‘ Gino Fratelli lit his cigar. He took a deep inhale, savoring it’s warmth for some time before blowing it out of his open car window. He kept his engine on, ready and waiting to go. He parked far from the location, keeping a low profile from the normal, everyday citizens, as they went about their peaceful days. He regarded them as simple idiots, all just in the way of getting what he needed. Soon, his target would be coming down the street, package in possession, with two body guards to keep her safe. His job was to take that package to the… to the… I know, his job was to take it to shop. If not, he could face big trouble from the boss. Luckily, Gino was the absolute best at what he did. Nothing would stop him from- ‘
Gino let out a long groan, stopping his internal monologue as he rested his head on the car wheel. Even at his best, his own imagination couldn’t mask the sheer ridiculous job he had. He joined the mafia, expecting a life of crime, of danger, of shootouts and violence, all to get that sweet cash. When he first joined, that was the life he had lead, even beginning to climb up the ladders of hierarchy, soon becoming more than just an average grunt.
But now, as the bosses’ right-hand man and second-in-command, his main job and duty was to care for the boss’s daughter. Which did sound exciting at first, something incredibly important, but it was nothing but boring, everyday duties. Today, he was expected to pick her up as always, then drive to the local Blockbuster to return some DVD, before the due date expired. Then, he would have to bring her home, make sure she did her homework and make her a snack. That was it. That was his job. He was paid money for that. Lots of money. He had ended up becoming a glorified babysitter who could use a gun.
“Why did my life end up like this,” he grumbled to himself. He lifted his head up, glancing at the streets. Sure enough, he could see the kid. As he expected, her two best friends were right by her side as always, despite the fact they went to a different school. The two schools were quite a distance from each other, yet they always walked her to Gino’s car, then spent their day together. It was sweet, if he was being honest.
He waited patiently until they reached his car, where they all climbed into the backseat.
“Hey there kiddos. How are ya?” He titled his rear-view mirror, so he could get a good look of all three of them.
Shelby sat in the middle as always, smiling so sweetly and cutely. Her long, pink hair was kept into a tight ponytail. Due to going to an elite private school, she wore a uniform: a clean looking white blouse with a black ribbon, a plaid gray skirt, white stockings and little black Mary Janes on her feet. She had a pink backpack that was always falling off her shoulders, with little charms of animals attached to the side and stickers all over the back. In all honesty, it was difficult to imagine she really was the daughter of an infamous mafia.
Smack was to her left, who went a normal public school. He kept his blue hair in an afro, though the front was a little too long, the curls obscuring his eyes just a bit. Which was a shame, since he had heterochromia, his left eye being green and his right eye being blue, giving him a unique look. As it was hitting the winter months, he wore an oversized dark blue hoodie to keep him warm, a pair of old blue jeans and black sneakers. He had a bright red backpack, with those Super Mario characters on the back. Smack was a good kid, smart for his age, though he only came out of his shell when it was just Shelby and Pent. Otherwise, he was incredibly shy, introverted and quiet.
Speaking of Pent, he sat on the far right. He had short two-toned hair, his left side red and his right-side purple. He wore an old red sweater, one that had holes on the sleeves and was obviously too thin to help. His gray pants didn’t help either, since there were big holes on the knees. He was a skinny kid too, so everything worked against him. At least his red sneakers seemed fine, though clearly old, the markings on the side faded. He had a generic black backpack, with no design or pattern on it. Pent was like Smack, though he seemingly stayed rather soft spoken and shy most of the time. Gino liked Pent, since the kid was too damn nice and kind for his own good.
“We’re good, Uncle Gino!” Shelby said, swinging her feet happily.
“You got that DVD?” She took off her backpack and rummaged through it for a minute, pulling out a DVD. The cover had colorful characters on it, clearly some type of animated movie or show.
“Yeah! Don’t worry, I didn’t forget it!”
“Okay, good. Let’s get going. I’ll turn on the radio.”
He began his drive to Blockbuster, following his promise. Most kids would want the boring kiddy stations on, or something that played mindless pop songs. But, not little Shelby. He tuned into the hard rock station, chuckling as Shelby happily enjoyed the intense music. While focused on driving, he would look back to check on them.
They were all talking about their usual imaginative stories, Pent showing off his notebook filled with new drawings, Smack and Shelby sharing their suggestions and ideas. They were always smiling and laughing amongst each other.
