Excerpt: Sov, Sov, Sov

It feels like Liora Wechsler has taken a weight of her chest the moment she wraps a scarf around her neck.

She can stand the spring; she can survive the summer. Fall she endures.

But winter? That’s when she blossoms.

“Mreow.”

Even her cat seems to be more relaxed as his fur thickens to resist the cold of the windowsill he likes to call his domain whenever Liora leaves for her day job.

The staircase becomes her queendom when she comes home, though. Her office outfit is quickly taken off and put in her laundry bag. She jumps into a comfortable pair of pyjamas and a soft sweater—usually one knitted by one of the grandmothers from the home where she volunteers—and grabs a blanket and a mug of steaming tea to observe the streets at night.

In her opinion, the sight beats any repeat TV episode.

With winter, the metropolis is wrapped in a shawl of muted lights. All the sounds are slightly muffled too, even if the pavement is snow-free.

For now.

The season has barely begun, but already Liora can smell the cold in the air. She can feel it around her, a crispness that speaks of snowflakes and hearth.

Roasted chestnuts and hot cocoa topped with marshmallows are just around the corner; she can practically taste it.

With the cold also comes the promise of the holidays. As much as she likes the High Holidays, the New Year and its rituals of beginnings or Succoth and its attempts to shield one from evil, Liora keeps a special place in her heart for Hanukkah.

Sure, there is probably a good portion of that love that comes from her birthday usually coinciding with the holiday. But there is also the story, the history of it; it’s not just a holiday rekindling the Jewish people with God. It’s also a celebration of human resistance, of fighting back against oppressors. Some non-Jewish people may assume that Hanukkah is just the Jewish version of Christmas, but as far as Liora is concerned, it’s a celebration of what it means to be Jewish: there were some who tried to kill us all; we fought; we survived; now we eat.

But this year of all years, she is not off to a good start.

“Candles, Arie, I forgot. To buy. Candles. For Hanukkah.”

Arie is as chill as he ever is, completely unsympathetic to his roommate’s dismay. “Meow.”

“I know it happens to all of us at some point,” Liora huffs, pushing a curly strand of chestnut hair from her face, “but come on! Candles! It’s Hanukkah! The Festival of lights!”

“Mroow?”

“Yes, lights! Good grief, what a sham I ma—”

“Mrooeoow.”

Liora stops her ranting and her walking in circles around her unfortunately barren hanukkiah and brushes the soft fur on the top of her pet’s head. It’s soothing for the both of them, and some of the tension in her chest dissipates.

“You’re right,” she says, each pass of her fingers through the fur a remedying touch on her anxiety. “It’s not too late yet.”

A quick run to the store to buy a box of candles. The first ones that fit will do.

Should I change?, she muses, looking down at herself. Meh, her standard day-off uniform of a plaid shirt on top of a T-shirt, pair of jeans, and boots is fine for a quick run. She ruffles her short black hair and smoothes her t-shirt down her torso, gently patting her belly fat in the process. The shirt is clean enough even as she notices a soup stain around her breasts, but black T-shirts have a magic of their own to hide her secrets—and it’s not like the supermarket is such a runway to begin with, or like the neighbourhood is filled with dating prospects.

Though the bagboy is awfully cute.

And you could run into Adorable Pinup from 4D.

Preposterous, Liora tells herself, a blush nonetheless rising on her fair cheeks. Life is not, well, a Lifetime movie.

She snatches her thick scarf and points a finger at Arie to put an end to those thoughts. “Don’t touch the latkes.”

“Frrrttt.”

“You better change your tone, mister. And don’t push my Menorah off the edge.”

All she gets as a reply as she closes the door is the sound of Arie’s raspy tongue against his fur, a dismissal if she’s ever seen any.

On her honour as a Wechsler, she will find the candles and have a proper Hanukkah, dammit. And while she’s there, she could find a better dressing for her latkes than the Greek yogurt sitting sadly in her refrigerator for the past two weeks.

Wrapping her coat around her as she walks down the stairs, Liora hums to herself the tune of “Afn Boydem.”

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