Marti Hill, 48, Kansas, USA
Who's that? I thought. It was 7.30am and someone had just knocked on the door while I was getting ready for work. I didn't usually get visitors at that hour, but opening the door I saw my handyman on the step.
It was September 2010, and a few weeks earlier Brian Pennington had completed a few odd jobs I'd needed doing around the house before I put it on the market.
My son Stephen, then 25, had moved out of home and, as a mum to daughter, Mackenzie, then 15, while working full-time as a graphic artist, I didn't have much time to sort things myself.
My mum had suggested I give Brian a call when she'd popped over one afternoon. 'He's great,' she'd said.
Brian lived a 90-minute drive away with his wife and kids. His company had put a flyer through Mum's door, but she told me he was now working for himself. Taking her advice, I called him and a few days later he came around.
We were about two steps from the bottom when it happened.
Brian was charming and polite. Soon he was fixing the guttering as well as plastering and painting the walls.
'I can do these jobs for you too if you like,' Brian told me when he caught sight of more work scribbled on a notepad. 'Thanks Brian,' I told him. 'I'll let you know.'
After he'd finished the first lot of jobs, I was quite satisfied and settled his $500 bill. That was two weeks ago and now, Brian had returned out of the blue. 'I was in the area and remembered I wanted to show you something in the basement that needs fixing,' he smiled.
I didn't think anything of it. Inviting him inside, I headed for the basement stairs and he followed me down. We were about two steps from the bottom when it happened.
Without warning, Brian grabbed me by the throat. Oh my god...
'What are you doing?' I spluttered. Brian didn't answer.
Instead his grip tightened around my neck until I couldn't speak any more. The next thing I knew he was forcing me to the bottom of the steps and slamming me into a bookcase.
'Just go,' I managed to gasp desperately. 'I won't tell anyone.' But then his hands squeezed even tighter and the world turned black...
When my eyes finally blinked open again, there were people around me. Where was I? I tried to speak but my face was so swollen, nothing came out.
Hours passed and I finally realised Mum and my kids were beside me - there were police officers too. It was only then that I remembered... The basement. That awful attack. Brian strangling me.
'Who did this to you?' Mum asked me. Summoning all my strength I croaked one word. 'Brian.' It was only later I discovered that my colleagues had raised the alarm after I hadn't turned up to work that day.
They'd tried calling me, and when I hadn't answered, my boss drove over to my place. My car was in the driveway, but the house was eerily empty. My boss had a bad feeling, so he called the police. By doing that he'd saved my life.
When the paramedics found me, I was lying in a huge pool of blood. My neck was gaping open and I had been stabbed seven times. Somehow I was still breathing. Just...
I was rushed to hospital and that's where Mum and my kids had been holding a bedside vigil ever since. My head had swollen to five times its usual size. The main artery in my neck had been scraped. I was literally one millimetre from death.
It was days before I was well enough to really understand what was happening. A detective visited me. He told me Brian had been arrested and charged with attempted first-degree murder.
Mum had told them about the work my handyman had done for me and when police turned up at Brian's home they saw he had several scratches on the left side of his face.
He tried to blame them on a dog attack, and even when officers found a pair of his blood-soaked jeans at the bottom of his laundry hamper, he said it was grease. But DNA tests showed otherwise. It was my blood.
As I began my slow recovery from my devastating injuries, I started to recall more about what'd happened that morning. But as the details came back, I still struggled to accept it.
Why would Brian want to murder me? He hadn't sexually assaulted me, and my purse was on the kitchen table, untouched. So what was his motive?
Poor Mum felt so guilty about what happened. 'I should never have brought him into your life,' she sobbed by my beside. But it wasn't her fault. Brian Pennington had done this to me. He was the one to blame.
Finally, after three weeks I was allowed out of hospital.Moving in with Mum, I faced a long battle ahead. Besides the multiple facial fractures, vision and hearing issues, my memory was all over the place.
Even walking was difficult but as I concentrated on my recovery, I knew I had to stay strong to see justice done.
In the months that followed, the detectives kept me updated on their case against Brian. Initially Brian's wife had given him an alibi for the morning of my attack. But when the police told her how close I'd come to dying she broke down and admitted she'd lied.
Officers also discovered that Brian had a long police record, including charges for violence. The case against him was strong, but I was still worried it wasn't enough.
I knew I had to stay strong to see justice done.
Finally, in November 2011, Brian Pennington, 27, appeared at Johnson County District Court. I was there to see him plead guilty to attempted first-degree murder and aggravated burglary. A month later, after unsuccessfully trying to withdraw his guilty plea, he was sentenced to 28 years in jail.
'I was nothing but nice to you. Why did you do this to me?' I asked him in court. He didn't look at me or say a word. The not knowing has been hard to deal with.
Two and a half years on, I still have scars on my neck and get a tingling down my left side from where I was attacked.
I never thought such a horrific thing could happen in my home. But with the support of my family, I'm determined to move on.
Originally published in that's life! Issue 22, 2014.