“Running away from yet another man, expecting him to hold the key to your well-being, my darling?” Em’s words were paired with swift movements landing Sally on her back, breasts bared, breath ragged, eyes transfixed on his. She had no response. She’d seen how he treated the girls and boys who outstayed their welcome. He could be so cruel. Max was cruel, too. Cruelty was becoming a fixture in her life. But if her world was going to come crashing around her, then she'd happily play the fool and let it burn.
So it’d been six months, and here she was; at a cabaret, as the master of ceremonies’; in a city called Berlin, in a country called Germany. And it was the end of her world.