Abbie’s Big Sister

Abbie’s Big Sister

By Jessica C

A teen boy becomes a big sister...
To a stranded and terrified little girl...

The Cunninghams were coming home two days after Christmas from Grandma’s. They needed gas and Dad decided to stop at the I-80 Truck Stop at Walcott, Iowa. It’s supposed to be the World’s Largest Truck Stop.

Barry needed to go to the bathroom, so he was hurrying inside when he saw a trucker pulling a little girl into the truck stop. She was kicking and screaming for him to let her go. Barry said, “Why are you being so mean?”

The trucker said, “I’m trying to do another trucker a favor by bringing her inside. She hitched a ride in his cattle truck; she would die if she stayed there.’

He said, “Take her she’s yours! She’s a brat! Welcome to her.” The girl looked like a kindergartener, very frightened and withdrawn.

He pushed her into Barry's arms and she fell crying. Barry asked her name and he could hardly hear her whisper, “Abbie.” At least that was the best he understood. She quickly clung to him, still crying.

“You’re going to be safe; I’ll ensure you are okay.” She latched on tight to him, crying she said, “Afraid! Afraid men.”

I said, “You’re safe with me. I’m Barry.”

She said, “Berry sweet, my sweet friend.”

He said, “You’re like a little sister to me, I’ll protect you no matter what.” His mom and sister had stopped to see the little girl he befriended, while his brother Joe continued into the truck stop.

He told his Mom, “Little Abbie has been abandoned here. Some man dragged her here from one of the trucks, saying she had been hidden in another man’s truck and would have died if she stayed there. He abandoned her to me. How could they just leave her?”

“Afraid men, Berry my sister,” a small crack of a smile.

Mom smiled and said, “So what is it going to be Barry or Berry? It sounds like she’s afraid of men and has taken to you, Berry.”

He looked at Shelley, and she quickly said, “No, not me, she’s clinging to you.”

Barry quickly thought, ‘I’m not handing her to any social worker. He said, “I’ll do whatever is needed; she needs to be with us. She can’t be abandoned again.”

When Dad came in; they decided to eat. Abbie drank hot chocolate, hugging the cup for warmth. Others weren’t very hungry only ordering sandwiches; Mom and he took Abbie to the buffet where she chose two chicken drumsticks, potatoes with gravy, and peas. She asked as they were eating, “Why are you staring at me?”

When she was finished, Abbie asked him to take her to the girl’s room and she balked at others taking her. Mom said, “Berry, let me brush out your hair so you and Shelly can take her to the women’s room.” Mom reminded him that he said, I’d do anything.

Shelley was all smiles as she, Abbie, and he went to the women’s restroom. Mom soon followed us. Once out of the toilet, Abbie was with them washing hands. Shelley asked Berry to turn and she used a tube of lipstick. She said to him, “Let me freshen your lipstick.” Which she did as he pouted his lips so she could.

Abbie took his hand, “Did you say thank you?” he said thank you. Shelley spritzed a perfume which Abbie and he both walked through.

There were other people at our table when they returned, and there was talk about what to do with Abbie. Officials wanted to take Abbie into child custody, which Barry was vehemently against. “I, we’ll do whatever is needed to give her a home, until they can find her home, a good home.”

“And who are you; are you going to take care of her?”

Mom spoke up, “Abbie calls her Berry, and yes she’ll take care of Abbie with our help. We’re Joe and Helen Cunningham from Ames, Iowa.” The police and social worker took their contact information and since his parents were instructors at Iowa State University; they approved it as a temporary solution.

Mom bought matching coats for Abbie and Berry, along with new matching sports shoes. Berry was given a purse as well. Mom said, "I need to know you are committed to your little sister, Berry.”

Abbie had screamed and cried when the policeman and social worker wanted to take her from Berry. It was just to talk to her, but she screamed.

Before we made it to Iowa City; Abbie was out of her new car seat and asleep in my arms. Shelley soon had pictures of us both asleep together. Two hours later, we were awakened and went into our house. Abbie had a tight hold as he carried her into the house.

Mom had called Emily Harris a neighbor and close friend of hers. Marissa her daughter, the prettiest girl in tenth grade, came over. “Berry, I’m proud of you and I like your new name and your little sister… Abbie, welcome to your new home.”

He didn’t know it at the time but Marissa had brought over two outfits for him as well as a pair of girl pajamas. Abbie soon warmed up to Marissa, Shelley, Mom, and Emily. She became afraid or cried when Joe or Dad came close. We hoped that would pass.

