Last Night at the Telegraph Club

by Malinda Lo

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Part 6 and Epilogue Summary

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Last Updated on October 4, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1191

Chapter 39

In the morning, the events at the Telegraph Club are in the newspaper, but Lily’s father doesn’t seem to notice them. Lily nervously waits for it to be late enough to call Kath. Her mother gives her the responsibility of watching her sick brother that day. After her mother leaves, Lily calls Kath’s place, but no one picks up. Anxiously, Lily takes the newspaper out of the trash and reads the article but she sees no mention of Kath. She calls again, but again, there is no answer.

Shirley unexpectedly shows up at Lily’s family’s apartment. She tells Lily that one of Calvin’s friends saw her leaving the Telegraph Club and that Kath has been arrested. Urgently, Shirley begs Lily to lie that she has not been there. When Lily refuses, Shirley angrily insists that Kath must have corrupted Lily. Lily proudly names herself responsible for her own actions. Then she tells Shirley that she saw her with Calvin and condemns her for risking being associated with communists. Before angrily leaving, Shirley gives Lily her scarf, embroidered with Lily’s name, which Calvin’s friend found on the street outside the Telegraph Club. Shirley makes it absolutely clear that word will get around. Painfully, Lily realizes that her parents will hear and that their relationship will never again be the same.

Chapter 40

Deciding that she must tell her mother, Lily takes the newspaper out of the trash again to show her. Her mother reads the article and tells her that it cannot be true—it must have been someone else. Lily says again that she was there and that Calvin’s friend saw her. Insistent, her mother tells her that this was a mistake and that there are no homosexuals in their family. Lily pushes back once more, and this time, her mother slaps her. Lily leaves. 

Chapter 41

Feeling confused and hurt, Lily walks to the Telegraph Club. On the door, there is a notice that the club has been closed by the police. Continuing on, she walks to Kath’s apartment, but no one answers the door. Walking and walking, she is unsure where to go or what to do. Then she realizes that she is right by Lana and Tommy’s place. She debates where to go there, given Tommy’s recent arrest, but ultimately does. 

Chapter 42

Lana gives Lily coffee and a blanket. After Lily explains what happened, Lana advises her to keep being honest, to preserve trust within the family even if her mother stays angry at her. She talks about her own experience of family rejection and how she moved through it. The doorbell rings, startling Lily, and Claire appears with sandwiches. The three eat and drink wine together. When Lily admits how young she and Kath are, Lana says this is good news, because as a minor, Kath cannot legally have been arrested. The women talk about the situation and about Tommy.

Though Lily prepares to leave, not sure what to do, Lana invites her to stay overnight. The three women listen to music, drink, and smoke. Lana and Claire talk about their old relationships. As the conversation unfolds, Lily asks the older women how she can know if she is in love with someone. They describe the feeling, and Lily tears up. Gently, the other women comfort her. 

Chapter 43

Lily wakes up in Lana’s apartment. Curious, Lily pokes around the apartment, careful not to wake Lana, who is still sleeping. She passes the time by tidying up. When Lana wakes up, she makes the two of them coffee. Then she goes out, leaving Lily with a spare key. Walking outside, Lily considers going back to Chinatown but decides to walk to Kath’s house instead. There, she meets Kath’s younger sister, Peggy. Lily gives Peggy a note telling Kath that she is staying at Lana’s. 

Chapter 44

Back at Lana’s, the older woman arrives home with groceries. Before going to take a nap, she offers Lily some books to read. One of them is the novel Lily had seen in the drug store. To pass the time, an intrigued Lily reads it all the way to the end. She is enraged to discover that it has a severely unhappy ending. Then the doorbell rings. Opening the door, she sees her aunt Judy.

Chapter 45

To explain how she got there, Judy shows Lily the piece of paper with Kath’s address and the note Lily had given Peggy. Judy asks Lily what is going on, and Lily tells her the truth. When Lana comes out, Judy thanks her for giving Lily a place to stay and then leads a reluctant Lily home.

Chapter 46

Judy and Lily arrive home to find the family’s Chinese New Year celebration in full swing. In the kitchen, Judy gives Lily cooking task after cooking task, presumably trying to keep her from talking about what has happened. The celebration unfolds as usual, but afterwards, Lily’s mother makes her sleep on the floor of her brothers’ bedroom so that she cannot sneak out.

Chapter 47

Though there is school the next day, Lily’s parents tell her she is not going, because they cannot have her around Kath. Once again, Lily denies that Kath has corrupted her or led her into being a lesbian. Her mother reminds her that the government has still not returned her father’s citizenship papers and tells that they may not do so if word gets out that Lily has voluntarily been around homosexuals. In effect, her parents are pleading with her to lie about who she really is. But Lily can’t—she loves Kath too much to deny her. So her parents tell her that she is going away to live with Judy and Francis and that she will finish her senior year there.

Chapter 48

In the morning, Lily packs her things. Unexpectedly, her father tells her that he once knew and respected a doctor who was a lesbian. But, he says, this doctor was always alone and never able to have a family, and Lily’s parents do not want that for her. While saying goodbye to her family, Lily gives her younger brother a note to give to Peggy for Kath, explaining what has happened. 

On the train, Judy tells Lily that she really wants to do what is best for her niece and that she will try to understand what is going on with her. Though still upset, Lily realizes with a sense of excitement that she is now the farthest she’s ever been from San Francisco.

Epilogue: One Year Later

Kath and Lily reunite at Vesuvio’s bar. They can’t show physical affection there, but they speak to each other tenderly. Sharing all their news, they renew their bond. When they have to leave, Kath tells Lily that she will be at a place called the Paper Doll that Monday night. Lily agrees to meet her there for dinner. Furtively, they hug and then kiss, each telling the other that she loves her. Lily feels giddy with joy.

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Part 5 Summary