“Mama, he has left with the keys to the house, even the spare ones,” said the worried woman to her employer.
“So what? It is his house and he can do whatever he wants,” Dianah responded calmly to the house help.
They were both in the kitchen, going preparing dinner. She tried to mask her worries behind a thin smile. Her husband Peter was acting far from normal, but she would deal with her temperamental husband later, when he came back home.
The day had started fine enough. The couple left their home for work together as they did every morning, leaving their beautiful little girls at home.
Everything in their marriage was bright and happy, and despite little splashes of gloom typical of any union, theirs was the picture perfect family.
“He even gave me some lunch money, and later in the day, called me to ask me to prepare ugali and meat for dinner.”
But when Peter came back home in the evening, he was in a seemingly dark mood.
“Instead of the warm greeting that he always met us with, he pushed his way in, shoved the children away, refused to eat, and had now stormed off with the house keys.”
And when Dianah had tucked the children to bed and got ready to retire for the night, it was in the hope that Peter was OK and would come home soon.
But hours later, she woke up with a bloodied face.
Intruder in the night?
On the eve of April 20, 2013, Dianah was woken up froma deep sleep by a feeling of warm fluid and a searing pain on her face. On opening her eyes, she saw a dark figure standing over her shining a phone torch into her eyes.
Scared that it was a robber, she turned on the lights, ready to negotiate for her family’s life with some cash.
“But I saw my husband Peter, standing there, murder in his eyes, holding a bloody knife. Touching my face, I realised that it was my blood on the knife. He swung the knife at me again and I jumped out of bed and hid under it, hoping to escape his wrath.”
Dianah’s body bore the brunt of most of the knife lunges, and while she tried to comprehend the nightmare, Peter was making some calls on his phone. Presumably his verbal suicide note.
“He called his mother, asked her to dig four graves, because in a few hours, they would all be dead. Then he called his employer and asked him to look for a new worker, and finally my dad. That is when I realised that things were really bad. Could I save my children? “
“When he was done cutting me up, probably thinking I was dead because I was still, he ran out and went to the children’s bedroom. And I seemed to have been in a trance, because hearing my daughter scream out “daddy usituue/ daddy don’t kill us,” jolted me into action.
Dianah ran out to rescue her daughters and she found him about to stab the eldest.
“Stunned by my entry, he dropped the knife. ‘You aren’t dead yet?’ he exclaimed, looking bewildered. By then, my househelp had called my sister and she had also retrieved a house key from my bag and opened the door for my sister and her husband.
On realising that he was cornered, Peter grabbed Dianah, wanting to finish her off.
“The children had ran off to the arms of my sister and her husband. My brother-in-law and a friend came back to rescue me and sensing defeat, Peter pierced my right breast and cut my brother-in-law’s hand. Then he ran away. “
Nice neighbourly couple
While the neighbours might have heard the ruckus, they didn’t intervene because there was no way the ‘nice neighbourly’ couple could be fighting.
And yes they had always been the loving couple.
And when Dianah explains what had been a beautiful love story, her eyes water. Whether from nolstalgia or pain, it is not easy to know.
When Dianah and Peter met, it was love at first sight.
“I remember his beautiful smile, snow white teeth and good looks. But it was his charming manners that swept me off my feet.” Dianah was just in college then, and wasn’t used to being wooed by men wise to the ways of the world.
“He sets his sights on me and I was a goner. He would give me rides to school, and take me out on lunch and dinner dates.” Before she knew it, she was irrevocably in love, and a few months down the line, she was pregnant. Panicked about telling her strict parents, she chose the easier way out.
“I went home when my parents were in church, picked my clothes and left for my boyfriend‘s house. He was happy to have me, and treated me like a queen.”
Eventually, her parents found out and made peace with the situation. Though young Dianah still wanted to pursue her studies, Peter dismissed the need but her resolve won. But it lasted only a while because soon after, she was pregnant again.
“At that point, my life was perfect. I had a loving, caring and protective husband who always wanted to be around me, took me out for dinner, shopping and gave me everything I wanted. I felt like there was a heaven on earth and I was living in it.”
While Peter had insecurities that would raise eyebrows, Dianah thought they were sweet mannerisms.
“He had a password on his phone but he knew mine. I thought that since he was the man of the house it didn‘t hurt if he knew mine. Plus maybe he didn’t want our daughters playing with his phone hence the password.”
Also, every time she received a call on her phone in his presence, he would ask her afterwards if that person knew that she was with him.
“I put it down as his protectiveness and would just quickly reassure him,” she says with a deep-etched sadness in her voice.
“After the botched murder attempts, Peter killed himself, “
Repairing the wounds
Dianah had to undergo head surgery to repair some nerve damage, two surgeries on her hand and one on her breast. She was in hospital for two months.
While recovery was tough, it was dealing with her daughters’ questions that wounded her. They didn’t understand what they had been through. Their school grades dropped and my older girl reverted to bed wetting. She couldn’t associate with men and boys and insisted on transferring to a girls’ only school. She didn’t want any man in our house past 6 pm. Therapy has improved the situation though.”
Dianah and her daughters are slowly healing day by day. And in a bid to help others going through domestic violence, she formed an organisation called Come Together Widows and Orphans Organisation.
“I thank God that the Domestic Violence Bill was signed into law but I challenge our courts to implement each word in that Act.”