‘Cute little bastards.’ He thought to himself, pulling into the Blockbuster parking lot. He turned off the TV, stepping out. The trio paused to put their stuff into their backpacks, then hopped out of the car. He didn’t miss how Pent immediately began shivering in the cold.
“Alright, let’s go.”
“Can I rent another DVD, please?”
“’Course ya can.” One of his duties was to buy whatever she needed or wanted, with little to no limits. He even had his own wallet for his shopping duties, refilled constantly whenever he even took two steps out of the house. As one could imagine, it was stuffed with money and credit cards.
“Thank you so much, Uncle Gino!” Yet, Shelby never acted like a spoiled brat. She was always so grateful for any and all gifts, despite her luxurious lifestyle. Gino was grateful that out of all the kids in the world, he actually got a decent one.
They entered the Blockbuster. They stayed close to Gino as he returned the DVD, though ran off the second he told them to find something. He sighed, watching them closely. They hurried to the section for kids, taking a bit of time to look around. Gino let himself browse the adult section for a moment, checking the latest comedies and dramas until he felt one of them tug at his pants.
It was Pent, avoiding eye contact aggressively. “We want to rent this one, if it’s okay.” It was one of the VHS tapes, of that Pokémon show they all went nuts about. The other two were nearby, distracted for a moment as they talked amongst themselves.
“Oh yeah, sure kid. C’mon, let’s go pay.”
“Thank you so much, Uncle Gino- “ Pent immediately blushed, shrinking back. “I-I’m sorry, I didn’t- “
Gino laughed it off, giving him a smile. “Aw, it ain’t no problem kid. Ya can call me Uncle Gino, it’s no big deal. I’m not even Shelby’s uncle, y’know. She just calls me that.” Pent mutely nodded, still somewhat unsure.
“Yo, Shelby! Smack! We payin’ now!” He grabbed himself one of the dramas, walking to pay. All the while, he kept glancing at Pent, with his shy little smile. By the time they left Blockbuster, he had made his decision.
“Hey kids, wanna hit the mall? I need to buy some clothes.”
“Okay!” they all chirped in response, climbing into the back of the car again.
“Hey, why are we in the kids’ section? I don’t need any more clothes, thank you though.” Shelby said, looking around the Macys.
“Yeah, I thought you were gonna buy yourself stuff.” Smack commented.
“Nah, I’m not buyin’ for me. Or for you, Shelby.” The trio titled their heads, confused. “Pent, you definitely need some new clothes. Get whatever you want.”
Immediately, the poor kid began going into a nervous frenzy.
“I-I’m fine, Gino, it’s okay, I don’t need anything- “ he paused, when Gino held up his hand.
“Hey, Smack, Shelby. How ‘bout to explore the store, look around. I’ll give ya a text when we’re done, okay?” They nodded, holding hands as they ran off. Once they were alone, Gino put a hand on Pent’s shoulder, bringing him close.
Gino talked softly. “Look, I know your real shy ‘bout this sort of thing. Your parents probably raise you to be like that.” Internally, he doubted the actual intentions of Pent’s probably shitty parents, but he continued without pause. “But, you’re clearly getting cold in those old clothes. I don’t want you getting sick.”
“But… but, Shelby doesn’t need to wear that stuff!”
“Well, Shelby is a walking furnace. Besides, when she’s out of that uniform, y’know what she wears?”
“Exactly. Even Shelby has to dress for the cold… sometimes, at least. C’mon kid, let’s get a few things for you.” He paused, then grinned. “I’ll treat you to Cinnabon if you do.”
Immediately, Pent was swayed. For as much as he turned down any sort of help or gift, he couldn’t hold back from accepting any sort of food. “…Okay, but only if Shelby and Smack can get some to.”
“If I only got you Cinnabon, I’d have a little kid revolution at my hands. Besides, I want some damn Cinnabon.”
Pent hesitantly began looking around the clothes, checking the price tag of anything he liked.
“C’mon, you know money ain’t an issue. Don’t freak out about the price, just fine what you like.”
“Here, how ‘bout this?” Gino pulled out a brown sweater, one that seemed thick to keep Pent warm, but not too thick. “Like it?”
“Yeah… it’s nice.”
