Parenting, Stannis found, was a trial. He could not fathom that he had ever, in youth, been so utterly needy as his five-year-old daughter. But there were few activities that tested his patience more than coloring time.
Shireen had been fond of coloring since her little hands were strong enough to hold a crayon. And for reasons he’d never understand, she always preferred her father color alongside her.
So every Sunday after breakfast became reserved for coloring time.
This Sunday, Shireen had picked a picture of a castle and asked Stannis to photocopy the page so they could both color the same picture, as they always do. Stannis used the grey crayon, making his castle out of stone. Shireen, on the other hand, was using purples and pinks and blues to make some sort of patchwork castle.
“You know, real castles are usually grey,” Stannis said.
Shireen looked up at him and grinned. “Of course I know, daddy, but my castle is purple and pink.”
“And where do you hope to find pink and purple stones?” If Shireen’s kingdom could find a stonemason to provide pink and purple stones, he supposed they would cost at least twice as much as his simple grey stones.
“My castle isn't made of stones,” she said, as if it were the most obvious fact in the world. “It's made of candy.”
“And if it rains, won't your castle melt?”
“It never rains in my kingdom.” Never rains, Stannis thought. It would seem that Shireen’s kingdom would have a tough time growing food. Or perhaps they would thrive on imports, but what would they produce? He decided not to dwell on it.
Stannis’s grey crayon had grown dull from all the Sundays he’d used it. He doubted Shireen had ever touched it, since she preferred brighter colors with absurdly detailed names like cerulean. He'd have to buy her more crayons soon. He always bought the 36 pack. The 64 pack with the sharpener was too frivolous and Stannis didn't want his daughter to become spoiled.
They finished at nearly the same time, and Stannis admired his work. 56 stones made up the castle, and he'd colored the castle’s banners black and yellow to match his family’s ancient crest. The princess in the corner he’d colored to look like Shireen, as he did with every princess. It even included Shireen’s greyscale scars, which were on the page before he'd even copied it.
Before giving Shireen a new coloring book, Davos would come over and together they would draw greyscale scars upon each girl’s face, so Shireen could see princesses that looked like herself. The first time they'd done it was as a present for Shireen’s third birthday party. They'd bought her a coloring book full of princesses and they'd drawn the scars on each and every one. “Look, daddy, these princesses look like me! They're so beautiful!” she'd squealed in delight upon seeing them, and he knew he could never give her a coloring book any other way.
Over two years later, and Stannis and Davos had perfected the art of drawing greyscale scars on princesses.
Shireen waved her finished picture in front of Stannis’ face. “Daddy, it's for you!” He took it from her hands. Shireen had decorated her candy castle with black and yellow banners as well, imitating the ones hanging in his study, and the princess was colored with bright blue hair. She'd even signed her name at the bottom in her big, messy handwriting.
It really was quite a pleasant picture, despite the strange patchwork design on the castle itself and the foolishness of candy as a building material. And, he realized, Shireen hadn't once gone outside the lines.
“Wow, Shireen,” he said, astonished. “You colored this so neatly.”
He was used to gritting his teeth and holding his tongue when she handed him her pictures, bright messes with stray lines everywhere. Davos had told him that it's normal for young children to color outside the lines, and he supposed Davos would know considering the abundance of sons he’d raised. But still, Stannis could not stand coloring outside the lines. And he certainly couldn't imagine that he had done it as a child.
Shireen grinned up at him. “I wanted to color neatly like you, daddy. Do you like it?”
His heart swelled with pride. “I love it, Shireen, truly. I can't believe how much you've grown.” He scooped Shireen into his lap and she buried her face in his shirt. “I think this one deserves a spot on my wall at work, so all my coworkers can see it.”
Shireen nodded. “I think so too.” She wrapped her arms around his neck. “I love you, daddy.”
“I love you too, princess.”
As he hung Shireen’s picture on his wall the next morning, he thought that maybe candy kingdoms weren't so bad, after all.