Pacman: Matchmaker Extraordinaire
True love is when she beats your high score but you don't care.
Jesse Christopher Warren was six years old when he first learnt about Pacman.
His school had been canceled for the day and his mother, aged as she was, did not know what to do with her hyper offspring. She decided she would take him to the local arcade and gave him a fresh twenty-dollar bill, which he stared at in wonder and excitement when she told him that he could spend it on the token machine to play any game he wanted for the next hour.
She laughed when his small hand grabbed the money from hers and raced towards the token machine, his hands moving faster than the speed of light as he jammed the paper money into the slot and waited until twenty coins came out of the machine.
Jesse had never seen so many games before in his life and he didn't know what the rules were. He didn't know which games were good and which were bad but he knew he could only play a certain amount because his mother wouldn't give him any more money should he run out of tokens so he had to use each one carefully.
There was a racecar game and a Deal or No Deal imitation. There was whack-a-mole, air hockey and Terminator games. There was a Guitar Hero and a special Star Wars themed station. There was just about everything he could think to play and he only had twenty tokens to spend. He wanted more, but knew better than to ask.
He played Donkey Kong and the racecar game (he came in last place). He played Deal or No Deal, pressing the buttons with all his favorite numbers and was confused when the game booed at him, having won a grand total of five tickets. He played with the basketball nets and the Dance Dance Revolution, not that he was any good and he ended up falling on his face.
His mother told him he had fifteen minutes left and he had three tokens left to spend. Some of the games cost him two tokens or three and right now, he didn't think he wanted to dance and fall again or else he'd get some serious bruises and his mother told him that there weren't enough band-aids in the world anymore so his curious dark brown eyes scanned the room for one more game to play when they settled on a game at the very back of the arcade.
There was no line up, unlike the other games and the pictures weren't nearly as nice. It was a very simple design with a black background and white dots. He approached it and found he had to stand on his tippy-toes to see the controls. He didn't know how the game worked but decided he may as well give it a shot.
He was about to put in two tokens when he saw the number of tokens required and nearly jumped for joy.
He only needed one token to play this game! He could play another after this if he didn't like it! Jesse was delighted with this thought and popped in one of his last coins. He waited for a moment as the screen lit up and watched as a small yellow circle appeared on the screen.
He worked out pretty quickly that the joystick controlled where the yellow man went and he had to swallow and collect the little white things but when he crossed a path with anything else, it was bad. It wasn't that hard, at least, not in Jesse's opinion. There were some games that took too much thinking but this was fairly simple.
And then he died.
So he popped in his second token and played again. If the game was so easy, why couldn't he get past the turn level? He was sure he could manage. He played, sticking his tongue out while he did, enjoying it all the while when a small crowd had grown, watching the little boy play.
He got past so many turns, quickly surpassing others and they cheered him on as the score kept rising.
Jesse ignored the calls of his mother and on his tippy-toes, hunched over the controls, he continued to eat those small white dots and avoid those stupid monsters. He kept at it, making the whole arcade go wild when his mother suddenly grabbed his arm to pull him away, telling him it was time to go and the small yellow man died, being hit by a stupid octopus.
"I still have a token!" Jesse protested. "You can't take me away right now! I still have a token!"
"Jesse, your father's waiting," his mother scolded him, dragging him away.
As he left though and his mother pulled him away from his new best friend, he saw the screen light up, the words: NEW HIGH SCORE on the old run down machine.
He smiled, satisfied.
Carmen Sophia Wilder was thirteen when Pacman first came into her life.
She had been feeling neglected all summer and decided to cut Jesse some slack from yelling and smacking him and told him that she would hang out with him. He was so pumped, he nearly busted down her door when telling her where they were going.
He dragged her to arcade and she was surprised, but not too surprised, to see Jesse dish out all his money on the token machine. He spent so much money on the machine to the point where he had fifty tokens. He gave her twenty-five and told her to use them well, then went off to play some game.
It was when she heard the cries of encouragement that she decided to find Jesse, who had mysteriously disappeared.
She fought through a large crowd of people to find her best friend hunched over the Pacman machine, playing with all his might jabbing the button relentlessly and moving the joystick around like a nut job. She rolled her eyes and folded her arms. Just like Jesse to waste his money on some old game. Her mother had told her all about the video games that the kids played "back in the day" and this was only one of many.
