As I looked at the picture before me, I saw both myself and my brother grinning back, smiles and faces identical. The remnant of happier days sent tears cascading down my face. Had it been my fault? Was I to blame?

My mind slipped back to that day at school. It was unremarkable until lunch, when I was approached by perhaps the nastiest person alive. Alexander is the school's bully, and he has always targeted me. I saw my brother standing in the background with his friends while I was sat, alone - as always - in the corner. Alexander and his friends cornered me and commenced making me their lunchtime entertainment. There were around ten of them, each tall, muscled boys almost a full year older than me, but held back to my year due to plain stupidity.

Maybe I'm a little too harsh in that judgement because they may not score particularly high marks in tests, but I have to compliment their deviousness in making my life hell. Alexander is the largest and most devious of them, so naturally, he's the leader of their delightful posse.

'Why don't you walk to the end of the corridor, toe-dancer?' that's their very inventive nickname for me - I walk on my toes. It's a part of Aspergers Syndrome. I walk on my toes and I am socially clueless.

I look to my brother, desperately pleading him to rescue me from Alexander. He looks away. I am on my own…as usual. I turn and retort,

'Surely swaggering everywhere like you do must be quite hard to maintain. I personally couldn't cope with the embarrassment of looking constipated all the time.'

'Listen, ballerina, you better learn to keep your mouth shut.' He replies coldly, stepping forward and balling his fists before swinging. I duck and dodge, weaving out of his way, darting to

The canteen and safety. I abhor fighting you see, and will not fight back when I am attacked.

My brother stands in the door, 'Move' I yell desperately, frantically running from Alexander. He doesn't, instead pain explodes into my gut as he winds me. I collapse, Alexander raining kicks down on me. I lay there, allowing him to attack. Hot shame and betrayal swamped my mind.

A teacher; who took me to get my cuts attended and my bruises reduced, eventually rescued me. I tell him what happened, except about my brother. After this is done, I was sent home. I chose not to tell my parents about my brother's actins When my brother arrives later, I ask him why, why did he hit me? How could he betray me?

He said that I had "stolen" our parents' attention, that I faked autism, he said that he hated me. I turned to him, grief and fury filling my blackened eyes with hot tears, and said,

'Every morning I awake and wash my face. Washing out the sleep and tiredness, and washing in the mask I wear each and every day. This mask is my attempt to fit in. I struggle each day to act like a "normal" person, wrestling with my emotions. I fight the perpetual urge to take offence at any jokes told about me. I force myself to laugh when inside I am crying. I always try, but occasionally fail. I want to be normal. I don't want autism. I thought you were the person who would understand. I was mistaken.'

He looked shocked, as he should. I suppose that's the thing. We all make mistakes. Sometimes it's as trivial as the wrong decision in a social context. Sometimes it's as silly as not knowing when to back away from a fight. But sometimes it's as important as misplacing your trust. However, if we did not make mistakes, we would all be the same, and perhaps that's the biggest mistake any of us can make.

Author's Note: I hope that you enjoyed the story, it was certainly and interesting one to write. I entered this and one other story into a competition and managed to get quite far with it (the other one was shortlisted). It will be uploaded as well. I would love to get some feedback about the story and if I get enough reviews asking me to add to it, I will seriously consider making a sequel or even a multi-chapter story!

For those of you who already follow and read my works: this is the reason my updates have been glacially slow. Thanks for your patience and I will be sure to keep you all posted on my progress as I continue entering competitons.

Please review, but do not flame me. Its an exercise in futility - I know my stories must be good to get that far in a worldwide competition!