there's no dramatic and tearful goodbye, no promises to come back for her, no rushed explanations.
she simply comes home from school one day and no one is there to greet her at the bus stop. it's not the very first time this has happened, even in her very short school career, and the driver stops just at the end of her drive, so he watches as the tiny blonde bounds up the steps to the house and pushes open the door, disappearing inside before continuing his route, figuring she's safe.
and the house is empty.
typically after bringing her into the house, the pair of blondes get a snack, her mother pulling something from the cabinets that she can't reach, offering sweets or crackers, anything for a smile. hazel wanders there, but the kitchen is quiet. she takes a juice from the fridge, and without even thinking that something might be wrong, she sits in the living room and picks up the remote to turn on cartoons.
she isn't afraid, doesn't even think to be with all her childish ideas of home meaning safe, until her father is home.
he doesn't rush to his daughter's side, concerned that she's been alone all afternoon, and he's not worried for his wife's absense. he's furious. incensed. he's in a rage long before he finishes his first drink, shouting and shuffling papers from the living room table, as if looking for some clue as to where the woman might have disappeared to. by the bottom of his second glass those papers have been tossed around the room, the third has chairs upended, curses being flung just as heavily.
hazel doesn't cry until most of the bottle is gone, when he registers his daughter's presence, practically lifting her off the couch with his hands wrapped (too) tightly around her shoulders, gripping hard enough to bruise as he shakes her, screaming for answers to questions she'd never even considered.
where is she?
why did she leave?
why didn't she fucking take you with her??
she doesn't even remember where she picked up that accusation, that this is the first cut of that particular scar on her heart.
what she does remember is hiding in the closet of her bedroom, closing the accordion doors in front of her, pretending that though she can see through the wooden slats, she can't be seen as her father, drunk and larger than life with his anger, tears apart the house, destroying anything in his path.
(in truth, this particular time doesn't actually stand out, it's a blur of alcoholic rage and far too many shows of aggression, of finding her only solace in a dark closet behind a row of clothes, of falling asleep when the adrenaline of fear begins to recede, praying to anyone or anything that will listen that he doesn't think to come looking for her before unconsciousness pulls him under.)
she remembers her mother vaguely - blonde hair, blue eyes, a pretty laugh, a floral scent, a particularly soft purple sweater - but more than anything she remembers her presence being there one moment and simply being entirely gone the next. extinguished from their lives. extinct.
and her father's words. we don't fucking need her anyway.
there's no goodbye from her father either, not really.
much like her mother, one day he is in her life and the next he isn't. and it's not that she doesn't notice, but she certainly doesn't mind.
she knows, even then, that it's not right for a seven year old to not mind when her father doesn't come home for the night. but, even then, hazel never claimed to be normal.
her home life isn't exactly either.
and it's not as if this is the first time she's put herself to bed. in fact, the first night doesn't even cause her worry. there's only a jolt of happiness at finding she has the house to herself when she returns in the afternoon from school. that her father isn't passed out on the couch, an empty bottle just out of reach, or worse, sitting with a glass in hand and a scowl etching his features. she gets a snack from the kitchen and sets herself up in the living room, exactly where she pictured her father, and turns on the tv.
by the time darkness has started to trickle in through the blinds and the timed lights have switched on, she's practically joyful that she can eat dinner in peace. it doesn't matter that it's only toast with cheese melted in the microwave (because she's not supposed to use the stove but she can reach the toaster). hazel brushes her teeth and her hair, changes into pajamas and systematically turns off the lights in each room, checking to see that the door is locked. while most kids would be fearful to sleep in a house alone, hazel feels a sense of calm.
she hasn't learned to be afraid of the dark yet.
she wakes the next day rested and only surprised she wasn't woken up by her father drunkenly stumbling home. but the house is still empty when she gets up to get herself a bowl of cereal. it's empty, but for her, when she searches for something to eat for lunch and then dinner. and still as she goes through the ritual of bedtime again, brushing her teeth, getting changed, crawling into bed.
there's a few phone calls she doesn't pick up and a series of loud knocks at the door that she doesn't answer, because she's not meant to talk to strangers. she thinks about calling the police but the idea is scary to a seven year old whose father has thrown the idea of them in her face for years, who has repeated over and over that they'll take her away and then she'll really be sorry.
(in the end it turns out he's not always entirely wrong.)
she doesn't ever call the police. instead, when she goes to school on monday, tired from worry more than any seven year old should shoulder, and hungry, she finally tells her teacher that she doesn't know where her daddy is. that her mom is gone and she's spent the weekend on her own.
she spents the night in the hospital, terrified of the new noises and surroundings, of people poking and prodding (and discovering bruises), scared that no one will really tell her what's going on, only that she'll be safe now.