She watched as the small yellow man went across the screen, chewing every small white dot that came his way and avoided all the other dots. She smirked. Trust Jesse to become addicted to some game like this.
She fought her way to the very front of the crowd and stood next to him in silence for a few moments, not that he noticed, far too wrapped up in the game to pay her any mind.
He jumped at the sound of his name suddenly but quickly regained the controls and stared at the screen unblinkingly, refusing to lose just because Carmen was staring at him with her scary green eyes.
"What?" he asked as the Pacman turned a corner.
"Can we go?"
"Why?" Jesse asked, sticking out his tongue. "I'm just about to beat my high score." He hit the button in the middle of the joystick again so hard, Carmen was sure it was the very shape of his finger.
"Move away Lady!" someone screamed. "Can't you see the King's busy?"
"The King?" Carmen repeated, watching Jesse play his stupid game. "They think you're some kind of king?"
"I dunno," Jesse answered, not focused on anything around him, solely on the black machine as he twiddled his thumb and moved his hand to avoid the obstacles set in Pacman's way.
"Jesse, c'mon, let's go!"
"Give me five seconds."
One. Two. Three. Four. Five.
Carmen smirked, grabbing Jesse's arm and pulled him away, his Pacman dying almost instantly. She watched as the words NEW HIGH SCORE appeared on the screen. The scoreboard was there too and next to the highest score, the letters JCW were written in white.
"You have the highest score in the entire arcade?" Carmen asked, slightly shocked though she should have expected it from Jesse considering he was one of the biggest geeks she had ever met.
"Yeah," Jesse said sheepishly, shoving his hands in his pockets. The people at the arcade made a big deal about it, calling him "the King" and all, but would Carmen be impressed? He rocked on the soles of his shoes and stared at the ground, teetering. He liked having the highest score, sure but what use was it when the girl he was trying to impress thought nothing of it? He looked up at her, hopeful that she'd say something like, "that's cool" or "good job" or something that wasn't what she said.
"Wow, you really are the biggest geek in the world."
Jesse Warren was sixteen when he was beaten.
Entering the arcade, the place that had become so familiar to him, the place he came just about every Saturday to maintain his high score, the Pacman machine was already surrounded by a bunch of people
Jesse raised an eyebrow and elbowed his way through the crowd to find someone with their back to him, playing the game that had become his favorite amongst the many in the arcade. Though the others were flashy and had better graphics, a more interesting story line and maybe they were more colorful and had harder levels but this . . . this was a classic.
Wait a minute, he recognized that dark hair anywhere especially after dreaming about it even after she had called him the biggest geek in the world.
"Sup Jesse?" she asked him, not turning away from the screen.
Was that what he was like? Man, he was rude! He tried to move forward but the crowd held him back. "Let him in dudes, I know him."
Jesse stumbled and tripped to stand next to Carmen, watching as she played his game, watching her score get higher and higher with each passing second. He couldn't believe this. This was his domain. This was his game. He had almost taken out a Sharpie and written his name across the side but he hadn't wanted to be charged for vandalism. He should've written it. It was all his and she was ruining it!
He could accept the fact that she didn't like him the way he liked her. He could get over the fact that maybe, he should've done something else rather than ignore her during their thirteenth year but she was ruining his escape.
The Pacman machine was his way of getting away from everything. From school, homework, from her, from her cavalier way of treating his feelings, this was his escape. She wasn't allowed in here!
"Carmen, why are you here?" he asked her in the most polite voice he could manage as blinding rage took him over.
"Just playing," she muttered as he watched the numbers grow more and more in the center of the screen, telling him all he needed to know. He was about to be thrown off his throne. After three years of holding that glorious title, it would be gone in a second. How was this possible? He had never realized how much he had liked that title until it was taken away.
Finally, after a couple more minutes (what felt like hours) Carmen lost but across the screen, the words he was so familiar with looked back at them: NEW HIGH SCORE. Instead of his name being at the top of the list, it now read:
She had just dethroned him.
Jesse waited. He waited for the blinding rage that would have him throwing her into a wall. Have him ready to tear her apart into pieces because no one, no one, beat Jesse Christopher Warren at Pacman. But it didn't come. He didn't want to kill her. In fact, watching her face light up, her green eyes sparkling, he couldn't help but smile too. In fact, more than smile, what he wanted to do more than anything was kiss her. This wasn't that strange, he had wanted to kiss her for the better part of three years and yet it had never been so strong before.