Berry was given an outfit of culottes, a new panty, and a pink and white blouse. True to what Marissa said, Abbie warmed up and snuggled with her again. She was kind of proud to be seen as Abbie’s big sister, though Berry said nothing.

Abbie was being given the guestroom, and Barry's mattress was brought in so he could sleep with her. This was in part to comfort her; Joe and Marissa agreed Berry shouldn’t be sleeping with my brother. Mom giggled, “Touché.”

It was at that time Abbie asked her to read her a story and then to stay with her till she went asleep. Shelley still had her the Frozen book that she had first read for and later to brother and him.

Before Emily and Marissa left, my Mom served tea. They talked about how people were likely to treat me if this lasted for when we went back to school. I hadn’t thought that far, and I gulped at the thought. It was then I made my New Year’s resolution, “I will do what I need to for my little sister Abbie, as long as it is needed.”

Marissa and Shelley made New Year’s resolutions to be my big sisters. Marissa was fifteen. Shelley was in the junior class. She would soon be seventeen.


Friday arrived with Mom waking up Abbie and me. After a fun breakfast of watching Abbie eat pancakes and talk up a storm; Mom said we needed to get more clothes for Abbie. Mom expanded that to include me; when Joe came into the kitchen Abbie was frightened again.

Mom and Berry told Abbie that Joe and his Dad weren’t going to hurt her, nor would they stop from being where they lived. Abbie was still afraid.

Mom whispered to Berry; "You’re going to need to get your fingernails polished, and some basic makeup, as well as some more clothes." Berry resisted and argued that none of it could be very girly. Mom didn’t argue with her, but later Berry realized she did not agree.

Shelley was the one who worked on Berry's hands and fingernails; citing that they need be done at a salon. “Your nails are ragged and your cuticles have intruded onto your nails. I will make a passable dent, but a professional needs to help and teach you.

She already had long hair for a boy, but Shelly with their mother’s approval cut the front of her hair to create bangs. “Eek!”

Just before everyone was to leave, Marissa came to the house ready to go shopping with the three of them. She said, “I’m the one who has most recently babysat little girls. Plus, I’m the one, you are going to be around; I don’t want you looking like your mother clothed you.”

It was fun shopping for Abbie, though others complained Berry was doting on her. Abbie was very appreciative of having new clothes and clung to the attention she was being given. Berry pressed his mother not to skimp on Abbie’s clothes.

They had, at Marissa’s encouragement, driven thirty miles to the Des Moines shopping areas as it had more and better choices. Berry was happy because they would less likely see girls from their schools. She was wrong about that. Kennedy and Kayla, Marissa’s friends; Jenn and Tiff, Shelley’s friends, and others were shopping there.

Jenn and Kennedy said, “It’s so cute of you, Berry. We’ll have fun helping to girlify you. Berry wasn’t always happy about the clothes they wanted her to try. They did buy a skirt and a dress with hems that came to her knees as she saw them. They were shorter and quite prettier than she realized.


When they got home Hanna, an Ames Police Officer, visited us, along with Deborah Stone a psychologist. Deborah said, “I usually work with small children and their parents, but I’ve been told I may need to work with a Berry Cunningham as well.”

The discussion was lively but very positive. Deborah noticed, Abbie being stressed when Joe came and sat with us. My mother explained that Abbie was uncomfortable around males. When Abbie was asked about it; she withdrew into herself. Joe was asked to leave. Abbie relaxed again but clung strongly onto Berry.

During the discussion, Deborah surprisingly became in favor of Abbie and Berry being together. “Berry, I need to warn you that your idea might backfire on you. Abbie can very much use you being here for her. I’m afraid going back to being Barry would set Abbie back. Abbie has more issues and it will take time, maybe over a year to where she would come through this as a well young girl.” Before they left, Deborah said, “If you decide to go ahead with being there for Abbie. We can provide a letter for the school for you to return there as Berry Cunningham.” She said, “We do urge you as a family and individually to take some time and let us know on Sunday or Monday if this is what you decide to do. We will be talking to Human and Children Services as well.”

Barry bubbled over with anger, “Why don’t people agree with me that this is what we need to do for Abbie?”

Mom sat next to Berry, “We’re here to be supportive, and I think Dr. Deborah Stone may be too. You made a strong impression on everyone. It is just very unusual to decide on such an arrangement. If they do it, it will be because it is in Abbie’s interest. We need to be sure it is something you can handle as well Berry. Being a teenage girl and a caretaker for Abbie would be monumental tasks for any boy.” She hugged Berry.

“Mom, I’m fourteen, you see the change that says I can do it,” Berry’s voice now had strength with determination.

