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For the first part of the book, rich Aunt Cilla and her "big white house that face[s] the ocean" (1.3.1) exist as a kind of dream in Dicey's mind. It isn't until the kids arrive in Bridgeport that they get to know the real woman:
Dicey didn't like the sound of Aunt Cilla. She had lied to Momma in her letters. It seemed to Dicey that Aunt Cilla had tried to keep Cousin Eunice all for herself. (1.12.37)
Even though Aunt Cilla is dead, it seems she wasn't very nice while she was around. While the Tillermans told lies to protect themselves while traveling, Aunt Cilla lied about her house, her wealth, and her life to make herself seem more important to her niece, Liza.
Maybe she wanted to outshine her sister, Abigail, or maybe she never realized the false hopes she was doling out, but no matter her reasoning, her lies and cruelty affect the lives of many people. Her words gave Liza hope when she shouldn't have had any, and crushed Eunice's dreams when they should have been growing and blossoming. Hey, some people just seem better on paper—and Aunt Cilla is definitely one of them.