He tucked his hands into his pockets to stop himself from throwing himself on her and kissing her senseless. Instead, he bit his lip and gave her a small smile. She looked so happy. He wouldn't dump the giant load that had just settled on him on her.
Because in that moment, Jesse Christopher Warren was able to name that strange emotion that bottled up inside of him whenever he saw her, heard her name or dreamt about her.
Jesse Christopher Warren was in love with Carmen Sophia Wilder.
Jesse looked at her sideways with a lopsided grin on his face as he heard everyone around them screaming, "ALL HAIL THE NEW QUEEN!"
She had no clue.
Jesse Warren and Carmen Wilder were nineteen when their lives changed.
Jesse and Carmen were walking into the arcade after finishing their last exam for the year and talking about how the answer to question number seven was so obvious but they both knew Jesse had gotten it wrong when they both stopped in their tracks and fear raced through them.
There were men surrounding the Pacman machine and not because they were cheering but because they were lifting it off the ground, taking it away.
Jesse was the first to react. "Hey! What do you think you're doing?" he demanded, racing over to the group of men who thought they could take away what he knew as his childhood.
"We're getting a new machine for the arcade. Pacman's too old of a game, no one plays it anymore," one of the men said. His nametag read Lance. "People don't want to play some game from a generation ago. The 1980's are over; no one likes old stuff. Why do you think Apple always has new things coming out?"
"Hey, if you checked out that high score, you'd find a few people who actually like that game! Tons of people play it. In fact, I'm tied for the high score," Jesse told them. "Mr. Lance, if you can't appreciate the wonderfulness that's Pacman, you are a horrible human being."
"Jesse," Carmen said, running up to her friend. "I'll get the manager, alright? We'll sort this out."
"Listen to your girlfriend," the man said and Jesse felt like gritting his teeth.
"She's not my girlfriend," he replied, somewhat bitter for more reasons than the loss of his favorite game in the world.
"Give me one good reason not to remove this piece of junk from this store," Lance challenged him.
"Pacman is the childhood of many people, it's like, their God for some-"
"I'm pretty sure that might just be you," Lance said.
"It brings people together. You cheer for your favorites, throw a fit when they lose-"
"Sounds like football to me."
"Besides, the fact that it's the cheapest thing in this arcade, when I was six, I played this game. I had three tokens left and I didn't know what to play and I saw and I played it. I played it and it was fun and it was amazing and it seemed so easy and I couldn't beat it so I played it again and when I left that day, I had made the first high score and my mom took me away kicking and screaming because I still had one more token and I wanted to play that game. Not Donkey Kong, not Terminator, not Typhoon, I wanted to play Pacman.
"Every time I could, I came back and I tried to beat my own high score and when I was thirteen, I brought my friend here and we started to call the one with the highest score 'king' and I was king. It was great. I played the game and I tried to impress her, not that it worked much but then I found out that later, she came to play too. She wanted to play and she beat my high score and in that moment, I realized I loved her. Love her.
"You can't take away that machine because maybe it might not be as popular as Mario Kart or Fruit Ninja, but it's the best damn game I've ever played because it brought me closer to my best friend and you know what? You can tell me that you're going to tear that thing right out of the damn wall right now but I am going to fight with you through everything you do until you give us back our Pacman because while it might not mean a lot to others, it means a hell of a lot to me."
Jesse then dropped to his knees and took out a pen he had used in his exam and wrote across the side of the Pacman machine: Property of Jesse C. Warren, Pacman King.
"That's vandalism!" Lance cried.
"What are you gonna do about it?" Jesse taunted.
"You think I'm going to give you back your stupid machine just because you fell in love with some girl because she beat your high score? Are you mentally ill?"
"Say what you want," Jesse said before he jumped onto the machine, sitting where the controls were and crossing his arms. "But this Pacman machine is more than just some arcade game. It's where my childhood was born, where I tried to impress a girl and where I fell in love with the greatest woman on Earth who beat my high score."
"Yada, yada, yada, no one cares," Lance said.
Everyone's head turned to see Carmen Wilder glaring at the men who thought they could take away their Pacman machine.