Shelley had come into the room, “Yes we have, they’re good steps, but this might be a marathon. I heard your temper upstairs that’s the Barry we know.”

Mom’s phone rang and it ended their conversation. Both girls left the room, and Berry went to Abbie’s room to check where Abbie was playing.

Mrs. Cunningham soon came into the room, saying, “I want the two of you to go over to Kennedy Cohn’s house and be with them today. I need to get some things done here without being distracted.”

“What’s up, Mom?”

“Martha and Officer James Cohn can tell you better than I. Just please go and have a good time.”

Shelley took Berry and Abbie over to the Cohn’s house, and Kennedy was the one who greeted them at the door. Kennedy took Abbie to her room and suggested Berry talk to her parents in the kitchen.

James Kennedy smiled upon seeing Berry in a dress, “I am impressed with you, young lady, but you and Abbie have drawn national attention to yourselves, that may not be so good.”

“The FBI thinks you have attracted the attention of a man in child pornography; he may also be Abbie's father. He must have heard about her over the national news. I would like you with us today, so I can watch the two of you closely.”

James said, “It was decided we should take you to a salon to change your look as well as Abbie’s. Martha will be in there along with our daughter. I will be out in our van watching from the vehicle.”

We had a bite of lunch and then went to Kathy’s Salon. Kathy greeted them, “Three of us will take Berry and Abbie. Von will be doing your nails, Barbie will have Abbie and I’ll be doing your hair and pierce your ears afterward. I’m going to put more curls in your hair and your appearance will make a nice feminine change. Is that okay?”

Von had noticed that Berry’s nails were short and that someone had worked on them. They needed more help. Von encouraged Berry and she agreed to nails with half-inch tips. She painted the fingernails red that taper to appear as white bubbles.

Kathy agreed with Von that Berry's nails were fabulous. She led Berry to her chair and started by shampooing and conditioning Berry’s hair. Partially dry when Kathy began combing out her hair and cutting snips here and there. Berry was fascinated as Kathy used rollers of various sizes to style her hair. Kennedy sat next to Berry as she went under a hair dryer. It took a few moments before Berry could follow their conversation.

As Kathy took out the rollers and combed and brushed out the new style everyone was pleased. Berry was blown away, “Where did all the body of my hair come from?”

Kennedy began laughing, “They’re not using your usual shampoo and conditioner. Look, you’re a girl now!” Abbie climbed onto Berry’s lap and gazed at Berry, “Oh you beautiful.”

Kathy tapped Berry, saying, “You’re not done we have to pierce your ears yet.” She marked each ear twice. Berry realized she was getting the silver hoops as well as the silver diamond studs.

Kennedy did give her the choice, “Do you want to forgo the diamond studs for now?”

“My understanding was I want the studs and I’m not backing down, both are okay.”

Kennedy handed Berry a new cell phone, “You won this for being my extraordinary new girlfriend.” It was a new smartphone with all the bells and whistles, with a new account.


Two days later, Police Officer Hanna Robb met the Cunninghams when they got home; Hanna thought it was important for her partner Jack Payne to see how Abbie would respond to him. Hanna had communicated her coming to Berry, but she hadn’t mentioned Jack being there.

Jack rudely introduced himself, “Hi, I’m Officer Jack, and you’re the one who thinks Little Abbie needs you to be her big sister. I believe that is you imposing your wishes on her and keeping her where she is. I’d like to meet Abbie while you keep company with Officer Hanna here in the kitchen.”

Mom Cunningham called Abbie down to meet Officer Jack in the living room while Barry waited with Hanna in the kitchen. Abbie came downstairs but cowered behind Helen Cunningham.

Jack was patient at first but got less so within two minutes. He took off his hat and approached Abbie, saying, “Abbie, I’m a friendly police officer and I need to talk to you.” But she grew more afraid and looked up to her new mommy. Jack finally grabbed Abbie and held her tightly. “I’m going to hold onto you until you become comfortable with me.”

By then Abbie was crying and screaming, and Berry couldn’t contain himself. He entered the room and called Abbie to her. Abbie wiggled loose and went straight to Berry.

Berry asked, “Can you see now why; I’m doing what I am?”

Jack Payne asked for Hanna, Helen, and Abbie to excuse themselves and let him visit with Barry. But Berry took over the conversation, “Officer Jack do you listen to anybody?”

“Don’t get rude to me boy,” said Jack!

“I’m not done,” Berry said, in her cutest voice. “You assume you know things without discussing things with others. Seemingly, not with your partner, who happens to be the senior officer…”

Jack interrupts, “I was in the military before I joined the force and I don’t tend to take instruction from women.”

