It's a sunny spring day in Bulgaria. You're about 6 years old. You go to the farmers market with your mom, grandma and your baby brother who is 2 years old at the time. You only remember that you bought potatoes because fries are your favorite dish.
When you're done at the farmers market, your grandma says, "You guys were really good today. The store across the street has really good cakes; lets go get you one. You earned it." You're not exactly sure how, but who are you to say no to cake? Your brother has just learned how to walk so he's already tired. Your mom carries him in one hand and the potato bag in the other while your grandmother carries all the white plastic bags that hold fruits and vegetables. You walk hands-free and care-free in the front. To get cake. You’re ready for cake!
You get to the small grocery-like store. Your mom decides to wait outside with your brother. "Not to make traffic," she says, "with all the bags and me carrying him." Your grandmother agrees and leaves the bags on the ground near her. "Come on now," she says to you, "hold my hand and don't leave my side." The store is only about 35 ft long so you can't understand why she's being so cautious, but you obey, nevertheless. You always obey.
You walk inside the store with her. There's just one aisle. On the right, there are refrigerators with drinks and on the left -- refrigerated display counters with ham, butter and cheese. The cakes are located all the way at the end of the aisle, near the register.
You choose a rectangular chocolate cake. You have to let go of your grandma's hand as she pays for it. That's when you feel a gentle tap on your shoulder. Who could it be? Your mom probably got tired of waiting. It's probably her. Or maybe your brother got bored and came to play.
You whip around happily and expect to see one of them, or maybe even both. You plan to tell them the kind of cake you picked.
But it's not them. It's not either of them. Instead, you see a strange man. His dark brown shoulder-length hair looks dirty and oily from the roots all the way to the tips which are fixed of stringy chunks. He's wearing all black -- black leather boots, black jeans, a long black jacket. He reminds you of the Boogeyman. Grandma said you've been good today so what could he want?
"Hi, little girl," he says. You instinctually know that this is the moment they've all warned you about. The moment you're supposed to remember "Don't talk to strangers." You try to squeeze yourself between your grandma and the counter so that you're hidden and her body guards you. "What is it?" she asks annoyed. "Why are you pushing me?" She is angry by your persistence in drilling yourself into her. You look at her with wide eyes and say nothing. Instead, you move your eyes back and forth. You look back at the man. Then to her. Then back and forth again. She takes your hint and turns around.
That's when he says, "That's my girl. Give her back to me!" Your grandma doesn't miss a beat. She never does. "No, she's not," she says. "Leave us alone." "Could you please hurry with the change and the cake?" she abruptly tells the cashier.
She grabs your hand and starts heading for the exit so fast she drags you behind. The way she pulls you makes you feel like your arm is about to get detached. You feel like you’re in trouble even though you know you're not. “Slow down,” you want to shout. Then you look back and see the Boogeyman behind. All of a sudden, you forget the pain from the dragging and start running so you can keep up with your grandma.
Outside, your mom says "What's going on?" "Just take your son and walk in front," your grandma commands while picking up the bags from the ground with one hand.
Boogeyman follows still. You quickly glance over your shoulder as you're still being dragged. "That's my girl!" he starts screaming. It’s almost as if the entire neighborhood can hear him. "Give me back my girl. You took her away from me! I've been looking for her for so long! I want my daughter back!" you hear him screaming as he tries to keep up with you. He never tries to grab you though; he just demands you. You notice how tall he is. You look up at him like a skyscraper; you barely reach his waist.
What does he mean by “my daughter” anyway? You know that daddy is in London, working hard to provide for your family. You are confused. How can he say that you're his daughter while your dad is in England?
You decide that you must really look like his daughter. She is probably a doppelgänger of you. You wonder how the Boogeyman found you anyway and what happened to his real daughter. Does he have a picture of her right now in his wallet?
He’s still following and now you’re almost running. You think about your German Shepard, Sarah. Where is she when you need her? She always keeps you safe. Where is she now?
"Someone please help us!" your grandma cries out as you cross the street. A man from the market hears her cries and comes to the rescue. "Do you know him?" He questions, sounding concerned. "Would we be asking for help if we knew him?" asks your mom, annoyed but mostly scared. You can see that she is flustered. She's always much more flustered than your grandma.
That's all the man needs to hear. He swiftly takes the Boogeyman down. All it takes is one push. He is now lying there on the ground like a dog. Grown ups are strong, you think. The push must have been pretty hard. You hope he didn't get hurt when he fell. The man from the market is standing over him, not letting him get up until you're at a safe distance. You're happy that the Boogeyman is stopped from taking you but you wonder if he deserves this. He just simply mistook you for his daughter, you think. No need to be rude! Why wouldn't he just let him get up?
Your mom thanks the man from the farmers market as you all keep on walking. You never stop walking. Not for a second. But you do keep looking back. You don't know what happens next. Is Boogeyman okay? You wonder, is he hurt? Did anyone call the cops? Is he in jail? You hope he’s not in jail. You never speak of this again. But the memory of him laying on the ground, tears in his eyes, watching you leave, haunts you your whole life.
Over the next years that image resurfaces often. Every time as painful as it was on that nice spring day. It’s like you’re there again and it’s starting all over. Every time you wonder if he found his daughter and why she was taken away from him to begin with.
Until one day, it hits you: maybe you are his daughter. Maybe your parents aren't who you think they are. Perhaps, they kidnapped you when you were a baby and made you believe they are your real parents while in fact, poor Boogeyman is your real father. Maybe he spent six long years searching for you, and when he finally found you, he was pushed down on the ground like a criminal while you were on the run from him. He probably cried that night as you ate your chocolate cake.
Where is he now? Why didn't he ever try again? Why didn't he come back for you? Why did he give up? You sometimes wonder.
You run to the mirror and see a reflection of your mom and your dad’s eyes staring right back at you. Boogeyman is not your dad — you know that. So why do you feel so connected to him?