"Carmen," Jesse said, his throat dry. Dear God, had she heard him? This was not the way he had imagined things going-
She kissed him.
He wasn't sure when she crossed the length of the arcade to the Pacman machine but she kissed him, pulling his head down so he could reach her height and he could feel the fireworks that he always knew existed exploding and the adrenaline pumping through his veins. He nearly fell off the machine in shock and he couldn't help the grin that spread across his face.
Even though he knew this fight for the machine wasn't over yet, he couldn't help loving every second of it with her with him. He lifted her up onto his lap and they both sat on the machine, smiling defiantly down at Lance who looked ready to explode.
NINETEEN YEARS LATER
Aaron Leonardo Warren was sixteen years old when he first learnt about the legendary King and Queen of Pacman.
As he stood in line to play his favorite arcade game, he remembered when he was first brought to the arcade by his parents when he was six.
His school had been canceled for the day and his parents knew just what to do with the energetic off spring. His parents held their son's little hand and told him to close his eyes tightly.
"You sure your eyes are closed?" his father teased. "How many fingers am I holding up?"
"I can't see Daddy," his son answered with a chuckle.
"Stop teasing the child already," his wife told him, rolling her eyes.
"Okay, okay," said his father, smiling. Taking out a few small golden coins, he put them in his son's hand and told him to open his eyes.
Around Aaron, there were so many games to play. He had a couple of choices but amongst the many flashy things that caught his eye, one at the very end of the arcade stood out to him.
There was no line up, unlike the other games and the pictures weren't nearly as nice. It was a very simple design with a black background and white dots. He approached it and found he had to stand on his tippy-toes to see the controls. He didn't know how the game worked but decided he may as well give it a shot. It only needed one coin to play. He smiled.
He had played the game and in the very background, he could've sworn his heard his father mutter, "He's got good taste," followed by his mother saying, "Like father like son."
As he waited in line, rocking on his heels, he had been going to the arcade for the past ten years and always spent all of his tokens on this one game. The game had become popular for a reason he had never bothered to ask because as he grew older, he realized that not only was Pacman one of the oldest games, it was also the simplest and most people he knew liked playing harder games.
The girl in front of him with long, curly red hair made his heart thump louder in his ears. His friend, Addison Olivia Nolan had thought of him as childish when in their fourteenth year, he had dragged her to the arcade and shown her the game but now she was just about as addicted as he was.
She stepped up to the plate and began to play, him watching behind her.
"Watch out!" he screamed and she jumped, her Pacman dying after a few minutes of playing.
She groaned and turned to him. "You are evil Aar," she said. "You were just scared I would beat your high score, weren't you?" she teased.
"No way," Aaron told her, rolling his eyes.
He began to play and when he finally lost, he saw the board, unable to stop himself from wondering why he was only number two on the list.
1: JCW & CSW
"Who are those people?" he demanded.
"The king and queen of Pacman," replied someone behind him. Aaron turned around and stared at the person behind him in confusion.
"Check the side."
Leaning down, Aaron saw something written in pen, besides the original message written in blue pen there was a red pen, which overlapped it. It read: Property of Jesse C. Warren & Carmen S. Wilder, Pacman King & Queen.
Wait a minute, his parents-
He looked back at the score list.
JCW & CSW.
Jesse Christopher Warren and Carmen Sophia Wilder.
No way! His parents were Pacman King and Queen?
Looking at the scores again, he realized that Addison was behind him by a single point. It wouldn't be long before she caught up. Or beat him. And strangely, he didn't find himself minding.
Jesse and Carmen smiled, watching their son get back in line for the Pacman machine with his friend Addison right behind him, Aaron's eyes shining with his new revelation. They both stared through the window of the arcade, making sure to stay hidden from sight. They had been about to ensure their title was maintained but when Aaron came in, they decided to save him the embarrassment.
"Looks like the arcade's gonna have a prince and princess," Jesse said.
"You don't sound too happy," Carmen noted.
"I'm not, I mean, what am I supposed to do when he beats my high score?"
Author's Note: The characters Carmen and Jesse are from my other account, AJ Price, their son, Aaron, is the canon child of the two from my book series, The Secrets of MapleWood. Check it out if you'd like and review that series if you feel like it. The first book is called The Secrets of MapleWood and the second is Seeing The Mist. Other stories, somewhat like this one, are on there too.