“Alright, we’ll get it. But we ain’t done yet, let’s get a few more. And some pants to.” Pent nodded, not complaining this time.
While it was somewhat difficult at first, Gino managed to find three more good sweaters, two pairs of pants and even convinced the kid to get himself a Sonic T-shirt. At the T-shirt section, he began to notice Pent’s eyes were wandering… over to the girl’s section.
“You want somethin’ there?”
Pent immediately froze, focusing back to the boy section.
“N-No, I thought I saw Shelby. Hahaha, like I would wear that stuff! That’s… that’s for girls, y’know!” Pent nervously laughed, coughing into his hand as he folded up the Sonic t-shirt. “That’s the only thing I want here, we can go pay here.”
“Hey. Kid.” Pent paused, nervously fidgeting with the T-shirt in his hand. Gino looked around, noticing there were no nearby customer. He kneeled down to Pent’s level, resting a hand on his shoulder again.
“If ya want something… go get it. If someone in there tries to give you a hard time, we’ll just say it’s for your sister, okay?” Pent was an only child, but it wasn’t like any stranger would know that. “And you and me both know Shelby and Smack would never judge ya. Hell, I’m pretty sure whenever you guys play pretend, you all just swap clothes like crazy.”
Pent tightened his grip on the fabric. “I really… I really want to.” Pent admitted. “I… I don’t mind, dressing in what the… the boys in my school wear. I even really love wearing suits, when I go somewhere fancy. But… but, I just want… want to wear some… girl clothes to. Like a skirt… or something pink, something cute like… like what Shelby wears.” His face flushed red. “She’s so pretty… she lets me wear her stuff sometimes, yeah. S-She wouldn’t care. And Smack wouldn’t care… but… but I just don’t get it.”
He sighed, running a hand through his two-toned hair. “D-Do you ever… ever feel like… like you’re not really a boy but you still feel okay with… boy clothes? And being called he, y’know? In fact, being called she would be weird, y’know? Like… like you’re a girl, but in your own special way?”
Gino swallowed all his years of repression, just for this one moment. “Actually? I can relate.”
Pent turned to him immediately. “R-Really? You’re not just saying that, just so I can feel better, right?”
Gino shook his head. “Well, I can’t say I feel the exact same way. But, I can get it. Sometimes… I really don’t feel like a man. Sometimes… I’m more like a woman. Or both. Or really nothing. Or just a bit of everything. But y’know, I like wearing my ties and my pants and my vest. Most of the time, being called a he? It’s all good. No problem. So…” Gino tapped Pent’s shoulder again.
“You can be a girl in your own special way. I can be a woman in my own special way to, okay? No big deal. Feeling better?”
Pent, for once, gave a true smile towards Gino. Not a shy one, not a forced one, or one that was troubled, with his big eyebrows giving him away. He gave a truly happy one, his usual storm of anxieties and worries off of his mind for one moment.
“Yeah! I feel a lot better… Aunt Gino.”
Gino felt like he was shot fifty times through the chest, but in the best way possible. “Kid, you’re too fuckin’ nice.” Pent just giggled in response.
“C’mon, let’s go get you some cute ass clothes.”
Gino found a striped pink and white shirt, two pairs of white skirts, a frilly blue dress and even found a little pink ribbon hairclip. He had never felt so satisfied paying for anything in his whole life.
After reuniting with Smack and Shelby, they enjoyed a meal of sugary cinnamon rolls before heading back to Shelby’s home. There, Pent showed his purchase, much to the delight of his two friends. Gino was overjoyed how those two had created such a safe place for Pent, letting him enjoy all the parts of himself without shame or judgement.
As they worked on their homework, Pent wore his pink shirt, white skirt and hairclip proudly. The moment they were done, they went outside to play their usual games, laughing amongst themselves in the large garden. They watched their tape, played their usual mix of games on the GameCube, had their dinner and worked more and more on their stories.
Sadly, it finally came time to take the two home. Pent put on his new sweater and pants on, leaving his feminine clothes with Shelby, who promised to keep them safe in her room. She then said her goodbyes, via two lung-crushing hugs, then he drove off into their neighborhood. Smack and Pent were actually neighbors, thus it made the whole process easy for him.
When he arrived at their houses, Pent unbuckled his seatbelt. “Thanks for driving us home, Gino! Have a good night and drive home safely!”
