La Diva is dying. Everyone knows it. Doctors, nurses, the hospital chaplain, loyal friends and followers – everyone knows that her illness has progressed too far; Francesca cannot possibly live much longer.

Everyone knows, that is, except Francesca. “I refuse to die!” she shouts at the doctor who stops by on his rounds. “I will leave this hospital singing!” she insists to her followers and friends, in response to their telegrams, massive bouquets and comfort cards.

The nurses all try to avoid her, terrified of the fury in her eyes and her critical comments. “You’re too old,” she mutters to one nurse. “Too fat,” to another. “Too ugly.” “Too awkward.” Only one nurse pleases her – young Nurse Heidi. Francesca watches the slim figure straighten the bed, adjust the blinds, gracefully balance the dinner tray. Heidi hums while she works. “You’re out of tune,” Francesca says thoughtfully. “I know,” says the beautiful nurse. “I do love to sing, but can never get the right note!” They laugh together, and Francesca pats her hand reassuringly. “Never you mind, bella.” There’s a wild cunning in her eyes.

Hour after hour, Heidi sits by the Diva’s bedside, listening to her life stories with rapt attention. Francesca describes every role, every opera house, every standing ovation of her career. “I’m known as ‘l’uccello canoro’ – the songbird of Milan. Of the whole world! Of course I cannot die.” Every hour her voice grows weaker, her face paler, her breath more labored.

Finally she whispers, “Come close. Closer. Closer still.” She pulls Heidi’s face down with surprising strength until their foreheads are touching. Time seems to hang suspended, then finally resumes. Francesca, the glorious Diva, is gone.

Heidi springs up triumphantly, marches down the hall to the administrative offices where she announces her resignation, effective immediately. “But why?” splutters the department head. “You’re our best nurse, the one with the healing hands, the special calling!” Heidi laughs and exclaims, “Questo uccello canoro deve volare!” And she rushes down the corridors to freedom, trailing fragments of song behind her, every note in perfect tune.

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Voice-Team(@voice-team)
7 months ago

In this one, the reader knows that La Diva is dying, but this ending was not at all anticipated.. Francesca may have died, but the Songbird did not.

Margarida Brei
Margarida Brei(@margarida-brei)
8 months ago

Love the way you blended Italian into your story, Julie. In a way I am glad that the nurse leaves the hospital with both healing hands and musical skills.

Carrie OLeary
Carrie OLeary(@carrie-oleary)
8 months ago

Another great story, Julie. I feel very sorry for Heidi; I wonder if she’s still in there, overpowered by a stronger personality, or has she been pushed out altogether. A gripping tale, very nicely done ?

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Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
8 months ago

I feel sorry for Francesca. Hopefully, she will accept her death for the peace of her soul. I was so carried away by the sadness I was feeling. I hope Heidi didn’t resign either. Anyway, your story is so captivating and engaging. It is another very nice story related to music, Julie. Good job.

Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
8 months ago
Reply to  Julie Harris

You’re welcome, Julie.
I am happy to be back.

Last edited 8 months ago by Lotchie Carmelo
Dipayan Chakrabarti
Dipayan Chakrabarti(@dipayan-chakrabarti)
8 months ago

The challenge for the reader is to recognise the supernatural power which is implicit in “This Songbird Must Fly.” Good work, Julie!

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Dipayan Chakrabarti
Dipayan Chakrabarti(@dipayan-chakrabarti)
8 months ago
Reply to  Julie Harris

You’re welcome, Julie.

Christer Norrlof
Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
8 months ago

A wonderful, mysterious tale about “mind over matter.” I love the Italian setting, with the powerful diva in charge, not only over the hospital but over life and death as well. Not only did she have perfect pitch, but also a very strong mind. You built the story very well, making her promise that she would leave the hospital singing. And she did, but in a younger body. Great work, Julie!

Sandra James
Sandra James(@sandra-james)
8 months ago

Chilling, Julie! Alas, in a new young body the diva will become even more obnoxious but, sadly, those with great talent are often forgiven their cruel ways 🙁
A great story and definitely scary!

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Greene M Wills
Greene M Wills(@greene-m-wills)
8 months ago

I love the idea that when someone is remembered or leaves something behind, he/she will never die. Francesca certainly believed that and through Heidi, she carried on flying. Both women had their wish. Wonderful story, Julie!

Greene M Wills
Greene M Wills(@greene-m-wills)
8 months ago
Reply to  Julie Harris

It certainly is!

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