“You interrupted me again. If you read the report on Abbie, others also think she’s been traumatized by a man or men!” Berry reminded him.

“Sometimes, I think one needs to go contrary to thought. I wasn’t seeking to upset the girl.”

“But you forced yourself upon her; adding to her trauma. You’re behind the times in your thinking about women. I can share from my experience, that being a big sister has helped me to see things differently.”

Frank was ready to explode when Officer Hanna came back in, “That’s enough besides voicing your disrespect for me. You failed to listen or at least discuss things with Berry; who was protecting her little sister. You did the opposite of your intentions, you confirmed the medical concerns for Abbie. You also tried to bully her protector.”

“There are good officers who have gone from military service to civil law enforcement,” she said with a passion.

Jack went out to the police car, and Hanna spoke to Berry. “I’m sorry you went through that but you’ve shown yourself to be of good character.”

Hanna changed the subject, “How are you doing with the change of being a girl and Abbie’s big sister? I hope you don’t mind all it is taking including your change in appearance.”

Berry smiled, “Thanks for asking, actually I’m finding it to be fun in a way. I found the salon experience kind of pampering me and I liked it. Girls’ clothing is more attractive and feels nice. I too hope I can switch back when it's okay.”


Kennedy and Marissa talked with Berry, “Hey girl, even a big sister needs to get out some time and away from her responsibilities. We asked your mother and she said she could watch Abbie so you could come out with us. We’re going to get some pizza Saturday night and decide as a group what we want to do after that.”

Going out with girls as friends had run across Berry’s mind, so she said yes.

Kennedy suggested, “Why don’t you come over after school, bring Abbie, and we will paint our nails for Friday night?”

Berry asked Abbie, “Would you be willing to go with me to Kennedy’s house after school?”

Abbie asked, “Is she the one who has the toys I can play with?”

“I am sure she does. Does that mean it is okay; we can go there?”

“Is she going to paint your fingernails again? Can I watch?” Abbie smiled.

Berry loved asking Abbie about her school day, and today was no different. “Abbie, what did you do outside today?”

“We played Red Rover, but without a dog!” she giggled. “We were to draw our family; finally, I was allowed to draw and color your family. I was teased by Billy because I don’t have a mommy and don’t like my daddy.”

“Miss Hanson made Billy apologize to me, but he didn’t mean it. And I didn’t want to say thank you.”

The two of them cut through a park as a shortcut to Kennedy’s home; when a van drove over the curb and into the park. When Berry finally saw the vehicle; he changed their direction and instantly dialed 911. The driver yelled, “Don’t be afraid I want both of you.”

Berry avoided the van; then yelled back. “I’ve called the police! I’ve called the police!” When they heard a siren, the van took off.

The police were soon there and were surprised that Abbie was afraid of them until Hanna was there. Hanna said, “I know, I told you not to go through parking lots or parks. I am glad you are safe. She talked to Kennedy’s father, Officer Cohn, to see if he still wanted Berry and Abbie over at their house.

He did and he’d stay at the house to make sure everyone was safe. Another police officer would be watching the Cunningham house and tell the Cunninghams about what had happened.

Berry and Abbie were in the house with Kennedy when Berry’s Mom called to make sure the two were safe. “Mom, I called 911 and had one hand on my mace spray and the other on Abbie. I even took a picture of the van, but it was a plain white van and neither picture showed the license plate. Kennedy’s father is here watching over us.”

“I guess this means Saturday’s time with Kennedy, Marissa, and the other girls is off?”

Mom replied, “Talk to Mr. Cohn and ask what he thinks. If we need for you to stay home fine; we’ll have you do that.”

Kennedy took us up to her room and she would paint my fingernails. I was told to file, shape, and paint Abbie’s fingernails a soft pink. Abbie was delighted with her fingers.

Kennedy was doing Berry’s fingernails but she and Berry were interrupted by many calls as people heard about the police rescuing Berry. The stories were varied, some crazily so.

After all the calls, and Kennedy having painted two coats of coral peach onto Berry’s fingernails plus a top coat; they went downstairs to talk with her Dad.

Abbie snuggled with Berry as they talked to him. Officer Hanna soon came and talked with them. Officer Jack Paine was not with her.

Talking between them, the FBI, and the police department; a question was asked of Kennedy. “When you girls go out, what are your plans?”

She grins, “We go out for pizza and a bunch of guys usually come later and ask us to the dance at the Youth Center. We’d have a good time and then we’d go home.”