Smack smiled. “Hey Pent, I’ll be out in one minute. I wanna talk to Gino alone. I realized on the way here I left something at Shelby’s house, so I’m just gonna tell him what it is for tomorrow.”
“Okay! See you in the backyard!” Pent hopped off and entered his home. Once he entered his front yard, Smack unbuckled his seat belt, hopping into the free front seat.
“Hey. I just wanna say… thanks for being understanding about Pent.”
“It’s no problem, really. Did you already know about this?”
Smack nodded. “Yeah, Shelby and I knew about this for a while now. Pent’s too nervous and anxious to really accept what he is, but he’s making good progress. I’m just glad he knows he has one more person on his side.” Smack turned to him, giving him a bright smile.
“Also, I totally heard him call you Uncle Gino. Mind if I do it to?”
“’Course, kid. Anytime.”
“Awesome! And to be honest… I actually did forget something over there. Can you remind Shelby to find my notebook, the one with the pony stickers on it? She can give it to me during recess.”
Gino nodded, then paused. “…Wait, you two go to different schools- “
Smack quickly opened the door. “WELL, I better not keep you late! Bye, Uncle Gino!” Smack ran to his house at the speed of a true kid in trouble.
He blinked, before letting out a loud bark of laughter. He stayed parked for another minute, snickering and laughing to himself, before he composed himself enough to start driving again. Oh, the idea of Shelby sneaking off every recess to spend time with her best friends was just too perfect. It was exactly the kind of stunt she’d pull. For someone so sweet, she wasn’t afraid to get sneaky at times. He was lying to himself, he could absolutely see how Shelby was the boss’s daughter.
“Welcome home, Uncle Gino!” She gave him a powerful tackle hug, though he had long since grown immune to her strength, managing to stay mostly still. He still wobbled somewhat, but only somewhat.
“Oof! I was barely gone a few minutes, kiddo.” He patted her on the back, closing the door behind him. She hopped off his chest, letting him lock it tight. He glanced at his watch, noticing it was getting a little close to her bedtime.
“Alright kiddo, wanna start getting ready for bed now?”
“Mmm, okay. I’ll go brush my teeth!”
“Alright. Let me get changed and I’ll tuck you in, okay?”
After undressing out of his work clothes, he put on a black T-shirt and an old pair of sweatpants. He had his own room in the house, due to his job. Despite some of his frustrations with his work, he did enjoy the luxury of the large, spacious room, especially with the fancy ass bathroom and wide closet space.
He entered Shelby’s room, finding her sitting on the bed. Finally, she seemed to be tired, rubbing her eyes and yawning. First, he plugged in her night light, since she was still scared to sleep in the dark alone. He pulled her blanket and comforter up to her chest, ensuring she was comfortably tucked. He went over to the shelves where she kept her stuffed animals. Unless in a particular mood, she randomly picked one every night, so they could ‘all get a chance.’ Or something like that, if he remembered right.
He picked up a Garfield. “This fine?”
“Yeah!” He gave it to her, that she hugged in her arms. With that, the bedtime routine was done.
“Okay, you need anything else?”
“No, I’m good…” she yawned again.
“Alright then. Sleep tight, flip your pillow to the cool side, good night and remember, make sure to fight off any nightmares with a crowbar, ‘kay?”
She nodded. “’Kay, Uncle Gino. Good night!”
He began to walk out of her room, but as he was about to shut the door behind him, he paused, for a long moment.
“Mmm… what is it?” she asked.
“…I love you.” Shelby smiled slowly, the kind of cute, tired smile that would pierce through even the darkest heart.
“I love you to, Uncle Gino.”
Gino walked into his room, laid on his bed, realizing something both profoundly horrible and profoundly great.
He loved this. He loved his job. He loved every moment of being a glorified babysitter. Not for any of the perks, like the money or the room or the security, but the actual work of taking care of Shelby. Not just Shelby either, Pent and Smack to. He loved being called Uncle Gino and Aunt Gino, getting to spend every day with the little ankle biters, seeing them happy, seeing them play and hearing their laughs. It was the best job he had ever gotten in the world and it was something he wouldn’t trade for anything, not even his biggest dreams or desires.
Gino very slowly reached for the nearest pillow. With a gentle grasp, he gently covered his face with the pillow. He then, let out a loud, muffled scream.