The oak, estimated to be at least five hundred years old, boasted a limb about ninety feet long and almost twelve feet in circumference. Although it derived its name from the estate of Justis and Martha Angel, local folklore suggested that ghosts of former slaves were known to appear as angels around the tree. The tree had survived hurricanes, and was known as one of the oldest living things in America. It was worth a visit to the sprawling branches, many of which were resting on the ground, secured by staff for their protection.
Wandering around the tree, sweating from the intense damp heat of the swampy low country and batting at mosquitos, Jessie let her mind wander back to her Charleston friends. Rachel had squealed with delight when she first saw the mammoth tree, while Sandy stood humbly underneath its canopy and officially asked Jessie to be his girlfriend. Jessie still had a photograph of the three of them there, taken by a thoughtful tourist. Reminding herself to dig the picture out, Jessie reverently brushed a finger over a branch’s rough bark. She thought Sandy’s ghost likely hung out there with the former slaves, maybe hoping she would someday come back to find him. Perhaps because his presence seemed so strong here, the oak beckoned her, called to her. She wanted to melt down underneath it and sit for hours on end. It was a charming old tree as enchanting as the city itself, and it wound its spirit in and around Jessie’s soul.
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