Hanna asked, “Were you to match up with the guys or just be one big group?”

“We often match in pairs; I with Colin and Zach was to dance with Berry, maybe others.”

Hanna looked to Berry, whose face was blushing as the dance hadn’t been spoken of. Officer Hanna asked Berry, “If we could cover both, would you be able to handle that? ...We can double our presence at the dance and have people in and outside of the pizza place.”

Berry said, “I can’t dance as a girl.”

Hanna said, “If Kennedy, Marissa, and I can quickly teach you, are you game?” Surprisingly, Berry agreed.

Hanna drove Abbie and Berry home and explained that the police would be with their family and watching the house until things were safe.

Come the girls' night out, Berry was wearing her new blue dress and riding with Marissa. There were six girls, Berry made seven. Being together, not the pizza, was most important and they ate less than Berry expected. On cue, the guys showed up; once at the dance, Zach matched up with Berry. They knew each other and talked like school friends.

Once at the dance, they stood around watching others; finally, Marissa nudged Berry toward the dance floor. Zach responded to Berry moving forward and took Berry the rest of the way. The dance was slow and they danced six inches apart. Berry looked up to Zach, “If we’re to dance, please draw me closer.”

Zach smiled, “You look and feel like another girl.” He drew her closer and they enjoyed the remainder of the dance. The next dance was faster and Berry put to use the dance lessons of two days before. That dance was more enjoyable.

There was more of a police presence and there were no incidents. The dance was about over when Zach kissed Berry and said, “Thank you, it was a nice evening.” The kiss surprised Berry; even more surprising was how good it felt. “I appreciate what you are doing for your little Abbie. I wouldn’t mind dating you if it would help.”

This time it was Berry who snuck a kiss and said, “Thanks, I’d be open to that.” The kiss had lingered; until they heard Kennedy cough as she noticed them.

Once Berry was home, he checked on Abbie asleep in the room they shared.

Berry blushed once she saw her mother, and Mom asked, “What happened that caused you to blush?” Berry told about Zach’s kiss, Mom hugged him. “Are you okay? It shouldn’t be a total surprise; you make quite an attractive girl.”

Berry was in bed, but not able to sleep as the night had her not sleeping. It was after 1:00 a.m. when Berry heard the back door being forced open. Soon, whoever it was approached the steps; Berry dialed 911. She got the can of mace and positioned herself between the door to the room and Abbie.

Then she heard the voice she had heard before, whisper “Please don’t fight me. I don’t want to have to hurt you.” Berry took two steps toward the door, and once the door knob was being turned she screamed.

The man came through the door and was soon sprayed by Berry, but he had worn a mask that protected his eyes. The spray did make his vision blurry. Berry grabbed the man’s arm and threw her hip into the man as she swung the man over and down to the floor. Berry saw the reflection of a blade in the man’s hand and stomped on it. The lights came on, and her parents and a patrol officer were there.

An awakened Abbie screamed, “Daddy, don’t hurt her!”

A half-hour later they were downstairs in the living room, the prisoner was in custody, and Hanna had arrived and was complementing Berry. “I am sure you are glad to have this over.”

Berry responded, “But it’s not over. That may have been the scary part but it set Abbie back again.”

Abbie was asleep in Berry’s arms. His mom said, “If you had not stepped forward over a month ago; who knows if she’d be alive now. I can’t say, I was crazy about you being Abbie’s big sister, but no one could have done any better than you.”


Four more months had passed, and while Abbie was making some progress; everyone was sure they were in for the long haul. Berry and Abbie both had more clothes, and their room was decorated. Berry was fully into being one of the girls.

Abbie was well on her way to becoming a Cunningham through adoption. Abbie had become reasonably comfortable with her new dad and brother. But she was anxious about little things; and had trouble with men and boys outside of her class and the family.

It was May; when Berry finally approached her Mom about continuing as a girl. Mom said, “You know such a thing is not popular with the governor and others?”

“Mom,” she said, “I’m getting an A in Current Events, I know; I also know it isn’t right whether it happens to me or just others.” Her Mom hugs her, “I love you and I’m so proud of you.”

Berry hadn’t had the usual strong changes of a boy in adolescence, and her doctor was now recommending a testosterone blocker for at least the coming six months.

She had continued dating, though not just Zach. Barry’s best friend Toby was now a close friend of Berry’s though the relationship was different.

Tuesdays, Thursdays, and weekends were special times for Berry and Abbie. It took three years for Abbie to grow and get through her issues. By the time she had; Berry was well entrenched in being a sister and a teenage girl.

The End

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