“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Neil, happy birthday to you, may you have many more, may you have many more, happy birthday dear Neil, happy birthday to you,” the crowd sang for a man standing in between the crowd wearing a birthday cap who was smiling while cutting the cake. He fed it to the woman standing beside him and then to the man on his left, they were his parents, Shanno and Ventakesh. They fed him back wishing him many happy returns of the returns. Then he forwarded the silce towards the girl.
The girl pouted as he moved it to the boy standing beside her. “What Neil bhaiya? You tease me a lot, you always do this, you feed Rishab first and not me,” she said sadly, Neil giggled and then forwarded the slice to her but she looked away. “Aray baby doll, my Nandu, you know na that you’re my first priority,” Neil said to her and she smiled and took a bite and fed it to him and hugged him. “Many happy returns of the day bhaiya,” Nandini said. “Thanks,” he replied as he gave her a gift. “Rishab’s gift.”
She said and gave another gift to him. “Oh thank you,” he said and smiled hugging her and Rishab. After sometime, he broke the hug. “I just hope you get a girlfriend on this birthday,” Nandini said smilingly. “Haha, naughty girl,” he said and kissed her forehead. Rishab signed and Nandini repeated his actions. “Bring bhabhi soon.” Nandini giggled while Neil blushed. Nandini hit Rishab’s shoulder a little as they laughed and Neil walked away to Shanno and Ventakesh. “Mom, dad,” he said and their attention diverted to him but he got quiet. “Yes?” Shanno said. Neil didn’t say anything.
“Tell na beta,” Ventakesh said. Neil looked down and Shanno looked at Ventakesh and then back to him. “He’s asking for a gift I think,” she said and Ventakesh laughed. “Beta so what’s there to be shy about? Children never get old for parents, take,” Ventakesh said handing him a gift and Neil smiled. Shanno too handed him a gift and he smiled and turned to go but was stopped by them, Ventakesh handed him keys. Neil looked at the keys and then at them. “What are these for?” Neil asked cluelessly. “These are the keys of the Angel Manor.”
Shanno told him and he widened his eyes. “The Angel Manor? What is that?” Neil asked cluelessly. “We bought a mansion years ago which we thought to gift it to you on your 25th birthday,” Ventakesh told him and smiled. “Oh but… Why?” Neil asked. “You wanted to start your own career somewhere abroad, right? So we thought that when you will go to Goa, you should live there,” Shanno replied and Neil became happy. “In Goa? It’s my favorite place, thank you Mom, thank you Dad, it’s the best gift ever,” he said and hugged both his parents happily.
Soon it was morning, Neil had booked a cab to go till airport, he bid everyone bye and soon he reached the airport. Soon the plane took off and it took him one hour to land in Goa.
Neil was looking out of the window while traveling in the Uber. “Why did you choose to live in the Angel Manor and not elsewhere? I mean who will like to live in a haunted house?” asked the Uber driver as he drove. “Haunted house? Who believes in ghosts in 21st century?” Neil asked chuckling while stretching his arms.
“No, believe me, that is really a haunted house, plus it’s closed since 2013, no one lived there for like five years,” said the Uber driver. “My mom and dad bought it years ago , it’s a birthday gift,” Neil simply replied making the driver chuckle in response. “What would be worse than getting a haunted house gifted to you on your birthday?” Uber driver asked. “It’s nonsense, ghosts doesn’t exist at all, even if they do, they have their own world, now proceed the drive please, this chat will lead us nowhere,” Neil said and the Uber driver nodded, Neil smiled looking away.
The Uber car pulled up at the Angel Manor and Neil and the driver came out with him to help him with his luggage. They shifted his luggages inside and soon the Uber driver drove away. Neil had a tour of the house all by himself, perfect rooms, perfect interior, perfect everything. He smiled and settled on the couch and opened his laptop, he signed into his account and video called Ventakesh. He received it after sometime. “Hello dad, I reached safely, and the house is really beautiful,” Neil said smiling at the webcam. Ventakesh smiled back.
“I m glad you liked it,” he said. “I already knew he will like it,” Shanno said. Neil giggled. “Mind reader,” he said and the trio giggled. “How’s my baby doll and Rishab?” Neil asked after a good laugh. “Yeah they’re fine, both are studying,” Shanno said. “Oh, then good luck to them, oh and listen, the Uber in which I came till here, it’s driver said that this house is haunted,” Neil told them. “Haunted?” Ventakesh asked confused. “There’s no such thing as ghosts, ignore that driver and concentrate on your career,” Shanno said and the video call ended.
Neil was sleeping later at night, but he woke up because of intense thirst. He looked at the bottle at his bedside table but to his bad luck, it was empty. He sat up pushing the duvet and stood up rubbing his eyes, he walked towards the kitchen and opened the fridge. He took the water bottle. He gulped the water but widened his eyes as he heard someone cry and sob and at the same time, the piano in the living room too began to play. He closed the door of the fridge and walked outside the kitchen.